Friday, December 19, 2008

YAK TRACKS: A Yak Christmas 2008 Video

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ALL OF US AT VERMONT YAK COMPANY!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Yak + Rabbit = Soup



Yak and Rabbit Soup

Created by Patricia Teague, Champlain College 2008 Holiday Dinner.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs Olive Oil
2# Yak Sausage
2 ea. Leeks cleaned and thinly sliced white & pale green parts
1 Gallon beef stock
1 cup dry Red Wine
1 Carrot sliced into disks
2 Parsnip sliced into disks
2 15 oz. cans white beans
1 Tbs minced garlic
4 sprigs fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Crushed Black Pepper

2 ea. Rabbits
Separate the leg/thigh bones and get as much meat as you can from the breast. Dice the breast meat and add to soup at the same time as the yak. In a separate pot boil the legs in water or chicken stock for 1 hour until tender. Meanwhile make soup.

Place olive oil in soup pot and heat.
Add the Yak and Rabbit Meat and brown for 5 minutes.
Add the sliced Leeks cook until soft 3-5 min.
Add all the rest of ingredients in order.
Shred the Rabbit legs and add to soup
Simmer for at least ½ hour.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

YAK TRACKS: "Yak Frost Nipping At Your Nose, or at least, your TONGUE" - HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2008!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2008 TO ALL YAK LOVERS NEAR AND FAR!



The entire Vermont Yak Company team gathered for our first annual holiday party on Friday night.

On the menu?

Yak, of course. With a Dave H special local salad of greens, and Susan's outstanding berry cobbler dessert, and Boyden Valley River Bend Red wine (our new favorite here at the Williams place) and fresh pressed apple cider for all.

As an appetizer, sweet italian yak sausage, semi-slow cooked on the outdoor gas grill to semi-blackened perfection (yak, Cajun style).

The main course? Kate's braised yak ribs - here's a close-up.



And Dave delivered on his promise to serve up yak tongue.

Outstanding - sweet, delicate, and delectable - especially with horseradish sauce.



Our first Vermont Yak Company season has been full of so many blessings, big and little. Perhaps the most exciting has been getting to know our neighbors better, as we work together to re-invent a 20 acre piece of Vermont's working landscape with a most amazing four-legged species.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL, and WE LOOK FORWARD TO 2009!

YAK TRACKS: YAKKING about YAKS in Winter



Winter has come to Steadfast Farm.

Gone are the leisurely summer and fall days - chasing yaks around green pastures.

We are hunkering down for a long winter.

The hay bales are all up, the water pipes are all winterized, the bubbler is in the trough, and the yaks are happy to have it cold.

The rhythm of our winter days is a bit different - our work is more solitary. Susan is up early to feed and water the 4 leggeds most mornings, and the Williams team handle most of the afternoon feedings, with Dave helping out.

First we get the water trough filling, and then shred the hay bales - enough for two big feeder fulls and some loose hay along the fence - and ensure that everyone gets some of the good energy in that summer cut grass.

This video gives you a glimpse of Steadfast Farm in the snow.

Kudos to our youngest VYC member - 6 year old Theron Williams - for his steady shot camera work with Jet Black in the corral/barn sliding door munching.

Friday, December 5, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Yakking About Yak Chili!




NOTE: Thanks to Champlain College student Joe Dimeck for this humdinger of a recipe. We're pleased and honored to hear that Champlain College is featuring our sweet Italian sausage as part of their end-of-semester" dinner party comprised of largely local ingredients from farmers all over Vermont.

Joe's Simple Chili

1 can of light red kidney beans
1 can of dark red kidney beans
1 can of white kidney beans
2 medium-sized cans of tomato sauce
3lbs of meat (1lb yak, 1lb veal, 1lb elk works nicely if you can get the elk, but be creative with the meat).
2 boxes of Shelby's Chili mix (1 box per 2lbs)
1 jalapeno (more if you like heat)
half an onion diced

Step 1: Brown the meat. Add sea salt if you like.
Step 2: Cut onion and jalapeno. Open cans of beans and drain the liquid.
Step 3: After meat finishes browning, drain the fat.
Step 4: Pour the beans, tomato sauce, Shelby's chili mix, and meat into a pot.
Step 5: Slow cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for as short as a half hour and as long as you want
Step 6: Enjoy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

YAK TRACKS: YAK CALF BORN TODAY - Congrats, Kunga!

My favorite yak - a spirited wooly named Kunga - birthed a calf this morning between 9:00 am and 11:00 am.

Here's a look at the new rascal, as yet un-sexed and un-named.

Welcome little one, and big kudos, Kunga!

All but one cow - Delta Dawn - have now had calves this season.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Yakking with the Times-Argus Newspaper


Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.

