Living in Chaos...

I left the gate open last night when I went through the cow field to feed the pigs.  The cows, of course, helped themselves to the yard.  As I write this they are standing in the shade of the tree in our back yard.

Zach pointed out that at least “we” wouldn’t have to mow the lawn this week.  (There is no "we," mowing is NOT my job.)

I suppose the cows being in the yard is handy, because I need to catch Lucy, who is sold and needs to go to her new home.

Ok, the backyard looks really bad in this photo!

I guess the cows are in their space, so the ducks are huddled up in the shade of the well house (usually they are in that puddle that collects next to the house, we need to do something about that).

 

 

 

One of the livestock guardian dogs (LGD), puppy really, Loretta, had a mishap which resulted in the dislocation of her hip.  Not sure what happened, we don’t think she was hit by a car, as there is no other damage to her.  Her backside was covered with grass stains though, so we think she may have gotten tossed by a cow.  She's at Kevin's recovering this week.

Sorting pigs this week resulted in loose pigs everywhere (had to catch the two going to the processor).  Two days later, I think I have them all contained again.  We’ll see when I go to feed tonight.

I made four road trips in three days!  On the first trip I picked up our new bull Copper in Fries, VA and dropped off Michelle, a jersey cow we sold, near Greensboro, NC.  On Tuesday I picked up beef in Gibsonville, NC, returned to the farm to load most into the freezers here and then headed to Kevin in Williamsburg, VA to drop off the rest and spend the night.  Wednesday I returned to Gibsonville, NC to drop of a cow and some pigs with the processor. 

And I’m not done driving!  We are buying a herd of Tennessee Fainting goats located in Missouri!  I’m not looking forward to that drive.  But, buying an entire herd is easier and more cost effective than buying one or two at a time off Craigslist.  Especially since the ones on Craigslist are likely the ones that the owners can’t keep inside of the fence.  As soon as they receive their health certificates I’ll be hitting the road to go get them.  Did I mention that they come with their own LGD?  That’ll make four extra large dogs on the farm. 

The chaos here extends to the interior of the house as well.  I started to remove the paint from the paneling on the staircase three years ago, seems like forever ago.  I worked on it a bit again last month before it got too hot. It's now too hot to turn off the air and open the windows to work with the chemicals for paint removing...  Oh well, it's waiting for me, and I'll get back to it sometime.

Can you tell that I kind of love my chaos?  I LOVE being busy.  I could go on and on about some of the insanity here on the farm, there's ALWAYS something happening!  Projects started, projects half done, projects on the back burner.  My motto is "little by little."  Don't rush it and it WILL get done (rushing results in things like a broken tractor, busted tractor implements, overworked muscles and injury and possibly worse...).

It always looks a little crazy around here, and I know I drive Kevin nuts, but to quote Nelson Mandela:

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” 

I'm reconsidering that quote, so many things feel so impossible.  Does that mean I'll never be "done?"  Great, it will keep me busy.

 

It took long enough, but our pastured nonGMO pork has been picked up from the processor!  Pork chops, Boston Butt, ribs, tenderloin, mild and hot country sausage are now available.

Bacon and smoked ham are still at the processor and I plan to pick them up when the beef is ready (hopefully the week of the 4th!).

I have to apologize, I haven't written a blog lately!  I admit that getting on the computer to work is not my favorite thing to do...   I prefer to be out playing with pigs and cows (funny, as my mother tells me I used to hate cows).  

Two big news items on the farm:  First I had an intern last week.  A friend's 16 year old son, Andrew, offered to come work for a week!  We spent the week working on fencing, firewood, and moving pigs.  Unfortunately, he left on Friday afternoon.  I think I can talk him into coming back next year...  Second I think the last of the calves for a while was born this week.

Ok, on to my favorite Pastured Pork Chop recipe that I promised.  You'll need:

- pork chops

- salt

- pepper

- dried or fresh sage

- either 1 chicken stock cube, 1 tsp powdered chicken stock, or a cup of fresh or canned broth, chicken or pork

- 1 cup of water IF you are using the stock cube or powder

This is really my mom's recipe, thoug I've modified it a bit.

