Max here... I want to write about the dinner I cooked tonight.
Not because it was some fabulous recipe. I want to mention it because it came from a mentality shift I am going through. We have been so busy lately between the Olive Harvest, and getting lots of new plants in the ground. Then, a few weeks ago, our two kids got sick, and the cold hung on for several days before clearing up. Eventually I got it too -- no fun, especially when there's so much to get done. I can't call in sick and just tell the plants and weeds to stop growing for a few days.
My thought was "Why are we getting sick? Don't we lead a pretty healthy lifestyle and fresh diet?" Of course, I realize even the healthiest among us will get sick to some degree from time to time, but nonetheless it made me stop and rethink about what we've been eating lately. I didn't like what I saw.
Can the farmer be too busy to eat his own food? Sounds silly. But I realized we were sliding down that slope. Amidst all the to-do, we found we were eating more and more "quick foods." Not your typical "quick food." But things like more sandwiches made with Ezechiel bread, and a lot of eggs, since they cook up quickly. I'm not saying that those are bad things to eat, but we weren't eating according to our dietary goals inspired by Weston A. Price, and the Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.
We have a freezer full of our very own chickens, but we weren't finding time to make stock and chicken. We do eat salads from our farm every day, but not as much kale, cilantro and parsley as we could be -- all green super foods that should be nourishing our bodies!
So today, I pulled one of those chickens out, and some extra chicken feet we had, and put it in the stock pot to simmer. I walked the farm to see what I could pick fresh for tonight's dinner. I took home Romaine Lettuce, Kale, Green Onions, Ripe Tomatoes, Parsley, Cilantro. Tonight we enjoyed a large salad dressed with our own new olive oil (blog post on that coming soon!!). We had rice cooked in nourishing chicken stock, with kale, cilantro, parsley, garlic and green onion. We added the chicken to the rice, and at last we felt like we were once again eating a traditional, nourishing, delicious meal. And we knew the story behind where it all came from.
And we're going to do it again tomorrow! Here's to picking up wherever you are, and doing one thing to put healthier, fresher food in our bodies, and connect with the story of that food and who grew it!
For those of you that want the "recipe", here it is:
Rice Cooked in Chicken Stock
2 cups rice (we use organic long grain brown)
4 cups chicken stock
Any amount of chicken meat (we use the meat from the carcass used to make stock)
4-6 cloves garlic
A little Butter
Several generous three-finger pinches of salt (we use Celtic Sea Salt.)
Saute the onions in butter until cooked, and salt them well. Add the garlic and cook another couple minutes. Add the rice, stock, salt and chicken, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until the rice has soaked up all the stock.
Once the rice is done, add freshly chopped green onion, cilantro and parsley and serve. Adding some lemon and butter or olive oil also helps. Add salt if needed.
Hey Folks, Max and Deirdre writing together here...
A few weeks ago, we took an amazing trip with the whole family to Maine. Back in March, our good friend and band member Margaret asked us if our band Hidden Fifth wanted to play a concert as part of a Catholic Rural Life Festival being organized by Fr. Paul Dumais of St. Joseph's Catholic Parish in Farmington, Maine. Although we hadn't played a full theater show in 4 years, we were up for the challenge, and said yes! Boy, are we glad we did!
The Festival spanned 4 days of amazing events from Sept 14-17. Fr. Paul described the event as a "Conversation on Nature and Grace" bringing together Catholics to both reflect on the ramifications of our faith on rural living, and to celebrate that life fully. One good way to describe it was a combination of a spiritual retreat, and a grand celebration of rural values such as food, farms and folk music and dancing. The festival combined common prayer, classes on homesteading skills, lost culinary arts, common meals, talks, presentations, contra dancing, and our concert.
Upon arrival, we were hosted at the beautiful Morrill Farm B&B in Sumner, ME. The B&B is on a working farm with dairy, pastured broilers, and a beautiful farmhouse and barn from the 1700s! The Family has also built their own private chapel on the property, and part of the festivities for the weekend took place there, including a procession through the fields, and blessing of the fields and barn. We got an extended tour the first morning, and were enthralled by the beauty of the farm, and the hospitality of our hosts.
We played our concert on Friday night for festival attendees and the show was open to the public. It was a fabulous evening of music and dance, and we don't know whether we or the audience had a better time that evening! We definitely want to play a show in Maine again! The venue was a beautiful old Church converted to a concert venue.
Saturday night we attended a 5-course farm-to-table dinner featuring food from 14 local farms! The parish provided free babysitting for the kids, who got to eat wood-fired pizza cooked on-site, homemade french fries and homemade ice cream from a local dairy farm. We thoroughly enjoyed being able to eat our meal without chasing kids around, and the nice ladies helping out commented that Declan really knows how to eat a lot of pizza! Since we don't generally feed him pizza at home, we guess he figured he had better stock up! We have no doubt that Siobhan took advantage of the quantity of pizza too, and the fact that Mom and Dad weren't in the room to curtail consumption.
