Friday, April 29, 2011

Tragedy Strikes Little Sprouts Farm

A very sad week just passed. Unfortunately we live in an imperfect world, and things happen.

This week we had a small tragedy with our baby turkeys. Just when we got close to 100 baby birds in the barn stall brooder, a technical failure happened. For some reason, the breaker in the barn popped off at around 7am. I was actually out of town that day. When Brenda took the last hatching turkey poult out to the barn late that afternoon, something didn't look right. Sure enough, the lights and heaters were off due to the popped breaker. The birds had been without heat all day!

She quickly kicked in to high emergency action with the kids and did their best to get all the turkeys inside the house and under heat lights. There were turkeys all over our kitchen and living room shivering and huddling under read heat lights hung on furniture. The worst looking ones went straight into the incubator hatching chamber for heat and moisture.

Their valiant efforts saved most of the birds, but by late that night when I got home, it appeared that we lost a total of about 30 birds, one third of our new flock. There simply was nothing more we could do to save them after being so cold for so long.

Brenda and hte kids reacted perfectly and saved two thirds of our little flock, and that is very impressive. The kids all pulled together in gather supplies and carrying birds to safety. It was a sad but impressive family moment.

My job now is to figure out how to prevent this in the future. We simply cant rely on electric heat as the only source of heat in the brooder. the birds are too dependent on heat to live. I had everything redundant EXCEPT the electricity itself, and of course that is what went out. The reality is, living in the country in southern Oregon, electricity is not reliable enough for it to be life support. We either need to add a generator to the mix, or move to gas heat. I am undecided which is a better option for us, so stay tuned.

Besides the sadness of loosing a third of hte little birds entrusted to our care, the financial reality is that we will not be able to replace them for Thanksgiving due to the timing, so our thanksgiving turkey offering will be more limited than we had hoped. Fortunately we can recover for Christmas turkeys.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unexpected birth!

Quite the surprise today! Another lamb entered the world quietly over the last couple days! We had assumed that all the births were complete for the season but the sheep escaped the pasture into our yard and an extra just born lamb was awkwardly walking along!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hunter's chicks

Hunter successfully hatched a dozen of the cutest little chicks from his chicken eggs. Some are pure Americana's but some are interesting mixes of heritage breeds. There are still 6 due to hatch over the next 2 weeks.

This will give him a nice little flock for making eggs to sell this summer! Depending on how many roosters are in here.. He should be getting close to 2 dozen eggs a day by end of summer.

Third round of turkeys arriving!

The third major hatching for the 2011 turkey season is arriving! I awoke this morning to the soft chirping of the first baby turkey. This little fellow is the first of 47 siblings due to hatch over the next 3 days.

Interesting observation... The first one or two days of hatching are usually the strongest birds... Quickest to hatch out and walk.

There are too many eggs in this batch to place them all into the hatching tray you see here. The reason is htat in the incubating trays hte eggs can sit on eng, big end up. But for hatching they musy lay on the side, which takes more room. So you cant fully move one incubating tray of 36 turkey eggs to the hatching tray. Our plan is to turn off the egg turner for the ay, and rotate out the hatched turkeys every couple hours until all the due to hatch eggs are down below. then we can turn on the turner again. During those few hours we will need to turn the incubating eggs manually every time we check on them. Ideally the eggs should be turned every hour to ensure that the developing embryos do not "stick" to the side of hte shell and grow improperly. This is a very important job that hte mother hen takes care of when sitting on her own nest. Without turning the rate of proper hatching of healthy birds is dismally low.

Isnt nature amazing!

Monday, April 25, 2011

April is popular blog month!

We want to thank all of our blog readers and visitors for the tremendous support. It's totally amazing that a small farmer in southern oregon could attracyt so many readers!

April has proven to be the most popular month yet for the blog. the stats show that as of the 25th we have already exceeded all prior months in hits per month, and there is still a week to go!

It is very encouraging to read the emails, hear the calls, and read the comments of people interested in what we are doing and supporting our efforts. Overall, this is the single most fulfilling project of my entire career!

Heritage turkey eggs and poults for sale

Want to hatch or raise your own heritage turkey? You dont have to order them from a far off nursery - we are offering a limited quantitiy for sale now.

