Friends, Kayla and I have so much good news to share, we can hardly stand it! We have not just one, but a series of announcements coming soon about new products and services that you are going to love!
We began to rebuild Four String Farm the day after Hurricane Harvey destroyed it. We started by cutting apart the trees that were blocking the road to the house.
Then we cut the downed the trees out of the driveway, then the trees that had fallen on the house. Many of you helped us. You cannot imagine how we appreciate you and how often we think of you. The barn, of course, was simply gone, blown to rubble for us to pick up, as well Dad’s house and everything else we had built over the years.
The forests that you once walked in, where we held such beautiful weddings and countless classes and events, were totally destroyed, including some of the biggest trees in our county. Within the graveyard of downed trees there was every type of trash, litter, and debris imaginable from our neighborhood, carried there by 135 mph winds.
Once the flooding receded, the sun penetrated the former forest, now naked without upright trees or a canopy. Brush, sticker vines, weeds, and grass grew up and over the fallen trees. Much of our property, that was not still flooded, became an impenetrable thicket of downed trees, wild hogs, raccoons, opossums, and countless cottonmouths and copperheads.
These were not even the worst of our challenges, not even close. We had to rebuild our business in the middle of a disaster zone, from scratch, with no government help and no money—no money in the bank and no money coming in.
Despite that, we have worked nearly every day since the hurricane to rebuild our company. We were able to continue some elements, like our writing and education programs, and that has led to some wonderful opportunities. Also, as we have rebuilt, we were able to start a modest farm operation, although at a much smaller scale.
It took me 17 years to pioneer Four String Farm out of the wilderness into the place that you loved. Kayla worked by my side every day for eight years of that time. And I have to admit, she worked me under the table every single one of those days!
But it won’t take us that long to rebuild it! We did it once, and now we know what the heck we’re doing! Kayla and I are so thrilled about what’s coming, we wake up every morning and fly out of bed to get our work done.
Stay tuned, friends, we have much good news coming soon! Thank you for your support, your patience, your loyalty, and your love! We look forward to connecting with you soon!
A Recipe and note from Kayla:
I have the sweetest childhood memories of my grandmother standing over her cast-iron skillet in her 80s-era pink chemise. I knew it was the weekend because the smell of pancakes flooded the kitchen.
My grandmother’s fluffy pancakes were piled high and ready for a generous slathering of butter and dusting of granulated sugar. She never put syrup on her pancakes. They didn’t have syrup growing up in her Great Depression-era childhood home, so she never acquired a taste for it.
This tradition of pancakes on Saturday morning holds such nostalgia for me that I’ve insisted on carrying it on with my babies. Saturdays, we huddle together in the kitchen and take turns adding flour and baking soda, whisking, stirring, laughing.
I hope the girls, when they are older, have similar feelings about our pancakes on the weekends and visions of me standing over a skillet Saturday morning. Now, if I could only find a fuchsia nylon moo moo.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Inactive prep time: 8 hours
1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine starter, flour, and water in a large bowl until well combined. Cover with a tea towel and let ferment overnight.
- The following morning, combine regarding ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium low heat. Add 1/2-1 tbsp butter once hot.
- Add 1/3 cup batter to preheated skillet and cook until bubbles form and the surface loses its sheen, about 3-4 minutes.
- Flip pancake and cook on the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Continue preparing pancakes until all batter is used. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup or your favorite topping.
Waffle variation: Prepare batter as instructed in steps 1-3. Apply non-stick spray to a waffle maker and preheat to desired setting. Add enough batter to completely cover the waffle maker. Cook waffles according to your waffle maker directions, or until desired doneness has been reached.
Each episode will feature top regional chefs and mixologists. Kayla will guide guest chefs through their recipes to showcase their skills, expertise, and wonderful creations. This series is filmed and edited by Ryan Chipman, a fantastic local talent who is producing some really nice work.
Let the folks at The Bend Magazine know if you like this series by liking or sharing this video. Thank you for supporting local in your food, art, and entertainment!
a post from Kayla:
The dog days of summer are coming to an end. In our little corner of the world, that means the temperature drops a few degrees from hotter-than-Hades misery to sweat-in-the-shade unbearable. The last of the summer vegetables are barely holding on. And after this long year, so are we.
But there is a silver lining to those puffy white August clouds. Fall is around the corner and so is our resolve to enjoy the rest of 2020, despite its many, M-A-N-Y pitfalls! This decadent dark chocolate zucchini bread is the perfect intersection of summer and fall–and of looking back with relief that it’s over and ahead with a hopeful resiliency.
