Archive for Farms

A Duck Roast With Currant Jelly Sauce

Roasted Duck, Photo by Molly Peterson


Let’s get it out of the way right now: duck is fatty, and duck is delicious, a rich dark meat that is quite distinctive and … – surprise! – does not taste like chicken. I sometime roast a duck mainly to collect its fat – because (as everyone knows) duck-fat fried potatoes are a treat. So if you are afraid of fat, skip the duck!

Duck is poultry, but a duck’s skeleton and body are very different from a chicken. A 5-lb duck yields a lot less meat than a 5-lb chicken — don’t forget that pound of lovely fat — mostly in breast and leg meat. Everything else is “gnaw off the bone” meat (wings, neck and back – and innards, of course!), stuff that not everyone cares to eat. At least not at a fancy dinner as fingers are required. Go figure.  So… anything smaller than 5 lb is not really worth roasting.

Ducks are — I am told — somewhat harder to raise than chicken. Mostly the processing (getting the feathers off) are a lot trickier and slower. So, it’s not that easy to get local ducks in the mid-Atlantic area. The closest duck farm I know is  Free Union Grass Farm in Free Union, VA, more than  60 miles away (which is further than I want to drive on a casual basis).

So duck is a treat here.

A rich meat, it marries well with bitter or sour: cherries in the spring, turnips and ginger in the fall, oranges & olives in winter, or like the recie here, make a tart sauce with current jelly. Or you could use tart cherry jam or jelly, or a seedless blackberry jam. Read more

Local For the Holidays… Of Course!

Heirloom vegetables are a familiar term – conveying the idea of plants bred and selected over years of patient work for specific traits and local conditions, as well as the resulting seeds carefully passed down generations.  The livestock equivalent is “heritage” breed.

When it comes to turkeys, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is specific: heritage turkeys must reproduce and be genetically maintained through natural mating; are able to live outdoors a long productive life (5-7 years for hens, 3-5 years for toms); and grow “slowly” (by modern commercial standards), naturally building a robust skeleton and internal organs before they grow meat — reaching marketable size in 28 weeks or more. And those birds are magnificent!

Standard Bronze Turkey. Photo by and at Crowfoot Farm in Amissville, VA


Contrast that to most turkeys sold in the US:   Read more

Berry Season

There is no question that we are well into berry season.

Strawberries are the first berries to ripen for us here in the Northern Virginia Piedmont. The most common ones that you are likely to grow or buy are the June bearers. They produce a big flush over a few weeks in  late May or June, and then they are done until next year. Day neutral cultivars like ‘Tristar’ or Alpine strawberries produce a little bit all summer long. I pick about a quart of strawberries every week from my ‘Tristar’ patch and that works well for us.

I have just cleaned out my white and red currant bushes. They make the easiest jelly since they have so much pectin, and one of the tastiest and prettiest too, a gorgeous brilliant clear red… that is, if you don’t press the jelly bag while it’s dripping. This year, I exercised great restraint and did not squeeze the jelly bag! But I was not going to waste so much pulp, so I processed the left over berries through the food mill’s finest plate. The strained currant pulp was mixed with sugar and black cherries to make a currant/black cherry jam. Cherries are low in pectin so the jam can be a little tricky to set sometimes…. but not if you use currant as the base for the jam! And the tartness of the currant is very pleasant.

I don’t grow gooseberries  but I am told by friends who do that they are ripening now. Well… I do have one small shrub, and last year I turned the few berries it produce into a charming little pink lemonade. But the shrub and I are not really well acquainted yet… I still have a lot to learn about gooseberries. They may be an acquired taste…

We are in the middle of blueberry season.  And what a glorious season it is!  As all other fruit so far they started a little earlier than usual too. We eat them raw, but since cultivated blueberries can taste a little flat, I like to mix them with other berries for berry salads. They also ake excellent ice-creams and sherbets – try it with a Reine De Saba (almond and chocolate cake).