These turkeys are Narangansette Breed, the largest of the heritage breeds and nown for their calm desposition. They breed natrally, make excellent foragers, and can fend for themselves outside. They do fly, but prefer to walk unless startled or chased. For pasturing it is possible to contain them by  putting in woven ire fences of at least 3 feet with no cross beams or hard gates.

These poults and eggs are so far the storngest and healthiest we have seen. They are all raised and hatched on our far, fed mostly with wild foraging. this produces the healthiest and stronges poults we have experienced.

The fertilized eggs are about 95% fertile so far, but of course we cant guaranteed that. It is a more risky proposition to purchase eggs as turkeys cant really be determined for fertility until after a week of inubating. For this reason all egg sales are final.

When we have extras we will be selling the poults for $12 each. fertilized eggs would go for $4 each.

If your intereested please email or call and we will reserve them for you as available.

Four Turkeys hatch over the weekend

A small batch of 4 turkeys hatched over the weekend, bringing the total in the brooder to 49 now. This week a bunch are due to hatch, about 50 more.

I changed out the the lights in the brooder for a an old quartx heater that was unused in the shop. This one has two setttings for 1500 or 750 watts, and covers a wide area when hung n the wall. I mounted it about 2 feet up on an outside wall, pointing down at a 45 degree angle or so. This provides a nice area of warmth several sq feet wide and long.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Soy Free and Corn Free Hogs?

Last week we butchered one of our Red Wattle Hogs that have been on the new diet and feeding method , and have some amazing findings. It is of course too early to make a judgement, but things are pointing in the right direction.

You may recall we set out this year to create a soy free pork. This involved removing soy from the hog's feed and replacing that protein with another source. This is not an easy task! What we finally ended up doing is feeding a diet consisting of organic peas, and sprouted organic wheat and rye. Likewise organic corn was reduced to a special treat, with a small amount every couple weeks.  So for the last 3 months the hogs have been soy free and virtually corn free!

Then we made a change in feeding method. Not for nutritional reasons, but to help the pasture. After a winter of hte hogs rooting it up and "tilling" the ground, we wanted to start some things growing again. To do this we decided to start dumping hte whole organic grains right in the pasture on the ground, and let hte hos free to root in it to find food. They eat most, leaving some to sprout.

the first obserbvation was that the hogs seemed much more content after a couple days of feeding this way. They would spend their days out on pasture rooting around and foraging, napping in the mid day sun, and oming in evenings to the shelters. They seemed much more docile, less prone to spats between them, and generally "happier" than when we fed in the feeders only. 

The seocnd and more surprising thing was when we butchered the next hog, the pork was compleetly different! The last couple of hogs we processed turned out a bit fatty. The back fat was quite thick, and hte bacon ended up more fat than meat.  With this new hog, only a couple months later, the fat had decreases by about half! I have not seent he bacon yet, but from inspecting after slaughter, it looks like a much healthier balance of meat and fat.

The overall weight had not decreased! In fact these hogs are now heavier than the ones two months ago. What seems to be the case is that hte fat was decreased and muscle was increased.

Was it hte soy and corn removal, or the more natural slow feeding method on pasture? I do not know. Nevertheless we will continue exploring this to learn what is hte best overall diet and feeding schedule / methods.  For now we are very happy with the results and cant wait to try the delicious Red Wattle Pork with  a better fat balance.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Second Round of Turkey Eggs due to hatch today!

Today marks the start of the second round of turkey egg hatchings! This batch should be about 30 turkeys due to arrive by wednesday night! Today would be 1 day early, wednesday 1 day late. Turkeys are amazingly predictable in hatching! (I wish our own kids births were this predictable!)

We will post counts and pictures as the little ones pop out of their shells.

Our incubator is full with about 100 more eggs waiting to be moved to the hatching chamber, bringing hte total number of turkeys this year to about 145 and still counting!

Remember you can pay your deposit now to purchase your holiday birds for thnksgiving and/or christmas. A deposit is 50% of your desired bird type (toms at about 15 lbs and hens at about 10 lbs). At thanksgiving the birds will be on the lighter side and on christmas on the heavier side.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Smoked Roasted Heritage Turkey

Heritage turkeys are not the same as store bought commercial turkeys. The common store bought variety is highly bred or genetically altered to produce more white meat at a faster rate than nature itself will support. Heritage birds are fully mature, processed at 6 to 9 months, and have a normal body shape that allows them to naturally mate.  This does mean a few things to be aware of in the kitchen.

