Jul 152018
 

Wow, what a whirlwind summer!  I don’t know about you, but based on all the things I have scheduled in the next two months, I keep having to check the calendar to make sure it’s only July. 🙂

I’m guessing that your lists are just getting longer, too.  It seems like we work harder and harder to make time for vacation, and in the meantime, the stress ratchets up.  Whew!

Sometimes, dinner can be the perfect getaway without all the fuss.

When Chris and I were competing on the New England barbecue circuit, we gathered financial support by offering “Competition Practice” dinners to our friends, family and coworkers.  We would cook a full complement of chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket using all of the rubs, sauces, injections, and presentation for competition, and serve it for our guests, just like they were judges.

We even brought them grilled appetizers and desserts, and asked them to give us feedback about what they liked and what they didn’t–“real time” judging wasn’t something we generally had the option of.

Sometimes we packaged up the meats and brought it to sponsors’ homes (or in the case of the night before Tropical Storm Irene–a mid-construction house on top of a mountain–we’re still thankful we did not accept the invite to stay the night, because the road was gone the next day!).

One of our dinners with beloved friends!

Unlike a competition with judges and “one-bite wows” and a long drive home if the scores didn’t go our way, these dinners were a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who loved our food and supported us.  There was no pressure and a short time commitment; just an afternoon with friends and full bellies and lots of laughter. If something needed a little more sweet or a little less heat, they were there to tell us.

We loved these dinners.  They loved these dinners.  At the end of dinner, we all felt more full—not just our bellies, but our hearts.  These dinners were special, and they led to a lot of trophies and happy memories.

We knew we wanted to recreate that experience for friends (old and new) at our farm.

And we are!

Take a breath and enjoy the summer, if just for one evening.  That To Do list can wait!

Eventbrite - On-Farm Dinner with Seven Course BBQ Tasting Menu

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Jul 012018
 

Would you like to spend a summer evening enjoying a unique culinary experience with a fine view?

Let us take your dining world to new heights!

Join us for an over-the-top grilled and smoked dinner hosted at beautiful Howling Wolf Farm in Randolph, VT where we’ll treat you to some of our finest barbecue specialties.

We’ll be serving a “meat-forward,” seven-course tasting menu celebrating some of our competition barbecue team’s most successful competition dishes, including our award-winning flank steak-wrapped scallops, Kansas City style ribs, brisket burnt ends, and even smoked cheesecake–all paired with just the right side dishes to make them even more exciting.

Bring your appetites, and your own alcoholic beverages! We’ll include coffee, tea and non-alcoholic options.

The meal will be served with the backdrop of our gorgeous hill farm overlooking Randolph Village.

Mouth watering yet?  Register here!

******************************
For more than 13 years, Chris Sargent and Jenn Colby, and our talented team of friends and family, competed in Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned barbecue competitions throughout New England as Howling Hog Barbecue. During our career, we won more than 45 awards at barbecue and grilling events, becoming one of Vermont’s most decorated competition cooking teams.

Please note that due to the nature of the menu, substitutions are not possible. Foods may contain wheat, sugar and trace amounts of MSG.

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May 172018
 

Are you drooling? Us too.

  • Do you want to try grilling, but find the choices of fuel, cookers, and timing overwhelming?
  • Are you an experienced griller ready to step up your game?
  • Are you a food lover looking for a fun Saturday spent hanging out and eating tasty treats right off the fire?

Chris Sargent, pitboss of Howling Hog BBQ, will spend the day teaching the tips and techniques he and his team used to become one of Vermont’s most decorated competition cooking teams during their career.

This four-hour class will include an overview of grilling basics, including: types of grills, fire management and food safety; as well as the essential tools every serious griller should have.  Then Chris and his teammates will dive into four award- winning recipes that will demonstrate the essential skills needed to elevate your grilling game.  Recipes will include “Rob’s First Place Flank”, “Curran’s Lime & Honey Wings,” and more!

