The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Spring is in the Air

March 19th, 2017 by Ed Bruske

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I attended a memorial service over the weekend in Annapolis for my recently deceased father-in-law, Dave Green, and was besieged by fans of the Slow Cook all asking the same question: “When are you going to start writing again”? This was a first for me. I even met one friend of my father-in-law who said that whenever a new blog post was published he would get a call from Dave wanting to talk about it.

Of course I felt guilty and did a lot of soul searching on the way back to the farm. For years I had been writing almost daily on The Slow Cook and now weeks and months passed without a peep. Why? Well, the excuse I had most ready–that my phone didn’t work any more so it wasn’t nearly as convenient taking photos–didn’t seem to impress anyone. Truth is, I think I’ve been in a bit of a funk where writing is concerned. A sense of apprehension–dread, even–has been crowding out the excitement I felt when the farm was new.

The average age of a U.S. farmer these days is 59. I turn 65 this year. Will I really spend the rest of my days fighting the weeds that grow along our mile-long stretch of electric perimeter fencing? Or lugging water buckets through the snow? Or manhandling 100-pound bags of feed? Or stacking truckloads of firewood?

Our original plan was to find a young, farm-eager couple to live on the farm in our dotage and do the heavy lifting. Now I’m not so sure the risk-reward equation actually works.

But it’s more than that. My wife is a Type I diabetic and health insurance threatened to bust our budget before we moved here from D.C. Then the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) kicked in and suddenly a heavy weight lifted. Since the most recent election, however, we live under a cloud again. If our current insurance disappears, I don’t know if we’ll be able to afford the alternative, especially at a time when we have a daughter to put  through college.

My wife has talked about going without health insurance; about traveling to Canada for her insulin; about declining treatment in the event she gets really sick so as not to bankrupt us.

Suddenly, writing about the farm doesn’t seem so urgent any more.

But meeting so many of my readers was a fresh dose of reality–a kick in the butt, if you will. Maybe I need to get outside my head a little. And it’s not like there’s nothing going on here. We thought we’d see an early spring. Instead we got a blizzard that dumped 15 inches of snow. Our Jersey cow Emily should be calving soon. Baby lambs and kids will follow. We’re less than a month from the season’s first shipment of broiler chicks. And we still have work to do to keep those foxes away from our laying hens.

In other words, stay tuned….

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Best Steak Ever

November 15th, 2016 by Ed Bruske

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We said goodbye to our steer Del recently and got a hearty thumbs up from the butcher.’

“Keep doin’ whatever you’ve been doin’,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

Del (short for Delmonico) had put on a good layer of fat during his 18 months with us, which must owe to our decision to let him keep nursing from mother up to the very end. Grass-fed cattle don’t normally show so much marbling, but Del had enough fat leftover that the butcher used it to improve the burger of his other clients.

Del was the offspring of our Jersey dairy cow Emily and a Red Angus sperm donor. It was a great match, because the meat we’ve tasted so far has all been out-of-this world delicious. We sold half to a friend, but that still leaves us with several hundred pounds–enough to fill half a chest freezer and save us the expense of buying .beef at the store for the next year or so.  (In case you’re wondering, the photo above was taken a year ago when Del was still a calf.)

Of course, there’s a bit  of sadness that goes with butchering an animal you’ve raised since birth. Although not quite as cuddly as his mother, Del was like a member of the family. It pained me to see him killed. It was also painful to watch Emily mourn for him. For several days, she returned to the paddock where she’d last seen him and bellowed.

It’s a privilege to live in such close proximity to your food source. It’s also a struggle with mixed emotions.

Thank you, Del.

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