The picture below is a 12lb narangansette tom that has been roasted and smoked on our own pit. You can see from the picture that hte body shape os a natural bird is quite different from what you may be used to. Thee birds have a much longer and narrower body, higher more pronounced breastbone, and much less breastmeat. What you find when cutting into this fine bird is equal amounts of white and dark meat, and plenty of juice from the internal fat to keep it moist all throughout.

I usually roast / smoke mine to about 170 degrees, allowing about 6 hours for snoking at low temperateure and 2 to 3 hours of actual cooking time. This is all on a Traeger Grill with a full water pan below the bird. Traeger grills are pellet grills that allow you to set the temp like an oven and walk away, and you can choose any type of hardwood pellets for flavor. My favorite is mosquite and hickory, sometimes mixed. Apple does ok for poultry also.  

Best results are obtained by brining the birds for 2 days before roasting. I take the frozen bird and place it in an insulated brining bucket with the brining solution and just leave it for 2 days. It defrosts slowly and brines at the same time, keeping it cool enough to not need ice except in summer. The flavor imparted is unbelievable! Then I go form brine to smoker for a day.

We will have these turkeys avaialble this year for christmas and thanksgiving. I can assure you that when raised properly, processed properly, and cooked properly, there is no better turkey on earth!

Farm School?

We have had many requests to start a west coast "farm school" where those interested in getting started can come for a weekend or a week to learn the basics of sustainable farming and marketing. This definately fits with our long term goal of making what we do reproducible! Our strongest desire is to see hundreds or even tousands of farms launched from our  and other's examples. That is what this country needs, not bigger farms, more farms!

If you are interested, please drop us an email. We are starting to put some ideas together on how this might work and could use some feedback. Perhaps in the near future I will post a survey here so you can answer some basic questions about what you would be interested in.

I see this as a very exciting trend that America is turning back to sensible food production! Competition is NOT a worry, as it would take hundreds of farms in every area just to supply the needs of a medium sized town with wholesome organic local food. I suspect most cities could be surrounded by farms and there is plenty of business to support them all.

So please go ahead and contact us. We dont claim to know everything but what we do know we are more than willing to share. Each farm will have its own model and process, but there are lots of basics that apply to anyone. If nothing else, getting away for a weekend to concentrate on your future farm might be just what you need to get things rolling!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Finally caught the bunny!

Hunter is VERY excited today. For weeks he has been trying to catch the bunny that got away from his older sister. This bunny has been living around the house and barn for aboit 9 months! He has been placing traps and bait out and finally found the little critter trapped this morning.

Now it's time to decide what to do with it. Perhaps in the chicken coop? Greenhouse? Raise bunnies? Not sure yet.

Homemade Turkey Broth

When your done with your super tasty heritage turkey, what comes next? Well, dont waste the bones... It makes hte absolute best turkey broth avaialble!

Warning - We do not recommend trying this with store bought turkey or chicken. The results will not be as pleasing, and the heatlh benefits will be limited. The raising and breed of the animal is what produces the health benefits and taste.

With the disclaimer out of the way.. here's a simple way to make yoru own turkey stock or broth. It is excellent as a warm drink, a stock for any soup, addition to any dish that needs liquid, etc etc. The list is endless!

1 heritage pasture raised turkey
4 organic carrots
1 organic onion
4 stalks organic celery
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon organic black peppercorns
6 organic bay leaves
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar

Place the turkey leftovers into a large stock pot. We use a 32 quart one and it just holds 1 turkey without breaking the bones apart.  Fill with water to cover the entire bird. Add all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and very slowly simmer over low heat. It is very important to set heat as low as possible to keep a slight simmer. Cover completely and let it simmer for about 3 days. Check every day to stir and add water as necessary to keep level up. On the thrid day you should have a slightly brown, completely unclear stock that smells wonderful.