With the gorgeous backdrop of Howling Wolf Farm in Randolph, VT, come enjoy a day of grilling, learning and sampling some epic food.  

Eventbrite - Grilling Class for Beginning and Experienced Cooks

One lucky attendee will win a “schwag bag” of assorted rubs and seasonings.
Limit 12 participants, sign up today!

About the instructor: Over 13 years (2004-2017), Chris Sargent and his team of exceptional grillers and barbecuers won more than 42 individual awards, competing against some of New England’s (and the nation’s!) most talented teams. 

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Apr 252018
 

We got home late, so they slept in the truck bed overnight.

This weekend we harvested the first of our own pigs since 2013. Gosh I missed them.

These piglets were born in Washington, Vermont, just about 30 miles away.  They rode in a hay-lined truck to Randolph, and spent the rest of their lives rooting and snoozing and companionably sniping at each other over the food dish and the special treats I tried to spread around so no one got too much at the expense of the others.  They are Saddleback pigs; a very old breed being rebuilt by the careful efforts of our friend Matt Whalen at Vermont Heritage Farm.

Sewer pipe makes a great feed trough.

The pigs spent the winter growing, rooting, napping, finding bricks, flipping tires, and unearthing the roots of the collection of trees they sheltered in.  Did I mention rooting?

In the deep cold of winter, they dug into round hay bales and buried themselves up to the nose.  They didn’t quite hibernate (how do you get the good snacks when you sleep through?), but pigs are a lot like people.  If they don’t need to go out in the cold, why bother?  It’s nicer in here.

Pigs make snow paths between breakfast and bed.

Some people may wonder if pigs are adapted to Vermont life outside in our winters.  Prior to our recent five-year gap, we’ve raised Fall pigs for over

I gave them a fresh dry new round bale–nose!

ten years.  They do beautifully, especially when an old-style, heritage breed is used.  Pigs suffer in the heat.  They have very few sweat glands, which is why lying in a mud hole to cool off is such a preferred thing to do on a summer’s day.  In the winter they just pile, lying lined up like a row of very large black and white hot dogs.

By spring, they were two (or three or four) times the size they had been when they arrived in November.  Jiggles in all the right places.  Tree roots exposed for our selective cutting next month.  Vegetation opened up and ready for a new seeding under the thinned trees.  The sky was blue, the Spring birds back.  It was time.

Mark and Matt believe in the importance of bringing a dignified end to an animal that feeds a family.

The pigs were killed on the farm by local itinerant (on-farm) slaughters, which is a term for a craft largely forgotten.  These fellows are amazing.  The care with which they treat each animal, their quiet calm manner, and their efficiency in skinning and eviscerating are all skills built ove

Neatly skinned and split carcass, hanging from a portable tripod they travel with.

r a lifetime watching their father and grandfather (who are legends in our area). I missed them so much, too.  Mark and Matt and I talk about what we see on farms and they tell me about sugaring and Mark’s recent trip to Florida.  They arrived at 7:30 am on the dot and were packed and driving away at 9:15 (that’s even with chatting).  They had taps to check and I’m sure many other things to get on with during a busy Saturday.

We cooled the pigs in the trailer overnight and Sunday morning, Cole Ward the Master Butcher came to cut them for us.  Cole is one of my favorite humans ever, and very literally a treasure to those who know him well.  He is kind, and thoughtful, and so, SO talented at teaching butchery.  We decided this time not to do a workshop as we have some times before, but Cole can’t help it.  He loves to cut and joke and tell stories about his days working a meat counter near the CBS Studios in L.A., and all of the personalities that came to buy meat from him.  We learn so much, every time.  A real butcher, a true master butcher, is that person with every recipe conceivable for each cut. The person who can tell you how to grill this muscle but not that one, and explain why your sausage won’t bind or your ground beef has crunchy “bone chips” in it (it doesn’t, but there’s a reason why the texture is wrong).  We’ve become accustomed to cuts only available when you cut your own animal,

There are not enough words to describe how important Cole is to passing on meat education and general love of butchery.

and it’s a darned good thing he’s been teaching us, because I’m not sure we could go back.

