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Wildhaven Ranch

There’s a free-range lifestyle going on over at a ranch in St. Stephen, SC and I am loving it. Do you like your free-range goat to hang out with your free-range chickens while they wave to your free-range pig? Then step in to Wildhaven Ranch run by Karen Biddlecom and her husband.

King and Queen of Wildhaven Ranch
King and Queen of Wildhaven Ranch

Nice, open, and generous people. I knew I liked Karen when she busted out my same sunscreen in pale-girl 110SPF and doused it on my shoulders (I had forgotten mine.). And I knew we were going to be friends when she started talking about what I’m most passionate about in the world, The Real Housewives. Call me crazy, but St. Teresa Guidice and His Holiness, Andy Cohen, had to have brought us together for a reason. And I’m pretty sure that reason was goats.

eating time
eating time
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lining up for food
So, he's obviously in charge.
So, this one’s obviously in charge.

There were so. many. goats. Karen raises ’em up and she sent Alfonso and I home with the right stuff to cook ’em. Like I said about the chicklets, just don’t think about it too hard. We’ll get to the recipes later, but for now you have to check out the Biddlecoms’ bucolic farm.

Ok. Just one more goat.

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Mixed in with the goats were chickens, a turkey, and a couple of roosters with a masculinity complex, causing them to constantly be separated by a chained gate. This one is the most handsome, or so he feels.

world's most beautiful rooster
world’s most beautiful rooster

Running around alongside Mr. Beautiful is a turkey.

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“Come here little turkey for your close up…gobble gobble gobble!”-me to the turkey
"Nope. Nope Nope. Imma just skip on out of here, thanks!" -the turkey to me
“Nope. Nope Nope. Imma just skip on out of here, k, thanks!” -the turkey to me

The goats eventually are sent to a processor (Which hopefully we will get to go back and see one day.) and then sold as sausages, cuts of meat to be grilled, organ meat for pâtés etc., and skin for chicharrones. Karen so graciously gave us lots of variety from their goat, lamb (kept at another farm), cow, and chicken stock- eggs and honey included! We even got a little surprise that neither Alfonso nor I had ever tried before. Just wait for the recipe, you’re going to die.

smelling that gorgeous honey
smelling that gorgeous honey
checking it out in the light
checking it out in the light- pure gold!

After we hung out with the little goaties and their friends, we headed to see the ponies and horses. First stop, Rick Flair’s house.

Rick Flair
Rick Flair

It’s true, the Nature Boy took his titles and retirement and moved to Wildhaven Ranch. Rick, like many of the Ranch’s animals are rescues. Karen has a huge heart for animals and works every day to make their lives pleasant there on the ranch with her. Rick hangs out next door to the guard llama.

Side note: Notice how I have literally not used an animal’s name once? The sheer volume of animals and unique names, I believe, cancelled out my ability to remember even one! Karen, on the other names animals and their back stories like I can still recall the juicy middle school gossip of yesteryear AND who really stole whose best friend.

Back to Rick’s guard llama.

She's looking left.
She’s looking left.
She's looking right.
She’s looking right.

This lady is around 14 years old. She hangs out with the goats all day and has a front row seat to the long dirt driveway, so she can inspect those who come in. Watch out! Because she will literally do nothing to you. Watching her walk around in the middle of all the goats is hysterical though.

Among the other animals live several horses. They are all rescue, I believe, and they are now living out their days hanging out with Karen and her family. From what I understand some of the horses were up for kill auction and some were leftover show horses, or both. They all now lounge and munch hay on the spacious ranch.

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Before we took a spin in the golf cart to see some of the areas where the Biddlecoms plan on expanding their ranch- more space, more goats- Karen popped in her on ranch home to scrounge us up a snack and some farm goodies. Alfonso took the opportunity to get his “farm portrait” made for Wildhaven.

tomando el sol
tomando el sol

We talk a lot about the fun and adventurous side of the food and beverage industry, but what gets glossed over sometimes is the shear exhaustion that comes with it and the stress that it causes on one’s life. Being trapped between four walls in the back of some tiny kitchen 12 hours a day will get to anyone, even if you are pursuing a dream. For this reason I am grateful to Wildhaven Ranch (and the other farms we’ve visited so far) for giving me the opportunity to capture these moments when Chef Fonz feels most himself and stress-free.