A big YAK-TASTIC! to Times-Argus journalist Thatcher Moats and photographer Jeb Wallace-Brodeur for their in-depth article on our yakking efforts in today's Times-Argus.

Read the story here.

And our yaks really posed for Jeb - they were in fine form.

At Waitsfield farm, they're yakking up a storm
By Thatcher Moats Times Argus Staff
WAITSFIELD – Lucky, a three-week-old yak, has his name for a reason.

The black and white calf, one of the tiniest members of a 31-head yak herd that lives in the Mad River Valley, almost didn't make it through his first day.

"The calf was born in a big rainstorm, and I found him lying in the pasture all by himself barely breathing," said Dave Hartshorn, one of the owners of the Vermont Yak Company in Waitsfield.

Hartshorn, who for decades worked on his parents' dairy farm, put the young yak under hay, and also rubbed him with hay until he was warmed up, which brought him "back from the brink," Hartshorn said.

Another calf was not as fortunate.

Now Lucky is part of what is almost certainly the first yak herd ever to graze Vermont pastures.

The Vermont Yak Company began operating last March when its got its first yaks from Minnesota, and about six weeks later 10 more yaks came from Massachusetts.

Three families pitch in to make the operation work. There's the Williams family, the Hartshorn family and the Laskaris family, all of Waitsfield, and they raise the shaggy beasts for their meat on farmland just off Route 100 north of downtown Waitsfield. "It's three families, two farms and one vision," said Rob Williams, a professor at Champlain College and one of the owners.

The yaks are raised on land that Ted and Susan Laskaris own, but the land was once owned by Hartshorn's parents. Williams said the land was vacant for 20 years until the yak company started up. Abutting that farmland is a vegetable farm and maple sugaring operation that Hartshorn runs. The yaks roam on 18 acres of pasture and there are another 32 acres of land that is used for hay, said the owners.

There are a handful of reasons the families decided to raise yaks, but chief among them is that they make for a good meal, Williams said.

"The meat is what sold us on it," said Williams.

Williams' wife, Kate Williams, has family in Montana, and they have yaks that guard their sheep. While out there for a visit, Rob and Kate fell in love with the meat.

Williams described yak meat as "a rich, red, slightly sweet, herbaceous sort of meat."

The owners also said it's healthy – low in fat but high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

After the trip to Montana, the three families talked over beers about getting a herd of yaks together, and they decided to give it a shot, said Williams.

The owners sell most of their meat at the Waitsfield Farmers Market and have sold some to local restaurants, such as Hen of the Wood in Waterbury and Cooking From the Heart in Waitsfield.

They hope to eventually have a herd of 200 yaks.

In addition to the quality of the meat, putting the land back to use and being a part of the localvore movement are hugely important, Williams said.

"One of the most moving things for me is bringing this small piece of working landscape back to life. I get up every morning excited about it," he said.

The yak herd is an important complement to his vegetable and maple operation, said Hartshorn, who has used the yak manure as fertilizer.

"The full circle of a good farm is to have livestock," he said.

That "full circle" approach is part of the company's vision, as it focuses on engaging in a holistic style of farming.

"We see ourselves as part of that paradigm," said Williams. "This, we think, is a compelling way to do that."

Another example of this integrated approach can be found in the Vermont Yak maple sausage — the maple syrup in the sausage comes from Hartshorn's farm.

The shaggy beasts that hail from the vertiginous Himalayas are ideally suited to the Green Mountain State, according to Williams.

Yaks are sure-footed, used to the cold weather, and efficient – they eat half of what a normal beef cow eats, the owners said. Hot summer days don't seem to bother them too much, the owners said, nor does the lower elevation.

"They're the perfect Vermont bovine," Williams said. "They're small and feisty, just like Vermonters."

There has been demand for the yak fur, but Williams said they don't sell it yet simply because they aren't ready to deal with it.

However, the families are waiting on six yak hides that they salted and dried and sent away to get tanned, which they will try to sell.

Aside from all this, yaks make for good company, said Williams.

"I can't say this enough: Yaks are fun," he said.

Each of the yaks has a name and their own personalities to go with them.

There's a bull named Jet Black, the largest of the lot at 1,400 pounds. He's actually quite mellow because he "knows he's in charge," said Williams.

Then there's Margaret, who is cranky, and Christine, who is curious.

But Williams doesn't seem to forget why the company was created or the fate that awaits the yaks.

"We want to give them a good, humane, happy life – and then eat 'em!" he said with a chuckle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Yakking with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture

We had a visit from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture last week.

Thanks to Steve Justis, Ed Jackson and Agriculture Secretary Roger Albee for visiting the farm.

"The yaks seem like great animals," Secretary Albee said. "It is good to see this farm in working operation again."

Six-year-old Theron seems to agree.



Here's a link to the Valley Reporter article.

