Saturday, November 27, 2010

Four more gallons of the best sauerkraut ever!

We harvested cabbage and kohlrobi today, and made 4 more gallons of sauerkraut. that makes a total of 8 gallons so far this fall.

The first batch turned out extra yummy! In fact, by far the best sauerkraut we have ever made, or tasted. it has an excellent balance of sour, salty, and a hint of spice from the kohlrobi.  We made some sausage and sauerkraut the other day that was incredible!

Check the previous post for the full recipe. it basically just :
1 to 2 cabbage,
3 to 5  kohlrobi,
2 heaping tablespoons sea salt,
1/2 cup fresh gathered whey

Combine all this in a large bowl and squeeze / mix for about 30 minutes, then pack in gallon glass jars. Use the gallon size Ziploc bag with water to hold cabbage in place, and let it sit for 3 to 4 days then refrigerate.  the flavor really develops after a week of so in the fridge.

Once we get further along in the food production business, we will be bottling this for sale as a completed product in smaller quantities. It is definitely too good to pass up!

Hog reach 5 months today! Time to offer pork for sale!

Today is the 5 month anniversary of the first litter of pigs. They were born on June 27.  This means it is time to move into the next stage of pork production.

Our plan is to butcher the largest from this litter this week, for our own use. We have as of yet not tasted the meat from these heritage pigs. I do not feel comfortable selling what I have not personally tried and liked. So, the moment of truth has arrived... while I am convinced that we made the right choice on breed in every other respect, the last remaining aspect of a breed is taste.

We are also in the process of creating our first "farm brochure" to aid in advertising locally through the butchers.

While we are investigating the option of taking the hogs to the local USDA processing facility (in Springfield, OR), the first litter will be butchered locally and sold off farm as whole, half's, or quarters. This means pork will be available in these three quantities very soon both to locals and anyone who wants to have it shipped frozen.  If we go the USDA route later it will allow us to sell through retail outlets and farmers markets also.

So, if your interested in trying some truly American heritage breed pork, stay tuned! We will be taking deposits very very soon, and quantities will be very limited. there are only 5 pigs in this first litter (after one for our family and samples)  so that serves anywhere from 5 to 20 customers at most.

For now, if your interested in trying this, regardless of where you live, please drop us an email for pricing:

Egg production is down

Unfortunately our egg production has dwindled to almost nothing.  As of now we get 2 to 4 eggs per day out of 30 chickens. About half of them are visibly molting.

It would appear that we were not careful enough with the lighting system around the time that the baby was born. As stated in a previous blog post, this is a danger of using artificial lighting... even a day or two without the lengthened days can wreck havoc on the bird's hormones and stop egg production.  Even though the lighting has been restored and improved, and the roof on the coop has been replaced, it will be 2 to 3 weeks until egg production is restored.

We are now learning about the different dietary needs of chickens in cold weather and when molting.  During cold weather chickens require more carbohydrates. During molting they require more protein (feathers are mostly protein). So we are going to take this opportunity to work on their diet supplement for both groups. Even though our birds are mostly free ranged (have complete, unrestricted access to our property almost every day)  we still supplement with organic feed during times that the natural food supply is diminished. Its actually easy to tell when they need supplementing, because normally we can fill the feeders, and they stay full for a few days. The chickens definitely prefer to eat outside, foraging for their own food when available.  When food becomes scarce outside, they gobble up the commercial feed every day. Hopefully by adjusting their feed with more natural proteins and carbs, we can help them through this cold and difficult time.

I also ran across a great book:

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens

 By Gail Damerow

you can find it on google book at :

Particularly interesting is page 201. Here the author shows plainly how you can tell exactly how long a chicken has been molting, and how long it will take to complete.  I cant wait to go out and record the flight feathers of each of our birds and test this approach!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Heritage Turkey and Dressing recipe - our favorite

Today we have further "perfected" our Thanksgiving turkey and dressing recipe for heritage turkeys.  Here are the details of what makes it the best turkey you will ever taste. The actual recipe is at the bottom of this long list of necessities. although this may seem like a lot of work, if each step is followed as stated below, you will not be disappointed. to achieve the best end result, you have to have a combination of all of these elements. One missing will alter the finished product significantly.

1. start with a heritage breed

our preference is by far the Narragansett breed. This breed is one of the larger heritage breeds, resulting in a nice size body cavity for dressing, and a good even balance between white meat and dark. It is the breed we have chosen to raise and sell, and our favorite in taste tests thus far.

