Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
Chasing cows—and sustainability
Shizue RocheAdachi ‘15 gives us the lowdown on her summer in Colorado.
Cowboy Gene Surveying the Pasture
The week before a deadline, I would spend my Saturday and Sunday at the kitchen table in my cabin, a cup of coffee inevitably gone tepid as a result of my neglect resting beside my elbow. Eyes narrowed, I would stare at my laptop editing audio for hours on end. The sounds of the sprinklers and bawling cattle were blocked out by my headphones and those days would pass as if in a vacuum; there was a sense of timelessness as day became night with little motion to suggest its passing. I know it doesn’t sound appealing––I could’ve been swimming in the pond or working Billy, my horse, around in the corrals, or napping under the apricot trees––but that work at my kitchen table became just as important to me as my work out in the field.
Slaughter in the Field
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I was working, you see, as a farm and ranch hand at the James Ranch in Durango, Colorado but I was also, simultaneously, producing a radio series for the Heritage Radio Network recording my experience in a sort-of radio journal. Every other week I would listen through the hours of audio collected from the week and and thread together a story that might appeal to a greater audience. Suddenly my experience was no longer just mine own. By contextualizing my summer work in a larger narrative, people across the country––friends, strangers, people in between––were sharing my mornings with me as I turned on the sprinklers or chased down a runaway calf. Friends of mine who have never farmed listened to me pull weeds and call cattle and suddenly could understand why, perhaps, this world was so appealing to me, while farmer friends would call me up to say “hey, we’re having a drought too. Glad to hear you caught that first monsoon out there––nothing like the sound of those first heavy drops.”
It is hard for me to describe my experience on the ranch this summer. I can try in so many broad strokes and generalizations to talk about what it means to flame weed a potato field for three hours straight or electrocute yourself on the electric fence or have your shirt torn off your back as you ride through the thick brush; but, something always gets lost in those characterizations. The spaciousness and the warmth of those long days, their steadying rhythm, seem obscured by all those words. So I’m not going to try to explain it to you. Instead, close your eyes and just listen.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Shizue RocheAdachi is live in the studio for another insightful episode of Summer of Food as she chats with host Eddie Shumard about her experiences at James Ranch in Durango, Colorado and her work in the fields of food, agriculture, and sustainability at Yale. Shizue has plenty to say about holistic management, ranching and agricultural media. Get some really interesting insights from a student who is doing laps around many of her peers when it comes to hands-on real life sustainable food experience. This program was sponsored by Whole Foods Market.
'The hardest thing about being on a farm or a ranch is that it's really hard work. You're exhausted by the end of the day and you stop coming to the table with bright eyes and bushy tails because it's just hard enough to get through the day.' [11:00] —Shizue RocheAdachi of Summer of Food
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Aaaand we’re back! With the spring semester in full swing, watch this space for more weekly contributions from our student interns writing and talking about what they’re cooking, eating, reading and thinking. Shizue RocheAdachi ‘15 starts us off with some thoughts on winter break snacking and the importance of pickles:
In fifth grade I used to watch Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites obsessively on the Food Network. In between episodes of The Saddle Club and Full House I would sit immobile, mouth slightly agape, as Nigella promised me “sinful” chocolate pots au creme and a lemongrass-infused trifle. My favorite part of the show, though, was always the credits, when Nigella waltzes across the screen in a nightgown, opening the refrigerator door to illuminate the darkened kitchen. She peers about before retrieving a tupperware of leftovers—perhaps some cold chicken and sausages, or a piece of chilled honey bee cake—and devours it, her eyes casually glancing to the audience with a look as if to say, “what? you can’t say you wouldn’t do the same.”
Returning to my parents’ home for December vacation inevitably results in my gorging on the forgotten delicacies hidden in the back of their generously sized refrigerator. Unlike Nigella I do not limit myself to the dark of night, lurking around the refrigerator in the light of day with an unwavering determination. I lunge my spoon shamelessly into the last jar of marma-butter (my mother’s concentrated version of marmalade) and crumble the last bit of precious furikake (a Japanese rice sprinkle) sent from Tokyo onto last night’s cold rice. The true gems of the refrigerator, however, lie in the back left corner of the top shelf. Precariously stacked I find the carefully hidden treasures gleaned from my two-month apprenticeship at the Cultured Pickle Shop
I discovered Cultured at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market, and was instantly seduced by their French breakfast radishes pickled in coriander brine. Overwhelmed by all that pickling magic they seem to cultivate so freely, I signed up to stage at the store, which also acts as the production facility for their raw, fermented goods.
My time at Cultured was spent scrubbing purple carrots, quartering and coring an endless supply of cabbages, mixing giant bins of sauerkraut, and packing jar upon jar of beautiful, seasonal, fermented delicacies. The vegetable to finished product process is a long one when natural fermentation is at play and so as weeks passed and I watched the stainless steel vats bubble up with candy-corn orange and even cobalt blue brine, I came to appreciate what it meant to savor a good jar of Super Sauerkraut Salad. With time, unassuming vegetables witness a transformation of epic proportions—flavors integrate and mellow and the vegetables wilt, or rather settle, so that they yield to the teeth without resigning themselves to mush.
