I Can’t Afford to Eat Well…and Other Lame Excuses

Eating healthy food doesn’t cost more money.  It costs more time but gives you more time…time to live…past your 60’s.  As food prices have fallen, health care costs have risen.  Correlation does not equal causation but I think the two are linked. Here is my lovely bride with more to say on this topic.

“It’s just too expensive to eat healthy.”

My reply was that in the long term eating cheap is very expensive – it costs you your health and medical care is only getting more expensive.

As I thought about that conversion I wish I had taken it a different direction.  I don’t believe it does cost more to eat healthy food, even in the short term.  What are some of the items in your shopping cart this week?  A bag of chips usually will cost $3/lb, Cheerios – $4/lb, Oreo’s – $5/lb, candy bars  – $8/lb.  Compare that to a Chism Heritage Pasture Raised Chicken – $3/lb or raw milk from grass feed dairy cows – .75c/lb.  How much money do you spend on food that isn’t nurishing you? Cheap and easy food is not real and sustainable food.  Just because you can chew it, swallow it, digest it and maybe even like it does not make it real food.

In America we spend less on food than any country in the world.  This cheap food is not only causing people to be malnursihed but it also effects our soil.  Joel Salatin in Folks, This Ain’t Normal says, “Don’t people understand that a cheap food policy will create a cheap farmer policy?  And a cheap farmer policy will create a cheap landscape policy?  And a cheap landscape policy with create a cheap soil policy?  No civilization can be any healthier environmentally or economically that it’s soil.  No health care system and no bank bailout program can compensate for a bankrupt soil policy, which is exactly what a cheap food policy creates.”

Our family is still developing good eating habits.  We certainly have some issues we need to work on but we have come a long way.  Eight years ago a typical day’s menu for my children looked something like this:
Breakfast:  cold cereal (absolutely nutritionless and full of sugar) with pasturized 2% milk (from who knows what farm)
Lunch:   peanut butter and jelly on cheap bread
Dinner:  hamburger helper with canned refridgerated rolls and a can of green beans

Today there is no boxed cold cereal in my house.  Breakfast is usually eggs and bacon, fruit salad with cottage cheese or oatmeal.  My kids still love peanut butter and jelly but I make the bread and jelly.  Dinner is usually a meat with vegetables but no bread.  We do buy different food but eating healthy is not just about going to the store and buying different groceries or just shopping the perimeter.  Healthy eating starts with a different approach to food.  You don’t just buy pre-packaged food that is labeled “healthy”, you buy quality ingredients and cook them.  There is no way around it, if you want to eat healthy you have to cook.  If you don’t have the time or desire then you have to pay someone the cook for you.  That sounds very expensive to me.  The great thing about this approach is that it can lower your food budget while giving you more time with your family in the kitchen.  Go to the library and read Nourishing Traditions The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats and Folks, This Ain’t Normal.  Both books will give you a desire and a direction toward real food.  Then get into your kitchen and help your farmer make the world better with just your plate and fork.  Stop watching TV and cook something!

I’m still learning, but I’m learning with my kids and it’s great.  Old habits die hard but we can form better habits in ourselves and our children.  Chime in below and let us know where you have found the most success in your healthy kitchen efforts.

Update
Here are a few sites we rely on to help us in our efforts.  Expect this list to grow.
The Healthy Home Economist
Nourished Kitchen
The Nourishing Home

Where do You See Yourself in 5 Years

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I hate that question.  I work in tech.  I have a hard time telling management, most of whom don’t work in tech, that I have no idea what changes are in store for my career.  I don’t really see myself moving to management and if you try to explain current tech trends to HR their eyes glaze over and they just wait for you to finish talking.  I like what I do and would like to continue doing it.  Tech changes constantly and if I were to guess, 5 years from now I’ll still be diligently working to stay abreast of new trends, add value, etc.  Looking back 5 years I couldn’t foresee the iPad.  I couldn’t foresee (and still don’t really understand) Facebook.  I have no idea what Microsoft will dream up next.  I don’t think we’ll use keyboards much longer though.

