‘Good food makes people happy’

‘Good food makes people happy’

Sanibel Secrets

Sanibel chef opens his home to a variety of animals

Published in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 8, 2015 issue

The backyard of Dave Krajnak’s home, which began as a sanctuary for many animals recovering from an injury, has become a forever home for many varieties of birds, turtles and iguanas over the years.   

He said he developed a love for animals as a young boy growing up in Wisconsin due to the proximity of farms surrounding his folks home. Krajnak said his wife Blanche’s, love of animals is partially why many of the animals were adopted, because she fell in love with each one as they took care of them.

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The couple worked with CROW for many years helping rescue animals – and on occasion provided a foster home for them. A number of their African sulcata turtle’s, the third largest tortoises in the world, came from CROW.

Krajnak said they purchased their first sulcata from a reptile fair in 2002 before additional tortoises joined the family as rescues. Two of them were found after hurricanes, and one was found walking on the island.

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The backyard has been turned into a sanctuary for the tortoises, providing ample opportunities to walk into huts Krajnak built to provide shelter. The yard, which is now sand, also gives the tortoises the opportunity to dig when they are feeling dehydrated.

He said after it rains, the tortoises flip mud onto their backs from the water that forms into puddles to stay cool. The tortoises also fling dry sand onto their backs, again to stay cool.

The tortoises eat eight or nine cases of romaine lettuce a week, which is a good water source for them. They also eat vegetables like zucchini and squash, as well as prickly pear.

Toby is the couple’s biggest sulcata tortoise, weighing in around 275 pounds.

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Others that share a smaller portion of the the backyard include the red foot and yellow-foot tortoises.

Cuban, blue rhino (otherwise known as a blue iguana), and regular iguanas can be found in large cages right off the back porch of his home, all ranging in size from small to large, and have many levels to enjoy in their habitat.

Krajnak said after you work and spend time with the iguanas, they become tame, which affords him with the opportunity to hold them when wearing gloves.

In addition to the reptiles, many songs can be heard while visiting Krajnak’s home from the cockatiel’s, a ring-neck parakeet that was found at Jerry’s Food’s, finches, and an African gray parrot. Two conure also call the Krajnak’s their home.

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He said when they took in Ricky, one of the two conures, he had no feathers and his skin was completely irritated. After drinking fresh water, the feathers started to grow back.

“When you get to know their attitude and activities it creates trust and it helps,” Krajnak said of the birds.

When Krajnak is not taking care of the animals, he is spending time at The Lighthouse Cafe, where he became the chef almost 26 years ago in 1989.

“I love playing with food,” he said. “Good food makes people happy.”

As the chef, Krajnak takes on the task of creating five or six specials a day for the “board” at the cafe. For dinner he creates a chef menu, often including a variety of available seasonal fish.

In addition to creating menu items at the restaurant, Krajnak also spends time preparing food for catering jobs, many of which are done through the restaurant. Often Blanche, who works at the bakery at Jerry’s Foods, helps with catering by baking desserts for the party.

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One of his longest catering gigs happened in 2004 when Hurricane Charley impacted the area. He cooked and prepared food alongside his wife for 11 straight days. What started off as serving 40 people ended with more than 100 by the end of the 11 days.

The idea sprang after the restaurants on the island were having a hard time keeping the food fresh without electricity. When that food started going bad, Sysco Foods began dropping off food to use.

The couple cooked food for such entities as law enforcement, Florida Wildlife and marine patrol during the cleanup effort.

A tent was erected and a table was set up, so the food could be served buffet style.

The menu included such meals as steaks, potatoes and corn to barbecue pork, beans corn on the cob and corn bread and sloppy joe’s, coleslaw and German potato salad.

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Many times Krajnak was escorted in by Scott Ashby of the Sanibel Police Department because of the standstill traffic on the island. He said the sirens were turned on and as he drove onto the causeway everyone began clapping and boats started to come in knowing there was good food to be enjoyed.

