Friday, September 30, 2011

Overseas Travel Adventures

24 September 2011

The days before my departure were a whirlwind of catering, packing, and working in the barns. The day before I left, Chris & I did a full afternoon of trimming goat hooves. Then it was a long night of trying to stuff 3 weeks of clothes in 2 bags. I am the type who takes 2-3 bags for a weekend trip. I once took 9 pairs of shoes for a 3 day Farm Bureau conference. Packing for this trip was quite overwhelming as I tried to imagine every possible scenario. Shortly after 3am I went to bed, as packed and as ready as I could be . . . and quite exhausted! Preparing a farm, a Farm Bureau, and this farmer for a trip is not an easy task (and one I underestimated).

Goatherd Facebook status: “For all visitors to Harrison Farm, please be alerted that The Grandmother will be unsupervised while I am in Germany. This means she will be highly medicated, her guns will be fully loaded, and she is threatening to bring my death dog into the house while I am gone. We will know perpetrators by their DNA . . . since half their face will be in my dog's jaws!

My alarm woke me at 7:30am, in time for a quick power shower. I dressed in my airline glamour ensemble and gave my old-old-old cowboy boots a good polish, just in time to panic that I could not find some of my Euros. (I should not be trusted with anything.) Thankfully, Christopher arrived early to motivate me to get moving AND made the excellent suggestion of looking in my (unlocked) Goatmobile for the Euros . . . great success!

I woke up Grandmother, hugged the dogs, and waved to the chickens. There is nothing like a long impending absence to remind one of how dearly they love the life they have built. Dear Lord, please bring me home safe to my family & farm. Chris took me to Starbucks for my pre-flight coffee. We arrived to the airport and he held my hand – literally and figuratively – through the check-in process. I got my first passport when I was 16, and FINALLY for the first time ever, I actually had to show someone my passport. Lovely! The TSA agents were super nice; I especially liked the gentleman who checked my ID, and then completed me on my manners. From my brief conversation with him, it sounded as though manners were rare. Two thoughts: Americans are losing respect for manners and individual TSA agents have been de-humanized due to the public’s perception that they are the TSA conglomerate. Americans, wake up! Take back your society and your government!

My flight to Newark went smooth. Thanks to my wonderful Grandfather for passing down the Harrison “ability-to-sleep-anywhere” gene! A nice nap definitely helped me.

Message From Lauren (one of my peeps from UF) “Have a great trip!!!! Don't get sold for any less than 50 goats. Know what you're worth!”

Goatherd Facebook Status: For my loyal followers eagerly awaiting travel updates (that's both of you!): I have made it safely to Newark! I am attempting to lay low in Jersey, so The Goatherd's star power & bulging biceps don't make The Situation jealous . . . GTL: Goats, Travel, Liquor.

In Newark, I met up with my fellow Fellows. Tracy works for American Farm Bureau out of Washington DC. She has the kind of naturally beautiful face that looks good even after sleeping on a plane all night. Chad is with Colorado Farm Bureau and raises cattle. He is tall, funny, and intelligent . . . a more-refined Sean Haley of the farm world. Shane operates a ranch in Colorado. He is warm, straightforward, and looks like a roughstock rider (which he was!). They are all super nice . . . and they are all married parents!

The flight . . . my first overseas flight! It would have been better with Chris to look after me. I lucked out and got my favorite seat on the plane: back row on the aisle, near the bathroom. Luckily, the couple which was sitting in my aisle with me was young, slender, quiet, and stayed seated. I slept on and off. I also did some reading from a new book I bought on Quanah Parker and the end of the Comanche war nation. I did not find the change in time to be difficult, but I did dislike sitting upright for 8 hours and trying to sleep.

It was worth it, however, when I landed in Berlin!

The Goatherd Goes to Deutschland

This is the story of a goatherd who went across the ocean in the hope of seeing German goats.

In late winter of 2011, I learned of the McCloy Fellowship. This is an educational opportunity for young professionals to travel overseas sponsored by the American Council on Germany. Fellowships are offered each year in journalism, urban planning, environmental issues, and agriculture. Farming + education + travel = a very intrigued Goatherd! The American Farm Bureau works with the American Council on Germany to source the four individuals selected each year for the fellowships in agriculture. I was very excited to be named my state’s nominee, but there were 49 other states that had the opportunity to nominate someone as well and only four would be the winners.

