“Cage-Free Pigs”

It is the difficult time of year when we take our pigs to butcher. Part of this emotional process is loading them into the trailer we transport them in.  The pigs get loaded the day before, so that we don’t have wrestle them into the trailer at the last minute.   Yesterday, I was upset because I did not like that my pigs were cramped in the trailer for 24 hours.  My husband offered me a word of, or I guess an article of comfort, that sent me through the roof.

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New law has just been passed that by the year 2020 California has to make all their animal enclosures “cage-free”.  On the surface that sounds wonderful, but lets dig a little deeper.  Below is the regulation quoted in The News Tribune,

“It requires that, starting in 2020, calves confined for production have at least 43 square feet (4 square meters) of usable floor space, while breeding pigs be given at least 24 square feet (2.2 square meters) of floor space in their pens starting in 2022.

Starting in 2020, egg-laying hens must be been given 1 square foot (144 square inches) of floor space each on the way to being cage-free by 2022.”

According to the new “cage free” regulations, the 14 x 7 trailer that I have the pigs in for less than 24 hours would be enough space to raise 4 pigs in, for their whole life.   FOUR pigs.  A single sheet of plywood is 32 square feet, imagine that in your head.  Go to the hardware store and get a piece of plywood. Put it on the ground and stand in the middle of it.  That single sheet of plywood, would be too big to raise a pig.  As you stand in the middle of that plywood, think about that being all the space you have for your whole short life. After living in a space, less than that sheet of plywood, when that meat goes to market it is labeled cage-free.   CAGE-FREE!  Do you feel CAGE-FREE standing in the middle of that piece of plywood.  Remember, that is  8 square feet more space than the new ” cage-free” standard.

My heart aches.  Our pork is raised slightly different and I am happy to say we do not sport the label of Organic, Free-range, Cage-free, or Humanly Raised.  Our pigs are offered an average of 10,000 square feet of pasture per pig.  Yet when I am asked about my product, the first question is, “is it organic?”  No it is not organic, and it never will be.  There is not a food industry standard high enough to label our products.

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My rant will end with this, please educate yourself.  If you are paying for cage-free or free-range or organic, take the time to know what that means.  Support your local farmers, regardless of the label.  Visit the farm, see how their food is raised. Purchase your food based on that, not on a label.  The label does not mean what you think it means.

 

The Article:

https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/business/article221193020.html

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Our Current Season

We are learning that our plans are not always God’s plans.  This year has been very difficult with my health as well as with the weather.  Mud is a very difficult thing to farm in.   The animals have struggled with the mud, the crops have struggled and honestly I have struggled.  Our CSA season was very short.  The garden did not do well at all, you know it is going to be a rough season when you are harvesting pumpkins in July.  I believe God used these struggles to show us that maybe we need to take a step back from trying to make the farm a business.  We love our farm and that is not going to change.  We are going to continue to do almost all of what we are doing, we are just going to cut back to a Homestead Scale instead of a Farm Income scale.

For the next several years we will not be offering a CSA.  We may or may not offer pigs and we are going to be cutting back on our eggs and chickens.  Our focus is going to be raising the food for our family and enjoying our children while they are still here at home with us.

One day, way too soon, my children will be grown and I will get back into making the farm a business.  For now, I am going to focus on growing relationships not vegetables.  We are blessed with amazing children and a wonderful community.  That is our focus.  We will nurture and tend to those relationships, while working the farm for just our family’s food.

Thank you to our many wonderful customers, mentors and friends for your support.

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Ratatouille

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Anyone who has a backyard garden or who is a member of a CSA gets to the point in the summer where they do not want to see another summer squash!  We have roasted it, grilled it, stir fried it, baked it in bread, froze it, and are dreaming about it!  Ratatouille is yet another way to use the abundance of summer veggies. Put the Ratatouille movie in for the kids, pour yourself a glass of wine or ice tea and have a good time.  Lets get cooking.

From the garden you will need:

One yellow squash, one green zucchini, 2 egg plants depending on size, 3 potatoes, an onion,  4 gloves of garlic, thyme, about 1 1/2 cup sliced peppers and 3 tomatoes. Wash all your produce.

Preheat oven to 375. Start by boiling some water to blanch your potatoes, the potatoes just need a cooking head start so they are not too crunchy.

While the water is boiling you can slice the rest of your veggies.  I recommend a mandolin for this, but a knife and a board would work find. You will slice the potatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and tomatoes.  I found that the knife worked better for the tomatoes.  You want thin slices maybe a 1/4 cm thick, start with your potatoes, because you will need them first.

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Once the water comes to a boil, blanch your potatoes for 3-4 minutes, then pull them out of the water and set them aside to cool while you finish slicing your veggies.

