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Farm Notes

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A Harvest of a Different Kind

I’ve never found it easy. Looking at an animal down the barrel of a rifle, their neck at the edge of my knife, or in my hands, helping it calm before the impending death. Depending on the animal there seems to be, at times, a sense of sacrifice. There is something primal that they can connect to, something that I will likely never know, when they seem to accept the circumstance. And then again there is a point where my heart pounding with adrenaline, calms. When suddenly this live animal turns into food. I start thinking about the different dishes I want to make, the cuts to put on salt, what to do with the scraps.

Harvesting rabbits is not an easy task, however it is quite simple. As far as animal harvesting goes, rabbits are one of my favorites. Death is quick, not as violent as some animals, and start to finish can be done with a single tool: a sharp knife. My goal when killing any animal is to bring death quickly and decisively. All in all, harvesting animals on the farm where they have spent their entire life and knowing how they are most calm are two of the best tools. You cannot bring death quickly or decisively to a panicking pig, a skittish rabbit, or a flailing chicken.

Our rabbits have so much to offer. Unlike chickens, which have a period of rigamortis, rabbits can go from the back yard to the oven within an hour. Rabbits really are the key to fresh meat. Our rabbit livers are large and delightfully mild, not to mention their kidneys and hearts that are soft little morsels of offal that do not disappoint. In addition to all these tasty treats, our rabbit hides are oh so snuggly and will soon be made into lovely slippers and gloves.

We recently hosted our rabbit harvesting class where we showed folks our process to slaughter as well as butchery when the rabbit becomes a meat product. We made a tasty rabbit liver pâté, as well as a tarragon-cream braised loin. Join us in the spring for our next rabbit class or this coming Sunday for our turkey harvesting class!

Chris Grebner
2018 Woman Farmer of the Year: Sustainable Agriculture!

Proud we are that Shanti received the WFAN 2018 Woman In Sustainable Agriculture Award!

This is a national recognition, awarded for engaging women in building an ecological and just food and agriculture system through individual and community power. We love her for being a damn good farmer, good steward of the land, growing amazing produce, being a hard worker, and having such a big heart. And now this?

A lot to be thankful for this season and our great team is just the start.

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kristy walker
Farm Babies

Pinch me - the sweetness is over the top! The farm is bustling with babies from every corner; piglets, bunnies, goats, little freedom rangers, baby turkeys and Sadie, our new farm lab to keep us company during chores. It is midsummer and I can’t for a moment think of a happier place. We hope there is sunshine in your corner of the world. If not, get out here for a visit and let heavy thoughts just slip away.  Love....

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kristy walker
Carrots & Broccoli w Garlic & Herbs

This quick and easy recipe is a constant in my kitchen. And if I'm completely honest, so many summer vegetables are cooked this way in my house for a few good reasons:

  • IT'S QUICK AND EASY!!
  • Allows each vegetable to do it's thing. Carrots get to be carrots, crunchy(not soft) and sweet. Broccoli gets to be broccoli, crunchy(not drabby green and mush) and fresh.
  • Soft herbs and an acid(like lemon) help brighten and enhance your vegetable cookery. You even get to use less salt because herbs and acid help bring out flavors as well.

Give it a try. And I strongly encourage you to do it with other veggies as well. Summer squash takes to herbs super well. Carrots like grassier, greener tasting herbs, like parsley and tarragon. Play around. There are no rules!

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Chris Grebner
Chamomile Salad

One of my all time favorite herbs, chamomile is a mainstay in my garden and, when it's fresh, a mainstay in my kitchen. The plant in it's entirety is edible, although you almost only find recipes for it's delicate flower. Used for it's many medicinal attributes, chamomile is often overlooked for it's plethora of culinary properties. Floral and herbaceous, light and subtle. The flower is of course beautiful to look at, but holds much of the plants oils which is why it is used the most in the herbs transfer of flavor. However, it's important to be careful not to impart too much flavor. This is a time that practicing restraint is as good a tool as any. If you've ever had a dessert that used too much lavender, this is the territory we're treading. If you're not careful you'll have something that tastes more like soap than the herb.

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Here is a recipe that utilizes the stems, leaves, and flowers of chamomile. Give it a try and let us know what you think or what you'd do differently. And if you have any extra, maybe you'd like to make a chamomile crown too.