Why This One’s Better (And Better For You)
Let me be plain: this Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread is the business. Higher in antioxidants and lower in fat and sugar than your garden variety loaf, you can relish this melt-in-your-mouth goodness without remorse. Splurge on organic zucchini or better yet, squash from your chemical-conscious farmer down the lane, since you’ll be using the skin (and no one needs that pesticide nonsense when we’ve got COVID to worry about). Greek yogurt adds moisture and flavor without the fat. Olive oil is a heart-healthier alternative to vegetable oil. This bread uses a reduced amount of brown sugar, which adds a richness to the crumb.
Pleasant eating, my lovelies! Hugs and love, Kayla
Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Makes 1 loaf
Prep time: 7 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
2 medium zucchinis
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup dark cocoa/cacao powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate chips (at least 60% cacao)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a loaf pan (8” x 4” x 2”) with non-stick cooking spray.
- Remove ends of zucchini and grate over a colander. Using the back of a large spoon or spatula, press zucchini against the colander to remove excess fluid.
- Transfer grated zucchini into a clean bowl. Add in brown sugar, olive oil, yogurt, eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
- Mix wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in ½ cup chocolate chips.
- Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Top with reserved chocolate chips.
- Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
There has been plenty of news since Hurricane Harvey destroyed our farm, but none of it good.
I have written more than 150 magazine articles and radio programs since the hurricane, but nothing here. This space was only meant for joy, for light; but there was no light.
Driving into the farm the morning after the storm, the world went dark. It was not darkness like I had known before, what Abe Lincoln called his ‘melancholia’ and Winston Churchill called ‘the black dog’. It was that particular shadow plus the darkness of witnessing your dream and life’s work of twenty years destroyed in a single night with no hope of recovery.
The darkness came down like an Arctic winter, which I now know something about. In the winters of the far north, the days are black and the nights are black and even the snow falling out of the sky is black. The snow is black because there is no light to illuminate it, but still you feel it pelting your face and stabbing like needles when the wind is up.
I worked in that darkness for years, walking through snow drifts and sheets of ocean-deep ice with chains on my boots, peering into the black for the aurora borealis, green and white and glimmering, the outline of the oil rig crystalline in the distance, the darkness always upon me.
The aurora borealis is not light but false light. The particles are phantoms, ghosts of the sun. The glowing green flow, usually not there at all, is simply a reminder that the sun is shining somewhere in the world—but it is not shining for you.
But now I know the truth–and this is my first good news to report–even the darkest winter ends.
The light has finally returned, slowly, slowly, like the first Arctic sunrise after a long winter, orange and yellow and red on the horizon. Then the circle of the sun suddenly appears with flames around the edges.
This light comes to me like a thrilling surprise. Every time I turn and look away and look back it is still there, another thrilling surprise. Everywhere above me the sky is blue. I keep playing the same song over and over on the truck radio, the only one I can turn up loud.
The sun is shining, at long last. I can see again and it is glorious.
We will Skype in for multiple segments throughout the two hours of the morning news broadcast. Send me your gardening questions in advance and we will try to answer them on the air!
Joel Salatin’s visit to Four String Farm raised $2,790 for Hurricane Harvey relief for South Texas farmers. This money was raised through donations at the on-farm event, ticket sales at the dinner, and book sales from Salatin’s books. Thank you so much to all who participated in this wonderful event!
All of the revenue raised at the event was donated to farmers in South Texas who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Kayla and I did not keep or make any money from the event. We were thrilled to pass this money to our Farm Share partners to offset losses from the hurricane: Spirit Pioneering Farm, Whole Earth Farm, Turkey Hollow Farm, Palo Verde Cattle Company, Future Focus Farm, and Groundswell Farm.
Thank you again to Joel Salatin for making this event possible! We have been so inspired by your visit! And thank you to sponsors Dr. Mohammad Emran of SpringCure Foundation, Oh Goodie Designs + Events, Water Street Seafood, The Bend Magazine, , and Hester’s Cafe, for creating such an amazing day!
Joel Salatin’s visit to South Texas last week was an overwhelming success. I can’t think of anything that would have made this day better or more special. We are so thankful for Joel Salatin and our wonderful sponsors for making this event possible, and for the many good folks who visited our farm and shared dinner with us.
