FeedMe travels the world, working on organic farms and eating her way through nine countries

August 22, 2012

Week 34

Farmers Market: $80.50
Whole Foods: $6851
Safeway: $24.59

Slow Baked Whole Red Snapper
  • ~40 minutes of cooking time, no prep nec
  • from A New Way to Cook
Cucumber Raita
  • from A New Way to Cook
Fresh Corn

Roasted Brocoli w/ Lemons and Olives
  • 30 minutes, somewhat involved
  • from Cooks Illustrated, Feb '08
Pasta w/ Cherry Tomato-Ricotta Salata Sauce
  • 30 min, not difficult
  • modification of Eggplant Penne recipe from Chez Panise Vegetables, use pasta cooking water to stretch sauce, LOTS of fresh herbs
A - Oatmeal w/ rasins and heavy cream; M - grapenuts; J - wheat flakes

A - shredded cheddar, leftover pasta, cucumber slices, plum
M - tomato sandwich, monday's leftovers
J - Roti Mediterranean Grill

Potatoes boiled w/ dill
Greenbean and cherry tomato salad
  • from Chez Panise Vegetables
  • ~ 20 min
Vanilla ice cream w/ Maple syrup

A - multigrain cheerios w/ milk and cantolope
M - yogurt and grapenuts
J - tomato sandwich

A - scrambled eggs w/ cheese & scallions, couscous, plum
M - potato chips, tomato sandwich, yogurt

Pumpkin Polenta and Manchego Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Green Salad

Carrot ginger soup
Arugula Salad

something with meat?

Vegetable stock
Parmesan (italian) stock?
Pumpkin Bread

New Direction for a New Life

In the five years since I set out traveling, I've gotten some ideas on what I want to work on, added some amazing people to my family, and am happy to be back in the city I left to start my travels.  

With a new small person to feed, and a tight budget while I attempt to finish a thesis while running herd on a one year old (complete failure so far, but I have grand hopes for tomorrow . . . ), the most useful thing for me is to keep track of how we spend our food money.  Why?
  • Unlike most Americans, we have a food budget problem.  Almost 25% of our disposable income goes to eating.  And paper towels.  But since we buy paper towels about once a month, I think most of it goes to the trifecta of Safeway-Whole Foods-Farmers Market.  Utterly ridiculous, and an expense we might have to think about cutting back on.  In an effort to at least justify the expense with good food and not letting anything rot, I need to start planning out the meals for the week based on our haul from the farmers market/what's looking good at the grocery store that week.
  • This article http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/dining/planning-your-menu-with-some-help.html?src=dayp implies that there's some un-met demand for menu planning.  While I love a good recipe blog, I think the day to day minutae of how to keep everyone fed for a week is the flip side of recipes, that often gets very short shrift.  Home economics training, anyone?
  • My partner has expressed some concerns about how much time we spend cooking.  We need an index of the recipes we find fast and tasty.  Hopefully, this blog can become that searchable database.
I plan to post the weeks (rough) menu on Sunday, along with what we've spent at the markets/stores.  Then, I'll update as the week goes on to reflect reality, making notes about what ingredients were good/bad, which recipes are worth doing again, any additional things we needed to buy, and what we actually ate!


November 23, 2007

Haast Cattle Sale

On Thursday, 22-11 Graham and I took a break from the farming, and headed over to the West Coast for a cattle sale at Haast.

We left after a full day of work on Wednesday, and spent the night on the shores of lake Wanaka. If anyone ever heads down to New Zealand, the recommendation is to avoid Queenstown, and stay here instead. There's a great organic cafe/store (SoulFood), am amazing views of snow capped peaks, and a great friendly vibe.

The next day we drove through Mt Aspiring National Park. It was too misty to see the high peaks, but large hills, punctuated by thundering waterfalls and covered in coastal rain forest zoomed out of the mist as we followed ? Pass along the Haast river to the Tasman Sea. The copious rain has washed glacier sediment into a broad, marshy plain along the sea, and this area raises quality beef cattle.

The dress was blue jeans and gumboots, the food was fried whitebait patties (a New Zealand specialty), and the cattle were a nice mix of Herefords, Simmental, Angus, and various crosses. We walked around the narrow board walkways on top of the pens for thirty minutes, checking out the wares, and then PGG Wrightson started the auction of the thirty odd pens at around 12:30. An hour or so later, it was all over, and Graham had brought sixty heifers from various lots.