Returning home I find my pickles just as I left them. Emerging from the fridge with arms laden with fermented goods—burdock pickled in miso, Kitchari Kraut, and recently-gifted pumpkin pickled with espellete and scallion—I am sure my ten-year-old self would beam with pride. And to be sure, my refrigerator beats the hell out of Nigella’s.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Photo via. Farm intern Shizue Roche-Adachi ‘15 on horses, cattle, and finding yourself by figuring out what to do next:
I held the reigns tentatively as my weight settled into the saddle. The horse was larger then I remembered horses being and I felt precarious as I sat perched upon his back, my legs splayed awkwardly. Boot was restless and I could feel him fidget beneath me. He stomped hard, frustrated, and my eyes went wide. We had lied, saying I was comfortably proficient in horseback riding; my friend wanted me to see this desert of his and the cowboy seemed to trust me enough to fib a little to the others. Truthfully, I hadn’t ridden a horse since elementary school, when a teenage girl had lead me around in circles at one of those roadside farm attractions you find in places that have little else to offer in the way of entertainment. But here it was just open desert: no circles, no trails. We set off, the three of us, my back arching uncomfortably with Boot’s stride. My friend split away in search of a rogue cow who had found its way west and the cowboy and I continued on. I could feel his eyes watching me as I tried my best to fake my commands.
By the time we came to the cattle, Boot’s patience with me was waning. The cows freckled the mountain top, a scattering of brown bodies that stood like statues, their weight sinking into their hips as if they had been promised permanence. “Alright, I guess I’ll take up here and you move down there.” I looked at the cowboy and realized this was not time for faltering confidence—I didn’t understand exactly what I was “taking” but I watched him as he galloped west, wrapping around the cattle, pushing them towards me. I gave Boot a hard kick and he started off with a jolt, nearly throwing me, doing my best to mimic the cowboy as I struggled to reign Boot in.
By the time my friend rejoined us, the cowboy had managed to edge the cattle north, beginning their reluctant migration towards the path that would eventually lead them down to the valley. I, however, was in a battle with Boot. He wasn’t listening, breaking into a gallop in the opposite direction I lead him in as if to mock me. I pulled at the reigns, silently hoping he would forgive me for pulling so sharply at the bit, and yelled “woah”s, but he was stubborn, unamused. My friend chuckled but offered little advice; there was work to be done and so I would have to figure it out by myself.
It took a good two hours before the cattle were rounded up, trailing single file down the mountain. When the valley finally opened up, I caught my breath; it was the most majestic and unforgiving landscape I had ever encountered. The sun was dipping low, now, and the light was colored in honey. “Pretty great, isn’t it?!” my friend shouted from behind me. Despite the vastness of the place there was an undeniable warmth to it.
I can’t be sure what changed his mind but suddenly Boot seemed to hear me— suddenly, he trusted me. We moved together; my body rose and fell in a steady rhythm as I cantered behind the mass of cattle. Sweat dripped down Boot’s back and I gave him a reassuring pat. He followed my lead as I yelled “hey, cow, cow” and chased the cattle towards the green oasis that was our goal, the cowboy’s trailer marking its boundary.
By the time we arrived at the trailer we could only make it out by silhouette, the moon casting shadows as we quietly dismounted. I wore an almost embarrassingly wide smile, the kind that only comes with the sort of self-satisfaction you can’t quite describe in concrete accomplishments. When the cowboy finally came to lead Boot away to tie him up for the night, I gave up his lead rope reluctantly.
Sometimes, on Fridays at the Yale Farm, I find myself overwhelmed with the never-ending harvest list. As pounds of salad greens make their way into the prophaus to be washed and bagged I start to finger the list’s pages tentatively. But there is work to be done, no time for wavering morale, and so you walk forward with blind faith, hoping that somehow the carrots yield to the hands of unsure volunteers and the aphids ignore the Brussels sprouts. There is something familiar in the feeling, in that trust. I’ve worked on farms for many years, now, but I still only know what I’m doing 60% of the time. I just have to trust that that other 40% will work itself out.
By the time the light is fading, the KoolBot is full with crates of produce and bags of greens. Somehow it happens, every week, without fail. By the end of a Friday harvest, a grin spread across my face, the music turned up a bit too loudly not to be noticed by the occasional passersby, I find myself reluctant to leave, hoping that the light might linger.
I never thought I’d end up farming, and I definitely never thought I’d help drive a herd of cattle into a desert valley, but somehow I ended up doing both. I’m never quite sure of my steps as I’m taking them, but I seem to have learned to trust myself at least enough for even Boot to believe.
This year’s rescheduled Harvest Festival went on under grey skies after a long, tough week for much of the eastern seaboard. The storm had reminded all of us how perilous the human relationship to the environment can be— and that for farmers, like Bren Smith, whose Long Island Sound oyster crop was all but destroyed, environmental catastrophe can wreck livelihoods as easily as it can destroy property and take lives. Communities along the coast are coming together to care for one another, and it felt powerful and right to have the Yale Farm family spend the afternoon eating, drinking, and dancing together: undaunted by storm clouds, united in celebration.