One of my favorite denizens of Readerville.com is Roxana Robinson, who writes so beautifully in the Gardening Lit thread. (I linked there to a post about her vegetable garden.) I begged her permission to reprint this little piece about pigs, which she graciously granted me.
She writes: More news from the rural countryside.
I'm up here in this little house in seclusion, trying to finish a writing project. It's a perfect setting for writing, the landscape around me utterly silent. Woods, fields, stone walls, sky—that's it.
This afternoon I took a break and went out to walk the hour-long
triangle. I started out past the big elegant Victorian farmhouse just
opposite us, heading down the road past the dairy farm. As I walked
past the Victorian house I glanced in past the white painted fence.
There were some shadows on the other side I hadn't expected—I
wondered if my neighbours had borrowed some sheep to graze the lawn
down? I went closer, and heard an excited honk.
It was not sheep but a herd of energetic pigs, pink and brown and muscular, ears pricked and on the loose. What they were excited about was the garden—the perennial border, to be precise. There were ten of them, and they were hogs with a vision. The vision was of a perennial border without living inhabitants.
It was a lovely sight, if you were a hog—all that rich brown earth churned and rooted and turned up to the sky. If you were a gardener—well, it was a different sort of vision.
I walked down the road to the dairy farm, got in the pickup with the farmer and headed back up the hill with him. We spent the rest of the afternoon herding hogs. I don't know what we'll say to the neighbours. A visitation from outer space?
Pictured above are the baby pigs at TLC Ranch, rooting as they were intended to do: outdoors in the mud, not on a concrete factory farm.
Thanks to Roxana Robinson for letting me use her work.
Speaking of the little pigs, they're growing up, and something is happening to their ears! Don't they look like little wings? Will pigs fly after all?
Logan and I visited TLC Ranch yesterday, and had a nice but brief visit with Becky Thistlethwaite (Jim Dunlop's beautiful wife). I asked her if she had heard of the book, Pig Perfect, by Peter Kaminsky. Steve Sando (Rancho Gordo) told me about it, and how he was so appalled by the treatment of these intelligent creatures on factory farms. Becky elaborated for me: "It's even worse than keeping cows on concrete, because it's a pig's nature to wallow in the dirt and mud. They love it. And they keep them sequestered in individual stalls, which is also terrible."
You've heard of "pig piles": this is how they sleep. It's their nature to be friendly and even affectionate with each other. Logan did pretty good at keeping quiet—complete with a finger to his lips—until we got about ten feet away. Then he yelled, "Pigs! WAKE UP!!!!" (He does the same thing to Bob every morning, jabbing him in the chest, yelling, "Poppy! Wake up!")
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Speaking of pigs, I have some news about my favorite food writer, Michael Ruhlman. Wait, that didn't come out right. What I meant to say is that Michael's most recent book is called Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, and was nominated for a 2005 Beard award. (He has been nominated on multiple occasions, and won the 1999 Beard Award for magazine writing.) I own eight of his books, and soon that number will be nine.
On May 18, The Reach of a Chef will be released. Kirkus gives it a starred review ("A star is assigned to books of unusual merit, determined by the editors of Kirkus Reviews"), saying this:
A Plimptonesque writer finds further adventures, and misadventures, over an open range.
Building on The Making of a Chef (1997) and The Soul of a Chef (not reviewed), Ruhlman returns to the Culinary Institute of America, a one-time trade school that ascended to college status and acquired a student body to match-not only youngsters seeking to become chefs, but also older professionals engineering midlife career changes away from, say, brokering and toward, say, pastry-decorating. Ruhlman notes that in just the last few years Americans have been discovering that it's possible to eat well, just as certain chefs have discovered that it's possible to make sizeable fortunes from becoming brand names, with presences on the Food Network and in all the right magazines. Remarks one career adviser, circularly, "Not everybody likes a brand, but everybody likes a celebrity. . . . You become a celebrity because everybody likes your brand." The rush to stardom benefits only a few, of course, leaving all those CIA enrollees who graduate only to work 80 hours a week for salaries in the low five figures most irritated-and eager to complain. Therein lies another change in culinary mores: The culture of complaint has entered the kitchen. Where it was once customary for someone to be fired for the quietest grumble-for "to allow people to complain opened up the doors to self-deception, laziness, and a lack of accountability"-whining is now de rigueur, coupled with an insistence that chefs not scream at their underlings, another traditional practice that's becoming rarer in the face of this sensitive new workforce. Ruhlman rushes about the country, fascinated by celebrity chefs here, up-and-comers there, America's changing food habits here, the underlings of the culinary world there, and his travels are wondrous to behold, especially when he hits Manhattan's Masa sushi empire and its customary four-digit lunch bills.
True tales of the kitchen à la Anthony Bourdain: a pleasure for foodies, and an education of the palate and pocketbook.
Starred reviews are hard to come by: good for Mr. Ruhlman.
And to keep with my once-a-waitress-always-a-waitress philosophy, and serve up the good, hot grub, I have a great new website to recommend to you devoted food lovers. Hungry Magazine, a Chicago-based group, is extremely well-done. Both articles and podcasts (interviews with chefs) are featured on the site, which has a decidedly Midwestern focus (which I love—I'm smitten with Chicago!).
