A Cold Morning at the Farm

It’s 7 a.m. and 14 degrees outside, a few days after Christmas, 2017. Jerry left early today so I get to feed the animals. Woohoo! Cats, dogs, goats, chickens, then lead the horses out to pasture. This morning is an extra treat of having to give hay to the cows at two different properties and the need to break off the ice on their water troughs. Brrrrrrr ….

I leap out of bed and decide to wear my flannel lined jeans – the ones I haven’t worn in a couple of years. It’s like trying to pack 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5-pound sack. My New Years’ diet starts January 2. I say a prayer I can pull off one more diet in my lifetime.

I feed the animals, move the horses and now load the 4 bales of hay into the truck. I scrape off the ice on the windshield with a credit card and I’m off to Spring Hollow for the first feeding. When I get to the gate of this property, I have to open the broken truck door. To do this I roll down the window, reach over the door with my right hand and push down the button on the outdoor handle with my thumb. At this point all my weight is against the door and when I finally push the outside button, the door flies open and I nearly land on my well-cushioned sweet spot on the ground. I say a few choice words I learned in high school. I go to the gate, remove my glove, put in the combination for the lock and open it wide. I get back in the truck, roll up the window and drive on the frozen-as-concrete ground to the place where the cows are grazing today.

When I get to their electric wire paddock, I open the truck door again — the same drill with the same results. I pick myself off the ground cursing and head to the back of the truck to get the hay. Now I realize I’ve lost my glove – back at the gate when I opened the lock. Great day in the morning! Some more high school words fly out of my mouth. I open the tailgate of the truck. Man, it’s heavy. This would be a great truck if it weren’t for that stupid door handle not working. It’s a 1991 Ford 250 longbed pickup, ¾ ton with a 1½ cab and two gas tanks. It was manufactured years before they started making crappy bumpers out of fiberglass. This bad boy is red with bumpers made of real shiny metal and the tailgate weighs over 100 lbs. No kidding. I find the hand sledge hammer out of the back of the truck and head towards the two water troughs, each holding 50 gallons of water. They are frozen hard on top. I use the sledge hammer and bang it on the ice breaking it into pieces.

While the water is filling up the troughs, I go and get the hay out of the back of the truck. My gloveless left hand is getting numb so I move the glove from my right to my left hand. I get the box cutter out of my coat pocket and cut the string on the bales of hay. I make small clumps of hay all around the paddock. The cows are hungry and are happy to have this great starchy hay to warm their bellies. After distributing the hay for about 15 minutes, I check on the water. It’s full and so I break the ice off the other trough and refill it. I move the glove now back to my right frozen hand and push the gloveless hand into my pocket. This time I stand there and just observe the landscape while the trough is filling with water.

It’s a clear day with a radiant blue sky. This part of our property is in a small valley facing the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area. Some of the nearby pasture still has some patches of frost where the sun hasn’t melted it off yet. The frozen beads of water look like little diamonds clinging to the grass. The cows are peaceful as they munch the hay. Their thick coats are protecting them from this brutal cold spell where it hasn’t gotten above freezing for over a week. The cows are fat getting ready to calve in a few months. As much as I hate the cold, I know we need it to freeze off so many of the fire ants we had last summer. I’ve learned Nature has her ways of correcting things so I’m okay with it all.

My nose is running. It’s so cold. I wonder if I will have a snot-stick like Phil? I haven’t thought of Phil in over 40 years. I never actually met Phil but I heard of Phil from my sister Kathy. We were in Vail, Colorado where Daddy took us all skiing for Christmas one year. Kathy was in ski school with this fellow Phil. At dinner every night she would tell us stories about what Phil did that day at ski school. One day Phil had a runny nose and in the bitter cold it would freeze and turn into a frozen snot-stick – like a stalactite hanging out of his nose. On another day Phil lost a glove and would swap the one glove he had from one hand to the other during the 3-hour ski class. We laughed a lot at Phil. As I think of this, I change the glove to my other frozen hand. Poor Phil. I’m in touch with his pain … and shame. It’s not so funny anymore. I wipe my cold, runny nose to be sure I’m not getting a snot-stick. Forgive me for laughing, Phil.

