Don’t Panic- its Organic!


Maybe.. the real Sh!z doesnt need labels

Second semester freshman year I fell in love with a challenging/interesting course; Fundamentals of Organic Agriculture(FAO for short- hey- Cheers to an environmental liberal arts education!) That was 5 years ago… and my oh my has the industry grown. With a boom in young farmers and a big jump in the general pop’s excitement toward healthy food, organic has become a household term thrown evvvvvverywhere. In that first 3 hour class my professor assigned us an impromptu- debate(classic liberal arts) on the varying sides of organic agriculture. Questions flew across the room accompanied by quick well prepared rebuttles. I kept quiet.

turns out i didn’t know jack about organic.

And in all honesty I don’t think most have a clue what organic really is, we name drop it left and right hoping someone doesn’t call our bluff asking us why we choose organic, how its important (including myself). So here’s some history, it may help a bit…

DONT PANIC …. ITS ORGANIC

1905-  Sir Abert Howard set off from England to Indore India to become an “agriculture advisor”. Instead of advising he became the student, and brought back his learnings of soil health, composting, regenerative practices etc. etc. to the US & UK through his book An Agricultural Testament– Classic organic farming text. No I have not read, yes I will soon.

1940-The Organic movement began in the US through JI Rodale’s publishing work. A playwright, editor, & author Rodale used his influence in print to familiarise our fav word organic with pesticide free (influenced by Sir Albert Howard). Keep in mind, these methods are nothing new, Sir Albert Howard is a messenger not the creator in this wild ride. Indian agriculture techniques found in Howard’s book were traditional ancient agriculture techniques.

1970(s) Organic industry grew, and so did environmental awareness. Growing too fast for its own good, there wasn’t enough of a structure developed to support its size. States were the ones regulating which meant the standards varied per region… giving the term organic no uniformity.

1990-Congress passes OFPA (Organic Foods Production Act) with the attempt to set up a national standard.

2002- Rules begin to be implemented (yay!) For the most part, this is what they consist of:

  • Land must be free of pesticides/ chemicals etc three years before you even think of being certified organic
  • No use of genetic engineering (GMO)
  • Crop rotation, cover crops, animal crop waste should be implemented, use of synthetic materials is allowed
  • preffered organic seeds
  • Pests (including weeds & diseases) will be initially controlled by management practices but basically if all else fails … use a substance that is approved by the national list..
  • animals must be fed 100% organic feed
  • no hormones or antibiotics for any reason (preventative measures can be used including vaccines- producer MUST give medical attention if required, however that animal will no longer be sold as “organic”)
  • All organic meat must have access to the outdoors, pasture for ruminants (info found at http://Www.sare.org )

Then…. Organic went mainstream

Although the original thought is exciting, massive growth in the organic movement moves it farther and farther away from it’s roots. Eco-friendly systems that focuses on connection between farmer & consumer kind of diminish. Prioritizing healthy soil loses focus as assembly lines grow.

Michael Pollan’s (author of Omnivores Dilemma-highly reccomendspoke to the topic of Big Ag in an article from Organic Consumer’s Assosciation “If organic agriculture means anything it should mean that the food has a lighter environmental footprint, its really the supermarket shopper that drives the industrialization” He urges environmentally conscious shoppers to shop their local markets instead of heading straight for the ORGANIC label.

Currently there are 8,760 year round farmers markets in the U.S. So lets get go! IF you live in the NYC area you sure are a lucky ducky, there are tons and tons of local options thanks to GROWNYC. If you aren’t in the area, no worries, you can find a farmers market near you at: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets 

Share with me your seasonal finds!

Strawberries and Cream Cake from your Dream


This weekend was my sister’s twentieth birthday. Strawberries and Cream is her all-time favorite so there was no negotiating (although I’m not too sure why anyone would want to negotiate themselves out of that!).  For Grace’s birthdays my family always picks up a strawberries and cream cake from the grocery store. Although the cake is made fresh at their bakery it just wasn’t satisfying anymore. Maybe management changed, maybe there was some sort ingredient switch-up, or it’s possible my family has become quite spoiled. Turns out-baking with farm fresh eggs changes the baked goods game. This year I decided to try my hand at Grace’s cake (assuring everyone that if the cake was a flop ice cream would be on me!).

There is no cake left, there were oohs and there were ahhs and most of all the birthday girl was smiling. We ate it all. So I am jotting it down here for you dear readers to modify/replicate. If not for a birthday then just because it’s spring!

It‘s rumored that Marie Antoinette sang “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” when the people of France were starving. The tale goes that cakes and pastries were handed out to the poor. I guess they must have had a lot of leftover cake. Whether that’s true or not I will still take a fat slice of homemade cake anyday. Cheers!