Put all your veggies neatly on a tray to make the arranging easier in the future.   Next dice your onions and your garlic.  Now lets start cooking. The sauce at the bottom of your pan is what gives your veggies all their flavor, so don’t be overwhelmed by the flavor you put in here.

I highly recommend cast iron pans in all my recipes, but if you do not have cast iron, you will need to cook this in a pan that is pretty deep and can transfer from the stove top to the oven.  Saute your onions and garlic in a table spoon of butter until they are clear.

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To this we are going to add salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of red pepper flakes, pinch of paprika and 1/2 tsp of thyme.  Once the onions are done, add 1 cup of tomato sauce, we used sauce we had canned, but any store sauce will do. Let simmer why you start the bechamel sauce.

Bechamel is a fancy word for cream sauce, don’t let it scare you, it is very easy to make. In a med sauce pan melt 1 tbsp of butter.  Once butter is melted add 2 tbsp of flour.  This will quickly turn to a paste. Slowly add 1 cups of milk.  I use goats milk, but you can use 1/2 and 1/2, whole milk, skim or a stock. I recommend a fatty milk for more flavor.  Once the milk just starts to warm and you see bubbles in the milk on the side of the pot, add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Wisk until smooth.  Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the tomato sauce mixture in your skillet.  Turn off the burners.
Now we start layering.  Take one slice of each type of veggie.  Potato, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and pepper.  Starting around the outside of the pan layer them in a circle.  It will look like this. Keep going till you used up all your veggies or you have crammed everything you can into the pan.  I always seem to have extra veggies.

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Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Parmesan. Cover with parchment paper and put in the oven to back for 50 minutes or until the veggies are tender.  I have to put a cookie sheet under because it bubbles over.  Once veggie are tender turn off oven, remove and let stand for 5 minutes. The remaining cream sauce will go on the top when you plate! Enjoy!

Ratatouille

By  Shades of  Lavender

Produce from the garden:

  • 1 med eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 3 med. Tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 4 gloves garlic
  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 potatoes
  • Tsp thyme

Refrigerated Foods:

  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 cup Milk
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese

Pantry Foods:

  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • Pinch paprika
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat stove to 375o. Bring a med. Size pot of water to boil. Dice onions and garlic. Use mandolin to slice rest of veggies to 1/4 cm thick. Boil sliced potatoes for 3 mins, remove from water.  In skillet, sauté onions and garlic once clear add tomato sauce, thyme and paprika to skillet and let simmer.  In a separate small sauce pan melt butter, add flour and milk, whisk until thickens and add parmesan cheese.  Drizzle 1/2 of cream sauce on top of tomato sauce. Start layering the sliced veggies one of each kind, standing up around the skillet, till the skillet is full. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover with parchment paper.  Bake for 50 mins.  Let stand for 5 minutes. When you serve drizzle the rest of the cream sauce to the top.

 

A day in the Life

Yesterday was Wednesday, not that it matters the farm does not care what day of the week it is.  I wake up at 4:45, have coffee and do my sit down computer work while I wait for the coffee to hit me. I have a very strict office manager that keeps me on task.

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At 6:30 I start pasteurizing the day before’s milk and warming milk for the baby goats.  When the milk is done, I put the pasteurized milk in a container with ice to cool and I make the 5 bottles for the babies.  I gather my milking supplies for the morning, my small radio and my bottle of water.  It was suppose to be 93 degrees and I wanted to stay hydrated.  Morning chores consist of making sure all the animals have food and water and letting them out of their safe overnight pen so roam the yard or their field.  Next is to bottle feed the babies.  I only have two hands and there are five babies, so it is a juggling act.

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One baby had a small wound that needed to be cleaned and then it was time to go milk the mommas.  I milk the goats by hand and it takes about 20 minutes to do two of them.  It depends on how fast they eat.  After milking it is time to move them to the pasture.  With the help of my son we move 5 goats and a pot belly pig to the pasture.

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It is similar to herding cats.  They all want to go their own way.  We get them to the back field and my son finds a puddle full of frog eggs.  We have to stop everything we are doing to save the eggs before the pig crushes them when he wallows in the puddle.  My job was to get the bucket and then distract the pig.  Once the eggs are safe we can return to our duties.  Now we have to move 5 baby goats to their field.  This is like trying to herd kittens.  They just want to run and jump and spin… they really could care less what we want them to do.  In the end, we pick up and carry most of them across the field.

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With animal chores done it is on to the garden. Every morning I harvest the things that need to be harvested, I start the sprinklers and I pick the tomato plants for horned worms.  See picture below.  Then it is on to weeding and trellising tomato plants.  At this point the tomato plants are 5 feet tall and have grown bushy enough to cover most of the walk ways between the rows.  I trim suckers, cut off dead leaves and harvest tomatoes.