Vermont's first and only yak business, Mad River Valley's Steadfast Farm, home of the Vermont Yak Company, received a visit from Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Albee last week on November 14. Albee arrived with fellow agency representatives Ed Jackson and Steve Justis.

"The yak is a wonderful animal -- cold-hearty, efficient as a grazer, adaptable, and versatile and is well-suited to Vermont's climate and topography but is little known in Vermont," explained Rob Williams. "So we invited the Department of Agriculture to our farm to learn a bit more about yaks, a bovine that is brand new to the Vermont working landscape."

Albee and his team were favorably impressed.

"The yaks seem like great animals," Albee noted. "And it is good to see what you are doing to bring the farm and the land back to life here."

Raising yaks on a diet of organic grass and supporting a Localvore philosophy of selling to consumers and restaurants within a 100-mile radius, the Vermont Yak Company has had a successful first summer and harvest season. The three-family, two-farm business bought an initial 24 animals from Cold Spring, Minnesota, in April, and then expanded the herd with the purchase of 10 more animals from Tregelly's farm in Massachusetts.

Six calves have been born, three animals sold as bottle-fed babies, and six animals have been "retired" for high protein and low fat meat, sold to neighbors and local restaurants, including American Flatbread, the Round Barn, the Green Cup, and Hen of the Wood.

"We feel very fortunate to have received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the taste and the quality of the meat," explained Susan Laskaris. "We feel it a privilege to provide local meat to our neighbors here in central Vermont and look forward to expanding our operations next spring once we weather the winter months."

Vermont Yak Company is also in the process of training two bottle-fed yaks born at the farm -- six-month-old Tashi and five-month-old Natasha -- to be friendlier with people.

"Our hope is to train these animals to serve as pack and plow animals," observed co-owner Kate Williams. "And daily contact with a wide range of people is vital to that training process."

The owners hope that both animals will serve as "yak ambassadors" of sorts, allowing neighbors and visitors to learn more about yaks over the next several years.

"Natasha lived like a yak queen this summer and fall," said co-owner Dave Hartshorn, who runs the adjacent organic farmstand on Route 100 where Natasha spent her days.

"Fresh grass and water all day long, with a wide variety of vegetables and fruits thrown into the mix, and a steady supply of visitors from both in and out of The Valley. She was a wonderful addition to the farmstand," he said.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

YAK TRACKS: The Yak Poop Flinging Contest (First Ever!)

We had a blast today with a group of UVM students who dropped by the farm to give us some help, meet the yaks, and purchase some meat.

We ended up shoveling yak poop and cleaning up the main pasture for an hour or so, and then engaged in what will no doubt become one of our most important yak farm rituals of the new millennium.

Yak Poop Flinging. A contest, even.

Here's some yak poop:



And here's a video of the flinging contest. Sam won a free pound of Vermont Maple yak sausage with his remarkable fling.

Must be something in the water in Oregon, his home state.

Take a look:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Yak Tracks: Yak Calf Touch Down (Bad News, Then Good News)

Our first snowfall of the winter arrived in Mad River Valley two days ago, and with it, and somewhat unexpectedly, two brand-new calves.

Unfortunately, one arrived in the middle of the night - blowing snow and sub-zero temperatures - and we didn't find her until late the next morning. She didn't make it - and the sadness of feeling the passing of a creature we didn't get a chance to know was tough. Mother Lila, a beautiful Trim with wonderful eyes - indicated her sadness, too, with plenty of grunting and exploration of the pasture.

But tempering this was the birth to one of our Royals - Oreo - of a new calf later in the day.

Emma named her "Lucky," and we all agree that a better name could not be found.

Here she is:

Monday, October 20, 2008

FROM MAINE: Taste Test - Cow versus Yak

From a Maine neighbor and former "yak virgin."

Official Maine Yak Report.

Grilled to medium rare along with a couple of well-marbled rib eyes roughly the same thickness.

10 minutes direct high (5 minutes/side) + 3 minutes/side indirect medium.

Family taste test results:

1. Yak had a more distinctive flavor than beef. Daughter Lily said, "Yummy!" I concur.
2. Yak was slightly tougher but still nice and tender.
3. Grilled up similar to beef.

Unanimous thumbs up!

Best wishes for future yakkin'.

YAK TRACKS: Yakking About Autumn in Mad River

Oh, to be a yak, on the hill, at Steadfast Farm, under the warmth of the autumn sun.

The next best thing?

To be a yak farmer, on the hill, at Steadfast Farm, under the warmth of the autumn sun.

Simply stunning...

Here's how we conduct our monthly Vermont Yak Company business meetings.



And look! Even dogs like yak meat.



And here's herding on the hill - yak on!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Yak Snap Shots

Random snapshots of Vermont Yak Company this fall.

