Monday, December 31, 2012

Sheep / horse feeder

What can you build from 3 pallets, 2 old plywood pieces, an old fence gate, couple 2x4 pieces and some screws? idea is a combo horse sheep feeder! We needed one that allowed hay to be shared between 3 horses and 24 sheep. The head horse has been a little aggressive with bales of hay. Actually picking up a sheep to move (throw) it out of his way, and we didn't want anyone hurt!
So we designed a sort of combo feeder where sheep feed from the bottom, protected by the hay itself and horses feed from the top. It can hold 3 large bales at once, all accessible on top and bottom. The best thing is... didn't really cost anything but leftover parts and time.
Sorry the pic is not so good... but ,might give you an idea. This is a view from the back.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Internship at Little Sprouts Farm for 2013

January marks the beginning of the internships at Little Sprouts Farm. We are currently looking for a few quality hard working people that have a heart felt desire and mission to learn how to run a small sustainable and profitable farm.

Our internship is hard work, daily work in all weather conditions you can imagine, doing just about every task you can fathom. Our business model of "do a little bit of a lot of things, and do them all well" leads to lots of work and constant changing of priorities. Staying on top of so many projects can seem sometimes overwhelming. Our inters will be tired, sore, and constantly busy.

Our internships also offer the best in variety of experience available. Because we do so many things, the experience and knowledge gained here can be applied to many situations. On our farm we raise a variety of animals for a variety of products, breeding everything ourselves. We also raise produce and fruits as well as produce products from those for sale. We specialize in fermenting foods and drinks. We produce finished products for sale directly to consumers, not raw materials sold on the wholesale market. This brings in the aspects of advertising, price setting, customer service, store management, online experience, etc. We cover every aspect from maintaining a pasture to cleaning stalls to marketing online through facebook, blogs, and online stores. Simply put, if it happens on a farm, it probably happens here.

Some details about the internships:

Length: 3 months to 1 year
Housing: travel trailer
Work: minimum 6.5 hours per day 6 days a week
Responsibility: whatever is necessary
Experience required: none
There is a combination of restrictions and amenities included to make this a workable and attractive arrangement, in accordance with Oregon law.

The interns will be an extension of our family, so we will be quite particular about who is chosen. This is not a "job", this is an opportunity. The interns we choose will have a passion for good healthy food and lifestyle, animal care, land care, and the wisdom of the ages.

If you or someone you know is interested in this experience, please contact us ASAP. 
We are taking applications for 2013 Internships immediately. 

Amazing revelation at one year - how did this happen!?

At this one year mark of our first year in business, a new realization has sunk in. Something that is personally so astounding, I can not help but share. A realization that makes me take pause in surprise. Something that, for our family, is nothing short of a miracle.

What is this incredible realization? The fact that we have just completed one entire year of weekly deliveries. Each saturday (except for the Thanksgiving season when we were busy processing turkeys) for 12 months our entire family, all 6 of us youngest to oldest, spent the day delivering farm products to our customers. Why is that astounding? Because we didn't miss a single Saturday due to illness!  Not one weekend was our family down due to sickness, for 12 months! 

Our family history is not this. Not by a long shot! Our history is someone in our family in bed, too sick to get up, for days at a time, each and every month. NO EXCEPTIONS! Regular visits to the doctor, emergency room, weekend clinic, prescriptions, etc were a normal part of our life. The average illness lasted a week, several days of that being in bed too sick to get up, and lingering effects for days to weeks after.  This is our family history!

Now we realize to our great amazement that we have not experienced an illness that lasted more than a day or perhaps 2, and nothing that kept anyone (across all 6 of us) in bed more than a day. Now there are days when we occasionally think "something doesnt quite feel right", and it seems contagious passing from family member to family member, but then it passes. Maybe a fever or a runny nose for a half a day and its over. Perhaps a tummy ache one night for someone but fine the next day. 

This, for us, is a miracle. 

While building this farm, we all too often had to call on others, usually family or friends, to cover us as we were laid up with illness, multiple of us at once, too ill to get out of bed. This was our life! We thought that it was normal!  When we launched the weekly deliveries, I was personally quite worried that it would fail because I knew from history that we couldn't make it a month without missing due to weekend illnesses. Who would cover for deliveries? How could we maintain any level of consistency?

But, a year later and not one delivery missed, not even one Saturday spent "working through it" while sick.

How is this possible? What transformed our family? All I can offer is what we have changed over the last two years:

1. remove all over the counter and prescription drugs
2. remove all sugars, carbs, wheat, corn, starches, soy, rice, etc. from our diet
3. remove all processed foods (anything that comes in a box or can ready to eat)
4. remove all factory raised or conventional meat products
5. add in a constant diet of naturally fermented foods and drinks
6. remove all toxins  from our environment (cosmetics, chemical cleaners, toothpastes, personal care products, etc)
7. stop going to the doctor
8. follow the body's natural healing cycles instead of constantly masking symptoms
9. add plenty of saturated fat foods (especially animal fats) from healthy sources
10. remove all mood altering foods  (coffee, alcohol, etc)
11. increase vitamin D intake through sun exposure and supplementation

Basically we cleaned up our environment, switched to our own naturally produced, made from scratch,  traditional foods high in fat low in carbs, and learned to trust God's creation instead of fight it.  The result... no more constant illness!

