TLC RANCH VISIT ON LABOR DAY WEEKEND
Yes, I am SO GLAD I did not attend the Slow Food event last weekend. We celebrated slow food without having to pony up to Carlo Petrini. [Edit: please read this post about Slow Food Nation's "Come to the Table." I was crying before I even got to the end.]
Last Sunday was fantastic. Rebecca Thistlethwaite and Jim Dunlop at TLC Ranch had invited some friends out to celebrate a real slow food event, and that included a tour of the ranch with Jim. That's him, hamming it up (so to speak) with a chicken who'd gotten out of the fence.
Since my car was out of commission (more on that in a bit: it brought a blessing), I got a ride with Guillermo and Amber Payet, of LocalHarvest.org. If you read my blog, you know they're dear friends, and I had the utter joy of sitting in the back seat with little baby Joaquin, eleven weeks old. I was in heaven, of course.
We got there late in the afternoon, past the hottest part of the day, and met Jim with a friend at his red pick-up truck, sipping beers. Slowly, slowly, we all strolled down to see the pigs first. Rebecca and Fiona were at home, getting ready for the potluck, and Bob and Logan would meet us there.
There are fifty pigs now, all about three or four months old. There was a marked difference in their behavior since the last time I'd visited in July. These pigs didn't scurry away when we approached; they've become used to people. They snuffled our shoes, and exhibited the personalities that pigs are famous for: a pig will look you in the eye. (See above.)
Amber and I lagged behind while Jim, Deborah, and Guillermo went far afield with the pigs. We chatted about motherhood as she sat on an upturned bucket and nursed Joaquin, sipping on a cold beer. Pretty farmy.
I learned that it was little Joaquin's first farm visit. Guillermo handed me his camera, which has some zoom, to take pictures of the baby: that was great. Joaquin's a very alert little being: serious at first, but eventually made to laugh, after ten minutes of me making every silly noise in the world that babies love.
If you've never experienced it, take my word that being surrounded by three thousand chickens, all very much sounding like they're endorsing Ba-raaaaaaaaaaaaack, is a very pleasant and relaxing experience. It sets the stress meter to zero. I'm big on resetting the stress meter, especially with the price of gasoline and food and day care and all. Yep, when I'm on a farm, it all just recedes like the waves at low tide, and all I do is take in all the green and the good there.
Amber and I caught up: Jim was eager to show us his feed tanks, which he'd paid $150 for (!), and which have eased his life considerably. The pair of tanks hold six and seven tons of feed, and that's pretty much a month's worth. The delivery of chicken feed means Jim doesn't lose precious time or money on gas, making the trip to Modesto, and he doesn't need to be present for the deliveryman.
I walked with Deborah, telling her about my work, and my first visit with Jim at the ranch. She misunderstood when I described Jim telling me how he was the world's best chicken catcher: "You have to act like you mean it." She pointed to an escapee, some thirty yards ahead of us in the lane, and said, "So show me."
After laughing my head off at the idea that I'd be demonstrating the stealth and physical prowess necessary to trick and capture a stray hen, I poked at Jim and pointed to the bird. Seconds later, he held the upside-down hen in his hands. (Spooky dinosaur feet, huh?)
"Go out long, Jim!" And he did. Hence the first picture you see up above. The guy needs his own show, I'm telling ya.
Back at Jim and Rebecca's house, other friends had arrived. Company for the evening included Ron and Collette, owners of Claravale Dairy, one of the state's only remaining raw milk dairies. Also Rebecca King, whose sheep dairy enterprise is slowly gathering momentum: she not only contributed lamb shanks that Rebecca T. had braised to heavenly perfection with garlic and aromatic juices, but two wheels of sheep's cheese that she'd made.
Confession: I was so completely entranced with baby Joaquin that I pretty much forgot to be responsible at the potluck and take pictures of the slow food feast we enjoyed. I forgot to take pictures of Fiona, and I forgot to take pictures of my own grandson. Joaquin got me in an eye-lock that lasted for about an hour, and if I looked away, he'd fuss. Heaven, redux.
Rebecca K. has learned so much in the short time I've known her, and I'll be heading out to her new farm soon. Because it's lambing season. (She's selling half and whole lambs, if you're in the neighborhood.)
Along with the shanks, Guillermo and Amber provided a tortilla made with TLC Ranch eggs, and I deviled some of their eggs (ooooh, try sautéeing jalapeños in lime olive oil for some zippy deviled eggs).
I also lacked the presence of mind to photograph the stacks of eggs in Jim's huge garage: they were towering. I'll get there next time: it's pretty where they live in Aromas.
LIME OLIVE OIL & A COINCIDENCE OF LOVELY MAGNITUDE
And it is lime olive oil that leads me to the blessing I mentioned above, in relation to my car's dead battery.
I had used the very last of my Stella Cadente Persian Lime olive oil, acquired in July. I prefer the Stonehouse lime oil, but it's been out of stock for weeks. So Googling alternatives gave me the information that a local shop, Jones & Bones, carried Stella Cadente, but I balked at the higher price. (Stonehouse is about half the price.)
Still, last Friday, I got a payday and decided that I had to have the oil. As long as our garden's putting out zucchini and corn, I need that flavor in my kitchen. Best invention all summer: zucchini and corn, sautéed with lime olive oil and mint, with a dusting of salt. No recipe: you can figure it out.
I parked at Jones & Bones, which has been there for 24 years, and I have no idea how I've missed this gem for so long. Head slap! I bought the oil and went to my car, which would not start. The ninety minutes it took for Bob to arrive to give me a jump resulted in a new gig for me, all because the shop owner, Jennifer Jones, wondered what my license tag meant.
When I told her about my work—paying and blogging—she told me she needed help, urgently, getting her website and online store updated. Well, and considering that I could work for cash and trade, Lordie, I jumped on it.
Poke around the site. Jennifer's late partner of 34 years, Betty Pustarfi, was a titan in the international olive oil industry, and appeared in Florence Fabricant's column in the NY Times. Needless to say, olive oil and good balsamic vinegars get a splendid showing at the shop. (About the shop: it's the kind of place my daughter refers to as "the mothership" for me. Like a Sur La Table but more eclectic, and with lots of one-of-a-kind items. I'm hankering after one of these clocks.)
I've come home in the last few days feeling more like Mrs. Santa Claus than anything else. I've got olive oil, salts, popcorn (gift set for Bob), teas, chocolates, pasta, sauces, Stonewall Kitchen condiments, and the most beautiful Soap Rocks. Last night's dinner was shiitake risotto (arborio from Jones & Bones) made with Glace de Canard, Magic Mushroom, Stella Cadente Blood Orange olive oil, with zest from local blood oranges, accompanied with padrón peppers and heirloom tomatoes (Grandma Josie, yellow, and Paul Robeson, black) drizzled with olive oil and good balsamic.
So that's where I've been and what I've been doing: database stuff for a great store and a great person, and enjoying some improvements in our little family. Guillermo and Amber allowed Logan yesterday to be an honorary brother to Joaquin, and Logan is over the moon. He called out in his sleep last night, "I don't WANT to help Nana! I want to hold the BABY!"
Summer has been wonderful, with deepening friendships and an always-growing appreciation of our region's bounty and beauty.
The political picture is terrifying—the desire for extremists to merge church and state, for one thing. But I am trying to keep my head away from the worries, and to remind myself (and you) of the things we can see and do to anchor love and meaning into our lives, though good work, good people, and good food.
More to come: I promise.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars." — Henry Van Dyke
As always, thanks for visiting!