Our bottle-fed calf Natasha, who loves eating pumpkins. (Notice her orange nose.)



Our table at the Saturday Farmer's Market, our primary venue for meat sales.



The triumphant return of Janet Onyak, our favoritely-named customer, on her birthday.



Our neighbor and friend Dan samples our sweet Italian sausage. Yum!

Monday, September 22, 2008

YAK TRACKS: YAK-toberfest Surprise - "Bulls Go Wild!"

From the Round Barn's kitchen, and chef Charlie Menard:

"Last night, we had the Art Show Opening at the Round Barn, I served a Yak-toberfest appetizer.

A roasted Hartshorn potato round, topped with Yak Bratwurst, braised cabbage, apples and sour cream -Yum!"

Yum indeed. Thanks for yet another remarkable recipe idea, Charlie!

The yaks are kicking up their heels,

Rob

Friday, September 19, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Boyden Valley Winery Meets Vermont Yak Company

I haven't enjoyed a sit down four course three hour meal in a long time.

And I have NEVER done so at an eatery like the Common Man, with an exclusively Localvore food focus.

Here's the Boyden Valley winery team describing their Big Barn red, which the chefs paired with our braised yak.

What a meal. What a night.

Monday, September 15, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Eat Local! Wine-Braised Yak at the Common Man

September in Mad River Valley brings the one week "Eat Local" Challenge - can we exclusively eat foods grown or produced within a 100 mile radius of our homes?

Here's Keith at the Common Man restaurant talking about his Localvore food menu for the week, including (are you sitting down?), Boyden Valley Winery's Big Barn Red leveraged for a wine-braised yak. Zoinks.

Our two kids - Anneka and Theron - packed yak chili for school lunch today.

It's gonna be a good week.

Friday, September 12, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Welcome to our first royal yak calf!

Exciting news at the farm.

One of our royal cows - Yingyang - gave birth to a new calf in the wee hours of the morning.

Here's a look at the new rascal, probably 5 or 6 hours old at this point.

Friday, September 5, 2008

YAK TRACKS: WINING with YAK

So what kinds of wine go well with yak?

I had no idea, but fortunately, our neighbor Joerg Klauck of Vermont Wine Merchants knows just about everything there is to know about wine, including what berries might fit with the unique taste of yak.

Here he is at an August 2008 farmer's market, waxing rhapsodic about a "Pinotage" variety, as well as some other suggestions.

Kate and I tried a 2006 Pinotage with our yak this past week - it proved phenomenal.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Yakking at the Labor Day Farmer's Market

How fun is working at the Farmer's Market?

So fun, and you know you've had a good day when you work for Vermont Yak Company, and you meet a customer named Janet Onyak.

"On Yak." 

I'm not kidding.

Here's Janet, holding on of our signature bumper stickers. Good to meet you, Janet!

In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, author Bill McKibben observes that farmer's markets serve as vital social and communal "glue," where folks have significantly more conversations than they do shopping in large corporately-owned commercial grocery stores. After one month of working at the market, this has certainly been my experience - we cover a whole range of topics related to local news and world events, from the weather to politics to food/cooking (of course) to - well, you name it. 

And we get to feed and sell to folks good, healthy, local meat in the bargain. Here's a look at our three kinds of sausage - Beer Brats, Vermont Maple and Sweet Italian (from top to bottom) - we sold out of all of the links, but will have more in just two-three weeks.



And thanks to Susan for the beautiful white board sign - very good to have an artist as a business partner - and Dave for the giant zook.



Saturday, August 23, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Behind the Seams, Yak-Wise

Our neighbor Dennis Derryberry passed on some interesting information related to "yak couture" - apparently, yak (and Asian fiber generally)  is making some waves as a fabulous fiber in higher end fashion circles. 

Check out Stewart Brown for Mongolian goat, and Shokay for yak - two very different companies using Asian fiber as part of their fashion vision.




YAK TRACKS: Yakking up at Knoll Farm

Our good friends up at Knoll Farm purchased some yak last week, and turned Chef Chez loose - she did some really nifty cooking for their guests.

Read her "yak attack" entry here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

YAK TRACKS: "After the Yaks Of Summer Have Gone..."

You remember that ole' Don Henley tune, right?

It fits.

"I can see you, your brown hair shining in the sun
You're walking real slow, smiling at every one..."

OK, work with me here. 

We "retired" our first three yaks one month ago - humanely, in a family-owned small scale butchering outfit within 30 minutes of the farm - and have spent the last several weeks "debuting" our yak meat here in Mad River. August events have included:

1. "Taste of the Valley" at Sugarbush's Lincoln Peak lodge and resort - thanks to Dave and Paula for spearheading this event.