Then a five hour drive back to Marama farm, after arranging for a truck for the cattle the next day.

November 18, 2007

Monday on Marama Farm

For all you lazy people, headed to bed on Sunday night, I just finished a long day on the farm this Monday. Don't know if it will inspire you to quite your desk job, but thought a typical day might be of interest.

6:30 AM - Alarm goes off. I hit snooze
7:00 AM - out of bed. Getting ready by putting on the dirtiest clothes. Once clothes are clean, I'm really reluctant to get them dirty again . . .
7:30 AM - Muesli for breakfast. And some of the pumpkin bread I made last night. The farmer swears by muesli, but what I really want is some toast. No one in NZ seems to have a working toaster . . .
8:00 AM - Graham Clarke (the owner of my current WWOOF farm) comes in from shifting some sheep, and lets me know that a tailing crew is here, and they're out in the north sheep yards.
8:30 AM - Arrive at the sheep yards, a bunch of seemingly randomly placed runs and small yards that actually work quite well to get ~1,000 sheep and lambs sorted and moving. I introduce myself to the 5 person crew, and jump in.

Tailing Apparatus

in case anyone ever asks . . .

Sort the lambs from the ewes using a drafting gate (I'm not allowed on this part, I mostly just try to keep out of the way). When 200 lambs are stuffed into a 15 foot square pen, bleating horribly, we're ready to start. I've got a plastic jug of seaweed juice on my back with a long nozzle I shove down the lamb's throats and give them a squirt. It's an organic farm, so no antibiotics/worming agents in this mixture. Another girl holds some ear markers, for ripping two triangles out of the lamb's ears as the farmers mark. The older woman holds the tools for rubber banding the balls of the males, an older man will be doing the same to the tails, and two young guys shove their way into the lambing pen to start hefting lambs onto the slide. We throw them in on their backs, and tug them through each station by the legs.

Blood spatters everywhere from the ear punch, and the lambs fling manure around when they kick their hooves. Some lie quietly, and the disease fee ones have glistening off-white coats. They'll sometimes make eye contact, and others bleat horribly.

Lambs to the Slaughter

9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
We work the assembly line for about and hour and a half, then pack up the fences and gates, and move to another pasture. After eight hours, I'm covered in shit, have blood spatters everywhere (including my glasses), and have an aching hand from tugging down the lambs all day. Heavy little buggers.

Bruce taking a brief rest

4:30 PM - Then off on the quad bike (I do like roaring around on these things, but drive like an old woman after all the stories about the thing slipping over on steep slopes) to shift some more sheep in preparation for tomorrow. Since I don't feel comfortable on the steep slopes, a lot of walking around and waving my arms up and down, sometimes yelling random words or syllables to move the sheep through the far gate.

All in all, just the day I was looking for. Was going to tell the farmer I was leaving early if i didn't get more work/time with the animals, but this was perfect, in a painful and disgusting type of way. Ah, farm life.

November 2, 2007

Rotoiti Farm

Spent 10 days on my best WWOOFing experience so far, and the farm was damn cool as well. It's nice to be back in the 20th century, and while a small operation that relies on a lot of man power, this feels much more like a commercial farm.

Rotioti Farm is owned by Sue and Roger More. They have ~100 acres, mostly fenced for sheep and beef, but the real money maker is the organic free range eggs. I've heard they get $10 NZ for them in Auckland, and lucky me, I got to eat them for free every day. They have about 1,000 hens that they get when 6 wks old, throw them in one of four chook sheds ("chook" is New Zealand for chicken), and then make them lay, lay, lay for 18 months or so. The hens are remarkably happy and tame. They like to follow people around, and will start a mad clucking at the sound of Sue's voice. The whole operation is deceptively simple. They've fenced in yards and built sheds according to the EU free range organic standards (BIG yards, lots of feeders and nest boxes, perches, etc.) This means the chickens act like chickens, which is to say cannibalistic beasts that follow a strict hierarchy. I've seen older chickens running around with bloody holes in them, as the other members think nothing of taking a bite or two of their mates. You see why many organic operations laser off the beak tip. Though the chickens have the best living environment I've ever seen, so hate to see how stressed out birds act.

