Off To Whispering Pines (the butcher)

Today was the day!  We have been looking forward to this for months.  Effie the Pig and the heifer ( and I mean that in EVERY sense of the word) went to Whispering Pines today.  Shortly, we will have a freezer full of good clean meat.  Meat having been raised on love, clean water, lots of grass and in the case of Effie, lots of kitchen scraps and melons too far gone for us to eat.

I am often asked, “How can you eat your animals, animals that you know?”  Well, I must admit that sometimes it is hard.  Francis Bacon was a pig that I loved.  I patted him as we unloaded him and told him thank you.  Effie, she was another story and pig all together.  You see, some animals push your buttons and make life miserable.  As you chase those animals around the farm, through your gardens, and out of the sheds – you find yourself thinking, ” I can’t wait to eat you!” Really, some animals are so determined to upend  a farm’s balance and happiness that you even have ideas of just getting the shotgun and having roast pig luau style.  I keep using pigs as an example and that should tell you something.  Effie was one of those animals that was made for pulled pork sandwiches. So when she got out of the trailer, with much ado and drama I must say, I was like “Good riddance and don’t let the screen door hit you in the behind on the way out.”  Very kind and loving, I know.  But until you have chased a pig in  Texas summer heat not once but three times in 5 days- don’t judge me.

In all honesty, I do take this seriously.  The fact is that it takes life to sustain life.  I am grateful to the animals that feed my family.  I show them this by providing shelter, good food and clean water and plenty of kindness.  They lead a joyous life, even if their joy is derived from causing me to cuss a blue streak, until the day they die and they never saw it coming.  Most humans can’t say that about their own lives.  Everyone has a job and purpose in life, farm animals are no different.

Most folks have problems with knowing the animals that they eat because in their minds they only have two files- Pet & Wildlife.  The reality is that there are three files- Pet, Wildlife, and Food.  All of our animals are stewarded as best we know how and treated humanly every step of the way.  Some are destined to a long life as a breeder (which are sometimes considered pets and sometimes considered family members) and some will have a much shorter life and are destined for the freezer.

The butcher we use is very important to us.  When you have taken the time to raise your own meat and treat the livestock in a certain manner, you want to know that they are handled humanly in the end.  We do not have the resources to process the large animals we raise so we take them to Whispering Pines.  This is a Mennonite community that are committed to peace.  You might not agree with their philosophy, but that peace and calmness permeate the place and even the animals feel it.  Cattle are very jumpy critters when stressed and will cause quite a ruckus.  Every time we have taken our cattle in, they have trotted onto the scales and then right on out to the holding pen with 5 or 6 other steers just standing there like everyone took a large dose of Valium before they arrived.  This is a wonderful bunch of folks and they make certain that you get the meat from the animal that you brought in to the shop.  It makes it so much easier to leave you animals when you can do business with people like these.

So, the circle of life goes on and I am looking forward to getting the lard from our pig.  I have never requested the lard before so this will be a new experience.  I hear tell that baked goods made with lard and just addictive they are so good.  We shall see!

Jonathan making pork chopsFried Pork Chops- a Southern Love.  Can’t wait for Jonathan to cook us up some more!

 

Faith & Farm

summer squash

As a blogger friend posted about the rain and hay making- which can be very dicey- it occurred to me that anyone who farms has so much to contend with on a day to day basis.  There is the weather, insects that destroy, insects that help, insects that are neither and the job of telling them apart, animal husbandry, fatigue and the list goes on.  Where do we find the strength to keep at it?  Where does one go for help for these things such as weather for which there is no control?

For me my faith in God and my Bible are my mainstays.  Many would scoff at this and that is ok.  I simply cannot deny what my Creator does for me in my life- I have seen to much to be dissuaded.  Some who may share my Christian faith will think what follows is mystical hog wash and that is ok, too.  Again, I have seen the proof in my life and on my farm, in my kids and  I know that this works.

 

 

It is all in our perspectives with which we view our world.  If we deny that we have an enemy- we see the world and what happens to us in one of two ways.

1. I must be blowing it- or

2. God is holding out on me.

Neither are true.  We were born into a world at war, good versus evil.  God versus Satan.  The good news is that God wins.  I have come to the conclusion that the enemy hates gardens and farms- especially organic ones that seek to steward this Earth the way God intended.  Just look at what Monsanto is doing to small farmers and our food sources and you will see evil at work.