Looking at my farm in 5 years is a little easier.  I’m a little restrained by the economy and have no idea how to pay for this but I have a vision of how I would like to reshape the farm over the next 5-40 years.  I have plans to add greenhouses and ponds, I have a plan for pasture grazing and improvement, woodlot improvement, establishment of new tree stands, orchards, swales and general beautification of the farm.  On the topic of beautification I need to replace a number of buildings but that’s further down on the list.  More water on the farm = more life.  I need to build 6 or 7 ponds over the next few decades.

I plan to transition our primary revenue generation away from chickens to cattle.  We haven’t begun to build our beef herd yet.  I hope to divorce myself from the feed grinder as it is both dangerous and expensive to operate.  Further, it’s one more thing I have to store in a shed…a shed I need to replace.  Instead we’ll use dense swards of grass to harvest sunlight, earthworks to harvest rainfall and cows to cycle nutrients.  It’s a terribly complicated machine with no moving parts but entirely dependent on free and continued sunlight.  I plan to use a solar-powered fence charger to keep the cows where I want them.

To prevent wind and evaporation we have plans for tree plantings.  These will be primarily fruit and nut trees but I would like a larger stand of sugar maples to tap in my old age.  I better get started now!  The fruit trees will give guests another reason to come visit the farm…another over-arching goal of ours.

Everything we do should boost biodiversity, restore the local ecology, and help nurture our community.  I hope to raise big, fat cows and have room for big, fat groundhogs.  We plan to leave meadows ungrazed until the ground-nesting birds have hatched in July.  I hope friends and customers continue to come here seeking rest and inspiration…or at least entertainment.

We have given strong consideration to picking up a Fertrell dealership.  It could happen in the next 5 years though I have a lot to learn and, again, need a shed.  And a scale.  And a truck.  But it’s possible…

I anticipate my oldest son will begin to step up his involvement in the farm and will either relieve me of one or more enterprises or will start some of his own.  At 17 he should be ready to test his wings and I plan to enable him to do so.  He has always been our guinea pig so he’ll set the pattern for his siblings.  Whatever they are interested in, we are interested in.

I didn’t list revenue in my planning.  I can’t set financial goals outside of paying for the land and the improvements.  I am not a corporation.  This isn’t a machine.  This is a biological process.  Financial goals fit with biology like socks on a rooster.

These are, of course, moving targets.  These plans will likely shift as the wife and I dive deeper into our studies of permaculture.  So I guess, like tech, my farming goals aren’t entirely knowable.  It’s a best guess either way.  But it’s easier to keep my audience interested when I’m not explaining database index optimization strategies.  Yeah.

So, there you go.  The top-down view of the next X years.  That question is so much easier than career planning.  What about you?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  Will you finally achieve your “someday“?

What Makes Some Goat Milk Taste Bad

I was asked, “What makes some goat milk taste bad?”  Milk should taste like milk…but milk may not always taste like that white liquid you buy at the store.  Some milk has character.  Some milk tastes different.  Some milk tastes bad.  I’ll offer my thoughts on the subject, though I’m far from an authority.  In fact, I’m anxious to read your responses.  I also want to note this is not limited to goat milk.

Handling
Goat milk, cow milk and, I suspect, camel milk all benefit from being refrigerated quickly.  Milk is biologically active and yearns to express its potential.  We place our milk in the freezer immediately after milking to chill it quickly and slow biological processes as soon as possible.  This quick chill doesn’t kill anything but it does slow everything down.  Our friend Steve does the same thing with cow’s milk.  He sterilizes a deep freezer every night, fills it about 1/3 full of water and lets it chill overnight.  In the morning he puts 5-10 gallons of milk in the freezer in cans to chill.  We do something similar but since we’re only chilling 4-6 pounds of milk (as opposed to 80 pounds) and since we consume all of our milk ourselves we just pop the jar in the freezer with the pork chops.  This could affect flavor.

Sanitation
Your dairy can impart flavors on milk.  Is the goat clean and brushed and did you wash the udder?  Are your buckets and jars sterile?  Did you use an appropriate filter to strain the milk?  Not only can your milk become unsafe to drink, the critters you introduce when handling the milk can change the flavor.