“Scampering about”

This article was a lot of fun to write. Although it took a number of weeks for the paper’s photographer to get out to the farm to take pictures beacuse of rain, a clear sunny day finally appeared. Charlie said he had fun capturing some adorable pictures of the baby Scottish Highland cows. Unfortunately that day I was not able to meet Charlie at the farm, so I had to wait and see the pictures. On Sunday, I received an extremely sweet email from Kathy, one of the individuals I interviewed for the article. I love hearing feedback!

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Hi Meghan,

What a delightful article you wrote about our “babies.” We’ve had lots of comments on it and have enjoyed re-reading it many times over.

I proudly purchased 25 copies, and the article and pictures have been mailed all over the United States! The babies continue to treat the hot wire as if it didn’t exist and they lounge under the Leyland Cypress trees in the shade while the moms moo and scold them. They don’t venture far away, yet, and if they do, we hear lots of bellowing from the moms. Even Quinn scolds them. What fun.

Keep up the good work.

Sincerely, Kathy Breen and Roger Drake

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Scottish lads and lassies

Farm family welcomes new calves to Highland herd

Published in April 29, 2014 issue of the Herald & Tribune

Three new Scottish Highland cows, which recently came into the world, have brought a bit of extra joy to a Jonesborough couple who enjoys watching them frolic through the fields.

Roger Drake and Kathy Breen, who moved to Jonesborough in 2006 from New Jersey, decided to look into purchasing cattle for the first time because of the acreage that surrounds their home.

“We have adopted this as our new home,” Breen said of the area. “It’s a beautiful place.”

Drake said they purchased five Scottish Highland cows and a registered bull two and a half years ago.

20140506_103358-1“We got interested in them when we were doing research about cattle,” he explained.

The horned breed of cattle attracted the couple because they fatten well on grass and have excellent maternal care of their babies.

Drake said the breed, which has been domesticated for more than 400 years, is a hardy old line of cattle that is not affected by the cooler weather. He said a good portion of the Scottish Highland herds are in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“We have 20 acres and wanted them to be workers to eat the grass and keep it up,” Drake said.

In an effort to simulate the old pattern of the migrating herd, Drake spends about an hour moving his fence every two to three days to allow the cattle to eat the grass to a certain level.

“That keeps our grass healthy and growing,” he said. “The drought didn’t affect us that much at all because we have tall grass and we can move them and let the grass re-grow quickly.”

He said he compares his property to pizza; he’s giving the cattle various slices of the pasture while moving them 50 to 100 feet at a time.

“We are trying to rebuild our land using these cattle. We are letting them spread their waste in an organized pattern,” he said. “We control that migration.”

The first of the three calves, Patricia, was born on March 17. A week later the second baby cow, Angus, was born, followed by the third the following week. A good Scottish female name is currently being sought for the third-born.  Drake said the fourth arrived April 27 and is named Mactavish.

“The day Patty was born, we had her and the mom in a corral,” Breen said. “The first day of her life she ran through five additional barb wires at the perimeter and went into the neighbor’s yard. That was Patty’s first day and she hasn’t disappointed us yet.”

She said Patty seems to be the leader of the pack.

“She has Angus following her like a little puppy,” Breen said. “We have fun with them. We enjoy watching them out the kitchen window.”

Drake said they are having a marvelous time watching them scampering about.

After all, he said, what is there not to like about calves kicking their heels running and playing?

“He is a good father,” Drake said of his bull. “He seems to be very interested in their babies and seems to be gentle with them.”

The new additions cannot be officially registered until they are 2 years old.

Drake’s plan is to have 12 to 14 Scottish Highland cattle for his property.

“I have a fine registered bull. He better bring me fine little babies,” he said laughing. “He seems to be quite interested in my five cows. We are going to breed him along for a couple of more years and by that time we should reach a steady state.”