in which we ask: boss or bellwether?

in which we ask: boss or bellwether?

Molly (left front) & Bess

Molly,  front & center of course, & her Best Friend Bess


I read this post on a favorite blog of mine, Throwback at Trapper Creek. I enjoyed the post as usual, but I really didn’t think much more of it.  However, it must have been infectious somehow because this morning, as I went about my chores, I found myself thinking hard about bellwether ( a bellwether is a lead animal) cows.

Our first cows were Bess and Molly with their two heifers, Basil and Merry.  When they came to our farm,  we had never known a cow.  Molly was all blustery, showy and beautiful.  She was bossy, loud, photogenic and pretty entertaining most of the time.  Sometimes she was pretty scary too – she has fancy horns and some powerful body language.  We assumed Molly was the Boss cow.

But, as I came to know them better, I realized that it was actually quiet Bess who figured everything out first. Bess didn’t make a big fuss; she just went about her business.  Bess was the one who would watch for me to call for dinner.  Bess always came right away, and when everyone saw her come, they would come too.  That is, once Molly had decided to quit jamming up the works and allow it.

It seems in the world of cows, “Boss” is often just a good show.  While Molly was busy spending her time hogging up the water trough (she’s not even thirsty – geez), bullying and blocking the lower ranking cows and keeping everyone from doing things she was afraid to do,  Bess was spending her time enjoying the summer grass, being a good mother and a good friend.  And let’s not forget the ever-important always being first in line (I’ve never understood the importance of this one, but ask any grade school kid or cow and they’ll tell you – it’s critical). Unlike Molly, Bess wastes no time minding anyone else’s business so she is almost always first for everything important. Know any Mollys?

Since Bess just saw what needed done and did it without any posturing, she was always the first to eat, drink, come in from the rain and to get her choice of bed.  Let’s face it; Bellwethers simply get stuff done. While the rest of us are strutting about looking to be praised for something we did a few days ago, Bellwethers are already finishing up something more.

It was Bess who helped the other cows learn our routine and Bess was the reason Molly would eventually decide to go along with the program.  Amazingly enough, for all her bluster, Molly followed Bess too!  Just don’t ask her to admit it.

Looking around our classrooms and/or places of work, I’m sure we can all spot the “Boss Cow”.   What I was slow to learn is that the Boss Cow isn’t helping anybody get anywhere. She’s a distraction, an obstacle keeping everyone from being simply satisfied and content.  And for some reason, lots of other people believe she’s Boss too.  But the Bellwether isn’t fooled.

I’d love to say I’m a Bellwether, but I fear I’ve actually more often been a Boss Cow.  I really don’t know what pleasure a Boss Cow gets from being one; Bellwethers are happier.

So, I propose three things:

  1. Figure out who’s who: Boss Cow or Bellwether? You might be surprised when you really think about it….
  2. Don’t let the Boss Cow get you off track.  You know what a Boss Cow can’t handle? When you don’t pay them any mind. Give it a try.
  3. Show some appreciation for the Bellwethers you know.  They aren’t the fancy, flashy ones, but they are the ones who make it all happen.  If you’re going to follow someone, follow a Bellwether.

So, if you really want to be the change you’d like to see in the world, be a Bellwether.

Our sweet bellwether leads in the gang. No surprise here: her name is really Success!

In Which We Share A Great Find

In Which We Share A Great Find

As I learn more about farming, it seems all roads lead eventually back to WWII.  I have to confess some sheepish remorse for not caring more about American history when I was in school. Especially now, since the lessons (apparently not learned) of that era seem to be coming right back at us.

Trolling the internet one day, I stumbled upon this amazing online exhibit created by Corey Bernat; Beans are Bullets & Of Course I Can: A Collection of War-Era Food Posters from the Collection of the National Agricultural Library.

Advertisers are plundering these again timely and appealing images to sell us new books and products. We scan them in a quick way and are attracted to their nostalgic wholesome and honest feel, but did we take time to really examine the message?

Can you believe it? America Wastes 40% of All Food Produced Each Year

This skillful and entertaining exhibit identifies the root of our present alignment of government, deceptive advertising practices, industrial food production and farming methods.  That’s the dark part.

There is also an uplifting part where citizens join forces and engage in efforts greater than themselves for the betterment of the nation.

A secret invasion is going on every minute of every day, staged behind every computer and television screen, cell phone, street corner and magazine and we seem determined to avoid knowing about it. The war for our brainspace is 24/7 and we couldn’t seem to care less.

