#GrazingItalyUK – Bye, bye Cardiff. Hello, Bologna!

Today (Nov. 18), we leave the UK (so eager to return) and head to Italy. First stop, Bologna. Can’t wait to eat!!! Having a great time traveling with my daughter, Dessa.

Flying Cardiff to Bologna

Flying Cardiff to Bologna

#GrazingItalyUK – at Derbyshire grass-fed dairy. And rain. Of course.

November 14th.
In Wisconsin, it’s about the snow. In Derbyshire, rain’s the thing
Especially after last night’s misadventure (missed plane), today’s farm visit felt like a special gift.
My early morning flight out of Dublin brought me to the East Midlands, a place of fat white sheep on rolling hills, ancient stone walls, and lovely thick-walled houses hugging narrow, winding roads. Low, stone buildings, many of them hundreds of years old, are home to families, small shops or public services.
The day was grey and chill as I exited the terminal and made my way to a platform where frequently running buses provide convenient and very economical transportation to a wide network of towns and villages.
Robert Thornhill, grass-based dairy farmer, is a 2014 winner of a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, an award and grant given to farmers who want to conduct practical research about sustainable farming on their home turf and by visiting foreign farms. He met me at the Bakewell bus stop and drove us back to his 300-acre Standhill Farm. I am so grateful for the time he and his wife devoted to converation and comfort. He pulled on boots and walked out into the rain to show me his milking parlor and pastures. It was wet out there. Then he and his wife introduced me to their two young sons (just back from a rock climbing lessons) and we all sat down to lunch and steaming tea.
This post will be short, but I promise a longer report on this particular visit because Thornhill is nothing if not both committed to sustainable grazing and to thorough research about how to make this work on his farm. Again, more later.
Right now, I’ll say that Thornhill is a successful dairy farmer for what I observed to be key attributes: thorough, curious and experimental, steadfast and forward thinking.
Thanks, again, Robert.

#GrazingItalyUK – from Dublin to Derbyshire – finally!

Nov. 14. 8AM Flight to England
I’ve checked-in and will soon board my flight to the Midlands Airport. Once back on the ground I’ll make my way to Bakewell, home of Robert Thornhill’s Standhill Farm, a sustainable grass-based dairy farm.
Wish me luck!
Sylvia

Next stop - Bakewell and the Standhill Farm

Next stop – Bakewell and the Standhill Farm

#GrazingItalyUK – Dublin, and then Wexford

Day 2 in Ireland – a second day of great travel, friendly people, very poor Internet, and non-existant international phone service (although it had been arranged much in advance)
I lost an hour’s worth of writing earlier today. Let’s try this again.

Dublin
My daughter Maggie and I were wheels down in Ireland 8:30AM Nov. 11 and were treated to a ride to our hotel by two bright musicians, entrepreneurs in the local scene. The ride was unusually long (lots of haulted and rerouted traffic) but conversation was lively, so, no complaints.
We made it to the Grafton Hotel, situated in the heart of a busy downtown shopping district. We spent about an hour checking out small shops and a vertical shopping maul a stone’s throw from the hotel. Any American would be comfortable here.
The narrow, winding streets were crowded. The pace was fast and the look very sharp indeed. Dublin is a big city, make no mistake about it. Black is the color, and tight is the mode. Skinny pants, black hose and leggings paired with leather boots – ankle or knee high – or 3″ heels. Long scarves around necks of both men and women, and light-weight jackets the standard issue.
The population, at least in the city center, is surprisingly young, mid-20s to early-40s.
Our initial needs met, we both crashed for a couple of hours.
After a refreshing shower, we dressed for the evening out. It was a 10-minute walk on rough brick and cobblestones, and across a quaint foot bridge to the Winding Stair restaurant. Mag (who performs as Dessa with the rap crew Doomtree) used smartphone navigation to get us there. Much needed given the twists and turns on streets and alleys that change name every other block.The street fairly throbbed with the energy on the street. Lots of people out on a weekday evening. Felt a bit like NYC, although I felt a bit of New Orleans in the mix – a definite upbeat vibe.
True to it’s name, the Winding Stair features a circuitous staircase from the first to second landing. The spot was suggested by Bill and Sharon Gunter, the conveners of Slow Food Dublin. It proved a good choice – local foods put to their best advantage in creative dishes. I washed mine down with a local hard cider. Yum.
I’ll review lots more of the Slow Food Dublin in an upcoming Deep Roots Radio show. Throughout this trip, I’m hoping to gain some understanding of how different countries feel and demonstrate the good-food-good-agriculture connections.

On to Wexford
This morning, I got to the Dublin Connolly rail station with 30 minutes to spare. Lots of time to grab a yogurt and watch the crowd surging through the turnstyles. Connolly Station is an intersection for commuter trains, rail travelers, bikes and buses.
DublinWexfordI love UK rail service: comfortable sitting, picture window views, smooth and quiet travel, and Internet service. (I’m having an awful time with both Internet and International cellular service so far, so I think I’ll bite my tongue on this for the moment.)
The rails from Dublin to Wexford hug Ireland’s eastern shore and so I was treated to spectacular views of waves crashing just yards from the road bed. And when I looked to the west it was to farm fields gradually sloping up to hills dark against a grey sky.
It’s a wet landscape of puddles, creeks, shallow wetlands (I could almost see the trout), and ponds. Wooded hedgrows marked field boundaries, and houses nested into hillsides.
A good trip.
Now, I’m sitting in a small coffee house in windy, raining Wexford. The forecast is more wet with lots of wind. Raincoats are ubiquitous. I picked one a slicker in Dublin.
I expect a call any second. It’ll be from William Considine, organic farmer/owner of the Nicharee farm in Duncormick, about 20 miles from Wexford.
It’s at this farm that my farming research begins. How are organic/sustainable farms in Ireland the same or different from those I’ve come to know in the U.S.? How are they the same?The adventure continues.
Sylvia

Dublin – Here we come! #GrazingItalyUK

Follow our farm visits and chats with SlowFood #GrazingItalyUK

Here it is, November 10, 2015 – travel day to Dublin, Ireland and the start of our UK-Italy grazefest. I’ll be visiting grass-based sustainable farmers in Ireland, England and Scotland, and chatting with SlowFood advocates in the UK and, hopefully, Italy as well. Yes, we’ll be eating our way – grazing – for a couple of weeks. Can’t wait.