Diet/Seasonality
Diet makes a huge difference in milk flavor.  Our goats get a varied diet in addition to free-choice alfalfa hay.  We also buy raw cow’s milk from a dairy North of us.  There is a noticeable difference in flavor as the seasons change.  In the winter the cows eat alfalfa hay and the milk is sweeter.  As spring comes on their diet is rye and clover.  The milk takes on a smokey character.  I find myself lacking appropriate adjectives for the milk but it does change seasonally as does the cow’s diet.  Further, goat milk changes depending on what kinds of weeds are out there and the availability of browse.  Finally, milk changes as we get further into the lactation.

Genetics
Some goats just have a different…flavor.  Like apples, genetics seem to have an impact.  I know.  Do with that what you will.  I suspect it’s the least important after diet, sanitation and quick chill.

Buck Smell
If you  keep a buck with your doe you’ll smell him.  The smell won’t leave you.  You can’t get it out of your clothes.  Your co-workers will remark on the odor.  It soaks into your pores and no amount of pumice will remove it.  Makes sense then that it will be on your doe…and it will taint the milk.

What do you do with your goat milk?  Just add a glass and drink?  Goat milk ice cream?  Cheese?  Let us know in the comments below.

Time to Stop Dancing

May (black halter) is expecting in September thanks to a straw.  We held off on breeding Flora (red halter) because she was a bit younger.  It struck us as a good idea to send Flora to the bull rather than bring the bull home, especially since the dairyman we bought Flora and May from didn’t mind.  Further, there was a chance that the dairyman was going to get some pretty high-priced straws in time to use on Flora.  She met the bull instead.  Anyway, off they went just in time for us to get through kidding our goats.  The cows came home again yesterday.  It’s time to stop dancing.

It was nice having a month off from moving the cows.  They came back fat and slick, maybe a bit spoiled.  My pastures (yard) don’t compare to Steve’s pastures.  Not at all.  But we’re improving year after year.

Excellence, Diversity, and Creativity in Agriculture

What are you farming for?  Why bother?  Isn’t there something easier you can do?  (Oh, gosh.  There are a lot of easier ways to make a dime.)

I want to offer my customers the best products on the market.  I want my customers to be confident that I am giving them everything I can, doing everything I can, being as frugal as I can, stewarding the ecology as well as I can and serving them as well as I can.  I am not a carbon copy of another farmer.  To do this successfully I seek inspiration from a broad range of sources from personal interaction to podcasts to huge numbers of books.  I try to do a number of complimentary things as well as I can, always seeking new and better ways to accomplish my goals.  That’s fine for me but I am not enough.  I hope to help inspire a new generation of stewards working toward similar goals.  Why?

I can raise chicken for about 25 families currently.  I may be able to grow that in time but that’s where I’m at.  According to the Census bureau there are 114 million households.  Servicing those households with chicken at my scale would require nearly 5 million farmers and I would estimate 15-20 million farmers are required to meet the broad dietary needs of those households.  There are only about 2 million “farmers” in the US currently.  There are only 300 million people in the US.  Now apply that math on a global scale.  Where are those farmers going to come from?  How can we inspire families to dream of the day their children grow up to become entrepaneurial farmers?  How can we bless children with a vision of success that doesn’t include forcing their bodies to fit the shape of a chair?  How can we raise a healthy, strong, vibrant, non-allergic generation ready to propel us forward into a drought-resistant world brimming with a diversity of life and health?  It has to come from the bottom up.

“Their dreams have been about building unity when they should have been about creating excellence – even if that means diversity” – The Telegraph

I’m not interested in discussing the content of the article as this is the wrong format for that.  I’m interested in that quote.  How can I focus on inspiring/creating excellence even if it means doing things differently?  How can I write in a way that inspires readers to adopt and change our ideas to fit their situation?  How can I help others find new solutions to old problems…enabling diversity?  How can I further broaden my perspective to allow for new ideas and methods…even those that may show me to be in error?  How can I be better, beyond simply increasing my skill as a farmer, at building and participating in a diverse community?  Let me answer in as few words as I can.

We need more farmers.