Pitch In And Help

If you don’t think there’s a warfare mentality to American style advertising, search Amazon to see just how many times a military word, strategy or reference is made in the titles of books on marketing and advertising.

There’s no doubt that advertisers have invaded our brain space; but, since we invited them in, we can ask them to leave. The real question is, “ Will we?”

Now, don’t let me finish on a negative note – I’m not really  a conspiracy theory sort of girl.  Rather,  I’m a “Let’s get out there and do something to make things better” one.

What better place to start than planting a garden & putting up some of your own food this summer? You might find you enjoy your quiet evenings in the garden and/or kitchen much more than the ones you spend watching TV.

Give it a try….

In Which We Say Hello!

In Which We Say Hello!

Welcome Little Guy!

Bright eyed, bushy-tailed, our new little surprise was already quietly curled up in a corner while his mother waited for her breakfast.

Molly was pretty patient considering.  We missed the entire event – she had delivered quietly, cleaned the baby, fed him and cleaned up.  All she wanted from us was room service already.

Molly is an unusual cow.  She’s a big girl with a big personality.  She was born on a farm that handled the cows very little.  Since we want to milk our cows, we handle them much more than Molly was used to.  I have no silly delusions that we will ever be milking Molly – she’s been having it her way for much too long.  But she has been a pretty good sport overall.

She has embraced coming in and going out for meals. She enjoys a fluffy straw bed for herself and her baby.  She’s used to us now, and has decided that, while there will be no petting of Molly, in due time, I may pet her baby (if the baby wants) and I may serve her immediately.  And tell Molly often how fabulous she is; she likes that.

Hodil, The Little Engine That Could

Molly expects me to follow after her and help guide her baby in and out, fluff the beds at least once a day, serve her with plenty of soft hay and make sure she has lots of water, no please or thank you about it. While she isn’t exactly bossy, she has perfected her queenly airs.  Using her horns like antenna, she points them at whatever offense she wishes me to correct, then looks at me, then back to the offending item again.  Funny girl.

She still looks like she’s ready to burst – I hate to tell her a diet may be in her future.  She doesn’t follow People magazine so she doesn’t know about the race to lose baby weight. Molly prefers to wear hers with pride.

Molly's on the Job

I don’t want to fail to mention our First Time Dad Hodil.  Hodil wasn’t available for comments this morning – a fresh delivery of hay required his full attention. All I can say is that this baby is living proof that Hodil is the Little Engine That Could.

I won’t go into the dirty details, but Molly is intimidating to say the least.  Despite Hodil’s youth and inexperience, he obviously wasted no time and did not give up when the going got tough.

Thanks Molly and Hodil,  for a job well done.

He’s a beauty.

In Which We Laugh: Good Golly Miss Molly!

In Which We Laugh: Good Golly Miss Molly!

Our Beautiful Molly

Molly just doesn’t get it.  She hasn’t figured out that she’s a staid matron of 8 years old.  Huge and ready to burst any minute with calf, we introduced her to her nieces yesterday and look what a silly girl she is!

In spite of her cumbersome condition, Molly romped and played like a young girl. We can learn lots about enjoying life from Molly…. she’s such a character I could watch her all day.

Those Crazy Kids!

If you ever want to know what Zen looks like, you need to see Molly eat.

Molly was recently selected to be a covergirl. She’s very pleased, but taking it all in stride.  Lawrence Gilley, the tireless promoter of Milking Devons has a really nice café press store with lots of great Milking Devon items.

Covergirl Molly

He recently selected Molly to feature on a mug.

Of course we’ve already bought a complete set; we’re not proud or anything.

Charcutepalooza: The Beef Tour is Born

Charcutepalooza: The Beef Tour is Born

In Which Bling Puts Her Hoof Down

The Ladies and I were talking at breakfast....

The Ladies and I were talking this morning at breakfast about the merits of pigs and cows.

Finally, Bling stamped her shapely hoof on the ground and let us all know in no uncertain terms that she would have no more of it. “Anything pigs can do,” she said, “cows can do better.  Cows can do anything better than pigs.” “Yes. They. Can,” she firmly finished.

xxxxxYes. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThey. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxCan!! xxxxx


Well.  Bling didn’t know this, but February’s Charcutepalooza challenge was looming large in my mind.  I had skidded in at the very last minute and was rushing to get my hands on a copy of the book and the needed ingredients. I was feeling the pressure to step up and deliver or forever feel my shame.