The most recent interview, "The Soul of a Food Writer," is with Michael Ruhlman ...I'm listening to it as I write now, and liked when he said this: "[There is a] huge nobility in feeding people, treating the products of the earth well, turning them into something that gives pleasure and nourishment and health and community and paychecks and any number of good things."
I keep begging Ruhlman to blog, but he's too busy with paying gigs. Poor thing doesn't know what he's missing.
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Next, a brief note from McAuliflower over at Brownie Points:
I just picked up this story at grist.org, and thought you'd be interested in it. On the site, this article links to the fda's reports on state of farm economics- a sobering and painfull read.
btw- I saw the Real Dirt on Farmer John last weekend (yea! its finally in Eugene!)... thanks so much for the blog heads up on this movie. I think there were other people besides me in the theater who were crying throughout it. sigh
hope your family is doing well
The article is written by the most knowledgeable farm blogger I know: Tom Philpott.
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I subscribed to CUESA's (the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) newsletter, and encourage you to do the same. This week's bulletin focused on the news we already know all too well in Santa Cruz:
"The anticipation that seasonal eaters feel in early spring has turned into more of an ache this year as farmers forecast smaller harvests on later dates for our favorite foods. But the ache we feel is trifling compared to the devastating losses for those whose livelihoods depend on California’s fertile soil and sunshine. Storm after storm has discouraged pollinators, muddied fields and rotted flowers and berries; many farmers are struggling through the wettest season they’ve seen in at least twenty years.
"Strawberry growers are among the hardest hit. Vanessa Bogenholm of VB Farms in Watsonville has harvested just two or three percent of the amount of berries she typically picks and sells by mid-April. The farm has lost six weeks of production to the rain, a significant portion of the normal season. Many strawberry growers are incurring debt as they pay workers to remove rotten flowers and berries from the sodden fields, with little or no yield to sell."
You'll have to subscribe to read the rest, but it's worth it.
LINKED AT CUESA:
• A great story on Becky Courchesne: "Brentwood farmer's wares win UC Davis accolades" by Paula King. (Becky's the wife of Al Courchesne, and they live and work at Frog Hollow Farm.)
• Why Rick and Kristie Knoll are rebelling against "organic" farming. (Brilliant piece by Will Harper.)
What passes for "organic" these days bugs the hell out of Rick and Kristie Knoll. For instance, there's the chlorine, the same chemical found in your swimming pool. Federal rules allow organic farmers to use it to wash their greens. To a farmer such as Kristie, who is intimately familiar with the aroma of newly harvested greens, a freshly opened plastic bag of organic salad reeks of chlorine.
Not only does the chemical kill off any bad microscopic organisms that might be on the greens, it also kills off the good ones. Rick Knoll spends months brewing homeopathic "potions" loaded with beneficial microorganisms that he uses to enrich the soil on his farm and fortify his plants against disease. He denounces the prevalent mentality that people are keeping themselves healthy by killing off all the microbes in their food. "In reality," he argues, "every day you want to eat food that has beneficial microorganisms on it -- that gets in your system, mutates, and causes you to be healthy."
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Once again, I think May is going to be a BAD TIME for the Eat Local Challenge, and am seriously reconsidering my participation in the event. Yes, I know, it's not like we're in a famine. But today at the market, Ronald Donkervoort had chard and butternut squash. Everyone's late with planting, and I don't think there will be much to highlight from our local farms. Nor do I think it's reasonable to consider that we will not have to supplement our intake with non-local foods. That's what all the farmers are telling me.
They like the idea in general, but in practical terms, it's not likely to be very successful, and I'd hate to see people get turned off.
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Wonderful news about Guillermo Payet's recovery. His sister, Mariana, writes: "Guillermo, the Miracle Man":
That’s what the physical therapist told me today… that G is “the miracle man,” that his improvement so far is astonishing and that we should all be grateful. “What he has achieved in the last couple of days would take years for others.” Always the fast learner that G. I guess he’ll come out of this one with a bigger and better story than ever before. I say go for it! I promise not to roll my eyes and think to myself “ok, here we go again…” HA!
G is now out of the ICU. He is staying in room 2314. Visiting hours are until 8 pm and you are all encouraged to visit. Not only is it good for his brain to be stimulated, it is also good for his spirit. I know that he knows that he has wonderful friends, but I am not so sure that he *really* sees to what level you all care about him. So while on that note I encourage you to post stories about him. He will love to read them later. So write and go visit during the day/early evening. We want him to sleep at night! This morning he was complaining about not being able to sleep last night because it was “too f*****g loud.” The nurse said with a chuckle “yes, well, patients in the ICU don’t normally complain about the noise levels.” He also complained about the food and the stale scrambled eggs… how could you not. He’s asked for feta cheese and kalamata olives, which will be provided shortly. Sounds to me like we’ve got him back more and more every time.
And on that happy note, I'll end for now.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: A strong mind always hopes, and has always cause to hope.
Thanks for visiting.