During the blazing glory of summer, the veggie farmer is as busy as a wild dog. Free from the confines of the fence, the dog sniffs as much of the outside world as possible, knowing that freedom is only fleeting and adventure must be seized before capture and imminent imprisonment! I’m weeding, watering, harvesting, delivering and attending to emergency situations, no time for computer face time. When I do get released from the bounds of farming I try to get out of town. On a particularly hot summer Sunday we were invited to visit our friend Ed and Debby Wilsey’s ranch in the Owyhee desert where they raises beef and pork for Homestead Natural. If you have ever had the hamburger at Bar Gernika, you’ve had their beef. Homestead has also been supplying meat shares for City Gardens and Global Gardens CSA members this year.
July seems a funny time to explore a desert ranch, but I was surprised to find that Ed and Deb’s place is a canyon oasis in the desert. It’s huge, 1000 acres of ranch surrounded by 10,000 BLM Acres. In the shadow of the trees at the edge of the stream where the old homestead sat, it was a cool 70 degrees.
Ed explains that it’s the hot days and cool nights that sweetens the grass and gives his meat that sweet desert finish. People who know more about steak than I claim, the minerals in soil gives beef its unique flavor, and when you eat steak what you’re tasting is the terra firma. I think of this when Ed points to some cliffs with big white streaks of rock in the red desert earth and tells me, “that white there is petrified sequoia trees.”
My favorite part of the whole farm tour was the pig village. These pigs roam the desert freely. Ed feeds them barely just to keep them close to home. Pigs are just so much more friendly than cows, it’s hard not to love them. Ed showed us a pig nest. See that pink spot in the grass? Not the top of Ed’s head a little further on.
It’s so nice to get off the farm and see other people’s farm. Funny thing though, when I look at Ed and Deb’s place I think, “wow, this is living!” It’s so idyllic and beautiful this would be a great place to call home. Happy cows and happy pigs are great companions, but then when you’re visiting a farm the amount of work it takes to maintain the place is a lifetime or 3. Ed and Debby have been on this piece of ground for 17 years and they are still busting their ass. The homesteader 150 years ago was busting his hump too. My hat’s off to the Wilseys, looks great and the meat tastes even better.
As a city kid who wanted to be a farmer, I lived for summer visits to my grandmother’s farm in Indiana. One of the high points of my childhood was a late afternoon visit to the neighbor’s farm to watch them milk cows and feed the pigs. I was enchanted by the adorable piglets and crushed when they told me I couldn’t pick them up and play with them.
Ed Wilsey told me at the Boise Farmer’s Market the other day that his grandkids play with their pigs all the time. Oh, be still my heart!