Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Animal Farm

I went on a field trip yesterday for my Master Gardener class.  We toured Greenbrier Farm in Easley, South Carolina - an organic farm with grass-fed cattle and free range animals. 

To create a good, open environment for their pigs, they decided to fence off a forested part of their acreage and let them root in the dirt to their hearts' content.

 They reduced the forested area to dirt within 2 weeks...

...but they have plenty of space, plenty of good food and sunshine, and everyone knows how much pigs like to wallow in mud!

When not wallowing, the pigs concentrated their efforts on looking cute.

 Greenbrier Farm sells their pork to Whole Foods, which has pretty stringent quality control! 

 I was particularly impressed with their waste not, want not policy - no pun intended.  They pastured their cows this spring in a specific field called a "sacrifice pasture".  The cows consumed all the good spring grass in about three weeks.  Then the cows were moved to a different pasture and chickens were wheeled in.

Chickens ate the 'cow patties' and made plenty of messes of their own, which were scooped up and allowed to "cook" - i.e., allowed to sit until the nitrogen burned down a bit.  Then it was tilled into the soil as good organic fertilizer.

Baby chickens warmed themselves under heat lamps and drank out of bamboo troughs.  The bamboo came from the farm and is the perfect size for little chicks!

They have all sorts of cows...

...and sheep.

Wildflowers are starting to bloom and turned the area around their grape arbors a soft purple.

On another part of the farm, greenhouses provide a safe environment for growing.

Another ingenious idea...rye grass is grown on the right side of the greenhouse and then tilled into the ground to provide nutrients for the soil, and the perfect blend for later-season growing.

Of course, they've got flats and flats of seeds going now...

I saw three beehives on the property.  According to the farm owners, their vegetables are much larger and healthier since they started keeping bees.

Another greenhouse sits ready for use.  A great idea:  they housed some pigs in this space and let them do the labor of rooting up the soil.  Their waste was tilled into the soil for fertilizer.  You can't beat free!

One barn on the property has been turned into a conference hall, often used for weddings.

All in all, it was a great day on the farm!

Back home, increasingly warm temperatures means the end of some of my favorite spring plants.  The bulbs have bloomed and are dying.

I have a mix of purple and white hyacinths, plus lots of tulips, blooming around the house.  One more...

Yes, the purple hyacinths are definitely my favorite! 

A sad goodbye to the Helleborus, too.

However, I look forward to seeing what comes next!  Already the azaleas have burst into flower and are in bouquets everywhere...

...and the redbud trees are putting out some color.  I found these beautiful branches and couldn't resist a big bouquet!

It's been a little crafty around the house, but not as much as I would like.  I intended to make Easter eggs for all my friends and family (hollowed-out eggs, painted and dotted, with an Easter scroll inside).

Regretfully, I ran out of time...and eggs.  They were sent to some newly-discovered family members, and some crafty friends! 

Todd was able to build the rubber stamp shelf I've been dreaming about!  He used aluminum strips with stained and beveled wood 'shelves'...

...and mounted it to the wall.

It fits all my rubber stamps with room to grow.  Thanks, Todd!  :)

I've finally got a recipe to post, and it's a nice spring bread, if I do say so myself.  I took my favorite banana bread recipe and toyed with it, and this is the result.  YUM!!

Best Banana Bread
Modified from Bake or Break

For the bread:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 - 4 medium bananas)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a handful of coconut
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  •  ½ cup old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 – 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Mix your dry ingredients, minus the sugar, and set aside.  In your mixer, beat together the cream cheese and the butter, and gradually add in the sugars.  Beat for three minutes.  Add eggs, beating after each addition.  Beat in the bananas and the vanilla.  Gradually add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pans.  

Meanwhile, for the topping:  combine all topping ingredients except for the butter in a small bowl.  Cut in the butter and sprinkle over loaves.  

Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, until top is golden brown and center has cooked through. 

It's soft, sweet, and a delightful spring treat.  I hope you'll give it a try!

1 comment:

  1. Love all the pics from the farm.

    My trick to banana bread - over ripe bananas ;D