Naming the Farm

There are two things I’ve learned since marrying into my Bohemian farm family. First, you can always tell the good Czechs by the poppy seed in their teeth. And secondly, Czech last names are nearly impossible to pronounce correctly on the first try – unless, of course, you were born Czech.

A good Czech name like Cwach may be the perfect last name for setting yourself apart (to no surprise, changing my email address after the wedding turned out to be a cinch). But as we’ve started to seriously consider officially branding our farm, the hard-to-pronounce last name no longer seems ideal. While Cwach Farm is unique, outsiders can rarely pronounce it, much less spell it. This has led us to exploring alternative names to better market the farm as we hopefully grow and evolve in the future.

For years, Dan’s parents also tried to brainstorm the perfect name, to no avail. A few weeks ago, we spent a long car ride tossing ideas back and forth with my mother-in-law. Stuck on the road for six hours, we decided to revisit family history and see if a name could be drawn from the folks who started the farm nearly 150 years ago.

Like many pioneer and immigrant families, the Cwachs have interesting roots. Our sixth-generation farm can be traced back to John (Jan) Cwach and his son, Mathias, who were born and farmed in Bohemia. In 1867, John, his wife Mary and Mathias sold all of their belongings and began to immigrate to America. The family got as far as Bremen, Germany, when money ran out. For 18 months, Mathias and his parents worked at the ship docks to earn enough money for passage to the U.S. They arrived in New York in 1869 and traveled to Missouri, where they mined iron ore at Iron Mountain for three years.

In 1872, the Cwachs set out for the Dakota Territory (the way the story is told, the family bypassed Iowa farmland as they sought rockier ground, as that was the material with which they were used to building the foundation of their homes). John, Mathias and Mary finally settled in Yankton County and began to farm and ranch with just two horses, two oxen, two milk cows, six cattle, one pig, one wagon and one piece of machinery. In the spring of 1878, Mathias married Josephine Pechan, who gave birth to 12 children who would continue the tradition of family farming in Yankton County.

While Farmer Dan and I love the idea of incorporating ancestry and heritage into a farm name, we also are drawn to names with interesting backstories and a bit of whimsy. Thanks to Dan’s brother Kevin, who as a kid loved to frequent exotic livestock auctions, the farm has housed a variety of animals in addition to their traditional cattle operation, from pigs to chickens to horses to sheep to two loveable donkeys, Becky and Jenny, who are closing in on two decades of living with the cows on the farm. (Dan and I both agree that there’s something about Two Donkey Organic Ranch that has a quirky ring to it.) There was also a brief period where a pair of unruly goats ruled the farm. (Long story short: What started out as a pregnant goat named Selma and her companion Isabelle soon turned into Selma and Isadore, the billy goat. A few generations of goats later, the herd was quickly ousted once they discovered how fun it was to hop on top of grandpa’s new Cadillac.)

There was also a brief period where a pair of unruly goats ruled the farm.

We’ve also got a number of memorable landmarks on our ranch that deserve consideration – Beaver Creek, Turkey Canyon and Cactus Hill, to name a few. There’s a weathered red door tucked away behind the big white barn that seems particularly fitting for a family of proud USD Coyotes. Behind the rolling hills of the pasture you can see Mount Pisgah, the highest point in Yankton County. There’s something about incorporating imagery from the area’s natural flora and fauna that strongly appeals to me, as our pasture is one of my favorite and most beautiful spots on earth.

Our hope is to create a name that brings to mind tradition, family and the love of working the earth. Most importantly, we hope it’s something that will last the test of time, so we can pass it down to our children and grandchildren, who hopefully will choose to carry on the legacy of family farming.

If you feel inspired or have found the perfect farm name for yourself, e-mail me at we’d love to hear your ideas and your stories.



Creamy Chicken and Jalapeño Enchiladas

There is a constant battle in the Cwach kitchen when it comes to achieving the perfect level of spiciness.

My husband, Dan, loves to add a dash of fieriness to our food – usually whenever my back is turned. And by a dash, I mean a very healthy dose of whatever he’s got within arm’s reach – Sriracha, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, jalapeños, you name it. It’s not uncommon for me to take a bite and find my mouth ablaze, only to turn to Dan, who’s wearing a sheepish expression on his face. He’s a man who inherited the philosophy, “If some is good, then more is better” from his dad, which we have found can turn very interesting when applied in the kitchen.

But while our taste buds may differ when it comes to handling heat, one dish we can agree on is this creamy chicken and jalapeño enchilada recipe. While this is not an authentic enchilada recipe, it is can’t-put-your-fork-down delicious – in fact, Dan has declared it’s his favorite meal of all time. I love this recipe because it’s a cinch to pull together, especially when you use a rotisserie chicken. It can also be prepped the night before and cooked the day of, making it perfect for company, and it freezes beautifully (just assemble and freeze prior to cooking). Dan loves it because it uses both jalapeños and jalapeño juice- a double whammy of spicy goodness.

Though we often eyeball measurements when we cook together, this is one recipe where I ask that he measures the amount of chopped jalapeños and jalapeño juice that goes into the enchiladas. At exactly half a cup of chopped jalapeños and two tablespoons of jalapeño juice, it just reaches our mutually-agreed-upon spiciness threshold, where I start to sweat a little and he starts to feel a pleasant burn. If serving to kids or those who don’t like spicy foods, I would consider at least halving the jalapeños and jalapeño juice, or leaving them out entirely.

Standard fixings apply here – sour cream, avocado, chopped tomatoes, cilantro and shredded cheese. I also like to whip up a five-ingredient spicy corn dip that is delicious served ahead of the meal with corn or tortilla chips. It also makes a fabulous topping on the enchiladas, where the avocado balances out the heat from the jalapeños.

These enchiladas are perfect paired with a classic margarita, fruity sangria or cold cerveza. Add a side of Mexican Street Corn (grilled corn on the cob slathered in cayenne-spiked mayo and topped with cotija cheese) and enjoy this summer.

Creamy Chicken and Jalapeño Enchiladas
1 ½ pound chicken breasts, poached in boiling water, cooled and shredded (or 1 rotisserie chicken)
2 (10-ounce) cans green enchilada sauce
1/2 block (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup jarred jalapeño peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons juice from jalapeño jar
1/2 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
10 soft flour tortillas
2 cups pepper jack cheese
Cubed avocado, for garnish
Favorite salsa, for garnish
Fresh jalapeño slices, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together enchilada sauce, cream cheese, milk and the jarred jalapeño juice.

In another bowl, combine the shredded chicken with 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture, jarred jalapeño peppers and cilantro. Mix together to coat.

Place about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla and roll to close.

Pour about 1/2 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Arrange the tortillas seam-side down in the baking dish. Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas. Top with shredded cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

Broil for a few minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly (watch so it doesn’t burn!). Garnish with favorite salsa, fresh jalapeño peppers, more cilantro, sour cream and avocado.


Avocado/Black Bean/Spicy Corn Dip

14.5-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, cubed
8 ounce block pepper jack cheese, cubed
16-ounce jar Stonewall spicy corn relish

Cube the avocado and place in large bowl. Cube cheese into small chunks and add to avocado. Rinse and drain can of black beans and add to avocado/cheese mixture. Mix in can of fire-roasted tomatoes and spicy corn relish. Serve with corn or tortilla chips, and enjoy!