 

Chris and I spent the day trading off vacuum sealing duties in the cool basement, while a small group of friends and family chatted with Cole, tried to “out joke” him, and ate sausages with mustard.

Such a wonderful way to celebrate a life, thank you!

Tonight we ate some of the best–if not THE best–pork I ever had or raised.  Sure, that might be related to the long, long wait of the past five years, but I’d like to think this was in many ways a sign of a good life, from beginning to end.  Thank you fellas.  We’ll honor and appreciate you, every bite.

 

 

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Apr 172018
 

One of my favorite family visitors feeding a lamb in 2017.

OK, I’ll own it.  I’m a sucker for lambs.  I wait every year to see what colors they’ll be and how many each ewe will have, and how strong and amazing they’ll be (they stand in minutes and often jump around within hours…it’s awe inspiring).

Lambing season isn’t all sunshine and roses, despite the pictures that end up on Facebook.  Sometimes lambs die and sometimes they struggle.  Sometimes the moms reject them and sometimes it keeps me up at night.  Years like we’re having this year, it seems like spring will never come and the green grass is so far away.

You know what gets me through that?

Visitors!

Everyone loves to see the lambs and when we moved out of town to our new home, it felt like we should create a new opportunity to share happenings with friends, family and neighbors.  Thus our Lamb Open House event was born.

Come join us Saturday, May 5!  We’ll have refreshments and barbecue and activities…and lambs too!
P.S. And please register to help us plan! Thank you!

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Apr 012018
 

New leaders at Howling Wolf Farm.

It’s been more than eighteen months at the new farm, and there is much to share.  After the emotional roller coaster of finding and making the right location happen, we spent the fall of 2016 rushing around to get ourselves and the animals settled before winter.  And then we mostly collapsed.  Most of our friends and family forgave us for the withdrawal, and even came to share a little woodstove-and-chat time.  The door is still open (and will continue to be) for all.

Times of great change happen.  I think the past several years have been times of great change for a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons.  Our extended family has had tragic losses and some (one might even say, sacred) reemergence, healing and transformation.  The farm has helped us heal and grow roots–already–that we never seemed to have developed at the old place.  Maybe it’s the regular wind up here on the hill; we must develop those deep roots to stay upright. A good lesson on so many levels.

In 2017, we spent much time just experiencing the farm through seasonal changes.  There’s so much more to understand about the wildlife and the forest and the farm’s potential, but it was a good start.  I wrote a whole bunch (270 days) of haiku.  We tried a Kickstarter campaign, which was ultimately unfunded but absolutely successful in other ways.  I wrote a three-part series about our fifteen-year journey to the farm for On Pasture.

We hosted the first of our annual Lamb Open House events to meet neighbors, moved sheep every day through the grazing season, picked a ton of blueberries, cooked up barbecue for our adjacent buddies at the Jacob’s Court mobile home park, and held an end-of-season farm workshop & dinner.  And we’re finally back into raising pigs!  All along, 2017 was about testing parts of this new life to see what fits and what doesn’t.

We have many plans for 2018, including events spread from June to October that showcase different aspects of our skill sets and the farm’s offerings.  We are building a pig roasting pit and starting to develop a gathering area around the pond.  The sheep flock is expanding and we’ll be running water pipe around the pastures to increase our capacity to include cattle in the mix.  We’re documenting everything that we can.  We’re still not sure whether 2018 is Yurt Year, but our aim is to really start digging in and sharing the farm in new ways to new people.

Much to do and say and love about the changes afoot.  My recommendation: subscribe to our newsletter to keep up!