Guess I’ll have to expand on that.

More farmers means greater intensity.  Modern rowcrop farming is about cashflow, not food production and it’s certainly not about “feeding the world”.  I can have a more intensive focus and a higher level of productivity per square foot on one acre than I can with 1000 acres.  There is only so much one person can do.  I can utilize a broad area but the more area I manage, the less the intensity of management.  Further, if I was grazing 10,000 cows on 6,000 acres I may not have time to stack in other profitable enterprises.  More farmers mean greater intensity and productivity.  More farmers also means more innovators, discovering new and better ways to solve old problems.  How can we stack more growth on fewer acres?  How can we sequester more carbon?  How can we find more ethical and efficient ways to produce eggs for our neighbor’s kitchens?  I suggest it can only happen if we have more people working to solve that problem…people who are willing to pursue ideas others think are silly.

Who is best qualified to generate silly ideas?  The youth.

As we age we become increasingly risk averse.  We become set in our ways, believing in the paradigm that has gotten us where we are, even if it has exceeded it’s point of maximum efficiency.  Youth aren’t stuck in a rut and aren’t afraid to look silly…unless they are confined in a daytime prison camp, subjugated by peers and are actively punished for non-conformity by their guards teachers.  I am the seventh generation on this land and from what I can tell, each of us has done it differently.  At least, I do it differently than grandpa did and he farmed differently than his father.  How can I perpetuate that legacy?  I try to read everything I can, spend a lot of time thinking before committing to an action and try, really try to allow my kids ages 6-11 to feel like their input is part of the decision making process here and to feel that their contributions are valued.  Many of our successful ideas come from our children.

But how can more young people (not children) begin farming when they typically have negative equity and no business experience?  I don’t have an easy answer.  I could go into a long post on economics and monetary policy but, again, this isn’t the right forum for that (maybe I need another blog…).  It is important to start small and use what you have but there has to be more we, as a community, can do to encourage agriculture as a way of life.  Land owners need to find ways to encourage young entrepaneurs to become tenants, managers, partners or interns.  Give them some way to learn before they leap, some way to earn and some measure of guidance as they build equity and, ultimately, independence.  One successful example is the New Zealand model of sharemilking.  There’s a nice article on the concept here.  We are working to find ways to involve our children in our businesses and to start complimentary enterprises of their own while we are still here to help them back up when they fall down.  We make a major financial investment in our children, model frugality so they can buy land of their own someday and teach them what little we know about marketing.  Most of all, we teach them to pursue excellence and independence.

Each of our children want to do different things; rabbits, pigs, laying hens, and a taco stand.  Yes.  A taco stand.  We’re not laughing.  It’s nice that our kids can do different things but it’s important that they do complimentary things.  Bill Mollison said, “Diversity isn’t involved so much with the number of elements in a system as it is with the number of functional connections between these elements. Diversity is not the number of things, but the number of ways in which things work.”  However, he later cautions, “Just by putting a lot of things together, we might reach the stage where we pollute the system simply with diversity.”  On our own farm we have to be careful to measure our success and admit our shortcomings as we attempt to stack elements.  This yearning for diversity, though pointed in the same general direction, also applies to my neighbors…even the GMO-happy glyphosate crowd.  My favorite dairy farmer in the world who builds ponds, grazes his cattle, maintains his timber and generally moves in the right direction does any number of things differently than I would.  He is weighing his options and making the best choices he can.  We have to allow for differences as we work to influence the world around us.  As more of us turn to agriculture, more differences will appear.  The same problems exist in both Maine and Texas but the solutions may be entirely different.  The same is true of farms across the road from each other.  We need to encourage these farmers to both pursue the best solution they can find locally and to build relationships with each other to continue sharing ideas.

Mollison continues: “We have got to let experts loose on the ground. We need hundreds and hundreds of them. We don’t want at any time to patent anything or to keep any information to ourselves”.  That’s it.  I need to be free to improve on your ideas.  You need to be free to improve on mine.  As we push forward we may eventually make something useful…who knows!  I spend a lot of time reading and discussing Salatin’s works, in part, because he hasn’t patented his ideas.  He and Andy Lee showed me how to use a chicken tractor.  I modified Salatin’s plan and built one that works well where I live.

