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Wet and Cold and Downy Fluff

Chicks arrive via the post office!

Capricious March weather means lots of layers and a steady stream of hot tea and coffee when available. The one place on the farm that will be consistently warm over the next few weeks is our baby chick brooder!

250 yellow fluff balls arrived at the Fairview Post Office this morning. We had to clear out the brooder and put in a nest of fresh hay for the little guys’ home for the next few weeks. It’s always difficult to tell how March weather will affect our first batch of chickens.

Last year we scheduled our first group of chicks just two weeks earlier, at the end of February. While they were fine in the brooder, once we moved them out onto pasture the weather turned nasty. We had several frigid March weeks full of sleet and snow. Because our birds are pasture raised and we have a system set up that doesn’t have a lot of provisions for cold weather, we lost far too many chickens to the freezing temperatures. Chickens will crowd together in the cold to share body heat but they are overzealous in their push for warmth and often smother several of their fellow birds during a frosty night.

Unfortunately for us, Walker decided to go on a two week Vacation to Germany that coincided exactly with our chicken debacle. Jake (the intern at the time) and I had to deal with the daily frustration of frozen fowl without the reassurance of our fearless farm manager. Every morning was the same. We’d slosh our way up the pasture to the house and peer gloomily inside. If there was a dark mass of birds in a corner of the structure, it meant that several had been smothered. We would tally up our losses and make a report of how many we had lost that day, each time bemoaning the dwindling number that would be left for our customers.

We were beginning to give up hope for that first batch, to the point that I remember sending Walker emails apologizing for the fact that we probably would lose the entire group in his absence. The damage wasn’t quite has bad as we’d anticipated but, but the time we sent that first group of broilers to the processor, they were a bedraggled and scrawny few.

We pushed our schedule back for this year in hopes that we won’t run into this problem again, but it’s difficult to tell when winter will release Fairview from its grasp entirely. In any case, the babies are cozy and dry for now, cheeping happily in their new home and bathing in the warmth from the heat lamps. By the time they go out on pasture,  I hope all the vestiges of cold have vanished. I hope the winds are warm, the sun bright, and the nights balmy. I hope spring comes in earnest!

best,

Sweetbread

Warm and Happy to be out of the box!

 

Telling Stories

 

I love stories. There is nothing so pleasurable as hearing a great story told well. Growing up on the farm, I heard lots of tales about old characters and personalities who worked here over the years. My dad has an incredible knack for remembering the names and details from events that happened around the farm. Not only the things he lived through, but also the ones he heard his parents talk about from before his time. I love listening to him recount those tales in his precise, nostalgic manner. In a sense, stories are how we understand a thing, how we relate to it. They can be our most rudimentary method of communication or our most nuanced. To me, good stories beg to be told. They whisper in breathily in my ear until I can bring them out into the light. I’ve come across some great stories in my search for information about the history of the farm. They are most just fun little tales about living and working on a farm in Appalachia. I thought it might be fun to share some of them. I hope you enjoy!

Elizabeth McClure taking a ride with Aunt Freddie and Aunt Bessie in the Hudson while John Shorter takes the wheel.

When Jim and Elizabeth (my great grandparents) first came to Fairview, they made the drive from Asheville in their new Hudson Automobile. Unfortunately the flooding that had wracked Fairview in the spring also left the little country road impassible for some time. The newlyweds soon learned the dangers of traveling through the country in a city rig, when their shiny new Hudson got mired in heavy mud. John Shorter, an employee at Hickory Nut, and a fellow who would prove to be one of the most devoted and reliable workers for the McClures, had to come with his team of oxen to haul the young pair up the mountain. Upon learning that Mr. McClure was a minister, John Shorter informed him that the names of his animals were ‘Red’ and ‘Brown’, but only because he thought that a stoutly religious man might be offended at their real names: ‘Hell’ and ‘Fire’.

Jamie McClure, Jim and Elizabeth’s first child, was fascinated by many of the farm animals and took great interest in the tasks of the farmers. Once, when he was playing with the sheep, one of the rams butted him so hard it knocked him off his feet. While he was trying to ‘soothe’ that one with his miniature watering can, another ram came up from behind and butted him over again. He pretty quickly learned to keep a wary eye out while walking through the sheep herd and always carried some sort of protection.

