Monday, September 28, 2009

Week 18

Wow.  Week 18 of the CSA.... only 3 weeks left.  The tomatoes are done... so sad.

The fall season harvest is almost all up.
Below are Kohlrabi.... look for that little ball out of focus in the center.
I sure hope these keep going as they look pretty good so far.  I've learned that plants can look great one week and the next week something happens but these are looking good so far.  I think they will be ready for week 20.

Arugula may be ready this week or next week.  It was growing pretty slow but I am happy as no more silly little bugs eating them away.  I love fall for this reason.  

Lettuce is still our specialty.  For some reason it grows extremely well in our soil.  The asian greens are also doing well this fall.  But then that's what grows in the fall..... a new crop of purple beets are coming up as well and might be ready this week or next week.   

I am so sad this year that many of the fall squash and pumpkins were destroyed by squash bugs.  About 6 weeks ago I even went to the store to look for anything (yes even non-organic as I was desperate) that would kill squash bugs and found nothing. 

So some of the little pumpkins grew and a few squash-- but entirely disappointing.  I am so sad.  Organic farming sometimes really stinks....  it must take years to master the art of getting EVERYTHING to grow perfectly.  You win some crops, you lose some crops-- that's the way it goes. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chicken Feet Make the BEST Stock

WARNING!  If you are one of those people who don't like chicken feet - then skip this blog posting.  (I know there are several of you out there.....)

Chicken feet and necks = The Best Chicken Stock

That's it-- plain and simple. 

Though to make the stock, you have to get over what the pot looks like and the feet pointing up at you.  You need to remember to strain the stock well when transferring to the freezer or can or when just making soup the same day.  Kevin went to school one day with chicken soup and came home that afternoon saying "um mommy, I had a little foot bone in my soup today at school.  It was kind of freaky and also kind of funny"

If you look close you'll see the fingernails.... he-he.

Add Sage to this and then this is the old time recipe for chicken soup.  The whole chicken (including neck and feet) and fresh sage.  Evidently that's the cure for a cold.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Living the Dream

Having a farm had led us to new friends and lots of talking.
Farmers talk and are opinionated folks!  And there is lots of agreement and disagreement.

I find with each farmer I meet, they each share 1 thing in common.  It's the same vision, the same desire, the same dream.

To own land,  improve the land for future generations, enjoy the land, be somewhat self sufficient and be able to make a decent wage -- that's the dream.

This picture is one of my favorites.

I love sitting up on the hill and looking at this view.  Seeing the chickens running around and making hen noises amid the 'cockle-doodle-doos' with the cattle behind them in the next pasture.  

All those farmers, including us, are trying to live that dream.  Sometimes the 'make a decent wage' gets tough and farmers have a hard time explaining why their products are superior.  Start to pay attention to how you spend your money and you'll realize that a dozen free range pastured eggs may cost $5.00- but so does a dozen donuts or a fancy cup of coffee.

If you want to help a farmer achieve his/her dream, go to Local Harvest and buy your food from a local farmer.  Go visit the farmer and see if you like what they are doing and if you do-- share in that dream with them.  They'll be happy to have you along for the ride!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fun with Ink Berries

People ask me if our kids like living on the farm.  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Not liking living on the farm generally has to do with chores, terrible air conditioning, very little space in our house and the fact that they still don't have a swing set.

They like living on the farm when baby animals are born, when the raspberries are growing, when we have bonfires, and for occasions like this one.  Doing 'experiments' with ink berries.  We now have a few pairs of socks that are purple/pink colored.  Luckily the kids are independent so they needed no help dragging over that huge plastic tub, filling it with water and ink berries and setting forth to 'experiment'.  

And then of course Frank, one of our border collies has to jump into the ink berry water and so we had a black and slightly pink dog for a few minutes.....he-he.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Pigs

Our last 3 pigs came back as pork this week.....
We almost sold out to the point where we didn't have enough left for us!
Whole hog sausage is the best!!!  Oh my goodness.  Whole hog sausage is what it sounds like.  Instead of just using the leftovers after the nice cuts are out to make sausage, you also throw in the good parts.  The result is a nice lean sausage where the fat melts perfectly when cooked and makes the sausage tender and juicy.

We decided we should get 5 pigs this time that will be ready in December so that we have more next time.  If you want part of these next pigs-- let Mike know now.  1 whole pig is around 150-200 lbs of meat.  So 1/4 pig would be 40-50 lbs.  So it's not a crazy amount of meat but certainly a decent portion.  And if you just want hog whole sausage, that's available as well.  I think our family could eat whole hog sausage every other day.  One of these days I'll do a blog on hog cuts.  I find it fun to learn what part of the animal is bacon, ham, chops, etc.....  not something they taught when I took home-ec in high school.

Above are the 5 new piglets.  These pigs will be true pastured hogs.  They'll live outside and have a lot of room to run around.  We really do like raising pigs so you'll see them on our farm from here on out.  

