January arrived with a bang! Stefano and I were busy cooking and serving the Cenone to our guests. It was so much fun I do not even have the words to describe the pleasure of cooking traditional foods that have populated my childhood and seeing people appreciating these flavors and enjoying each others company. I was in heaven. Thanks for coming over guys, you helped me have the best new years eve I can recall.
What do you do during this time of the year? For the farm January is a time when our chores end earlier (because it is dark earlier), so we get to enjoy more time in front of the warm fire in the living room. Eva is old enough to play cards so we have been doing a lot of that, something that I grew up doing with zia and nonna. Everyone at the farm is an avid reader, so in the evening we tend to gravitate to the couch by the fire with books about cooking, butchering, baking and psychology (I am a psychologist) scattered all over the room. Starting in the late evening and going all night till the early morning the two ovens in the kitchen do not get much of a break between ciabatta, whole wheat loafs, pandoro bread, brioche bread, puff pastry and all sorts of baked goods that the two male bakers at the farm produce on a daily basis – I have to thank my mother for gifting me a fast metabolism and 85 pigs that keep me busy scooping manure if I do not reach 200Lbs in the winter. The house smells like a bakery all night long making the atmosphere even warmer in front of the fire.
January is also time to fix the greenhouse, get the beds for the seedling organized, order the seeds, turn the compost, and plan the garden for next year. There is always so much excitement in the planning stages. It is also the only time when you feel things are organized… as soon as the spring begins and you realize you have under-estimated the amount of work that it takes to open up a new pasture for the pigs or the time it takes to bring food to the further pasture … all those plans begin to shift and get reshaped into something more manageable. But in January you can dream of a perfectly functioning 2 acre vegetable garden, 20 synchronized pig paddocks and cover crops. This is also the time to shear sheep to free them from the burdocks they have collected in November and hope that next year we can remove all the burdocks before the sheep find them. You arrive home with your clothes smelling of lanoline a scent that brings me back to the times when zia did laundry in Italy. It is also time to say goodbye to the ram lambs that will be sent to the slaughterhouse and to name the ewe lambs that are officially recognized as breeding stock.
A new generation of pigs is about to arrive at the farm. Many of you met Gustavo, our new Berkshire X Old Spot boar that loves tomatoes. Today he was introduced to Franchina, our youngest gilt (female pig that has not had a litter yet). Franchina is a ¼ Duroc X ¼ Hempshire X ½ Tamworth. She is a beauty. He is massive. They liked each other … immediately. In 4 months we should see the effect of adding the Berkshire to the genetics of our litter. Franchina comes from Josephina, one of the three sows that we have selected as our top breeders. The other two sows (Salciccia and Mozza) are about to give us litters that were generated with Zeus (Tamworth X Hempshire). It is fun to be finally at the point where we can play with genetics and see the effects on the final product!
Fresh veggies and fruits on Wednesday and Saturdays for the pigs! We have started picking up the pulp from Tomgirl Juice (Burlington) and … oh boy the pigs love it! It is so much fun to feed them the colorful pulp and plants left over from the juice bar! We are using the pulp only as supplement to add vitamins and anti-oxidants to their diet. In addition to provide a yummy and enjoyable treat for our animals, all these flavors will get trapped in the fat cells and will be released while cooking making the flavor more complex. Gustavo (boar) could hardly contain himself last night when I walked into his pen with a bucket full of vegetable goodies! He was so excited he started jumping and running after me as if he was a little piglet again. Happiness! It is so satisfying to give our pigs fresh wholesome food that we know it is good for them and they enjoy so much! And it is also satisfying to think of all the wonderful flavors that will get trapped in the fat cells and that will be released once we sit down to enjoy the meat coming from our piggies.
Welcome January. I am looking forward to the rest of the month.