Friday, July 23, 2010


I had fun taking pictures at the farm. There are so many interesting things there. My biggest task of each day was the eggs. Silver Forge has 100+ little ladies who poke about in the coop. It was a nice experience being able to tap into their collective needs and to even help a few of them out individually. They were definitely wary of me but after a few days, we got used to each other. It takes focus, balance and patience to go in and collect eggs without upsetting them too much.

These brown ones down below were the most pleasant to interact with. They weren't as skiddish or paranoid. Chris said the white ones had crazy eyes.

I'd say there was around 4 dozen on average per day. I didn't lose very many to breakage. Any of them that didn't look pretty enough to sell were the ones we set aside for breakfast in the mornings. We both felt good about being able to enjoy the full circle experience of collecting, cleaning, eating and recycling the eggs.

I always enjoyed egg hunts as a kid! I quickly figured out where the hot spots were and I thought it was funny how many of them went up on top of the big water container to lay.

They really enjoy burrowing. There were holes all over where the girls rolled around in the dirt and just nestled. I felt really bad for the factory farm chickens who don't have the opportunity to do things like this. These ladies were very happy. They have a good life here.

This one let me pet her. She was so soft. I collected the eggs in a wire basket and then brought them inside to wash. I had a reasonably effective system figured out as the week went on. From Sunday to Thursday, I'd say I probably collected and crated 13 or 14 dozen eggs. I washed about another 3 dozen the last day. I don't know if the normally produce more than that. The weather can often be a factor in how comfortable they feel so the heat may have impaired them a bit. We tried our best to keep their water barrel filled and the definitely consumed a good amount.

Some of the eggs were HUGE. I couldn't help but to feel sorry for those poor girls! We ate the freakishly large ones too simply because they didn't fit well in the crates. The tall one in the back right had two yolks!

Farm fresh eggs are definitely a labor of love. Shannon and Eliezer charge $5 a dozen for them at the market. Some people give them grief because they're used to paying a dollar a dozen at the supermarket. What they don't realize is that they are far from fresh and full of hormones and antibiotics. These eggs are not mass produced. They sell out of them almost every week. At most, they are 5 days old. The care, upkeep and labor that goes into each set of 12 completely justifies the cost. I consider it a bargain! We generally get two to three meals out of each dozen which is cheaper than a fast food breakfast sandwich.

The Silver family returned from Cape Cod last night and so we left earlier that evening after the eggs were washed. Chowder and Ripley said their goodbyes and we were on our way back to the condo. I found myself missing the animals today. We'll have a lot of fun stories to exchange tomorrow at the West Windsor Farmers Market.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

To Catch a Pig

For the past few days, we've been farmsitting for our Silver Forge friends. It's definitely been an adventure. Chris and I have been enjoying our time there and have bonded over the various chores and tasks. It's almost like a mini vacation of our own except for the fact that we spend a lot of time at this house already when we visit Shannon and Eliezer. The dynamic is definitely different though. No kids and minus one dog. Since, as I mentioned before, we do spend a lot of time there, I'm comfortable and familiar with the place which is nice. I joked with Chris that this is almost like camp! I had a customer at the bookstore where I work who was looking for things to send to her son. He was at a sleep away summer program where he was helping out at a farm. I've looked at various summer activities and they're hundreds of dollars so Shannon and Eliezer really missed the boat on that one ;-).

We have a detailed list as to who gets what when it comes to feeding the animals. Most of it isn't very complicated. The sheep get hay and the chickens get feed. They're simple minded creatures that don't ask many questions.

Then we have Lola the pig. If anyone was going to give us any issues, we knew it was going to be her. She's a smart cookie and speaking of cookies, she's a hungry girl! The minute we're outside to take care of the list of tasks, she begins oinking impatiently.

Chris makes sure to give her plenty of water in her bowl plus an additional surplus so that she has some mud to keep cool. He has a soft spot for pigs and even adjusts the hose so that it gently sprays her with a cool mist. She seems to enjoy this.

Lola's meal is always the most interesting. The first night we were there, we didn't have any scraps so she got dog food. I made it a point to save up our leftover food plus I raided our fridge back at home for anything that looked like it wouldn't get used before it expired. She has a feast fit for a queen the following night.

Last night was similar. She had everything from a stale english muffin to some stuff that had been laying around in my fridge that I knew we were never going to eat. After we fed and watered her, we finished up with the rest of our chores and went into the house. As the sun was setting, I remembered that I was supposed to check the mail so I went back outside. The sky was a vibrant pink, the crickets were chirping, the fireflies were slowly blinking. I noticed the chickens were retiring for the night up in their little houses. I didn't see Lola in her pen so I assumed she was also winding down in her little hut. I retrieved the mail and made my way back to the house. I walked past a the huge line of bushes and I heard a rustling sound. I figured it was one of the cats or a stray chicken or quite possibly something else I wouldn't want to deal with like a raccoon. All of those theories were dispelled when the bush started oinking at me.

I remember back in the 90's when Jerry Springer's show was a big cultural event. The angry couple would be sitting on stage bickering over the husband's affair with his wife's "best friend". They would bring the other woman out and, right on que, the wife would attack her and the two women would start scrapping. I don't watch much T.V. anymore but I continue to hear of people complaining that all of these "reality" shows seem so scripted. That's what I felt like when I realized that Lola had escaped from her pin. It was timed so perfectly that it almost seemed like a joke. If I'd checked the mail any other time of day, we would have never known she was out. This pig even has a record. She's escaped and wandered off in the night before and the cops have come to the house to let Shannon and Eliezer know to go and get her. I suppose that also would have made for a good story had it gone down that way again last night.

