Studio Russo Photography: Blog en-us (C) Studio Russo Photography (Studio Russo Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:51:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:51:00 GMT Studio Russo Photography: Blog 90 120 Humble Heart Organic Chevre Farm, Elkmont, AL In northern Alabama, nestled away in the Tennessee River Valley, you will find an organic, grass-to-table goat dairy & creamery.  

Welcome to Humble Heart Farms.  This post will explore a day spent on the farm learning about the process of managing a working goat farm.  I gathered tips, recipes, and advice from the family who runs the farm and other farmers. I learned so much about goat cheese!

Goat cheese from Humble Heart Farms is a creamy, fresh and spreadable fromage. No hormones, chemicals, and herbicides are used in the processes at the dairy.  The goats are nourished on grass, grains, and hay. Goat cheese can be used in place of any other cheese, in salads, on burgers, pizza, toppings for bread & crackers,  and toppings for a baked potato or vegetables. It's a healthy alternative to many other types of cheese as it is easier to digest and lower in fat. Fresh cheese from the farm is creamy and delicious.  We also tried a goat cheese salsa, pumpkin goat cheese soup, potato soup, and goat cheesecake! 

Jarett bday-0202_WEBGoat Farm DairyHere is one of the goats basking in the glorious outdoors on the farm grounds. The goats have plenty of room to roam out here in North Alabama.

Humble Heart Farms offers flavored cheese and an original flavored creamy cheese blended with a pinch of salt.  Here are some of the flavors available:

  • French - Rosemary, Garlic, Thyme, and Lavender
  • Honey - A blended cheese using local honey
  • Rio Grande - Garlic, Onion, Tomato and a a jalapeno pepper kick
  • Garden Herb - Onion, Celery, touch of Carrot
  • Tuscan - Sun dried tomatoes, Basil and Garlic
  • Mediterranean - Olive Oil, Sweet Pepper, Oregano, Onion, and Garlic
  • Raspberry Chipotle - Sweet and smokey

Jarett bday-0197_WEBHumble Heart Organic Chevre FarmWalking the fields were the goats graze.

Any farmer will tell you, farming is alot of work and commitment.  The goats have to be milked twice a day about 12 hours apart (7am and 7pm for example.)  The milk is then refrigerated, moved to the cheese-making room, pasteurized at high temperatures for 30 minutes, and tied up in cheese cloth bags to separate the curds and whey. The cheese is then mixed with herbs and spices for added flavor.  Humble Heart uses the whey to replenish the fields where the goats graze with nutrients.

Yet, your benefits to living on a farm are bountiful. Fresh food, more peace of mind, less stress and more exposure to the sun, wind, and fresh air. If you are interested in setting up your own farm, I collected some tips from the farmers I met to share with you.

TIPS for your starting up your GOAT FARM

  • Setting GOALS. Decide what you end product you are trying to produce from your goat farm, be it milk, cheese, vegetables... You could also focus on making goats milk lotions and soaps, if you are interested in beauty products.  If you're going to sell the cheese, think about where you can do that - local restaurants can buy cheese, or you could set up a stand in the farmers' markets. Some cheese makers will open a tasting room and pair the cheese with local wines.  You could also give tours of your farm.
  • MONEY. Make a plan for your financials and research the costs involved. Consider your start-up costs, cost to buy your herd, cost for structures and machines, licenses, and food for the animals. Do research about the USDA certifications if you want to sell the milk and cheese. You may need to have specific types of machinery to become certified.  There will be inspection fees and licensing fees.
  • The TYPE of GOATS.  Humble Heart Farms goats are Saanen goats, which are mellow and adaptable, with high milk production rates. If you donate to Heifer International Charity, these are the same type of breed that Heifer will send to a village to help eradicate hunger and provide food for families, due to their ease of management and nice temperaments. Here are a few other breeds to be considered for your dairy goat herd:  LaMancha, Nubian, and Alpine, among others.  Research the types of goats that will work best for your farm.
  • Simplify. For me personally, the most appealing part of running a farm is the serenity.  To be outdoors and working hard, exhausted at the end of a productive day, breathing in fresh air - this is the draw for me.  To be away from the noise, lights and hustle of the city life.  Think about the lifestyle that you want to build and make it happen.​

Jarett bday-0201_WEBSaanen Goats on Humble Heart FarmsThe goats are happy and free the roam the grounds and graze on fresh grass.

Jarett bday-0240_WEBHumble Heart FarmsThe goats are healthy and happy soaking up the sun. The buck has to be separated from the "girls" at times.

