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A homestead milestone


In August my sister, Devin, and I drove two hours to collect a family of Muscovy ducks from a former colleague of mine.  Her neighbor had raised them as a small home business and couldn’t take them with him when he moved.  The ducks wandered over onto her property and hatched a clutch of ducklings; she didn’t want to keep them but she did grow rather found of the two adult males of the group.  We took two adult females and 11 six-week old ducklings.

Originally we housed them in a pen constructed of T-posts and welded wire with a dog igloo habitat.  This worked well until they were fully grown when there space was limited.  Devin helped me convert our outbuilding (“barn”) into a shelter for them with a large run.  During the three months we raised them we lost two.  The first to our dog, Dashel, who pushed his way out the side door and did what dogs of his kind were bred to do.  The second to a great horned owl one night before we had a cover on the pen.  The owl removed the adult duck’s head and neck, leaving his body in the pen until morning.  We burned the duck’s body.

With ten ducks left, 3 males and seven females including the original adult pair (named “Mama Duck” and “Masi Duck”) we decided we needed to reduce the herd. Neither Sammit nor I are comfortable slaughtering an animal ourselves at this point, though I hope to build up to that one day.  I found a place about an hour drive north of our house that would process our ducks for $8.00 each.  We made the decision to keep Mama & Masi ducks in part because we had given them names and in part because they are the matriarchs of the group and again in part because they would be tough meat.  We decided to keep one male to either line breed with or trade for another male to improve genetics.  We also decided to keep two younger females because we aren’t sure how old the matriarchs are and want to make sure we have eggs and can hatch more clutches in the future.

Last night around dark I penned the five most generic looking of our 10 ducks.  We’re keeping a male that is in recovery from a leg injury (“Limpy”) and two additional females who are easily identifiable (“Wingding” a duck with a wing that doesn’t lie flat, and “Rascoon” the only one who still sports an all black face).  It was easier than I thought to pen them.  I did it alone and there wasn’t an hour of chasing like I had imagined in my mind.  I just had to be smarter than the ducks.  They spent the night in dog crates in our garage and Devin and I loaded them into the back of the Lexus at 6:30 this morning.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this process.  I had a dream last night that I snuck into the garage and set them free from myself.  I’ve felt like I’m betraying them and their trust which I think is a lot of projection; I actually don’t think they’ve ever liked or trusted me but rather see me as a food dispensing device but I can’t help up interpret their wagging tails at dinner time as affection.  I’m not ready to become a vegetarian so I could not very well let myself “save” these ducks (that were never meant to be pets) while eating my chicken shwarma for dinner.  We thanked them for their lives and for dying to nourish our bodies.  For the short time they were alive they were allowed to be very “ducky” – given free roam of not only our property but that of our neighbors as well.  They were supplemented with a little grain at night when they were penned in a[n eventually predator proof] shelter.  They ate all the bugs and weeds they wanted and always had a pool to splash in.  They could fly where ever they wanted and waddle in puddles – in short, we gave them the best lives we could.

I cried this morning when I got back to the car, just for a second, but long enough to have my relationship with our food system changed forever.

A update from new parenthood & home ownership


My last post was a little over 10 months ago.  I know this without even looking.  How? Because I have a 10 month old kid bouncing in her activity center right now.  All things agricultural have been put on the back burner as she and some problems with our first home are taking up all of our attention.  While I am excited to expand on the garden, plant fruit trees, get chickens, and get back to trying some new recipes right now I’m washing diapers, picking up choke-able sized objects from the floor, and figuring out how to pay for basement waterproofing.  

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Quinoa Stuffed Pepper

Pardon the photo – my pepper tipped over and lost some of its cheese.


  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 15 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz black beans
  • 15 oz sweet corn kernels
  • 1 cup rinsed, uncooked quinoa (cooked in 1 cup water, 1 cup beef stock)
  • 8 bell peppers, tops removed and deseeded
  • 1 cup cheddar or mexican blend cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 (F).  Combine quinoa, water and beef stock in a small pot over medium heat.  Cook until liquid is absorbed.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, add olive oil in a large skillet and saute onions.  When translucent, add ground beef.
  3. When beef is cooked, add seasoning, tomatoes, beans, corn, and cooked quinoa.  Cook until heated through and add quinoa
  4. Fill each pepper and top with cheese.   Cover in foil and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Cook uncovered for another 5 minutes if you like your cheese browned.

