Sunday, February 22, 2009

It takes a village...

Or at least a handful of dedicated and amazingly cheerful friends, to run a farm.

Meet Michael and Ellen. They live in Seattle and lead very urban lives with their two elementary-age kids. We've known each other for about a decade - Michael and I worked together - but it wasn't until we built this house and embarked on this farming adventure and actually brought these wooly beasts into our lives that our two families really got down to this business of friendship.

It all feels so one-sided to Mark and me - these wonderful, hilarious people show up generally 4X a year and roll around in sheep dung for an afternoon in return for our company and a good meal or two while our kids frolic, help, explore, and sulk in succession. But they insist that they're satisfied with the arrangement - they love that their kids have a farm that's all their own. Their daughter is nothing short of gifted in catching chickens and their son is one of our son's favorite people. The kids all but disappear for the afternoon while we turn our attention to animal husbandry.

Sheep wrangling day takes place about once a season. With our busy lives, we have to pull out our electronic devices on the current wrangling day to schedule the next, 3 months hence. And sometimes, like last time, too much life gets in the way and it doesn't happen and our sheep go untended until we can get together. It brings it home to Mark and me how much we depend on them.

Yesterday was one of those times - our sheep have basically been neglected and we didn't know what we'd find. We'd also tooled up - finally buying ourselves our own shears - so in addition to worming and hoof trimming, we added shearing. Our 2 cotswold sheep are huge and were matted and just a serious mess. Also, pregnant. So, they took almost 2 hours just them. We discovered they are within a couple days of lambing - their bodies tell that story very graphically - and are otherwise pretty healthy.

Unfortunately, not everybody was doing as well. Once we got the fleece shaved off, our star ewe looked pretty bad. She's super thin and her skin is awful. So, we'll have to figure out what's going on.

But, otherwise the day was satisfying and fun and productive and important. We got our cotswolds cleaned up and ready to lamb and nurse, then put them in a stall together, away from the ram and protected from the elements. We figured out who else we could expect babies from this spring.

And we spent an amazing day with friends in the sunshine, rolling around in sheep dung, laughing, frowning, getting butted by the ram, getting our animals caught up on their maintenance, getting ourselves caught up on each others' lives. Planning camping trips, eating (hopefully) good food, drinking after-wrangling beer and wine, and setting the stage for next time, June, when the lambs will all be born and the weather, with any luck, will smile upon dinner under the stars.

Thanks Michael and Ellen. We literally couldn't do this without you. For you and anyone else, here's our recipe for Wrangling Day Lasagnette - an amazing way to enjoy lasagna without eating lasagna (what we had last night). Trust me, everyone who tries this - even my "white food only" kid - loves it. It's also a way to work eggplant into your diet in a way that is truly delicious. We had a long conversation about how most of us are trained to hate eggplant!

Michael Chiarello's Eggplant and Goat Cheese Lasagnette

1. Slice 2 eggplants very thin - use a mandoline if you have one. Salt the slices and let them sit for 20 minutes.

2. Dump a couple cups of flour onto a plate and season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour about 1/2 an inch of pure (not extra virgin b/c it will smoke) olive oil into a fairly large, deep-sided frying pan and turn the stove on to medium-hot.

4. Turn oven on to 375.'

5. Spread a large layer of triple-layer paper towels on the counter.

6. Dredge in the flour and then fry the eggplant slices until they sizzle in the oil; flip them and then take them out as they begin to brown. Put them on the paper towels.

7. When all the slices are done, pour about 1/4 of your favorite jarred pasta sauce (I use Newman's Own) into a lasagna pan and spread with a spatula. Then layer a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle a Tbs of parsley, a Tbs or parmesan, and about 3-4 ounces of goat cheese on the sauce.

8. Repeat the layering twice, ending with the goat cheese.

9. Finally, layer on the remaining eggplant and more sauce. Sprinkle with about a Tbs of parmesan and a tbs of parsley and top it all with a sprinkle of about 3 Tbs of Panko (japenese bread crumbs) or your own homemade breadcrumbs.

10. Bake about 30 minutes.



Shea's Mom said...


It looks like the weather was nice.

That's something.

Ichaelmay Ernkay said...

Wow, where can I get amazing friends like Michael and Ellen? They sure sound swell. ;-)

deirdre said...

Yes, Mr. Ernkay - you should meet them sometime!

Thanks again - it was great.