Halloween is about atmosphere and what the Irish call thin places, those mysterious meeting grounds between two worlds where the veil between the physical and spiritual is palpably thin. Halloween, after all, comes to us from the Celts. And it falls, appropriately enough, at a thin time of the year, at a time when earth itself hangs between life and death, between Autumn’s harvest and Winter’s slumber. Being drawn to thin places explains the inexorable hold that Halloween, ghost stories, forests, the sea, graveyards, ruins, thunderstorms, Edinburgh (Scotland), New England in the Autumn, and heritage meats–especially the ancient Scottish, English, and Irish breeds–have on me. Here’s to all those thin places. Happy Hallowe’en!

When I was a child I ate what resembled bony witches’ fingers at Halloween (just a creepy version of pigs in the blanket). Now, I just eat bones or–more precisely–bone marrow, carving out of oven-fired bones the hot, gooey innards and spreading them on crusty bread. With a little sea salt and a garnish of fresh minced parsley, they make a gourmet appetizer. Think of bone marrow as butter: meat butter (!)–only more coagulated and savory. But bone marrow is more than a delicacy.

Eating the marrow of pasture-raised livestock–whether beef, pork, or lamb–has numerous benefits to one’s health. They are a cancer fighter, foster healthy bones and skin, and bolster the immune system. Further, marrow is brain food, it contains stem cells, and it fosters the healing of wounds.

The oven-baked appetizer is not the only delivery system, however, for the benefits of the bone. Using soup bones to make a beef stock will deliver the nutrients in measured doses through the slow sipping of soup broth. The later method is a time-released capsule versus the direct injection method of the former.

For further reading on the health benefits of bone marrow, including a super-simple recipe, try the highly engaging piece “Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Bone Marrow”.

With the release yesterday of our Shorthorn beef line, you’re invited to take you take a virtual farm tour of Tillers International, a truly unique mission-driven organization. Not only do they raise Duba & Co.’s heritage Shorthorn beef, they preserve and pass on traditional knowledge and techniques that inspire rural innovation. Their work makes it possible for rural communities at home and abroad to utilize low-impact technologies, enabling these communities to become self-sustaining agrarian economies. Enjoy this short introduction to the work of Tillers International…

To support the mission of Tillers and to help preserve the Shorthorn breed, whose conservation status is listed as “critical” by The Livestock Conservancy, consider an investment in a quarter or eighth of this rare beef breed. With only  a few quarters and eighths left and at an all-inclusive price of $6.65 – $6.70/pound, you’ll get for everything from ground, soup bones, and offal; to roasts, ribeyes, and New York Strips. It’s an unbeatable price for an autumn or winter’s worth of beef full of rich, deep, and earthy flavor. Plus, we’re throwing in free delivery for those in Grand Rapids, MI.

Contact deckhand@dubaandcompany.com for availability, more information, or purchase.

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees…

(John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”)

Last week my wife Erin, daughter Analise, and I traveled to West Virginia and–from there–to northern Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. These forested mountains rose and fell with the reds, yellows, and greens of autumn’s colors, just then beginning to peak.  A more idyllic setting can hardly be imagined for Riven Rock Farms, home of the heritage Belted Galloway cattle which spread out to pasture on more than 700 acres of shaded farmland.

These cattle, with a distinctive white “belt” around their middle section, graze on the shaded pastures and drink the fresh mountain waters. Chuck and Lou Ann Neely oversee the operations at Riven Rock and, in addition to raising “Belties” (as the breed is affectionately called), they raise lamb and pastured heritage pork. Their hogs have access to seven acres of forested grasslands where the oaks let drop their acorns for the animals to gobble up. It’s a diet that harkens back to the earliest days of pork production, in ancient Roman times.

From the Virginias, we drove east towards Connecticut, stopping to hike in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. After a couple of days in Avon, Connecticut, in the Farmington Valley of Hartford, we took a train into Brooklyn, New York, to spend some time with Patrick Martins, founder of Heritage Foods USA and the Heritage Radio Network. Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (currently under renovation) rounded out our visit to the Big Apple.

Our return home took us through the rolling hills of New York State and Pennsylvania until we spent one final night on Lake Erie–perhaps the last warm night of the year–listening to the trees, blowing in the breeze.

My family and I have been traveling this past week on a late “summer” vacation that included a farm visit in the Allegany Mountains of Virginia. Above is a snapshot of the farm’s Belted Galloway cattle milling on the mountainside, a preview of coming attractions when the blog post resumes next Thursday, October 9.