This -  to us - is a great testament to the path we have been led down through a series of revelations. The list of constant health annoyances we lived with as normal is long and deep. They are all gone as if by magic. The combination of lifestyle and diet changes as above worked like a miracle to remove this long list of common ailments and problems such as : recurring athletes foot, dry skin, sinus irritation and drip, indigestion, constant heartburn,  recurring yeast infections, recurring bladder infections, planter fascistis,  fatigue, frequent lingering chest congestion, body odor, recurring strep throat, tooth decay including plaque and tarter, constant joint and muscle pain, bad breath, frequent colds, ear infections, sleeplessness, etc. The list goes on and on. We honestly had no idea how unhealthy we were, nor how easy it is to eliminate all of those common conditions. 

This is just one more motivation to remain committed to this small sustainable farm. Our creator has shown us through personal experience that we don't have to live like that. He has also shown us how to offer this to others through good healthy, natural, traditional nutrient dense foods.  The food we eat is one of the most important determiners of our overall health. Given the right foods the body will heal just about anything. Given commercially prepared nutrient light but toxin rich foods, the body slowly but steadily degenerates with one condition after another in what we commonly to call "aging", prompting us to mask one symptom after another through medicine. 

Food is perhaps the single most important aspect of our lives.  It is the determiner of our health. I am personally convinced of this by our own experience.  Still tonight I am totally shocked to see that we have not missed a single delivery in 12 months!

Is this a guarantee? Will good food and healthy lifestyle prevent all disease? Of course not, i do not suggest any sort of guarantee. I am not even recommending a treatment for any disease or condition. I am simply sharing this:. we were constantly sick with a list of problems requiring doctor visits and much suffering. After changing our lifestyle and food sources all of that is gone.  That's all I am saying. It worked for us and it makes sense. 

Was this a "faith healing" sort of thing? I don't believe so. Not because I don't believe in faith healing,  I just don't believe a faith healing was required here. What we needed was just a change of ways from violating God's laws and principles to following them, in modern terms. I give credit to our Creator for revealing how we can live healthy, for showing us how he made things, how nature works. It is in that revelation that health happens in general. 

So... yes.. we are pleasantly shocked to realize that we made a year of deliveries without a single miss due to illness. And we invite you to follow us on our journey to rediscover how we were intended to live, enjoying life to the fullest. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last delivery of 2012

Its here.... the final delivery of the 2012 season! With this delivery we complete our first year in business!  Time to celebrate!
I am satisfied that this business /farm model works now. We are not profitable yet.... need some price and cost adjustments, but the underlying model of home delivery without a csa works. With only a little adjustment we should start showing a profit in January!
Why is a profit important? Isn't that selfish? Well no. To be able to do this full time, and therefore expand to serve more people, a profit is necessary. We don't have the option of receiving farm subsidies like factory farms. We don't have a multinational corporation behind us. Any month we don't make more income than expenses, the difference comes from our personal savings. That can only happen a limited number of times. So yes.. profit is necessary to be able to continue.
And profit we will. With Gods grace and protection 2013 will be the year we became financially sustainable. That is exciting, as it opens a whole new world of possibilities!
We are very excited to move forward, and we are deeply thankful to you, our customers, for supporting this farm. We are in awe every week to think that people are not only enjoying, but depending on the food we produce. Many of our customers need that food for health reasons, depend on it for health itself. That is a sobering thought that drive us through the chores in the rain and mud day after day with a smile. There is a reason, a calling, a mission being worked out with every bag of feed carried and every puddle of mud drudged through.
We are well pleased with 2012 and all the blessings it brought, and excited to see what 2013 will bring our way!

Exploding kombucha?

Fermented drinks produce carbon dioxide and therefore pressure inside closed containers. Thats just how it works. Combine that with freezing temps, ever so slightly, and a disaster is bound to happen.
Sure enough.... we lost a few bottles of kombucha in our new coolers. They started freezing and that was just too much pressure inside the bottles. The quart mason jars just spewed liquid all over the inside while the single serving bottles cracked and sprayed a few glass fragments. Either way.... a mess
It is a bit more challenging to set the thermostats on these units. They are old capillary based design without a defroster. Instead of a defrost timer that turns on a heater or at least locks out the compressor to defrost the inside coils, these units work on differential. The thermostat has a wide differential where it cuts on about 15 degrees higher than it cuts off. So something like on at 40, off at 25 degrees. The time between 32 and 40 while off allows the defrosting. The food stays at an average temp of about 32 with these settings since food has more mass than air. It all works quite well... but for periods of time the air is below 32. It also makes it tough to set the temp by an air thermometer.
Instead, I put in a half gallon jar filled with water to simulate a milk jar. Then put the probe of a remote read thermometer into the water. That tells the temp that the water stays over time, much easier to set the thermostat to without loosing more frozen jars.
So... now one is set at 34 and the other at 38. That one needs a thermostat replacement to get lower. There is no ice inside now and no more frozen bottles. There is, however, a nice aroma of kombucha vinegar when you step into the store!

