Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Warning to All Chefs

Owning a farm and knowing about food is a blessing as well as a curse.

I cannot go into a restaurant without asking 'um- could you ask the chef if he knows the breed of the lamb? Colorado lamb isn't a great description for me." "do you know what type of goats are used for the goat cheese? or the farm your goat cheese came from? Is the salmon wild or farm raised? When you say Amish chicken-- does that mean free range- and do you know if the chickens are really pasture based or are they free range in a large chicken house?"

Beware-- I will come to your restaurant and ask all these questions and hope you know the answers. So far I'm not doing well- I'd say 2% of restaurants can answer my questions- mostly the farm vs wild salmon question and that's it. Andy Little-- you score 100% so you get an A+ in my book.

And to Donna-- who I met tonight and said she had a dream of one day owning a farm. It is possible. You may not get 10 acres in prime real estate areas-- but we need organic, pasture based food all over the country- we know folks all over the US and they are doing it. So find a smaller town within 2 hrs of a big city with a reasonably priced farm and live your dream. And we learned the hard way that you don't need 63 acres-- 10-15 acres is enough. You won't be rich- but you can do it if you really want to. Most farmers have outside jobs and do their 'farming' at night and on the weekends- we need all those farmers we can get as it strengthens our national food supply. I hope to one day hear your farm story...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Turkey Time: A Rant

Hi everyone.

It is that time of year, time to buy your Thanksgiving turkey.  That means its time for a little education!  There is an assumption that is common as the holidays roll around that turkeys are CHEAP.  Turkeys are anything but cheap to raise.  There is a dirty little secret that the grocery stores dont want you to know.

Turkeys are a "loss leader".

Thats right.  Turkeys are nothing more than a tool to lure you into the store to buy all the other stuff that goes with your big meal.  Stores lose a ton of money on turkey sales, but they dont care.  They make it up quickly on the margins of all the other goods we buy.  Like cranberry sauce in cans, pre-made stuffing mix,  jars of gravy, etc.  So when you see big ass turkeys at .59 cents per pound, you should realize immediately that the store is losing money.

Lets look at the facts.  Turkeys eat about 4 times as much feed as chickens eat.  Makes sense in that a turkey at maturity is about 4 times the size of a chicken when its processed.  So, if a chicken costs $1.99 a pound at the store, how the heck can they charge less than a dollar per pound for turkey?  Another thing to consider is that turkeys cost much more to process than chickens.  They take up more room in the cages that are needed to transport them to be processed, that means more expense for trucking, holding, etc not to mention the extra costs for the processor.   Turkeys are expensive to purchase too.  One baby chicken, or peep,  can be as cheap (cheep?) as .$50 cents per bird when bought in bulk, but usually are about $1.00 per bird when I purchase them.  Turkeys are much more expensive.  $5.50 per day old turkey poult is normal, more like $12 per poult for heritage turkeys. So, turkeys are 5 to 12 times as expensive to buy than chickens. Turkey feed is also 35% more expensive than chicken feed.  There is a higher protein content in the turkey feed, therefore much more expensive, especially with the cost of wheat this summer.

So its not a cheap transaction to purchase and raise turkeys.  There is another trick the stores use and that is the label "fresh turkey".  Fresh turkey can be labeled as such as long as the turkey has been stored at 29 degrees F.  They might have killed and processed that turkey months ago, but since it was held at 29 degrees, its technically still "fresh".  The flesh wont completely freeze at 29 degrees as there is enough sodium in the meat to keep it from freezing at that temperature.  So, its still "fresh" even though its not really fresh.  Think about it.  How would millions of turkeys be able to processed, distributed and sold in a matter of about a week?  They cant be, so they are processed ahead of time and held at temperature as a "fresh" bird.

So here is the real meat of the story.  We raise our turkeys on pasture.  Free range.  Completely free range.  They have livestock guardian dogs with them to keep the fox and hawks away.  They have access to feed and grit free choice.  They wander and eat all the grasshoppers and bugs they can find.  They eat grasses and plants.  And snakes and mice and voles.  Anything they can find.  They have shelter but they prefer to camp out under the stars every night.  Rain or shine.  They are happy birds.

