Myotis lucifugus (Little Brown Bat)

Next Installment from Caroline Recker, farm friends and adventures.

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The common vampire, pictured here in both bat and humanoid forms.

Did you know July is Rabies Awareness Month? If you said yes to that question, you’re a liar, because it’s actually in May (or March, but only in the Philippines) and there is also a World Rabies Day celebration event on September 28th.

But why am I talking about rabies, you ask? Well, the farm school recently hosted a local bat for an overnight workshop of terror. By which I mean it was terrified. And so was I.
Venture back with me, reader. The day was June 28th. I had been staying at Quillisascut for 2 weeks. The sun set at 8:57 PM. Dracula Daily fans had not heard from Jonathan Harker in 3 days. My hosts were dining with their friends that evening and I was lying in bed reading, well, not Dracula, but The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was finally dark outside, and as a creature of night, I was at ease. Alone.

An odd fluttering sound disrupted my requiescence. It was like the drumming of impatient fingers on taut leather, and it was followed by a thudding, scrabbling clamor. I peered at the ceiling. The light switch was unhappily far away but I scampered across the room and turned on the lights. I have always admired the trusses that stretch across the upstairs bedrooms, but now I squinted at them in suspicion. Could they be harboring the unseen hopefully-not-a creature? The space above my head seemed clear. I opened the door and aimed my phone’s flashlight around the upstairs landing, then tiptoed out of my room. I heard an angry flapping and hoped to find a nocturnal bird.

No luck. Flitting around in a crazed, apparently characteristic U-shaped pattern, was a bat. Seeing that it had chosen the neighboring bedroom as the site of its wretched winging, I skittered farther away to watch.

Before I continue, I must describe the architecture of my current housing. Each of the second floor rooms has a door to the outside; my room and the bat’s room both lead to a deck which can only be reached from the ground via a ladder. The remaining rooms open onto another deck which has a small ramp leading to the ground. I have already mentioned the roost-friendly beams. But above the door of each bedroom, there is also a sizeable gap. Rick tells me these are called transoms. They allow for airflow through the rooms and contribute to a communal feel. They are also bat highways.

This dynamic photo is illustrative of both the pro-bat setup and my panicked state that evening.

Alone on the farm and in need of moral support, I called my partner, Dustin. He began researching bat evacuation techniques while I watched the seemingly endless loop of bat panic. According to the internet, a bat will seek dark spaces and shun well-lit ones.
“At least it’s staying in one spot,” I said, like a fool, before the bat pelted out of the dark room towards my own brightly lit sanctuary across the way. I yelled an expletive which I will not repeat now and slammed the door.

A stunning visual aid if you’re confused.

Fortunately, I had shut myself in a room which provided easier access to the ground. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my shoes. I picked my way through some overgrown weeds to the gravel (ouch) driveway and assured Dustin that I was not dead. A whimper caught my attention: Lucy the Anatolian Shepard had heard the commotion. Lucy guards the livestock and also me, it would seem, because she bounded up to meet me, marking the second time in 3 minutes that a frenzied creature was shooting towards me at top speed. I renewed the reassurances that I was not dead. But would I survive the night?

Dustin and I refined the light-exclusion strategy, deciding that I should disregard the recent disproof of the bats-won’t-go-to-light theory and light up all the rooms but one, in which I would also open the door. I had lost track of the bat when I fled, but I gambled that it had chosen the dark room adjacent to my former sanctuary and resolved to open that door. This had the added benefit of being easily reached from outside.

Chief on my mind was rabies, that hydrophobic disease which, like quicksand, has a mythic notoriety that far outstrips its real-world incidence. The issue, of course, is that rabies is virtually 100% fatal. Bat fangs are so tiny and sharp that bites may not be felt. Couple these phantom bites with definitely-going-to-kill you disease and it’s no wonder the CDC advises any person who so much as sleeps in a room with a bat to seek medical attention.

I slipped into the front door of the farm school and immediately turned on the lights, surveying the ceiling. The once rustic rafters of the living room now seemed menacing. But I had to be brave! I put on my long-sleeved gardening shirt and gardening gloves and gardening hat. Regrettably, I was not going to garden. I was preparing to tangle with a bat. I recalled the enormous quantities of garlic scapes in the walk-in, but I couldn’t be sure of their potency in the face of an undead threat. The false security might be unwise. I marched back outside, grabbing a jug of water to prop open the chosen door. I felt foolish envisioning my hosts returning to find me in full garden regalia in the dying light. Too soon, I reached my destination and steeled myself to go back into the depths.

