Shady Oaks 1812 Journal

After The Winter


Spring is finally wrestling control of the weather from Winter's unrelenting emotional issues. Even with well below normal temperatures and most of the northern part of the east coast under a foot of snow, the lawns are greening, trees are starting to burst and the birds are resuming their morning cacophony in Warren County. Even the white noise of the swarms of buzzing bumble bees is a VERY welcome sound. 

The chickens are grazing on succulent spring grasses and scratching for the increased bug activities beneath the soil. Their egg production has resumed to normal with the increasing daylight and we are getting at least a dozen a day now.

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Chicken or the Egg...

There are a thousand ways to hard boil an egg. I have found the best way to do Shady Oaks 1812 eggs which are free range and fresh. I have tried every way and this works perfectly every time. In fact, I believe that our eggs taste best hard boiled. You get this great buttery and almost cheesy flavor. I always cook up a dozen or so at the beginning of the week to add to salads or just grab for a quick snack. In fact, hard boiled eggs are the perfect way to ensure that you and your family have easy ways to make good food choices. Pack them up with our salad vegetables and take to work or school for lunch. Delicious, EASY and good for you!

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  • Bring a pot with enough water to submerge the amount of eggs you want to a roaring boil.
  • Gently lower in eggs with a large spoon.
  • Allow water to return to boil (about a minute)
  • Cover and turn heat off.
  • Allow eggs to sit in hot water for 20min.
  • Spoon eggs out into a bowl with ice and water.
  • Allow to cool enough to be handled before peeling. The longer you let cool the easier they are to peel. 
  • Enjoy with a little bit of salt, pepper and my secret... paprika. YUM!!


As compared to conventionally produced eggs, Free Range Eggs have:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more Vitamin A
  • 2x more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3x more Vitamin E
  • 7x more beta carotene
  • 4-6x more vitamin D
  • Higher folic acid levels
  • Measurable levels of vitamin C

PS. Save your eggs shells for the compost pile! Great source of calcium.

Planting trees early in spring, we make a place for birds to sing in time to come. How do we know? They are singing here now. There is no other guarantee that singing will ever be.
— Wendell Berry

If I was a Carpenter and you were a gentleman


Matt and I spent a week of intense learning with the entertaining Woodright himself, Roy Underhill, and the incomparable Bill Anderson. Roy Underhill is famously known for his TV show The Woodright's Shop on PBS and was also the Master House-wright at Williamsburg. We learned how to build a table top chest with our own hands and the same type of tools used to build Shady Oaks 205 years ago. I have an even greater appreciation for pre-industrial built things than ever before. Thank you to Roy for making me laugh and to Bill for his calm and “we can fix it” attitude during the times I was having a mini-breakdown inside. Can’t wait for the next time.


I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.
— William Blake

What's Growing On


We have been anticipating Spring 2018 a little more than past springs at Shady Oaks 1812. This year marks a big addition to our life on the farm. For the first time in her history Shady Oaks will be a FOOD farm. It has been a long time since Shady Oaks has produce an agricultural product and then it was only commodity tobacco and cotton.

Our long term plan is to create a diverse farm where we can offer almost a full menu of items for our community. For now I am starting small with a market garden that will be offering salad vegetables such as: lettuce mix, spring salad mix, arugula, spinach, baby root vegetable, summer squash, herbs, salad cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and scallions. We will also offer our free range eggs and I am getting a hands-on education in growing flowers for market bouquets this year. 

We approach farming with sustainability and regeneration in mind where the most important things are living soil and balance. All of our efforts are beyond organic with zero use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides and we do not till the land. I farm entirely by hand with only the use of some simple tools and a wheelbarrow. But more on our farming methods later..

We will give more to our land than we take and in return we will be able to nourish our community with the BEST food possible.

We will offer our products at the Warren County Farmer's Market and via a home delivery service. Visit our website to find out more about our offerings and how to get them.

Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.
— Thomas Jefferson

Radishes and Butter

So that eternal garnishes be exposed
not by being particularly good or worthy
but by sole grace of the radish itself

Carved into petite rose
striated to whimsical
red and white allure
not distant from place pulled
should leaves be present and immaculate

O what crunchy goodness it is

Long time hath happy sulfured
soothing comfort to throat
What wise crisp snap to it
Charmed these root veggies
and in that window box was born amorous
— PJ Posey

The radish is truly a signal to spring. Fresh, crunchy and colorful. It is just what we need after a cold, drab winter.

We don't generally eat many radishes in the US. And I don't know why. They are easy to grow, can be grown year round, come in a variety of flavors and colors to satisfy all the senses and are GOOD for us. 

