Diane Lischer-Goodband is a farmer, a published poet and writer, a painter, and a professional grant writer.
Originally published in The Commons issue #177 (Wednesday, November 7, 2012).
DUMMERSTON—There are two farms in my life: one, whose orchard is managed by my husband, one of the top sustainable farmers in America, and a second farm, our homestead two miles down the road.
Growing your own food, even during this past drought season, leads to eating rich during hard, economic times. But we eat at a gourmet level by growing much of our own food: chicken, lamb, pork, turkey for Thanksgiving, and Christmas goose. These humanely raised meats are combined with a myriad of vegetables and herbs from the garden.
Our modest homestead is comprised of a 200-year-old farmhouse with an Old English-style barn and vintage ’50s sugarhouse. The sugarhouse houses two dozen laying chickens, and the barn — restored last year through a Vermont Historic Preservation matching grant — houses 15 sheep, a guard llama, five geese, two guinea hens to keep the tick population at bay, and an additional 30 chickens in a coop my stepson built for me. Our three pigs live behind the house since the barn was a construction-site last year, and we haven’t moved them back to the barnyard.
Neighbors say they miss seeing the pigs in the barnyard, which stretches along a winding dirt road used by hikers, joggers, bicyclists, and horseback riders.
With only 3 1/2 acres of our own pasture, we barter with our neighbor to use his pasture by raising a pig for him and his family. His parents owned our farmhouse for over 50 years, and he is happy to see the farm continued to be used agriculturally. Plus, the bacon our pigs give him is the best eating.
After our sheep have stubbled the best clover leaving the rest for our neighbor to mow and keep in healthy pasture, we move them to another section of grazing to keep them healthy and happy.
Last year, I named our four pigs Snowbank, Lavender, Larkspur, and Lavinia; all are Berkshire pigs, black and white and dark lavender color.
This year, I only named one pig, Miss Piggy, who kept getting out and heading for the highway whenever the two boars played too rough. You have to name a pig when you are trying to coax her back home.
We know we shouldn’t name them, but our pigs are part of the family until they meet with the butcher and become part of our lives again through cooking. As a former vegetarian, this is the hardest part of farming. As one of my grandchildren used to say, “Good lives, good meat.”
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It is very difficult for us to go out to dinner at a restaurant anymore. There are very few places that will satisfy our palate like our own farm-raised meat. In particular, our diet of lamb and heirloom Tamworth pork allows us to experiment with herbs and wine or spirits nearly every night.
For instance, with Hubbardston Nonesuch apples from the orchard and a dash of Calvados on pork chops from our own pigs raised on our family farm, a meal becomes a gastronomical celebration of the long hours of pruning and harvesting the apple orchard and the year of love and attention given to our pigs.
I grow a big garden for herbs, tomatoes, corn, greens, potatoes, and other vegetables to eat fresh and to preserve.
With the apple trees my husband planted here and the blue, red, and black berries, as well as gooseberries added to the currants that were already here, we seem to have almost all our food needs met at our small farm.
For milk, butter, and cream, I can walk or bicycle to my neighbor’s farm and, once there, listen to stories of calving, coyotes, and other predator mishaps.
My mother always said, “Be careful what you wish for.” I had always wanted to get back to my farming roots, after studying environmental studies in Santa Barbara, Calif., and living in Québec, Canada, during my youth.
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