My personal philosophy is “big packet good, small letter bad”. This stems from my college application days. I eagerly watched the mailbox for days after the supposed selection date . . . and days, and days. Eventually, hearing nothing, I realized that I wasn’t chosen. One day, while at Starbucks, I was checking my email when I found a message with the subject heading of “McCloy Fellowship” from a staff member at American Farm Bureau. Ugh. If a big packet is good news, and a small letter is bad news, then an email is dismissive! I opened the email, already reading in my mind “Dear Katherine Harrison, Thank you for applying for the McCloy Fellowship. Although we have selected different Fellows for 2011, we hope you will re-apply next year.”

I waited for the email to load . . . the first sentence was absolutely as I expected. But that second sentence . . . I re-read and re-read and re-read again. And then, in the middle of Starbucks, I put my hands over my eyes and started to cry. For those who know me personally, the last few years have been full of some struggles for me. It was a true opportunity to test my mettle and my integrity and my faith. I cried that day sitting in front of my laptop because something that was good -- something that was earned -- was being offered to me. I was profoundly humbled, and exceedingly grateful that God saw me through difficulty so that I could enjoy a monumental blessing. Then, I called my Christopher and tried to tell him the good news without crying some more . . .

Time went on, our travel dates were selected, I became Facebook friends with my fellow Fellows (ha!), and I worked to master my German (in so many ways!) in preparation for the trip. My first overseas trip would also be the longest trip I had taken away from the farm as an adult responsible for goats, and chickens, and cows, and dogs, etc, etc. Thankfully, I have a wonderful gentleman friend and amazing student assistants, not to mention the best farmer friends ever! Chris did his best to prepare me for my time in his ancestral homeland. This included emailing me news articles, giving me helpful hints on travel, and practicing the language with me.

Goatherd Facebook Status: Yet another reason to love Germany: the Pirate Party has won seats in the Berlin state parliament with 8.9% of the local vote! "Pirate Party leader Sebastian Nerz told Deutschlandfunk Radio that his party is prepared to prove it is up to serious politics." ARRR!

My stipend check for my fellowship arrived on a Friday afternoon. And in true Katherine fashion, on Monday I blew it on goats. Honest to God. Personal motto: “I spent all my money on liquor and goats. The rest I just wasted.” They are really nice goats, though!

The Cover Goat!

Great news! Harrison Farm was featured in our local culture & arts newspaper! Thanks to Shelley & Jodie of Columbus Alive for featuring Katherine the Goatherd & Harrison the Goat in the most recent edition! Local foods are winning a following . . . and goats are winning the world!

Local foods: Harrison Farm

Friday, September 23, 2011

Delicious Pork Chops!

I am definitely a spur-of-the-moment cook: whatever is available tends to be what I concoct! Last night's pork chops turned out particularly well, so I wanted to share how simple they were. I used a package of chops from "Man Pig", so there was plenty of fat for flavoring thanks to his lazy lifestyle & penchant for eating! These were thick chops, probably cut an inch and a quarter thick. Thinner chops would cook much quicker.

The chops were thawed to room temperature, then I covered them in garlic salt, pepper, and oregano. I let this sit in the refrigerator for about 5 hours, until I was ready to cook. At that point, I placed the chops in the oven at 350 degrees. They cooked for about 20 minutes just like that. In the meantime, I sliced some fresh mushrooms and dried apricots that I had on hand. I pulled the chops from the oven, added half a can of chicken broth to keep them moist, and then covered them in mushrooms & apricots. The chops cooked for another 40 minutes. I served them with fresh green beans sauteed with ham, local potatoes that I baked and covered with cheese & bacon, and a green salad with items from our local farm market.

Christopher said these were some of the best chops I had made! I hope they inspire you!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Woo Hoo! My First Speech "Walk Out"!

I am pleased to announce that I have had my very first "walk out" during a speech! Actually, I am a bit surprised that it took this many years of public speaking to very diverse audiences for this to happen! After all, my first memory of giving a presentation was my inspiring demonstration on making Thousand Island Dressing during my initial year as a 4-H member when I was only 8 . . . that means I am well into my third decade of public speaking!