3 of the approximately 2,460 garlic scapes in the walk-in

“Good-bye, Dustin, if I fail; good-bye, my faithful friend and second doggy; good-bye, all, and last of all Dustin!” is what I would have said, if I were Brahm Stoker. Whatever I said was not so eloquent as to be worth remembering, followed (presumably) by a deep breath and a tight grip on the door handle.

A small bit of anti-climax: there are 2 doors in each room. The first is a screen door for ventilation, but the second is my actual object. The curtain was drawn across the window so I could not see into the room. I did not know what awaited me. But I pushed in the door and—
–hit the box fan that someone had set in front of it, thus preventing me from actually opening the door. Merde. I abandoned the water jug outside the door and returned to my sanctuary. The logistics of opening my planned door were daunting: I would have to dive into the room, scoot the fan aside, open the curtain, sprint away, turn on the remaining lights, head outdoors, open the correct door (finally) and prop it open with the jug. I have often wished I was a Slayer, but I see now that I probably couldn’t handle it.

My poor long-suffering partner attended the whole maneuver, listening to my little shouts of fear and reassuring me that my instinct to keep low to the ground was likely correct. (Later research suggested that bats are also proficient crawlers and it is best to avoid the floor. I don’t know what options remain for those of us who cannot levitate.) I thought perhaps I heard my hosts return but there was no time to waste feeling embarrassed. And finally, finally, my bat tunnel complete, I fled downstairs to wait for bat liberation.

Lucy: 12/10 good dog

“Caroline?” Either the bat had learned the power of human speech (all vampires speak common, so this wouldn’t be surprising) or the voice calling me was Rick. I felt very sheepish ascending the stairs.

Rick was wearing a headlamp and a confused expression. I explained the whole bat thing, and together we examined the bat-free ceiling and decided that it had probably fled while I was downstairs. Rick pointed out the clock hanging on the wall near my sanctuary—the hour, minute, and second hands had tumbled to the bottom of the clock and were piled inside the plastic casing. Could this have been the bat? Could it have happened when I gently and calmly closed the door earlier?

I had to stifle a laugh. Rick came home to his house entirely lit up, seemingly empty, with the sort of harmless, aberrant property damage one would normally expect from a vengeful ghost in the first 30 minutes of a horror movie. But we agreed, the house was haunted no more: the bat had moved on. Rick went home and I went to bed, feeling a bit foolish but relieved.

It took a long time for me to unwind and fall asleep. But with every passing minute, I felt more assured that the brief nightmare was over. I peered out of my room with a flashlight and brushed my teeth. I peered out of the bathroom with a flashlight and went back to my room. I turned off the overhead lights and did my final necessaries: soft scrunchie in my hair, lotion for my frequently-washed hands, eye mask to shield me from the 5 AM sunrise.
That’s when my leathery friend soared from behind the truss and out through the transom. It had lingered in its new hibernaculum ten feet from my head and waited for my greatest moment of unreadiness to reveal itself.

It was too late for another door-opening light-switching rigamarole. I filled my sleeping bag with my possessions and carried it over my shoulder like a bindlestiff, down the stairs to the single transom-less bedroom which would allow me to shut out the winged blight and shield me from disease. There I spent an uneasy night, fearing to emerge from my place of hiding lest the beast swoop down upon me and plant its fangs in my unsuspecting neck.

Image © Ondrej Prosicky/

30 June, morning— “No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and how dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.” Jonathan Harker knows, as do I, that sunlight means safety. While Jonathan will find himself locked in the castle once more on June 30th, I was not myself locked in my room. Daylight shone fierce and glad upon me, dispelling my fears of bats and ‘bies.

Despite my caution the following evening, and another night spent downstairs, I never saw the bat again. I’m not sure what happened to the little fella. I hope it’s doing well, and I hope it made its home somewhere else. Maybe all was lost when I took my eyes off its path. Maybe not. By the third night, I felt safe to return to my room. As darkness fell outside, I climbed into my coffin and snuggled my shoulders beneath the fresh earth, ready for a bat-free rest.