Bobcat visit

Here are some pics from a bobcat visit this week. Fortunately no one was hurt this week! The new coop design held and prevented any turkeys from becoming dinner.
The cat entered through a narrow slot at the gate, evidenced by fur torn off passing through and left behind on the fence. Tracks are everywhere. I suspect bobcat instead of cougar due to the size.
You can see in the pics that the cat was able to reach a couple turkeys near the corner, but wasn't able to do more than pull a few feathers. The turkeys showed no serious injuries.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Last deliveries of 2012

It is here. The final delivery for our first year in business has started. Today is Medford, next Sat is Ashland. As the sun rises for the first of the last two, I think back to where it all started, and find myself amazed at how the Lord has blessed.
A year ago we started the idea of home deliveries. The first delivery was no more than a few stops and products loaded in the back of our Yukon. It soon progressed to needing a over sized cooler, then a luggage carrier off the bumper. Next was the need for two coolers. Unable to carry enough product even with two we split the route into 2 areas on seperate weeks. Only a short  time later we realized we needed a trailer to keep up with demand. By the end of 2012 we are running out of products on a weekly basis, demand outpacing supply. In 12 months our customer base has grown from less than a dozen to over ten dozen homes!
We move into 2013 with plans to at least double both production and products in the coming months, offering both more quantity and a much greater variety of good nutritious traditional foods. A new online ordering process to prevent my silly spreadsheet errors and show quantities on hand will be a great change, giving us more time to produce instead of organize.
A year ago I was sitting at the kitchen sink individually washing every dirty egg by hand. Now we use a portable automatic egg washer resurrected from an expired patent to wash both chicken and duck eggs each week.
Our feed orders have gone from a few bags a week to an average of a thousand pounds per week of pure organic non gmo feed. (Is that why my back is tired on Sundays?). This makes us very pleased to see the local adoption of non gmo feeds.
It has been both exciting and challenging, and we thank you for your support. We thank God who has blessed us and helped us along the way. Without his divine guidance we simply would not have made it through this first year of 10x growth. We thank both you and God for granting us the opportunity to serve you and our community in this way.
In keeping with the story at the top of the blog site.... "join us on our journey..." I can say without a doubt it has been worthwhile. The life we have today is precious, the calling deeply satisfying, the people we serve are priceless, and we would not go back for anything. 
This... the good and the bad together... is living.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bacon for $16 per lb?!

I like to browse the store to compare pricing and products to what we offer, not to set our pricing comparably, but to sanity check both our pricing and storebought. Yesterday I was surprised to find bacon selling for $16 plus per pound! And it wasn't even as technically "good" as what we produce based on the ingredients list.
You might think at first "'that's outrageous , but wait. Many doctors and studies have stated that every slice of bacon you eat cuts minutes off your life expectancy, much like smoking. How can that be? Pork chops don't do that?! Simple... the processing and cooking of bacon makes it a fundamentally different product.
When bacon (pork bellies) is processed, it is conventionally loaded throughout with chemicals to produce "curing" almost instantly. This is unlike bacon produced a hundred years ago, but it decreases time for processing and thereby increases profits for the producer. Unfortunately these chemicals when combined with high heat cooking cause all sort of health problems, making conventional bacon quite unhealthy.
In addition, you have the inherent risk of pork. Pork is known to be a risky meat to consume because of the nature of the pig. Pigs eat like... well pigs. They eat anything and nothing really phases them. Their bodies are not good at detoxing (they can't sweat) so the toxins get stored in the fat. Therefore... the feed, housing, and lifestyle of pigs is very important to the health quality of the meat. Feed a pig badly, raise it in small cement stalls in artificial light and questionable sanitation and it is a very dangerous meat to consume. Bacon.... is high fat content. Fat is where the pig stores toxins from its life. So... conventionally raised bacon is dangerous even before processing with additional chemicals.
So what to do? Well fear not bacon lovers. It is possible to produce bacon from pigs raised in a healthy pasture environment fed quality organic feeds, and packaged with the use of cancer causing chemicals. BUT this bacon can't be produced for $2 per lb.  At $2 or even $4 per lb, we are back to "every slice of bacon cuts minutes off your life expectancy". Properly produced bacon is healthy, safe, and a positive addition to our diet, but cost significantly more.
As a side note.... a personal belief I think supported by the scientific evidence is this. The bible as well as some religions restrict eating of pork. As stated above it is a very dangerous meat, if not raised well. Wild hogs are dangerous because you just don't know what they ate... conventionally raised is dangerous because you know they ate and lived poorly. So, to be safe God told his people to just stay away from the dangerous foods (pork, shellfish, all scavengers). The only way to be safe eating pork is from a farmer you know and trust that understands how to prevent problems of toxicity and disease through good feed and good management. In this case, pork is healthy to consume, in fact lard is one of the absolute best fats to cook with when raised and processed properly.
So bottom line... $16 per pound for bacon that doesn't cause cancer isn't all that outrageous. Good food, just like good medical treatment, is expensive. Everything matters. I can't say if $16 per lb is justified... our nitrate free traditionally raised heritage breed soy free organically fed pasture raised bacon sells for quite a bit less. But.. I won't fault them for their price.  I will say.... stay away from any bacon under $5 per lb!

A farmer in a Mercedez?

