Farmer Continuing Ed

Just like any profession, farmers need a way to keep up with the news in their field. One of the sources we use is Country Folk’s Grower newsletter.

The Grower newsletter is free (paid for by advertising) which makes it accessible to any size farm. It covers topics such as notable farmers, social trends affecting farmers, and ag-related issues, like pest control and soil fertility.

The September 2017 issue pictured above featured stories about farms ranging from a 3-acre vegetable farm run basically by one person to a much larger farm with 10 – 15 employees. It also covered trends in Christmas Tree production, common crop pests, and factors affecting growing in a high tunnel.

There were two take-aways  for me.

One article featured Jim Sollecito and his Syracuse nursery/consulting business. It reminded me that he has a series of podcasts that I want to check out.

I also learned about an online resource I can use to identify pests in the garden.

What resources to you use to stay updated in your fields of interest?

Beef and/or Chicken subscription

Last fall, in an effort to help you get our meat more easily, we started our twice-a-month Meat CSA.  It turned out that it was too much meat for most families. We want to help you, not make you have to figure out where you are going to squeeze that next roast into the already full freezer. So we have trimmed the Meat CSA (pun intended) to a monthly Meat Subscription.

What is a Meat Subscription? Each month you can choose to get Beef and/or Chicken delivered on the first Thursday of the month.  Our online store will also enable you to add on extra items that are available that month, like pork, extra beef cuts, honey, vegetables, etc.

Here’s how it works: As a subscriber, you will receive an email near the beginning of the month telling you that the store is open.  You will have 3-4 days to visit the (online) store. At the store you will choose to purchase either a chicken ($25) ~5 lb. and/or a beef option ($30). The beef options are:  4 tubes of ground beef OR 2 packages of beef steaks ~3.5 lb OR 1 beef roast ~3.5 lbs. Other options include choosing to pick up the order and either paying online or requesting to pay upon delivery.

We do have a delivery range.  If you are outside of that range, we will add some money on to compensate for the extra distance.  And if the cost of gas should go up significantly, our delivery charge will go up as well.

If you decide that you need a month off, just don’t click on the link for that month’s subscription.  No meat will be delivered.  The following month another email will come, and you can then get meat that month.

So how do you subscribe?  Click below to go to the subscribe page.  You will need to give your name, address, and phone number.  These details are just so we can get the meat to you and can call you if we have questions or need to text you if there is no person or cooler to receive your meat.  (By the way, we don’t share your personal data.  Others don’t need it.)

We hope that you will continue to get your local pasture-raised meats from us.  to get set up and ready to go in September.  Then enjoy your last days of summer!

Chicken Processing

This post outlines the basic steps we take when we process our chickens.

1.    We slaughter the chickens with cones made from old buckets.

2.    The carcass is scalded in water held between 145 and 155 degrees. (This scalding bucket normally sits on a propane heater, not on a chair!)

3.      Feathers come off in the whizbang chicken plucker, built by one of our sons.  The chicken is then placed in ice water until the next step.

4.      Innards come out on a stainless steel table purchased when a butcher shop was closing. The cleaned bird goes into a second ice water bath until it gets a final check by the quality assurance team.

5.     Our certified scale gives us the weight of the final product.

6.     Our chickens are generally in the freezer within two hours of slaughter.

The Wild World of Labeling

Did you hear about this?

General Mills wins fight to label Nature Valley granola bars as ‘natural’

By Gill Hyslop+, 19-Jul-2017

General Mills has won a lawsuit alleging its Nature Valley granola bars cannot be labelled “100% natural” as they purportedly contain traces of herbicide.

– – – – –

From the Farmer – While there is a lot of background information that ought to be delved into in order to begin to fathom the modern complexities of labeling, let me get right to my point.

Treasures of Joy seeks to have a GMO-free farm. Our website even has a statement about that.

One of the ways we do this is by buying commercial feed verified by the NON GMO Project. This is a voluntary, non-governmental approach to creating a supply chain that meets defined quality criteria.

Is the feed we buy 100% non-GMO? Certainly not. The standards allow any given animal feed input to contain up to 5% GMO residue*. That is necessary because GMO has become so prevalent that cross-contamination happens all the time. However, in our mind, having any one given input maxing out at 5% GMO is a far cry better than having 100% of most inputs being GMO. Also by avoiding GMO crops, we intentionally reduce the risk of being subjected to some of the nastier chemical pesticides used on crops.

If you ever have questions about how our animals are raised, feel free to reach out to us.

* SOURCE (see table on p. 13)

Roosting Chickens

…as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

The above quote indicates that even in Chaucer’s day, people noted the tenacity with which chickens will return to their roost at night. The phenomenon has even been studied scientifically, with the study authors noting “When perches were not accessible, the hens showed signs of frustration and/or increased exploration.”