2. raise naturally:

It is critically important that the birds be raised in a natural environment. By definition this means not cooped for most of their life, feed mostly consisting of grass and bugs freely foraged on their own, only light supplement with organic bird food when necessary. They need to spend their life in the sunshine and grass, free to fly when necessary, nest under the moon, and forage under the sun.

3. allow to mature:

Non-genetically altered turkeys (real turkeys) need to be allowed to mature to at least 5 to 6 months.  The best age is between 6 and 9 months. less than 6 months and the fat does not develop, more than 9 months and the meat gets tough. That magic windows of 6 to 9 gives a bird full of moist flavorful and healthy fat, that cooks up tender in a short time.

It is important to note here that this is utterly impossible for factory produced birds. The genetics in these birds do not allow them to live long enough to develop healthy fat.  If they did, they would be unable to walk due to genetic deformities.

It is also important to not, in this day of fat-fear that the fat which develops on these birds is healthy, if the above 3 items are followed. If, on the other hand, the bulk of the birds diet consists of artificial foods, than this is not the case and fat should be avoided.

4. humane and healthy processing

the actual processing of the birds must be done as stress free as possible. If the birds experience stress during the act of butchering, the body releases stress hormones that do affect the meat quality.  the best way to avoid stress (we have found) is quite and efficient catching, tie the legs together to prevent thrashing, followed by placing a full size dark bag (such as a feed bag) over the entire bird. this keeps them calm while awaiting the inevitable.

Killing the bird is best done by placing the bird upside down in a kill cone, and slitting the artery on the side of the  neck at the base of the head  with a very sharp knife, allowing the bird to bleed out quickly. The faster the blood leaves the body the more humane the act is, and the more tasteful the meat is. for this reason we do not chop off the heads. The goal is to drain the blood as quickly as possible with as little movement in the body as possible.

Lastly, the processing must be done cleanly. We do hot water bath scalding, followed by defeathering in a drum. Then the bird is placed in an ice water bath to drain off the body heat quickly while awaiting the next step.

Evisceration must be done quickly and carefully under running water to ensure that no contamination of the meat occurs. This is then followed by another ice water bath.  This second bath is then followed by a third clean ice water bath to ensure that the body tempo of the birds drops to about 35 degrees as quickly as possible in clean water.

5. aging

The best meat is aged meat. Just as an aged steak required proper aging so does poultry. We have found 24 to 48 hours of aging in a refrigerator yields the best meat.  We place a clean damp towel over the meat while aging to prevent drying out.

6. storage

Freezing does alter the quality of the meat, so the best end result is achieved by using fresh - never frozen birds. This  of course requires that the processing be done within a few days of cooking, as stored non frozen poultry only has a shelf life of a week or so at best.

now... what you have after these 6 steps is the best quality meat available  ready for cooking.  to make the best turkey and dressing, here is the actual recipe we use:


Brining further moisturizes the meat and adds flavor deep into the meat evenly. You can alter the brine recipe to include any flavors you prefer, just leave the water to salt to sugar ratio the same.

 container - 5 gallon plastic drink thermos
3 gallons water
6 cups salt
3 cups sugar
herbs - thyme or rosemary - if dried, about 3 or 4 tablespoons
1 entire garlic, crushed and peeled

Directions - mix the salt, sugar, and herbs in a large saucepan with a gallon of water and heat until it dissolves and steams. Then let it cool back to room temperature. Pour this into the thermos and add the rest of the water as cold as possible. The resulting mixture should be about 45 degrees. If your water temp does not allow this, substitute some ice for water in the thermos to bring the total to 3 gallons within the thermos. Rinse the bird and drop it into the thermos. If the water does not completely cover the turkey when it is held down, add a little more water.  Then fill a gallon size zip lock bag half way with water and place it on top of the water / turkey. This bag needs enough water so that when the lid is tightly fitted on the thermos, the total level of liquid rises to the top and just spills out.  Let this set in a cold place for 24 to 48 hours (we prefer 36 hours).

---- wait 24 to 48 hours


We prefer to use the giblets in the stuffing because it is healthy, and if done right quite tasty.

Place giblets (heart, liver, gizzard, neck)  in a small sauce pan of water. add half an onion chopped in quarters, and a few black peppercorns. Sprinkle with a half a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a light boil and let it boil for about 2 hours. If the water level drops, add more to maintain the level above the giblets.

