As I write this it’s six o’clock and the shadows outside the window are already growing. We’re less than a week into autumn and you can feel darkness lurking well before sunset. Since I was a child, autumn’s arrival has always been a little bittersweet. Fall meant back to school, but also meant the snapping pigskin of Friday night football games. As I’ve grown older and my pass times have gotten less physical and more refined; autumn now means the lithe and delicate palate of white wine season’s Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs must soon yield to the peppery zing of Shiraz, bold Red Zins will now have their day and the soulful, full-body tastes of Cabernet are embraced with evening's chill.
Now, summer is in the rear mirror, no longer waning--it’s gone. The oaks in the front lawn cast shadows that stalk the front door to the house as I pass through them on my way to the supper table. Here, in Central Florida, autumn's sweetness is accompanied by less humidity and cooling weather. This means Thor’s hammer is a little less fierce and sings less and less each afternoon and will soon fall silent. Soon, but not yet.
Yes, we are cooling off a bit here in Central Florida, but we also must remember the heart of hurricane season is upon us. It seems the later into September and October we get, the tropical activity throws fits. The long, hot days of summer have left their mark in hotter Gulf temperatures which can grow otherwise harmless tropical activity into mighty hurricanes. It’s still hurricane season and I must keep reminding myself of this when I see those evening shadows at the base of the old oaks creeping across the front lawn.
This year at Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm Mother Nature served up our first official hurricane. Hermine made landfall as a category one hurricane on September 2, 2016. So, before we get too far past summer’s dog days and the annual snowbird migration descends, I’d like to share Hermine's wrath on Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm.
When hurricane Hermine made landfall as a category one, we found ourselves in the southeastern quadrant of the storm. This is often the worst area for tidal surges and wind damage. I’m happy to report that all of us at Must Bee Kiddin' Farm and our Florida extended family members rode the storm out safely, but that’s not to say we didn’t take some damage. In our previous post, Hermine Hangover, you can get a feel for some of the damage. So, to complete the hurricane Hermine experience for those that follow the both feet in blog from places outside Florida, we’ll post the video accounting of hurricane Hermine.
Once we got a feel for hurricane Hermine and where in the landfall target zone we were situated, we started making preparations. We’ve been building Must Bee Kiddin’ Farm for two years now and it’s always a bit scary to know Mother Nature can serve up a dish that can possibly undo everything you’ve built. Thankfully, Hermine was a relatively tame category one hurricane. Personally, I’m a big fan of taking things low and slow (especially in these days of graying hair) and I appreciate Mother Nature taking it easy on us for starters. So, let’s get this hurricane party started...//mr
We chose to start our farm for many reasons, but the biggest one was because of food. A few years ago for Christmas dinner I cooked a pork crown roast. The herbs were fresh and the meat was cooked to perfection. It smelled amazing, but it tasted awful!! It was flavorless and lacked any depth. It was at that moment, that I knew I wanted to grow my own food someday.
We started our farm with goats – mainly to clear our land and sell. This fall we will eat one. We naturally progressed to chickens. Hatching and raising our own heritage birds to about 16 – 18 weeks and eating them has us hooked. I can honestly say that we have not bought grocery store chicken to cook since last November. Young, tender heritage breed roosters have the most amazing taste. There is depth and flavor and a substance to this meat that no matter how good of a cook you are you will not achieve the same taste and flavor with mass produced, inhumanely treated, steroid laden and antibiotic injected commercial birds. It is not possible.
The weather recently turned cooler here in Central Florida and the feel of autumn is in the air – it was 68 degrees one morning last week!! Seriously though, the shadows are growing long, the chickens go to roost easier (sometimes), and the body is starting to crave heavy comfort food.
We decided to invite one of our meanest roosters to dinner. He didn’t realize at the time, but he would be the centerpiece of the day. He was a big, beautiful bird, but his disposition was worse than cranky and he couldn’t be trusted. I bear a scar on my hand from him. Roosters that grow up don’t really cook as well as the young ones. I would never waste the meat, so I had to come up with a way to cook the rooster that wouldn’t send us into too much jaw pain from chewing. The light bulb switched on – coq au vin! It’s timeless, it’s easy, and it makes even the worst cook look like she should have her own cooking show. The taste is out of this world.
For this coq au vin recipe I used a fusion of recipes found on blogs and online cookbook sources. I tried to stay true to the most famous coq au vin recipe of all, Julia Child’s, but because of being away from home most of each day, I chose to use the slow cooker.
There’s a lot of up front work prepping coq au vin, but the payoff makes it all worth it!
Coq au Vin
Whole chicken, cut into parts
pearl onions, peeled and halved (frozen work just fine)
carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
couple cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
Cook bacon in skillet and break into small pieces, set aside
In bacon grease, brown your chicken parts on all sides, set in crock pot
In same pan, add garlic and a little olive oil, brown your veggies, add to crock pot on top of chicken
Add a little broth, some red wine and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste to pan, reduce while scraping all the cooked on goodies from the bottom of the pan salt and pepper
Pour over your chicken and veggies in crock pot
Lay thyme on top and tuck your bay leaf under the veggies
Let cook on medium for about 5 hours or until the chicken is falling off the bone.
I served this over homemade egg noodles, but would be great with mashed potatoes
Our little broody hen, Merica, proved to us that embracing her broodienss was a wise decision. Our broody hen was unflappable in her desire to become a mother to some chicks. Trying to break her broodiness quickly became a tiresome task that was totally unnecessary. There is nothing like watching a broody hen and chicks take off across the farm in search of fresh scratching ground.
It is hard to name one scene that exemplifies the simple joys animal husbandry has to offer, but a broody mother hen and chicks has to be up there. A brooding hen has certainly proved to be a welcome addition to Must Bee Kiddin' Farm and now something we fully embrace. Our broody, Merica, proved to be a great mother with fantastic instincts.
This is part two of Operation Mother Merica. Here we follow the broody hen and her chicks as they get a bit bigger. Merica shows us how keen her watchful eyes and ears are when it comes to her chicks. She's proven to be a great broody hen that can take a clutch of eggs all the way to chicks and get them off to a great start on Must Bee Kiddin' Farm.
Operation Mother Merica: Part 2
Hurricane Hermine churned and bobbled in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico for Wabout 13 days before she decided what she wanted to do. All eyes were on the weather, almost hourly, because we were situated on what would be the south east quadrant - which is not the best spot to be. As we have said before, we don't live on our farm yet. We are a short distance away, which made for a sleepless night for at least one of us (the other slept like a rock because HE knew he would be the first to arrive at the farm and start dealing with the potential damage).
At our home, Hermine showed just what she was made of about 2:00 am Friday morning. The wind howled and the rain was sideways for about 2 solid hours. When daylight came, the damage to our immediate neighborhood was not horrible.
Must Bee Kiddin' Farm came out okay, but not unscathed. There were about 5 trees down on our fence, and countless trees down in the interior of the property. My employer was kind enough to let me leave early on Friday so that I could help clean up and get the fence line cleared.
As for the livestock - well, we are thrilled to report that we have Category 1 Hurricane Proof goats and chickens. We are very lucky. No losses of coops, interior net fences or loss of livestock life.
We are still cleaning up, and will be for a while, but we are very grateful.
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.