I look at the majestic mountains in front of me. This is not a bad job. In fact, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing right now. Nature can be captivating if I slow down to look around. Raising grass fed beef to sell to people is my late in life career. I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how we left the big city of Atlanta and landed in such a dirty, fully satisfying job in the country. But here we are and there’s no turning back. I am smiling because I love a good adventure and this is some kind of fun.

The water trough is full and I turn off the faucet, drain the hose and go pull up the tailgate on the truck – that heavy sucker that takes all my strength to close. I hop in the truck and circle back around to the gate. I spot my now frozen glove on the ground. I stop the truck, roll down the window, pull my arm out the window, use my thumb to push the button on the outside of the door … the same drill … with the same results … and the same high school words flying….

Farmer Patty

Grilled Marinated Steak with Chimichurri sauce

  • 1 pound to 1 ½ pound Grass Fed Flank, Skirt or other steak


  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ½ c. red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup olive oil

Combine garlic, vinegar, soy sauce and honey.  Whisk in the olive oil in a small, steady stream to emulsify the mixture.    Place steak in small pan or bowl and pour mixture over to marinate the steak at least one hour or overnight.  I put mine in a Ziploc bag and toss it a couple of times and leave it overnight, tossing again in the a.m.   Before grilling, take out steak and let sit 30 minutes to get to room temperature.   Grill steak on high heat to get good grill marks — putting steak on grill at 10 o’clock and turning after 2 minutes to 2 o’clock.  After 2 minutes at 2 o’clock, flip steak and do the same again on other side.  Move steak to medium heat on grill and finish to desired doneness or you can finish in 350 degree oven until desired doneness.   Do not overcook.  Steak is best if rare, especially if grass fed steak.  Rest for 10 minutes before cutting — against the grain if flank or skirt steak — in thin ½ inch slices.  Delicious served with Chimichurri Sauce and also fabulous for steak sandwiches with horseradish mayo and pickled red onions on top.

When I asked my granddaughter, Ava Caroline, what she wanted for her 14th birthday she replied, “a big steak”.  Well the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?  It was with great delight that I took her and Helen to the best steak place in Atlanta, Kevin Rathbun’s in the old 4th Ward.  We ordered the Dry Aged Steak for 3 with Black Truffle Butter.  This skinny teenager ate like she was carbo-loading for a marathon – plenty of rolls, salad, scalloped gruyere potatoes and probably a pound of steak – with room for dessert!  I recently grilled a flank steak for the 2017 Super Bowl party — still in grief therapy over the Falcon loss — and Ava Caroline loved it with the chimichurri sauce – just as good as Rathbun’s!

Argentine Chimichurri Sauce Serves 6

2 cups packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
¼ cup packed fresh oregano leaves (or 4 t. dried oregano)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place parsley, garlic, oregano, vinegar, red pepper flakes salt and pepper (to taste) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until finely chopped, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute total. With the motor running, add oil in a steady stream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse a few times to combine. Transfer sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day to allow the flavors to meld. Before serving, stir and season with salt and pepper as needed. The chimichurri will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Chimichurri Mayonnaise:
Use 1:1 good mayonnaise to chimichurri sauce. Great on steak sandwiches and as a dip for veggies!

Growing cows on pasture gives a certain earthiness to the flavor of the beef – not off putting, just different . There’s less fat and a difference in the fat. Grass is grown in soil which needs water, oxygen, decomposing organic matter , cow poop, pee and sunshine to give a lot of nutrients (protein) into the grass — which brings it into the cow. Cows were designed to graze on grass, not grain. If fed grain, cows can become sick if that’s all they eat. That’s why the large beef feedlots give antibiotics to the cows so they can withstand the unnatural side effect of acid buildup in their rumens from the grain. That’s one of the reasons grass fed beef is being recognized as a great nutrient source for your diet. There are no antibiotics used because only healthy, sunshine-soaked grass is the primary food source. Though Australians might dispute this, the masters of grass fed beef are the Argentineans. They have learned to rotationally graze and grow great grass without chemicals producing well-fattened, healthy beef. They serve their grilled beef with chimichurri sauce. This sauce enhances the flavors of the grass fed beef in the tastiest of ways. In our organic garden I grow a lot of parsley because it’s great for garnishing food, in soups, salads, and now I use it in this amazing sauce. Hope you will try this with your grass fed beef. It’s a winner and also good with empanadas.