Joel Salatin once said he is waiting for the day when its ok for a farmer to drive a Mercedez. While this seems an odd concept at first glance... look a bit deeper.
Does anyone cringe when a medical doctor drives by in an expensive car or lives in an expensive house? Of course not. These are seen as status symbols, compensation for a job well done. The doctor has dedicated his life to helping others and deserves the fruits of his labors and sacrifice. His lifestyle is admired as success.
Now let's consider a bit deeper. Medical treatment is largely used to correct what is wrong. We go to the doctor primarily when we have a problem, and he offers fixes to restore us to health. Admirable to say the least. Let's ask the question ... what caused the problem to begin with? How could the problem have been prevented? Regardless of who you tend to believe about nutrition advice.... one thing is constant: all dietary advice is intended to first prevent disease. In short... proper food prevents illness to the extent it is preventable.
Add to this thought the realization that the ability of food to do this is largely in how that food is produced. The nutritional and toxic content of any food is more dependent on how that food was raised than which type of food it is. As example I point to the many tests on eggs showing a 5 to 10x difference in nutritional content depending on the feed, breed, and living conditions of the chicken. Even the long standing debate about organic vs conventional produce admits that conventional has much higher levels of poison inside. The debate is how much that affects the consumer, there is no denying the presence of the poison in conventional produce. Bottom line... production method and processing matter more than original product.
By extension then, the person or group in charge of producing and packaging food is the first half of the health equation, and the doctor is the second half. Who is this person? Your farmer. He is in charge of preventing disease in your family to the extent possible, just as the doctor is in charge of remedying problems that arise.
Perhaps that is a scary thought? Do you know your farmer? Do you trust him to produce the safest and highest nutrition food possible? Does he go to sleep at night concerned about your family health? How to produce foods that improve health? Or is your farmer a fancy label concerned primarily about profit and shareholders? Who is in charge of providing foods to prevent disease in your family?
I don't mean to imply that a farmer can work miracles and prevent all disease. Just as a doctor has success and failures, so does the farmer. The body is an incredibly complex balance of systems, way more complex than any system that puts robots on mars. Sometimes things happen beyond our control.  There are no guarantees nor absolutes in health.
So, in effect on your family health, the farmer and the doctor are equally important. You could even build the case that farmers have more impact on health through prevention than doctors through repair. After all, proper prevention removes most need for repair.
That being true, why would we not wish the farmer equal compensation for his efforts and sacrifice? The farmers working conditions, hours, demands, training, and risks are no less than a doctor (assuming both are dedicated to helping people stay healthy). Would you rather prevent cancer, or treat it? Both are important but.... prevention is much more attractive.
So I support Joel Salatins notion that farmers should drive Mercedez. That would represent a shift in the American value system to a more balanced approach which would stem the escalating health care crisis. Supporting farming equal to medicine would show a true mature caring for our land and our health. It would restore balance to a world spiraling out of control in the health arena.
Personally we wouldn't invest in expensive autos, but that is a personal choice. We have personally chosen to invest our entire retirement and ongoing funds in building a farm to produce foods that support and restore health. Every week we hear success stories and meet new needs for the products we produce. It is a great financial risk but totally worthwhile if only one more child is helped to recover, and one more cancer prevented. I wish we lived in a world where equal importance and compensation were placed on prevention as well as remedy. That would mean a world free from the bulk of suffering we endure today.
That's what a farmer driving a Mercedez represents.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy trails...

What happens when the snow is thicker than the little duck legs are long?

Final turkey processing of 2012

This week brings the final turkey processing of 2012. Happy news to all waiting for that Christmas turkey!
This is the cold one.... likely we will be processing in the rain and snow. However.... this year we have a fully enclosed temp shelter to work in! Woo hoo!  Just blocking the cold wind goes a long way to making this more comfortable.... while standing in 30 degree weather under constantly running water. Its always amazing that the water... pouring out at a balmy 50 degrees actually feels warm after a few hours of work.
In the end its worth it! There is nothing like these wonderful turkeys.
The turkeys left will be our breeders, soon the start laying in January to launch the starts of year round turkey offerings!

Winter weather brings tough times

Winter may be a time of fewer hours to work outside, and fewer projects ongoing... but winter is also the most dangerous time of the year. This is especially true for birds. The cold combined with constant wetness is a bird's enemy.
Sadly, we lost a few young chickens this last weekend from the storms that blew in. The young birds were the smallest in the new pasture coop. They apparently chose to roost in the coop corners instead of up on the roost bars. With blowing cold rain this is deadly. Once a young bird gets wet, there is little hope for them.  Fortunately out of the 300 or so chickens of the next flock only about 2 dozen were lost.
To help them through this week we added another tarp to provide protection from the wind on the ground. We also put a bale of straw in to provide warm bedding in case they chose to stay down again. Finally we triple fed... to make sure there is plenty of fuel in their system to keep them warm.
This morning will tell if these efforts worked. At end of day yesterday some birds were still weak.
A grim reality of nature is that this is not necessarily bad. Nature uses harsh weather to enforce survival of the fittest and thereby strengthen the flock as a whole. Without this effect, genetics degrade over time and the entire flock suffers. A farm operation that relies on producing young instead of buying from a breeder or hatchery must pay attention to this rule of nature. There is a careful balance between preserving life and preserving positive genetics. The bottom line is... some losses are good for the overall health of the flock, and this is demonstrated in nature each year.
So... we do what we can to provide for nature focused lives. No extraordinary measures, no neglect. Somewhere in between is where live thrives.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Latest data links roundup and gmo feed to food poisoning in humans