 

Start with sprinkling each pork chop with salt, pepper and a bit of dried sage.  Use your fingers to rub the seasonings in.  

Heat a skillet over medium/high heat- use one that has a lid.   I like to use my cast iron and then I borrow a lid from something else to cover it.

Brown each chop for 2 minutes on each side.

Turn the heat down to low.

Add the cup of water with the stock cube or powder, or if you are using fresh or canned broth add that now.

Put the lid on and let it simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.

At this point, you have some options.  First option is to serve the chops after simmering.

Second option is to remove the lid and let the liquid cook out.  Watch it carefully - you want to let the liquid caramelize onto the chops.  You will need to flip the chops a few times to ensure they get caramelized on both sides.  Continue cooking until both sides of the chops are browned and then serve.

Option three is to make some gravy with the stock in the pot.  Mom would whisk a couple of tablespoons of flour into a half cup of sour cream or plain yogurt.  She would then remove the chops from the pan, reserving the liquid.  Add the sour cream mixture to the liquid while whisking.  Depending on how much liquid evaporated during cooking, you may need to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water to your gravy (do this while whisking!).  This is how I remember eating pork chops while growing up.  Always satisfying.  Serve with mashed or baked potatoes.

Let me know how it comes out!

As always, please share this with your friends!  We need your help to spread the word about our farm and our products.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”   Albert Einstein

Happy Fourth of July!

Amie

Food For Thought: Roundup Coverup Uncovered

For decades, the weed killer Roundup has been promoted as environmentally safe and harmless to humans. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is the most widely used weed-killing chemical on farms, lawns, schoolyards, golf courses and other public spaces. Some 276 million pounds of glyphosate was used in the US in 2014 and its use continues to rise. There's a good chance it's in your garage or shed right now.

But, beyond the aforementioned uses of Roundup, I'll bet you didn't know that it is used as a desiccant for wheat.  Don't know what that means?  Neither did I!

A desiccant is used to promote more even ripening of wheat berries, it causes a rapid dry down and enables an earlier harvest.  Result for the farmer is that he has more wheat to sell.

Roundup, or Glyphosate, is applied shortly before harvesting to achieve these results.  

I myself find it easy to believe that everything we consume that contains non-organic wheat is contaminated.

My own evidence for this is that I KNOW wheat makes me sick.  My digestion goes to hell real quick when I eat wheat as more than a rare occasional treat.  Is it just possible that the exposure of wheat to toxins (which I ate... ) is responsible for all my troubles?

The use of Roundup as a desiccant is such a widespread practice that according to the US Department of Agriculture, “99% of durum wheat, 97% of spring wheat, and 61% of winter wheat [in the U.S.] has been doused with Roundup as part of the harvesting process”

But is it really safe?

In March 2015, the WHO (World Health Organization), after doing its own independent analysis, determined that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, meaning it probably causes cancer.

The EPA had declared glyphosate safe years ago. But after the WHO report, they reportedly did a fresh evaluation of the dangers. They released a paper in October 2015 stating that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans, but later retracted it, saying it was not final.

It turns out that more than 800 people with cancer are suing Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, over claims the glyphosate-based herbicide made them ill — and that Monsanto did little to warn the public, despite knowing cancer risks existed.

In the process, court records now show that in making the recent retracted decision that glyphosate does not cause cancer, the EPA used two studies that had been ghostwritten by Monsanto’s toxicology manager, but were published using names of academic researchers.

Beyond that, uncovered email correspondence shows that the EPA's chairman of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on Monsanto's behalf.

Also uncovered were 1991 EPA documents detailing a Monsanto-funded study that found it may cause cancer. The study was "reviewed" again until it mysteriously showed no carcinogenic potential.

