Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cognito Farms

Today I visited Cognito Farm in Starke, FL. They have started doing Farm Tours once a month when the farm is open for buying their various products. A few months ago I bought their eggs at the downtown farmer's market. They offer dairy products, eggs, chicken, beef cuts and pork cuts.
The tour was given by Sam Williams, one of the owners, and she started out by asking how many of us had seen Food Inc, read The Omnivore's Dilemma or Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Excitedly nodding my head, I listened to her explain their principles and how the farm is run. If you've seen the movie or read any of those books, you'll be familiar with Joel Salatan's ideas about being a "grass farmer" and keeping in harmony with natural processes. This photo is of the chickens. In the background to the right, you can see a covered wagon. This is their " Chickabago" where the chickens roost for the night.

After the farm tour, I picked up the broiler chicken I had ordered from them. I've never cooked a whole chicken so I roasted it using instructions from "A New Way to Cook" by Sally Scheider. I was worried I would burn it like I did the roasted paprika potatoes I also prepared, but the chicken was fantastic! Super moist and tender! I had originally ordered a medium sized chicken but they only had smalls (3-4 lbs) once they were done harvesting. Even with a small, I have a huge plate full of leftover chicken and as soon as I can pick up some onions this week, I am going to make chicken stock/soup! Also something I've never done. I also made some brussel sprouts I bought at the farmer's market last week and highly recommend the recipe by Heidi Swanson.
This is a picture of their pig area. After the amazing eggs and chicken, I would like to try their pork and beef products. All of the animals looked healthy and happy. I was also impressed by how clean the property was and the facilities for processing chickens. Since I've started working in the country, I see how easily people acquire junk and trash in yards/fields and there was none of that here!
I especially liked the stream running through the property!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Now that the weather is officially too cold to go swimming in the springs, I am finally getting around to posting about our visit to Blue Springs in High Springs, FL. We wanted to go to Poe Springs, next door but I was put off by the $5/person entry fee. Little did I know that Blue Springs is $10/person!!! By the time we got there, I decided to just suck it up and pay.

We went while it was still hot out but once summer was officially over to beat the crowds. There were a few families barbequing and a steady stream of kids jumping off the platform.
The park contains one large spring that is the main attraction and two smaller springs on either side. The two smaller springs were off to the sides and there was nobody swimming in them. Each one had a floating dock you could walk onto but were surrounded by forests. The seclusion imparted a magical quality to them so that you could imagine what all of Florida's springs looked like at one time (before the diving docks and fake sand beaches and sunny grassy lawns leading down to the retention walls).

One was full of mosquitoes but the other one was perfect. It was the kind of place that Ponce de Leon would have been satisfied with finding. However my dad has instilled a more than healthy fear of alligators in me and the lack of people made me wimp out in going swimming in it by myself.....So after I annoyed Jason with my indecisiveness on swimming, we headed back to the main spring.

This one has a large opening and the water flows out to the Santa Fe River in an extremely long and windy spring run. We walked along it on the boardwalk but didn't make it out to the river b/c the boardwalk was so crooked and dilapidated, we worried it would fall apart!
So then we got in the water and walked along a trail that wound through the aquatic grasses down the spring run. I'm not sure what came first, people walking and the disturbance keeping out the grasses or if the park cut the grass out so that people could walk on it.

After trying to snorkel a bit (and having my mask fog up Again!), we got out of the water to eat lunch. The park has a nice (fake) grassy area leading down to nice (fake) sandy beach. We had dumped all our gear on a picnic bench in the sun and it felt nice to warm off from the cold water while we ate our sandwhiches. Mmm Publix subs!

Some of the sandwich crumbs fell on the table and it didn't take long for a line of ants to find it. We watched as they swarmed all over the area and we had fun playing with them. The ants spent a couple of minutes intent on transporting every piece of crumb away but as soon as we killed one of the ants, they all stopped what they were doing and departed the area!

After that, we made it down to the beach but as soon as we stuck our feet in, we couldn't bring ourselves to brace the cold water again. So we packed up and left.