2. "American Flatbread": One of Mad River Valley's favorite eateries featured a "beer braised yak" menu item on their early August menu - they moved more than 60 of the yak specials in two nights, a goodly number, we're told. The yak flatbread was made with poblano peppers, local corn and other local items. We showed up to give it a try and celebrate.



Here's chef Paul from Flatbread telling us about how to create beer-braising yak:



3. Farmer's Market: We've sold yak meat and sausage for two weeks running now at the Waitsfield Farmer's Market - a wonderful privilege, to be able to share our yak meat with our neighbors.



We plan to "retire" 3-4 more of our four-hooved friends for the fall harvest - and feel honored to be learning so much about animal husbandry and raising local food.

Here's to a bountiful fall harvest coming up, and much yakking ahead.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Summer at the Yak Farm - Video Vignettes

Anyone who farms will tell you. The list of chores is endless. On the list right now, on top of daily herd maintenance:

TO DO: Get the hay in (if the durn rain would stop for even 24 hours); brushhog the fields; cut fence line grass and burdocks; test the headgate; tag the new yaks; emasculate the bull calves; prepare for "Taste of the Valley" event on August 4...

But what fun, especially when you can farm with your neighbors and friends.

Here's a few video vignettes for you of summer on the farm:

Ted, Kate and Nick test our new head gate (big shout out to Dave and Ted for spearheading this project):



Bottle feeding the yak calves (yak milk maidens are indeed a glorious sight):



And we finally got our Vermont Yak Company sign posted up on Route 100 (Big shout out to Susan for painting the sign - a woman of many talents) - look for the "Local First" white flag and Dave's red "Hartshorn Farm Stand" sign, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Yakking with the C.I.A.

That's the Culinary Institute of America. Not the other CIA, featured in this photo.

(Those other guys sure get around, though, don't they? I won't make any "Yak Water Security" jokes. Promise. Though to deflect any verbal assaults, I am wearing my "yak jacket" while blogging this morning.)

Back to the story of the food-focused CIA...

We met CIA chef/professor Michael Pardus exactly one month ago at the Hudson River Clearwater Musical Festival, when Anneka and his daughter Sierra hit it off while playing soccer together.

Mike is very modest, but it turns out he is a bit of a legend in the cooking world, and with a particular interest and expertise in Asian cooking, Mike is excited about getting involved with Vermont Yak Company, and helping us yak about the yaks. He stopped by Vermont Yak Company last week with his daughter Sierra for a visit, and we ended up spending time on the farm and at the butcher's, where he gave us some good advice about preparing yak meat.

Here he is working his magic in our kitchen - welcome aboard, Mike!





Monday, July 21, 2008

YAK TRACKS: Burlington Free Press Yaks About the Yaks

Here's a rare shot of all six of us (or, our backsides, anyway) - from left to right, Kate, Susan, Paula, Dave, Ted and yours truly behind the camera - moving the animals down from the "upper west side" - last week, prior to our monthly business meeting.

Thanks to journalist Lauren Ober, photographer Alison Redlich, and the "Burlington Free Press," Vermont's largest daily newspaper, for yakking about our yaks today on the front page of their Monday "Business Monday" section.

We are excited about our new business venture, and we appreciate Lauren telling our story with such gusto.

A side note, as many folks have asked: the best to time to stop by for a visit at the farm is week days around 5:00, when we bring the herd into the corral for our daily "yakking" session - grain and good company. It never hurts to call ahead, either - as no one day is like any other.

Hope to see you at the farm.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Yak to the Future: Yakking It Up at the July 4, 2008 Parade!


What a blast we had on July 4, 2008 at Mad River Valley's annual Warren independence parade. It was a family affair - Tashi, Midnight Sun and Roxanne (3 of our 4 bottle-feds - our youngest yaks) rode in the hay wagon with Dave, Kate and a potpourri of kids through Warren's narrow main street, lined with throngs of independence day revelers. We handed out "Yak to the Future" bumper stickers, and afterward, parked the hay wagon up at Brooks Field so folks could come and visit with the yaks. That afternoon, we spent 3 hours up at Sugarbush's Lincoln Peak with the yaks - greeting visitors and enjoying what was truly a stunningly beautiful July day in Vermont.

The following morning found us with our three calves at the Farmer's Market with record crowds - and more curious well-wishers.

We are hoping that this July 4th "Yak Party" will become an annual affair here in Mad River. Thanks to everyone who came to talk with us, meet the yaks, buy T Shirts, and learn more about our four-hooved friends.

And thanks to our neighbor Amalia Veralli for the photos here!



Here's some video!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yak to the Future: And Then There Were Four (Yak Calves)


Christine, our most curious yak, and the infamous Route 100 "wrangled by Dave Hartshorn" runaway, has had a calf.

She's not ready for us to get too close for a "photo opp" yet - here're the two of them cozying up in the corral.

We think our little one is a girl.

Yakking to the future, indeed.