So considering that I have this enemy who wants to take me down, I get up every morning and I go to battle.  I pray over my farm, my family, my marriage but I don’t just pray empty words or cliches, I use the Word of God as my sword.  You will find a scripture on any subject that you need  if you look, but for the sake of this discussion on farm life- I will stick to the ones I use over my farm.

Zechariah 8:12

For the seed shall be prosperous,

The vine shall give its fruit

The ground shall give her increase,

And the heavens shall give their dew-

I will cause the remnant of this people 

To posses all theses.

 

Proverbs 27: 25

When the hay is removed and the tender grass shows itself,

And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,

The lambs will provide your clothing,

And the goats the price of a field

You shall have enough goats’ milk for your food,

For the food of your household

And the nourishment of you maidservants.

 

Deuteronomy 28: 11-12

And the Lord shall grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body,, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground…

The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.

 

Each morning as I pray these words over my farm, I thank God that He has given me these promises.  As I pray I also remind Satan of these truths and tell him to take his curses- such as grasshoppers- back to hell where they came from.  Just as in any war, you win some battles and you lose some battles.  Regardless of the outcome of the battles I know who won the war and what the future holds- Victory.  So, when hardships do come I remember the promises and stand on those.  If I lose the battle of the squash to the squash bug, I thumb my nose at the enemy and replant.  Then, little by little you begin to see the shift.  You produce more, things come a little easier, and you see more of the promises show up in the everyday life.  With faith we can move mountains- or shift the mountain of high pressure off of us in the summer to let a little rain in.  Maybe there is not a huge amount of rain, but if by faith I can shift a 1/2 inch in to our skies that may make the difference between life and death of my gardens.  I will take that as a win.  Today as I write this, it never got over 83′ F  and we have received about 4 inches of rain over the past 4 days- in JULY in TEXAS.  That is nothing short of a miracle.  Oh, how we are rejoicing.

None of this means that life is just easy street, but it means that instead of futility I can see our farm advancing.  I have been praying like this for the past 15 years in regards to my children and my marriage and when the farm came along about 7 years ago I approached it the same way.  It took awhile for the gardens to build up some steam but finally I began to harvest enough tomatoes to make some sauce and put it up by canning.  Now, I am canning some every week.  These are victories.

Trust  me, you will be opposed when you begin to pray like this and to believe the promises of God.  This does not make the promises less true, to the contrary it means they are all the more real.

David Austin Rose

Potatoes In A Tower

If you are trying to remove GMO products from your diet, one of the must go items is potatoes.  These have been GMO for years.  So, as we are working daily to eat better, eat real food and eat local- it was time to grow potatoes.  Now, according to my  great-grandfather Valentine’s Day is not only a day for love but for planting potatoes.  Well, I am a bit late this year, but it just was not possible to get it done in February.

So, week before last the day came.  Jonathan and I got busy and planted potatoes.  This year I am trying potato towers.  Potatoes are one of those plants that will produce roots along every bit of stem that is covered in soil or compost and then grow taller.  So, the idea behind the tower is to get soil and plant going just as high as possible giving you the most produce in the smallest amount of square footage.  Growing vertical is a great way to maximize a small growing area.

To make a potato tower, you will need seed potatoes, wire, straw, and compost.  Dig out a circle about 18-24 inches in diameter & 2 inches deep.  Place the seed potatoes in the hole and cover with soil.  Wrap enough wire in a circle the size of the hole and fold the ends over each other to fasten it together.  We used stakes that keep our weed barrier in place to hold the towers down.

So, here goes nothin’.  We shall see how this goes.  I am really looking forward to good tasting, home grown potatoes!

Digging out the grass and soil to plant potatoes
Digging out the grass and soil to plant potatoes
putting the seed potatoes in the soil
putting the seed potatoes in the soil
Staking down the towers
Staking down the towers
close up of stake
close up of stake
All finished, now we just have to wait!
All finished, now we just have to wait!

Some People Buy Flowers…

Savannah and Boer Goat Baby

Some people buys flowers or cook you food when you lose a loved one, but in our family we buy you small livestock.

