Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Thankful Time

I had a wonderful post typed out on the ALBC conference, but the computer ate most of it.  So, more on that next week...

 It's Thanksgiving week!  For most of us, it means food and family, and if we're lucky, some time off.  For me this year, it's craziness, though!  After the conference I attended in North Carolina, I took some much needed time away from the farm to hang out with three of my siblings (I'm the oldest of 6!).  I had a great time visiting and catching up with sibs, spouses and their kids and returned home last Thursday to all the post-vacation stuff...laundry, catching up on email, and juggling orders from customers looking to stock up on our meats before the end of the season.

 This week is our final week of the farm stand season, and we'll be processing the last of the chickens tonight and the last pig Friday.  It's the time where I start thinking about how our farm year went and all I have to be thankful for, but instead of musing that online today, the plan is scrubbing and baking.  

This year, for the first time, I'm hosting family Thanksgiving.  I've cooked holiday meals for Dan and I in the past, and had Matt over, too, but this year will be the first time I've cooked for my Mom and siblings.  Honestly, I'm a little nervous about it, which is a bit on the crazy side.  I cook from scratch pretty much nightly, and far more so than most folks, so a whole turkey is no big deal, and I'm already pretty skilled at making sure everything comes out at the same time.   Nothing that I'm cooking is difficult to me or something new, but I guess there is that little voice in the back of my head that worries that this will be the year Emily ruined Thanksgiving by (insert disaster here...no mashed potatoes, burned stuffing, whatever).  So today I'm continuing to scrub the farmhouse so it's fit for company and baking.  Since baking is my least-perfected skill, I thought it would be good to do it ahead so that I have a chance to adjust if things go wrong.  However, I'm feeling pretty good, as I'm making a pumpkin cheesecake recipe I've tried before, and it came out awesome the first time.  The other dessert is a Shea family tradition, but also pretty foolproof, and the last thing you'd expect to be served at an organic farm feast.  But the Candy Bar Pie, made with chocolate pudding, graham cracker crust, cream cheese, Cool Whip and Snickers bars requires no baking and just needs to be part of our celebration.  

For the big day, I'm going classic (in my opinion, now is NOT the time to try new recipes!)...roasted turkey and homemade gravy, Mom's famous stuffing recipe, mashed potatoes, my home-canned cranberry sauce, green salad, and a winter squash side.  Maybe some sweet corn, too.  When I talked to my mom on Sunday, she asked what she could bring, so I put her on beverage duty.  I'm excited to have my family sit around the table together, give thanks, and dig in. 

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday week filled with family time and great food!  Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

 
 

Turkey Time

Are you ready for Thanksgiving yet?  Me neither.  Although there are always lots of things keeping us busy here on the farm, right now seems especially hectic.  We have only 3 more days where the stand will be open- tomorrow and next Saturday, along with special Tuesday hours.  As the season is short and Thanksgiving is near, I have lots of orders to organize. Christmas hams are being picked up now. Also, our last day coincides with an influx of visitors to the area coming up for deer hunting season, and I've already got orders for that as well. Keeping track of who is picking what (and how much of it) when is more complicated right now than it has been all season long, but it's a good problem to have.  Thank goodness for post-it notes and colorful markers for color coding!  And somewhere amid all this madness, I also need to find the time to make the 4-hour drive to Harrisburg to see my own family for the holiday, including meeting my brother's baby boy for the very first time!

 We processed the first of our turkeys yesterday, with more to be done today & Monday.  Turkeys are not my favorite meat to process, and I'm thankful we only offer them once a year.  While the chickens start out just as cute and fluffy as the turkeys in the beginning, they quickly turn into mindless eating machines, and ones that will eat themselves into a heart attack or a broken leg if not properly cared for.  They have no personalities, unlike my other birds, and while it's never fun to kill anything, the chickens don't really bother me much anymore. I know they literally wouldn't survive into an old age. I do feel a bit bad about the turkeys- they are funny, adventurous, and beautiful.  The breeding stock is long-lived.  Unlike the hybrid meat chickens or the industrail turkeys most folks serve up, they can reproduce naturally. (The Cornish-rock chickens are industrial hybrids, and broad-breasted turkeys used by  Butterball and all the other industrial producers literally grow too much white meat to breed- every single egg must be artificially inseminated.)

But before I get too upset about these turkeys' fate, I remember that this is why we raise them.  I couldn't afford to feed the flock year-round only for their beauty.  And not only am I offering my customers healthy meat that's been raised on grass and forage, without hormones or antibiotics or chemicals to enhance growth, I'm also giving them a chance to support the comeback of a heritage breed, the Bourbon Red.  The paradox of endangered farm animal breeds is that they are in danger of extinction because they are no longer as valuable economically as some of the industrial creations.  To save these breeds, and the genetic diversity that they represent, they need to be more than just beautiful or intelligent or capable of rearing their own young...they also need to be of use financially to the farms that raise them.  Thus, we need to eat them to save them.  Hopefully, my customers will appreciate the flavor and history as a part of their holiday meals, and seek out heritage breeds again in the future.  

Although plucking turkeys by hand is a royal pain, I take pride in doing it well, knowing that I'm preparing something that will be the centerpiece of a feast devoted to friends, family, and thankfulness.  We'll be closing the farm stand next week because the cold makes it too hard to continue to offer much produce without drastically altering our farming methods, and it's nice to have our weekends back for a time.  But it's also a fitting end to our season, marking the end of another great year on the farm by offering turkeys, squash, potatoes, and other farm-fresh products to help make many Thanksgiving meals more healthy and sustainable for both the eaters and the environment.  While I don't take for granted the job of producing quality, wholesome food, it seems especially important when you know it's going to be a meal shared with many, the kind of day where food is not just eaten on the go, but savored.  A day where food shares the stage with family, friends, memories and thanks.  

 

We send out our warmest wishes to our friends, customers, and blog followers for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  

 
 
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