Yakking to the Future: Welcome Baby Yak "Midnight Sun"

Meet "Midnight Sun."

Born on the Solstice - June 21, 2008.

Daughter of Cynthia.

Welcome, "Sunny"!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yak Chef's Challenge: What Does Yak Taste Like? (Chefs Weigh In)

Here's a video snapshot of our taste test.


Yak Chef's Challenge: What Does Yak Taste Like? (Chefs Weigh In)

We invited four Valley chefs to whip up something wonderful with our yak meat.

Boy, did they deliver.

My favorite was the "Yak Wellington," a tender piece of yak wrapped in a pita-like bread blanket, dipped in a spicy mustard sauce, and served on a bed of fresh local greens and vegetables.

To quote Jerry, the hilarious head chef from Sugarbush Resort's "Timbers" restaurant: "I'd buy yak meat," he concluded. "I wouldn't flinch for a moment."

We then took "American Flatbread" chef Jeremy Silansky over to the farm next door to help us herd. I think he had fun, despite the ninety degree heat and humidity.

Special thanks to John and Trey at the 1824 House Inn, for hosting our very first "Yak Chef's Challenge"!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Yak Yard: How Much Fun Is a Yak Calf?


Let us count the ways.

Tashi is a milk-guzzling machine - 3 pints a day (that's one gallon of milk, plus). We are keeping our dairy farm neighbors in business, we are.

Check out the newest Vermont Yak videos for fun footage of bottle feeding and "walking" Tashi in the yak yard - and we use the term "walking" very loosely.

Yak on,

Rob




Friday, May 30, 2008

Yak Calf Number 2: Meet "Natasha"!


Here's Paula with our newest yak calf, "Natasha."

Ain't they cute?


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prince Yak Spian: Yak Hair for Trumpkin!

For those of you who saw the brilliant dwarf actor Peter Dinklage play the dour Trumpkin in the new Prince Caspian movie, I am sure you recognized that his red beard was comprised of yak hair.

Or are we the only ones who notice these things?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Con Yak u lations: Baby #2 Born Yesterday!

We brought the whole herd down from the "upper west side" yesterday to the corral. When we did a head count (or is a "herd count"?), we discovered one missing mama - sweet Pema.

We found her up in the upper west pasture - standing watch over her new baby.

All of the little one's afterbirth had been licked off - leading us to think our calf had been in this world for at least several hours, if not a day or so.

Here's a glimpse of the two of them.







Question: Where do you keep a baby yak?

Answer: out in the yack yard!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yak 'Napping: Bringing Our First Calf Home

Meet Tashi, the first yak born on Vermont soil! Here he is at three days old.


How to describe our first yak 'napping? (And what verb to use? Removing? Shanghai'ing? Extracting?)

Some context - we want many of our yaks born in Vermont to be comfortable around people, so we can bring our four-legged hairy friends to farmer's markets, use them as pack and plow animals, and yes, ride them, like that crazy CEO in Seattle we talked about last week.

The only way to do this is to bring our yaks into the human family from a very early age - removing them from their mothers and their herd at the tender age of five days or so, bottle feeding them (yes, we are serious) using raw cow's milk, and setting them up in comfortable "digs" (in our case, an 8 x 10 foot corral in the yard).

Laugh if you will. But this process is called "domestication" (right?), and people have been doing practicing it for 10,000 years or so, give or take.

So here we are, with a five day old yak calf and only the experience of others to go on.

Thank goodness (again) we've got a business partner who know no fear. Dave Hartshorn got up in the "upper west side" on Friday afternoon (that's our westernmost pasture paddock) and single-handedly wrested Tashi away from the herd, while almost being gored by several yaks in the process. He is fearless, our neighbor, and we are the better for him (again).

Once he got Stormy and Tashi down to the corral, it was relatively simple to separate mother and calf, nothing a lasso, a corral gate, and some distraction couldn't take care of.

Mother Stormy was not pleased, and who can blame her? She grunted vociferously after we removed Tashi from her care, and returned to the corral several times over the next few days, sometimes in the company of other yaks in the herd, to methodically search the enclosure for signs of her young one, grunting in each of the corral's four corners to satisfy her own sense of loss. The three mothers of the six of us understand this sentiment deep in their bones, and we consoled ourselves by reminding each other than Tashi and the herd would be much better off in the long run, being able to safely and successfully interact with humans (and eventually, the herd once again) after finishing their training.

We brought Tashi home in a dog crate and set him up in the "yak pad" in the yard. All the comforts of home.




Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yak Package: Wait, It's a BOY!

Wait. Let's see that again.


That's the look of an irate Mama (Stormy) after charging me from across the corral.

And here's the little one, under one day old.

There's just no telling what you might find under a newborn yak's belly when you look.