As my close friends know, my hearing is not what it should be for an individual of my age, particularly in noisy situations. This was apparent to me during the Franklin County Fair, when I met a most pleasant gentleman who asked if I would be willing to speak to his organization. He had observed me during the Franklin Fun & Learn event at the fair. Franklin County Farm Bureau is a sponsor of this event, which focuses on educating youth on agriculture, science, nutrition, and history. In the midst of the heat of an oppressive July day, the noise of a livestock barn, and the swarm of small children I was attempting to teach . . . I didn't catch all the details, but I knew I had agreed to speak on Farm Bureau & agriculture to this gentleman's organization on August 29th!

On Monday the 29th -- still not sure to whom or where I was speaking -- I hunted down the MCL Cafeteria in Upper Arlington. The secretaries at the local Farm Bureau office had assisted me in preparing some take home items for the attendees: a copy of Buckeye Farm News, a recent issue of Our Ohio magazine, a coupon for Velvet Ice Cream, a Farm Bureau/Nationwide pen, and a membership application, all tucked inside a lovely blue bag with the Franklin County Farm Bureau logo. Upon my arrival at the MCL Cafeteria, I soon ascertained that I would be speaking to the Upper Arlington High Twelve Club. This is a Masonic fraternity group. Most of the attendees were between 65 and 80, and several were accompanied by their wife. Over my first-ever MCL lunch, I learned from my host that this group meets to socialize every Monday and they invite speakers from all walks of life.

As I opened my presentation after the meal, I told the group (of about 25-30 retirees) that I would share with them some background on my experiences in farming, update them on the impact that agriculture has on our metropolitan area, discuss my volunteer efforts with Farm Bureau, and introduce them to some of the activities & benefits that are associated with Farm Bureau membership. As I spoke, I was delighted to see how engaged the group was with my stories. I soon learned, however, that one woman was not happy with the topic . . .

During the portion where I shared my experiences as a farmer, I arrived at the point where I gave a brief discussion of my 5 years as general manager of a local slaughterhouse. As soon as I used this word, a woman in the audience shouted out: "Slaughterhouse?!?" I affirmed for the audience that this was absolutely correct, and that it had been one of the best opportunities of my life. Bear in mind, that when I discuss meat processing, I always use appropriate terminology and I am not overly graphic. I keep my audience in mind (farmers get more in-depth discussion than non-farmers). I answer questions honestly, but I am always matter-of-fact and do not sensationalize the slaughter process.

Once I reached the conclusion of this speech, I opened the floor up for questions. One of the ladies in attendance asked some questions about Halal slaughter, how it varied from Kosher, and what the process actually was during slaughter. As I was just starting to answer this question, the irate woman in the audience stood up and announced "We don't have to listen to this!" As she grabbed her purse to storm out, she also began grabbing at her husband's shirt sleeve to pull him out with her. This gentleman -- bless his heart -- never made eye contact with her and stayed for the rest of my speech!

Reflecting on this event, I was quite amused! It takes a lot to offend me, and this woman definitely made her lunch companions much more uncomfortable than she could ever make me. I have wondered what was so offensive to her. She was of an age (at least 75) that would make me think she would be more receptive to tales of agriculture. Perhaps she was an animal rights activist or vegan, and thus found me completely disturbing. I was pleased, however, by the positive reactions from the other individuals there. Multiple gentlemen told me that I was one of the best speakers they had ever hosted, so I don't think the rest of the group was in any way upset by my presentation. Several of the wives actually came up afterwards to ask me even more questions!

All in all, this was a great experience for me! I am glad I had the opportunity. I was delighted to speak with a group that was so receptive to learning about farming and Farm Bureau. I am humbled to be able to share the stories of farmers in our great state. And most of all, I am glad to know that my love for talking about agriculture can keep my mind focused even with a difficult audience member! Meat processing rocks!

Final Thoughts on the Pigs . . .

I find it very rewarding to raise, slaughter, and process my own meats. I am especially proud of the fact that so little is wasted from the animals. After preparing the cuts of meat, grinding any small pieces for sausage, and saving bones & internal items to cook for my dogs . . . not much is left! In this picture, is the entire waste (plus the intestines & lungs which I had already composted) from a whole pig. For a 300 pound animal, I find it remarkable that there was such a small amount of waste. This is a reason that I have a great deal of respect for the customers that I worked with from the immigrant & refugee community: they were skilled at utilizing nearly every last inch of the animal. It is important for us as humans to remember that every animal slaughtered is a life. We should show respect to that creature -- and to our fellow humans that struggle with hunger -- by not disposing of meat carelessly.