Our layers’ roosting houses were moved in small increments a few times from March through June. In July we finally had the opportunity to move the houses 150 feet away. We thought it would be close enough that the chickens would see the roosts and adapt to the new spot.

Alas, it was not.

We realized several days after the move the the chickens were assembling at their old roosting spot, which was outside the new boundary of our livestock guardian animal. One of the indicators that something was up was that our egg production seemed to go way down. In reality the chickens were laying in more odd places because the nest boxes were also moved.

We ended up moving the roost houses within 30 feet of their old location, with an absolute clear line of sight, and with a little help the chickens were able to re-orient themselves back to safety.

Such are the trials of chicken farmers when they fight a bird’s natural instincts.

Surprise Calf

While out doing my chores, I ran into this little guy (and his mother).

We bred his mother last fall, but had reasons to think that it had not taken. We wondered why it was proving so difficult to catch her “in heat” so that she could be bred again.

Mom and calf are both up and seem to be doing well. Mom will get some special treatment for a few days.

Garlic Scape Pesto

I make this recipe with ratios. Do the ratio by volume, say, 1 cup to 1 cup to 1 cup to 1/2 cup. (By the way, Ratio by Michael Ruhlman talks more about how cooking is really only a matter of finding the right ratio or proportion. Interesting book!)

1 part scapes*, chopped into 1 inch pieces** (1/2 lb is about 2 cups)
1 part nut – any nut or seed you like – we tend to use walnuts or sunflower seeds
1 part cheese – any cheese you like – we tend to use Parmesan or cheddar
1/2 part oil – any oil or fat you like – we tend to use olive oil

Blend in the blender or process in the food processor. The blender takes more oil, the food processor less. I prefer the food processor. The flavor of this mellows with refrigeration. The pesto can also be frozen. We eat it with veggies, crackers or bread OR eat it plain.

*I use most of the scape. If the stem end is firm or not pliable, like the firm, not-pliable-end of asparagus, I don’t use that part. I find where on the scape it bends naturally and then use it from that point on toward the tip. From the tip end, I only use it if it is fresh. Once it gets dried-grass-like, I cut it back toward the flower umbel and don’t use that part. I do use the pliable stem and as much of the flower and tip as I can.

**I have found that one way to cut these is to put the ends of 5-8 scapes together and sort to straighten them so that you can cut 1 inch off. You sort of hold them together like a coil and feed it out from one hand and cut with the other hand. OR do them 1 scape at a time.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Years ago we found this recipe for Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake. It works well with fresh or frozen rhubarb. Nutmeg and rhubarb were meant for each other. This recipe demonstrates that.
After baking, this cake can be flipped upside down so that the rhubarb is on the top. OR it can be served, as is, from the pan. It doubles well. Below is my rendition of the recipe.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

TOPPING (OR the part you put in the pan first)
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (1/2 lb is about 2 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or (2 Tbsp all-purpose flour or cornstarch)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg – essential!
1/4 cup butter, melted

BATTER
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (OR combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg – essential!
1/4 tsp salt – optional
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup milk
Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, optional

Directions

Place rhubarb in a well-greased 10-in. heavy oven-proof skillet. Combine sugar, arrowroot and nutmeg; sprinkle over rhubarb. Drizzle with butter; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Add the butter, sugar, egg and milk until well-blended. Spread over rhubarb mixture.
Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Loosen edges immediately and invert onto a serving dish. I put the serving dish upside down over the baking dish. Firmly holding the 2 parts together, I quickly turn them upside down. Then I let it sit a little to let the cake and rhubarb settle onto the serving dish. Sometimes I need to pull some of the rhubarb off the baking dish and on to the cake.
Serve warm or cold. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Yield: 8-10 servings.

Original recipe

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Several years ago we found a recipe called Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake and used it at Easter for our Easter breakfast. The original recipe has a layer of cake, a layer of strawberry rhubarb filling and another layer of cake. Not wanting to take time to make the layers, I mixed it all together. Here is the recipe with that adaptation.

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffeecake

Fruit portion
2/3 cup sugar
3 TBSP of arrowroot powder (OR 1/3 cup cornstarch)
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb or frozen rhubarb (1/2 lb is about 2 cups)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen strawberries (OR fresh; either way, I do slice or quarter these.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cake portion
3 cups all-purpose flour (OR combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cold butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (OR 1 TBSP vinegar – any kind – added to 1 cup milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crumb topping, optional
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cold butter

Directions

Fruit portion – In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in rhubarb and strawberries as they are, fresh or frozen. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice. Cool.
Cake portion – In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Mix in melted butter. Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla; stir until moistened. Mix in fruit portion until evenly mixed. Pour into a 13×9 in pan or 2 round cake pans.
Optional topping portion – combine sugar and flour in a small bowl; add melted butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean and cake is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 12-15 servings.

Original recipe