The lawsuit will likely go on for years, but two things have been revealed. The earlier assertion that Roundup is environmentally safe and harmless to humans is questionable, as is relying on the EPA to make unbiased judgments about potentially hazardous chemicals.

Farming: It Takes a Community!

This is a shout out and big THANK YOU to my friends and neighbors who help make things happen around here!

Most of the time, it’s just me doing all of the farm chores.  The kids do help, they have regular chores.  Zach feeds pigs in the evening and Carmin is in charge of the rabbits and chicken wagon.  That leaves me with feeding pigs in the morning, moving pigs (I try to move each group every two weeks!), moving cows, and moving chicken tractors.  But those are just the basic must do each day chores.

There is so much to this farming thing!  There are fences to build, repair, and weed-wack under.  Getting the vet out, taking animals to the vet.  Loading animals for the butcher, and picking up meat.  I could go on…  and on...

I’ll start with Diana, who was here on Saturday instead of doing her own farm work.  We had a sick calf and Diana has some expertise in the field of animal medical care.  She’s generally my first call when I have injured or sick animals.  Diana came right over and taughtme how to tube feed the calf, I couldn’t have done it without Diana!  She farm sits, helps with the kids when I need it, has tons of homeschooling advice (and encouragement).  She’s always there when I need her!

Then there’s Bethany.  She never says no when I ask her for help!  Bethany is busy homeschooling her own four children, so usually she helps out with watching my kids or getting them where they need to be, which seems to happen pretty often.  We also swap plants for the garden, cookbooks, and tools.

Heather is also always there for me.  Heather and I are forever lending each other tools that the other does not own.  We also farm sit for each other and commiserate over foul weather and loose pigs.

Johny, the electrician who re-wired our old house, has become a family friend.  When I call (usually because I’ve broken something) he comes right over to help me out.  Johny has helped to get the tractor un-stuck, put the belt back on the lawn mower (twice), burn piles of logs dug up by pigs, move pigs, Johny never says “no”!  I think the most interesting fix would be a roof repair. Zach, driving the RTV too fast through the yard, hit the roof over the well house (a small short building sheltering the well pump).  He knocked the ENTIRE roof off of the building.  I was, of course, at a total loss as to how to get the roof back on top of the well house before Kevin saw it and lost it with Zach.  Johny had the answer, he picked the roof up with the tractor and with the help of another neighbor was able to set it back where it belonged.

Bill, a fellow farmer, never fails to allow me to borrow his mobile cattle squeeze chute, taught me how to brace my fences, and is forever giving free farming advice.  Bill is a great mentor and a generous friend.

Kristy and Keith, husband and wife team extraordinaire!  Kristy knew I wanted to get my yard fenced in (or fenced out, depends how you look at it).  Too many pigs and cows have been taking advantage of our yard.  Anyhow, they had a friend with a two-man auger (post hole digger).  They managed to borrow it and then came over and dug more than fifty fence post holes for me!    Kevin helped me set them and I’ve got them mostly wired.  But, I couldn’t have done it with out Kristy and Keith!

Last, but never least is Kendy!  Tireless friend and great mentor!  Kendy has a passion for conservation of rare breeds of livestock and encourages me to continue with it myself.  She possesses a wealth of knowledge and has an amazing network of friends and contacts in the world of small farming.  If I need to find something or someone, or learn how to do something, I just reach out to Kendy, if she does not know the answer off the top of her head, she will have it soon, usually in less than 24 hours.

Here’s my loud THANK YOU to all of the aforementioned folks and many more whom I have not mentioned here!  You are all loved and appreciated!  I absolutely could not do this without your support.

Easy, Complete Meals With Your Favorite Sausage

Spring Break is over and I guess it’s time for me to settle down and do some inside farm work.  I admit that it’s not my favorite kind of farm work.  I’d much rather be outside, especially now when things are so green and beautiful!  But as it happens, it’s pouring down rain, and it’s cold while I write, so I’m happy enough to be inside.