The pole peas are starting to grow so I provide them with bamboo to grow up, as well as, weed that bed.  We have not had the best luck with the beans this year because of the wild rabbits.  I am hoping that this next planting does better.

Once I came in from the garden I cured bacon from last years pig.  I had harvested several nice size tomatoes and nothing is better than I BLT.

Yesterday it was really sticky outside so I decided to sew and mend some clothes instead of go back out to work.  I mending several pairs of pants saving us hundreds of dollars.  Learning to sew was a valuable skill, I am very glad my mother forced me to learn, and I will make sure my children learn to sew as well.

After sewing, it was time for lunch and dinner prep.  We would be driving several hours to go pick up the piggies and I need to make sure we all had a good dinner.

Right before we got in the truck to go get the pigs we checked on all the animals and turned on the sprinklers again.  It was a really warm day and we did not want anyone to run out of water. The baby pigs did great in the truck and it looks like they are enjoying their new pen.

Came back home at about 7 after picking up the pigs and feed and started evening chores.  It was time for bottles, milking, watering and moving animals again.  One thing that we have to do in the evening is bath the pot belly pig.  He rolls in mud all day and it can dry out his skin, so we make sure he gets clean before bed. He is suppose to be black not brown! We collect eggs, walk through the garden and harvest any monster zucchinis that grew during the day, and head into bed just as it is getting too dark to see.

I start a load of laundry, wash dishes, wash children, fold clothes, shower and collapse into bed about 1030, just to wake up and do it all the next day.

Inside out eggroll

This is one of my favorite dishes and it uses a lot of veggies from the garden. 

1/2 red onion

1 sweet onion

2 tbsp butter 

3 gloves garlic

4 large chard stalks with greens

2 celery stalks with leaves

2 carrots grated

1/2 head red cabbage

2 radishes

1 cup left over ground beef

Sauce:

4 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

Pinch red pepper flakes

Tsp fresh ginger grated

Chop all veggies, let onions garlic and chard cook down in butter till soft. Add everything cook to your crunch desire. 

For sauce mix everything together in a separate bowl or cup. Add, let sauce coat everything and just start to bubble. Serve over rice! 

5 second update

I am so bad about posting. Everyday I think I am going to make a grand post and catch everyone up, but the reality is I just do not have time.  In the summer, like every other farmer in the world, we work from sun up to sun down.  We collapse into bed and do it all again the next day.  I have loaded a couple pictures to just let you get a peak of our world, and I hope to wake up tomorrow as Wonder Woman and be able to manage my time perfectly. The reality is I am just happy if I wake up, my family is fed and everyone has clean underwear.

Here everything is, in no particular order.  We have had 5 baby goats born.  Raised and butchered 50 chickens. We have 15 turkeys and we are preparing to have a 1000 foot frost free water line put in for the back fields as well as a high tunnel.  The garden is doing good, we are learning a lot.  Thank you for understanding and I hope you enjoyed our brief update.

Protein Power

I farm for three reasons, first I want to provide my family with the best food I can and second I want to share my love of gardening with friends and family. Lastly, I want to leave the Earth better than I found it.  We have learned that you can not have a productive vegetable garden without an animal presence on the farm.  The animal manure and activity on the land is what makes gardening without store bought fertilizers possible.  Our farm is only 5 acres and we do not have the ablitiy to raise meat and goat milk for the world, but it is enough to feed our family and close friends.  Every year we raise chickens, turkeys, goats and pigs for our family consumption.  The farm has finally grown to the point that we are protein independant.  The only thing that is raised off our land is beef and that is raised by a very close family friend.  There is peace of mind knowing that when there is a bird flu, mad cow, crazy disease outbreak, we do not have to worry about what is on our table. 


Every year when I share pictures of these animals on Facebook, I always gets the same response.  “I could never raise an animal I was going to eat.” Raising meat animals is often looked at as cruel, when infact, it is the opposit.  We raise these animals because we love them.  I know that my birds were raised in sunshine and on grass.  They were loved and given the best life possible while they were here.  I am not willing to give up meat and become a vegetarian, so I want to make sure the animals I eat are well cared for.   The meat birds pictured above get moved to fresh grass often, and they are preparing my garden beds for the future.  They are fertilizing, mowing and turning up the grass, as well as controling pests.  I will add leaf compost and turn it all under to plant my corn.  This practice saves me time and money while putting an amazing meal on my table.  The turkey our family ate at Thanksgiving, tilled and prepared the ground I will grow my pumpkins on for pie this year.  It is all a tasty cycle. 


We have not figured out all the checks and balances of farming yet, but when you allow things to work together the way they were designed, the outcome is amazing.  Giving back to the land and being good stewards of the reasources we are given is one of my favorite things about farming.