Jenn

 

 

 

 

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May 162016
 

The sheep are getting a snack again.  I have a view from my office window and have been working at home a lot this Spring.  This affords me a clear view down to the sheep pen and

As I write this, a neighbor is visiting with treats. Thank you!

As I write this, a neighbor is visiting with treats. Thank you!

coincidentally a front-row seat to who’s visiting today.

There are Martha and Emily, two neighbors with short-legged, big-personality dogs.  There’s Mary who buys carrots on sale and comes in to distribute whole bags at a time.  There are the teenagers who seem to know every lamb by name and watched some births real-time this year. Lindsay and Sarah even picnicked this Spring on round bales with some friends from around the corner; spreading blankets and eating granola bars on top of the plastic-wrapped marshmallows.  Earlier today I watched some visitors put one of my lamb jackets on their dog and take its picture. I had to look twice—I thought a lamb was out of the fence!

Then there are the people walking their dogs who wave but don’t stop.  The multi-generational family from grandparents to baby who stopped to introduce themselves as new in the neighborhood.  One longtime resident brought chairs so that she and her granddaughter could watch the lambs in comfort.  There are the cars that creep by with faces looking out the window and the shy smiles and waves.  Last weekend we hosted a Girl Scout troop.  The Randolph Police cruise the neighborhood multiple times each day and a little part of me thinks they do it to check on the lambs and not just because it’s their regular sweep schedule.

The sheep have always been a sort of ambassador service for us.  I’m an introverted outgoing person (I promise this IS a thing!) and I’m not good at dropping in or going to parties where I don’t know people.  My family is even less outgoing.  What better way to meet people than talk about the sheep?  Their sweetness, their pushiness, the ability to name them after friends and family and fun inside jokes.  The sheep have created novelty and amusement for many, and a social entry point for us.

A fine picnic spot.

A fine picnic spot.

Now we have a farm under contract.  It’s not a done deal, but signs are pointing in the right direction.  This means that we’ll be moving to a new home later this summer, which is very exciting and hopeful, and a little more bittersweet than I expected it to feel.  Originally we thought we’d move in to this little rental and just be here for six or eight months before buying a new place.  Turns out, life had some other plans for us, and that’s OK.  We’ve met some lovely people and they’ve really helped this neighborhood feel like home.  There’s so much to be grateful for here.

Thank you all.  We’re only moving a mile away so even if it’s not convenient to walk the dog by us every day, hopefully you’ll still come visit from time to time.

And bring some carrots.

Jenn

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Apr 222016
 

Since we are in Poetry Month and Mother’s Day is right around the corner, here’s a poem that I wrote about my mom after visiting her one day last spring.  She doesn’t know that I wrote this.

Mum in her natural element.  She also makes kick ass Elderberry juice.  I can get you in touch with her if you want some.

Mum in her natural element. She also makes kick ass Elderberry juice. I can get you in touch with her if you want some.

Love you, Mum.

–Jenn

 

Spring Afternoon

 

Carefully

She picks her way

Her deliberate pace

Not the result of fragile floral stems

Or wooden cane worn smooth

Under her lined palm,

No.

 

She stops,

Smiles that joyful smile

Radiance bursting through.

Pain is gone,

Shadow is gone,

Sorrow is gone.

Chased away by

Elderberry blossoms,

Ella’s daffodils,

Seven Sisters roses,

Crocuses in the lawn grass,

Japanese plums celebrating Spring’s

Lovely pervasive fragrance

Surrounded by the hum of bees

Industrious with pollination.

 

That pace

Embodies ecstatic celebration of

Tender life in bloom.

Persistent artistry in every

Mahogany bud revealing

Cream-colored petals,

Delicate yellow pistils, the

Elemental beauty.

 

She pauses to breathe it in,

Gloriously brilliant,

Nearly blinding in her

Dreamlike rapture, a

Resounding bloom.

