Week 16, 2016

Thoughts on Vocation from Field Notes Farm

On Sunday I went through my books and decided what to keep and what to donate to the second-hand store. I opened up “The Nature of a Liberal College” [by Henry Wriston in 1937] to a page near the end and the first line of the second paragraph caught my eye: “The issue whether the lawyer will be a shyster or a crook upon the one hand, or a high-minded public servant upon the other, is not a matter of vocational guidance, but of character.” Interested, I proceeded to read the rest of the chapter.

In reflecting upon my decision to become a farmer I recall all of the times I have been asked: “Is there money in that?” “Did you study that?” “How does a math degree apply to farming?” “What else do you do?” “Have you always wanted to be a farmer?” “How long do you plan to do that?” My friends and peers have heard more pointed commentary: “You need to find something that makes more money.” “You need to get your priorities straight.” “Don’t you feel like you are wasting your degree?” All of this commentary reflects an outlook on vocation that prioritizes economic success and planning. More than 80 years ago Wriston wrote: “If he entered the profession primarily upon an economic basis, where his treasure is there will his heart be also. […] If a man has well-founded moral assurance and self-confidence arising from self-realization, neither he nor we should be worried unduly about his economic capacity.” It is always reassuring to read old words that so cogently reflect the feelings and choices I have already made.

The question of whether or not, how, and why to farm or otherwise break the mold is currently faced by a generation being guided, trained, and indentured to a vocational system focused on specialization and economic return (if not for the worker, then for their employer). The next most common vocational conversation I participate in goes like this: “You are so lucky.” “I wish I could do this.” Well, when do you want to start? Whether it is farming, or any other vocation that you feel called to, the words of Rabbi Hillel ring as true today as a thousand years ago: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? If not now, when? Farming is a personal journey for me, contributing to my self-realization and the self-confidence and moral assurance it develops. I am for the health and wellness of my community by producing food for you and your family. I am for the future of our community by being a steward of the environment and our shared resources. I am not waiting until farming is profitable. ~Oren

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.

-Grace, by Wendell Berry

Tomatillo-Pork Chili

Recipe adapted from Slim’s Last Chance in Seattle, WA

Olive oil
5 cups diced onion
1/2 cup chopped garlic
1/3 cup chopped serrano peppers
1/3 cup chopped jalapeno peppers
5 pounds cubed pork shoulder
1 quart chicken broth
15 to 20 Anaheim peppers
12 to 15 tomatillos
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup corn flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1/2 cup of olive oil. Stir in the onion, garlic, serrano and jalapeno peppers and cook until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the pork shoulder in a large heavy bottomed pot, coated with oil, over medium heat and sear until well browned on all sides. Deglaze with the chicken broth, and then add sauteed onions and peppers. Turn heat to low, cover and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the Anaheim peppers on a sheet pan.

Peel the outer paper skins off the tomatillos, then coat with olive oil and place on another sheet pan. Place both pans in the preheated oven and roast until the peppers are nicely charred and the tomatillos are soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove pans from the oven and place the peppers in a plastic bag to let them steam for 5 minutes.
Peel and seed peppers, and then puree them with the tomatillos in a food processor. Add the puree to the pork mixture, stir, and then let simmer on low heat.

Combine the garlic powder, black pepper, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, ground coriander and salt in a small bowl, then add to pork mixture and stir well.

In a small saute pan, mix 1/2 cup olive oil with the corn flour, stirring over low heat for 2 minutes to make a masa roux.

Let the chili mixture simmer for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours on medium-low heat, or until pork is nice and tender. Then stir in masa roux and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Ground Cherry Chutney

Maybe this time of the year, you have grown weary of snacking on ground cherries. I made this chutney last fall. It is great for smothering slow cooker pork (chops, roast, etc), chicken, or just spreading on toast.

3 cups ground cherries, husked
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp clove
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tsp cumin

In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add vinegar, onion, and pepper, and cook until onions and peppers are soft. Add remaining ingredients, and simmer over low heat until most of the cherries have burst and mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

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