And out comes Karen with some Krispy Kreme!

"We support Krispy Kreme." -Karen Biddlecom
“We support Krispy Kreme.” -Karen Biddlecom

We indulged on some free-range (just kidding) doughnuts while we talked Bravo TV, then we hopped on the golf cart and saw the rest of the ranch.

future site of the Wildhaven Ranch Episcopal Chapel
future site of the Wildhaven Ranch Episcopal Chapel

Karen showed us a run down shack that was part of the farm when they bought it and told me of her plans to paint the door “Episcopalian blue.” I think it’s a fine idea. Behind the chapel is a small pond that will eventually be part of a larger pond and hopefully provide a water source for the farm. For now, it is The Ranch Dog Swim Club. Beside the pond is the best representation of the Wildhaven Ranch philosophy.

the Love Tree
the Love Tree

Karen loves her husband, loves her animals, and they love her too. The animals live out their lives running, trotting, galloping, sloughing, and grazing around the farm and there is not an aggressive one in sight. We should raise children like Karen raises her animals. Just kidding. Maybe.

At the tail end of our golf cart ride, we met the peacocks. They lay eggs and give off feathers. The males can’t be let out because they have commitment issues and will run off looking for neighbor ladies, but we got to catch one female spreading her wings.

The world is yours lady!
The world is yours lady!

We left Wildhaven Ranch with an invitation to come back and have some cocktails, a plan for a future visit to their other farm and processing spot, and a sack full of goat, lamb, chicken, bee, and cow products. What a morning!

We whipped up a couple of recipes the day we got home and I’ve been braising lamb rib chops all day today, so stay tuned for our next blog post to see all we’ve made so far with our goodies from Wildhaven Ranch! Biddlecoms- we love you and we love your ranch, and we can’t wait to show you what we’ve been cooking. Check out their facebook page to see where you can get some top shelf free-range meats in the Charleston area.

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Storey Farms

Do you know what chickens pecking at your legs feels like? I do and it’s the equivalent of those little tiny pedicure fish that pick at and eat the dead skin cells off your feet. Except these ladies weren’t trying to give me a pedicure. They were probably thinking, “What is this woman doing in my pen and in my face?”

chicken level
chicken level

Or at least that’s what I gathered from the expression on her face.

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Storey Farms is a smallish (almost 3000 chickens!) free-range, egg producing chicken farm in John’s Island, SC- right up the road from our house. The egg guys, Johnny and Jeremy from Chicago, saw a need for local chicken eggs in Charleston and pounced. They tossed out the duck egg idea when they realized that ducks are divas- flying around, laying eggs in the water, basically mucking up the process.

Before we actually got to the chickens we hung out with the real bosses of the farm, Java and Lucy, the farm dogs.

NAME AND NAME
Java and Lucy

They were our shadow while we checked out all Storey Farms has to offer. Even when Johnny went ahead in the tractor, Java and Lucy stayed behind like good little tour guides. They are definitely Storey Farms royalty.

hitching a ride
hitching a ride

The most important part of an egg producing farm is obviously the chickens, so that’s what we checked out first. When we arrived some were eating, some were flitting about in the yard, and some were busy popping out eggs.

Chicken playground
chicken playground- They all came up to say hi!

Johnny showed us where they eat, drink, play, and lay.

glamour shot!
glamour shot!
This was a giant coup!
This was a giant coup!

He also showed us a couple of mobile chicken coups on the other side of the farm where the chickens can hang out in a little grass. Can chickens be, as my Pappy would have said, spoiled rotten? Yes, chickens can be spoiled rotten, but in the end it’s good for everybody- happy chickens, delicious eggs!

one of the mobile coups
one of the mobile coups
time for water at mobile coup number 1!
time for water at mobile coup number 1!
ladies in the grass
ladies in the grass

I get the impression that Johnny loves his work, but while the chickens are relaxed, Johnny is on the farm basically from sun up to sun down and sometimes more. There is a lot of stress involved in making sure your free-range chickens are well taken care of- water, food, egg collecting- all at the right time so as not to mess up the chickens’ routines. But, man does it pay off. Look at this stunning chicken!

stuntin'
stuntin’

She’s like, “I just laid my egg, my feathers are looking right, and here I am ruling my roost in this nice sunshine. I think later maybe I’ll hang out in this cool grass. What are you going to do, Johnny? Oh, take care of my every want and need? Thanks!”