After 2 hours strain the  mixture in a strainer, retaining the liquid (to be used in dressing). Chop the giblets finely.

-- now is a good time to preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Stuffing mix

For each10 lbs of  bird, we use one box of stuffing mix (2 - 6 ounce packages). If you need more, its best to make no more than 1 box at time to make mixing easier.

1 box (2 6oz bags) unseasoned stuffing mix (croutons)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
giblets from above
1 cup of liquid from giblets above
1 cup of slightly melted butter (half softened, half melted)

Mix the chopped veggies with chopped giblets in a large bowl. add in the semi melted butter and mix thoroughly to coat all evenly. Then mix in the liquid and again mix until uniform.  Then pour in the bread crumbs and fold it all together gently. Continue only until everything is uniform again.

bird preparation

Remove the bird from the brine and rinse it inside and out. (don't worry, the flavor is now in the meat, not on it). Drain thoroughly and sprinkle a little black pepper inside the bird.

Now it is time to prepare the oven bag. I suppose a turkey roaster would do as good a job, but i don't own one, so we use the oven bags.  Open the bag and drop a spoonful of flour inside. Hold the neck closed and shake violently to spread the flour evenly. Place the bag into the pan and open it. inside the bag place 2 carrots chopped into 1 inch pieces, and 1 onion chopped in quarters and 2 celery stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces.  Spread the veggies evenly across the bottom so the bird can rest on them.

Slide the bird breast up, neck end first into the bag and place it on the veggies. Then rub some semi melted butter or olive oil across the top of the bird and legs. This aids in browning.

stuffing the bird

Now open the bag enough to reach inside and place the stuffing mixture into the neck cavity. Pack it loosely and cover as much as possible with the skin.  When this is full, start stuffing the large opening with the rest of the stuffing, again loosely. If you have any stuffing left and both cavities are full, I like to stuff the extra between the legs and the body. If you still have leftover (you shouldn't now) it can be placed in a glass casserole pan and covered with foil to bake later.


The oven should be preheated as above to 450 degrees. just before baking, poke 6 half inch holes in the bag across the top. Then place the bird in the center of the oven and immediately adjust the temp to 325.  The initial high heat helps to seal in the juices a bit without overcooking it. this of course depends on how quickly your oven looses heat. every oven is different in this so adjust the starting temperature as necessary.

Bake for 2 to 4 hours.  You know its done when 3 things happen;

1. The skin has nicely browned
2. The legs are completely free in the sockets, so when you push or pull on one it literally falls away from the socket.
3. The temperature of the deepest meat reaches about 175 degrees and the stuffing is about 165 degrees

The most critical one is actually #2, even if the tempo shows done, don't remove the bird until the leg sockets give little to no resistance when moved.


Remove from the oven and cut the bag open, being careful to watch for the steam, its hot! We like to remove the stuffing from the bird and place it in a serving dish covered with foil. this lets it rest, voids some moisture through steam, and just balances the flavors while the bird is carved.

Remove as much meat as possible. If all above steps were followed, the meat should fall away from the bone. instead of carving most of the meat can be removed with a fork.

Lastly, sprinkle some of the juice from the bottom of the pan (bag) across the meat, especially the white meat. this gives a nice shine and keeps it moist and hot for serving.

Soup bones?

the bones make an excellent turkey stock, just drop all the bones in a large soup pot with enough water to cover. then add tablespoon of vinegar for each gallon of water.  drop in a few peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, lightly salt it, and perhaps a half an onion. bring this to a simmer and hold at simmer with a tight cover on for 2 to 3 days. the bones should more than half disappear.  strain the mixture and you have excellent turkey stock for soup or cooking. it can be canned while hot and stored in the fridge for a few weeks. this is a great source of calcium and minerals in our diet, not to mention much better tasting then any store bought broth.

Enjoy! You have just created the world's best turkey and dressing, and it is healthy for you!

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.
We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven, we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, to proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

-- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chicken processing day

Since we had the poultry processing equipment to do the Thanksgiving turkeys, we decided to process a few chickens also. Our first flock of chickens are now 3 years old, which is pushing the useful life of an egg chicken, plus we prefer to not buy chicken from the store unless absolutely necessary.

So, i cranked up the scalder again and we did 7 chickens by noon. These birds are noticeably smaller and differently shaped than the factory created chickens, but the flavor and nutrition is worlds better. Since these birds are a tad older, we will cook them a bit slower and longer.  The cast iron dutch oven does wonders for this situation.