I’ll say again that I’m going against the grain here.  I do things that nobody does…a few things nobody has ever done.  I’m an odd duck.  When I screw up (frequently) I have a number of people ready to pounce and say, “See?  What were you thinking?  I told you it wouldn’t work.”  Gene Logsdon points out that, because I’m different, it’s as if I’m telling my farming neighbors that they have been doing the wrong things for the last 60 years.  We, as practitioners of alternative agriculture, need to find common ground with our conventional neighbors.  Yes, we all do it our own way.  Some of us are even successful at it.  But we need to stand together even with our conventional neighbors.  There is nobody else who can/will support us.  If we are a community, our success will influence them to adopt our ideas in time.  If we push them away it will only make things worse.

We can’t all do the same things the same way.  Building a community is a better aim…a diverse, understanding, creative community pursuing excellence.  My farm is not your farm.  My schedule is not your schedule.  My budget is not your budget (be thankful).  My interests are not your interests.  My priorities are not your priorities.  In spite of this we can find common ground and we can achieve similar goals together.

So now the big question.  How can we get more youth excited about sustainable agriculture/permaculture?  Go out and meet your farmer.  Find a farmer who is excited and be inspired to see his work continue, expand and improve.  Find a farmer who will take time to break things down for children, inspiring them to see farming, not as drudgery, mud, blood and sweat, but as passion, meaningful work and a valuable contribution to the health of our world.

Overcoming Inertia

Someday.  Someday.  We hear it all the time.  “We’re not ready yet.”  “I’ll have chickens someday.”  “I would like to have a goat someday.”

Guests come to our farm, admire our children, the work we do, the love we share and the sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and purpose that fills our lives.  They begin telling us things about someday.  This is a big chunk of our ministry at Chism Heritage Farms.  It’s not all about healing land and feeding our community.  We also want to heal and feed people on an emotional level.  We begin asking questions.  “Why did you get out of bed this morning?  What are you hoping to accomplish today.  I’m not talking about SOMEDAY, I’m talking about TODAY!”

“Someday” is a lie you tell yourself.  Someday will slip past before you realize it.  What is it that’s really holding you back?  Why not begin to embrace your dream now?  Are you afraid?  Think it won’t work?  Have you ever failed at anything?  I have, early and often.  Failure is easy.  Anybody can fail but few have the courage to really do it well.  Have you ever really succeeded at anything though?  I have done that too…but not without spectacular failures along the way.  How much don’t I know about raising pigs, chickens or children?  Or being married?  A lot.  But it hasn’t stopped me yet.

Go for it.

You don’t know what your dream is?  You’re not alone.  I see an entire generation waiting to be told what to do.  Let me tell you what to do.  Something.  Several somethings.  Just go do stuff.  You’ll find something you do well.  Work to do better.  You won’t find purpose in front of the TV.  If you are absolutely unable to find something worth doing, do nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Sit down somewhere bright and convert Vitamin D in the sunlight.  Look at the world around you.  What contribution can you make?  What problem can you solve.  What are you here for?  What can you do today?  Pray about this.  You are a part of creation.  You were created.  Why were you created?  Did you ever think to ask your creator?

Maybe you already know what it is…that thing that screams at you each day.  Maybe you have starved it down to a whisper but you still hear it.  What can you do today to make that dream a reality?  What’s the first step?  Write it down.  Just write it down.  Fill a page with as many details as you can come up with.  Better yet, write it in a small notebook you can carry around with you daily.

Second step?  Look at what you’ve written.  Post it somewhere you can’t avoid (bathroom mirror).  Make that vision a part of your life.  Be purposeful about your purpose.

Third, start reading.  Turn off the TV.  Turn it off.  My wife says in the video we are sedating our lives with entertainment a la Aldous Huxley.  (Ironic that she said that in video.)  Start with a few simple things.  You’ll need to be inspired to pay down debt.  I suggest the following as a starting point:

Rich Dad, Poor Dad…for all its flaws we recognize the positive impact it made in our lives.
The Dream Giver…another imperfect book but the message it contains is outstanding.
If you’re going to pursue farming, read You Can Farm and The Contrary Farmer.  These are truly classics of agricultural writing and will give you the confidence to go against the current.  If you’re not into farming, find the classics of your passion.