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Grilled Little Gems w Radishes & Asparagus w Buttermilk Dressing
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Little gems. That really is what they are. I first got my hands on on this lovely green while working at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon. I learned a lot at this place in particular and maybe my favorite skill or tool I've developed: restraint. The produce I had the honor of working with was some of the best I had ever seen, and it is because of this that we did nearly nothing to it. And that's one of my favorite things to do with little gems. I peel off the outer leaves, cut the exposed root end, slice it in half keeping the head intact, season and eat. 

Here's a recipe where you can grill the head after you've cut it, although this recipe would be equally delicious if you choose not to fire up the grill and leave all those beautiful veggies raw. 

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Chris Grebner
Turkey Time

Our heritage Blue Slate, Bourbon Red and Royal Palm turkeys arrived today. We will keep this happy crew in the nursery for the first three weeks before graduating them to the pasture. Come November, you can take part of the harvest in a class that ends with you taking home a pasture-raised turkey for Thanksgiving! Check it out at: https://www.walker-homestead.com/offe…/heritage-breed-turkey.

 

 

kristy walker
Renewal

Many of you are aware that our sweet little farm house and home to Shanti and Andrew, caught on fire on March 2nd.  First is the shock of losing something we cared so deeply about, losing belongings, family heirlooms, photos, and most painfully, two beloved farm dogs.  But once the smoke clears, there is the awakening to the realization that we are not defined by a physical structure that can fall victim to simple elements of nature. Our farm family is stronger than that one unfortunate event. In the same way a field burn brings on fresh growth and vigor, we have renewed energy and new found resiliency that is core to an ag community.   

We will address the mechanics of dealing with the fire but we have every ounce of our being focused on forward movement. Andrews’s plans for our heritage Kunkune pigs are now laid out. Chris and Shanti are constructing the rabbit houses this week. Miraculously Shanti’s garden seeds survived the fire and the seedlings are coming in strong. There were tears of joy when the small sprouts confirmed for us their survival of the fire and water assault. A big thank you to the community for all your support and to those who helped build the Muddy Miss Farms cat tunnels last week!

How fitting that we kick off spring of 2018 in a demonstration of how this community pulls together to support one another? With love and gratitude from all of us on the homestead, thank you.

 -Bob, Kristy, Chris, Shanti and Andrew   

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kristy walker
Promise
He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
— -St. Francis of Assisi

This is our palette.

We look forward to the promise of spring.

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kristy walker
On the Shelf in the New Pioneer Food Co-op Stores!

So excited to be on the shelf of all three of the New Pioneer Food Co-op Stores in Iowa City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids. New Pioneer Foods Co-op is locally owned natural foods grocery retail that we have long respected for their environmental stewardship and values for local and organic foods. We will be sampling Walker Homestead wines at their Friday Night Flights from 4:00-6:00 pm February 2nd. 

Come shop local. Come sip wine. We look forward to seeing you in the stores! 

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kristy walker
A Call Out to the Vineyard Team Investors
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We want to take a pause to give thanks for our blessings over this past year.  At the top of the list is our appreciation of those who chose to invest in Walker Homestead Vineyard and Winery.

To recap this past season, we expanded the homestead from five acres to eighty-five. We grew our vine count from 150 to 750, adding 300 Petite Pearl and 300 Verona vines. These two varieties hold much promise. 

The Petite Pearl wine grape is a newer cold climate red wine grape, producing a full crop after -32◦ F. Vigor is moderate and bud break is mid-season. Petite Pearl wine has Syrah-like qualities, with good tannins and structure. It is deep ruby-red and should age well. Early wines have been very complex with lots of spice and jammy fruit qualities.  The Petite Pearl should be an excellent blending component to add complexity and softness to other mid-west red wines but it can stand well on its own and produce an age worthy, dry red.

Verona is a new St Croix cross-breed. Of advantage is Verona’s late bud break in the spring and good production on secondary buds. Verona’s leaves have some resistance to fall frost, which allows the fruit to hang and ripen later into the fall, with harvest often taking place 10 days after Petite Pearl. In tests at North Dakota State University in 2012, ripe berries from Verona vines ranked No. 1 in tannin content out of 34 skin samples from northern grape varieties.  The dry red wine made from Verona grapes has a velvety deep berry color and abundant soft tannins in the mid-mouth and finish, with a great balance between acid, tannin and alcohol. The aroma is complex; the characteristic raspberry aroma is dominant, changing to blackberry as it ages in the bottle. There are dark chocolate flavors along with raspberry, with an excellent balance and finish, all in a style that is reminiscent of a Tuscan red wine.