The french hold the radish in high regard and it usually graces their tables daily. It is a gorgeous little luxury generally served during the apéritif hour with a little butter and sea salt along with a glass of rose or champagne. Originally used as a palate stimulant prior to a meal, you can also enjoy them any time of day. 



At Shady Oaks 1812 we do as the french do and enjoy this gorgeous underrated root vegetable straight from our garden. As soon as I hear the fire station alarm sound from downtown Warrenton at 5:30pm, signaling cocktail hour, I grab a bunch along with the necessary accouterments and a bottle of something chilled, usually a lovely Rose from the Scarlet Rooster in town. The only thing that makes it better is when friends join us. 


We grow a few varieties at Shady Oaks 1812 and I urge you to grab a bunch or two from us at the Farmer's Market and try them out. You will never have a fancier cocktail hour.

Trust me.


Hearth Warming


If a Tree Falls in the Woods....

With winter upon us, we set about doing tasks outside that are more pleasant in the cooler weather. Clearing debris and over grown areas, building structures that are on our infrastructure to-do list and chopping wood. We are lucky that for the most part we have mild winters here in North Carolina with the occasional snow storm and/or below freezing temperatures. This allows us to get a great deal done before the heat and humidity set in during the summer. Chopping wood is part of our regular routine so we can keep our hearths warm for ourselves and visitors and it is great exercise.  We have 11 fire places and all but 2 are in use. Matt and I love a fire roaring in the fireplace. In fact, the day we arrived with our U-haul from Seattle on a balmy May day, Matt immediately cranked up the A/C and started a fire in our snug hearth. Just a little gesture to re-awaken the old house after being uninhabited for awhile. We chop a couple cords of wood each winter to season and be used the next. We usually get logs from a local timber company but on occasion a tree falls in our little woodland area and we take advantage of the on farm resource to add to our stock pile.


The Cold Earth Slept Below

We had a lovely snow fall this year and luckily enough Matt was able to be home to enjoy the whole thing. It is never long lived which makes it a welcomed arrival. After a half of a week the temperatures warmed up and we were back to mild weather. Such peace when the ground is blanketed. Shady Oaks is especially magical and I always awake and feel as if I'm in Narnia awaiting the arrival of Mr Tumnus at the lamp post.


“There is no place more delightful than one's own fireplace.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Our winter evening routine. Matt is the master of the hearth. In 30 seconds he has a roaring fire going while I pour drinks and prepare dinner for ourselves and, if we are lucky, a group of friends. The animals are all tucked-in to their shelters and we let the house embrace us for the night.


Chicken Pastry

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The first time I had Chicken Pastry was at our Harvest Feast when our neighbor Cliff cooked it in our 1812 winter kitchen in the fire place. You can enjoy that story here. Since then I have been hooked. It is the perfect soul soothing and heart warming pot of goodness you can give yourself and your family. It is best when you use an old hen since the chicken flavor will be much stronger. This is how the recipe was in its origin. Every culture has its chicken recipe. This is America's southern version of the french Coq Au Vin. Same principles. Old hen stewed for hours in broth and seasoning to create a large pot of wholesome goodness, cheaply. A young bird will do just fine though, especially if it is a farm raised bird like ours. I kind of made up my recipe based on what I had on hand and basic soup making principles. I'm sure there are others to use out there but this turns out damn good.

Shady Oaks 1812 Chicken Pastry

1 whole old hen or farm raised chicken

1 medium onion chopped

5 carrots (or as many as you like) chopped

5 stalks of celery (or as many as you like) chopped

4 cloves of garlic minced

2 cups flour

salt, pepper to taste


Place entire bird into a large stock pot of water filled to about an inch below the top and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for several hours. I like to really cook it down so you can get a really rich broth. Add a bit water if it evaporates below the inch water line over time.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add flour and one teaspoon of salt. Sift together. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the ¾ cup of the chicken broth. Mix together until you have a slightly moist dough ball. Generously flour your table, counter top or large cutting board. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thick. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife and cut the dough into strips about 1 inch wide. Cut each strip into sections about 2 inches long. Let the dough pieces rest for about 30 minutes to dry out some.

Remove chicken and bones from pot into a large bowl and let cool to handle. With broth still simmering add pastry one at a time letting the broth return to boil before adding the next. After all are added let simmer 10 min. Then add vegetables slowly allowing broth return to boil before adding more. Cover and simmer while you remove meat from chicken carcass and add back to pot. Let simmer for 45 min to an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool slightly before serving.