Because we are small, we cant offer specific weights for our customers.  Big or Small is about as close as we can get.  The birds are already approaching a really nice size.  We are going to have to process a few of them soon so that they dont end up as 45 pound birds or bigger.  These babies get BIG.  We cooked a 29 pound bird last year and it was the best turkey we have ever eaten.  Leftovers are awesome!

At the risk of keeping this post going longer than necessary, remember this:  if you want a real free-range, bronze turkey for Turkey Day, you should let us know NOW and get your order in so that you can guarantee yourself a great bird for the holidays.

We are pricing our birds at $75 per bird, regardless of size!

A 20 pound bird then is about 3.75 a pound.  A bigger bird costs less per pound.  That is an increase from last year but these birds will be BETTER.  We have bronze turkeys this year and they are delicious.

In my opinion, our birds are the same fresh or frozen, if anything, the frozen birds are even MORE tender than our fresh birds.  So, if you want a smaller bird, get yours NOW (or as soon as we process them)  and put it in the freezer.  If you insist on a fresh bird, you can get yours before Thanksgiving but these are going to be big turkeys.

Another suggestion is purchasing a big turkey, cutting it into pieces and roasting them that way.  Saves time cooking, everything cooks evenly, browns evenly and you dont have to worry about mis-timing the bird.  You may not have a big bird to carve for the family but you wont have to worry that the green bean casserole hasnt gone in the oven yet because the bird wasnt cooked!

One more thing, as far as cooking instructions for our birds, for whatever reason, fresh or frozen, these birds cook up FAST.  Much faster than conventional turkeys.  I have no idea why.  They will surprise you.  I think about 10 minutes per pound at 300 degrees is about right.  Prepare for them to be finished cooking early.

So, lets recap:

  • Turkeys are a loss leader.  They really are expensive to raise.  They arent cheap for us to raise, thats why we charge a lot.  They eat a lot!  
  • Grocery stores call things "fresh" even when they arent truly "fresh"
  • Our birds are truly free range.  
  • We are small and dont have the luxury of raising a bird for you to a specific weight.  You can opt for a bigger or smaller bird, but beware, the smaller birds are probably going to be pretty big...
  • $75 dollars per bird this year.  No matter what the weight.  The bigger the bird, the better the value!
  • Honestly, if you freeze your bird, it will be even more tender than buying a bird fresh.  The freezing process helps to tenderize and "age" your turkey making it taste great
  • Cut up your turkey and roast it in pieces, or freeze half of it and cook the other half.  
  • Our turkeys will cook up FAST!!!  Be prepared for them to be done early.  Check them often!

Thats about it for today.  Order now, they will be going quickly.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Growing Fast

The turkeys are getting big. I think we're going to have to process them in 3-4 weeks. They will be too big at Thanksgiving- for the normal person. Me though, I want a few really, really big ones for myself. Last year I was able to save a few turkeys for ourselves and I cut them up into pieces and froze them. I love the big turkey breasts and I plan to use them for the kids for lunches.

We may have a few turkeys left that we can sell- so let us know if you still want one.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I'm learning my squash this year so excuse my mistakes. The squash from a few weeks ago is NOT a delicata squash but a Pink Banana Squash.

I don't have a good record of what seeds went where for the squash- so I THOUGHT the delicata squash was in that row but I guess the Pink Banana Squash is what was in that spot.
I have a good excuse though as planting the squash was a rush job.

Mike and I planted the squash literally 5 minutes before a nice thunderstorm during the month of July. Why is this important you might ask? Umm-- have you ever tried to move a hose around and water a field of squash? Best option is mother nature- so timing is everything.

The hills had been planted and I saw the rain coming so I said-- honey, quick-- help me plant the squash. It's not too hard to plant squash. You just take 3-4 seeds and put them into the hill every 4 feet or so. We only had to do this for about 400 ft of rows.

So as the lightning approached- Mike got nervous and said- ok- time to go in.
I said no way-- we finish. It started to rain. He said-ok the seed packets are getting wet.
I said no way-- we finish. The lightning got really close....

And we barely finished. I think I had to go back after the rain and plant a few more seeds as a pretty big bolt of lightning did get close enough to give me a little scare.