Beware: This recipe calls for buttermilk and cake flour- two uncommon ingredients in my household- if you are in a pinch, no fear!  I put the substitutes below 🙂 Happy Baking

Ingredients:

For the Cake:
-3 cups of cake flour (or 2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour + ¼ cornstarch)
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1 ½ tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp salt
-1 ½ (three sticks) butter- room temp
-3 large egg whites
-2 1/3 cups of granulated sugar
-2 tsp almond extract
-1 ½ cups Buttermilk (whole milk with 1 tbsp white vinegar/ lemon juice)

For the Filling:
-2 cups sliced strawberries
-1-2 tsp sugar

For the Frosting:
-1 pint of heavy whipped cream (chilled)
-1/4 cup powdered sugar
-1 tsp almond extract (vanilla extract will do! I prefer the almond undertone)

How to make that cake!

  1. Preheat the oven to 350* F. Butter two or three round cake pans generously with butter.
  2. Sift flour (3 cups), baking soda (3/4 tsp), baking powder (1 ½ tsp), and salt (3/4 tsp) together in one bowl
  3. Cream the butter (3 sticks @ room temp) and sugar (2 1/3 cups) until light and fluffy
  4. Add in the egg whites (3)and almond extract (2 tsp), continue beating on medium for a few
  5. While the mixer is still running add in 1/3 of your dry ingredient mixture to the mixer. Scrape down the sides, then add ¾ cup of buttermilk. Repeat until all batter ingredients are mixed together.
  6. Divide batter into buttered cake pans evenly. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until they reach a golden brown (Use ye-olde toothpick trick)
  7. Let cakes cool for at least 10 minutes

Meanwhile… in the filling department:

  1. Cut the tops of strawberries off and chop ( 2 cups worth)
  2. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and let sit in a bowl for 10 min.
  3. Strain and keep pink strawberry water for frosting

Whip it! Whip it real good!

  1. Chill the whisk & clean mixing bowl in freezer until cold
  2. Pour in (1 Pint) heavy cream, powdered sugar (1/4 cup) and almond extract ( 1tsp)
  3. Add in whatever pink strawberry liquid you have leftover
  4. Whip until stiff peaks!

Build it!

  1. Place the largest cake (there always is a bigger layer) on the plate & spread with whipped cream
  2. Spread half of strawberries
  3. Repeat if doing three layer cake
  4. Frost top layer and decorate with remaining strawberries OR fresh chopped strawberries- it’s up to you!

Chateau Ormes de Pez



The Elms of Pez

A trip is planned for Bordeaux as you know… these sketches are me doing my very best to contain my exciteement. Thank you for baring with me!

June 2019. Plans are coming to together and solidifying as the next few months progress.  I’ll be flying into CDG and spending the first two nights of the 8 day trip soaking up the magic of Paris. It’s been just under two years since my last visit, I am due for another! Although Paris is incredible it is but the beginning of my voyage. I will be taking a train to Bordeaux where I rent a car (to say that I traveled by plane, train, and car). Who knows, maybe I can convince someone to lend me their boat!

I will barrel my way through Bordeaux to the commune of Saint Estephe in southwestern coast of France, which hugs the Gironde Estuary.  The Medoc region in France is known as the wine growing region (go figure-afterall we are in Bordeaux) It is also the region where Mimi Thorisson now resides and provided inspiration for her second book French Country Cooking. The French countryside indeed.


For those new here, I will be taking a much anticipated workshop with Mimi & her husband Oddur in June. Learning the ropes of her kitchen, and Oddur’s photography skills. Mimi sent a list of her housing recommendations and after reading up I made my decision. The deciding moment was when I came across an entry on Manger: “ Chateau Ormes de Pez… the place I’d love to stay if I did not live in Medoc. In fact I think I might like to stay there anyway” Mimi’s words, and advice I must not take for granted. So, it’s four nights at the Chateau Ormes de Pez, The Elms of Pez. Check out Mimi’s post for yourself!http://mimithorisson.com/2013/05/09/lintendant-his-slow-cooked-lamb-2/


Dating back to the 16th Century, the Chateau is now owned by the Cazes Family (will report back about who these people are and why their name is just so important in Bordeaux). The home was originally named “Domaine de Pez” the field or Domain of the town of Pez. During the French Revolution the name was changed to reflect the many Elm trees that garbed the 82 acre vineyard. An award winning vineyard in Bordeaux? How perfect. 50% of the grapes grown are Cabernet Sauvignon (the real reason behind my housing decision). The remaining acres are filled with 33% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. The soil consists of gravel, clay, and sand just perfect for these earthy robust wines. I’m salivating.


