60 pheasants and a cow

For the next 7 weeks I’ll be installed at Threshold Farm, a small biodynamic orchard and diversified farm about 2 hours north of New York City.  The farmers, Hugh & Hanna, are in Australia, after an intense and productive season.

Biscuit

I’m watching the two dogs and keeping a big fire burning in the stove, and occasionally packing apples and helping their worker Jon with farm chores.  My intent during this stay is to create some routine in my life, and to find a sense of groundedness and calm after a season of delicious chaos and far to much time in the car. Farming is all about routines – feeding, milking, plowing, picking – and I think I need this quite desperately.

Milo the (registered milking devon) bull

Yesterday morning, I milked a cow for the first time.  Her name is Fluckli, German for Snowflake, and she’ll be my trainer each morning as I clumsily tug on her teats and pray for milk to emerge.   We’re milking 4 cows right now, but I’m just responsible for one – good thing, because I barely managed to milk her in the time that Jon finished milking Flavia, Daniella and Biddy, each of whom gives about twice as much as Fluckli.  I love it already – the warmth of her hide against the side of my face, the sounds of cows all around me munching on hay, and the zing of milk hitting the metal bowl (which it does about 60% of the time – when I don’t miss and spray it onto my pants).

Fluckli

Yesterday afternoon, Jon showed up with 80 dead pheasants, which he’d gotten in trade for 10 lbs of apples.  The birds were the sad result of a Pheasant Shoot/Massacre at the local Rod and Gun Club.  We thought he’d get 10 or 15, and that it would be a nice calm task.  Instead we spent 4 hours skinning and eviscerating, feathers flying in all directions, blanketing the kitchen.

The whole thing lost it’s charm once we were through about 30 and realized we’d never make it through both bags.  We managed to get through about 60 before it began to feel a bit too much like a creepy factory farm assembly line.  Jon and I agreed it was not a trade we’d go for again, but I did end up with 5 quart bags of pheasant meat and 2 quarts of pheasant stock when all was said and done.  Last night we had roasted pheasant over polenta, and I made pheasant soup with Alaria, carrots and onion for lunch today.  You have to watch out for buckshot, but otherwise I think pheasant is quite delicious.

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