Sooooooo..... Pink Banana Squash it is!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In the Flower Garden

As part of the CSA this year I planted a flower area. Who knew I could grow flowers so that they could have a beautiful arrangement on the table each week! Strawflowers are cool-- those are the 'flowers' that are the base of the arrangement and then all you have to do it put a few other flowers in front of it and it looks like you are a florist!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On my Kitchen Table

Random items from the garden seem to end up on my kitchen table. They all do have something in common- they are usually food items. Mostly leftovers after the CSA for the week is over. Leftover potatoes that are not holding up well that must be eaten soon, little pumpkins and leftover squash I find in the garden. And then a bowl of hardboiled eggs. Seeds- and evidently dental floss is important in our house.

Today I was left with 20 or so various tomatoes leftover from the CSA week so I got out Mr Squeezo and we whipped up a sauce today. Potatoes on the table are not going to hold up so a few older round steaks were taken out of the freezer to be slow cooked with potatoes tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I give the turkeys and chickens the older tomatoes or ones with holes in them. Evidently Rosie likes orange tomatoes!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pink Banana Squash

I sure hope my CSA members like winter squash. The only reason it is growing is because I'm watering every few days pretty well. I think it's been almost 4 weeks with no rain-- maybe close to 5 weeks. Lets all do that rain dance again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Most Fabulous Meal We've Made so Far on the Farm

Steps have been omitted due to not taking enough pictures along the way.
First step- get a goat and milk it.

Then pasturize the milk. If you are making ricotta cheese you don't have to pasturize as the temp of the process basically pasturizes it- but you'll need to pasturize the mozzarella.
Get your citric acid and salt for the ricotta cheese. Make 3 lbs of ricotta cheese- this will require about 3 gallons of goats milk.

Hang your ricotta till it is the right consistency. Feed the whey to the chickens - they will love it.

Then make 3 lbs of mozzarella, make 4 batches of fresh noodles using pastured eggs (of course), make a pot of tomato sauce using tomatoes from your garden, green peppers from your garden, small zucchini from your garden, garlic and herbs from your garden and stew with a pork neckbone from one of your processed pigs. Also cook some loose pork hot/sweet italian sausage for layering.

Make the lasagna and put it in the oven for 45 minutes to cook.
Then wait patiently for 5 minutes when it comes out of the oven as you don't want to serve it all soupy.

Eat one large piece with a glass of red wine and sit back and admire your work. One family of 5 will only be able to eat 1/3 of a big lasagna pan so you'll have plenty of leftovers. Or better yet, next time invite some really special friends to your house to share your creation. One very special CSA member came to help pick peppers this evening and got to try the lasagna.

Prep and cooking time: about 2 days - prepare cheeses the day before, make sauce, noodles and lasagna all in same day. Or you can make 2 lasagna at one time and freeze the second for dinner a few weeks later (we did this).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Vacation

I used to go places on vacation. Now I have farm vacations. So far we've milked about 8 gallons of milk from our goats. I have also developed some mean looking forearms. Using muscles I never knew were there.

Of the 8 gallons, 4 gallons was used to make cajeta. A goats milk carmel sauce that is out of this world (in my limited experience with cajeta). Even daughter #1 who doesn't like goat anything didn't know it was made with goats milk. I'm hooked. Now we are on to cheese! We've got the equipment- pasturizer and whatnot. We just need a clever way to put this suction valve on a hose. Our kitchen sink has one of those cool spray nozzles and so that's not going to work. So we are going to totally hillbilly it up and use the hose that is below the kitchen window and feed it through the kitchen screen window. We just need the hose to provide cold water to chill the outside of the milk container after it's been heated to pasturizing temperature. Those familiar with beer making will know this kind of cooling process as a wort chiller type process though the milk stays in the container sealed until it gets to the correct temp to then make cheese. So cold water goes in while another tube sucks the warm water out. To do this you need a tight seal- so fancy kitchen spray nozzle won't work.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my tomatoes. This is my favorite tomato this year. Green Striped Zebra or some combination of those 3 words is the tomato. It is green inside and sweet while at the same time tart. Excellent tomato.
We now have pork again! Pork sausage, boneless pork chops, spareribs, bacon and limited canadian bacon. The limited pork ends are spoken for already. Also new beef round and more 1/4 lb hamburger patties of grass fed beef available. We had the sausage tonight and it's fabulous as always- Sweet Italian, Hot Italian, Sage, Apple and then just plain old pork link available.