Find a writer you like and read everything they have written.  It really won’t take long in your new post-TV life.  Then, begin reading what your favorite author reads.  We read everything Gene Logsdon wrote, including correspondence we had with him through the mail.  Gene Logsdon pointed me to Andy Lee.  Andy Lee pointed me to Joel Salatin.  We read (and continue to read) Joel Salatin and moved to the farm.  That’s how it works.  Start reading.

Fourth, as you read, find ways to attack your debt.  All of your debt.  Since you’re not watching TV anymore you don’t have a cable bill.  You might even free up some cash by selling the TV, though that may be a wash as you replace the entertainment center with a bookshelf.  Pick one debt and put everything into it.  Once gone roll that payment into a second debt.  We paid off 2 cars, 2 college loans and saved a downpayment for a farm on one modest income in just a couple of years…with four children.  We didn’t subscribe to any magazines, we didn’t eat out, we didn’t go on vacation.  We pursued our purpose.  Now it’s your turn.

Finally, avoid negativity.  Well-intentioned loved ones will think you are crazy.  They’ll tell you it won’t work.  They may even say something helpful like, “I tried that once” or “You’re young, you’ll learn”.  You need to learn.  You need to learn to avoid these people’s opinions.  They may honestly think they are being helpful.  They may not realize they want you to fail because they feel like failures and misery loves company.  You also have to learn to shut out that internal voice that says you will fail.  Fight discouragement.  You aren’t destined to be discouraged.  You’re destined to make a positive contribution to the world around you.

Go write something down.  James Altucher says the same thing every day on his blog.

Oh, and if you’re considering farming I highly recommend you read this first.

Strolling Through the Pasture June 2012 Edition

It is interesting how the plants have changed in the last month.  The pennycress is just about all gone.  Henbit has disappeared.  The goats are doing a good job of eating back the brush.

Fescue is clearly the dominant species with pockets of wildflowers here and there.

There are a number of other grasses out there including wild oat and orchardgrass, both of which I would like to encourage.

I was also surprised to find a little cheat.

Once I fence out my neighbor’s cows I’ll be able to run my own on the pasture with a planned, high-density impact instead of the cows just running wild eating what they choose.  For now, I’m happy to have a diversity of grasses and weeds…but less fescue would be great.

I have had to mow the Canadian thistles.  It was just taking too much of our time to chop them by hand.  A farm guest recently suggested we chop the thistles close to the ground and put a few grains of Morton salt on them.  Sounds like a plan.  There are still plenty out there.  Kinda pretty though.

Clovers are fairly thick now.  A wide variety of weeds are growing well, some are in bloom.  All that variety helps my nutrient cycling and ensures my livestock have access to the things they need.  Everything from wild carrot

to horsenettle.

Ragweed isn’t threatening to take over this year…for once.  It’s just in a little pocket by the house.  Achoo!

I could continue listing plants and pictures but you get the idea.  There is a wide variety out there.  I think that’s a good thing.  It’s not a lawn.  I would like to see things change a bit and suspect they will over time.  Especially now that we got a rain!

How is your pasture doing?

Nothing is Perfect

I like our Premier One Permanet.  I really, really like it.  But, since I have lost 4 pullets in 5 days to one dirty, stinking, filthy so-and-so skunk who is either bulletproof or can dodge bullets like Neo from Matrix and who can get through/under the fence in spite of a consistent 8,000 volts running through the permanet, it’s obviously not perfect.

I watched legions of raccoons splash at the pond night before last.  Raccoons aren’t getting through my fence and killing my chickens.  It’s a skunk.  One single bird each night.  Raccoons would kill several each.  The fence does a good job of keeping the raccoons out but can’t keep a determined skunk out.  It also failed to protect us from a mink once.  Neighbors are nice but they need to respect my property.  This kind of wanton property destruction and outright theft can not be tolerated.  Murdering a chicken is a capital crime if you are a skunk or a mink.  Skunks who murder and eat four chickens in five nights bring out the worst in me.