Apple picking with the boys. Young Jamie McClure is the second from the left.

Jamie also became very interested in the mystery of chicken eggs. Unlike most children, he didn’t simply ask where an egg comes from, instead he decided to experiment. He ventured down to the chicken house and, finding and unusually docile rooster, he imagined he had tamed it. He snuck the bird into the house and hid it in his closet for several nights. One morning the animal started crowing at six a.m. and woke up the entire household. Jamie had tried to get his rooster to lay and egg for breakfast by prodding it with a stick. He was confused when it failed to produce anything but the loud squawking noises. Afterwards, demoralized by his failure to see scientific results, he bowed to necessity and asked his father, “why don’t roosters have egging powers?”

Happy as a Spring Chicken

That’s right, the weather is warming up and that means we’ll have fresh chicken soon. Starting April 24 you can come out to the farmstore or visit us at our farmers market venues and buy fresh, never frozen chicken. We raise our poultry out in the pasture so they have plenty of space to knock about in the dirt and enjoy the fresh green clover and the warm sunny days of spring.

Pastured chicken is consistently found to have higher levels of vitamins A,C, and E, as well as much higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and beta-carotene. Not only that but it tastes great too! This year we’ve come up with a new pasture rotation system for our poultry so that we will have fresh chicken all summer long. We will also bring chicken to our Market locations starting this weekend, 4/6/13 at the Asheville City Market.

Keller’s Roast Chicken Recipe

This recipe is one of our regular customer’s FAVORITES!
Keller’s Roast Chicken Recipe
The chicken must be at room temperature before it goes in the oven, or the chicken will not cook evenly. What Keller recommends (and what we do) is leave the chicken in the refrigerator, uncovered (on a plate and not touching anything else in the fridge), for 1-2 days after buying it, so that the skin gets a bit dried out. It will roast up crispier this way. Then 1 1/2 to 2 hours before it goes in the oven, we put it on a plate on the kitchen counter to come to room temp (about 70 degrees). Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken before you set it out to come to room temp. (Save for stock.)

Ingredients
One 4 to 4 1/2 pound chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (smash with the side of a chef’s knife, makes it easier to peel)
5 thyme sprigs
About 1/3 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil (Keller uses canola oil, we prefer olive or grapeseed oil)
4 Tbsp butter, room temperature (spreadable)
A large (11-inch if you have it) cast-iron frying pan
Kitchen string

Method
1 Preheat oven to 475°F.

2 Use a paring knife to cut away the wishbone from the neck/breast area of the chicken. You will probably have to use your fingers to feel around for it. This is a little bit tricky, but if you can remove the wishbone first, it will make the chicken easier to carve after it is cooked. (This ease of future carving is the only reason to take the bone out, so you can leave it in if you want.)

3 Generously season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Add three garlic cloves and 5 sprigs of the thyme to the cavity, using your hands to rub the thyme and garlic all around the cavity.

4 Truss the chicken with kitchen string. To do so, start by cutting a 3-foot section of cotton kitchen string. Place the chicken so that it is breast up, and the legs pointing toward you. Tuck the wing tips under the chicken. Wrap the string under the neck end of the bird, pulling the string ends up over the breast, toward you, plumping up the breast. Then cross the string under the breast (above the cavity and between the legs). Wrap each end around the closest leg end, and tie tightly so that the legs come together.

5 Slather the chicken with oil and season well with salt and pepper.

6 Place the chicken in the pan. Slather the top of the chicken breasts with butter.

7 Place the pan in the oven and roast the chicken for 25 minutes at 475°F. Then reduce the heat to 400°F and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 160°F on a meat thermometer and the juices run clear.

8 Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving to serve.

9 Cut the chicken into serving pieces.

Serves 4.

Perfect Roasted Chicken Recipe

One of the reasons I love getting a whole pasture raised chicken from the farm is because I get 3 meals out of one piece of meat! First, I roast the whole bird. Check out the Foodnetwork’s Perfect Roasted Chicken Recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/perfect-roast-chicken-recipe/index.html. Second I pick the carcass clean and save those chicken scraps for sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, etc. Third I place the carcass in a large stock pot, cover it with water and cook it on low for 8-24+ hours. Voila, you have chicken stock! Use the stock in your cooking or add salt, pepper, carrots, onions, and celery while its simmering for a hearty broth!