To bottle it for use later, take a large strainer and press down on top of hte stockto provide some clear broth to scoop out. Now use a ladel to scoop out as much of hte stock as possible into quart or half gallon mason jars. Fill the jars to about an inch or two from the top (to leave room for freezing).  Its best to do this while the stock is still hot.  Once the level becomes too low to scoop out with a ladel, just put a large bowl in the sink, place strainer in the bowl, and pour the rest of the contents into the strainer. Let all the juice drip out. Then you can finish filling hte jars from the bowl.

the jars should be sealed, allowed to cool, and placed in the fridge or freezer. Do not attempt to keep tham at room temperature, they are not processed for that. The flavor is better if you do not process for long term storage.  These bottles will keep for about a week in the fridge, or much longer if you freeze them. If you wish to freeze them, let them cool on the counter, then place in fridge overnight, then freezer. This prevents weakening of hte glass and jar breakage.

Enjoy! you know have plenty of super nutritious turkey bone stock for use whenever you need.

This stock forms the basis of many health diets including Weston Price, GAPS, SCD, etc. They all hail this type of broth as one of the healthiest foods you can consume!

Newsflash: Wear Gloves when buying meat in the store!

Meat... one of the staples of the American diet for most people. Unfortunately today's meat is not the same product it was 50 years ago. Most meat today is a dangerous substance, to be treated much like a hazardous material!  Without our knowledge nor approval, our food has changed right under us.

What am I talking about? drug resistant bacteria. A recent study has confirmed what has been long suspected. One of hte primary sources of drug resistant bacteria is the American meat supply from factory farms and confinement feedlots.  I urge you to read theough this article announcing the new findings, and contemplate the implications.

Superbug Staph Widespread in US Supermarkets

As a small sustainable farmer I find this both astounding and infuriating. The study clearly shows that drug resistant bacteria is literally cawling over the meats found in the supermarket.  Check the numbers and you will see that 3 out of 4 turkeys in the store have at least one type of drug resistant staph bacteria on the meat. Half of the pork and chicken samples had multiple types!

Why aren't more people dieing from this major contaminant? This bacteria does not cause food poisoning. What it can do, and is doing, is causing staph infections in cuts or skin abrasions of people that handle it. It does not usually infect by ingestion, but by exposure to skin., It can lay dormant for long periods of time, slowly growing and waiting for entry in the body.  Think.. most people have heard of someone they know that at one time or another had a staph infection. It is amazingly common.

Staph is a nasty bug, and drug resistant staph is one of hte largest problems facing hte American medical system. Now we see the truth in numbers. All across the country meat in the supermarket is harbouring this potentially fatal bug ON OUR FOOD!

How did it get there? simple, factory farms and feedlots are using untold quantities of antibiotics on farm animals in their food, everyday, their entire life. Why would they do this? Simple, the living conditions of hte animals are so horrid and unsanitary that without antibiotics in their food, the animals get sick and die form all sorts of infections. So... to keep these poor creatures alive until they can be sold to you as food, they feed them antibiotics 24x7 to keep infections down. This, in turn, creates drug resistant bacteria that can not be killed and are passed along hte final product (your meats) to you.

Sound appalling? it is! I cant decide whats worse, the factory food industry using antibiotics so irresponsibly when people are warned to use them sparingly, or the factory food industry being allowed to offer such poor living conditions to our food that it takes constant medicine to keep them alive, or the fact that this has happened without your knowledge!

Fortunately, there is a very simple way to protect your family. STOP BUYING SUPERMARKET MEATS! IF you dont buy them, your family is safe from what will soon be shown to be the #1 cause of drug resistant staph infection. Also, but not buying factory produces meats you will slow the growth of this industry and support the return to humane, healthy, small farms that built America. I can assure you that ther eis a small farm in your area right now struggling to stay afloat. Seek them out, and purchase your meats only from them.

If just one drug resistant infection is prevented by this, its worth it. I urge you to take action today.  Your family's health depends on it. 

I can assure you that Little Sprouts Farm does not use any medicated feed, and no antiobiotics in any form. We keep out animals healthy through proper management, fresh air, sunshine, and healthy foods. It does work! There is no reason whatsoever for this problem to exist. If fatory farms would simply return to natural methods of raising animals, they would no longer need antibiotics at all. If you live in the southern oregon area, feel free to drop by and watch our farm grow.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The morning after

Eve wonder what a day in the life of a farmer is like? Well here is a typical shot of the morning after a hard work day. Our youngest little sprout crashed out in our bed past sunrise :)

Time to do it again!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Turkey count at 14

Today ened with the baby turkey county at 14 total. Only one egg didnt hatch from the batch that was due to hatch today. Perhaps it will break open overnight?

All but 2 were perfectly healthy except for 2. One had minor feet issues and one had major feet issues. By nightfall though, both seemed better. Only time will tell if they will keep getting better or not.

For now all 14 are resting comfortably in their new home.

Are you my mother?

Just like in the children's book... These little guys seem to be asking "are you my mother?"

Kaelyn is perfectly willing to be mom in proxy :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First Thanksgiving turkey

This little guy hatched out tonight... One day early. He is the first born on the 2011 turkey flock.... With about 150 siblings to follow in the next few days.

First thanksgiving turkey

I had forgotten how cute they are when they first arrive!

Can you milk a turkey?

This little hen seems to think she is next in line for milking!

Listening for Turkey Sounds

Yesterday we moved the first set of turkey eggs into the "hatching chamber" of the incubator. Here they will sit until the birds break out of their shell to see their new world. Since hte chamber is "closed" the first sign of these new little lives will be the sound of chirping in our house!

The hatching process dictates that the eggs are turned regularly every day during incubation. This is accomplished by the shelves that "lean" to one side then the other every hour or so. The purpose is to prevent the growing embryo from "sticking" to the inside of the shell and developing abnormally. In nature this is accomplished by the mother bird using her beak to gently turn each egg every hour or so while she sits on them.

Then, 3 days before hatching is is  necessary to STOP turning them completely so that the young bird can position itself for hatching. If this isnt done the bird may never hatch and will often die in the shell. In nature, the mother bird knows when to stop turning them and leave them alone! Isnt nature amazing!

Since turkey eggs require almost exactly 28 days to hatch, they need to stop turning around day 25, which was last sunday for hte first set. Using hte incubator for multiple ages of eggs requires dating each egg and at every 25 day interval moving the proper eggs to the hatching chamber. That allows for a constant rotation of eggs through the system and chicks out.

So we are waiting! By wednesday night we should have most of hte first turkeys happily running around and ready for their new brooder!

Monday, April 11, 2011

New trial feeding method for hogs

We tried something new this week, and it seems to have interestingly positive effects on the hogs. The weather is warm enough to start adding some seed back to the pasture where the hogs rooted everything up, so we had an idea. Why not just throw out our organic feed (wheat, rye, peas) directly into the pasture? The hogs could nibble on some and plant the rest by walking and rooting.

So we tried it last week. Insteat of sprouting hte grains and filling the feeders, we filled the back of the gatoe with dry grains, and made a trip through the pasture with it slowly spilling out. This spread it out nicely with a few heavy spots. We did this on 3 different days. The hogs immediately went to work eating and burying the grains. In fat they spent hte better part of hteir day in the pasture grazing and searching for food. It was good to see them all spread out and all eating quietly!

Then I noticed something else. The hogs seemed less interested in "treats". Even when I threw out a buckets of food scraps, they didnt come running as usual. The seemed much more content, and docile than when on free feed in the feeders. The amount they eat didnt change, in fact if anything it went down. Yet, they seemed to be happier and less hungry.

Could it be that grazing and eating slowly actually fits better with their metobalism then free feed or feed evenets in feeders where they gorge themselves until full each time? I dont know hte answer to that one, but its a fun experiment to explore what this all means.

Hopefully they left enough grains and peas buried to sprout and reseed the pasture. The next step will be to block off some sections to let the seeds grow without interruption. That comes next week.

Egg Prodution down again

We managed to increase our egg production this winter by chainging out dark rook of hte coop with a bright fiberglass roof, and then installing 4 100 watt lights, 2 in each coop, on timers. that worked quite well! Unfortunately, shortly thereafter I removed 2 of the lights to place them in the "turkey coop". We wanted to get the turkeys to start laying by lengthening their day.

Two bad things happened, first, it didnt help the turkeys at all, but we also discovered that the heritage turkeys dont need lights! een the turkeys that were not in the coop started laying befor ethe lights could have kicked in.  Second... the chicken egg production dropped.

It took me a while to make the connection between light intensity and egg production. I had always read that as long as "you can read a newspaper" the light was bright enough. That is apparently not true for our birds.

So we pulled the two lights out of the new abandoned turkey coop and placed them back in the chicken coop. Within a week or two we should have prodution back up and hopefully eggs for sale again!

Labeling the Blog

I finally am taking the time to add lables to the blog posts. Labels are a way of categorizing each post with key words so you can easily find all posts on a particular topic. Previous to this the only way to find posts was by looking through the archive. When the blog was new this was fine but as it has grown over the months, that approach is no longer sufficient.

Take a moment and browse through the list of labels on the right, you may find a set of interesting posts that you never saw before!

Hopefully this will make the blog easier to use and more valuable when you rlooking for information.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Natural curing experiment is a success!

As you may recall, a while ago we experimented with truly natural ham and bacon curing.  Before I get to the news, lets review a bit:

There are currently four ways to purchase "cured" cuts of pork. Each is explained here.

1. Conventional curing - sodium nitrate: This is how the hams and bacon on the shelves today are predominately processed. Sodium nitrate (along with some other flavorings) is injected into the meat, allowed to sit for some period of time, and then smoked at low temperatures. The resulting product has the common "pink" color and taste of hams, bacon, lunch meats, hot dogs, etc.  Sodium nitrate reduces the chances of botulism bacteria growing during storage, improving the shelf life. Critics state evidence that sodium nitrates changes into cancer causing chemicals during cooking and body metabolism and increases the chance for many cancers. The government does not support this claim.

2. Natural Nitrate curing - also called nitrate free curing, celery cure, etc: This method is fairly new and little understood by most people. Instead of the chemical sodium nitrate,  the meat is injected with condensed celery juice or reconstituted celery juice, mixed with other flavors and salts. The effect on the meat (if done properly) is identical to conventional nitrate curing. In fact, it is the exact same chemical process that utilizes nitrates to perform the magic of curing. Celery happens to be high in nitrates occurring naturally. Using a high concentration of celery juice in one form or another is a source of sodium nitrate.  The benefits of this approach is that the nitrates are at least naturally occurring, instead of being chemically produced pure. Celery juice carries with the nitrates all the vitamins and minerals of celery, which proponents say counteract the cancer causing effects of the nitrates, making it a safe alternative. These products are NOT usually clearly labeled, and the only way to tell for sure if your "no nitrate" product has celery based nitrates is to look at the ingredients. the list will often include "celery juice or powder". The package will often say "no nitrates added (except those naturally occurring)". This is because celery juice itself is a flavor not a additive according to government rules, so it is treated differently on labeling.

3. Natural or Traditional Curing :  This method is totally different from the nitrate cures of #1 and #2. In this method salt and sugar are the only preservatives in the meat. Spices are added to impart flavor but the operative ingredient is plain salt. This is how people have preserved meat for ages.Salt slows bacteria growth when in high enough concentrations. Natural curing means salt, sugar, and spices are injected into the meat and it sits for some time, then smoked just like above. (smoking itself is a bit of a preservative, since smoke also contains natural nitrates in small quantities).  The resulting product is truly NO NITRATE (except for hte tiny amount added in the outer layer by smoke) and hence is not truly "cured", does not have the "pink" color nor true ham taste. The shelf life is also reduced (more on this later). The flavors of this type of meat are endless, as any combination of spices can be added to produce a distinctive flavor.  These meats are also often aged for long periods of time, producing a bit of "fermentation" internal and adding further flavor.

4. Fresh or Uncured: This represents truly untouched meat, sold fresh just like a pork chop or plain roast would be. It has no specific flavor other than that of pure pork, and no coloring at all other than that of pure pork. When cooked this way without further processing the end result is the flavor of pork chops or roasts with no flavor. The shelf life of this meat is identical to any raw pork.

So that's the options today for hams and bacon (along with lunch meats and hot dogs). Anytime you see meat with a red color, and tastes like ham instead of pork chops, be assured it probably has been treated with nitrates in one form or another. If it has no color, and tastes like plain pork chops or roasts, it is probably truly fresh, and it if has other exotic flavors, it is probably salt and sugar cured.

A word about meat shelf life: In the distant past, this was a very important aspect. A large animal was butchered and if it could not be consumed within a day or two, the meat would go bad, just like raw meat left out on the counter today. With no refrigeration, there were few options to preserve the meat. That is when salt and sugar cures (along with fermentation) was introduced, specifically to preserve meats for later consumption without refrigeration. Fast forward to today and the question is... do we need a long shelf life at room temperature? Kept frozen, raw meat as a seemingly indefinite shelf life (months to years). So the original reason for curing no longer exists. Today, the only reason for sodium nitrate curing is the flavor, color, texture of ham. I suppose one could make the argument that the food delivery system has an interest in preserving meat for sale much later, but that's a scary thought in itself.