Speaking of spring break - I spent the week home alone and catching up on farm work.  I tend to not want to cook for myself when it’s just me, which means I don’t eat very well.  I created a few simple meals based on sausage to get me through.  It’s a good thing we have several flavors in stock right now, or I’d be sick to death of the sage sausage.

For any of these recipes, feel free to change the flavor of sausage and the vegetables!  

Here goes!  Enjoy!


Sausage and Potato Hash

I like to make this a one dish meal.  If I’m cooking for just myself I will use either a large white potato or a large sweet potato.  It’s also good with a mix of both white and sweet potatoes.

Ingredients for one person:

  • 1 large white potato or 1 large sweet potato or a mix of smaller or a mix of white and sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 LB of your favorite sausage
  • 1 small onion, or 1/4-1/2 of a large one
  • salt to taste

Ingredients for a family:

  • 4 large white potatoes or sweet potatoes or a mix white and sweet potatoes
  •  1 LB of your favorite sausage
  • 1 large onion
  • salt to taste

Cut the potatoes into 1/2” dice.  Place them into your skillet and cover them with water.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 5-8 minutes.  When they are tender (check by sticking a sharp knife into a piece - it should pierce it with no resistance, like butter), drain the water and place the potatoes onto your plate, or into a serving bowl, while you cook the sausage.

In the same pan, add your sausage.  If you are using links, slice the links before cooking.  Once the sausage has released some fat, add the onions and cook until the sausage is cooked through.  

Add the cooked potatoes back to the skillet.  If the sausage did not release much fat, then you may need to add a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.  You really need only reheat the potatoes at this point, but I like to caramelize the onions and brown the potatoes a bit.  Add salt to taste and enjoy!  I love this one for breakfast, and the kids enjoy it too.


Sausage and Roasted Vegetable Hash

I like to use leftover roasted vegetables for this one.  With leftovers from dinner, it makes a quick and easy breakfast.

Ingredients for one person:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of leftover diced roasted vegetables ( I like sweet potato, butternut squash, turnip, brussels sprouts, white potato, parsnip, onion, etc)

  •  1/4 LB of your favorite sausage - 1 large onion

  • salt to taste

Ingredients for a family:

  • 4-5 cups of leftover chopped roasted vegetables ( I like sweet potato, butternut squash, turnip, brussels sprouts, white potato, parsnip, onion, etc)
  • 1 LB of your favorite sausage
  • salt to taste

This one couldn’t be easier!  Just brown your sausage and cook it through, slicing the links if that is what you are using.  Add your leftover roasted veggies and heat them up with your sausage.  Salt if necessary.  Eat.  

 

Sausage and Greens

This one came about when I needed to fix something for ladies night.  I was planning on guacamole - I had purchased the avocados, but I forgot the chips… 

I went to see what was in the garden, and there were still a few carrots I had started last fall, and the kale, which the cows had busted into the garden and eaten last fall, had recovered.  I also had some leeks.  Here’s the result:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large leek, sliced thinly and then chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 pound of sausage (really good with Andouille!) 
  • Kale, chopped - ok, I didn’t weigh this.  I was a large armful!  You could use spinach, chard, Pak Choy, Bok Choy, whatever green you prefer.  
  • Salt to taste

Heat a very large skillet or a large stock pot would work.  I use my largest cast iron skillet.  You want to have enough room to add the greens at the end!  Add the oil then toss in the leek, onion and carrots.  The carrots need the most time to cook.  Give them a few minutes on the stove and then add the sausage and continue to cook until the sausage is done.  

At this point, you could really set it all aside and finish it when you are ready to eat by reheating and adding the greens.

You may be looking at the mountain of greens right now and wondering how they will fit into your skillet!  They may not all fit at one time.  I add a few handfuls at a time.  Just keep pushing the greens around in the pan and they will wilt and shrink significantly, making for room for you to keep adding more greens.  The large armful that you started with will shrink down to next to nothing.

Add some salt if necessary, and you are ready to eat!