So I camped out at the pond, flashlight and gun in hand.  Just a tarp, an old blanket and the lumpy ground.  400 chickens make a lot of noise.  No skunk showed up to party.  I had to move the East side of the fence yesterday to continue moving the chicken tractors so maybe I filled in the unknown gap the skunk was using.  Maybe he smelled me.  Maybe he died a horrible death from a great horned owl.  I don’t know.  I won’t sleep well until I know.

The fence is not a perfect solution but it mostly gets the job done.  When it doesn’t, it makes for a long couple of nights and days of guilt, discouragement and stress.  At least it’s not cold out.  Or raining.  Yet.  Fortunately, the fence is 99% reliable.

Oh.  It’s raining now.  Well, that’s good.  It hasn’t rained in about a month.  Maybe the skunk will catch pneumonia.

Day 5: Spring Orzo Soup


Spring Orzo Soup

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced and reserve zest
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs lemon thyme
  • 2 cups spinach leaves packed
  • 1 1/2 C Uncooked Orzo Pasta
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 7 1/2 C Chicken Broth
  • remaining cubed chicken or 1-2 cups
  • 2 TBS water
  • 1TBS Cornstarch
  • 1/4 C Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 C slivered almonds

Saute the onion and garlic in oil until fragrant.  Add the lemon zest, pepper, and thyme and cook another 3 minutes until the onions are golden brown.  Turn the heat to medium and add spinach and orzo.  Cook for one minute.  De-glaze pan with 1/2 C white wine.  Add broth, chicken, and lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes until orzo is barely tender.  Whisk water and cornstarch together.  Bring the soup to a light boil and add cornstarch mixture.  Let thicken for 3 minutes.  Garnish with Parmesan and Almonds.

Serve with crustini and Cantaloupe Raspberry Salad

Cantaloupe Raspberry Salad

  • 1/4 C chopped mint
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 Cantaloupe cubed
  • 3 1/2 C raspberries

In a small bowl, whisk together the chopped mint, honey, and lime juice. Allow the mint-honey dressing to chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Gently toss the prepared dressing with the cantaloupe and raspberries.  Serve the salad immediately or store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Crustini

  • 1 french baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese

Set oven to broil.  Mix oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper in sauce pan.  When hot, dip bread into oil on both sides.  Dip one side of bread into Cheese and place cheese side up on cookie sheet.  Broil for 8 minutes.

Thank you for trying this out!  When summer reaches it’s peak, look out on this blog for a week of recipes using chicken and summer produce.  As always, I appreciate feedback and am happy to answer any questions.  Contact me at Jacquelyne@sew4cons.com and keep up with me at City Roots and Fruits.

What Do Pigs Do on a Farm?

What do pigs do on a farm?

What an excellent question.  Truly.  What’s the point of keeping a pig?  I mean, the meat is good…well, great.  But does that justify keeping pigs?  Is it fair to the animal to expect it to eat and get fat and contribute nothing…serve no positive purpose?  What do they DO?

I don’t think I could look an animal in the eye if all it did for me was get fat so I can eat it.  I, personally, don’t find life fulfilling without having a purpose.  Animals need purpose too.  Our chickens sanitize, debug and eat weeds.  They give us eggs to pay the rent.  Bees have a similar arrangement.  Goats clear the brush, give us milk and keep us entertained.  What is a pig’s purpose?  They don’t lay eggs and you don’t milk sows.  How can pigs pay the rent?

1.  They eat.
Pigs eat things we don’t.  Things we won’t.  They are omnivores.  You’ll see them eating clover.  You might catch them eating a snake or a mole.  They love when we throw them broken eggs.  They clean up whatever is out there.  Plus they get extra or soured milk, garden waste, non-pork kitchen scraps and convert it all to bacon.  Mmmmm…bacon.  Got unwanted blackberries growing out there?  Let the pigs eat them.  Yes.  Eat them.  No roundup required.  No mowing.  Just electric fence and bacon.