Your friend,
P.S. Okay. I know the bat wasn’t a vampire. It came into the house without an invitation, which is decidedly counter to the lore. And yet… I’ve been craving flies…

Fermentation Follies: A Sourdough Story

After many years of not posting we have a new voice here at Quillisascut. Caroline Recker is spending the summer helping around the farm, putting in hours of garden fun, feeding us delightful pastries and helping nurture the many people who visit the farm. Here is a glimpse in her words of life at Quillisascut Farm.

Caroline Recker: summer intern, guest contributor, and goat enthusiast

Quillisascut Day 4—I’ve settled in a bit and I’m getting more comfortable with the kitchen, unspooling like an octopus from a bottle. I’ve been kindly invited to spend the summer at the farm school, weeding, planting, and cooking with hyperlocal, peak season product. We’re gearing up for the first workshop—not Rick and Lora Lea’s, of course, but mine. 6 ladies here to make cheese. They’re only staying for one night, but it’s my job to help feed them between curd cuttings.

I haven’t had time to feel nervous about this, but I know if I think about it too long, I will. So, I go to what I know: I make bread. I choose Jeffrey Hamelman’s Vermont Sour recipe from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques.

I trounce back and forth from the kitchen to the bakery (a little room on the opposite side of the house with cheery yellow walls and a 20-quart Hobart mixer that probably predates me by decades) and gather my mise. My gram scale didn’t make the trip to Rice with me, so I lament the imprecision of my task. No one will know if I round up 1.6 grams of salt to 2, right? A little rye, a lot of bread flour in a bowl, and then I must feed Wilma.

Wilma also predates me by decades. She is a wild yeast cultivar named for Chef Kären’s grandma and has been lovingly nurtured by untold generations of stern Nordic women. Okay, I was once told a precise number of generations, but I’m sorry, Chef, I forgot. Farm workshop attendees get to take a piece of Wilma home if they choose, to feed her for at least a few weeks and then slowly starve her in the back of a too-full fridge where she will eventually suffocate in hooch. (Again, sorry!) I’m worried that she’s too sluggish—I fed her a few days prior, but she’s been taking things slow in the reach-in. Still, I build a levain and hope for the best.

The next day I am rewarded: I can see a milky line where Wilma has risen against the sides of a polycarbonate 6th pan. She’s fallen, too, but that’s okay. She’s ready to leaven. And I’m not taking any shortcuts—there’s no added yeast here. I’ll work the gluten, but Wilma’s gotta bring it to life. I start with an autolyse. Everything’s in the bowl but the salt, mixed until just moistened, and then left to sit and develop a little gluten and begin fermenting. While I wait, I prepare falafel waffles. Exactly what they sound like. As it turns out, there’s a reason we shape falafel in little balls, patties, or even quenelles, but I digress.
30 minutes pass before I return to my bread mix, in need of a win after a heartbreaking failure to grease the waffle iron. Jeffrey (never call him Jeff) tells me to move up to a Hobart speed 2, but I’m making 2 loaves in an 8-quart KitchenAid, so I approximate. And—whoops—almost forgot to add the salt! I tip the contents of a waiting pint container into the mix. In minutes, my dough is ready for its bulk ferment. It’s a little cold outside, but I’m in no hurry. I cover the bowl and head out.

My day outdoors is idyllic: I harvest strawberries in a little bucket, filling an enormous steel bowl with jewel-bright fruits which I’m normally forced to purchase by the overpriced clamshell. As Lora Lea and I stop to deposit our bounty in the walk-in, I peek at my dough on the counter. I think things are moving, but it’s only been an hour, so I’m not worried. I give it a fold, then we join Rick in the garden, passing through the goat pen—idyllic!—before planting some carrots to replace a row that failed to thrive. Rick regales us with stories from the front lines in the gopher wars. It seems they’ve learned to shove dirt in the traps which are buried in the ground. I don’t want to sound like a sympathizer, but I am secretly impressed by their wiles. The most reliable gopher bait is a carrot, which are in scant supply (see aforementioned failure-to-thrive), and even then, a catch is not guaranteed. Lora Lea selects the smallest carrot she can find while I muse about Darwinism and increasingly clever generations of burrowing rodents.