The beautiful building sings romance, a sweet melody that runs through the vineyards, around the horse barn and through each of the five rooms. I wrote to the L’intendant Gilles de Marcellus about my stay and he suggested a car. Enter the first car rental this chick has ever signed for. Wish me luck! Or better yet, wish the people of Bordeaux luck…

Secrets to raising kids (the goat kind)


Margaret and Rose (my nigerian dwarf goats) were purchased with two intentions. The first, and one that certainly got my parents on board was to create a micro-dairy system. Supplying our family with all our dairy needs. The second reason was to fill my summer with baby goat love! I had the opportunity to take them to college with me at the end of that summer, so it seemed like the right move for me! Becoming mom.


After much research I officially brought my girls home, separating them from their mother, and feeding system. I then gave myself the responsibility to feed each girl 4-6 times a day!

… Taking them away from their (biological) mother at two weeks old had me feeling a variety of emotions. Was it too soon? Is this healthy? Will it be too much work? Are there any other options? Not at all comparable to human surrogate motherhood, but to my then 19 year old self certainly felt just as serious.

For all those new to goat mother & fatherhood (it’s true- you feel like parents!) I created a little pro & con list to help understand the benefits and downsides to raising goat kids as bottle babies (taking them away from mother pretty early-like I did) opposed to dam raising (allowing the doe to raise them naturally). These are conclusions I drew from raising my two doelings, an experience I am so very grateful for. I can’t wait till I am able to do it all over again but this time will be with a few changes.

Dam Raised:


Pros-

-There is a fair amount of convenience when raising kids with their mother. It’s like having a child and having a night nurse. If you don’t feel like milking or there just isn’t time- no worries, we won’t hold your grades! The kid will drink up any extra milk the momma produces, happy momma =healthy milk!


Cons-

    -Colostrum is produced by all female mammals once giving birth. This first bit of milk that the mother produces is packed with antibodies. A Built in health system. Let’s hear it for Mother Nature!

Inevitably there will be less milk in production for the farmer- depending on how many goats you have this could be a bummer.

    -When the mother is the main focus for the kid, you will have to do some major bonding work to get them to trust you. Constant touching, and handling will get your kid affectionate in no time. Nigerian Dwarfs in general are a very interactive breed, constantly looking for attention so no fear! You will have a playful goat companion one way or another!

Bottle Baby:


Pros-

-As I explained before, bonding is key. When you, the human, become the feeding system by default you are bonding & desensitizing. The kids will now look to you for all their hunger pains & follow every step you make. So lots of goat time!

    – The biggest pro of all- You get to give bottles to baby goats!


Cons-

    -Sticking to a schedule- You have to stick to a feeding schedule, just like a newborn human! Those babies NEED nourishment constantly (I’m talking 4-6 times +per day in the first month).

    -Eliminating mom from the equation means you become the monitoring system. Keeping a close eye on their weight gain, bowel movements, doting on them so they are used to human touch, etc (you probably would be doing this anyway- however its maximized with bottle babies)

    -Coccidiosis (lots of diarrhea, dehydration) is the number one fear I had raising my girls. Kids are prone to get it when they aren’t processing their food correctly… and most common when feeding milk replacement ( powder milk mixed with warm water)

-Like I said.. goat Kid diarrhea is REAL. I kept a huge pack of baby wipes with me at all times before I switched them from milk replacement to actual goat milk (a friend gave me a couple gallons of frozen goat milk from her herd to thaw out & feed to my girls). They went from green diarrhea to soft pellets in a day (TMI?)

changes I will be making with my next go-around…

Bottle feeding my girls was an amazing experience, but I would change a few things for the next batch I raise:

-Raise partially on dam- this means not taking them away until at least 1 month of age, once doing so keeping the kids with their mother for a couple hours a day. This gives you the milk product you want for yourself as well as a happy healthy kid!

-Goat milk only- Instead of bothering with milk replacement I will have a source of goat milk ready (from another herd) for the girls to consume. This means I will be saving some of my own herd’s goat milk in the freezer for the next season)


There are some things that worked brilliantly. If you are able to take your goats on little adventures, do so. Try to introduce them to all the people (you won’t have an issue with getting people to swoon over your new goats!). Snuggle them all the time and you will have yourself some very affectionate ruminants. Oh.. and get two. It’s not an option, they will need a companion no matter how dedicated a mother you may be. My girls stand for their feet to be clipped, follow me everywhere on the farm, and are fine with me “milking”(getting them used to touch on their udders is important- we will be breeding them this fall!). I attribute their kind little souls to our very consistent schedule of bonding during their first 6 months.