I hope this post was encouraging and informative for those of you interested in goat farming.  Please share your personal stories and advice that can help add to the conversation.  Thank you for visiting!  Laura

Jarett bday-0193_WEBSleep HeadThis goat takes a little nap after filling it's belly with hay.

Jarett bday-0236_WEBThe herdThe goats graze in harmony in the tranquil setting of Humble Heart Farms.




(Studio Russo Photography) AL Alabama Elkmont Farming Goats Heifer International Humble Heart Humble Heart Goat Farm Northern Alabama goat farm Tennessee River Valley chevre farm to table fromage goat Cheese goat farm goat milk grass hay homestead organic photographer photography Thu, 22 Oct 2015 16:05:17 GMT
Delicious. Local. Organic. An afternoon at Blue Clay Farm Allow me to introduce Melanie Harvey - music lover, foodie, and the head gardener of Blue Clay Farm in North Augusta, SC.  A recent graduate of the University of GA's Agriculture program, Mel has taken on the feat of running the urban, organic farm for the farm-to-table restaurant Manuel's Bread Cafe.  One afternoon spent learning about the farm, and I am hooked on gardening!  I snapped a few pics and interviewed the gardener on the organic lifestyle to share this experience with you!

Keep reading - Mel will show us the daily duties of running a farm and discuss organic farming.

Mel at Blue Clay FarmsMelanie working at Blue Clay FarmHere is the head gardener for Manuel's Bread Cafe farm-to-table urban, organic farm, located in North Augusta, SC.

"Organic gardening might not be easy but it feels so good to know where your food comes from and whether or not chemicals have been used in the growing process. Your yield isn't as high as compared to conventional farming but you reward your body and the Earth by committing to not using chemicals."

Expert TIPS on ORGANIC farming success:

  • NO chemicals/pesticides.  "Organic gardening begins when you realize that anything inorganic should not be in the equation. When you realize that not only are these conventional chemicals killing our Mother but they are also killing us. These chemicals though, they aren't just taken up by plants. They leach into our soils and eventually end up in our water, polluting our water sources as well as depleting healthy habitats and ecosystems for so many different organisms. Also as far as pesticides go, one of our biggest concerns about using pesticides is bee colony collapse disorder. We are slowly losing our bees to pesticides and it is just awful. Without bees we cannot grow most of the colorful veggies you see in stores. Bees are needed to pollinate our plants! The most common pesticide used by home gardeners is 7 dust. It is one of the worst. Because it is in the form of small granules, bees mistake it for pollen and take it back to the colony and can potentially kill an entire colony!"
  • Practice sanitation. "Remove ANY dead, diseased, dying matter from your garden and BURN IT! Because disease is rapid and can spread in a matter of minutes. Also, make sure your plants don't stay wet for long periods. To do this, make sure you water early in the day so the sun will have plenty of time to "dry" your plants off. Most disease is spread only while the leaves are wet."
  • Healthy Plants. "Use proper amounts of fertilizer, and compost for your plants. Make sure your pH is correct. Every plant has a different requirement to ensure its maximum growth potential. Many plants have the same requirement and can be planted together but always check before planting. Also, try to minimize open wounds. What this means is that any opening or wound in a plant is the perfect pathway for a disease or pathogen. Plants release an odor when damaged (the smell of cut grass for example) that insects are extremely attracted to (some beneficial some just pests). Sometimes when I get an unwanted wound I will wrap it with and old pair of pantyhose or some tape to protect it."

Blue Clay-0014Farm Fresh EggsThere's nothing in the world like fresh eggs from the farm.

Adding some chickens to your farm is a great idea if you love having fresh eggs!  You will have to feed/water the chickens daily and they will produce some delicious eggs.  The cafe sets aside kitchen scraps to feed the chickens a nice snack.  You may also consider using scraps to make a compost heap to use with your planting beds.   

You can visit the farm to see the Ameraucana chickens, guinea fowls and goats.  Yes, that is a blue egg! There is also a bunny named Einstein that hangs out in the chicken pen. 

Blue Clay-0010Mel feeds the chickens and goats a little treatDaily feeds the chickens and goats, and collects the eggs from the coop.

Currently, the farm has eggplant growing (purple and white!), okra, carrots, beets, radishes, green beans, onions, horseradish, rosemary bushes, basil, pear trees, an olive grove, peaches, papaya, strawberries and several other fresh herbs and vegetables.  Blue Clay-0022Fruit/Vegetables on Blue Clay FarmEggplant & Okra with beautiful flowers. Fresh herbs & vegetables are scattered all over the farm as well.