The article listed below contains fascinating and concerning information. While it is always wise to be suspicious of health studies.... this makes good common sense and is worth considering.
In a nutshell: studies are finding that the base component in roundup severely alters the ratios of bacterial growth of positive to negative types within the digestive tracks of animals consuming feeds grown with roundup. Gmo crops in particular are guilty of this since the primary reason the use gmo seeds is to allow much heavier applications of the poison roundup. An added affect is that the negative bacteria... pathogenic types, are being bred to leave only the most pathogenic strains, resistant to chemicals of all types including antibiotics. In short, feeding gmo based feed is both intensifying the affect of deadly bacteria as well as causing them to be prolific.
So... even stronger evidence for two things:
1. If you raise birds for food, you desperately need to feed organic nongmo feed. Otherwise you are unknowingly breeding disease causing bacteria and contributing to the further spread of antiobiotic bacteria.
2. If you eat poultry.... make absolutely sure it is raised with non gmo organic feed, and not in a factory.
Here is the link
Roundup Herbicide Linked To Overgrowth of Deadly Bacteria
Fortunately Little Sprouts Farm stocks and sells certified nongmo and organic feeds for poultry in southern Oregon. We are also moving into producing heritage organically raised meat chickens as well as heritage turkey year round.
Stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Solar Powered Coop - Update 3

Not such good news today.

I checked in the pasture to find what looked like a small explosion!  Apparently one of the tposts had slipped sideways, and allowed the winch plate to slide off, suddenly releasing hte pressure.  The result was  wires snapped in two, electrical boxes pulled apart, parts strewn here and there, and hte winch about 3 feet away. Must have been quite a sight!

Fortunately I did some research and understand now a couple of approaches to building a winch anchor  (not sure why I didn't do this sooner!).  So.. we are collecting up the pieces, and will rebuild to the new specs.  I am 80% sure the next round will work.

Electrically I figured out how to make the winch run only in the daytime, without another timer.  Solar Cells make great sunlight detectors! There is a simple wiring change that makes the winch only run if the solar cell is generating power (meaning daytime). It does take an extra relay (need more sensitivity than the winch relay allows), but thats it. 

The next step (after reassembling everything and building a true winch anchor to hold it securely) Will be to connect the laying lights. These are two 12v fluorescent lights that will run of the battery. I "think" i can rig an interesting timer circuit that will basically extend the daytime by adding earlier morning each day, and automatically track the sunrise / sunset. A little experimentation is in order here. 

First snow of the year

Last night brought our first light snow of the year, leaving a soft white blanket on the ground. What a beautiful sight!
All endings bring new beginnings....

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Solar powered coop - update 2

The news today isn't quite as rosy as I had hoped.   We left one chicken coop running overnight, using the tractor as the winch anchor.It was set to move 3 inches every half hour.

The good news is.. the coop moved and the battery is not totally drained. That's about it on the good news.

The bad news is:

It only moved about 5 feet overnight
There are about a dozen chickens outside the coop this morning
There is one dead chicken behind the coop

Apparently some of the chickens  slept on the ground, in the back corner of the coop.  We had the winch connected to the forks on the tractor as an anchor. This allowed some give in the forks with each winch pull due to the hydraulics.  This created a jerky movement instead of a gentle slow pull. That jerk, with sleeping young chickens in the back corner must have allowed the coop to jerk right over the birds. Unfortunately one didnt make it.

Two ways to fix this.. a timer to prevent movements at night or smooth out the jerks to push the chickens along instead of jerking over them. We are doing the second option today anyway by mounting the winch on a winch mounting plate and using t-posts to brace it in the ground. I think we will end up doing the timed approach also, its too dangerous to move the coop at night with sleeping birds.

So today we will:

replace the winch cable with 1/8" cable to allow 100 feet on the spool
mount the winch to a heavy duty winch plate
brace the winch plate to two tposts driven deep enough to hold it in place
Set the timer for 15 minutes instead of 30 minutes

As soon as possible I will look into converting a cheap digital wall timer into a 12volt timer to make it move only in the daytime. Should be possible.

Back to the drawing board....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Grocery Store Pork - the most dangerous meat in America?

Below is a link to Dr Mercola's post about pork, and the dangers inherent in consuming pork purchased from the average grocery store.  Whether you follow Dr Mercola,  and whether you think he is a saint or a quack,  this article raises some disturbing facts. Bottom line is.. the pork found in the grocery store is not fit for human consumption!

Pork is commonly raised in the worst possible environments, and fed a constant diet of antibiotics and additives to keep them alive and growing as desired and on schedule.  Its not farming, its more like a science experiment!  The risk of human disease from pork is right up there with store bought turkey and chicken.  These meats are just plain downright dangerous.

Whats the answer? Simple. Buy meats (especially pork, turkey, and chicken) from a farmer you know and trust that raises them on pasture, and feeds healthy organic feeds. Its really that simple. Meat raised and fed properly, the way nature intended, is not inherently dangerous.  Its not the meat itself that makes it dangerous, it is the environment it is raised in, the feed that is used, and the chemicals used to control growth and disease.  Virtually all, if not all, store bought pork is raised this way.  The only answer to protect your family  is to find a farmer you know and trust, and buy from him. Ask about the feed, the conditions the treatments, the husbandry. If you can't ask... perhaps its better to walk away.

Where do you buy your pork from?

Here is the link:

Solar powered Coop - Update 1

the first prototype of our solar powered coop is in the field for testing now.  So far there is good news and bad news.


