Last summer we had a fellow working with us from northern Germany named Thies Winkelmann. Thies was a great worker and unfailingly cheerful. He loved to work hard and he loved to drink beer. He also loved to grill. Not just any kind of grilling, though, he loved Churasco. Churasco is a Brazilian style barbeque for which the meat must be brined at least a day in a tub filled with salt, onion, garlic, lemon, rosemary, bay leaves and assorted ground spices. Thies made Churasco for the farm crew several times during his summer here and would get excited just thinking about the succulent grilled meat. He gave us the recipe, but all the measurements were for 20lbs of meat, enough to feed 40 people! Of course, on our first attempt, we decided to double it.

The Fairview Feast is an event that we hold every summer here on the farm. Originally it was conceived because we’d joked about how much fun it would be to attend a medieval feast. Drinking from goblets, ripping into crusty loaves of bread and tender drumsticks, cheering loudly and making enthusiastic toasts and huzzahs, what more could you want from a meal? Our first year, we held the feast in August on a hill overlooking the farm. We slaughtered a goat the day before and spent all day roasting the meat, baking bread, and apple pies, and setting up tables and benches in our spot. After that The Feast became a tradition, each successive event more boisterous than the last. Each Feast also has a theme: medieval, roman, barbarian… This year we went with pirates. The Buccaneer Banquet.

Because it was such a busy summer for the crew, we decided to make The Feast a more low key event. It went down this past weekend without too much fanfare, but plenty of rousing cheers.  We stocked up meat from the employee boxes for several months and, on Thursday night, made enough Churasco brine for 40 lbs of meat. It sat in a big cooler in the fridge for two days and when we took it out to put on the grill, the aroma of rosemary and garlic were wonderfully strong.

I’m not an expert at the grill. I always seem to run the thing too hot and burn the meat, or else I keep too few coals and it takes forever. On Saturday though, it all came out perfectly. The meat had soaked for so long that it was tender and bursting with flavor. I’ve never been good at planning far enough ahead to marinate meat that I’m cooking for myself, but after tasting that Churasco, I know I’ll start. Even though it rained all day Saturday, we had a good crowd come out in their swashbuckling garb and we devoured all but a few pieces of the meat we prepared plus a variety of vegetable dishes that people brought and some good home brews. Folks from Fairview certainly know how to have a good time, even in the rain.

Here’s the recipe, though you may have to scale it down based on how many people you’re trying to feed. Truth is, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble getting rid of any leftovers!

Shiver me timbers!

Sweetbread

As an aspiring farmer, educator, and writer, I thought it might be a nice component of this blog to include a vocabulary section. This is as much for my own edification as for anyone else’s. There are just so many interesting words involved with farming that most people will never have the pleasure of learning. I love the feel of some words, the taste as they leap from the tongue. Some match their subject, while others are confusing in their possession of some characteristic completely opposed to the thing they describe. Every vocation and hobby has its own jargon; a vocabulary that is specific to the needs and desires of those individuals who deal with a certain set of problems and tools on a regular basis. Farming may encompass several sets of terminology because farmers deal with such a wide range of daily tasks nevertheless, there are certain words that I’ve come across during my work here at Hickory Nut Gap that are just too good to keep hidden within the farming community.

Here are my words for today: Caruncle, Wattle, and Snood. These words sound like they came from a Dr. Suess book but they are real terms for the anatomical aspects of turkeys! The snood is the protuberance that hangs from over the male turkey’s beak. This fleshy finger is supposed to have a function in attracting females. The wattle, or dewlap, is the red flap that hangs under the beak. It also is an ornament which the toms (male turkeys) use to attract the hens. Caruncle simply refers to all the fleshy bits that hang from a turkey’s head and neck, including the snood and wattle.

Turkeys that are competing for a mate will often defer to the Tom with the longest snood.

I find these words perfectly suited to the curiously endearing birds that we raise once a year. The turkeys are vastly superior to their fowl (foul) counterparts, the chickens. They are intelligent, they are great foragers and every time we move their pen they rush into the new grass to delve for bugs, berries and seeds. They make strange clicking and barking noises that morph into full blown gobbling as they mature (actually only the males gobble). Every time we drive up with feed, they rush to the fence barking excitedly, and mill around as we empty the feed into troughs. They are not so interested in the grain as they are in us and the noise we make driving up. Walker, Zach, and I have contemplated the idea that maybe the reaction is a form of protection. If any predator approached the pen only to find 380 barking turkeys advancing on them, it might just make them forget their hunger. In fact, one day a few weeks ago, someone forgot to turn on the electric fence that encompasses our turkey house. When one of the fall interns, showed up with the feed, the turkeys were so excited that they rushed her and, finding no significant deterrent, knocked down the fence and chased the poor girl back down the hill! They’re not even fully mature birds yet.

Young turkeys attacking the comfrey that grows in the orchard.

Here’s to wattles and snoods,

Sweetbread

Hickory Nut Gap will host school field trips throughout the fall season. Tuesday through Friday there are two time slots; 9-10:30 or 10:30-12, for classes to come out and learn about the farm. We can accommodate groups of any age group or size. The cost is only $7.50 per student and chaperone and no cost for teachers (minimum $150). Submit a request here to set up a time and date for a class to come out.

