The Rustic Table

The cherry on the top of our weekend up north was a visit to our meat CSA, The Rustic Table. This is a pasture based meat operation on 80 acres of some of the most beautiful pasture you'll ever see. Stanley took a lot of nice photos, so this post will be picture heavy. Enjoy!

Black mule foot hog piglets, just a few days old.

Compare to these month and a half old piglets. My, how they grow. One of these little piggies will be the centerpiece of our wedding banquet in October.

Mama, fresh from an enjoyable visit to the mud wallow.

Eating from the food dish. Is there anything as cute as these piglets? I think not.

The movable hen house.

These chickens make mine look bad. All the grass they can eat.... a rooster to watch over them... chicken life just doesn't get better than that. We didn't get to see the meat chickens - they were butchered just before we got there. These are egg laying birds. Black Lace Wyandotes.

A stone fence row - one of two made by the original farmers and their 15 children in the early 20th century. What an amazing amount of work this was.

The beef.

Jersey Boyz.

70s pop star or bovine steer? You decide.

Lambs, newly shorn.

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Best Locavore Birthday Ever

Best birthday food ever. My birthday was Saturday, so Stanley and I went up to the North Woods of Wisconsin for a long weekend of camping. We were in Ohio at a family reunion for the beginning of the week, and we only had one night at home before leaving for our camping trip, so the packing was rather haphazard and hurried. Instead of running to the grocery store to pick up supplies, we decided to camp locavore style - bringing just a few local ingredients and gathering the rest along the way.

We brought bacon and pork steaks from The Rustic Table (our meat CSA), and eggs from the chickens. I used the handy Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas to locate a farmer's market along the way in Lodi. We were pleasantly surprised to find a good selection of produce.... we purchased green garlic, spring onions, hickory nuts, sugar snap peas, asparagus, strawberries, and to our surprise, new potatoes. I wasn't expecting to find potatoes this early, but there they were... right before we left I noticed a chocolate vendor and Stanley bought some lovely birthday chocolates.

We arrived at our campsite with just enough time to gather wood and cook dinner before dark. Stanley is responsible for this lovely scene. Pork steaks from The Rustic Table, green garlic, and spring onions cooked over the open flame.

I wrapped up some cubed potatoes and onions in foil and cooked them in the coals, the asparagus also was wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill.

Yum. No salt or seasonings needed. The pure flavors of new potato, asparagus, onions, and pork were just wonderful.

And for dessert, strawberry shish-kebabs over the grill. Grilled strawberries is one of my favorite June treats - like pie without the crust.

It rained all that night and the next morning we decided to swallow our camping pride and rent a cabin for Saturday night. After driving around we found the perfect place: Muskie Bills. It was a delightful place - the interior of the cabin had us thinking we were living in That 70's Show, but it was impeccably clean, and best of all a small aluminum boat came with our rental. You can guess what Stanley did all afternoon....

He caught a plethora of fish, including his first Muskie (catch and release), and six good sized Rock Bass. He threw the two smallest back, and kept four for dinner.

Lucky for me, Stanley is really perfecting his filleting skills. Aren't these pretty? After dealing with the unpleasantness of gutting, scaling, and filleting the fish, he headed inside to make me the best birthday dinner of my life.

Ground hickory nuts.

Bacon, sweet bacon. Better yet, bacon from the black mule foot hogs at The Rustic Table.

He rendered the fat with green garlic and spring onions.....

He dipped the fish a beaten egg, coated it with hickory nuts, and baked it in bacon grease.

The bacon was then cooked with the asparagus in a pan on the stove.

Last but not least, boiled potatoes were cooked briefly with the last of the bacon.

Wow. Again, no salt, no seasonings, no nothing except beautiful local ingredients. The fish was just amazing - it had been swimming at 3pm, and we ate it at 6pm. The flavors melded perfectly, tied together by the smoky salty bacon flavor. Happy birthday to me.