All good! Turns out we only need one timer board, and don't need the relay board. The winch comes with a built in relay that operates well within the power capability of the timer circuit.  This simplifies the design much! Also, the timer board we chose allows a one second run time ever X minutes. Turns out this might be perfect for a even 24 hour movement.  One second run time gives about 3 to 4 inches of movement. Setting this to run every 30 to 45 minutes means the coop will make one full coop length every 24 hours.  Later we might play with daytime only movements which will require more circuitry. But this is simple, easy, and effective!


Might be too small. It does charge up daily but i don't know if it will last during consecutive dark days.  We might need a larger battery. Once I add the lights to the setup the battery is definitely undersized.

Solar panels:

Right now we have 45 watts of panels. This charges up very quickly on the current battery if there is any sun at all. Makes me think we might be ok decreasing the panels to 2 OR running 2 coops off one set of 3.


Now that we have the line guard installed it works perfectly! No more jamming up.


This is a work in progress. The whole design depends on creating an easy to use  brace to pull the coop to. It has to be removable,  movable,  insertable in the hard summer ground, and hold steady as the winch pulls the coop to it.  The first design with wood was much too weak to work. We tried a couple of variations but for now are switching to one built from galvanized pipes.

So.. onward we go! almost there!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sad morning after an unwelcome visitor

Saturday morning brought a startling realization. It is predator season again. As we drove down our driveway heading out for deliveries we noticed several patches where the turkeys are kept. Further investigation revealed the sad truth.
We lost at least 4 turkeys, possibly as many as a dozen. There were 3 half eaten or untouched carcasses left behind and some known birds missing. The pasture looked like a battle zone spreading from edge to edge of the 3 or so acre area.
We didn't have time to look for tracks but did notice a few, none plain enough for uneducated eyes to determine the attacker. Most likely it was a pack of coyotes or a big cat. There are reports of both coyotes and cougar in the area recently.
One odd thing is the bodies are either misssing completely (carried off)  or mostly untouched. One of the three left was disembowelled and left. Grass was compressed heavily for several feet aground most patches denoting a heavy predator.
We usually pen the turkeys in the coops at night for safety, but last night they were out. With the rains so heavy we let them out to forage and prevent the concerned traction of feet trampling the ground when we can't pull the coops easily. Appresntly the predator took advantage of the opportunity. Good once give to find Kish our autonomoues solar powered coop movers!
The turkeys are safely locked away now, and it looks like I will have a few nights of little sleep. In these times I prefer to get up several times each night to check on things.
Tomorrow the county trapper is heading over. Perhaps his trained eye can at least determine what we are up against this time.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What is kombucha?

Strange name.... kombucha. What exactly is it? Quite simply kombucha is fermented sweet tea.  Here's a little primer on what this magical drink is:
No one really knows. Search the internet and choose the story you wish to believe. All we know for sure is that it or something like it has been around for centuries if not thousands of years. Most likely origin is China area. Many countries have the same drink called different names.
What is it?
Kombucha is a lightly carbonated drink that tastes similiar to sour apple juice or beer. It is usually non alcoholic although this is up to brewing methods. It is also a strong probiotic drink with both beneficial yeasts and bacteria. There are many assumed health benefits. It  an be consumed plain or flavored a number of ways.
The Ph of good kombucha is low... like vinegar around 3. This gives it both the sour taste and the preservative properties. Health benefits are also tied to the low Ph.
Health benefits:
Common thought is that the main benefits come from 2 things... the natural acids and probiotics. The actual content can change due to culture and brewing methods, so there is no definitive content analysis across the board. As long as it is never heated (pasteurized)  kombucha is a strong probiotic.
There are reports arose the centuries of societies who included this drink in their daily diet who showed resistance to :
Digestive issues
Immune disorders
Neurological disorders
Kombucha reportedly aids in:
Proper digestion
Mood balancing
Immune support
Productive sleep
Thought clarity
Energy levels
There are reports that after world war two, cancer rates rose dramatically due to war time environmental contamination, except for a few small  communities in Europe. Even in the midst of equal  contamination these communities had very low rates of cancer. One of the unique factors in them was the community wide  daily consumption of kombucha!
I can attest that for our own family, adding kombucha as a daily drink has helped us overcome some serious health issues and raised our immune system effectiveness.
Kombucha also is reported to have positive effects on dental health... reducing the bad bacteria in the mouth that cause plaque and tarter. This is apparently a lasting effect, providing a new barrier of protection throughout the day.  That is assuming no sweetener in the kombucha!  The strong sharp sour taste also serves to freshen and clean the mouth.
What to do with it?
Kombucha is a great substitute for soda. You can drink it plain or add a variety of flavors. One easy way to flavor is to add organic juice in small amounts. Lots of flavors work well... experiment!
Another easy way to flavor is to drop a slice of fresh ginger or turmeric root in and add a little sweetener. Let it rest a few days and you have a wonderful natural Ginger ale.
Kombucha is acidic but common thought is that it actually raises the body Ph by binding to calcium and other minerals. The end effect is a raised Ph of body. This is generally thought to be good.of course you don't want to overdo it!
Kombucha is not a good substitute for water... it doesn't hydrate the body well... instead it detoxifies. Be sure to maintain a healthy intake of pure water. This is especially true for first time drinkers. Kombucha will detox your body well but to eliminate the toxicity your body needs plenty of pure water.
You do want to start in moderation. The strong probiotic effect of kombucha can cause what is called "die off",, which is a good thing but can be uncomfortable. Die off occurs when the good bacteria and yeasts in kombucha kill off the bad bacteria in the digestive system in large numbers. When the bad ones die off they give off high amounts of whatever toxic chemicals they give off while living. This causes a sharp but short term increase of bad symptoms. Basically however the bad bacteria were affecting you becomes obvious with drastically increasing sysmptoms or even flu like symptoms. This does quickly pass though, and you are left with a new fresh system to help heal.
Most people recommended starting with a few swallows and work your way up to a glass or two per day,while watching for symtpoms to increase or decrease. Use common sense as to how quickly you wish to detox. Once your body is free the one to two glass a day level is recommended.
A few warnings:
Be cautious of storebought kombucha! Check the sugar content. We have seen many commercial brews with as much added sugar as sodas! Sweeteners are added to attract people who are accustomed to a sweet soda taste. Unfortunately this high sugar content pretty much counteracts any health benefit!  So watch the labels... there are some brands with as little as 2 grams of sugar per serving.
Little Sprouts is proud to offer our own recipe of kombucha. Ours is bottled virtually sugar free, fully fermented. It is a bold tea taste with very light carbonation. Our unique recipe for the tea and sweetener gives a bold flavor and dark color. It contains black and green organic tea, organic cane sugar and organic sucanant.
If you'd like to try brewing your own, we also sell active scobies for the adventerous. Its easy to do... making a batcch in one to two weeks.
We encourage you to try our plain and flavored kombucha... experiment with flavors... and add this historic and healthy drink to your daily routine.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Price of Milk (and most other foods too)