Like a "yak package," for example. Testes. Cojones. 

Yep. "Baby May" is, in fact, a boy. A bull calf-in-training.

We're leaning towards the name "Tashi," which is a Tibetan word meaning "prosperity." (Thanks, Kate, for doing some research here.)

Mama Stormy and Baby Tashi spent the morning in the corral yesterday, sleeping and nursing.
Stormy wandered off into the pasture late in the afternoon, leaving Tashi behind. Dave kindly reunited the two up in the pasture later that evening.

Looks like Tashi will come home for bottle-feeding and training on Friday.

Needless to say, the kids are excited.




Monday, May 12, 2008

Yak Tacular! Our first calf arrives at Steadfast Farm...


We've been waiting for the calves to drop.

And tonight around 5:45 p.m., the first one - we're calling her "May" for now - arrived.

Her Mama (a wonderful yak named Stormy - #53) was back up and on her feet by the time we arrived at 6:15, and "May" followed soon after, being licked and nuzzled by her mama, and occasionally having horns rubbed up against her, as well.

Interestingly, our other three mamas - Lady Slipper, Mary Jane, and Black Magic Woman - all paid a visit, and Stormy backed off and let them each take their turn sniffing and welcoming the new one. The three new bull calves came to say Hello, as well.

On a stranger note -

Papa Ringo soon sauntered over, sniffed the new one, and promptly tucked his horn under the calf and threw her into the air a few times. A bit un-nerving - clearly, our Wooly male needs a parenting class - and Dave hopped the fence to chase him off, almost getting charged by Mama Stormy, but not before Dave picked up the little one and moved her away from the big bull.

Good thing Dave's wife Paula is a counselor. Clearly, Ringo is going need some coaching on the couch.

Here's a look at Mama Stormy and Baby May...
video

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Take Your Yak To Work: One Seattle CEO's Yak Experience

As we embark on our yak adventure, we are encouraged by stories from around the world about yaks and the people who love them.

Case in point - one CEO in Seattle brings his "royal" yak (that's a yak with a white and black coat) to his office everyday to bring a little "levity" to his eight person web development team's work.

And the poop? Nothing a shovel can't fix.

Watch the hilarious video of our new yak hero riding his yak in his office.

Ain't yaks the coolest?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Yakking About Yak Cheese: The "New York Times" Weighs In...

Yesterday's New York Times take a close and critical look at new scientific claims surrounding yak cheese.

Bring on that "wild Himalayan milk," indeed.




Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Better than Cheddar? The Heart-Healthy Benefits of Yak Cheese

Thanks to our neighbor Josh Golin down in Arlington, Massachusetts for passing on this piece of good news.

It appears to be all about the conjugated linoleic acid. Who knew?

While we hadn't planned on it, maybe we should get the milk and cheese-making operation going.

Read more in this "Science Daily" article.

Thanks, Josh, for the yak fact.

Yak: What Does It Taste Like?

Greetings yak friends far and near!

Our new food critic and friend Suzanne Podhaizer just e-mailed us this blog description of the taste of yak.

She captured the unique masticatory  (is that a word?) and culinary sensations of yak quite well.

As I like to say, eating a "tender strip" of yak sirloin may change your life. 

And Kate's "divine" yak chili? Enough said.

Once you go yak, you'll never go back.

Read Seven Days food critic Suzanne Podhaizer's succulent summary here.



Friday, May 2, 2008

"On The Yak Track" - Thanks, Suzanne and Seven Days!

One week ago now, Seven Days food critic Suzanne Podhaizer and her husband Dan paid Steadfast Farm a call.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon - sunny, still, and cooling off for the evening - and, all of us had a chance to break the ice at the farm, eating  yak sausage on top of Vermont cheddar slices, and quaffing a few Wolavers by the corral underneath the prayer flags.

Backing up, I admit to being a bit nervous - I am a huge fan of Suzanne's writing, especially appreciating her abiding  interest in all things localvore, and the prospect of meeting a real live food critic was both exciting and a bit nerve-racking. Kate and I told Anneka and Theron that a "food critic" was coming to dinner, and we had to be on our best behavior, and focus the culinary, and we promised that she'd be much nicer than Anton Ego, the irascibly terrifying character in the wonderful 2007 animated Disney film "Ratatouille." (which we've seen a number of times as a family).

Plus, we are amateur chefs at best, though we love to cook and had already experimented a bit in the kitchen  with the sweet and succulent taste of yak.

The yaks proved spirited as we brought them in from the upper pasture for the evening. After we got them settled, we headed up the hill for a dinner of yak sausages, salt-and-pepper rubbed yak sirloins, and Kate's magnificent (if I do say so myself) yak chili, supplemented with local organic greens from Dave's gardens, and local Red Hen bread, dipped in Paula's phenomenal garlic and olive oil concoction. 