We very much look forward to what we can produce with these two varieties in their first harvest of 2019.

In partnering with Shanti Sellz of Muddy Miss Farms, we have our first two acres of an organic garden area underway at the homestead, which will come into a CSA offering this spring and source the food for our culinary classes and farm to table dinners led by Chef Chris Grebner of Provender.

We planted fifteen acres of pasture to make way for our heard of vineyard grazers that will come to us this spring. We are excited that our ‘Pick Me’ wine won a silver medal in the Mid-American Wine competition. We have bids out for the barn with plans to break ground in February. So much is happening - so much in the earliest of stages.

Thank you again for your investment in the Walker Homestead vision and joining us from the starting block. If you are interested in becoming a Vineyard Team Member, email bob@walker-homestead.com. For a $300 investment, you have three vines with your name on a plank in the vineyard, a Walker Homestead t-shirt and cap, a case of the first production of those grapes, and 10% off of all future purchases. Best of all, you are a part of this new venture.

As we start in to 2018, please friend us on Facebook if not already done so. We pledge to keep this website a good reference for you moving forward and cannot wait to dig into the calendar for this coming year. We very much look forward to our next visit with you.

Thank you and Blessings to all of yours.

kristy walker
Tomato town

Last winter Shanti and I sat down to plan fruit and vegetable plantings for 2017. If you've ever planted a garden you know that those seed catalogs you get in the winter can be dangerous. There you are, hunkering by the fire with a hot toddy and a magazine full of beautiful edibles. Once you've earmarked every single page, you fill out your order and wait.

As exciting as it is to think about colorful fruits and vegetables in the gray cold of winter, what you're really doing is giving yourself all sorts of work. I am a victim of this every .. single .. year. Except this year I took Shanti with me on this rabbit hole. Thankfully she is able to sell to much of the product to other cooks, kitchens, and homes over the season, but I for one was not ready for the onslaught of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and the list goes on. In addition to my already busy work schedule, in order for us to actually put use to all this product I've got to preserve it. Literally hundreds of pounds of product and I have been able to preserve a little over fifty pounds. 50. Five-zero.

So what am I planning on changing for next year? My schedule. I have already blocked off multiple days next year where I plan to process product. I realize the risk of the product not being ripe, but it's all I can think of doing this early in the game. It will also help that we'll have a full kitchen on site next year and we won't need to schlep food all over.

So here's to hoping we can stretch the season out a bit and hopefully share with you throughout the year.

Chris Grebner
FARM STAND TUESDAY OCT 17 5:00 - 8:00 PM

Last farm stand of the season will be Tuesday, October 17th  5:00 to 8:00 pm. Get your fresh local produce from Muddy Miss Farms here on Walker Homestead. Buy Walker Homestead and Revasser wines. Enjoy Provender pizza or roasted veggies. Get a free-range chicken or fresh farm eggs. The harvest is here. Pass the word. Last picnic of the season!

kristy walker
Farm Stand TUESDAY Sept 26 5:00 to 8:00 pm

Here we go, getting our Ag on. On Tuesdays, once a month during the season, we are celebrating Local Ag with our farm stand. Come out to get your fresh local produce from Muddy Miss Farms here on Walker Homestead. Buy Walker Homestead and Revasser wines. See our barn plans. Enjoy Provender pizza or roasted veggies. Get a free-range chicken or fresh farm eggs. This is how to celebrate a harvest season. Pass the word. Come picnic with us and make it last!  

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kristy walker
10 Weeks

We have had the farm for 10 weeks. The transformation in such a short period makes our heads spin. Pasture is in and 97 freedom rangers moved in, complete with a transfer from inside the cab of an air conditioned truck. No one is spoiled here, right? The vineyard is taking shape, with rows that look like (and felt like) they go forever over the rolling hills. The herb garden and bocce ball court has risen from the old barn foundation. Such a good spot to take in the end of the day. Even though we are physically exhausted by day’s end, we are rejuvenated by the beauty of the area and feel blessed. We look forward to the point where we can share this blessing with others. Stay tuned!

kristy walker