2.  They poop.
Ah, manure.  My old friend.  We need more manure.  Just think of what happens on a stretch of pasture across 11 days.  The goats eat the weeds and brush and drop a LOT of manure.  The goats also leave a pile of unwanted hay behind..loaded with manure.  Then the chickens come through and scratch at the hay pile, pick through the manure and eat all the bugs, often leaving bits of corn and feed behind…and very rich manure.  Then the pigs come through.  By this time, the tall, thorny things are out of the way, the bugs are gone and it’s time for the pigs to get down to business.  They nibble at the leftover hay, they nest into the hay, stirring the pile for later composting on site.  They eat any feed the chickens lost or forgot.  They dig up rhizomes, root for worms, loosen the soil and break up the sod and add in their own manure.

3.  They root.
We don’t ring our pigs because we want to leverage their rooting behavior.  Go ahead.  Tear it up.  Rooting is like plowing the soil.  They dig, scratch and generally make a mess of things.

All that sod action, combined with the manure they are putting down, makes a great seed bed but is quite harmful to annual grass species.  That’s fine with me as I’m working to increase my stand of native perennial grasses.  I’m working to establish better forages in my pastures so the pigs and I make a great partnership.  I need more orchard grass and less infected fescue.  The pigs lead the way and I follow up with a broadcast seed mixture.  I throw a mix of vernal alfalfa, timothy, perennial rye and orchardgrass along with a deer plot mix containing triticale, oats, winter peas, clover, chickory, turnip, and (of all things) daikon radish!  It was weird for me to look at deer food plot mixes since I never fill my deer tags but Steve suggested it.  Sure enough, looks like a lot of good things for my soil/ecology in there.  Beyond cows, goats, chickens and pigs, that plant variety will boost the rabbit population, feeding the coyotes, hawks and owls.  All of those animals, including the deer, add manure to my farm.  If I can get them to spend more time on my farm (weird to say that about coyotes), they will translocate nutrients from neighboring land onto my own.  All I have to do is let the pigs dig and toss out a little seed.


4.  They drink.
We use a simple poor-boy solution with a nipple to water the hogs.  Lots of people ask me what a “nipple waterer” is and how it works.  I’ll let the pigs show you.

There is always a wallow under the drinker.  It takes almost no time at all for the pigs to saturate the soil near the drinker and put their noses to work digging out a bathtub.  They need it.  It’s no big deal for me to fill the holes back up with wood chips, sawdust and compost.  I can fix the trip hazard and the pasture is better off for the disturbance.

5. They sleep.
They don’t sleep so hard that I can sneak up to get a picture of it but they sleep.  A lot.  I mean a lot lot.  They spend about 20 minutes eating at the trough each day, they spend about 20 minutes drinking at the watering nipple each day.  They root around for more food for about another hour or two.  That leaves a good 21 hours to sleep and sleep they do.

So, what do pigs DO on a farm?  They efficiently convert a wide array of resources into a more bio-available state.  Used judiciously, pig snouts, hooves and manure can be used to enhance the land, rather than degrade it.  Once the pig has served out its purpose, playing and rooting in your pasture, it’s time to go to market.  We butcher our own here at home but also sell whole and half hogs to customers through the local butcher.  Beyond fixing nutrients and making them available and helping remodel and renovate your pasture, the pig then adds to your family financially if not nutritionally.  With all this in mind I can’t imagine a farm working without a pig.  In fact, I would recommend a pig to city people.  Just get a pot belly pig and tell your neighbors it’s a weird breed of dog.  Then serve it for Christmas dinner.

I don’t have a formula for pasture movement, you have to use your eye.  Soil conditions vary season to season and week to week.  You just have to pay attention to the forage available and the condition of the pasture to know when to move.  The eye of the master fattens the stock.  An experienced master has a better eye.  Get yourself a couple of pigs and start training your eye.  You can quickly create a moonscape in your pasture and sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered.  Most of the time, though, a little disturbance goes a long way.

Beware of poisonous plants in your pastures.  I’m not going to burden you with an extensive list but be aware that seedling cockleburs will kill your pigs.  Cockleburs are just coming on right now so we’re on the lookout.