An almost unmanageable strawberry harvest

As we head in for lunch, I’m disappointed to find that my dough hasn’t doubled yet. At Lora Lea’s suggestion, I set the bowl on a trivet above the stove, where the always-on pilot lights keep things cozy. Still, it’s nearly dinnertime before I can divide and shape. I assure my hosts that I can manage so long as the process is over by 9 pm.
I dust my bannetons with a 50/50 mix of rice flour and bread flour. Both will help me avoid sticking in the coming hours of proofing. Or rather, I dust my bannetons with bench flour, deposit the first loaf seam-side up into the waiting vessel, then realize my mistake. I’ve lost a lot of volume to sticky loaves in the past, and I want to do this right, damn it, so I hastily turn out the dough and fix things. I’ve lost the lovely, ridged pattern from the basket, but the loss is small in comparison to the deflation that could have been. I pop one loaf in the fridge to retard overnight, and the other goes back in its warm spot above the stove for the final proof.

It’s nearly 8 pm, 12 hours since the mix began, before we’re ready. I’m eager. Too eager. I slam the loaf out of the banneton and—hell—realize I don’t know where the lame lives. If you’re thinking I should have gotten the lame first, you’re right, and you should have been there to tell me. I grab a chef’s knife. What should be a fluid slash is handling more like a hacksaw. The whole thing is aesthetic butchery, but the dough is spreading and I’m losing time. Only after my little mutilated loaf is in the oven can I reflect on my failures.
It’s not the right shape. The scoring is scraggy. I should have thought ahead. As a recent pastry school graduate, I ought to be past these rookie mistakes. I’m frustrated. But there is hope: my remaining loaf sleeps in the walk-in. Wilma will be at work all night, munching on sugars and making lots of alcohol and carbon dioxide.
When it comes time to fetch my disgrace from the oven, I comfort myself with thoughts of redemption in the morning. There’s some good to be found: the crust has a nice color, dark like the inside of a walnut shell, and blistered like my skin after an hour in the sun. And the whole kitchen smells of yeast and toasted sugar. Not so bad. Loaf #2 is going to make those cheese women wish they’d signed up for a bread workshop. Those mozzarella mamas won’t know what hit them. I’ll be awash in praise from the feta femmes. These thoughts buoy me up the stairs to bed.

The next morning, I make breakfast and slice into the loaf. It’s not so bad—good crumb structure inside. I nibble on the crusty piece at the end (you know, the bread butt) and it’s hard to say how it tastes because I’m just eating crust. But it’s got some tang and some chew. I toast a few slices and scramble a lot of eggs—the ninety-second dozen produced by the chickens this year—and we all sit down to eat. I pile my toast with eggs and begin my analysis, a now-permanent habit developed in culinary school. The bread is… okay. Wilma brought the acidity and it’s pleasantly crunchy post-toaster. Shouldn’t it be better, though?
Lora Lea asks if there’s anything I would do differently next time. Her tone is masterfully neutral. I cite the scoring as my main regret, but I’m still puzzling over this bread. It’s so bland. I leave my seat, which is probably rude, to go examine the recipe again. A few calculations and… oh. Oh no.

1.6 grams vs. 16 grams of kosher salt

I have committed the worst of culinary sins. I have shamed both my chef-instructors and the dozen plus math teachers who tried so hard to do right by me. I didn’t need 1.6 grams of salt. I needed 16 grams of salt. Three years of culinary education and I’m still misplacing decimals. I’ll have to go into hiding.

My hosts are kind, but I’m mortified. Loaf-the-second waits in the walk-in, and I have no choice but to double down on the mistake and bake it. How can I serve unsalted bread? How can I have under-salted it to begin with? What will the cottage cheese chicas say?
I wish I could say I recover right away. But I’m not a friend to myself for a few hours. Not even a successful second loaf can cheer me up. I chew the problem like a leathery crust: how to hide my mistake? I can make bread pudding. I can fry it in olive oil and saturate it with salt. I can cube it up and make some over-salinated croutons. I can brine it in the tears I’m saving for my next moment alone and make a poorly seasoned pap. I can do anything except serve it like bread.