The dinner was followed by a contradance, and we danced every single dance. Deirdre started out by wearing Declan on her back, and then when he fell asleep (we had some late nights that trip!), we put him down on a lambskin in the hall, and kept on dancing! Siobhan danced almost every dance, and did a great job for a 4 year old dancing at 10 pm!
We were also excited to meet 4 staff members from the national non-profit Catholic Rural Life. We have been members of CRL for the last year, and it was exciting to talk to them about our farm, and new website www.youngchristianfarmers.com. They gave some great talks over the course of the festival.
It's hard to convey just how amazing of a trip this was for us. All of our life's passions came crashing together at this event. Folk Music + Farming + Faith + Community + Contra Dancing + Local Food + Beautiful Rural Nature + Traditional Skills + Stimulating Intellectual Conversations. We could not even soak up all the goodness that was happening there in the four days that we had. It inspired us to live out our values to the fullest, and we were so honored to take part in, and even contribute to the festivities. We could go on and on and on, but we'll let some of the photos speak for themselves.
We were inspired to reflect deeply on how our faith compels us to work hard to restore the rural family to the American cultural landscape. We encourage all our Catholic brothers and sisters to work for the same goal, which Pope Benedict considered an important need for our times. "The rural family needs to regain its rightful place at the heart of the social order." Even if we don't all live in rural areas, we all as eaters depend on rural families to provide us with our most basic life's necessities, so we are all in this together, and we all benefit greatly from a robust culture of rural living. One concrete way to do this is to become a member of Catholic Rural Life, which needs members like us to support them in their important work of ministering to these rural communities and building them up.
Max here... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everybody! We are having a wonderful Christmas season, and we certainly like to draw out the season for all it's worth! Things got rolling Christmas Eve, starting with a farmers market in the morning, then straight to my parents house for tree decorating, and then from there to Deirdre's parents for Christmas Eve dinner. On the way over, we stopped at the farm to make one final check on the plants, and to pick greens for that evening's salad. After a lovely Christmas Eve dinner of traditional fish soup and salad, the whole extended family gathered around the tree for poetry, carols and tunes late into the evening.
Siobhan awoke the next morning with delight to find her stocking stuffed with healthy, yummy goodies!
Christmas day started out once again at my parents' house, then midafternoon we drove 30 minutes to be with Deirdre's family for the rest of the day (and a lot of the night!) We lose track of time on days like this, and we did not sit down to Christmas dinner until 10:30 at night. Turkey, gravy, salad, homemade apple sauce, cranberries, olives... a true feast!
Why celebrate just Christmas day? We don't like to let a feast go uncelebrated, so we gatherered back at our house the next morning for a St. Stephen's day brunch, followed by a brisk hike along a mountain road within walking distance of our house.
Among the bounty of beautiful gifts given to us by many loving family members and friends, we mention just a few here. We prepared jars of our chai mixture spices, together with local raw honey, and homemade persimmon leather for our family members. Deirdre surprised me with "The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs," the latest book written by our favorite farming mentor Joel Salatin. I surprised her with a subscription and 10 back issues to our new favorite magazine "Taproot," edited by Amanda Soule of "Soule Mama Blog." We have been avidly reading the articles, which go hand in hand with our vision of a life fully lived -- intentionally seeking beauty, community and rootedness in nature.
Moving on toward 2017... we took some time the last few days to sit down and talk about what we want to accomplish this year. We came up with a daily schedule to live by which we will start tomorrow -- exciting, but it's going to take a real commitment to our goals. In particular, we plan to pull all the loose ends of our farm together, and really establish it as a smoothly (as smooth as a farm can be!) functioning, profitable farm, that generates a good living for our family. We have learned a LOT over the last two years of farming, and we feel poised to make our third year the most efficient and organized one yet.
We also have comitted to finding new ways to keep our home more organzied, and setting it up in such a way that tasks flow more easily, and messes get cleaned up quicly, or are even avoided altogether. Living with two kids, and doing business in a 540 square foot house is not easy, but we have commited to staying here until we can afford something bigger, and we will absolutely maximize every square inch of living/working/storage space until we move. Ever since we moved in 4 years ago, we have embarked on an ongiong quest arranging our home to maximize efficiency and organization, but just as importantly beauty and homeliness. Part of our new effort these last couple days involved building and installing wall shelves in our kitchen and bedroom. Functional and beautiful, these shelves are going to make a huge difference! Go vertical!
We re-arranged our living room to have our table in front of the main window -- more light for meals now. The table is set for this morning's New Year celebratory family brunch. Eggs, Pasture-raised sausage, buttered toast, homemade apple sauce, fresh sapote, whipped cream, brussel sprouts, roasted potatoes, fresh pressed spiced cider, homemade chocolate truffles and hot tea! Yum...
Happy New Year! Let's make it a good one!
About the Authors
Max and Deirdre Becher farm together on First Steps Farm in Southern California. They love farming, raising their kids, playing music, contradancing, cooking, and working together to create a vibrant culture of celebrating life. See it all unfold right here!