We ran across this interesting article.. talking about the possibly large spike in mass produced milk prices due to the looming "Fiscal Cliff" at the end of this year. For clarity, the fiscal cliff is the law that will take affect in January, effectively slashing government spending across the board as well as raising taxes if an agreeable deal is not reached before then. Rather than discuss the merits and consequences of the fiscal cliff, I found something more interesting and worth discussing in this article :

The price you pay for milk in the grocery store is supported by tax monies, not actual pricing concerns.

That's right... milk along with many other food products, are supported by the government, to a very large extent. The prices are not real, they are not for food itself at all. In fact the pricing in the store has nothing to do with the cost of producing these foods.  The government PAYS farmers to produce food, then turns around and offers it to the public at a low price.  Therefore, the food price has little to nothing to do with cost of production.

Aside from the obvious complaint of "is this some third world communist country?" ....  This arrangement has some seeming benefits.... the cost of food is kept low and constant. (we'll ignore the fact that our taxes go to create the low prices, we pay taxes, so we ultimately are paying the high price anyway, just in the form of taxation not free choice food buying).  What I'd like to focus on is the huge consequence of government paying certain farmers for producing food.

The key here is the word CERTAIN... only SOME farmers get benefit of tax money to stay in business. Ultimately it is factory type farms, large operations. I know of no local small dairy operations that collect a check from the government each month just for making milk.  As with all government programs, someone chooses who is eligible and who isnt, and it's not you the consumer, it is not us the dairy producers. So ultimately those that receive government funds (mostly large scale factory dairys) have an unfair advantage over small operations.  By extension of this... Pasteurized  milk has a huge advantage over raw.

Consider for a minute, if milk in the grocery store for factory produces pasteurized milk was $8 per gallon instead of $2 to $3, local dairies selling milk based on cost of production would have a fair shot at the general public's business.  Today the price split is just to large for the average person to buy local from small farms unless they have an inherent need or desire to do so.  In essence, the government program of supporting large factory operations creates unfair business advantage for small farmers.

This isn't limited to milk... not by a long shot. Many many food items are paid for by the government to both support factory style farming and artificially keep prices down.  The reality is.. IF factory based, large scale conventional farms had to stand on their own, and price to make a profit without government assistance, they couldn't do it. They could not compete with small local farms.  The model itself... doesn't work unless the government pays for it from your tax money. This is the evil of the current system.

But wait one says,... if we stop paying for food production through taxes, the price of food goes so high people cant afford it! Let's examine this....

First... who pays the taxes? Ultimately all tax money comes from the public.  So.. you ARE paying for your food, just at the tax bill instead of the grocery store.  You loose control over your money when it goes into the tax system. You can decide which farm or farming style to support, that is done for you.

Second.... evidence clearly shows that low quality factory produced food is inferior nutritionally to small scale organically produced nutrient dense foods. There is a health crisis in America today... not a health care crisis, but a health crisis. The reason we are struggling as a nation to pay for health care today is simple, we require too much health care! There is a health crisis! Its not about money, its about health. It stands to reason that inferior food contributes to inferior health. Food is, after all , our sole source of nutrition and life. If the food we consume is inferior, our bodies can not maintain optimum health. So.. if you follow this through... the cost of cheap food is in higher health care.  Now you  save at the grocery store, but pay more in taxes and pay much more in personal health care (and soon public health care also). Not to mention the pain and suffering caused by poor health.

Third... this changes the face of America. Small farms employ more people per production, bringing in more local jobs, keeping more funds within a community. Large scale factory farms fundamentally alter the economy of local communities feeding themselves. This speaks to jobs, local taxation, community self reliance, security in the food system, etc. Lots of fundamental issues are touched dramatically by the government choosing to support certain farming styles, sizes, and operations.

