Natural events: orchard edition, June 2017

Featured this month:

  • Early June optimism
  • Late June reality
  • Japanese Beetle feeding behavior
  • Japanese Beetles over the years
  • June weather
  • Stalk Borer
  • Quiz

Early June optimism: Fruit crops were looking pretty good in early June. The blueberries began ripening ridiculously early. We actually managed to eat a handful of cherries off of our sour cherry tree, which was remarkable since we didn’t put up bird netting (on account of the cherry quantity being too low to bother). One of our young grape vines was setting nice clusters, and the blackberries were heavily blooming and setting fruit.

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Cooking with kid: Goat loin steak

[Note: This post presents a meal from about a year ago as part of the Cooking with Kid series. My goal was to cook a whole goat kid piece by piece and “to reasonably document and blog about the process in a somewhat timely fashion.” I’m still finishing up the last few posts, but my geological perspective allows me to consider this “somewhat timely”, and this dish is seasonally appropriate.]

cook_kid_steak

Steak is a rarity in our house, because most of the time we prefer meat as a condiment to vegetables. Steak pushes the veggies into condiment status, so with meat taking on the lead role, it needs to be prepared just right. As an ex-vegetarian, I consider steak to be the most intimidating meal that I’ve tried to prepare as a part of this Cooking with Kid series, in which I cook all parts of a goat. The difference between perfection and chewy awfulness is a matter of perhaps a few moments coupled with inexperienced judgment. A rubbery result would be a very unfortunate outcome for the fanciest remaining cut of Crystal: one of the loins.

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Cooking with kid: Schnitzel

[Note: This post presents a meal from about a year ago as part of the Cooking with Kid series. My goal was to cook a whole goat kid piece by piece and “to reasonably document and blog about the process in a somewhat timely fashion.” I’m still finishing up the last few posts, but my geological perspective allows me to consider this “somewhat timely”, and this dish is seasonally appropriate.]

I didn’t have an exact plan when I pulled a “piece of saddle–deboned, 11 oz” out of the freezer. The saddle is from the hips/pelvis, an intermediate quality cut, not as high end as tenderloin or loin but way nicer than neck or sides. As one of the few remaining pieces from the goat kid Crystal, I wanted to check off a few more cooking techniques and at the same time produce a delectable result. I settled on schnitzel, as it would let me pound meat for tenderization, bread it, and shallow-fat fry it.

Schnitzel with lamb's quarters and oyster mushrooms

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Cooking with kid: Ribs

Even during my vegetarian years, I salivated at the thought of ribs. I didn’t really think about the kind of animal when I thought about ribs, but there’s a good chance I was thinking about pork or beef ribs. There’s a fundamental difference between pigs, cows, and goats. The fat of the former two tastes great. Goat fat? Not so tasty. And the trick with ribs is that they’re loaded with fat. That abundance of not-so-scrumptious fat can be dealt with using an ideal method for goat-rib cooking. Unfortunately, this blog post will not reveal the details of that method.

Now, I have eaten really amazing goat ribs, prepared by someone else. The method reportedly involved a spice rub and a long, slow cook in a smoker. I’m guessing a lot of the fat had a chance to ooze out, leaving great-tasting goat meat behind. Maybe I should try that approach sometime. But that’s not what I did in this case.

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Natural events: orchard edition, January 2017

To have a chance at being successful fruit growers in Missouri, we need to be keen observers of the ecosystem, able to identify and understand what is going right and what is not from the perspective of our fruit plantings. This means delving deeper into entomological ID, paying attention to details of plant growth, noticing what herbaceous plants are around, poking around in the wood-chip mulch at the base of the plants to monitor life in the soil, and more. In other words, it means perfect fodder for a continuation of this natural events series.

This is our motivation for a planned shift in this series’ focus from the whole farm to the parts where we’re growing (or attempting to grow) perennial crops, especially fruits. As shown in the orchard photo below, these areas are managed but far from manicured, and there’s more than enough wildness and nature here to keep the amateur naturalists in us busy for a long while.

Featured this month:

  • Basic bud identification
  • Twig damage
  • Signs of mammals
  • Understory plants
  • Swans overhead

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Natural events, December 2016

This post completes our 6th full year of monthly natural-events blogging; the full archive can be viewed under the Landscape and ecosystem tag. What started primarily as a monthly bird list back in 2011 has gradually evolved into a monthly photo essay. We plan yet another shift in focus for 2017, this time toward an emphasis on the orchard and perennial fruit production. More on that when January comes to a close, but first the final installment for 2016.

Featured this month:

  • Frost flowers
  • Barred Owl
  • Bird nests
  • Forest floor greenery
  • Unhappy raccoon

Weather recap:
December started cold and ended warm. Joanna milked the goats on two successive -2ºF mornings in early December (brr!). But temperatures rapidly turned balmy, followed by genuinely warm. Christmas night thunderstorms gifted us with nearly an inch of rain, a welcome amount as fall and early winter have been on the dry side.

dec_natural_frost_flowers
Frost flowers: Frost flowers bring joy to some of the days of first real cold. Certain plants are responsible for these amazing and delicate ice structures. This one is White Crownbeard (Verbesina virginica); though it is a native Missouri plant, we did not have any here, so we acquired some seeds from Joanna’s parents. We started this specimen from seed in the greenhouse last spring, planted it near the house, and more or less forgot about it. What a nice reminder of the effort when we noticed this “bloom” on December 9! Yellow Crownbeard (Verbesina helianthoides) is also well established near the house, verging towards weediness; though in the same genus, that plant does not produce frost flowers.

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