Happy Birthday

So I’m one year closer to the big 3-0.

Over the past two or three days the baby has suddenly been vocalizing and communicating more than ever before. Multisyllablic utterances, too. I feel like she’s offering me a special birthday gift with this milestone, reminding me that all the setbacks from her first two months are in the past.  I love her so fiercely, more than I ever could have imagined.  I hope she loves growing up on our little farm.  In many ways the work we do here is for her.  We want to provide her with exceptional health and happiness, and it’s our belief that this starts by eating the freshest food and breathing the freshest air.

It may not seem like much, but my husband gave me two gifts that I feel so grateful for: a pastured chicken from a small rotational grazing operation nearby and an antique cast iron bell for the yard. Athough I have many vegetarian and vegan friends who make compelling arguments for their dietary choices, our research on grass farming and rotational grazing has led us to be omnivores.  From our point of view, the way these farming practices model mother nature and restore the soil makes sense.  We do not eat meat every day, but by pre-ordering whole (or half in the case of pigs) animals, rationing them throughout an entire year, and embracing nose-to-tail cooking, we know exactly how many animals we eat as a family and feel intense gratitude and reverence for each of them.  And we use every single bit of them, down to rich bone broths and rendered fat.  Because we eat meat so infrequently and because the quality is so high, the gift of a pastured chicken is quite special.

Even as someone from the agriculture world, I too went through initial sticker shock at pastured meats and dairy.  However, the flavor is incomparable and we like supporting our neighbors’ businesses and knowing that the animals were raised with respect to their biological needs.  We are fortunate to be able to afford these products. Although we only have one full-time income at the moment, we prioritize whatever money is leftover after the
mortgage and essential utilities and savings  to go to food.  Growing a lot of our own vegetables and fruit gives us more room in our budget, too.

A chicken that costs $5/lb. is a big investment, but one way to stretch the cost over many more meals is to make stock.  We do this by combining the bones and extra pan drippings with vegetable scraps, fresh herbs, and whatever other aromatics are in the pantry with water.  The stock cooks for about two days on very low heat.  Often we do this in a slow cooker so it requires less maintenance.  What we’re left with is lots of flavorful, gelatinous liquid gold to put in the freezer – perfect for cold and flu season!

Anyway, I’m lucky to have such a supportive husband who embraces farm life so well.  It was a sweet, snowy birthday weekend to remember. And I’m looking forward to cooking that chicken for Valentine’s Day!

What are your favorite ways to prepare chicken?  I’m thinking we’ll have this one simply with lemon, garlic, and thyme.  And maybe some fresh bread on the side to soak up the pan sauce…

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