Minneapolis to Dublin - the first leg

Minneapolis to Dublin – the first leg

I’m traveling with my lovely daughter, a writer/singer/rapper who performs as Dessa. She’s a member of the Doomtree crew and is the lead of her own band. She’ll be in the UK for a business conference, and to do a couple of shows.
I’m traveling as myself – a Baby Boomer from the Bronx, retired public relations practitioner, and now farmer. My husband David and I raise 100% grass-fed beef in northwestern Wisconsin. Our farm, Bull Brook Keep, is located in a lovely area of hilly pastures, lots of creeks and small rivers, numerous ponds and many lakes.
Why this trip? I’m on a mission to learn
– How grass-based farms operate in Wexford, Ireland; Bakewell, England; and Cardiff, Wales, and
– To better understand how good-food lovers in the UK and Italy anchor their cultures and economies, as well as their cuisines, in local agriculture.
I’m sure I could study both those issues for years on end, but this is a start. Dessa and I will be traveling together from Nov. 10-24. During the early part of the trip, I’ll be on my own as I walk through pastures. We’ll meet up in Cardiff and continue together from there.
I hope you’ll join our adventure on Facebook and Twitter, #GrazingItalyUK.

Sat., Sept. 19, 9-9:30AM CT live about canning – the why’s, quirks and history.

What: Deep Roots Radio interview with Master Preserver Perry Rice about the why’s and history of American home canning.
When: Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, 9:00-9:30AM CT
Where: Broadcast and streamed live at WPCA Radio, 93.1FM and www.wpcaradio.org

Canning in the oven? Burying the jars underground? Perry Rice will share interesting history of canning in America, and provide important guidelines for the home canner today.
I hope you’ll tune in.
Sylvia

Apple sauce and apple butter - edible jewels for the winter.

Apple sauce and apple butter – edible jewels for the winter.

Deep Roots Radio, 91.3FM and www.wpcaradio.org

Deep Roots Radio, 91.3FM and www.wpcaradio.org

Aug. 29, 9-9:30AM CT, live with Keepsake Cidery – hard cider in the Upper Midwest

What: Deep Roots Radio interview with Nate Watters, co-owner and orchardist at Keepsake Cidery, Dundas, Minnesota, just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul
When: Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, 9:00-9:30AM Central Time
Where: Broadcast and streamed live from the studios of WPCA Radio, 93.1FM and www.wpcaradio.org
Why: Hard cider is gaining popularity all across the USA. Hear what it takes to build a brand new hard cider operation based on traditional methods.

Hope you’ll join Dave Corbett and me this morning.
Sylvia

Deep Roots Radio, 91.3FM and www.wpcaradio.org

Deep Roots Radio, 91.3FM and www.wpcaradio.org

Feeling Laura Ingalls

My husband Dave likes to joke that when I was a kid growing up in New York City, I read Little House on the Prairie and decided to become a farmer.
While I love tales about clever people creating new communities (whether in the past or in some distant future), the truth is I knew next to nothing about Laura until I was in my 30’s. I became acquainted with her and Ma and Pa as I read to my children in our South Minneapolis home. I was captivated by the resourcefulness and skills demanded by the times. I was drawn to the self-reliance and community inter-dependence described in those children’s books. (And yes, we made the pilgrimage to her home and bought the stiff-brimmed bonnets.)
Fast forward a whole lotta years and here I am, a baby boomer from the Bronx raising beef cattle on Bull Brook Keep, our northwestern Wisconsin farm. (A far cry from a full career in business suits and awful commuter traffic.) This morning’s chores included moving our beef cattle to new pasture, feeding and watering the chickens, exercising the dogs, and meeting with a customer to deliver cuts of beef equaling 1/4 steer.* And of course, I went through the early emails and reviewed my digital photo files for possible uploads to my website.

Cabbage fermenting to sauerkraut

Cabbage fermenting to sauerkraut

Later in the day, Dave and I enjoyed a dinner of home-grown, grass-fed beef Bourguignon. And in the evening I sliced, brined and packed cabbage into half-gallon jars. In a couple of weeks, it’ll ferment to sauerkraut.
French sourdough boules

French sourdough boules

It’s late, and I just pulled a couple of French sourdough loaves from the oven – a weekly demand and a much-anticipated ritual.

It is very, very late and I’m tired. The tomatoes, peppers and onions on the kitchen counter will have to become salsa on another day. I’m ready for this day to be done.

Yes, I’m feeling Laura Ingalls Wilder…like a bad ass Laura with Internet coverage and in-floor heating.
Sylvia

*We offer our 100% grass-fed beef in variety packages (ground beef, roasts and steaks) in a range of sizes starting at just 25-30 lb. Reserving an order is easy online. We deliver to drop sites in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.