The next processing will probably be the week before Christmas, when we do some more turkeys and chickens.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turkeys processed for Thanksgiving today

Today we scrambled a bit and successfully processed three tom turkeys for our own Thanksgiving. Our breeding flock has 11 hens and 13 toms, so we decided to have fresh turkey for Thanksgiving.

The equipment we use belongs to the Southern Oregon Poultry group, which had a grand idea. The group purchased the scalder, plucker, stainless table and kill cones. All of this is placed on a small trailer. Then any small farm that wants to can join the group for a small membership fee, and "borrow" the equipment when needed for processing. This certainly makes it easy to raise poultry since now we have access to commercial equipment without investing the high cost of equipment. the plucker is a little small for large turkeys but we manage by doing only one at a time and watching closely.

Today we were under threat of a winter storm watch, and we couldn't pick up the equipment until lunch, so the afternoon was quite a scramble.  It worked out though, and by sundown we had 3 nice size turkeys in the fridge ageing.  Monday morning we hope to process some chickens.

One of the turkeys was nicely matured, with a good fat layer. The other two were a bit smaller and minimal fat. That seems to indicate that by next month the extra toms can be processed and will be perfect age. We really prefer allowing then to gain a good layer of fat because it makes all the difference in flavor and moistness in the meat. Unlike factory turkeys, these are allowed to live at least 5 to 6 months, sometimes as much as 9 months. factory turkeys are normally only 2-3 months old.  It takes at least 5 to 6 months to develop proper fat. This way our turkeys are naturally moist, without needing soaking in some chemical solution before selling.

Another good point is that the fat on our birds is actually healthier fat than factory birds, mostly due to the diet. Our turkeys are pasture raised, living mostly off their own foraging of grass and bugs.  This builds the type of fat that is high in positive elements, and low in negative.  Its actually a good thing that factory produced turkeys do not have much fat, because their diet is so atrocious that any fat developed would be unhealthy to consume.

So.. this Thanksgiving our family will have fresh farm raised turkey on the table. We plan on smoking one and baking the other with stuffing. Next year we will have the same turkeys for sale, hopefully more matured than this flock is right now. Raising our own eggs allows us to determine the optimum processing date based on age, and ensures that the genetics are similar from year to year.

If you'd like to try fresh farm raised turkey for your important family days, let us know. We will be starting a reservation list for next year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Greenhouse almost finished!

Over the last week, we managed to get most of the greenhouse completed. The ground is levelled good enough, floor laid, rest of the frame built, covering applied and doors installed.  All we need to do now is strap it down for high winds, install the shelves and vents, and a little last minute cleanup. Then its planting time!

Even today, when the winter storm blew through with frozen rain and hail, the inside of the greenhouse was a toasty warm oasis. I am well pleased with the insulating properties and sunlight transmission properties. Standing inside the whole area seems to glow with a soft white light from all directions. There seems to be no shadows to speak of anywhere. Hopefully with the shelves installed that will continue.

Here is a few shots of the almost completed Solexx greenhouse, size 16x20

A shot of the greenhouse from the chicken coop showing the front doors.

Looking through the front door at the interior without shelves.

A view from the driveway.

New Roof for Main Chicken Coop

Today we installed a new roof on the main chicken coop.  Originally the chicken coop had a tin roof facing south, with one panel in each of the three coops a very old yellowed fiberglass panel.  We have had issues with some of the chickens molting, and our egg production dropped from about 2 dozen a day to  2 per day.

Most of the problem was that while we were busy with the new baby, the weather continued to turn wintery with progressively shorter days. I did have the lights set up to run on the timer, but two things happened... first the timer was still set for 4am. That's simply not enough hours now that it gets dark by 4pm.  If you remember from a previous post, chickens need 14 hours of light per day to produce eggs.  Secondly, one of the florescent lights died, leaving only a single 23 watt light (florescent) to light both coops.

So, to solve all the problems and perhaps restore the egg production, we tore off the tin roof and replaced it with clear fiberglass panels. the new panels were exactly the same size so replacement was quite easy. These panels are lightly diffused and quite bright, like greenhouse panels.  Next I replaced all the light fixtures with models that had a reflector built in, and installed new 23 watt (equivalent to 100w incandescent) daylight color bulbs, ending up with 4 lights in all, 2 per coop.