So, with the background done.. here is our news!

Our experiment in natural curing (salt and sugar based) is a huge success! We produced four types of cures, all of which can be offered through little sprouts  as well as conventional curing:

1. Celery and Honey cure: This recipe uses celery juice and honey as the primary flavor and curing agent, producing a flavor just like conventional hams and bacon, without the chemical nitrates.

2. Mustard and Spice Cure: This is a completely natural nitrate free cure, relying on salt, sugar, and spices. The predominate flavor is that of mustard seed mixed with onion, garlic, and other spices. It is a slightly salty, slightly sweet, slight mustard seed flavor that produces a well balanced and appetizing flavor. It is my personal favorite!

3. Holiday Ham: This is also a completely nitrate free salt and sugar cure relying on cloves and holiday type spices to produce a bright festive flavor. It is somewhat similar to the honey hams sold in stores without the strong sweetness. This ham would go well baked as a holiday ham in a sweet sauce to complete the flavor, but is absolutely delicious on it's own.

4. Molasses and Pepper: This is more for bacon than ham, but could apply to either, another completely natural nitrate free cure. It has the sweetest of the above flavors, but the sweetness comes from molasses not raw sugar, which fits well with the pepper and bacon flavor. Be careful when cooking as the sugar in the molasses will caramelize easily! Cooked right, this is a fabulous breakfast meat to wake up the pallet and start your day.

Little Sprouts Farm is proud to announce availability of these cures (plus the option to buy "fresh" and do it yourself) on future orders or pork. When placing your order just choose which cures you wish for which cuts of meat, and in a couple weeks you will have the most unique flavored hams and bacon available anywhere! Our recipes are our own secret and so will not be available anywhere else. We wish to keep these great cures matched to the extreme flavor of the Red Wattle Pork.

Hurray and place your order today! Supplies are some what limited, and not available elsewhere!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Extra Large Turkey Brooder

With the turkey eggs due to hatch next week, we needed a place to raise the young birds. Our regular home built brooder does not have enough room to house 100+ birds, so we decided to build a new one, supersized! Instead of building a brooder itself, we converted a stall of the barn into a giant brooder. This gives them a nice 12x12 space to explore, grow, and run around.

The conversion was easier than expected. I simply screwed a support 2x6 on each wall (2x6 is an overkill but I had those on hand, they are the normal stall divider walls). Then put one right across the middle. The old metal roofing panels from the chicken coop (see a previous post) are exactly 12 feet long so they fit nicely as a ceiling. That provided a nice solid metal ceiling to keep predators (cats) out. Then I covered the front bars with chicken wire, and the door also. That completed a safe space. For bedding, first I used a bale of straw to cover the bare ground, then about 6 large bags of shavings. That gave a base of 4 to 6 inches across the entire floor. A 2x12 across the bottom of the doorway served to hold the bedding in while opening the door.
The heat is provided by two hanging 250Watt heat lamps and reflectors. They are hung on bailing wire from two nails in the center ceiling brace. An extension cord stapled carefully along the inside provides safe electricity from outside the stall. The last light in the back is a daylight fluorescent bulb on a timer. This provides a close approximation to daylight for 12 hours a day, and a darker night time. The heat lamps still glow but the bright white light is off at night. I have a theory that this helps to prepare the young birds for the daytime cycles better than either constant dark or light. Since bird's hormones are regulated by hours of daylight, I feel its important to have as close as possible to the outside world, even in the brooder.
So there it is. All that is left to do is to hang a couple of waterers and its usable. The entire process took an afternoon with my wonderful Wifes helping hand.

View from the back corner

Here you see the chicken wire stapled behind the stall bars

Wiring for the heat lights and daylight bulb

Shot of the lowered ceiling

The 2x12 holding bedding inside when the door opens

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tell the truth in Iowa, go to Jail!

Amazingly... Iowa state legislatures are actually in the process of making it illegal, a felony no less, to record what goes in inside a factory farm. Yes, I know its amazing to be saying this, but it is apparently true.