There were no leftovers, but Bernie was more than happy to lick the last of the bacon-y goodness from our plates.

For dessert we finished off these lovely Wisconsin made chocolates. Perfect. After dinner we waled Bernie down the lane, and to our delight found a bunch of wild strawberries.... a perfect end to a perfect day.

Last, but not least, I thought I'd share a picture of Sunday morning's breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes. I'm not sure why this picture turned out so steamy.... you get the gist.

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Grilled Kale

It's hot. Like many hearty Wisconsinites we have no air conditioning at our house, so when the temps get up into the high 90s like that have the last few days, there is no way in hell that our stove will be turned on. Hence, the grilled kale.

It began with this beautiful bunch of Red Russian kale from Westridge Produce, a new local farm that we're working with at the West Side Co-op. It's always a gamble when we take on a new farm... will their stuff be nice? Will they be responsive and professional? Westridge has passed all the tests with flying colors. This kale is just beautiful. I know lots of people like Lacinato kale the best, but I have a love of Red Russian. It's got a sweet tender quality that no other kale can touch.

I really wanted some kale and since the stove was not a possibility, the grill seemed to be the only way. I looked online for grilled kale recipes. Most involve tin foil and lots of prep time. I wasn't interested in either of those things, so I just made something up.

I coated the kale in local sunflower oil and the juice of one lemon and stuck it in the fridge while I lit the grill and started the brats cooking - just about 30 or 45 minutes.

I didn't get any pictures of it on the grill, but basically we just layed it on and let it cook until it was almost charred. It got flipped just once. Easy peasy. No four hour marination time, no tin foil, no fuss, no muss.

It was just perfect on one of the amazing local lamb and pork brats from The Rustic Table. A local gin and tonic followed by a dinner like this eaten out on the patio.... I guess hot weather isn't so bad after all.

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Three Sisters

I finished the planting at McCormick today - this is the Three Sisters garden with corn, beans, and squash, all destined for our wedding feast.

Two weeks ago I planted the corn in 14 mounds. As you can kind of see in this photo, it's now up and growing quickly, which means it was time today to plant the bean and pumpkin seeds. The beans get planted in the mounds with the corn, to grow up the corn stalks. The pumpkins go in mounds between the corn.

The little corn plants are looking good.... and growing really quickly. Hard to believe that it will (hopefully) be knee high by the Fourth of July, but if all goes well it will be.

Lots and lots of weeds had also germinated in the last two weeks. Step one of my work today was to cultivate between the mounds.... just a 45 minute job, but the 90 degree heat made it seem much longer.

These two five gallon buckets are all the compost that our kitchen and chickens created last summer. Amazing how it shrinks. I brought it over to give the pumpkins, corn, and beans a much needed boost.

Here are the pumpkin mounds created and seeds planted. I worked more of the free city compost into the new mounds, along with a shovel-full of the homemade compost. This soil is so poor, I will still need to fertilize it as it grows. Hopefully all the compost will at least give it a good start.

The last step was to mulch the whole thing with straw. Two bales perfectly covered all the space I needed it to. It should keep the weeds down at least a little, and it will make good organic matter to incorporate next year. Now we just have to wait and hope there is enough fertility in this soil to grow a decent crop.

I should show you the Main Street garden while I'm at it. This garden has none of the soil issues that McCormick has, and consequently gardening seems like a breeze here. All the help from the fam doesn't hurt either. Things are finally all cleaned up and planted.... looks good, huh?

These tomatoes have a long way to go to grow into their cages.

Soon I will harvest and dry some of this mint for our wedding... peppermint tea after dinner is the plan.

The potatoes are up! These are also for the wedding.

The snap peas are looking good. We planted melons and zucchini in mounds in front of them, and cucumbers in a row behind them After the peas are done, the cucumbers will grow up the trellis and the melons and zucchini will spread out in front. At least that's the plan.

Little baby cucumbers. Hard to believe how much they will grow.

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