I still wasn’t sure how I should approach this meaty challenge and then, as I listened to Bling’s words, I knew I had it.  Charcutepalooza: the Beef Tour was born.  I don’t really think that’s what Bling thought we were talking about, but that’s ok.  I thought it best not to mention anything about ducks….

Thanks, Bling.

My head must truly be under a rock because I had no clue this awesomeness that is Charcutepalooza was even going on until the very last minute.  Even today, my book and pink salt still have not arrived.  Frantically studying the internet for pancetta instructions, I read the word botulism way too often to feel confident fudging my way through pancetta.

My bacon and I are still in the getting to know you stage so  I’m keeping things simple. I want to focus on the flavors and differences of the pork and beef versions.  I used the same rub – salt, Demerara sugar, bay, thyme, roughly cracked black peppercorns and nutmeg on both meats. I didn’t use the pink salt, not because I’m against it, but because it hadn’t arrived in the mail yet.

My bacons need to continue curing for a couple more days, so for today, I carved off a hunk of both meats to prepare cured Belly Dan Barber’s Way.  It’s simple enough; cured, braised and pan-fried belly.  It pairs easily with pretty much anything; pan seared cabbage, mashed potatoes, grits, French fries, beans & greens, risotto, green beans, sautéed greens or mashed Jerusalem artichokes and a crisp, bright salad.  And, it’s going to make great pulled beef/pork for tacos or salads.

I assure you that even though Auburn Meadow Farm is all about the cows, this pig is getting a fair shake.  In fact, in Dan Barber’s recipe, I have to admit the pork is my favorite.  The beef was very good too, but was dangerously close to tasting like pot roast.

Having never seen nor tasted Dan Barber’s pork belly made by Dan Barber himself, I realize I am really putting myself out there. This is one of those deceptively simple dishes that a master can really make shine.  After the curing, the braising and the frying, the fat layer achieves this perfect, melting state of barely solid with a delicately crispy crust that is almost wonderous.

Committed to keeping things really, really simple, I chose basic seared cabbage wedges as my side.  I figured with all the salty, fatty cured meat-y flavor, I needed a side that can take a solid back seat and showcase that meltingly luscious fat.

Cured, Braised, Pan Seared Beef Belly & Cabbage

The meat fat created a really nice coating for the cast iron skillet. All I did was cut a cabbage into 8 wedges (leaving the core in keeps the wedges intact), heat the skillet to medium – medium high, melt some fat, then add the cabbage.  Turn gently after 3 – 5 minutes and brown the other side.

Simple & Deliciously Local

Because the meat was salty and seasoned with the cure, I only added freshly ground black pepper. Sear your beef or pork belly and serve immediately. Yum! Simple, warm, homey supper from local ingredients.

As the beef and the pork continue to age in the cure, the appearance of the pork is suffering more from the lack of pink salt.  The beef looks rich and dark while the pork just looks duller and grayer each day.

Both were really salty straight from the cure – but – the flavor! Making your own cure mix makes a world of difference.  Both are yummy but oh, my, that beef has promise! Steak-y flavor with a bacony texture – I’m really excited and just a little sheepish that I haven’t thought of this before.

Beef Belly Soon to be Bacon

Beef bacon excites me because it’s a fresh and unexpected way to use a cut of beef that is typically overlooked. This bacon that will soon be in my freezer is the kind of simple project that makes quick everyday meals awesome with very little extra effort.  When you are trying to eat as few processed foods as possible, these are the sorts of things that demonstrate that eating humanely raised meats and local, seasonal vegetables is a nearly painless adjustment to your lifestyle and one with lots of unexpected benefits and pleasures.

Beef bacon doesn’t threaten pork bacon’s existence, but it does add lots of interesting and simple options for those committed to using the whole animal.  Everyone wants steaks and roasts, but there’s so much more to a beast. Again and again the less expensive cuts prove to be the ones that steal the show….

Coming Soon to My House:

  1. Red Flannel Hash (Pork Bacon)
  2. Traditional Irish Bacon(Pork Bacon), Cabbage and Parsley Sauce
  3. Beef Bacon with green olives, tomato, onion & raisins
  4. Beef Bacon Thai Lettuce wraps
  5. Fennel salad with Beef Bacon
  6. Beef Bacon & mushrooms

PS: Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Yummy Mummy, my dog worships you. He could not be happier about this unexpected turn of events.