So.. cheap food? Doesn't exist. It is all an illusion   The cheapest food prices are when the price is based on production cost and that alone.  Any other model has consequences and side effect that are not immediately obvious but ultimately raise both cost and human suffering.

I have long maintained that the best thing we could do, as a nation, is to ignore the low prices at the store and start buying nutrition, not cheapness. When you buy cheapness, you raise you own health care cost as well as alter the nature of your community.   Whether the fiscal cliff becomes a reality and factory farms stop receiving support to set prices below cost  is an unknown. But you and I, today, can make a difference in our own world. WE can choose to do things right for our families and our children.

Here is the link to the article that launched this post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Solar Powered - Self Moving Poultry Coop

Sustainable poultry farmers have been pulling coops around the pastures for quite some time now. Various methods are employed to do this... tractors, wheels, dollys,  I even saw an arrangement for an ox powered coop! So many ways to accomplish the same thing... but all with a downside or two. We have ourselves suffered from some of these issues such as:

1. Coops with wheels sink in the mud and therefore can't be pulled in the winter here.

2. Coops small enough to be pulled by hand are either not sturdy enough or too small to be efficient.

3. Pulling coops with tractors, atvs, etc causes extra mud ruts in the winter and grass damage in the summer, causing more damage than preferable.

4. Dolly arrangements fall prey to both #1 and #2

5. Periodic full movement of the coops is not nearly as effective as nearly constant coops. The goal after all is to simulate nature, and in nature birds roam constantly looking for food on fresh ground. Moving once or twice a day does not accomplish this and in fact can leave the ground overused in certain weather.

6. Coops need to be free to move in all directions to follow land contours to prevent holes that would grant access  to predators

7. Water and feed must move with the coops in some fashion.

8. Labor is a big concern, as the amount of labor required to maintain a decent number of coops can get in the way of profitability.

When you combine these concerns, it becomes obvious that, at least for us, none of the current coop designs / processes work well year round with low labor. A new approach is necessary to be efficient, healthy for the birds, low maintenance, strong protection, and weatherproof.


Our answer is perhaps a bit extravagant, but touches on all the concerns above. We have redesigned the coop itself, and are designing a solar powered winch system to allow the coop to creep slowly  around a pasture unattended with no external movement source. Ultimately only a visit every few days is the requirement. More often visit for reasons OTHER than moving and maintaining things is always a recommended option, but not a requirement as it is now.

Yes, you read that right, a coop large enough to house 50 heritage turkeys, that can move
ITSELF around a pasture unattended  for a couple of days, providing a constant patch of grass and ground every hour. WITH NO LABOR!

That is our goal!

We already have the coop designed (except for the nesting boxes for chickens)  and this design worked extremely well for this year's turkey flock.  Now we are working on a solar powered timer and winch setup to allow the coop to creep by itself around the pasture.

How will t his work? Simple... At first we were contemplating putting 120V winches on the fence line, on a timer, to pull the coops up to the fence over a series of days.  The problem with this is it limits you to work in straight lines to the fence (because of power).  Through a lot of thought and playing we discovered it is much easier to put the winch on the COOP itself! Give the coop the ability to pull it self along by extending the cable out, driving a short stake in the ground, and letting the timer run the coop a few seconds every hour. Add a solar panel and battery and you no longer need a power cable at all. You now have a fully autonomous coop that can move itself without wheels around any terrain, far away from power, and it can move in any direction (circles, squares, triangles, lines, etc) to avoid obstacles. It works in wet or dry weather without leaving ruts (because the coop is on skids), is strong enough to pull along a water source and feed, and can do this unattended up to the length of the cable.

All the components have been assembled to create this magical self moving, self watering coop. Sure it costs a bit more than the other designs we have used, but the labor savings will be astounding! It preserves the soil and grass in winter while giving the birds the healthiest, most natural environment. I don't have the numbers pulled together on the initial investment yet, but It's probably in the neighborhood of $500 per coop.  Careful procurement could drop this substantially.

So off we go on a new adventure... building robotic poultry coops that can run around the pasture on their own with minimal human involvement!

Stay tuned, as we work the bugs out we will be posting pictures and how to's to duplicate this crazy idea.  Hopefully, with a little luck, some inspiration, and lots of hard work through trial and error, this will work!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Success in the duck shelter!

Finally we are on the something that is working for the duck eggs. We didn't originally realize but have come to accept the fact that ducks bury their eggs. Deep. This has created problems from the unusually dirty eggs, the labor to uncover them... often in the rain. Our first plan of providing a dry bedding layer in a small Shelter just isn't practical!
So.. we have been toying with different ideas, and the current one shows promise. I put in 6 plastic storage buckets, about 6 inches deep. Between each is a piece of scrap plywood. Around each is a inch or so of bedding (straw) . Inside each bucket is only a half inch or so of fresh hay.
The result is... the plywood makes each box an aattractive nezting box due to privacy, so they don't lay outside the buckets. The grass inside gives a clean material to lay in. The straw around makes it seem more natural and helps the ducks climb over the sides of the buckets. Now we have a small clutch of eggs lightly buried in each bucket, reasonably clean... and easy to collect.
Farmer happy. Ducks happy.
UPDATE: I added a picture of the setup to make it more clear.