A fire in the outside hearth, good conversation, and a La Brioche dessert completed a pleasant evening - and, as always, I learned that our Vermont neighbors are multi-talented, full of good stories, and always interested in looking forward.

Thanks Suzanne and Dan for visiting - and come back again soon.

Read Suzanne Podhaizer's story here.

Yakking it up with New England Cable News

NECN reporter Anya Huneke visited Steadfast Farm on Wednesday to meet the yaks.

We had fun - though Lady Slipper and Christine proved as ornery as always. 

Watch the NECN TV News story here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yak-Inspired Local Poetry...

Our friend and neighbor Drew Simmons composed a poem about yak for his newly-created "May 14 Yak To Work Day."

Read the yak poem at your own risk at his Pale Morning Media blog - Wicked Outdoorsy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Week 1: Yaks - The Quintessential Vermont Symbol

It is difficult to explain how one's life changes with the arrival of 24 yaks to the neighborhood.

I'm feeling a bit more hopeful about our future, and it wasn't just the sun, blue sky, and return of spring last week to Mad River that inspired this sentiment. 

No, something about our 24 newly-arrived hairy, hooved, horn-y four-legged neighbors is motivational. Somehow.  What is it?

Maybe it is that I'm realizing that the yak is the quintessential Vermont denizen, a symbol of Vermont, perhaps, and Vermonters themselves.

I know, this may be a stretch, but bear with me while I yak for a moment. 

Here's my sense. "Bos grunniens" - the grunting bovine - has a number of traits that make her the perfect Green Mountain inhabitant.

1. Like the state of Vermont vis-a-vis the other 49 states, yaks are smaller than most other bovines - and much more efficient consumers of forage. 3-4 yaks will consume the same amount of grass as 1 cow, and consume less water.  Now that's efficiency, yak-style.

2. Like Vermonters visa-vis the citizens of the other 49 states, yaks are quieter than most bovines. No moo-ing here. Only occasional grunts, and only when necessary. Shhhh. You won't hear them unless you shut up and listen.

3. Like Vermonters, yaks are sure-footed, adaptable, cold-resistant, a bit stubborn, and know how to work in a variety of ways - and, unlike cows, they sleep and give birth lying down. Smart critters.

4. Like Vermonters, yaks are sociable and gregarious when living in groups in whom they trust, and are ferocious defenders of their herd and their young. "Ornery" is the word that springs to mind - yaks have horns, and know how to use them if backed into a corner. 

Here's a story of near-disaster turned inspiration - one of many from last week.

One of our yaks - Christine - got separated from the rest of the group while we were unloading the herd from our 50 foot trailer last Monday morning. So, she did what any yak would do - she jumped the makeshift fence, and took off (and I mean, galloped) up Route 100, looking for the rest of her herd. (If only I had remembered to bring my video camera as we gave chase.)

My neighbor and business partner David (a Hartshorn, a farmer, and a gifted man with bovines - he grew up on the very same dairy farm that is now occupied by our yak, wrangling heifers before breakfast as a teenager) ultimately managed to lasso our ornery gal, after 25 minutes or so of attempts to steer her back to the corral failed. The sight of David and his father Paul hog-tying (or yak-tying) Christine together - two generations of Vermonters getting acquainted with this new arrival - is one I will not soon forget.

And then David said:

"You know, the difference between cows and yaks is that yaks can turn on you quick - and they ALL have horns.'

Like I said. "Ornery."

More yakking soon - come visit us.

Rob


Sunday, March 23, 2008

New babies!


Our yaks are still in Minnesota (less than a month until their arrival here - we're in the countdown!). And we've just learned that our herd has grown from 20 to 22! Over the last couple of days, 2 healthy calves were born. It is a good sign that these calves have arrived early, as this is when the western herds typically calve, and they tend to have a higher calving rate. We're hoping our herd continues to grow, and can't wait to welcome all of the animals to our farm in the Mad River Valley.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Yak T-Shirts Are Here!


Check out our new "Vermont Yak Company" T Shirts.

Available in five colors - adult and kids sizes.

As we gear up for our yaks' April arrival, we are beginning to get excited.

Please visit our online store for purchase - and sport your support for Vermont's first yak herd.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vermont Yak's Steadfast Farm - Dead of Winter 2008

We know, we know.

This January day is cold and cloudy.

The barn is not yet painted.

But imagine, if you will, 20 yaks cavorting on that far hillside come April....

video

Welcome to our Vermont Yak Company adventure!

Hello friends, neighbors and yak enthusiasts everywhere!

We are embarking on an exciting new adventure - to establish Vermont's first yak herd here in the Mad River Valley.

Stay tuned for more news - our 20 yak will be arriving at Steadfast Farm in mid-April.

In the meantime, please visit our website for more information.