 

I realize that this might be strange to some, but to us there is no better way to say “I am sorry for you loss” than with a baby goat.  As you know, Savannah lost her beloved goat, Kandi, last week.  Well, while she was gone to a friend’s her sister, Cheyenne, and I went and bought a bottle baby boer goat for her.  She knew nothing about it.  When she got home, she plopped down on the couch by her daddy.  He looked over at her and said, ‘We got something for you”  He then lifted the blanket on his lap and revealed the cute little thing.   Yes, you understand that correctly, my city born husband was sitting on the couch watching TV while holding a baby goat.  Goat kids are just that cute!

Cheyenne and the new goat- that is sisterly love.
Cheyenne and the new goat- that is sisterly love.

Needless to say,  she was very happy.  She still cries from time to time missing her Kandi, but the funny antics and bottle feeding go along way in helping the hurt pass.

Savannah washing the new kid.
Savannah washing the new kid.

Big Jobs On A Small Farm

No matter how small the farm there is still work to do, some jobs are even bigger because the farm is small.

Take getting feed, for instance.  A really large operation will have bulk feeders that are filled by a truck sent from the feed store.  Some farmers buy feed in sacks by the pallet.  The farmer will pick up the pallet in his truck or trailer, the feed store employee will use a forklift to load it on.  Once home, the farmer will use a tractor with forks on the front to unload it into the barn where the pallet will keep it off the ground.  On a small farm where there is only human labor, feed in large quantities can be a challenge.

The key is to keep the 600 lb drum from gaining too much momentum.
The key is to keep the 600 lb drum from gaining too much momentum.

You might wonder why we would want to buy in large quantities on a small farm.  The main reason- aside from less trips to the feed store being a good thing- is cost.  A 50 lb bag of 12% sweet feed is going for 14.50 right now.  We can buy 14% creep feed with corn mixed in for $16.50/100 lbs.  As you can see, this is a significant savings and with a higher protein content.  To buy in bulk, you must have containers.  We use 55 gallon drums with lids that clamp on.  Each drum holds roughly 300 lbs of feed.  The feed store has a minimum requirement of 500 lb purchase- so this means that we get at least two drums filled at a time.  Transporting the empty drums and getting them filled at the feed store is easy enough.  The challenge comes when we get the filled drums home- how do we get them out of the truck and into the barn.

Rolling the feed into place.
Rolling the feed into place.

This was the challenge we faced on Sunday.  Cheyenne and I picked the feed up on Saturday but decided to wait on Tony to get home since he is the one with all the muscles.  Frankly, if you have enough strength on board the unloading isn’t such a problem.  We decided to use a set of ramps and roll the drums down.  Then we rolled the drums over to the proper spot in the barn- now the drums had to be set upright.  It took all of Tony, Cheyenne, and Jonathan’s strength for the last part but over all it went well.

The really large 1 gallon size cans of tomato sauce make for great feed scoops.
The really large 1 gallon size cans of tomato sauce make for great feed scoops.
Creep feed with corn also known as creep crunch.
Creep feed with corn also known as creep crunch.

Today’s job was pretty big also.  It was time to clip hooves and worm the goats.  Generally, this isn’t too hard- just time consuming.  If you live in an area with a lot of rocks or gravel the hooves don’t get too bad.  However, we have a lot of loam and that soft soil doesn’t file anything off the hooves.  Once the goats are on the stand we keep them busy with feed.  As long as there is food, they don’t care too much as to what we are up to with the feet.  The only difficult thing when trimming hooves is if you clip the hoof too short.  The hoof will bleed if you cut down too far.  Most of the time this happens it is because the goat decided to jerk their leg right as you squeezed the clippers.  In case of this, I have blood stop powder to put on the hoof.  The dogs stay close by eating up all the hoof trimmings.  It may seem disgusting, but hooves are mostly calcium so it is actually a really healthy snack.

Clipping the goats hooves.
Clipping the goats hooves.
I did clip Maple's hoof too close and had to put blood stop powder on her.
I did clip Maple’s hoof too close and had to put blood stop powder on her.

Jonathan helped out today and wormed his first goat.  That is also a pretty simple task, as long as you get the syringe far back in the jaw so that they can’t spit the wormer back out at you.  And never ever put your finger a goat’s mouth- they don’t have teeth but the hard plate that they use to eat berry vines and briars will smash your finger and have you saying ugly words.

Jonathan and Savannah worming the goat, Maple.
Jonathan and Savannah worming the goat, Maple.

I will usually dread the goat chores, but once I get down there I enjoy myself.  Not only does it feel good to tend to my goats health but it also gives me time in the barn with Savannah and that is a good thing.  Plenty of time to talk and keep up with what is on her mind.  I know to enjoy every moment because this time next year she will be a full time college student.  When we started with the goats she was 10 now she is 17, we have made a lot of memories in the barn.

Dinner was a simple taco salad and now for a little Mentalist on tv.  Then, we will have to go out and separate the chickens.  I have listed 15 hens for sale on craigslist and I want those separated out for simplicity.  I don’t know if you have ever tried to catch a chicken, but that is worse than a wild goose chase.   There is a small pen for this sort of purpose.  I sold 3 chickens this morning and I have already had several calls which tells me that the hens won’t be in that pen for long.  The flock numbers had gotten too large with a dozen chicks in the brooder house and my sister incubating another 3 dozen eggs.  The sale of 15 hens will leave me with a mature flock of 15 layers.

I also bumped a couple hundred seedlings to 4 inch cups and now have 6 trays of herbs seeds germinating on the top of the freezer and fridge.  There is a lot of work to be done in the greenhouse and I will be working in there daily from now till the middle of summer.  I love having an herb farm.  It may be cold outside, but inside the greenhouse I have the month of May!

A land that flows with milk…..

There is a lot of excitement around the farm.  Given the time of the year, you might think it has to do with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And all though the holidays to bring lots of cheer, the excitement right centers around a creamy white liquid….
We have raw milk again!
Since the summer was so hot, I stopped milking in August.  This means we have been buying store bought milk for a couple of months.  No one has been really crazy about this fact.  The kids have been making a lot of noise about the obvious deficiencies of the processed milk.  So, while my current milk does are with a buck so that they will kid in the spring and give milk again, I have been looking for a goat in milk to purchase to give us milk today!
How can you not LOVE a face like that?
Although I love my Saanen milk goats, I have been fazing them out.  You see, Saanens are an Alpine breed- as in the Swiss Alps.  So while they come with a genetic disposition to tolerate very cold winters and all that comes with it, they do not have a genetic disposition to handle a Texas summer.  It was a hard choice, Saanens have these cute ears that poke out from their heads like airplane wings, they have been a very sweet tempered breed, and their babies are CUTE!  I am a little surprised at how much I like their look given they are solid white.  Usually I am not a girl who goes for solid white.  You won’t find a white wall in my home- yellow, blue, green, – but no white.  But I love those goats.  I have kept one, Sapphire.  My birthday is in September and my kids bought me the little goat for my birthday a few years back.  I simply won’t milk her in the summer.
Happily, I found a new milk goat last weekend.  A lovely lady had her Nubian doe and her 3 doe babies up for sale.  After Third Monday McKinney, we picked her and the girls up on our way home.  I love, love, love this goat.  She milks so easy and is so sweet.  The only problem is that her name is Windy and given that my sister’s name is also Windy this could create some confusion in future blog posts.  I love roses and am leaning towards Julia Child.  The rose of this name is gorgeous and yellow and I love watching “The French Chef”, so this seems to be a good choice.
My new milker!
I am so happy to be milking again!

That’s How We Roll

Big Rocks Park, it was getting too dark, but this is still pretty.