First I ran across this editorial : In Iowa, Exposing animal cruelty could be a crime

The thought of this truly happening is so appalling that I had to look up the actual bill to see for myself. Read the House version HF589 here (it is expected to pass the senate soon also)

SO, as you can read, Iowa wants to make it illegal to expose wrong doings inside of a food factory. Now lets think about this... If the inside of the food factory was truly the serene and peaceful images of chickens and cows grazing on wide open pastures of green grass and sunshine... would this even be considered? The images of farms where most people "think" their food comes from are some of the most positive and peaceful images in America. Why else would the packages in the store proudly portray these images as advertising? But the reality behind the packages is one of misery, disease, death, prison confinement, and cruelty. So.. the factory food industry shows you images of small family farms and manages to pass laws making it illegal to expose the truth behind your food.

If this was a story about some non tangible luxury product, that would be one thing... but this is your family's food. The companies producing your food inside closed factories so strongly need to prevent you from seeing the truth that laws like this are coming into existence. That is beyond sad, that is appalling. Everyone needs food. It is undoubtedly the core of human existence. Your family's health directly depends on the quality of food and methods of production, and yet the factories making your food close their doors to you, and want to throw you in jail for exposing what goes on behind those doors. This is YOUR FOOD and HEALTH! They have no right to hide from you how what you consume is made.

This story is so outrageous I can not think of a parallel.

The mission of the small family farmer everywhere is actually doing what the factory farms advertise. We open our doors and invite the public in to explore, learn, inspect. We live the images you see in the store that are nothing but untruths and lies. The factories sell you product based on images of our establishments while hiding their own. That is beyond false advertising! If they were proud of how they raise food, as we are and all the small family farms are, they would invite the public in to see, learn and explore.

I give a personal challenge to any factory farming operation (anything other than a sustainable family farm) to open your doors. Let your customers see what they are paying for. Let the light of day shine inside your establishment and make you proud to explain every detail of how animals are treated, processed, and raised. Put actual pictures of your process and places on your packages.

I also give a personal challenge to you, the reader of this blog and a consumer, to ask to visit the place where your food is created. Ask to see how hte animals are raised and treated, ask to take a few pictures for your family and friends. Ask to see where on their land the picture on the label was shot. Go visit that serene and peaceful hillside and sit with the cows and chickens for a picnic.

Some factory farms will use the excuse of preventing "biological contamination". (translation, you carry too many germs and could spread disease to the animals). Do NOT accept that. There are only two ways to see that claim:

  1. It is true - but if it is true and if their animals are so weak and feeble that a human visitor would spread disease, do you want to consume that meat or eggs? How did their "farm" get into such bad shape that a common visitor can kill it?

  2. It is false - and if it is false why are they lying to you, their customer? Why do they want to keep you from seeing how your own food is produced?

I urge you to take those challenges, and see where it takes you. IF you are barred from visiting your egg farm, meat plant, or meat farm, then I URGE YOU to vow to never purchase their products for your family again. Why take that chance on your health? Why pay them for hiding secrets by buying their products. The time to act and stop the hidden atrocities is today. Our grandchildren depend on it!

If you can not find satisfaction at a factory farm, then seek out a local, sustainable family farm. They will welcome you with open arms and proudly display how your food is raised. They will not put you in jail for snapping a picture or shooting a video. They will treat you as not only a customer, but a friend.

The gap between factory farming, supported by the government and your tax dollars, and the small sustainable family farmer is widening. The power to say which method wins is completely in your hands. The choices you make today determine what choices you will or will not have tomorrow.

If this blog post seems overly passionate and direct, its because it is! This is a topic I am deeply passionate about. What is going on behind those closed doors is wrong both in man's eyes and God's eyes. Those pictures on the labels that lull you into inaction and complacency are wrong. Forcing me to pay tax dollars that end up supporting the factory farming model is wrong. The lack of attention of the health of the next generation is WRONG. So yea, I am passionate. This lies at the core of the issue. I maintain that if the average person really knew what was going on in factory food production, the evils would stop, because the average person would not put up with it. The power, is in your hands.

NOTE: If there are any factory farms that will invite visitors, then please please let me know. Leave a comment here or email us. We truly want to applaud them for being open and honest with your customers.