Just Grow with it


My new mantra, Just growing with it has taken my full attention. The now go to answer when asked do I like the city? Wow, your job doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with sustainable agriculture… are you happy? Yes, Just growing with it Karen. Often, I flip back to freshman year Keeley, she had plans about everything. She would take one look at my current seat at the table and spit out her cheap wine. This is not where she intended me to be. Oh my my my am I happy about that. Turns out, just growing with it definitely has its perks.

Learning to let go of control has been quite an adventure. Coming up on my 2nd birthday in NYC… I am noticing a shift in my adulthood… let me explain. When traveling in the city, the size of your fire does not matter, you have no control. You are at the mercy of strangers. The train conductor, the uber or taxi driver, the gentleman crossing the street during your green light, a traffic jam. You know the deal, you don’t have a vote regarding what time you arrive. Historically I have been very punctual person (salute to my father). I have now leaned into losing control of my arrival times (other than my job ofcourse) instead of staying frustrated. My roommate and friend from college, Nora pointed this out to me when walking home yesterday.


Two years in this city have flown by, and I am just growing with it. A planner at heart, I am scheduling in these years as time to grow. Time to take chances, hop on opportunities, spend a lil, save a lil and grow with the path I am taking.

Friends for five strong years, Nora and I became roommates last December, right before the holidays. Ill be honest, we are very fortunate, and scored a great deal on a smashing apartment in Brooklyn. We had dreams to stay in Manhattan (she lived in Chelsea, I in Hell’s Kitchen) but the Brooklyn bells were ringing… Let me show you what I’m talking about:

My farm girl heart is oh so pleased with the luxury of a backyard. Now that things seem to be thawing out, plans are in the works for what to do with our gorgeous spot. A salsa garden for sure, all the herbs, and ofcourse flowers everywhere, but I am thinking of trying my hand at fun produce such as artichokes and figs. Leafy greens are a must, beans and peas to trellis up the fence. Taking all suggestions, leave an idea or comment below, something unique you have in your garden or are planning to implement.  After all, I am just growing with it. Cheers!


By one get one (goat)



Most students arrive home from college with tattoos or piercings. I brought home goats or rather the idea of a micro dairy operation. Studying sustainable agriculture does things. With an organic farm on my college campus, my interest in all things goat-related was consistently fueled.


Briefly during my sophomore year I spent time working at Consider Bardwell Farm. This farm is home to one of the best raw milk creameries in the northeast. Somehow I worked my way into the position of selling cheese at the Winter Farmers Market in Dorset, Vermont, it was a dream.

I went home that summer with the idea of making my own goat milk dairy, so that one day I could have fresh goat milk cheeses at my dispose. And to do it correctly, I would need to begin from the ground up. Nigerian Dwarf goats are the perfect addition for small scale dairy options. Standing no taller than 24 inches at maturity (smaller than many dogs) they take up very little space. For such a small size these goats produce about 2 pounds of milk a day. Perfect for supplying a family their dairy grocery. Enter Margaret & Rose.

Excuse the poor quality photos- they are a few years old!

Many stories go along with this pair but my favorite is our first day together (they were 12 days old). I am named after my nana’s maiden name, Margaret Rose Keeley Frayne.  My grandmother has dementia, and at this point it had gotten quite bad. I am so grateful that this disease has kept her lovely nature — she is still the sweetest human I’ve ever known.  Moving along, on this day the house was empty except for nana. My mom, dad, and sister were out running some errand or at some horse show, I had gone to a Nigerian Dwarf Goat farm for “information” about the breed (or that’s what I told my parents). I arrived home with my two little darlings before everyone’s return. My intention was to get just one doeling (female baby goat), but with a bit of  research concluded that goats needed companionship – oh darn, guess I would have to get two. At this point my parents understood my interests in micro dairy and my long-term plan, but not the sincerity of it.

I showed the new goats to my nana and her reaction was interesting, something familiar. She seemed to know that I had done something without permission; that these goats were a little unplanned. She smiled and petted my twin girls, cooing to them telling them they are pretty girls. I brought them out to the barn to get them settled and we began bonding (bottle feeding every makes you mom real quick).  



Gravel crunched and my family was home. Smiles greeted me, but I was definitely in trouble for (1) bringing home an animal without permission and (2) getting 2 instead of my anticipated 1 doeling (oops). My grandmother had warned my mom when she came in that I had brought home two goats. In fact her words were “Did you see, she’s got goats, she’s got two of them” (!!!!!!!) This was and always will be a memorable moment. You see, my grandmother mainly speaks in broken sentences now and these sentences usually consist of how beautiful we are (I told you she was sweet), or asking for food (I can absolutely relate). Nana remembering my goats and inferring that they were not part of the plan was a fleeting moment but a great one and it only seemed fitting to name my girls Margaret and Rose.


Thank you for letting me share this story, Nana and these girls mean so much. It was inevitable that Nana would make her debut on Pitchfork and Pearls