There are other animals on the farm too, including two very territorial geese and two giant slobbering pigs! Johnny said he’s hoping to raise the pigs for their own consumption, but for now they are just hanging out next to the chickens, eating Normandy Farms bread, like two bosses.

I see you there.
I see you there.

After we saw where the chickens live and lay, we headed up a short dirt road to check out the egg collection and washing. Our friends, Java and Lucy, obviously played our shadows for the walk. Funny story: Java is unable to pass by a body of water (there are a few small bodies of water in and around the farm) with out going for a swim. He even chased the heron down in this beautiful little swamp/lagoon.

I mean, how gorgeous is this land?
I mean, how gorgeous is this land?

When you don’t catch the heron, but you had a nice dirty swim anyway:

NAME
Java

The walk in had tons of washed and cleaned eggs ready for packing up and delivering to local restaurants,

eggs in the walk in
eggs in the walk in

but the coolest part was the egg washing machine (made in the 1940’s, I believe). First, you put the eggs on the conveyor belt,

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then you shine a bright light through them to check for cracks or imperfections.

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Then, they travel down a little more through water and some bristles, and roll out the other side!

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clean and ready to deliver
clean and ready to deliver

On the way out we met what will eventually be Storey Farms’ first venture into free-range meat chickens, but for now they are cute little chicklets. Just don’t think about it too long.

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We left Storey Farms grateful for the opportunity to see where our eggs come from and in awe of the amount of work it takes to bring Charleston fresh, local, free-range eggs. Make a trip to the John’s Island Farmer’s Market to snatch up a carton or eat them at many local restaurants. Storey Farms hasn’t been around too long, but they are definitely here to stay. Thanks to Johnny for showing us around and obliging all my questions and photos- we had a great time. Don’t work too hard!


Alfonso had to make sure he got his obligatory farm portrait made- just look at the landscape (and that sweet face!)!

2 farm portraits down!
2 farm portraits down!

We’ll be back next week with more from our Where Do Our Ingredients Come From series, in the meantime check out our visit to Blue Pearl Farms from earlier in the week if you missed it!

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Blue Pearl Farms

Things we learned on our trip to Blue Pearl Farms:

  • When you are gentle with the bees, the bees are gentle with you.
  • Sometimes a berry that is blue is not always a perfectly ripe blueberry.
  • We reeeeeeeeeally want to go back in September and see the Atlantic Blue Crab harvest.

After loosing ourselves for a moment we finally found Blue Pearl Farms, located in McClellanville, SC, right up Highway 17 from Charleston.

Cheri and Robert on their farm
Cheri and Robert on their farm
the cutest birdhouse I have ever seen
the cutest birdhouse I have ever seen

We arrived, met the husband and wife duo, and jumped right into a beekeeping lesson with expert bee whisperer, Cheri. I did not know it when I put on my best farm gear that morning (black yoga pants and a black tank top) that I had dressed myself up as a bear. So, Alfonso was the one who got up close and personal with the bees and I put on a white t-shirt I had in the car and a mesh hat so I could get close enough for pictures.

First up: If you want to bee keep, you should wear a suit.

Suit up!
Suit up!

I don’t know anything about bees’ inner thoughts. However, I imagine that if my caretaker was as gentle and knowledgeable as Cheri and I lived on an organic blueberry farm, I would most definitely be a happy bee. We learned that bees recognize the faces of their caregivers, so Cheri has a couple of practices that make them love her even more when they see her. She always gives them a little sugar water spray to let them know she’s a fun person to be a bee around and she never smokes them out of their home to get the goods, so as not to stress them out. Who wants honey from stressed out bees?

beekeeping
beekeeping

While we were watching, Cheri began to take out some frames from the box to show us how the bees work. Did you know it takes ten drops of nectar to make 1 drop of honey?

so cool
so cool
Holy bees!
Holy bees!
Have you ever been this close to a bee before?
Have you ever been this close to a bee before?