Michael Pollan on the development of the foods movement in recent years:


First, we have learned to see that food is not a ghetto, it is a door. You can use food to talk about the environment. You can use food to talk about culture. You can use food to talk about politics. And people took a good hard look at how their food was being produced, and they didn’t like what they saw. They didn’t like the way chemicals were being used on apples, and they didn’t like the fact that we were feeding cows to cows. But what’s driving it now is not just fear but pleasure—people have found that food gives them a lot, it gives them things that they aren’t getting elsewhere in their lives.


Is Urban Ag Economically Sustainable?



The sober reality is that most urban agriculture projects are underfunded, understaffed, and confronted with difficult management challenges. Urban agriculture is not seen as the “highest and best use” of vacant land by most local government policy officials who would like to attract “better” tax paying uses on this land. The conventional view is that food production is something that takes place and belongs on rural land and requires a lot of it to create a profitable enterprise. has a thoughtful post over on their site: “Food for Thought: The Promise and Disappointment of Urban Agriculture in Low-Income Communities“.  I have rolled the questions of economically sustainable urban agriculture in my head for years now.  What do you think? Is this a passing fad?  Can it work without subsidies? Is the financial bottom line the only measure of an urban farm/garden’s success?

BBQ Chicken Burgers


I’m interrupting your apparent subscription to youtube to bring you a delicious dinner plan.  My absence has a few reasons behind it.  I’ve started my last semester of graduate school (yay!) and have been caught up with a nasty cold and overall fatigue that doesn’t seem to be letting up.  The only good thing about it all is the 9-10 hours of sleep a night I’ve been getting.  I’m sure I’ll have some more things to say once seed starting begins.

I haven’t been cooking a lot lately so I’m really geeked about tonight’s dinner.  We’ve been eating a lot of pita pizzas, which are amazing and simple, or roasted chicken, but I really needed to shake it up.

BBQ Chicken Burger

Barbecue Chicken Burgers

Ingredients (Makes 4 burgers)

  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup finely grated mozzarella, extra set aside for condiment
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp minced dried onions
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (love our Local Folks Food Sweet BBQ Sauce), extra set aside for condiment
  • Olive oil – plenty
  • 4 Buns, buttered and toasted


  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan, add Julienne sweet onion and toss.  Cook on low until caramelized.  Set aside.
  2. Toast buns (we use the onion pan for the everything).
  3. In a large bowl combine chicken, shredded cheese, bread crumbs, egg, BBQ sauce, and spices until well mixed.
  4. Heat another splash of olive oil in the large pan, add the burgers (don’t crowd them) and cook for 4 minutes.  Flip and cook for another 4 minutes.  Add cheese to the top (optional) and put a lid on the pan to finish cooking.  Even if you like medium well burgers, heat until at least 165(F) because this is poultry.
  5. Plate on toasted buns, top with caramelized onion and extra BBQ sauce.

I served these with two sides, roasted green beans (tossed in olive oil and salted) and roasted mixed potatoes.  Both and be placed in the oven before you start the burgers at 375(F) and should be done on time.  We jokingly call our mixed potatoes “oven fries” but they never turn out crispy because we always overcrowd the pan.  Delicious none the less.  We slice up yukon and sweet potatoes, soak in a little cold water to wash away some starch, dry them, toss in olive oil with some salt, pepper, and paprika.

Quick Update from NY


I have spotty internet (because the hotel charges 10 a day for it!) while I’m here in NY but I wanted to give you a taste of what I’m doing before I formulate beautiful, articulate posts about it (ha).

The Young Farmer’s Conference was more than I ever could have hoped for and I cannot wait (obviously a lie) to tell you all about it.  Check out a picture of the Hogwarts-esque main hall where we ate our meals:


Since the conference has been over I’ve been exploring Long Island, Manhattan, and now some of the mainland.  I’ll be home on Wednesday and try to get some pictures and content up and running.

UVM Breakthrough Leaders Program


This past summer I attended the University of Vermont’s Breakthrough Leaders Program for Sustainable Food Systems (a mouthful, figuratively and while there, literally).  Their 2013 program has just opened up applications and you can check it out HERE.  I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have about it (and you can check out a few testimonials by linking through their side bar).

I had an amazing time while I was there.  In fact, this website is up and running right now because of the confidence and education that UVM’s program helped me develop.  In addition to this site, I’ve focused the rest of my Master’s in Social Work program on studying community food systems,  food and social justice, and food policy.  I worked with some fantastic people from all across the US, Canada, and Mexico and learned about an amazing part of the country that is leading the way in changing our food system.

My old blog has detailed posts on my days at UVM and I won’t make you sit through all of that again, but below are some nostalgic pictures.  I’ll be returning again this summer for their alumni event and to attend their Food [R]evolution conference.  I hope to see some of you there!