My job on the farm was actually pasture maintenance. Which means whacking thistle and foxglove with a dipper. Very satisfying, especially when you get the stroke just right and the offending weed jerks out by it's roots and goes sailing across the paddock. The other task was digging out brambles, which while also satisfying, produced a horrible series of bloody scratches over my face and arms. At times all I really wanted to do was investigate Napalm application.

The couple who owned the farm was a delight. Tons of books, help myself to feed, and lots of long rambling discussions over wine each night with dinner. They also took me around when they went out to coffee with the neighbors, on a restorative trip to the hot springs, and to some local organic meetings. I don't know if Southland will be this relaxing, but headed to Marama Farm near Gore on November 5th.

October 15, 2007

Grey Auckland

After South and SE Asia, New Zealand is empty and colorless, at least in the big cities. So strange to finally be back in a land where I understand everything, have all the modern conveniences, and long for the mess and bustle of Calcutta. I arrived yesterday, and set out last evening in the cold drizzle to find a cell phone service, do some quick shopping for essentials, etc. Everyone is wearing some shade of black or grey, the 10 people on the street I see, that is, and the shops have all closed at 5:30 pm! Dorothy, we're back in Kansas. Definitely not the tourist ghettos I'm used to staying in, and this is the neighborhood with all the hostels! I'm going to have to get used to life in the modern world all over again. And I hate black, grey, and tasteful shades of tan or beige! Even the backpackers are wearing neutrals.

Rode to the top of the SkyTower last night (the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere is shorter than the Eiffel tower) and watched the rain storms roll in off the bay as the sun set. Beautiful, and since there's so little people, even the cheesy tourist attractions aren't crowded. Looked down on 4 lane streets with maybe 5 cars per block, and caught some of the charm of a modern big city with no people. 30% of New Zealanders live in Auckland, but it only has 1.3 million people . . .

On the plus side, food in the grocery store is cheap (about the only thing that is, and the business section of the paper today said the NZ dollar will continue to rise against the USD. Damn currency markets have recently become an obsession, as I watch my savings buy less and less.) The sun is shining today, and I found the local equivalent of TJ max and bought a bright yellow fleece. I'm staying in Auckland until Thursday, with local trips out do a dormant volcano and the Bay of Islands.

October 12, 2007

Boat Rides

This post is dedicated to Dad, who taught me that you should always do anything involving a boat ride. Though this didn't work out in Lyon, France (the best part about the river there are the bridges . . . ), Dad's advice has been perfect for Thailand: the cheapest, fastest and most likely place to spot locals has definitely been boats.

The canals retain the old Bangkok architecture (in the form of wooden and congregated metal slums that line the canals) while the modern concrete high rises start just a few yards in, the houses over hanging the canals look like they've been in Bangkok for a while. The water itself is fetid and black, probably even deader than the Ganges, and no one seems to be bathing in it or drinking the thick soup. It's plied by long narrow ferries that take commuters to and from various Bangkok neighborhoods. When it's raining, they become strange plastic enclaves hurtling through the dark, and it's easy to get completely lost. If you ever have a chance to get on one, they don't stop unless you stand up and get the attention of the assistants clinging to the sides of the boat. . . The main river is more touristy, but still transversed by a crazy mix of tour boats, Thais on dinner cruises, Royal barges (I witnessed a practice run where acres of boys in red baseball caps, instead of ceremonial headdresses, stood at attention by the oars), passenger ferries and long tailed boat taxis. Definitely my favorite part of Bangkok.

Since this trip is partly about food, my thoughts on Thai cuisine: I find Vietnamese more complex, but Thai food has two very important things going for it. 1) it's absolutely fresh, as I've yet to see anything that wasn't made to order, from the street stalls to the fancy restaurants. 2) it's everywhere. Unlike DC, where satisfying a food craving in the tourist areas can feel like a hunt for buried treasure, the Thais have thoughtfully places something to eat at least every 50 feet. High on too much coffee with sweetened condensed milk, the afternoon is mostly a game of what don't I want to eat, as everything imaginable is on display.

And in case anyone was wondering, after what felt like a stay in five star hotel (except for they part where they stick needles in you and administer large electric shocks . . . ) I have been diagnosed with drop foot. A completely compressed nerve in my left knee, and partially compressed one in my right has left me unable to lift my toes easily. I have settled into a kind of lurching gait, and the doctors tell me that everything should be back to normal within six months. This means minimal hiking in New Zealand, but I should still be able to work on farms. If you ever go to Nepal, don't sleep on your side, or spend long hours squatting!