With a crunchy layer of frost blanketing the ground outside our windows, we are scrambling to get ready for winter. There’s always a peak in activity this time of year as we prepare to put our farm to sleep. Many things to do…chop firewood, set posts for some new overwintering paddocks, acquire and set out more hay, bring the animals back off the pasture and into their winter homes, harvest squash, plant garlic, build some new lean-tos, can applesauce and hot sauce, make sauerkraut and many other things I can’t remember right now….
The sun is setting earlier each day and we really feel it as we hurry home in the waning light to feed pigs and put away tools before darkness falls. While we used to work until 8 or sometimes 9 pm, now we are all home together around six, which means more family time, something Tilia and Maureen greatly appreciate. Our woodstove is working away keeping us toasty and braising beef, roasting squash, nuts, and chicory, rendering lard, cooking down bones, baking acorn bread, and of course cooking up bacon and eggs in the morning. We’ve been busy harvesting and processing the last of summer’s bounty and storing away for the winter. Acorns, apples, and chicory will provide a winter’s worth of bread, fruit, and yummy warm beverages.
The animals have been enjoying their few last weeks of grazing. During the September drought we pulled the sheep and cattle off the pasture and fed some for a whole month. This gave our pasture a bit of time to recover, and with a bit of rain and late September warmth, we are fortunately back out grazing for a few more weeks before it’s full-on hay feeding season. Right now, we’re strategically feeding hay up on our hillsides, extending the length of time the animals stay in a paddock, and building and remineralizing soils that have experienced over 100 years of overgrazing previous to our arrival. We feed hay that was cut and baled down stream of us in a few floodplain fields of the Kickapoo River, way up on our steep hillsides. The cattle and sheep eat most of it, pooping and stomping some hay back into the soils. These sandy, leached, mineral-poor soils normally produce very little, mostly brown grass. Next year, however, in the spots we’re feeding hay, they will shoot up right away in the spring with lush green growth, thriving with the much needed addition of minerals and organic matter. We’re reversing the flow of gravity, returning eroded minerals and nutrients back to their home soils. We take our jobs as keystone species seriously.
We’ve been racing to get the foundation for our new house backfilled, insulated, and protected from frost before it gets too much colder. That means lots of tractor work and shoveling. Shoveling gravel for 4 hours is a great way to stay warm on a chilly day!
The chillier temperatures mean time for stews and braises. Possibly my very favorite way to eat meat is in a braise, which means cooking meat long and slow in liquid, usually wine, broth, beer or a combination. If you have one, braises and stews can easily be made in a slow cooker and make a great weekend meal for a family.
Recipe of the Month
We had some beautiful stew meat cut from our beef to make beef stews easier. We recommend you try one of our very favorite recipes, this variation of beef bourgignon. It sounds fancy but it simple to make and so, so nourishing and delicious.
Add-ons available this month
- Beef Summer Sausage
- Pastured Pork Lard
- Beef Bones
- Pastured Eggs
Enjoy some quality meals with your family this autumn!
Peter, Maureen, Tilia and the menagerie of beasts