It’s now the eve of the paneer princesses’ arrival. We’ve flipped the chairs over the long dining table in the kitchen. I have a backpack-style vacuum slung over my shoulders like a generic brand ghostbuster. The sun casts long shadows on the wall and I scoot a hose over the floor. One and a half loaves rest on the kitchen island, hiding a secret, but for now I must consider the hose, the long yellow cord trailing behind me, the debris shooting up a tube whose terminus is uncomfortably near to my head. The work is… working, like a dough hook stretching strands. There’s no great epiphany, only a relaxing, and a leavening. My subconscious needed a full 12 hours to rise, but it fills me like a breath now: It’ll all be fine. It’s just lunch.

It’s not a new lesson, but it’s an important one: I, too, am a bread. I, too, am growing at my own unhurried pace. I, too, will die when my insides reach 140 degrees. And maybe after my untimely roasting, I, too, will be devoured by Lovecraftian nightmare creatures whose physiology is so unlike my own as to be unfathomable. Maybe I’ll be salty enough for them.

The offending bread, pictured here with an unsuspecting strawberry chevre salad

How We Make Walnut Oil at Quillisascut Farm

A photo tutorial on a simple way to make walnut oil at home or on the farm!

All you need is a little time and a few pounds of shelled walnuts. Shelling the walnuts is the most time consuming part of the process, but can be fun if you get a group of friends or family to pitch in and help. Make sure to get all the shells and center pith out of the walnuts. Next, finely grind the walnuts, we use our electric meat grinder. The heating step takes some time as you don’t want the nuts to toast, so use a slow oven 200-250*F stir them periodically as they all come to 165*F, while the walnuts are warm place them in a press.

Rick purchased this small antique lard press from a local second hand store. We line it with cheesecloth (it helps when it is time to remove the spent walnut cake) then pack in the warm nuts, this press holds about 6 pounds of of ground walnuts, giving us between 16-20 ounces of oil.

The walnut cake left over can be broken up and used for flour in baking and the lovely oil can be drizzled on salads, in soup or ? What we do know is that you will learn a new appreciation for walnut oil and never want to waste a drop!

The Birth of Cheese

It is spring and a whole new year of cheese making is about to begin. The goats have had their kids and the new flow of milk is starting to come into the cheese room.

For me it is a celebration, like New Years, to taste the rich new milk, smell the rich tangy whey, and take a drink and toast the year ahead.

Here is a pictorial of the cheese- making process

Walnut and Cheese Crackers

There is everything to love about crackers that combine cheese and walnuts here at Quillisascut Farm. These two cracker recipes, Quillisascut Blue Cheese and Walnut and Quillisascut Viejo Walnut, share those sentiments.

Walnuts and cheese crackers at Quillisascut Farm

The blue cheese recipe is a savory shortbread that melts in your mouth. This is a modified recipe from All recipes

Blue Cheese Walnut Cracker

1/2 cup unsalted butter
*8 ounces Quillisascut blue cheese
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 egg white plus 1 Tablespoon water (whisk together for egg wash)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Salt for topping

If your walnuts are in large pieces, place them in the food processor and process until they are finely chopped. Remove from processor and set aside.

Put butter, blue cheese, flour, salt and pepper in food processor bowl and process until combined. Roll in quarter sized log and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Brush on egg wash and roll in walnuts. Slice thin, place on parchment lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until they have a little color. Remove and let cool. Store in an airtight container.
* for a milder version try replacing the blue cheese with a Quillisascut Farmer Cheese

Walnut Blue Cheese Crackers Quillisascut Style

The next recipe is a thick and crunchy style cracker that features Quillisascut Viejo cheese, with walnuts incorporated in the dough.

Quillisascut Viejo Cheese

Walnut Viejo Cheese Crackers

1 cup flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups shredded Quillisascut Viejo cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup of water

Mix together all the dry ingredients, then pour in the water and stir until incorporated.
Let rest for 15 minutes
Roll out on a floured surface to your preferred thickness. Cut into small 1 inch rounds, use a cute small cookie cutter or simple squares. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until firm.
Cool on wire rack, store in a air tight container.

Walnuts and Viejo Cheese Cracker from Quillisascut Farm

Next time I am going to try substituting 1/2 cup of our walnut flour in both of these cracker recipes, to replace that amount of wheat flour.

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