Sunday, February 27, 2011

Roundup use linked to Spontaneous Abortion?

Many scientists and farmers have long pointed out that genetic alteration of crops specifically for the ability to use massive amounts of herbicides is a dangerous game with unknown outcomes. Recently the government has decided that this very cycle is safe enough to be completely deregulated and expanded to other crops without reservation. But, now we have a group of scientists with some very disturbing news.

Apparently there is a new pathogen, a fungus-virus like thing that infects the genetically altered croups that are roundup ready. This new pathogen may be linked to a various plant and animal problems. The worst of which is that it seems capable of disturbing both plants and animals in severely negative ways. Read this excerpt of an emergency letter sent to the secretary of the FDA to get a feel for the gravity of the situation:


Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure



Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.


For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.




What this is saying is that there is a link between high spontaneous abortion rates of mammals and the newly discovered pathogen that seem to only infect roundup ready plants. The scariest part of this new finding is that the pathogen is present in plants, and then in the mammals that eat the plants! We (you and I) are mammals. That seems to mean there is a decent possibility that people are prone to the same problems as other mammals, spontaneous abortion. Can you imagine ... think for a sec... if this pathogen climbs up the food chain to humans who eat the infected animals (it is only 1 step away now) and humans are prone to a 45% chance of spontaneous abortion? That.. is a staggering thought!

There are other worries, both economic and biological. The amazing point in all this is that there is only 1 reason to use roundup in the first place... to avoid proper farming practices! If we simply used proper farming practices of building soil fertility and biolife, roundup would not be necessary and this pathogen would not exist. One might say "but wait.. without roundup farmers cant grow crops!" I counter that with the question.. how did we grow crops before roundup, which is a new invention? What roundup does (and all chemical fertilizers) is to allow crops to grow, although empty of nutrients, in soil that is damaged and barren specifically from use of roundup and chemical fertilizers that kill the biolife in the soil which nature uses to build fertility. If a farmer uses roundup, he guarantees that in the future he will need to use more roundup to gain the same results. This can of course only last for so long. Soon the soil is so barren that it can not grow anything worth eating. Genetic engineering is not about making plants or food better, it is about making plants able to live with an excessive amount of roundup used on them due to increasingly barren soils from the continued use of roundup! The only one who benefits from this cycle is.. you guessed it... the makers of roundup and chemical fertilizers, and who knows.. perhaps some government officials that allow and encourage it.

I encourage you to read through the source of this information and judge for yourself. Did the government make the right choice in saying that genetically engineered crops and the increasing use of chemical herbicides is safe enough to be completely deregulated? If not, call your representatives and let them know you object!

http://www.i-sis.org.uk/newPathogenInRoundupReadyGMCrops.php?sms_ss=email&at_xt=4d626f6ab2cac894%2C0

At Little Sprouts we are very glad to have never used genetically altered feed, so our animals are not prone to this new pathogen. I would hate to think that the meat we produce for our children has this pathogen that can cause a 45% spontaneous abortion rate! This could now be the most compelling reasons to buy meat from a small local farmer who does not use any genetically engineered feed sources.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Time to Start on Thanksgiving Turkeys!

Believe it or not it is time to start producing Thanksgiving turkeys! The process is quite long:

1. Get the turkeys laying eggs - working them up to 14 hours of daylight
2. Collect enough eggs to hatch - at 2 days per egg per hen
3. Incubate the eggs for 28 days
4. Grow the turkeys for at least 6 months

As you can see, the timing is tight, but doable. We may need to push step #1 a bit. To get turkeys to lay eggs they need a t least 14 hours of daylight per day. Right now we have about 11. It is dangerous to increase or decrease more than an hour or two a week, as more can cause molting. We will go for the aggressive 2 hours per week increase to get things going as soon as possible.

The toms are already fertilizing the hens. We have witnessed it on several occasions, and the "favorite" hens are missing feathers on the back of their neck, where the tom grabs them to hold them still while mating. All good signs that the breeding flock is ready to reproduce.

Our plan is to rework the turkey coop into a stationary coop with thick bedding on the ground and a few roosts. This will allow us to lock in the hens each night but let them out during the daytime to get exercise and forage for food. There will be lights on a timer in the coop to add the proper amount of daylight. The toms will be allowed to stay outside on the roost at night to lessen the usage of bedding inside the coop.

If we can get all this set up this weekend, we could have eggs as early as within 2 weeks! We hope to incubate the first batch and let the moms hatch the second batch naturally.

Either way, we should have heritage pasture raised Narragansett turkeys for sale this Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Experimenting with Brining and Curing

It is an exciting day here at Little Sprouts. The time has come to experiment with curing and brining hams and bacon. Our goal is two fold...

1) To explore a way to do smoking and curing locally, giving faster turnaround as well as more control over the process

2) To experiment with recipes to see if we can produce our own "Little Sprouts Flavor" in hams and bacon without using chemical nitrates.

As you may know, there is suspicion that nitrates used to cure processed meats today may cause health problems. In keeping with our mission of providing only the tastiest AND healthiest products, we want to see if we can produce a tasty alternative.

There are 2 approaches being experimented with:

1) Natural nitrate curing using celery juice instead of chemical nitrates

2) No nitrate salt and sugar based curing - technically brining instead of curing

The latter is the more traditional method, but there is a problem. Most recipes take too long to be practical for us today. In the future it would be great to offer dry cured hams and bacon, aged 6 months to a year, but for now we don't have the facilities available to do that. So, wet curing or "brining" is the next best thing. Using this method we can produce hams and bacon in as little as a week.

Meat processed without nitrates will not have the shelf life of nitrate cured meat, but today with refrigeration and freezing in every house, its really not that important to most people. So the main purpose today in curing is really the flavor and color. We will see soon how these match up between brining, celery cure, and nitrate cure.

Celery juice used as a cure is actually nitrates, but it is the natural form of nitrates, accompanied by many other compounds as nature intended. Celery cure is also accompanied by a bacteria culture that helps to cure the meat in a sort of internal fermentation. The flavor and color is supposed to be similar to nitrate cured meat, but with lower health risk.

The final step in curing is smoking. Smoking itself has much the same function as nitrate curing, which is why the smoked portions turn pink or red. Smoking imparts flavor as well as extending shelf life.
I should mention that Little Sprouts will not own the smoker and curing facility. We are not a slaughterhouse nor butcher shop nor smokehouse. Nevertheless, having our own recipe with no-nitrate options and natural nitrate options will be a great asset and a unique offering. The butcher / smokehouse we are working with will process meat raised at Little Sprouts Farm to our specs with our recipes in their facility.

Why go to all this trouble? We want to ensure that our unique pork (Red Wattle) is processed in a way complimentary to the manner in which it is raised. We want to go the extra mile to ensure you the best product available. So STAY TUNED to see the results of our experiment!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SNOW!

Its not the life threatening blizzard they were predicting... but it is finally snowing at Little Sprouts Farm! Today was littered by fairly light snow flurries all day, but it was too warm to collect on the ground. Finally, just before sundown tonight, the snow arrived.

Where does a kitty go in the snow? Somewhere to hide!

A snow covered llama and ram.

Even in the blowing snow the turkeys refuse to go inside the turkey pen. They would still rather roost on the turkey roost we built.

These guys look warm enough!

Look closely and you will see some stray geese flying overhead.

Taking a picture of my son taking a picture.


Will the pond freeze over?

The horses don't seem to care about the snow




And the happy couple leaves a pair of tracks as the waddle through the snow....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stubborn chickens


Looks like we will have to work with them a little more.

Stubborn chickens


We tried to move these young chickens to the big chicken coop but they refused to roost there. They keep coming back to their old coop and roosting outside it. You can even see 2 roosting on top of the wire garden fence!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Greenhouse crops growing nicely!

We spent some warm and humid time in the greenhouse today. Indoor gardening is definitely the way to go in the winter!
Things are coming along nicely now that the interior has warmed up. It took a couple weeks to warm up the soil enough to get those plants moving. The most impressive growth is the seed starting heat mat. This little gadget takes you from seed to plant in 3 or 4 days! Very impressive!

Cucumbers just a week since planting. I plan to install a trellis of some sort to support the vines here.

These are the soil warming buckets. Potting soil from bags is placed here to allow it to reach warmer temps before using in pots. These hold 4 regular sized bags.

This is the biopod where we are trying to grow grubs. It went dormant on the back porch due to the cold, so I moved it here to get it going again. After a week there are just a few signs of life inside.

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These are pots filled with soil and waiting for transplanting. This waiting time helps to further increase the soil temp to speed up the tiny plant's growth.

Here are the broccoli and cauliflower we sprouted first. They are finally warm enough to start growing again and most have just recently taken off.

This shelf has basil, cilantro, radishes, and lettuce in trays, behind it is spinach waiting to sprout.

This row is zucchini planted same time as the cucumbers and growing nicely. I'm hoping they are bush and not vines!

Hunter and Kaelyn's potatoes are finally healthy and growing in the two big pots. In the back you can see the newly emerging tomatoes and eggplants resting on the heating pad.

And here is the world's best greenhouse keeper watering a few things, including the plants :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lambs Arriving?

It seems that everywhere we drive lately we see baby lambs in the pastures. It is the lambing season, everywhere except here! Well, at least not yet. We are watching our sheep closely for the first signs of a lamb arriving. It could be any day now.

Why don't we know for sure? Well remember that we are letting the animals breed naturally. We think that nature should be able to control the timing for breeding to produce the strongest offspring at the best possible time. After all, nature has been doing this for thousands of years. We don't want to try to improve on what nature has perfected by controlling the breeding. We are trusting the animals to know what is best for themselves.

The downside to this approach is that we don't know exactly when babies are arriving. That does make life a bit more uncertain for us, but definitely more fun and certainly more real to nature.

So.... we are waiting for our first baby lambs to arrive. We keep the shelter stocked with fresh dry straw, and we make sure the moms have plenty to eat and fresh water to drink. Other than that.... we wait......

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Apple Computer Corp and Little Sprouts Farm?

Here's a blog post where my background as an executive in the computer industry shows through.  I still browse the news of the high tech world to keep up with what is happening there. In doing so, I ran across this article



I have long admired Apple Computer's strategy, which is described nicely in the above article. How does this relate to Little Sprouts Farm? Well, in reading the article I realized that this is the same strategy that we are using at Little Sprouts, and the strategy that makes a small farm successful. Let me explain.

 Apple gains a much higher profit from owning and controlling the end to end process of designing, producing, and selling computer hardware and software. Our farm follows this same principle of controlling or owning every aspect of a food from birth or seed to table.  We have not quite fully accomplished this as of today, but it is our goal. This is very different from what the average American agriculture system do. Factory style agriculture preaches that you must own one segment of the food production, do it in huge volume, and leave the other steps to other business concerns. Family farming like Little Sprouts follows a different approach where we own all steps, do low volume, and do a wide variety of things.

Lets take an example. Lets say we have a food product that sells for $10 at the store. Out of that $10 that you pay, there are lots of steps, or cuts, taken:

Grocery store
shipping to the grocery store
production and packaging of the end product
shipping to the production company
holding and selling the raw material
shipping to the raw material holder
growing of the product on the farm --- the average farm owns only this piece
shipping of the raw growing material to the farm
production of the raw material to grow

It is important to add that  at each step of the way, the government takes a percentage of the value of that step.

So in actuality, the farmer that "grows the product" receives a tiny percentage of the $10 that you the consumer pay at the store, a very small percentage. All the other steps have to show enough profit to support a separate business and group of people. Lets say for the sake of simplicity that the 5 steps aside from shipping are evenly spread. Take perhaps $2 out of hte $10 for all the shipping and then split the rest 5 ways, there is $1.60 or 16 % of the total $10 you paid that goes to the farmer. Less than $2 for every $10 of value that is sold.

Contrast this with the Apple approach of doing everything in house. In this case you can remove most of the "shipping steps" and one company makes the profit on each step. Only one business has to be supported, and that one business profits from each step. In farming, with the $10 example.... it means that $10 goes to the farm.  That's an amazingly significant difference. By taking this approach, the farm makes close to 100% of the price that the consumer pays. Sure there are more cost associated to producing and selling the end product instead of wholesaling raw material, but WE get the profit from each step along the way instead of giving it to someone else.

Consider the difference between selling fresh picked blueberries off the farm to selling farm fresh blueberry pies made from fresh picked blueberries. For a little extra labor, the value gained by growing the berries is much greater if it is packaged in the pies and sold direct to the consumer.  That is the Apple computer approach, the Little Sprouts Farm approach and in our humble opinion this is the only approach that allows a small farm to make both better quality food and a decent profit along the way.

There is another hidden advantage to this approach. When we ( the farmer) keep all the money along the way, then that money can be reinvested back into the quality of the raw materials. For instance... when we sell a hog for $5 per pound, that cash goes back into purchasing much better feed to produce a better quality meat. If the price was split with a grocery store and all the other things along the way, there would be little left to invest in the animals themselves, and we would be struggling to keep the farm going.  This is actually one of the problems at the core of the American agriculture system today.

The mistake made in the common thinking is that volume covers the losses of the farm. If the farm could just be bigger and produce more, the volume will increase profit. That just doesn't work unless you are already making a profit. MY dad had a saying in his retail store. If we bought something for $1 and sold it for $0.90, he would joke that we could "make it up in volume".  In farming it is even worse because volume changes quality and methods to the point where it is impossible to produce a good quality product in volume anyway.

So.. here's the bottom line... to make money on a small farm and produce the best quality food, the model to follow is that one that made Apple Computer so successful:

Own the entire process from manufacturing to consumer sales and be innovative along the way. Sell direct to your customers, and create loyalty through quality.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Speaks on Government and Food Safety

If people let the government decide what foods and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.

Thomas Jefferson


Enough Said.

Reserving Eggs for regular pickup?

Our egg sales at the end of hte driveway are going well, but some have emailed asking when they are placed because they are finding an empty cooler. I do apologize for the inconvenience... Normally we place eggs out in the morning if its not raining.  But of course there is no way to know when they will be picked up.

If you are interested in a regular collecting of farm fresh organically grown free range eggs,  there is an alternative. Just let us know through phone call or email, and we will schedule to reserve some for you on your day of pickup. that way you can be assured there will be eggs when you need them.

Thanks for your support!

Reminder: Little Sprouts eggs are just like nature intended, unwashed, unpasteurized, never cleaned in water or chlorine, multiple colors, multiple breeds, multiple sizes, ungraded. they are eggs fresh from the chickens as if you were raising your own flock.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why buy from Little Sprouts Farm?

There are many reasons to do business with Little Sprouts Farm. We do our best to cover all of the many different concerns that you might have about your food production, not just one or two. Check this list, you may find that whatever concerns you have about food, it is addressed here.

  • Nutrition
When you are seeking the best possible nutrition from your foods, it is vitally important to know the source. We have learned that there is a huge difference in nutritional value of foods based on the breed, living conditions and feed of the animals, and also the soil management practices and source of seeds for plants. This is why we only raise heritage animals and heirloom seeds. Modern breeds and seeds have been altered either through genetic engineering or careful selection and breeding to provide benefit for the producer, the shipper, the grocer, everyone except the consumer. Ever hear of a plant or animal food that was produced specifically for increased nutritional value? Out of the thousands of times that foodstuffs have been altered, there may be a tiny handful done for nutritional reasons.

In addition to breed, we do extensive research into feed for animals and soil management for plants, specifically with a desire to increase nutritional value. I challenge you to go to the average food producer today and ask them "what are you doing to provide higher nutrition for my family?" Their answer should be concise and contain several elements of production intended to increase nutritional value.

Our answer is : we do careful heritage breed selection and heirloom seed selection. We  provide animals with a variety of their natural foods living on open pastures as much as possible. We limit soy and corn, supplement with fresh fruits, veggies, sprouted grains, all organic. We provide fresh air and sunshine, never use chemicals of any kind, and allow for low stress lifestyles. For plants we build soil through natural means of composting, never use any chemicals nor chemical fertilizers and we plant ripen everything, We encourage soil microbes, worms, and grubs to add nutrients to the soil where the plants can use them. Every week we are learning more about how to increase nutrients in the foods we produce for you as a goal.


  • Taste
Many people first turn to farm fresh products purely because "it just tastes better". This is absolutely true. Fruits and vegetables are ripened in the field to build in a full complement of flavors, unlike store bought that are picked in stages of "greenness" so that shipping time and sitting time are increased. Think for a second what a tomato must look like when picked from a plant overseas, packaged and shipped to America, distributed cross country, and shelved at the grocery store. Its not the same thing at all as a tomato plucked ripe from a vine in a local field just today.

Animal products benefit from this approach. Our heritage breeds produce meat and eggs that are true to nature in their flavors. While selective breeding and genetic alteration may bring specific benefits to the producer, you don't get something for nothing... there is always a negative effect. In food items, the negative effect is often flavor, which degrades with each subsequent alteration.  In addition, what an animal eats does greatly affect the flavor of the end product. We strive to provide both a natural feed and a variety of food sources to create a more balanced flavor. Which sounds better to you... a pig raised on exact quantities of corn and soy their entire life, or one fed a balance of corn, grains both  sprouted and not, thousands of pounds of pears, acorns, garden produce, and greens and proteins from open pasture grazing.  Trust me when I say there is no comparison in flavor!
  • Local
Many people are realizing today that our nation benefits from people like you and I buying local. Good things happen on multiple levels when dollars are kept local. The environment is improved from less shipping, your community improves by keeping more money local instead of sending it out to far off states and cities, the entire food supply system is improved by buying what grows local and in season. Buying local reverses the factory production mentality that brought us pesticides and herbicides and their consequences to you and your children and grandchildren.

Another aspect of buying local is that you can have a personal relationship with the people that provide the most precious thing you will ever buy, your food. That is more important than what we eat? It is so much more secure for you to know the person responsible for your food rather than trusting in a government inspector you never met keeping watch on a large corporate factory producing "food" behind closed doors. The bottom line is that YOU are your family's best protector. You can walk onto a farm or a food factory and your instincts will tell you if something is right or not. But, alas, you can't walk into a food factory usually.. they don't allow customers to see what they do.
  • Organic
Little Sporuts Farms is not certified organic. Lets state that up front. HOWEVER, we follow all organic practices and then some. The organic label costs money, time, and freedom that we are not willing to give up at this point. That is why we call our products "organically produced, fed, raised..etc" instead of certified. This means that we do not use any chemicals for fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, etc. We don't use any products that are man made. Overall, we consider ourselves "beyond organic"

For pest control on animals, we have diatamaceous earth and orange oil. For pest control on plants we use the d earth, orange oil, natural wood ashes, and biological control (ladybugs and praying mantis). But mostly... we recognize that pests some usually when something isn't right, so we strive to fix the reason for the pests to thrive and thereby eliminate them. Think of this in the example of mosquito control through removal of standing water instead of spraying poisons. That's the idea we follow.

We don't use antibiotics at all, even for mild illnesses (which we have not had yet). Our plan is to allow nature to selectively improve the genetics of our herds and flocks so that illness is rare to non-existent. Towards this goal we breed all our own animals now instead of buying eggs or babies form elsewhere and raising them. This gives us full control over the end product.

Beyond organic means that, not only do we eliminate the bad, but we concentrate on the good. For example we don't just avoid chemical fertilizers in the garden, we work constantly to add compost and decaying biological material to the soil to improve its content. We don't just buy organic feed for the animals, we strive to find the best combination of feed, grown under the best conditions, to improve their health and nutrition. Beyond organic means the focus is on using natural methods to improve the land and animals, instead of just focusing on avoiding the bad stuff.
  • Humane
In short - animals matter to us. We firmly believe that man was commissioned by God himself to rule over the animals, as their protector, shepherd, protector, and watchman. We are in charge of the earth and all that is within it. With that as a guiding principle, we are very careful to treat all animals and the land itself with respect. Nature is not a commodity or resource to be consumed, it is a partner in our lives.

We know each and every one of our animals. We know which ones are strongest, and weakest, we know their personalities. We treat them as our guests, not our tools. The chickens that lay eggs are treated as any other employee in most respects. The hogs, turkeys, horses, sheep, llama, are all given the best life possible through natural group living. Virtually every other farm separates animals for a variety of purposes... we have chosen to allow them to live together as much as is possible and safe. The hogs all live in a family group from birth, with the male boar to protect the little ones, moms able to teach and guide them through life, choosing when to wean and when to push them to real food. We don't control every aspect of their lives, we partner with them and nature.

Sure, at the end there is the reality that the animals are produced for meat. That in itself is done as humanely as possible also. God also said we are allowed to eat meat when done properly, so personally we have no problem with ending their lives when its time, as long as they have had a pleasant and healthy life. This is the balance that we have found.

  • Sustainable
Sustainable is the core buzzword to describe the overall approach to farming that we use. It simply means that the way we do things improves the earth, and can continue through time without running out of resources. We don't rely heavily on oil based chemicals or fuel. We work hard to make the soil we own better year after year instead of depleting it. We strive to find methods that do not require influx of resources from outside. If we achieve this goal fully, we produce more "energy" than we consume as a farm.

Think of the sun as the ultimate energy provider. A sustainable farm captures the energy of the sun and converts it into food, which is energy for people. A sustainable farm would capture more energy than it purchases from outside. A sustainable farm can be held and run in similar fashion through generations with profits increasing through increased fertility without purchasing fertilizer or feeds. The sun and clean water is all that should be required for a fully sustainable farm to produce food.

We aren't fully there yet, but our goal is to be there someday. My point here is that this is our goal. What is the goal of the corporation that produces factory eggs for the grocery store? What is the goal of the feed lot that smells for miles around, contaminating water and food, and trucking in loads of corn constantly. What is the goal of the large factory farm purchasing and dropping constantly larger amounts of chemical based fertilizer on the soil to make up for diminishing returns? Our goal is to produce better food for you while improving the planet we share.
  • Open
We firmly believe in the right and the ability of the consumer to be the ultimate inspector of their own food production. You are the one that cares most about your children's diet, not an unknown government inspector. You will go to great lengths to ensure that your children's food is as good as it can be. For this reason we invite anyone to visit the farm and see what we do, explore our approaches, see for yourself where your food comes from.  Can the factory production facility say the same? Most are completely closed to the public for a  variety of reasons.

Some will claim that closing to visitors is to protect the animals, our answer to that is that if the animals are so fragile that a casual human visitor can cause illness, something is horribly wrong at the core. Do you really want to feed your family animal products from animals too weak to fight off common germs?

We will remain open for any customers to come, inspect, enjoy, or even work along side us. If you want to experience what life on a farm is, just come and join us for a day.
  • Working for you
As a small local farm, we have no one to impress but you, our customer.There are no shareholders no large staff, no other stakeholders to consider. We are here for one reason, to provide the best product for you and your family. That gives us a singular purpose that no larger operation can duplicate. For us its a personal matter, you are our friends and neighbors. Your children have chased our chickens, played in our grass, and watched the animals grow. We are committed to providing nothing but the best.

This is one reason we hesitate to sell through stores. Being a "label" on the shelf is not the same as being a friend.  Once we sell through stores, the game changes. Then we would be concerned with brand acceptance, brand labeling, marketing, packaging, etc... all those things that are quickly stripped away when you sit down at your table to eat.  We might add store front sales at some point, but we are committed to never letting that be our primary distribution method. We desire to be your friends, your partners, your place of refuge and peace from the city.
  • Family Friendly
Everything that we do at Little Sprouts is family friendly, meaning if I can't take my children with me to do a task, it needs to be changed or eliminated. Farming is historically a family event and career, and that means children. Once the place of our food production became dangerous to children, it also became unfit to be food production, in our opinion. I don't want to eat things that are so dangerous that children must be kept away from for fear of poisoning, cancer, etc.

Our farm is also friendly to your children. We welcome families to come out and watch the animals, interact with them. We want to pass along the joy and love of nature to the next generation whenever possible. Theres not much more heartwarming than watching a young child hold a newly hatched chick in their hands, eyes wide, heart beating with excitement. That, in our humble opinion, beats a new video game any day.
  • Variety
This speaks to our overall design of the farm. We are committed to providing a variety of products, instead of a single speciality. This approach is fundamental to sustainable farming. You can't be sustainable unless you are multi species. Nothing healthy in nature lives in isolation. Isolation creates problems that must be solved through unnatural means. It is variety itself in plants and animals, that keeps things sustainable and healthy. Each species or plant taking part in the great balance of nature, providing one thing, taking another in a circle of life.

Variety also makes sense from a business standpoint. We can be more of a "one stop shop" for our customers. As we continue to expand into new ventures you will be able to come to the farm and pick up whatever you need that is in season. That is more convenient for you, makes purchases more practical for busy people, and provides diversification for us. If one venture fails one year, it doesn't hurt us as badly. We can rely on other ventures to cover the loss.

Modern agriculture preaches that benefits of single crop or single product production, being efficient on one thing and doing lots of it. The problem with that is that this is one of the driving factors in pesticide requirements and herbicide requirement, as well as manure contamination and ultimately people poisoning and infection. It is the mono crop and mono species approach that requires modern "advances" because they are fundamentally flawed in  approach.  The system itself is at fault. Nature doesn't work that way, and neither should our food production.

Overall, variety is what nature is all about. just look at the rain forest, a wealth of life. There you will find endless varieties of life, species, circles, balance, etc. It is variety that makes things work.


So there you have it.. 10 reasons to join us as a customer in this mission we are on. We are doing our best to be everything that we need to be, not just choose one buzzword and play to it. We want to do everything right. Are we there today ? No, but we are striving to improve on a daily basis. I do not claim to be doing everything right, nor know how to do everything right... but I promise you that we are working towards that as fast as we can. Won't you join us through your support as a customer?

Ginormous Eggs!

What do you do when the eggs will not fit in the carton?

Notice the rather large eggs on each end? So big the carton won't even close!
We have one chicken, must be in her third year, that lays the largest eggs we have ever seen anywhere! These eggs are so big they will not fit into a regular egg carton! In the picture above you see what happens when we try.  When we use one of these huge eggs, very often it has double yolks inside, each as big as a single yolk egg.

Notice the size difference from a normal egg (middle) , and the size this one chicken lays almost every day!

Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats soon to be adopted!

We went yesterday to explore the Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats at a local breeder and just fell in love with them! They are cute, cuddly, calm, affectionate, overall more like pets than farm animals.  Their size makes the kids confident in handle them and yet they produce an amazing amount of milk for their size and what they eat.  The milk is also of top quality, with the highest percentage of butterfat of any dairy goat or cow.  It seem like a perfect fit for Little Sprouts Farm to venture into the fresh raw milk world.

We left a deposit to cover two does that just gave birth this week. We will go back to pick them up next week after I have a chance to goat-proof the barn and build a milking stand.

A shot of the herd at feeding time.

Feasting on spent grain from a local brewery. Ours are in there somewhere!

Now these little guys are something else! One to three day old baby goats!

Nap Time!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Food Safety - the untold story

This post began as a post about the unfair treatment of the raw cheese industry as told in this article, but my thinking has shifted to point out an example of what is untold about our food safety.

The story about raw cheese has the former FDA commissioner making a bold statement referring to the raw cheese making process:

"Then, obviously, the next step is making pasteurization an absolute requirement," Acheson says.


That statement is extremely interesting to me because I think it shows the mentality behind our current food safety system. What he is really saying here is that "because of 40 cases of suspected illness from raw cheese, we will have to remove that food form the American diet completely by requiring pasteurization to protect the public".  And thus killing an entire industry (small farm cheese makers) and causing yet another long consumed food to go extinct in our country.

So, I got to wondering.. how does 40 cases warrant shutting down an industry and a historic food? To answer that I took a quick trip to the CDC website and their online database of food borne illness. Pulling numbers for 2008 only (the most recent available), and only confirmed cases (to leave no doubt), and removing all unspecified origins (again to remove doubt) produced a spreadsheet showing relative cases of food born illness and the food that caused them. The results are a bit surprising:

Did you know that watermelon and peppers and peanut butter were the most dangerous foods to consume in 2008?
 Peanut butter had over 600 confirmed reports, peppers over 1500, and watermelon 600

Did you know that properly processed (USDA) ground beef accounts 10 times more illness than raw cheese and gravy is very close to this?

Did you know that sandwiches are much more dangerous than raw cheese?


Now, one might argue that to rate the relative danger of food you must take into account its popularity, for instance, if a food is consumed 100 times more, than you would expect 100 times more food born illness form it. But before we go there.. lets consider the government's job is to protect us. If there are little consumed food causes - 100 cases per year, and a much consumed food causes - 1000 cases per year, which one should the government look at? Surely the 1000 cases warrant more attention than 100? Seems to me the important for consideration is in the number of illnesses, not the popularity.

The thought that the government would consider this one food, raw cheese, for extinction while turning a blind eye to foods affecting hundreds to thousands of people per year, is shocking to say the least. Why would they concentrate on 40 cases, ignoring the cries of hundreds of parents about their children sickened or killed by USDA processed meat? Something is horribly wrong here.

Unfortunately I can't upload the chart I produced to the blog. If you would like to see it just drop us an email or  You can easily produce it yourself by going to the CDC website.


Raw milk - when did it become dangerous?

When society enjoys a certain food for thousands of years that today is considered "too dangerous to be available to the public," common sense makes one stop and asks why? Something had to happen between our ancestors and us to make common foods dangerous.

What I am referring to is milk. People have been drinking milk of various sources since the beginning of civilization. Obviously they didn't all die off from disease, and they didn't consider it dangerous enough to even to be unusually careful with it. In fact, it's not just man, all mammals drink milk in the wild. It is still the best, safest food for young mammals.  So something surely seems odd that today our government deemed milk one of the most dangerous foods available in America. So dangerous it is banned in most states and illegal to carry across state lines.

This paranoia about milk is recent, because before the 20th century milk was a common food, available in virtually every home, and consumed daily with little incident. So the question is... is this truly a government "conspiracy"? Is it unfounded paranoia? OR... is it a legitimate concern because... dare I say it.. milk itself has changed?

My research points to the latter as the primary answer. I am not one to personally believe in conspiracy theories. I don't see evil intent behind every government move. It seems much more practical to see the normal evolution of things, although misguided. Milk and milk production is another example of many of the evolutions of wrong thinking. No evil intent is required to arrive at where we are today, just misguided and uninformed thinking.

So here it is.. quite simply. Until the 20th century milk was produced primarily by herbivores living on grass form wide open pastures in the fresh air and sunshine. The milk produced was delivered quickly to those consuming it. Cleanliness and decent sanitary condition were enforced by the customers local to the farm, and the farm people themselves consuming the milk. Free and private enterprise at its best!

Today, things have changed, dramatically. The animals now live in feedlots, where way too many cows are pressed into a tiny place, living in their own manure and mud, with aromas that drive away any intelligent creature. They are fed diets unnatural to them, which encourage the proliferation of disease and weakening of their own immune system. They are fed a steady diet of antibiotics in an attempt to keep down the overwhelming bacteria count that thrives in those conditions. They are bred specifically to produce more milk than ever, regardless of the nutritional quality of that milk. The focus is entirely on cost savings and higher production with as little labor as possible, to make more profit. It is assumed that most people don't really care about quality and those that would don't have any idea what is going on behind the scenes.

Does that paint a different picture from the lazy hardy cow foraging quietly on the hillside of a family farm? It should!  Here is another article explaining hte history of milk pasturization in america.

I propose that if you buy milk produced in today's "normal" condition as described here.. you had better make sure its pasteurized! Milk produced under these conditions is, in fact, hazardous and dangerous to your health. So in that respect the government is doing their job by restricting raw milk sales.

The problem is that this factory produced milk is nothing at all like fresh naturally raised farm produced milk. when milk is produced properly there is little to no danger in consuming it. If it  were dangerous, baby animals would surely be at huge risk, but they aren't.  Therefore I present to you that is is the manner in which milk is produced that makes it necessary to pasteurize, not the milk itself. It is the push to change nature into factory feedlots in the search of higher profits that creates the need for pasteurization. Here again the government has taken regulations necessary for public protection from factory food production and applied it where it isn't needed and doesn't belong. The end result is that the safe alternative (raw farm raised milk) is limited and the sterilized and dead factory produce milk substance is seen as "normal" but can't be sold in truly normal form because it is inherently unsafe.

So I see no conspiracy here, only the quest for profit by a few being necessarily regulated but misguided and uninformed thought taking things way too far. I also see no paranoia, because factory produced milk is in fact a very dangerous substance and should be treated to kill off the bad things inherently within it. What I see is the move to factory farming  which is, in itself, very dangerous to human and animal health, requiring careful regulation and control. The answer though, is to move away from factory food production and return to the farms that have fed people for centuries without risk. Raw milk is safe if it is produced the way nature intended.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dairy Goats coming to Little Sprouts Farm?

My wife has finally convinced me to explore adding dairy goats to Little Sprouts Farm. While I love the idea of fresh wholesome raw milk that we make ourselves, I have never been particularly fond of the daily milking chores.  Almost everything at Little Sprouts has been set up to NOT be a daily chore through some sort of creative automation, but milking? I just can't imaging any way to avoid that as a daily event.

Nevertheless, the pros seem to outweigh the cons, and tomorrow we are going to a local breeder for the breed we think we prefer to explore. If things go well we could have milking goats on our farm by Thursday morning!

More details will come as we get further down the road, complete with pictures and first impressions.

 Stay tuned!

Here is a link to the breed we are considering:



Here is the link to the breeder we are going to visit:

Taking orders for Red Wattle Pork - delivery in feb or march

Believe it or not its already time to reserve your portion of the famous Red Wattle Pork. We will have nine hogs ready for processing in about 30 days, and they go fast, so be sure to reserve yours early.  You can check some detaqils and sample pricing on the link above "On sale Now".

If you ordered pork in the last set and have not received it yet, please bear with us a couple more days. We are a bit new at this and it took a bit longer to get the paperwork stright. Rest assured that your pork is resting frozen in the butcher's cold storatge waiting to be picked up (except for the cured parts). You should be receiving a call from us within a day or two.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Video Footage - LLama vs Ram, Who is King of the Hay Pile?

One of our goals at Little Sprouts is to have multiple species co-existing. Not just having multiple species on the farm, but having them actually living in shared communities as much as possible. Doing so allows the animals to practice their natural instincts of domination and submission in a social order. We feel that this is a more natural manner for animals to live than being locked into various separate pens and cages. It also helps with disease control, as many species actually "clean up" after each other. An example of this is birds following herbivores, eating bugs in their remains and scratching apart the manure so it can decompose naturally.

Of course we do this within reason. We certainly don't want any animals unnecessarily harmed, and we definitely don't allow fights to the death. We do separate animals when necessary for their protection.

Today we witnessed and captured on video a contest, a battle of the wills, between our llama and our ram. The ram has been asserting himself more so lately as the leader. This conflicts with the llama who has seen himself as the protector and leader of the flock. Tonight when we pulled them out of the garden and back into the pasture, they both decided that the hay pile was their own, neither willing to submit to the other without a challenge.

This is the first time we have seen the llama in action. We have him specifically to protect the sheep from predators, but we rarely have predators. He protects first by standing between the predator and the sheep he is protecting, and that is as far as it has ever gone. Today he went further to defend his right to eat first against the  ram. He started with the usual attack gesture -  head up, ears straight back. When the ram charged him he made the warning sound, which sounds much like a very loud large frog croaking. If he ram got close enough the llama would then spit at him trying to hit him in the eyes. Apparently the sound is the llama "burping up"  stomach acid which must really burn when even a drop gets into the ram's eyes. The ram quickly learns respect for the llama, and eventually you see him shaking his head as if trying to clear his eyes. When pushed even further, right at the end you see the llama actually "sitting on" the ram to trap him against  the ground. This is the  point at which the ram gives up and lets the llama win the hay pile.

The ram has some awesome horns for protection. He backs up about 10 to 20 feet and takes off charging with horns forward. He repeats this trying to get a good lock on his target, but the llama always seem to either spit at him on the way or step aside at the last minute so the ram misses. Toward the end the ram tries to push the horns into the llama at close range, but this seems to only create more determination in the llama.  Ultimately, spitting and sitting seem to win over those awesome horns.

Here is the first video, its starts a bit far off to see, but they do move closer.


video

And here is the second video showing the conclusion.

video

Sprouted wheat


Here is a pic of the sprouting organic wheat after only 2 to 3 days. You can see almost all kernels have sprouted even though the temps are averaging in the 50's daytime and 30's nighttime. The trick is keeping them in dark closed barrels that absorb the heat of the sun.

The hogs absolutely love the wheat and rye, preferring it over the organic hog feed and fresh veggies. The health value is also high as it gives them extra nutrition during the winter. Another benefit is that the added fiber helps with the manure decomposing so the area stays cleaner.

Altogether a great addition to their diet. We are sprouting enough to provide each hog with a few pounds a day. - perhaps 30% of their diet.

Egg mystery solved....


Just as I am getting concerned about the egg production slipping... Kaelyn and Hunter run across the answer. Playing in the barn they discover no less than three nests filled with eggs. Thirty six eggs in all! With the cool temps most of them may be still good.. But we will check for sure.

How do you check eggs? The quick test for age is the float test: drop each egg into a cup of water. If I lays flat on the bottom it is fresh. If it stands on end at the bottom it's questionable. If it floats... It's too old to trust.

The only problem is we can't test them until ready to use because getting eggs wet will destroy the antimicrobial coating naturally on the outside of the shell. So we fridge them and test before cooking.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tractor + Gator = ditches!


Today's project is using this temporary break in the rain to improve the drainage in the front part of the pasture. I cut a few ditches in harmony with the natural contours. They are not deep enough yet but we spent the day pulling the dirt out. The gator proved indispensable to move the dirt to an area of the yard where it is needed.

Today is much like childhood playing with tonka trucks in the dirt.... Only bigger!

Hogs feasting on sprouted wheat


These hogs absolutely love feasting on the sprouted organic grains. They prefer it over commercial hog feed and fresh veggies. This bucket is full of freshly sprouted wheat.

Sheep make great gardners


Here are the sheep 'cutting' the grass around the garden area. They are all too happy to do this tedious task :) sure beats burning gas and pushing the mower!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Watering in the greenhouse


Kaelyn crawls through through the shelves to water the broccoli and cauliflower.

USDA official position on Genetically modified crops

If you are following the battle over genetic engineering of food crops, here is an interesting review of recent happenings.

First, the Secretary of USDA issues a softened statement stating the offricial position supporting of "co-existence" of genetic altered and  natural crops. In this letter alone is some very concerning and misguided statements that we could discuss at length. But, before we get the privilege of digging into that...

Only days later the USDA does an about face and completely deregulates genetically altered alfalfa, with other crops soon to follow. This deregulation means completely unrestricted, unsupervised, unconditional approval to plant genetically altered alfalfa at will.

Why the change in policy?  This article gives a few clues, pointing directly to the white house and the Obama Administration. Apparently this is an example of Obama desiring to appear big business friendly by removing "burdensome regulation".  While I am all for deregulation, there are some aspects of society that the government have an interest in regulating, because the actions of few can affect the lives of many in irreparable ways.

If Obama truly wanted to remove burdensome regulation, he could start with the food safety laws that are designed only to protect the public from unnatural factory food production, but in reality remove competition through unnecessarily restricting small family farms from selling healthy product. In that sense, the regulations increase danger to the public through limitation of competition and local inspections and choices.

In contract, genetically altered crops do absolutely nothing to help the public, nor increase the food supply. The only purpose in the genetic alterations of alfalfa and soybeans and most other crops, is simply to allow increased use of dangerous herbicides and thereby increase profits of a single corporation. The reality is that the increased use of herbicide can easily be shown to endanger the food supply, and the health of those eating it.  So in the food safety laws, the regulation decreases benefit to the consumer, while in genetic alterations deregulation puts the public at direct risk.

The bottom line here is.. plants depend not on the chemicals in the soil as much as they do the LIFE in the soil, the microscopic life that thrives in decaying organic material creating humus through compost.  the chemicals sprayed on the plants and ground to yield short term cosmetic benefits, destroy the life in the soil itself. This in turn leaves the crops suffering from decreased fertility of soil. The modern response is to apply even more chemicals. this depletes the LIFE further, and a vicious cycle is created. This downward spiral continues until the soil is so dead that it can not grow anything worthwhile, at which point the ground is abandoned as food producing.

Isn't it amazing that "dead" unproductive fields are a problem after only a hundred years or so of agriculture, when the earth and nature has sustained itself for thousands of years without degrading? Doesn't that tell us that we are going down the wrong path? Do we really truly believe that we would have no food without the chemist inside Monsanto to keep the earth alive? sigh...

Here again we see the legacy we are leaving for our grandchildren. If each 10 years is marked by a need to spray higher and higher concentrations of chemicals to get plants to grow, where will our grandchildren be?  Its obvious that this is the case because the ONLY genetic modifications to these crops is to make them more immune to Roundup.. the herbicide. Food plants being immune to this poison allows for spraying higher concentrations of the chemical than ever before. There you have the circle described above.

This move by the Obama administration is perhaps one of the worst moves he has made yet. It is one that has severe, lasting, irreversible implications for our grandchildren. For you and I, the consumer, this is not about money, convenience, "feeding the world" its about the ability of our grandchildren to grow food. Its more fundamental than health care, financial models, taxes, etc. This is food, one of the truly core things none of us can live without.

At Little Sprouts we are doing what we can to preserve the food that has kept us healthy for generations through heritage seed preservation. As the proliferation of genetically altered crops spreads, farms such as ours will be forced to move to more and more remote areas to prevent the spread of genetic alterations to our heritage plants.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chicken feed formula - mostly finished

We are often asked what we use for chicken feed, so here is a description of what we are currently doing with great success.

First let me stress that the primary feed source is from roaming our green grassy yard and pasture, about 3 acres worth.  In the summer we don't usually supplement at all, but in  the winter we do for two reasons:

1. fewer bugs - a chicken's natural diet consist of a lot of insects. There just aren't many in the winter so their protein intake goes down to where they don't produce eggs without supplementation.

2. lighting - in order to keep egg producing up as in their natural habitat, we must provide light for an additional 4 to 6 hours a day.  We do this by closing the chickens in the coop each night (they always collect in the coop roosts by themselves, we just close the door). the lights turn on at about 2am, and we open the coop doors when we get up in the morning. The problem is that they are in the coop unable to forage for food for a good 6 to 8 hours each day. If we didn't supplement that limits the hours they could collect food to the point where they under eat for lack of time.

So, we supplement in the winter.  Here is the current formula:

1/2 organic chicken feed
1/4 organic rabbit feed (about 80% alfalfa)
1/4 whole organic seeds (whatever is available sunflower, wheat, rye, oats, etc)

I simply pour those approximate amounts into a small metal trash can, lock on the lid, and shake, rattle, roll it around to mix. We aren't too concerned with the feed being identical every day, because it just isn't like that in nature. If  they eat mostly seeds or alfalfa for a day or two, its fine. No farm animals in the wild eat an identical mix of food every day of their lives, so if nature doesn't worry about it, I will scratch it off my worry list!

Then we add kitchen scraps on a daily basis. (we only eat organic ourselves so the scraps are also)

This mix gives winter eggs that are very close to the nutrient value of summer eggs. The yolks are usually bright orange with two obvious layers of whites, with nice thick hard shells.  Egg production remains at the standard 3 eggs per day for every 4 chickens.

We have installed a "BioPod"  to start growing our own insects in the winter. As soon as the insect colony gets going we will have a daily supply of natural protein for them. 

Next we are removing hte soy from their diet completely. As you can see, the soy in their diet is already about 1/4th of what a commercial chicken receives, but we want to remove it entirely. For information on why look for another blog post on that subject.

So that's it! Our chickens are healthy, happy, and producing a steady stream of amazingly healthy eggs all winter long.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Oven Roasted Pork Spare Ribs Recipe

Last night we had the absolute best pork spare ribs ever! The naturally pleasing flavor of the Red Wattle pork combined with light seasonings creates a flavor combination that is unlike any other. They are also amazingly easy to make right in the oven, no BBQ required. I suspect a little smoke flavor from the BBQ would be an added benefit, but not necessary!

WARNING: if you reproduce this recipe without the Pastured Heritage Red Wattle Pork, it will not be the same. As is the case in all foods, the quality and natural flavor of the core ingredient is the most important element. Regular factory produced pork spare ribs require much more seasoning and flavor help than this recipe provides. To cook the best food, you must start with the best ingredients!

Recipe

1 or 2 racks of Pastured Red Wattle Pork Spare Ribs
1 T Salt
1 T Black Pepper
1T Paprika
2T Brown Sugar
1 Medium Onion

Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Cut the ribs into serving size portions (2 to 4 ribs each). Lay the ribs in a flat casserole pan in a single layer. Sprinkle both sides with the rub. Don't go too heavy - this is not a coating, just a sprinkle. Slice the onion and lay the slices across the top of the ribs. Cover with foil and place in fridge for  4 to 8 hours.

Heat oven to 250. Move the casserole pans to the oven with foil still on. Bake for about 4 hours.

Remove the foil, turn up the oven to 450, and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, just till edges start to turn black.

For a serving Sauce:

3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup water
2 t vinegar (prefer rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1 t chili powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1 T finely chopped onion

Mix all ingredients in  a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil stirring almost constantly. Remove from heat and serve warm. Its best to leave the ribs without sauce and pour the sauce over the individual portions when serving.

Enjoy!

An Example of the Evils of GMO

Just days after it became known that the government has accepted a policy of supporting genetically modified foods, and not informing the public through labeling, comes another news story that shows the direct effects of GMO crops. This story exemplifies the dangers ahead as the genetically engineered approach becomes the norm.

Monsanto Vs Australian Organic Farmer Steve Marsh


The bottom line here is that GMOs, unlike hybrid plants, can reproduce naturally. The genetic alterations freely spread to neighboring plants whether desired or not. 
 
Why is this a problem? Well, just as in this news story, the spread of genetic alterations corrupts organic or natural plants. The organic farmer is no longer an organic farmer, because of actions of his neighbors under no control of his.
 
Then the company behind the genetic alteration throws their vast financial resources behind the non-organic, non-natural farmer to protect him and their future business from lawsuit. There is no way a single individual farmer can stand up to the legal resources of a multi billion dollar corporation like Monsanto.
 
Next the unthinkable happens. The organic farmer that was hurt by the spread genetic alterations to his land and crops, who is now suffering from significant loss of revenue as a direct result, is sued. Since genetic alteration are patentable, and sold under license, having the genetic alterations on his previously organic farm without a license is a violation of Monsanto's license and patent. So Monsanto can successfully sue the previously organic farmer. It has been done dozens of times successfully.
 
So, aside from the health problems associated with genetic alterations that we don't understand, and the subsequent use of heavier and heavier dangerous pesticides and herbicides killing the land even further, the other evil behind GMO is that they are viral. Just like the computer virus that would infect your computer, or the real virus that spread disease and death through a population, the genetic alterations spread freely through nature and with the help of legitimate court cases upholding sad but existing law, non-GMO natural plants are removed from the earth.
 
We remember the campaigns of the past to "save the whales", "save the trees", etc. A new banner call is forming to "save the seeds". This call is the closest to home, touching each and every one of us in one way or another. If you eat food, you have a stake in the protection of our food from corporate interests that would kill the earth itself to make a profit.
 
What can you do?
  • First learn. Learn all you can about what is going on behind the scenes.
  • Second spread the word. Talk to people you know and meet. Tell them what you learned.
  • Third find a local sustainable farm in your area and commit to supporting them by buying your family's food from them. Helping the local farmer that is "doing it right" empowers them to fight the fight.
  • Fourth stay active politically when necessary. Watch for polls, petitions, and chances to let your congressmen know how you feel.
 
Will it work? Well, that remains to be seen. One thing is for sure.. if you do nothing, nothing will stand in the way of the damage.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Greenhouse Planting Time!

We finally got hte greenhouse ready enough to start planting. the weather is perfect too, bright sunny days with lots of warmth to heat things up inside and last through the night.  All of our seeds are either heirloom or at least open pollinated. We have completely stopped using hybrids, becasue its not "natural" in that hybrids do nto reproduce properly. That violates the principles of Little Sprouts Farm. Plus, since they dont reproduce properly, you have to buy seed every year. We'd much rather just use our own seeds each year as a sustainable model.

Here's a few pics of what we have going on:

This is the soil warming station.
We bring the bagged potting soil from outside and empty it into these extra large black pots to allow it to slowly come up to temperature before planting.

This shelf is filled with brocolli and cauliflour, each plant in its own pot. The seedlings are already about 3 to 4 inches tall.

In the foreground wide trays are radishes, lettuce, basil, and cilantro.
the background shows some tomatoes on the left far back in sprouting bins, and a flat of spinach just starting.

The two large pots in on the left are Hunter's and Kaelyn's potatoes. they started these as a school project in a glass of water before transplanting here. In the back are sprouting bins with eggplant, sweet peppers, cucumber and zuchini.


These shelves have pots filled with soil and awaiting seeds or plants. They serve to increase the mass to attract and hold heat, plus heating hte soil for planting later.

The large trash cans are filled with fresh water and goldfish. The water is what we use for watering, and also helps to add mass to store heat overnight. The goldfish are there to keep the kids entertained and to provide some natural fertilizer in the water.

This lovely mound.. is our resident gopher mound. Right after we set hte greenhouse here, someone moved into the basement, or they MADE a basement. Soon I will have to evict the residents and fix the flooring!