In the middle of the roofing project, as luck would have it, a winter storm blew through. First a drizzling rain and then a hailstorm! We were quickly covered with frozen rain and it was quite cold! The chickens were trying to huddle around us to escape the weather. Fortunately it didn't last long and within 20 minutes the sun again smiled down on us to thaw us out.

Isn't it amazing that the chickens knew the storm was coming, because they were in the coop a good 15 minutes before it hit. We could see the clouds approaching from the distance, but how did the birds know???

The finished product is quite astonishing! After tearing off the roof and installing the new panels on one side, we noticed that you can't even tell the difference between NO roof and NEW roof! Gone is the dark shadowy corners, replaced by bright healthy light.  This should help the chickens as well as keep the coop "cleaner" since light itself is one of nature's sterilizers.

I should add that most of the time the chickens are not in the coop. We open the windows each morning so that they can roam the pasture and yard in fresh air, sunshine, looking for free food of bugs and grass. Its early morning and late evening that this will help, extending the daylight beyond what I can do with artificial light.

Here are some pics of the finished product:

Here's a front view showing the two coops. notice the bright white roof even on this dim cloudy day

A quick look inside at the happy chickens, enjoying the indoor sunshine

here is a quick view from our driveway. you can see the transition from fiberglass to tin on the right.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

National Humane Society joins the fight against factory farming!

It was with great pleasure that I read this news article from CNN explaining how the National Humane Society has recognized and taken steps to expose the inhumane conditions within the American food supply.  Their findings give credence to the realities of what we support with every visit to the grocery store without knowing it.

Hopefully it won't be long before the health crisis that factory farming is causing is also exposed in the main stream media.  What would happen if the truth was openly discussed and most grocery store products had to carry the label "Consumption of this inhumanely raised food substitute is hazardous to your health" ? That is the sad truth in this case, aside from the horrible treatment of animals, the eggs produced in this manner actually should be avoided by any except healthy individuals, because of the health concerns.

I applaud the Humane Society for taking the steps to expose the sad treatment of chickens in the factory egg production business.

The Full Story from CNN

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkey Roost "tree" gets added side roost

After realizing that the new artificial tree we built for the turkey roost is too high for the toms to fly up to it, I decided to add a side "branch" to make it more appealing. We built two arms, extending out about 3 feet from two of the posts, about half way up. Lag screw and nails fastened it. Then we nailed 16 foot 2x4's across the arms for roosts, leaving about a foot of space between each one.  When finished, it looked like a big jungle gym.

The finished turkey roost with side roost added
 As we watched, the turkey slowly collected around and the hens were again first to find their way up. The toms  milled around underneath until about sundown, when they finally gave in and hopped up. They did not show the same desire to return to the sheep shelter! Apparently we are going in the right direction!

Sunset over Little Sprouts

There is no better time of day to be on a farm than sunset. Here is one of the majestic scenes that really does serve to put life into perspective. What a wonderful way to end a day. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fast Food is more dangerous than the food itself?

I ran across this fascinating article in the news. We all know that fast food is harmful to our health, causing all sorts of health issues and responsible for a staggering cost to society in a number of ways.  Well, now apparently there is yet another reason to shy away from the fast psuedo-food, but its not the food contents, nor the production. It is the wrapping!

Apparently the chemicals used to make the paper grease proof is in itself hazardous to health and does migrate from the wrapper to the food, into our bodies and is measurable in our bloodstream! Now that's just scary! If enough of the chemicals rub off on the food to be detected in our bloodstream after eating fast food, How much must there be in the paper? That's amazing to me.

By the way.. the same problem exists in paper used in microwave popcorn bags. Makes you wonder just how many food are sitting in our kitchens contaminated by these chemicals.

Here is the full story:

blueberries are on their way!

We have made arrangements for another new crop on the farm starting next year. Blueberries! We are putting in mature blueberry bushes so that they will fruit the very first year. If all goes well we will have Little Sprouts blueberries for sale throughout the summer.

The plants are set to arrive this Saturday, weather permitting.  They will be dormant and can sit all winter if need be until I get time to dig holes for them. The decision coming is where to put the plants, which are quite large apparently.  The blueberry plants are like very large bushes or small bushy trees.  We are considering using them as productive hedges for privacy and shade.

Fresh  bush ripened blueberry pies! Yum!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lost another turkey, the hospitalized one.

Today was marked by a sad event. The turkey that had ingested some milkweed and suffered, almost died, was making a decent comeback. After a few weeks in isolation in the barn, he was almost walking normally, eating and drinking well, and showed signs of being as recovered as he could be. So... I decided to let him out of the barn stall to get some fresh air, sunshine, and grass.  I opened the barn door and left to go pick some cabbage's to make sauerkraut.

After an hour or so I wondered where Louie (our farm dog) had gone. Suddenly the realization and fear hit me. Frantically calling for Louie did no good, and sure enough the turkey was missing.  I immediately started searching the farm, but couldn't find either anywhere. Then I noticed Louie, in the far corner of the arena. I ran over and sure enough.... there they both were. Louie had torn off the entire side of the turkey who was alive but laying on the ground breathing heavily. So much of his side was missing that I could see the lungs breathing. Louie couldn't resist his instincts with a lone injured bird and had attacked him.

As frustrating as this is, there was little that could be done for the turkey. There was no chance he would live with those injuries. I had to put him out of his misery.  We couldn't keep the meat after because of the extensive damage and uncertainty of for sure why he had been sick. I did do a quick "farm autopsy" and could not find any evidence of worms or parasite infection in his organs. that is the one piece of good news, that it must have been milkweed poisoning and nothing contagious.

The bigger problem here is Louie. He has now killed two turkeys. I have to find a way to train him better soon.

Homemade sauerkraut!

We finally had the time today to process some of  the cabbage in the garden. If we didn't get to it soon, the cabbages would split open from the recent rains.

This year I tried a new approach, using whey produces from live yogurt to ferment the cabbages in gallon glass jars. This should take about 3 days at room temperature to produce crunchy but tasty sauerkraut, full of the health benefits of lacto-fermented veggies. We also decided to add in some shredded kohlrabi for added flavor.

the recipe is simple:

1 large head of cabbage, coarsely shredded
3 large kohlrabi, peeled and shredded
2 tablespoons natural sea salt
1/2 cup recovered whey from yogurt

All ingredients are combined in a large bowl, mixed and mashed until the volume is reduced to about half. Then pack it all in gallon glass jars tightly, making sure the liquid level is well over the cabbage mixture.  Then you take gallon plastic Ziploc bags and press them into the mouth of the jar. Press as much of the bag into the jar as possible so that it fulls the space above the cabbage. The bag is then filled with water, and all air displaced. The open bag can be folded down over the top of the jar and the top lightly screwed on.  this sits for 3 or 4 days until fermentation changes the contents into tasty sauerkraut, then it is placed in a fridge for long keeping and use.

Today we ended up with 4 gallons of sauerkraut, which of course would be 16 quarts if we used smaller jars. The process of using the larger jars was so much easier!

finished product left to ferment on the counter

Hunter's first eggs hatch!

Hunter's chicken eggs finally hatched. Out of 18 eggs placed in the incubator, he got 10 healthy chicks. I suspect the relatively low hatch rate was that the eggs sat out in the coop for a couple of weeks before collecting them to put in the incubator.  Nevertheless, he is very excited.

the first two chicks hatched!

He already has plans to sell the eggs next spring to make some spending money. We are in the process of building his own coop so that his chickens can be kept separate from the rest of the little sprouts flock. Its great to see him so excited about starting his own farm venture at the young age of 8.

One of the important principles of little sprouts is teaching the next generation the joys of farm life. We are actively seeking ways to turn our children's hearts and focus to the proper production of food among the tranquil but labored life of farming. It would be a real shame to produce a profitable farm and effective testament to proper farming techniques, but in the process loose the next generation to the hustle and bustle of city life. If parents believe in a lifestyle, as we do here, it is those parents duty to pass along the opportunity and excitement of that lifestyle to their children.

Thus far we have implemented 3 important rules towards that goal:

1. don't do anything that necessarily excludes children's participation.

2. allow and encourage children to find and own their separate ventures to make money off the farm

3. pay children a fair wage for labor they do, if it is labor that we would have to pay someone else to do if the kids weren't available.

Where did Little Sprouts Farm get it's name?

Sometimes we are asked "what does the name little sprouts mean?"

The simplest answer is ... our farm is a celebration of life: plants, animals, ideas, and most importantly our own family. The most important little sprouts are  our own little sprouts - Hunter, Kaelyn, Levi, and now Everett. These sprouts follow our first 4 sprouts who are now grown and starting lives of their own: Becky, Tim, Nick, and Kim.

Everett, our newest sprout was born  the evening of November 4, 2010. Weighing in at 8lbs, 13 oz and 19 inches long, Everett is a healthy happy baby boy.  Here are a few pics:

Here he is at 1 day old, dressed for his trip home.

Hunter and his little brother

Kaelyn giving Everett a little kiss

Levi talking to his brother

Sweet baby Everett

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taking a short break from posting

With the arrival of our newest little one, I'll be taking a short break from posting to concentrate on our family.

The miracle of life never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin harvest for the pigs!

This week we ran across a farmer that grew pumpkins, but the bears got into his patch and destroyed most of the pumpkins and vines. He couldn't harvest them, so he offered to them to us for pig food. The vines were already mowed down, but the pumpkins were conveniently stacked in piles for us to pick up.  At the end of the day we had about 1500 lbs of pumpkins in the pig pen for feasting.

That's a heavy pumpkin!


Time for a break


ok, back to work

King and Queen of the pumpkin mountain

and here is a job well done! 1500 pounds collected

Wow, is this hog heaven? these certainly don't look like pears!


sure glad they don't taste like pears! do they bounce?

New carpeting in pig pen again

It was time again to replace the "carpet" in the pig pen. The recent rains and time since the  last bedding change was making a soupy mess. It wouldn't be good for the next set of baby piglets (due soon) to be born in wet cold mud. So... here is another ton of hay spread out across 3/4 of the pen. The shelters are about two feet thick, the rest is anywhere from a few inched to a foot thick, with some mounds left deep for them to dig in.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nutritional content of food - how accurate is it ?

On virtually every food product in a grocery store today is printed a list of the nutritional content. Vitamins, fat, calories, etc. This is determined by laboratory tests and presented on labels to assist us in making health choices. There are even recipe sites now that take the list of ingredients and produce a nutritional content computation of the entire recipe. This sounds very helpful, and many people rely on it to guide their nutritional intake. But, a question arose in my mind.

The question is... is the nutritional content of a particular food truly static ? Does the end product have the exact same nutritional content regardless of manner of production and processing? Is, for instance, a chicken egg always the same ?

It would appear that the answer is an emphatic NO. Using the egg as an example, ever notice that there are eggs in the store sold as "higher in Omega3" and "Lower in cholesterol" ? Well, obviously an egg is not just an egg regardless of how it's history. In fact, a study by independent laboratories over 5 years ago proved that the nutrition inside the egg depends greatly in how the egg was produced. Truly free range, pasture fed, humanely raised chicken eggs are different from the factory produces counterpart.  Here is the original article:

As you can see in this article, free range eggs, truly free range eggs, are significantly different from factory produced eggs.  Now lets take a step back and consider this. If the egg is different based on production methods, then so must other foods - meats, produce - etc. There is nothing unique about an egg over the meat of the chicken or the produce of a garden. It has long been said that organically grown vegetables are healthier for us than factory farmed veggies.  So, it would appear that there is not one nutritional content list per food, but many possible depending on how that food was raised.

That brings us to consider some additional points. How far does this go? Does the nutrition of produce depend on the water used and the soil in which it grows? Does the fertilizer type used affect nutrition ? Where do we look to find out for sure?

Not the government. Several years ago the government asked this question and it was studied in America's universities. I relate the story second hand, which I sincerely apologize for, but if anyone can find the original story please comment and offer it here.  As the story goes, the government wanted to see if fertilizer affected the nutritional content of food. They divided a plot of land into two sections, one received fertilizer and the other didn't. They grew identical crops on both pieces and then tested it for nutritional content. In the end, there was no significant difference in nutrition between the crops.

But wait. What isn't told in this story is that the land used for the experiment was typical "worn out" farm land that had already lost the ability to produce good food. Another significant point is that they only used commercial, chemical fertilizer (NPK) on the fertilized ground. Therefore they did NOT test whether good ground produced better produce. Nor did they test whether organic farming produces better produce. What they tested and proved in reality is "chemical fertilizer has the ability to increase yield without increasing nutritional content when applied to exhausted mis-treated soil". Ok.. based on that.... lets stop using chemical fertilizer! This speaking nothing to the benefit or not of organically grown foods. It seems a little silly to reach that conclusion. Nevertheless, that is the conclusion that was published after that study, that since fertilizer didn't help in this case, organic methods must also be of no value. How sad.