Joel refused payment of any kind, not even an honorarium, for making the trip. He said his spirit would not allow it. Joel Salatin is the most well-known farmer in the world because of his ideas and his vision for the future of sustainable farming. Now, after getting to know him, I am even more impressed by his humility, his servant’s heart, and his passion to make this world a better place.
You can find more pictures from these events on our Facebook page. We invite you to tag us in your post and add your own pictures as well.
Farm Tour and Talk at Four String Farm
We had about 150 visitors at our farm on Friday afternoon. This would be an impressive turnout at any farm in Texas, but is particularly special in the middle of a school/work day in our little town, which is still recovering from the hurricane. Thank you to the sponsors who made this possible (please see them listed below and visit them soon—they are great people!)
I believe most of the small-scale farmers in South/Central Texas were with us on Friday! There were farmers from Austin, Houston, Sealy, Nixon, Cleveland (about six hours away), San Antonio, Victoria, Cuero, Beeville, Brownsville, and one very special farmer who came all the way from Louisiana. There were many students from TAMUK, who came with their soil science professor, Dr. David Ruppert. Most of the folks who came just wanted to support a good cause.
Originally, I had planned a farm tour with Joel Salatin to start the day. You may laugh, but I was expecting maybe five or six really committed small-scale farmers would be there to join us. Instead, we had 150 people surrounding Joel as we started the tour! It was the shortest farm tour in history. I led Joel to a high spot by the lake where he began to answer questions. After a short time in the hot sun, we led everyone back under the tent to continue the discussion. Joel talked and answered questions for three straight hours. He never stopped or slowed down, it was quite impressive. His talk was inspirational and perfect for the occasion.
Sold Out Dinner at Water Street Seafood
The sold-out dinner was perfect. The decorations, the music, the ambiance, the wonderful people, everything was beautiful, and the food was amazing. The farmers who grew this food were honored at the dinner, and there was huge applause as each of them was introduced. Carol Koutnik gave Joel the gift of one of her paintings from the series Fantastic Garden. Richard Lomax, Director of Operations for Water Street Seafood, announced the partnership of Water Street Seafood with the Farm Share going forward. It was an unforgettable night.
Thank you to Joel Salatin and Our Wonderful Sponsors
Thank you Joel Salatin for visiting us in South Texas. We hope you know how welcome, appreciated, and invited you are to return! We hope to bring you back to view our raft gardens, hügelkulturs, and lake muck fertilizer in action!
We are so thankful for the support of SpringCure Foundation, led by our friend Dr. Mohammad Emran. Because of the generosity and vision of Dr. Emran, the afternoon farm event was FREE and open to the public. Dr. Emran is leading a health revolution in South Texas, we are excited to tell you more about him soon.
Thank you to our wonderful sponsors Water Street Seafood, The Bend Magazine, Oh Goodie Designs + Events, and Hester’s Cafe for your generous support! If you have an event of any kind, ever, from a wedding to business luncheon, please call Jo Anne Howell of Oh Goodie Designs + Events. Jo Anne is so completely buttoned up, professional, creative, and tasteful, and she can turn any room (even the woods of our farm!) into an elegant setting. Jo Anne donated her time and brilliance to make this event a success. We could not have done it with her.
Of course, we must thank the farmers who made the dinner possible: Spirit Pioneering Farm, Whole Earth Farm, Turkey Hollow Farm, Palo Verde Cattle Company, and Groundswell Farm. If you met any of these good folks, you know how completely blessed we are to work with such amazing people. They lift and inspire us every day, they are truly the salt of the earth.
We are so thankful for our afternoon event sponsors: Hollie Schaub of Fed by Bread; Kimmi of Kimmi’s Fine Foods; Grow Local South Texas and the Bawktoberfest Urban Chicken Coop Tour; Spencer of Roastorium Coffee; Jessica Gignac of Eleanor’s Coffee Bar + Market ; Ginger Easton-Smith with Texas Agri-Life; Karey Swarthout of GLOW of Rockport ; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; and Premier1 Fence Supplies.
Finally, we are so thankful to our neighbors Mike and Ginette Collins for letting our guests park at their beautiful property next door. Mike and Ginette are great people and the best of neighbors.
Please visit these wonderful sponsors and find out more about them. We have such a great community in South Texas because of these folks, we could not be more thankful for all of them.
We have many requests to hold another event like this Joel Salatin visit, and we will! Stay tuned, we have a great event in the works! Thank again friends for an wonderful day!