I'd just made a wild blueberry tart from Trader Joe's so I cut a piece and threw it into a bowl along with some bananas. It looked awfully good to me and I hoped that Lola would find it equally enticing.

Luckily for us, she was all about that pie! We easily lured her back to her pen. Getting her to go back inside took a bit longer but eventually she decided that dessert was too good to resist. Chris realized her electric barrier wasn't working so we had to call Eliezer. He told us where we could find a replacement battery so we hooked it up and hoped for an uneventful night.

The roofers knocked on the door at 7:30 this morning. We'd been expecting them to come some time this week. I was just thankful that it wasn't the cops. When we left for work this morning, Lola was still in her pen. I don't know what we'll end up feeding her tonight but I suppose we'd better make it good! I do have some leftover tart that was supposed to be for me last night but while I was pig wrangling, a certain St. Bernard decided to help herself. Needless to say, it went quickly. Lola will enjoy what Ripley left behind today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Falafel and Dogs

If the title of that post doesn't lure you in with smiles on your faces, then I hate to break this to you but you might not be my target audience ;-) I kid, I kid. But really, what more could you want?

Last week I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take the train up to NYC with some friends to catch Next to Normal. It's an excellent cast preforming a Pulitzer award winning play. Again, what more could you want? Throw in some falafel and I was in Heaven! We got to the City kind of late and didn't have long until our show started. One of the friends that I was with, Andrew, said he had a good idea for dinner since we were pressed for time. He knew of this vegetarian take out place with a "funky salad bar". Since he knew I was all about that stuff, he suggested we drop in and grab some take out.

He ended up taking me to Maoz which was right on the way to Times Square from Penn Station. It would not have been more convenient...or good! I've been in a bit of a falafel depression since we got back from our amazing experience in Paris. I hate to sound like one of those people but the bar was set so darn high that I was having a difficult time finding a decent falafel that satisfied the itch back home. I've been to several places in Princeton and nothing has really done it for me (otherwise I would have written about it!). I have a fever and the cure is Maoz.

Back in the early 90's, Maoz opened in the Netherlands. Their mission is a quick, quality meal and they definitely deliver. About eight years ago, the first U.S. location opened in Philadelphia. There are five in New York City and, as I was glad to know, we also have one in New Brunswick. I'd heard about it before from a friend and we even passed it back earlier this year when Chris took me to see Porgy and Bess. The colors and set up are fresh and eye catching so it was hard to miss. When Andrew suggested it, I was excited to finally have the chance to check it out.

They have several different combo options that range from a full on falafel sammich with fries and juice to a salad or just some of their Belgian fries and a juice. You have your choice of fresh iced tea, lemonade or some incredible orange juice that is pressed to order. You have to pay a dollar more for it but trust me, it's totally worth it. You can also upgrade to sweet potato fries. Both fry options are great but if you like your sweet potatoes, these are killer.

Another shining star at Maoz is their salad bar. If you buy a falafel sandwich, you can hit the salad bar and load up with toppings. They have incredible options such a red cabbage, fresh sauces, seasoned couscous and, my favorite, pickled baby eggplants.

I couldn't stop thinking these little guys! I am sure Chris was sick of hearing me rant and rave about Maoz so when I suggested it on Sunday, he agreed to make a detour to New Brunswick on our way out to Silver Forge Farm. I was thrilled! It was everything I remembered it to be and I was glad to see that he enjoyed it as well. For the both of us to get our sandwiches, orange juice upgrades and fries of our choice cost us a little less than $20. The food was fresh and absolutely delicious. I'll tell you what, this particular stretch of George Street in downtown New Brunswick is a force to be reckoned with! Makedas, Chipotle, Maoz and a bunch of other great places are all within a few blocks of eachother. TKO!

We had to hurry over to Manalapan afterwards. We agreed to farm sit for our friends Shannon and Eliezer so we got here ASAP yesterday evening to dispense some dinner to the masses. We had a long list of animals waiting to be fed so we went down the line and tossed some hay to the sheep, feed to the chickens, scraps for the pig and such.... More on that as the week unfolds.

My dog Chowder and his girlfriend Ripley.

Our main charge while we are here is Ripley. Silver Forge lost an important member of the family earlier this month when their golden retriever, Harrison, died of cancer. He went peacefully in his sleep and he's definitely missed around here. Ripley, their St. Bernard, has been especially sad so they were worried about her emotional state if they left her alone while they went on their family trip to Cape Cod. We were excited to step up to the plate when they asked us to spend the next few days here at their farm with her. She has a bad leg so it wouldn't have been possible for her to come to our place and have to go up and down the stairs a lot. Plus, our place is a bit small for such a big girl! Chowder has been keeping after her and making sure she isn't too lonely. As the time has passed, she's grown more accustomed to having us here with her which has been nice. The two of them go in the back yard while we feed the rest of the Silver Forge crew.

They're already close but they were both a bit shaken up at first. Ripley with her family leaving and Chowder with being away from home for the next few days. Today, they've both been better. They seem to be reasonably considerate of one another which has been nice to see. It's definitely been an adjustment not having Harrison around. His dog buddies miss him. Chris and I do as well.

Rest in peace, Harri.

Maoz Vegetarian

385 George Street
New Brunswick, NJ

Times Square
558 7th Ave
at 40th St
New York City

248 South Street
1115 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA