Family Creates Warmth in the Cold of Winter

Winter quiet brings a space for thinking that I never seem to have time for during the busier seasons, so I’ve been mulling about the meaning of family.

If you come from a relatively small birth family like mine (no siblings), the word family has a little more flexible meaning than it might for other people.  In our life, family is who shows up and cares enough to use precious vacation days to come from NY and camp in our back yard; or people who send us news clippings and Craigslistings of used yurts; and people who randomly ship paleo/low carb cookies that Chris can eat.  Or people who drop by their famous pepper jelly with an extra Christmas cactus (his name is Ernie–by the way—the cactus, not the person).  Or people who buy frozen geese as a joke and name lambs after football quarterbacks just to annoy us.

Family is about creating connection.  It’s not even necessarily about the length of time spent together; it’s about a feeling, locked in, that’s there and solid.  It can be a week or a month or five years, when you see each other and the warm glow is still between you.   A quick email, a texted heart, a momentary online exchange; it’s just nice to know each other is still out there.

A farm is a different kind of a business than others, often because it’s a physical, biological place and not just a building or cloud space.  Farm businesses can move to new locations; farmers can relocate.  But a farm is embedded in its town; it protects the watershed from flooding, it hosts wildlife for hunters and visitors, it produces food, fiber, and fuel for its neighbors.  A farm is almost its own member of the greater town family.  I get how people sometimes talk about a farm having a life of its own; they certainly have their own personalities!  I think ours somewhat resembles a few people I know (who shall remain unnamed!)…a little run down, a little rough around the edges, but waiting for a bit of love and care to bloom.

We are part of a greater community.  Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that, when we talk to the people we see every day online or in person, but our community includes all the people that we think about and don’t see as often as we’d like, and those people we probably should reach out to.  It wasn’t exactly a New Year’s Resolution (I don’t ever actually achieve those, do you?), but I did set an intention this year to reach out to people I think about, more.  When someone crosses my mind, I am trying to send them an email, text, card, message.  What caused that person to cross my mind?  Were they thinking of me?  Does it matter?  Were they in need of someone, anyone stretching a hand (virtual or otherwise) to them? If we can be that for them, I think we owe it to ourselves to try.

Because these invisible threads that connect and bind us, these relationships of birth/adopted/friends/besties/family-by-any-name…they are what hold us together when everything else goes down.

We try to ask ourselves–what kind of family are we cultivating? Is it a place where lots of perspectives are welcome, and there’s something to learn from everyone?  We hope so!  Is it about creating hope together and strength and connection?  We try.  Is it about being perfect?  Absolutely not. I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown lately, and let me be super vulnerable and up front here: I haven’t always been a very good friend. I once got fired from a wedding, and I totally deserved that.  Thankfully, most of my dearest friends have forgiven my failings, but not everyone has. Life is long, and we’re not perfect–I’m certainly not! So, let’s forgive ourselves and try to do better, together.

Thanks for being part of our family.  We wouldn’t be here without the support from and belief of all the people who thought we could do this, and continue to send us good vibes and high fives and visits to take a class or buy some farm products.  We are all in this together, and I love that.

And, exciting news! I was just interviewed on the Small Farm Nation podcast about getting our farm started up and the journey that got us here.  And about being a woman farmer and some other neat things about my farm experience.  Please give it a listen, and thank you again, family!

Love, Jenn


Taking the Time

A few days ago, I wrote an article for the New England Barbecue Society’s newsletter in the National Barbecue News that talks about the time we barbecue competitors put into practicing the craft. It was inspired in part by a comment made by Andy Husbands, the Chef/Owner of Boston’s Tremont 647 (and member of the Wicked Good Barbecue team). Andy said:

“it’s funny, people ask for ‘easy recipes’ especially easy BBQ recipes from Chris [Hart] and I, we have to tell them it’s not easy, things of quality are not easy they take practice and skill, but the practice is fun and rewarding.”

Practice takes time, but when the food comes out tasting fantastic, and you executed your technique perfectly, it’s worth it.

I often find myself thinking about time and food. Like everyone our life is busy, with the demands of work and home leaving little time to relax or to stop and take stock of where we are. It is hard for many of us to find the time to slow down and savor the moments we’re given. I am grateful that by jumping into competition barbecue a decade ago, I embraced a style of cooking that by its very nature takes time. A big brisket or pork butt could take 10 hours to cook. To cook it right, attention must be paid throughout the process. It’s not just about me throwing it in the oven or in the crock-pot and walking away (and don’t get me wrong, sometimes taking that approach is just right). Instead, it’s about giving the craft of barbecue my undivided attention and my valuable time.

Beef brisket, smoked for eight hours.
Beef brisket, smoked for eight hours.

I do this in part because I believe the animal that gave its life for me to eat deserves my respect, but also because I believe that it is worth it for me to take the time to do it right. Fast and easy is not nearly as rewarding as slow and challenging is. By rushing our cooking I think we lose a lot of the goodness in what we share with our families at dinner time (literally and metaphorically speaking). For example, when you par boil a rack of ribs so you can cook it fast, all of the stuff that rises to the surface is goodness – you have literally boiled the flavor out of the meat. And when we feel that cooking for our families is a chore that needs to be “gotten out of the way,” I think we lose sight of why we cook – to feed the ones we love. I believe that there is great good in the act of cooking food. Food is love.

Home made smoked stock.
Home made smoked stock.

One of the best examples I can think of (beyond barbecue) that demonstrates the benefit of slowing down and cooking it right, is found in making stock. Stock (slowly cooked bones, vegetables and other goodness) is useful to the cook in so many ways. The key to making it right, is to cook it very slowly. When Jenn and I make stock, it sits in a pot on our stove at as low a heat as possible (keeping it above 140 degrees for food safety, of course) for days. That’s right, kids – DAYS. I generally cook my stock for a minimum of four days. The key is the low temperature and the occasional replenishment of water. In the end, after a lot of time, I’m left with an amber liquid that holds the very essence of goodness, a perfect reminder of how good it is to slow down and cook for my family. To take the time to do it right. Because it’s worth it for the ones you love.

Thanks for reading.


PS: I wanted to include a stock recipe with this post, but the cookbook I used as my reference for stock was lost when we moved out of our old house. I promise I’ll get a recipe for ya’ll sometime soon! C.