Okra produces these beautiful yellow flowers and grows in the traditional green, as well as red. Look out for some okra recipes at Manuel's Bread Cafe coming soon - I saw some yummy okra growing! Okra is great pickled, fried, or in soups.

Blue Clay-0027Mel cuts some okra for Manuel's Bread Cafe recipesCutting some delicious okra for the cafe. Check out the beet tattoo. The girl was born for this!

Blue Clay-0001Baaaaaaaaad goats!Life on the farm - Bring in the goats!

There is always endless work to be done on a farm - Clearing away weeds, replanting beds, cleaning the animal pens, feeding animals, harvesting the bounty, watering and caring for plants, growing new seeds...

The rewards of farming are also endless.  Look at that smile!  Being outdoors in nature is beneficial for your body, mind, and spirit.  

"Being a farmer/gardener is such a rewarding hobby/occupation. Being outside with nature is in itself therapeutic... but by putting trust, patience, and love into Gaia (Primordial Goddess of the Earth) in return for her bountiful blessings is the pathway to the most beautiful relationship you could ever imagine. A relationship everyone should have, which is, respect for this Earth and love for our Mother."

Blue Clay-0070Blue Clay Farm GreenhouseThe baby seedlings are sprouting! Once they get a few inches tall, they are moved to the raised beds to grow and prosper.

 A huge part of maintaining this farm is growing the garden.  Mel is currently planting seedlings which she will move to the raised bad to grow for her fall harvest.  She gets them started in the greenhouse. She makes her own planting soil with a mixture of mushroom compost, perlite, vermaculite, and peat moss. She also propagates new plants from trimmings.  (A great example is the strawberry tower). 

Mel has some seedlings started in the greenhouse to be planted in the garden in mid - September.  

Good ideas for new crops this time of year:  kale, mustard greens, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, leeks, butternut, spaghetti, and winter squash. Sounds delicious! Blue Clay-0063Manuel's Blue Clay Farm Growing fresh, organic food for Manuel's Bread Cafe.

Something really cool that I learned from Mel is a technique called Espalier to get the best fruit production. This is an ancient planting strategy of forcing a plant to grow on a trellis, which creates a beautiful frame and saves space while increasing production. It comes from the Italian word spalliera, meaning "something to rest the shoulder against." (Thank you wikipedia). Here are the pear trees being trained to grow up a trellis using this Espalier technique.

Blue Clay-0042EspalierPear trees taking the shape of the trellis.

There is a grove of olive trees on the property, planted in potters.  The olives are growing juicier by the day. They will be harvested and used in salads for the cafe. 

Blue Clay-0046Olive grove & Onion bloomsEverywhere you look is fresh, alive, and growing.

Another tree on the farm is my personal favorite.  I think everyone should have an icon - the FIG tree - in their garden! Just pick them as they ripen, and enjoy.  Blue Clay Farms has a gorgeous fig tree that is covered in fruit. If you've had any fig dessert at the cafe, chances are it was grown right here on the farm.

Blue Clay-0089Take a bite!Delicious figs fresh off of the tree at Manuel's organic Blue Clay Farm

The atmosphere makes it tough to leave.  It's so nice to have a little garden tucked away.  I'd encourage everyone to grow your own garden patch  no matter how little room that you have.  

Blue Clay-0005Beautiful scenery and delicious eggsWhat more could you want!

Lastly, here is the meeting area, greenhouse, entry road, and border fence of the farm.  I hope you enjoyed this tour of Manuel's Blue Clay Farm and meeting farmer Mel.  I'm sure she would appreciate help if you wanted to get experience working on an organic farm!

Do visit the farm and cafe if you get the chance! Have a great day, Laura

Please comment below if you wish. 

Blue Clay-0020The views of Blue Clay FarmHere is the meeting area, greenhouse, entry road, and border fence at the farm.

(Studio Russo Photography) Atlanta photographer Augusta photographer Blue Clay Farm Hammond's Ferry Manuel's Bread Cafe North Augusta North Augusta Photographer beets carrots chemicals chickens compost eggplant eggs espalier farm to table farming fig fresh garden gardening goats greenhouse herbs homestead local mulch nature nature photography organic papaya photographer photography seedlings south carolina urban Fri, 04 Sep 2015 18:22:47 GMT
Bone Garden Cantina's Tequila Tasting Experience - Atlanta, GA Saturday I was delighted to attend Bone Garden Cantina's Tequila Tasting Experience.  Since I have never considered myself a tequila connoisseur, I thought it best for me to partake in this slice of enlightenment.   