After all that Tony and I have been doing over the last 3 weeks with First Monday, tearing down the nursery equipment, and Third Monday Trades Days, the last thing we wanted to do last Saturday was get in the car and drive to Glen Rose.  But, we did.
You see, it is time to start thinking about the Van Zandt County Youth Expo in April.  This is the big event every 4H kid looks forward to all year long.  So, Savannah had been searching the internet looking for goats that could be her meat goat project that she will show at the Expo.  Our Awesome extension agent, Tommy Phillips, had given us some contact numbers but they had no goats.  Well, she located a pair of wethers (boy goats that have been castrated) in Glen Rose that looked good and were at a great price.  Although, we really wanted to stay home, we asked ourselves “If we don’t go now, then when do we go?”  There was no good answer given that we had Third Monday McKinney coming up and we would be setting up a new booth at Ye Olde City Antique Mall in Tyler.  So, we went.
Well, I am happy to report that we had the best time!  For one thing, Tony and I love that area of Texas.  The land really changes, the altitude really climbs – enough to make your ears pop- and there is an openness out there that is good for the soul.  So, as we drove through scenery that makes you understand why pioneers moved west, our minds began to shift into neutral.  We were without kids, which is unusual for us if we are headed to Glen Rose, so there was a comfortable silence in the truck.  We needed that kind of down time, just taking in God’s handiwork.
The folks we were getting the goats from lived down a county road that had some of the best vistas.  They were really nice people and had good quality animals.  So, we loaded up two show goats and headed home.  We stopped in the town of Glen Rose; I might add that the town boasts a lively town square with shops and a farmers market, for some dinner.
 After some great burgers with REAL French fries at The Green Pickle, we were feeling very relaxed.  The Green Pickle was just off the square and had an outdoor area for dining, for some unknown reason we were the only ones out there.  The weather was perfect, the air out that way is dry and it was neither hot nor cold, it was just right- kind of like baby bears porridge.  So, we sat under the massive pecan trees ate our food, laughed and talked.
As we headed out of town, we decided to stop by the Big Rocks Park.  This park is aptly named for the rocks that reside next to Squaw Creek.  Now, when I say big rocks you should picture boulders the size of your house piled up and down the east side of the creek.  The park is free and we have spent many an hour playing in this little river, Cheyenne and Savannah were 4 & 2 respectively  when we first started coming, now they are 18 & 16.  The crazy thing is despite how huge these boulders are, back a few years ago we had so much rain that the rivers were flooding, once the water went down, these boulders had been rearranged.
The sun was setting as we walked about the river bed which still had a bit of water running through it.  It is hard to describe the beauty that evening.  The normally white rocks were reflecting the golden orange of the setting sun, the scruffy cedar and elegant Live Oaks casting shadows on the boulders.  The water reflecting it all as it babbled on its way to meet the Paluxy.
Standing there with my love the last little bit of my soul that had been wound tight just came undone- I was for the first time in a while, completely relaxed.  It was like a rubber band that had been twisted tight, then you let it go and it unwinds to the point of being all floppy.
God is so good.  If we had stayed home, we would not have relaxed.  If you have been by my farm lately you have seen piles of this and that, fences in various states of being torn down, plants that need re-potting and fallen trees that need removing.  There is a lot of work starring us in the face.  That is how we would have spent that Saturday, not in rest.  The thing we needed was the last thing we wanted, a drive.
Tony does love a good burger!  Just the basics, beef & cheese.
Mushroom & Swiss Burger, MmmMmm Good

My First Tomato!

Breakfast is so much better with a home-grown tomato sliced up next to the eggs. I have been waiting & watching these little green tomatoes that were taking forever to ripen. Then this morning I spotted 5 red tomatoes! That just made my day. There is no comparison between a tomato from the store and a garden fresh tomato. I still think that the Black Krim tomato is the best I have ever eaten. I will be planting more of those in the fall. The tomato I ate today was a Mountain Spring. This plant is extremely hardy and the fruit is tasty. So far, it is one that I would plant again. I will keep it on the list for now.

Say Hello To My Little Friend

I have a new herb that I am really excited about. Lovage.

When I began gardening in order to provide as much of our own food as possible, celery was a vegetable that I loved to cook with for seasoning and flavor. The problem was that celery does not like Texas summers. So, what was I to do? Now, thanks to Lovage I can have the flavor I love. To use Lovage, all you have to do is snip of a sprig or two, chop it up and add it to whatever dish you are cooking.

An added benefit to using Lovage versus celery, is that Lovage has medicinal properties as well. It stimulates the immune system and is good for treating winter illnesses and respiratory tract concerns.

Lovage is easy to grow. If you purchase a transplant, simply plant it in sun, shade, or partial shade- just be certain that the soil is well drained. One plant is all you need as Lovage grows to 3 ft in one season. The plant is herbaceous (dies back in winter) but being a perennial it comes back every year. What more could you ask for?

A new addition!

We have been waiting for baby goats! When kidding season gets close, we just can’t hardly stand it. Finally, Rosa kidded with a beautiful little buck kid. He is very strong and sooo cute! She had hime Friday afternoon. Rosa was the first one to dominoe, but there are four others. Now, we will have fresh goats milk in about 2 weeks. I am ready to start milking again.