Another fun fact: Bees are attracted to the Wi-Fi signal in our phones, so snapchat at your own risk. It was so funny. At first I thought I was imagining it because Cheri had told me about the bees and the Wi-Fi, but they seriously buzzed at me when I was using my phone and slowly buzzed away when I had stopped. Maybe it was their way of telling me to get off social media and pay attention!

Before the bee session was over we got to taste some honey right off the comb! It was smooth and beautifully sweet with a little wax to chew on. This is how all honey should taste. It opened up the palate and left a broad floral note singing in my mouth long after we had moved on to the next stage.

Where's the face with the heart eyes emoji?
Where’s the face with the heart eyes emoji?
chef Fonz eyeing the comb for taste number two
chef Fonz eyeing the comb for taste number two

While Cheri changed out of her beekeeping clothes and in to her blueberry picking clothes, Robert showed off their blueberries, not that they needed much talking up.

rows and rows of blueberries
rows and rows of blueberries
mix of ripe and non-ripe blueberries
mix of ripe and non-ripe blueberries

Blue Pearl Farms “follow[s] organic and sustainable principles, relying on mulch, compost, and natural materials to support plant health. [They] use no synthetic chemicals and will always be GMO-free.” (taken from their website) I love that this is their policy.

We got to see heritage rabbiteye blueberry varieties all over the farm, even some that continue to produce after all of Charleston’s blueberries have been picked and sold. These particular blueberries were just beginning their ascent in to the blue, even now, in June.

heritage rabbiteye blueberries
heritage rabbiteye blueberries

Robert picked lots from the bushes for super necessary taste testing. He gets us.

Gorgeous!
Gorgeous!

As we were wrapping up, Robert showed us their canoes and told us about rowing down the waterways in the Francis Marion National Forest, which backs right up to their farm. He generously offered to let us come canoe one day and check out all the alligators sunbathing in the South Carolina waters. Yes, please!

canoes
canoes

Before we left we had to get a shot of some of their scrumptious products that can be found at the Saturday morning Charleston Farmer’s Market and the Mt. Pleasant Farmer’s Market, held on Tuesdays. Do not think twice about stopping to visit them and picking up some of their delicious goodies! I believe you can also order some things online.

Blue Pearl Farms merch
Blue Pearl Farms merch

Cheri sent us home with blueberries, honey, and some Blueberry Chipotle Barbeque Sauce- they sure do know how to take care of a chef and food blogger! I made a breakfast cake with the blueberries with some cinnamon honey butter to smear on top (recipe below), but we couldn’t help sneak a few when we stopped at the beach on our way home.

blueberries on the beach
blueberries on the beach
Alfonso and the blueberry
Alfonso and the blueberry- ’tis love

Honestly, I would probably prefer to eat the whole thing of blueberries straight from the container, but I wanted to see how they tasted in a yummy baked good. You know when angels place a little heaven in your mouth and all other food taste terrible by comparison? THAT’S how they tasted. The moral of the story is: It doesn’t matter if you eat them raw or you eat them cooked, just eat them.

Blueberry Walnut Breakfast Cake with Cinnamon Honey Butter
Blueberry Walnut Breakfast Cake with Cinnamon Honey Butter

You can just go ahead and drink the honey butter with a straw while you wait on the cake to bake. I halved this recipe, except I used a very full half cup of whole milk, 2 regular sized eggs, and added about 3/4 cup of toasted walnuts. I also made them in 2 large dishes for a more cake-like feel.

toasted walnuts
toasted walnuts

Honey Butter for Blueberry Walnut Breakfast Cake

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1/2 stick softened butter

2 t honey (preferably Blue Pearl Farms raw honey :) )

1/2 t vanilla

freshly grated cinnamon (as much as you like)

Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Place in a serving container and refrigerate for 10 minutes to slightly harden back up. Serve with the breakfast cakes.


We sure enjoyed our visit to Blue Pearl Farms and we look forward to incorporating their products in to our future pop-ups. Their property was beautiful, their spirits gentle, and we hope to visit again one day.

Tomorrow we are headed our to check out some chickens and their eggs- talk to you soon!

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