 

JJC 05/10/15

Updated 4/11/16

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Apr 202016
 

Poetry continues.  Not trying to bury the lead, but our aged canine fellow Vaughan recently had a stroke.  Before you read this and freak out (family), he’s OK.  We had a little “is this it?” time,

Bo and Vaughan

Bo (left) and Vaughan, our howling wolves. Believe it or not, being a Samoyed/Lab mix really *does* mean you can howl. Or at least be very talkative.

but he’s recovering well.  And wow, what an amazing dog he has been and continues to be.

–Jenn

 

Fourteen and Counting

 

Twelve years ago

You lost a bet with a truck

Dr. Kenney rebuilt your hip

With a floating socket technique.

Friendly games of tag and flights of stairs

Became slower and smarter,

You held your leg up and, like a tripod, hopped on. 

 

Ten years ago

Cold March and cancer took your mother.

You have her warm brown eyes,

Gentle way with small children and smaller dogs.

Of my Birthday mates, you most channel her

Grace, substance and dignity.

 

Three Octobers ago

Your sister had a heart attack

On the living room floor mid-family relocation.

You grasped our new home as your old,

Sleeping, your head on Chris’ pillow,

Coming out of our bedroom

Blinking like you craved morning coffee.

 

Last summer you decided

Deafness and blindness the perfect excuses,

Overseeing farm chores from the truck seat.

Weekly hay trips now revert you to joyous,

Timeless puppyhood for six whole seconds

Before cozily napping on the bench seat.

 

Three nights ago

With a great stumbling crash

A stroke took your balance and your bark,

But not your wag.

Yesterday you ate hotdogs

Today it was cheese and meatloaf.

You even scaled the truck seat this morning,

Though it was touch-and-go getting out.

 

Twelve years ago I learned

Never bet against a dog who wants to live.

 

JJC 4/11/16

Updated 4/17/16

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Apr 172016
 
The Sugar Makers Song--learn it, spread it, sing it!

The Sugar Makers Song–learn it, spread it, sing it!

Recently, I had the opportunity to read some of my poetry at The Black Krim in Randolph along with a group of other farmer-poets.  So amazing and humbling to hear how other people see some of the things that I see and write about, and how they choose to express it.  Some of the poets clearly write words to be performed aloud (slam!) and some feel perfect to be part of a tea-and-comfy-chair-on-a-rainy-afternoon experience.  Some of my co-poets are nationally recognized and published (in this week’s New Yorker–gasp!), some are musicians (now we know the Vermont Sugar Makers Song, a nearly-lost archived song from the 1930s, which we all sang together), one was recently feted in Seven Days for being a farmer poet for hire.  Backing up the whole experience was the lovely Krim, which was full to bursting with smiling faces enjoying dinner, a cocktail and the ability to support us.

Because I do my best work at the very last minute (I try not to let it be that way, but there it is), I wrote two poems on the day of the reading.  I rewrote some bits from several earlier poems, too.  I don’t know if other people write and rewrite their poems, but I sure do.  No “one and done” for me.  That said, I also tried working away at a poem I’ve been developing for two weeks about a ewe I had to euthanize and it just wasn’t coming together.  Maybe that will become a prose story for another time.

To finish out Poetry Month, I’m going to share some of the poems written for this year–Enjoy!

–Jenn

 

"Waiting" was written about 720, who gave birth to twins less than 24 hours later. So timely.

“Waiting” was written about 720, who gave birth to twins less than 24 hours later. So timely.

Waiting

 

Thousand-mile stare

She shifts from hoof to hoof,

Audibly creaking,

Eruptively she groans

Settling her bulk

In a shallow trench

Dug by toes and impatience.

 

Her belly’s mysterious contents feel like

Christmas, Birthday, Halloween, presents

Entwined together with legs and tails

Prepared to suck and leap and doze in piles of

Newborn fur and milk drunkenness.

 

Today

She stands

She leans

She stares

She ruminates

She waddles

I scratch her chin

Her pregnant pause.

 

JJC 4/11/16

Updated 4/17/16

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