Of deer, cows and dried apples

I am feeling very sentimental about Apple the cow today. Maybe because my yogurt was so good this morning. Apple is the cow at Avery’s Branch Farms in Amelia County, in whom we own a share. Here she is with some of her family:
We get a gallon of her milk every week, from which I make yogurt, and sometimes cheese. It’s sweet and rich and beautiful. When we skim off some cream and whip it to go with sour cherry pie or peach tart, nirvana is achieved.
In other local food news, hunting season (archery only) is on. The husband’s bow is repaired at last, and he’s spending a lot of time in the woods. Yesterday his friend took a big buck–really big. After ballet class yesterday, I received a beautiful and strange picture message on my phone of the deer’s face crowned by its huge rack of antlers, resting on leaves, blood on its mouth.
The entry of hunting into our lives two years ago has taken us on a journey. It coincided with our growing interest in local and sustainable eating. Otherwise I might not have been ready for coolers full of deer meat coming home fresh from the field, or photos of the triumphant hunter holding the dead deer. But he hunts for food, and would not take an animal we were not going to eat. And I find I’d rather be closer to the meat I eat than totally removed from the idea of it ever having been an animal, which is what big business meat seems to be about.
So he hunts, and I gather–uphold the gender roles! I gather in the broad sense of running around town meeting up with farmers, visiting markets, and finding new sources for local goods. Driving out to farms and picking fruit: sour cherries in June, peaches in July, concord grapes in September. The seasons have come to dominate our city kitchen, and it’s funny to me that this feels novel and exciting, where years and years ago it was an inescapable fact of life.
This year we’ve worked on preserving: peach preserves, tomato sauce, dried apples, pesto, grape jelly, really just a little of each. Looking at the few jars of sauce, three jars of peaches, and two tupperware containers of dried apples, I marvel at how much work it would take to put up enough food to actually last through the winter. Many have done it, even now, and Barbara Kingsolver talks about it most eloquently, of course, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. [Note: This week’s New York Times magazine is devoted to food and its physical, political, sociological, environmental ramifications. Includes a big piece by Michael Pollan.]
All of this effort and attention ratchets up the gratitude a hundred-fold. Each meal feels that much more satisfying when its components can be traced from the plate, through the kitchen, and out the door into the countryside, to the gentle cow, the farmer’s fields and hands, or to the woods and the husband’s sure-sighted arrow.

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