a blog about meat that turned into a walk down memory lane

we have a ton of meat in this house! ok, not a ton but over 500 pounds…

i’m starting to get excited about it! you see…we don’t eat much meat around here. if we don’t know where the meat came from (and ‘from the grocery store’ doesn’t count!)…or as geoffrey describes it…if i can’t drive to the farm and see how and where the animal raised and talk to the farmer, then we don’t buy it! we have bought small amounts of local grass fed beef over the past year and i mean a small amounts! it’s expensive and you can’t just pick it up at the grocery store when you are there. so, we’ve been flexitarians the past few years…only eating meat on occasion.

now, i have over 100 pounds of beef in the freezer, like 400-500 pounds of rose veal, and 120ish pounds of heritage breed gourment pork! oh, and a turkey and one last lonely whole chicken! i have shepherd’s pie in the works right now for supper…its been years since i made it and i’m looking forward to it. i had pulled out two package of the ground rose veal and that’s what i am using. rose veal is from a calf who was still nursing on it mother but also ate from grass/hay. not your traditional milk veal from a little baby calf who didn’t see the light of day and was kept in a little pen. this rose veal is from bigger calves, months old who still were spoiled by having access to their momma’s milk while enjoying grass/hay in the pasture they roamed! now, that’s the life.

we, the barry farm, purchased two cow/calf pairs from a friend who just couldn’t afford to raise them anymore. we sent them off to the butcher and the beef went to 8 different families and the veal is sitting in our freezer waiting to be bought. if you are local and you want some contact me!

our four red wattle pigs we raised since the spring, went to the butcher shortly after the beef. they were split up between 10 families! geoffrey and i are so honored to raise animals that can feed so many. All the meat was ready for pick up at the same time too! Yikes! But, after delivering ALL the meat on monday we are happy to know that we can coordinate delivering about 2,000 lbs of meat across the greater houston area and have it all arrive still frozen! What a day it was… Still tired.

this is how it was growing up….the freezer was always full of meat! when it got low we had a family meeting about which cow looked the best and should be sent to the butcher! ultimately, my dad had the say. it had to be a cow that wasn’t producing to her full potential. we had a dairy farm so, she had to be plump and beefy but not cranking out the milk like she used to selling the milk is what paid the bills!

i remember raising pork and chickens at times but we always had beef in the cellar freezer! it feels like home…freezers full of good quality meat ready to make into delicious meals for my family. our kids are going to wonder what is up! like geoffrey and i, they haven’t eat much meat in the past few years. we all eat the same. we do go out for burgers occasionally but its at burger guys, a place that gets their beef from farm in west texas i believe. and not just any beef…gourmet beef! its delicious!

as i was preparing the shepherd’s pie today my mind was flooded with memories of growing up. when i was telling geoffrey last night i was going to make shepherd’s pie with the ground rose veal i pulled from the freezer he started describing how he remembered shepherd’s pie. but, he doesn’t remember my mom’s way. i made it just like my mom today! doesn’t it feel good to say that? pretty sure my grandmother (mama) made it the same way. how often do we say things like that? probably not as often as we should. i want to teach layla how to make shepherd’s pie like my grandmother and mom and also tell her how grammy (geoffrey’s mom) makes it. it may be different and i might prefer one way over another and have my own opinions about the healthiest way to prepare it but i don’t want to forget how mom, mama and grammy each made it!

so, today meat has gotten me feeling rather nostalgic! (listen to me…) i lead such a crazy life these days but an amazing one. a life changing one. i would have never thought in a million years that this is what my life would have looked like! my days are full of suburban living, urban farming, stay-at-home-momming… i knew i wanted to be stay-at-home-mom and i am very grateful to be able to living that dream and to be married to amazing man who helps make that possible. i did not know, however, that i would want to “farm” again…(my mom is laughing…)

when my crazy husband kept talking about wanting to farm…in houston…i mostly listened. He kept asking me all kind of questions seeing i was the one who actually had farming experience. There is one thing i’ve learned being with geoffrey for 8 years… He won’t give up on a dream. He’ll find a way. He’ll take risks. Learn from whatever mistakes might happen. He’s not afraid of failing so, this farming thing i knew was going to happen and there was no stopping him!

Now, that we have been on this farming journey for a year its amazing to look back and take account of all we have done! All the real food we provided. We are doing it folks! We are providing real, good, healthy food for our family and many others. This is what my parents, grandparents & great grandparents and great great grandparents did. Life has taken me (and my family) on its own journey but today i feel like i’m back to the way life was growing up! Back to my roots but with our own little twist. I thought i wanted to break away from that…i thought finding geoffrey & moving here to houston 5 years ago would be the break away that i wanted but…boy was i wrong. that break is so over.

Today tell your family, your kids or a good friend about something you remember about your ancestors. The gramma that crocheted you a blanket…the loved ones that moved their family to america for a better life…the grandfather who worked fields with horses or mules…the garden you remember your mother growing as a kid…your family that all lived within 15 minutes of each other…sunday dinners around the table…sleepovers with grandparents, or cousins or favorite aunts…the 14th generation dairy farmer your dad was (speaking of my father). Thats what i’m going to tell my kids as we eat the shepherd’s pie that is now out of the oven!