Or layer it with angel food cake for a very pretty ice-cream sandwich cake that can be made way ahead of time. And just before serving, a fresh barely cooked blueberry sauce.

Of course, a few pots of jam – what’s not to like about blueberry jam? and the rest in the freezer.

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On Growing Rhubarb


Until recently I thought tender all-summer long rhubarb was available only in place like England, the Pacific Northwest or Maine. Places with cool and moist summers. Places like Vachon Island where my blog pal Tom of Tall Clover Farm harvest armfuls upon armfuls of crimson stemmed monsters. Makes me turn green with envy…

I was convinced that rhubarb in Virginia was a fleeting all-too brief treasure, the plants sending flowers forth as soon as it got too hot and then considerably slowing down for the summer. Because this denizen of the mountains of Central Asia likes it cool. And since we rarely have a real long cool even-temperatured spring here (let alone a mild summer!), I thought: in Virginia you got rhubarb in May and that was it.

Anyway, that is indeed what I thought until very very recently. Until last week as a matter of fact. Read more

On Relativity

100 feet to clear of snow to the chicken coop cum compound…


… or 1/4 mile up an unplowed dirt road and then 1/4 up the hill – plowing as you go, and don’t forget the gates – to bring hay to the cattle?


Makes you appreciate all the hard physical labor, planning, resourcefulness & ingenuity it takes to be successful farmer.

Also makes one appreciate much better why so many of the old farm houses are pretty close to the road (not 1/2 mile over a remote hill) and the tightness and efficiency of how the buildings were grouped.

More snow is falling sow, fat flakes falling straight. We certainly have had precipitations this winter – the winter I decide to leave the dahlias undug outside. Let’s hope for an abundant morel season come April (will be somewhat of a consolation from having to buy so many new dahlia tubers…)

Postcard From the Woods

who? what? when? how? why?


Postcard From The Field


Belle Meade Farm – October 2009

More on Rappahannock Farm Tour

I’ve got to say, I am tired but I am wired.


Our first Rappahannock County Farm Tour is coming up this week-end – all volunteers organized and we are getting good pre-event coverage: check it out here on Fox News (Fox News!!!) – be sure to play both clips at the bottom, it’s a total of about 15 minutes total, filmed at The Farm at Sunnyside one of the participating farms, with also an interview of Cliff Miller of Mount Vernon Farm (also on the tour). Great interviews! Great shots!

Our local newspaper had this article too.

Come and see us this week-end. Let’s make the world a better place, one carrot and one chicken at a time.

Why are we doing this? Many reasons, each volunteer on this project has his or her own reasons. But this video from the Rappahannock County Conservation Alliance shows what motivates some of us.


Dreamers? probably… they are needed, you know…

Time for the Farm Tour!

One of my favorite farms, The Farm at Sunnyside near Washington, VA, was at the new farmers’ market that opened today next to the White House. The First Lady delivered the opening speech… right in front of Sunnyside’s truck and its colorful logo.

Sunnyside is a beautiful farm in a beautiful location and they produce truly beautiful fruit & vegetable (they taste good too). And you can tour the farm and attend some interesting programs during the upcoming Rappahannock County Farm Tour the last week-end of September.

What’s that, you say?


Yes! Rappahannock County (65 miles west of Washington DC, population 7,200, county seat Washington, VA) is having its first farm tour the last week-end of September, Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27. Read more

Summer Solstice on Turkey Mountain – The Pictures.

I am zonked. Elated, but zonked.

The Summer Solstice Farm Dinner worked beyond our expectations.

There is absolutely something magical that happen when you gather people around a long table (or in this case 3 long tables of 50 people each), in the fieldd, in a gorgeous farm and natural setting with local seasonal food prepared by an extraordinary chef, served efficiently and smoothly and paired with local wine – ah le gout du terroir. And the music… did I mentioned the music? Gourdvine String Band performed lively Appalachian and Celtic music throughout the evening which fitted the setting and the mood of the event perfectly with fiddle, hammered dulcimer and banjo. Times like that really bring home why I chose to be a Virginian.



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