Cayenne-Spiked Farm Feast

In East Austin, friends welcome spring with a crawfish boil, verdant fields, and potent rhubarb margaritas (pooches welcome, no utensils required).

here were plenty of things to like about working the land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In fact, it was the prospect of the fertile soil, cool, moist air, and the local abundance (berries, hazelnuts, seafood, and Pinot Noir) that first enticed David Burk and Melody McClary to leave their jobs as property managers at Montesino Ranch in Wimberley and move west in 2012.

But after a couple years, the couple started to pine for friends in Texas and the community that they’d developed in Austin. Family also played a part; David’s sister, Amanda, was about to have her first baby. Almost immediately after they started to ponder the idea of coming home, they learned that Stephanie Scherzer, who owns Rain Lily Farm with partner Kim Beal, was in need of a farmer. “I’ve wanted to work and run Rain Lily for some time,” David says. “When I was working at Montesino, I’d deliver vegetables here. I’d walk around the property because I love its smallness, and it’s clean and pretty. It’s a quaint garden with flowers planted in front of the rows and an opportunity to grow great food, but it’s manageable—no tractors, no long-distance driving to sell my goods.”

As luck would have it, Farmhouse Delivery, Scherzer’s company that delivers local produce and foodstuffs to your doorstep, was also looking for a buyer. Proximity to Austin, a manageable lot, the opportunity to do what they do best . . . sold!

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So in January they loaded Melody’s 1996 Volkswagen Golf with cookbooks, plants, and an old iron fan, and David packed his 1971 Ford pickup truck. “We were both worried about each other’s car breaking down, but not our own,” David says with a laugh. The highlight of the trek was driving through Flagstaff at sunrise (even though it was 10 degrees outside and the Golf had no heater).

These days, David and Melody once again find themselves living alongside green and purple rows of sprouting produce. As the farmer, David spends his days pruning olive and fig trees, as well as tending chickens, ducks, and a goat named Magpie. He grows plants from seed, keeps up with the hoeing and weeding, and occasionally plays a little Ping-Pong. As the buyer for Farmhouse Delivery, Melody procures produce, meats, and bakery items, and builds relationships with their community of farmers, ranchers, and suppliers.

Each spring, David’s birthday coincides with crawfish season in Louisiana, so they typically celebrate with a spicy boil. After all, everyone knows things taste better outside, particularly when eaten with spice-dusted fingers, shoulder to shoulder with friends, and with a basin of iced beer cans waiting nearby. It’s the kind of casual gathering—pearl snap shirts and jeans, flip-flops and cowboy boots, babies and the occasional squawking chicken—that the folks at Farmhouse Delivery do best, and an extension of their deep commitment to building community through food.


While the mudbugs are purged in a tank of cold water, Melody prepares tart-sweet rhubarb syrup that will infuse margaritas made with silver tequila and lime juice. A bowlful of fragrant red spices is poured into the rolling boil, along with a tumble of potatoes, onions, corn, and lemon. After the vegetables are tender, the crawfish are plunged into the spicy bath.

When the light begins to fade, the food is ready. The entire meal is spread over an antique German table covered with butcher paper, and everybody rolls up their sleeves and digs in. A blue heeler puppy scampers around and an old ranch dog snoozes on the porch. A table alongside a field is a familiar pleasure for David and Melody, but this particular meal has something extra-special—it tastes like coming home. “I’ve always loved this time of year,” David says. “It’s almost spring and everybody is ready to get outside and enjoy the weather. If the food is good, then life is good. It’s easy for us that way.”


Photography by Kate Lesueur

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