UPDATE – kids LOVED the shepherd’s pie although they wonder why its not shaped like a pie but called one. seamus made the comment that shepherd’s probably ate it! (luv him!!)

so, i was explaining what 14 generations means…i explained to the kids like this – papa was a dairy farmer, and my grandfather (papa’s dad) was a diary farmer and 12 more grandpas were dairy farmers before that! layla says to me…”so that makes us 15th generation farmers, right?” luv.her. πŸ™‚



kitchen inc. and drip irrigation

last sunday geoffrey and went to the open kitchen at kitchen inc. in downtown houston. it is located near minute maid park (home of the houston astros).

the girl who owns this new commercial kitchen can’t be much older than geoffrey and i. her boyfriend was there helping. they both were great. they answered a ton of questions, offered lots of information, were very approachable and very excited about this new endeavor. its taken her two years to get to this point and she said she hoped to be open and ready for business in a week or two.

the space was made up of a standard kitchen (i.e. if you had a catering job to cook for or maybe canning you would want this kitchen. there was a shared area of racks for putting supplies, meat slicer, 10 quart stand mixer and a few other things. there was also the bakery kitchen complete with all you would need to make a bunch of delicious baked goods! the last kitchen was a small cold kitchen. a place for people to do finishing/delicate work on candies/pasteries/etc. there was a walk in freezer and a walk-in refrigerator. there was dishwashing station as well.

the owner used to live in NYC and was working in banking/stocking…something along that line and she was sick of the life and left. her boyfriend said she has always been an excellent cook and along her journey of figuring our how to make a living at that she soon realized if she was going to sell her food it needed to me made in a commercial kitchen and she didn’t have one of those! so, she’s opening her own to be rented out. in the coming months there will be a cafe as well where people can sell food they have been making in these kitchens. pretty cool.

the kitchens were rather intimidating! i need some lessons on how to use all that equipment in that bakery kitchen!

after finding our some information there about liability insurance and the cost of that…plus the cost of the better process school i think we have decided to save for a year for these more costly requirements. we are going to focus on growing a good crop of veggies this fall/winter and in the spring/summer. its a learning process to get a high yield.

the first step was drip irrigation. since we had built all the raised beds and they were filled with soil/compost/sand – drip irrigation was the next step! geoffrey and i worked together on that. i still need to go back to home depot for a few more supplies. (geoffrey is jealous about how many times i have been to home depot this week! πŸ™‚ )

drip irrigation makes a world of difference so, we shall see. a slow drip of water over an hour or two is so much better for the plant than just turing on the hose or emptying your watering can on it. the plant doesn’t have time to soak up all that water.

so far we have planted 4 tomato plants (started with 6 but 2 died right away), 3 broccoli plants and 3 cauliflower plants. geoffrey has a bunch of seeds on order and some row cover to cover the the tomato plants. its part of the process to help us get a high yield from them. i am really hoping to can a bunch of tomatoes! trying not to put too much pressure on geoffrey πŸ™‚

research and more research

as some of you know we have turned half our backyard into gardens (raised beds) to grow vegetables. we knew it wasn’t easy growing food in texas and we sure found that out. geoffrey had the opportunity earlier in the summer to become certified, through texas A&M, as a harris county master gardener. he learned so much and is ready to take a whack at fall/winter planting. we have one more raised bed to build. after that we need some soil and we’re ready for plants and seeds! i am so excited. i’m hoping we get a good yield. i want to preserve the fruits of our labor and enjoy it throughout the year.

growing food in your backyard is great but we need more room. more room to grow more. the less we Β can buy at the grocery store or farmer’s market the better. geoffrey has been doing much research on how to get his hands on more land without buying a bunch of it. so far it seems to buy a small piece of land Β (under 10 acres) is just not attainable given prices and stage of life. but, we just know there has to land out there somewhere. somewhere were someone will let us grow food on their land.

we want to grow enough so we can be selling it at the farmer’s market one day. maybe even sell jams, pickles, baked goods, etc… boy are there lots of licenses you need to do all that! a food manufacturer license, food dealers permit, food service manager’s certificate, canning license… some of these are easier to get than others. some are cheap, some are not! for me to be able to sell things i have canned requires a 3-4 day ‘better process control school’, approved by the FDA and it isn’t cheap! it’s only offered once a year.

sometimes all the information we find is overwhelming. but, we are pressing on towards the dream of one day having our own land and growing our own food and enough for others. fruits, vegetables, meats. living a self sustainable life and in the process hopefully teaching others.

it’s rather tricky getting into farming without already having the land. those of you who know me know that i was raised on a dairy farm (in vermont) and i swear i would NEVER marry a farmer! when i married geoffrey he wasn’t a farmer and had no intentions of it. i give him a hard time about this. good thing i love him so much and that i’m board with his dreams and the dreams for our family. our lives, our dreams, our hopes, our desires have evolved and changed so much over the course of our life together. he promised me we wouldn’t have a dairy farm and don’t you worry…i’m gonna hold him to it! πŸ™‚ by the way, i am very thankful for being raised on a dairy farm. did i love it all the time? no. but, it’s kind of funny that my husband would have dreams of farming land someday. we did have big gardens and sold the excess of the picnic table in our front yard. its in my blood – somewhere. guess that’s a good thing. farming land in the north east is so much different from here in texas (houston). its harder down here but there is so much more we can grow and do it all year long.

i should also mention that geoffrey would like us to raise chickens and maybe even pigs and beef some day. funny thing – we raised chickens, pigs and beef growing up! god is funny. oh, i should also mention that my mom comes from a family of bakers. she has 7 brothers and 3 sisters. their parents were bakers and owned a bakery (which her oldest brother now owns). all the other brothers are involved in the baking industry somehow. one of her sisters owns and runs her own catering business. and i thought somehow that these factors wouldn’t play a part in my life? and in my own family’s life someday? silly, silly me…

there will be more to share as we continue down this road of growing our own food. living a more self sustainable life. it isn’t going to happen overnight and will take time. but we are learning to start small. work with what you have. don’t go into debt and buy a bunch of land and ‘try it out’. doing the ‘trying it out’ now when and where you can.

so, we are planting. we are planning. we are dreaming. we are growing. and, we are having fun!