To set the stage, the event took place at the secret, intimate location of Bone Garden Cantina, tucked away in a cozy corner of West Midtown.  Prepare to be transported to a village of Mexico upon entering these doors, and feast your eyes on the curious and colorful interior, decorated from head to toe in the fashion of "Dia De Los Muertos." Day of the Dead is a celebration  honoring those who are no longer with us though gifts of brightly colored sugar skulls, paper banners and skeleton artwork and memorabilia.  The owners, Kristen and Michael, travel to Mexico frequently to pick up ideas that add to the simple a la carte menu, and the extensive tequila selection.

The tequila tasting was led by the lovely and informative team of Becca & Tricia.  These ladies wowed us all with their exceedingly knowledgeable discussions of the history, production, and art forms of producing tequilas.  Today we focused on 4 tequilas from the Jalisco region of Mexico, and a 5 course sampler of their delicious, interesting menu.

Upon taking our seats in the intimate dining room, we were greeted with warm tortillas chips, along with fresh salsa and guacamole.  Our first tequila up for discussion is the Maestro Dobel.  I'll include some interesting facts on each tequila that were included in helpful handouts at each place setting.  

"Maestro Dobel is created by Juan-Domingo "Dobel" Beckman, the sixth generation leader of the Cuervo Tequila company.  It's a blended one-year reposado, two-year anejo, and three-year extra anejo.  Bone Garden Cantina's special edition tequila is aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels with a medium char."

We were served the tequila in a cocktail, comprised of Maestro Dobel tequila, lime juice, honey and a splash of water.  Yum.  

Our first course was a fresh yucatan salad, with grapefruit, fresh avocado, romaine lettuce, red onion and sunflower seeds.  A citrus vinaigrette ties all of these flavors together.

From there, we moved on to tasting other tequilas.  According to Becca, the best way to taste tequila is to pour a sample into a snifter.  You want to swirl the tequila around in the glass and it will get nice and aromatic.  We loved to see everyone's different swirling techniques. Holding the glass about an inch from your nose, you can get a waft of he complex flavors.  Sometimes, the smells of tequilas and the tastes can be different.  Interesting.  Next, you will "tongue the tequila!"  You want to take a small taste into your mouth to experience how it feels on your tongue.  Then, you can sip the tequila or knock it back.

This tequila is Cabeza, which is a Blanco.  It has a sweet, almost floral essence to it, which they call "Agave forward."  

Interesting facts (lifted from our provided handouts):  "The tequila is roasted in brick ovens, and fermented to the sounds of Beethoven during winter months.  (Pregnant moms use this "mozart method" for soothing their babies)  The Cabeza is fermented with champagne yeast in copper tanks, and rested in stainless steel for 60 days before bottling."

The next delectable dish was one of my personal favorites, the pollo asado taco.  Start with a corn tortilla, grilled chicken marinated in oregano & clove, and topped with salsa machucada and fresh cilantro.  Served with rice and beans. DIVINE!

And baby, the tequila kept coming!  


Our next selection of tequila is the Fortaleza, which was my absolute favorite.  A shockingly buttery flavor with a great backstory.


From our notes:  " Fortaleza was founded and crafted by Guillermo Erikson Sauza, fifth-generation descendant of the Sauza Family.  The distillery was opened in 1493, then shut down in 1968 to be a museum.  Guillermo restored the factory into working condition in 1999, and uses the original century-old equipment, and a pit for crushing 7-9 year old agave with a stone wheel.  The distillery produces the same amount in a year, that Sauza Tequila produces in one day."  What a treat to taste this delicious tequila in a hand - blown glass bottle!



The afternoon was turning into an amazing expedition into the history and artform of making tequila.  Who knew!?


We were served our next plate of perfection, in the form of a braised pork sope.  This dish is a corn mesa cup (think cornbread), filled with pork and topped with cabbage and radish slices.  Extremely tasty and nice presentation.  We were all really getting into it and this dish got raves from my table.

The crew wanted us to try two different tequilas from the same family, to compare.  So we ended on an Anejo.  No complaints here.

We were treated with dessert after our educational journey into the history of tequila, in the form of a soft and sweet empanada, filled with rice pudding and just a hint of cinnamon.  I know, right?!  It was incredible.  Our tablemates lovingly compared the empanada to the Bone Garden Cantina's churros - A dessert in a class all it's own.  


I can think of no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon, than by sipping tequila and munching on the culinary delights at Bone Garden.  The crew, staff, owners, bartenders, hosts...  are part of a bigger experience that is the secret, hideway, absolute jewel of Bone Garden Cantina.



Highly recommend!



(Studio Russo Photography) agave atlanta bar dia de los muertos dining empanada foodie nectar of the gods sope taco tequila Sun, 02 Mar 2014 20:15:04 GMT