What angers me is the extrapolation done in this sort of pseudo science. The experimenters are already so far gone down the road of accepted "facts" that they truly cant conduct an experiment properly to answer a question. The public that reads the results assumes these guys know what they are doing, and assumes it was done properly, and blindly accept the conclusions. The result is a complete misunderstanding of the facts and further testing and conclusions based on faulty foundations. It's a never ending cycle until we wake up and realize that "this just doesn't make sense".

How to stop this trend? We need to introduce a age old notion that has lost modern day appreciation: common sense. Today we rely on fact without wisdom. Instead we should evaluate the facts of today (if they be true) with the wisdom of the ages. Knowledge without wisdom is more dangerous than ignorance. It is only wisdom that makes knowledge useful and beneficial.

The bottom line is, chicken eggs can either be a health benefit or a detriment, based on how they are produced. We are often encouraged to "give up" certain foods based on belief of health risks, such as giving up eggs because they raise cholesterol. Well, the truth is, factory eggs can raise cholesterol, but true naturally raised eggs can LOWER cholesterol. Its not the egg, but how it is produced that matters. Think about that for a second. This same truth applies to many meats, and fats we have today, even spices such as salt. To me, this is simply proof that we have corrupted our food supply to the point that as of today, many historically healthy foods in the grocery store are to be avoided due to inherent health risks.

As consumers, we need to be aware that the labels on foods in the store are only accurate for factory produced food. The numbers measure the nutritional content of the factory farming methods. Those numbers do NOT reflect the nutritional content of foods in their native form.

The answer? its actually quite simple. the danger today is from one primary source, factory foods. If you reject factory produced food and return to farm raised foods, the whole picture changes.It is an incredible journey with nothing but better things at the destination. better health, better taste, better life experiences. I challenge you to test this for yourself. Find a local farm that does not use factory methods (another concern) and use them as your primary food supplier for a few months, then evaluate. I am confident you will find positive changes in many ways for you and your family's life.

The new "super tomato" ?

This news story caught my eye this morning, and sparked a question...

Where would we be in health care in America if we concentrated our efforts within the food supply on creating health instead of creating wealth? Why is the nation with the "best health care in the world" not actively working within our own food supply to improve the nutrition of our food?

Here is the story:

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that this super tomato is real, has health benefits as claimed, or isn't truly simply a marketing ploy. I simply do not know. Nonetheless, I wonder why this comes from Italy, and not almighty science of ag America.

I suggest that there are numerous reasons. America has used it's wealth of science to create more toxic chemicals to cover the effects of an exhausted, malnourished, abused soil. We as consumers have demanded better taste over better health. Our government has crippled the food system by singling out particular crops for subsidy, creating a political football out of our most basic needs. We as consumers have chosen convenience over health. We as consumers demand lower prices, not better quality. We as consumers judge quality based on what we see on the outside, not what is inside. We as farmers have bought into the big corporate industrial mindset, trading the wisdom of the past for financial and physical debts. The list goes on and on.

This is not intended to be a doom and gloom posting. On the contrary, my purpose is to share my thoughts in order to spur you into activity. It is easy to step back and claim that "I can't make a difference, I am only one". Whether that is true or not is not the question. the question is, are you part of the problem or part of the solution. That is really all that matters.

The one proven method of changing policy in American free enterprise is with our pocketbook. Mine and your spending habits truly determine policy of the people in charge. I do not personally see conspiracy around every corner, from a small group of peoples intent on corrupting our world and quality of life. No, I see a simpler process of people seeing advertising from a company attempting to increase profits, blindly absorbing that advertising, and using their cash to support the advertisements claims. We see and hear ads for fast food, and we are more prone to eat fast food. Eating more fast food validates the advertising and promotes more advertising. This is the vicious cycle. The way to break this cycle is for you and I to choose to stop, and consider what is in the best interest of our own families in the long run. Does saving a dollar on an artificial food product called burgers instead of having a moment of family time over a home cooked meal truly make our families, our children and our lives richer? Are the many activities we bring into our lives more important than the people in our lives?

I offer to you that if we would simply cut back on our consumption of fast food, reject the common notion that we don't have time nor funds to do what we know in our heart is right (does anyone truly think fast food is healthier than real food?), and "vote with our checkbook" on foods that will prevent health problems instead of cause them, THEN there will be more effort and thereby more choices and lower prices on healthy food.

So, I challenge you to ask yourself, are you part of the reason fast food exists, or part of the reason healthy food is making a comeback? Which side of the battle claims you?