Curriculum for these trips may vary based on the size and grade level involved. The kids will have an opportunity to learn about a variety of farm animals and plants; from calves and baby chicks, to apples and blueberries. Students will also get to sample some of the apple varieties that we have available. After the farmer lead portion of the field trip, classes will have access to one of our picnic areas for lunch and then are welcome to stay and enjoy the other activities on the farm like the corn maze and the nature trail.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project Farm Tours –  are happening September 21st and 22nd. Hickory Nut Gap will be one stop along the way. Don’t miss your chance to get a full tour of the farm from Owner, Jamie Ager. Tours will be going on all afternoon from 1pm until 5pm. The day’s festivities will also include free samples of some of our beef, pork, and chicken products, and the opportunity to shop in the farmstore after the tour. Cost for the ASAP farm tours is $25 per carload for the entire weekend. If you wish to access Hickory Nut Gap admission areas after the tour we are still charging regular admission for access to the rest of the farm activities.

If you’ve never been on a Hickory Nut Gap tour before, you’ll learn a little history, a little biology, and a whole lot about cows. You’ll get the full scoop on how we run our farm and what we’re passionate about. You will also have a chance to ask any questions you may have about our meat and our farming practices.  Tours will last roughly 45 minutes and you should be sure to bring close-toed shoes and comfortable walking attire. The Local Joint, a down home Fairview eatery, will be selling hot meals for those who fancy a bit to eat as well.  

Bring the whole family out to the farm for a day and enjoy all your favorite Ag-tivities along with a bunch of new additions this year like the giant culvert slides and the kiddy-cart. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for kids on weekends and $1 off those prices during the week. Whether you want to spend an hour, or the whole afternoon tromping around the farm, we like to let all our visitors get in touch with their inner kid. Farm hours run from 9 am to 6 pm 7 days a week.

Come play on the hay pile, or ride the trikes through the barn, pet the baby calves and watch the piglets and turkeys root through their pens, take a short hike on our nature trail and learn the names of some of the native plants, stumble your way through the corn maze, or visit the U-pick pumpkin patch. On the weekends we have pony rides available. There will also be food trucks serving up a variety of tasty meals for weekend visitors. There is no place like the farm to be a kid, to romp and let loose the worries of a busy life. Come on out and see for yourself!

I’ve had the strongest craving recently for applesauce. There’s something about the pure, unsweetened stuff that I just can’t get enough of. The fall may be the busiest season on the farm, but we still get a few chances to check the pace and enjoy a leisurely morning now and again. With another big farm wedding on Saturday (my cousin Elspeth Hamilton and her fiancé Gabe hosted yet another beautiful ceremony and rockin’ reception at the Sherrills Inn on Saturday), I took a few hours in the morning to remember some of the flavors of fall.

My Girlfriend, Asia, and I went out and picked a few HNGF organic apples early, while the dew was still thick in the orchard clover. We grabbed some Golden Delicious, Jonathan, and several Cortlands for good flavor variety. The organic apples may not look nice, they  may have a few spots and bumps and blemishes, they may resemble the apples you see on abandoned old trees beside the road, but they taste fantastic! I’m partial to the Cortlands for baking because they are a well balanced mix of tart and sweetness, and because my mom always used them. The Goldens are especially good this time of year when they hold just a hint of tang and haven’t yet gotten the mushy texture that they’ll develop later in the season. The Jonathans are especially juicy and add a nice red color in baking.

We spent the morning dicing apples, making tea, and whipping up some good lard and butter biscuits. We boiled our apples a bit longer than the normal sauce maker might (I like my apple sauce thick, more akin to the consistency of apple butter) and pressed them in to a bowl with the saucer. A little cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground clove and we had ourselves a breakfast.

I think I like fall for its color, for the nice weather, for its holidays. I like fall because the sky seems a little bluer, I like the crunchy sound of fallen leaves and the clear, crisp nights that hint of winter. I like fall a lot, but I LOVE APPLES! Apple pie, sauce, butter, tarts, strudel, german apple pancakes, baked apple, apples with pork, cabbage apple salad, or just plain apples!

It’s a shameless plug but; come out to the farm and get started on your fall cooking. There’s no better time now that we’re open until 6pm everyday! You can visit our facebook page to see what apple varieties are available and other cool events going on at the farm.

It’s hard to believe that fall is nearly upon us. For some reason I don’t feel like summer ever really hit. I suppose there were some hot days, but I just don’t remember enduring very many of those muggy, scorching afternoons that often characterize summer here in Fairview. Heck, I think I only got sunburnt twice this year, and that’s saying something for a pale guy like me. I’m not implying that I mind. The cool weather has been great, but it’s hard to imagine that summer is really nearing completion.

Here on the farm we’re gearing up for the fall season; always busy one for us. We’ve been clearing out the big old dairy barn and rebuilding the baby animal pens. We’ve got baby calves, turkeys, piglets, and goats moved into their new homes. The apples, what crop we have, are ripening in the orchard, and we’ve picked a few bushels of organic Jonagolds, Golden Delicious, and Cortlands to sell at the store. Organic apples may not look as nice as their conventional counterparts, but they sure taste great, especially the Jonagolds, I’m a big fan! I’ve spent so much time in the orchard this spring watching and spraying and hoping and praying, that now it is almost painful for me to discard any of the blemished and scabby apples. Most of those will go to making cider, but some are too far gone even for that. In those cases I find myself eating all the parts that are still good and making myself sick from too much apple. I think I’ve eaten the equivalent of ten or twelve apples during the past few days.

The pumpkin patch is looking a little rough for all the rain, but still struggling along. We’ve also been working on a History Timeline of Hickory Nut Gap that will go up in our education barn for this fall season.The first weekend in September has traditionally been our opening for the fall season and that was this past weekend, so that means the fall season is open! In addition to apples, and baby animals,  we have all kinds of attractions this year. The Corn Maze, the Trike Track, new giant slides, a barrel train for the youngsters… Hickory Nut Gap Farm is the place to be this Fall season! Our farmstore is also open seven days a week from 9am to 6pm. Those will be our new hours all the way through October.

I hope to see you at the Farm! Sweetbread