Monday, September 7, 2009

Week 15

I skipped over weeks 13,14--- and now onto 15!

I've been canning. Tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes and salsa. I'm getting pretty good at it but it still amazes me how many tomatoes you need for a quart of sauce.

There is a point each day when the sun starts to set and gets right at the treeline. At that point in time, we have what we call:
5 minutes of beautifulness
5 minutes of gorgeousness
or my favorite
5 minutes of heaven

The trees are not turning the colors you see below-- but it looks like fall as in the photo are some crazy pumpkins that were growing in my compost pile.
We look outside and someone generally yells--- 5 MINUTES of X-- and we all run and jump on the golf cart vehicle and we ride around and find the best spot after 1 minute and then we turn off the engine and we sit there. Quiet, peaceful and we wait for the sun to go down.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Field Day!

Thursday was Field Day for our farm. Mike gave the tour to a group of about 20 farmers and representatives from the University of Maryland Ag Extension Offices from our county and neighboring counties. Below are some of the photos. It still cracks me up that in less than 1 year Mike was asked to do a field day. And that people showed up! What an honor! The guy who grows up living in an apartment building across from Wrigley Field is now a farmer and folks decided to see his farm. His grandfather (who was a farmer) would be so proud of him.

I think Mike got more ideas from these knowledgeable folks on what to do with our 3rd pasture area to transition it to grasses over the next year and lots of other ideas than they got from him (this was my take).

They did think that the mobile processing unit was a good way for 5-10 local farms to share in processing equipment for chickens. So that seems to be the highlight of our farm. It's pretty simple economics. We bought the poultry processor for $9,000. To transport your chickens somewhere else and pay to have them processed costs about $4/chicken. So lets say we use ourselves as labor (which we do plus a few friends who love to eat good chicken) and the other little items cost $1/chicken then that's $3/chicken. So after we process 3,000 chickens we've paid back the processor.

If we rent it out to someone who wants to process themselves, then it just makes the payback faster so my example is conservative. It'll probably take us 3 1/2 years to process 3,000 chickens but that's ok. It's a good enough payback for us and we also like knowing that our birds aren't too stressed from a trip to a processor. And when it's just Mike doing the work and the family helping out to gather up the chickens... the stress on us is less as well because if something comes up unexpectedly, we just wait and process tomorrow. Now I realize that we haven't paid ourselves for our time to process in the above equation, but it's a really fast process and to drive to a processing area and back twice (once to drop off and once to pick up) is likely close to the amount of time it takes to process the chickens. So I'm calling it a draw.

Mike has rented out the unit to 4 different families/farms. After trying it out, some people don't care for processing themselves and others said they'd be renting the unit again. For those that didn't like it-- it's a cheap way to find out if you want to process yourself before you invest in even a small scalder or plucker, etc. If you got 5 farms to buy the equipment to share, then you can easily do the math and see that this is a viable option to consider.

So that's the scoop on the MPU (mobile processing unit). We bought it from Eli Reiff up in Mifflinburg, PA if you want to buy one yourself. Eli is the Vice President of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA). We belong to this organization.

Here is the meeting area. I love the bales of straw as the seats.

The group walking the pasture.

Notice the guy on the fence taking pictures! He-he.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

1 year anniversary of moving into our farm house

We've now been living full time in our farm house for 1 year.
People say to me- you've only been here 1 year and I say yep, only 1 year.  We did have the garden last year and our "test" CSA members but we did that while not living here.  We think that our progress has been incredibly slow, but when we step back and view our farm through objective eyes, we have made great progress.

In a few weeks we'll reach another anniversary with arrival of ducks.  16 ducks in Sept 2008.   Then 30 chickens sometime in Oct or Nov.   In February we will celebrate the arrival of 16 cattle (5 pregnant cows in that 16) and sheep and 250 more chickens.  And then they'll be anniversaries for the border collies, meat chickens, turkeys, pigs, rabbits and goats.  I can't wait to see what happens in 1 more year.  Likely livestock guardian dogs, maybe different and more goats and then more of the same of all the rest of the animals.  And this may be the year that we start to experiment with cheese-- just for ourselves- but learning how to make it.  We love our meat, eggs and veggies--- but we're thinking milk and cheese (and ice cream) would be fun and Mike thinks it would be good for his long term business plan.
And in April, our Barn will be 100 years old.  We plan on having a barn party to celebrate the barn's birthday.

Here is a picture of the house back in Aug 2008.  I don't have a more recent one, but when I put it next to this one it'll be clear the changes!  That small building is gone, we now have fencing and the barn has a green roof now.

Mike is hosting a "Farm Day" tomorrow for local farmers.  They want to see what he is doing with pasture grazing, the CSA and the farm in general.  I can't believe that they picked him and our farm for their Farm Day.  It's truly and honor and a milestone.  Go Mike!!!  

I think I'll need to make a lemon meringue pie to celebrate.  Pastured eggs make lemon meringue pie that is to die for.....