Wow, has it really been ten years since I sacrificed the first born male goat here at the farm? How time does fly! Ok, so I like to joke about animal sacrifice, but as I continue on this path of raising livestock, I am becoming more aware of just how much reverence comes with consequences of my passion, my calling. We, as a people, have lost sight of what it means to consume meat. People fail to consider that a life form had to give up its existence when they roll through the local fast food drive through and only spend a pittance on some anonymous extruded matter that no long resembles the source from where it came.
And so every year on Labor Day, I continue to pick out some of the choicest animals with which to share with family and friends. There is something primal, soulful, about cooking entire animals for a gathering and I dearly look forward to this day each year.
As usual, Labor Day started out with picking up the goat from the local butcher's walk-in just after my first cup of coffee. Again, I chose to leave on the skin, burning and scraping the hair off the hide. Additionally, this year I left on the head and feet, too. They roasted up nicely and were sent home with my Nigerian friend, Joseph, who I'm most certain will whip up a batch of Pepper Soup.
Next on my to-do list was smoking the two turkeys with apple wood that had been soaking in a brine of Louisiana Hot Sauce.
Once the birds were inhaling and the rotisserie was heating up, it was time to turn my attention back to the goat. This year's plan was to stuff the goat with fresh peaches, nectarines, cilantro, ginger and then drizzle with honey.
I've seen a lot of people sew up a belly with a large needle and either thin wire or string. I like to lace mine like a football using turkey trussing pins.
The night before it had poured. The Weather Underground said that over seven inches of rain was on the way. People were calling, texting and posting wanting to know if the picnic was still on. Of course it was. After all, it's not like it's a hurricane like last week. BUT just to be on the safe side, I set up the scaffolding the previous owner of the farm had left behind. It's been sitting in The Ruins (that awful pit behind the house) for eleven years, it's about time I put it to good use.
My friend, Nick came over to help me get the goat on the spit. The goat roast tradition started after I borrowed his family's roaster for a goat after they had their annual family reunion lamb roast that takes place on Saturday prior to Labor Day.
This year I also decided to 'practice what I preach' against high fructose corn syrup and bottled water. Instead, I only served homemade lemonade, ice tea and sangria sweetened with either honey or raw sugar. For water, I set out a big pottery jug filled with ice & fresh well water.
Lots of family, friends, neighbors and fellow farmers. A special thanks to all my friends from DC who made the trek out into the wilds of Pennsylvania.
I don't think a year has gone by where guests bring along friends and I get to meet more wonderful people with whom to share the bounty of the farm.
I think the ultimate compliment is when other farmers join me here to celebrate the foods we pour our hearts& souls into producing.
This year I tried out a new configuration thanks to the overcast skies and impending rain.
The Fish Boxes serve yet another purpose in their lifetime of service. So far they've held commercially harvested seafood, been used as a kid's swimming pool, a hot tub, an irrigation tank, a packing box, feed storage, barbell rack and now tables for drinks & desserts!
Rocky & Amer carving the turkeys. Rain mitigation included setting up the smoker and carving tables inside my horse's stall.
Alex on tortilla duty using the fantastic grill Jonas welded up for me last year. I put the rotisserie right in front of the barn not just for easy access but for all who drove by to see.
The Potter family carves up the goat in addition to bringing along some killer barbecue sauce.
It wouldn't be a picnic without my neighbors sharing in the feast. After all, they've got to put up with the antics of the farm out their front doors everyday.
There's always plenty of interesting and delicious foods shared, especially dessert!
A couple of friends from the city whom I keep well-fed.
Delicious carnage that the pigs polished off after I picked over it.
These three were most interested in when the homemade peach-nectarine ice cream was going to be served so I recruited them to help. They loaded the bucket with ice, salt & water and kept watch over the churning until it slowed down and started gooshing out under the lid. However, they were most agitated when I told them we had to let it rest and set up before serving. They survived and got over it when they were first in line for a bowl.
The critters seem to understand the concept of the picnic and hang out by the barn to visit and get plenty of attention.