Monday, March 30, 2015

Quick Temporary Portable pasture pig shelter

With a list minute winter storm coming tonight, we scrambled to get a shelter up for the pigs on foothill.  Quite the challenge to come up with a design out of mostly available parts and have it built and installed within 6 hours! well... we did it.

We utilized the tops frame from the shelters that were on the goats last year and blew down.  The top frames were plenty good, metal, light, and transportable.  The sides are too tall and catch too much wind, but the tops are fine.

So..  we got 8 T-Posts, light duty (heavy duty ones dot fit) for the supports.  The pigs would tear up anything lighter. The TPosts they cant move!  Add to that a 16x20 tarp, and some heavy duty wire ties.  There is a shelter!

All we did was was pound the tposts into the ground under each upright, attach the tarp across the tarp and down one side, than stand the top onto the end of the tposts.

We built one for the pigs and one for the sheep. It only takes about 45 minutes to set one up, and should take no more than that to move it when its time.

here is a pic of the finished product:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The lucky mom and baby

Last friday we moved the sheep flock back to foothill to take advantage of the dense spring grass there... and as noted in that blog post, there was one mom who just refused to go.  Well, her resistance has now paid off... as she finds herself and her baby in the Ritz Carlton!

We moved her today from the pasture into the circle around the front yard pod where the richest densest grass anywhere around is waiting for her. The grass is over 3 feet tall in some places! It is well fertilized by the ducks last season.

So here she is.. the lone protective mom.. now in the best accommodations possible!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why do animals fear humans?

Interesting observation to share, about the universal fear of man found within animals in nature.

We moved the sheep back to the foothill property friday to allow them access to the fresh green grass of spring there.  But something interesting happened in the process that brings this topic up.

There was one late born lamb, only a week or two old. S single lamb born to a new mom.  As expected, she is very aloof. Moms usually keep their young away from everyone, even the herd, for a few weeks. This protects the lamb from abuse from others in the herd fighting for food, etc.  This new mom was very good at protecting her young, and even herself.  We loaded 2 trailers of sheep and older lambs quite easily , lured by alfalfa and grain.  But not this mom. Nope! she stayed far back and even took a dozen or so of the sheep with her, all refusing to load.

We ended up separating her from teh rest, and successfully lured the others into the last trailer load. But then we tried to catch her and the lamb. No way! even with 5 of us out there she refused to be cornered or driven or lured. She kept her baby right at her side and together they eluded capture repeatedly. At one point, the baby took a wrong turn and ended up separated. We thought "Great!" now just catch the lamb and the mom will follow.

You see, new lambs, just born, have zero fear of man. in fact the problem is often the baby responding to interaction with humans by identifying with them instead of sheep, causing the mom to reject the lamb!  A new born lamb will walk right up to anyone and snuggle. They are NOT born with fear of humans.   But within a few days, that a week or so they run away.

This little fellow was no exception, he ran feverishly like a world class sprinter and.. in the end.. we gave up. They can stay at the farm for a while. We couldnt risk over stressing the little lamb in trying to catch him further.

So here's the thing... we also have this little lamb named Nephi. He was a bottle lamb, rejected by his mom. Grandma took him in and hand fed him, then the kids took over, so he was raised by humans.  This little guy LOVES people. he will always leave the flock to be with any person within sight. He much prefers humans!

So here is the odd thing. Lambs are born with zero fear.  If you keep them from their moms, they never develop fear and actually prefer humans  But send a week with mom, separate from the herd, and they are deathly afraid of humans.  It must be that mom is teaching the lambs to fear humans. I see no other explanation! How she does that, I have no idea. whether this applies to other species is hard to say, but it is true in sheep.

We know that part of the result of the global flood in noah's day was that animals would "now fear man" at the same point that noah was told he could eat meat for the first time ever. How did God put that fear into animals? Thats what I ponder now. It does not appear to be something genetic, nor inherited. It is something taught by parents. Amazingly it is taught even in the absence of humans during the teaching time.  I find this amazing to ponder.

Some things we just dont know.. many things actually, in the miracle of nature. The complexity and awesomeness is unmatched by anything man could conceive.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bacon is in stock now!

Starting.... NOW... the bacon is back in stock and available in the online store.  You can feel free to order at will.

You do not have to wait until your delivery is near. to make sure you reserve some, you can order right now for your next delivery as much as 2 weeks out.

Remember that bacon is a members only product, so if your currently not a paid full farm member we will just upgrade your membership when you order.  The charge is $6 for 3 months of membership.

And  by the way... we had some as a test the other day and I must say... this is the best bacon yet! But not just flavor and texture... this is pure ONLY hardwood smoked bacon. NO salt, no cure, no flavorings of any kind. It is pure smoked sliced pork belly. Smoked long enough to get the smoking effect from edge to edge and a nice rounded smoky flavor. Just add salt, pepper, and any other flavorings you desire when you cook it or the night before.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

First taste of new bacon batch

Today is the day!  Our first taste test of the new bacon batch.  

Impatient perhaps...  This block was smoked only 24 hours (the usual is 48) but...  Who can WAIT?

The chosen flavor for today is a simple salt,  pepper,  and dry mustard.

Can you smell it cooking???

Missing the window...

Weather...  One thing for certain about weather is...  Its unpredictable.  The forecast were calling for rain today,  starting around late afternoon.  So we worked for the last few days getting the pasture ready to plant,  hoping to get seeds in before the rain hit.  It was all planned out so beautifully until....  We wake up this morning to the sound of rain on the roof.  One early rainstorm had to come visit us early!

Too wet already to plant,  the newly tilled area will have to wait another week.  It does look good though!

Our plan is to transform a good part of the pasture,  now mostly bare ground from over grazing the pigs last year,  into vegetable area.  We will grow the larger vegetables like squash,  pumpkin,  melons,  etc on that pasture.  Doing the math shows that we can produce more nutrition for hogs through large veggies growing with drip lines than open pasture of grass and weeds.  At least for the breeders that need that dense nutrition.

But..  Delayed...  One more week.

The end of honey products.. For now

Sad news.  Little sprouts farm is forced to officially shut down honey products made here.  This is not our choice,  but our duty.

As you may know..  There was a gmo ban put into place last year for our county.  This happened right about the time local farmers could have planned gmo alfalfa.  (although I can't imagine any reasonable businessman deciding to plant gmo alfalfa in a climate of potential ban,  but that's another story).  Up to now,  our farm had been far enough away from any gmo flowers to ensure that our bees never touched gmo pollen.  That has now ended despite the ban.

One farm,  only a mile from us,  has not only planted but now sued the county for the right to continue growing gmo crops or get paid some ridiculous amount of cash.   (another story). 

The bottom line is,  we now have gmo alfalfa grown within the flying distance of our bees,  so we can no longer say that honey produced here will be gmo free.  In keeping with our promise to you,  or integrity,  or business and health goals,  we can not continue in the honey business.  We have been effectively shut down against our will by this farm's exercise of choice against both the law and public sentiment.

While we contemplate our options, we wanted to explain why honey products are not on our available list anymore.  The future is of course undecided,  but for now...  We will not take any chances of selling an interior product.  I can not speak for other honey producers in this area...  Please inquire yourself when looking for an alternate supplier.  Our commitment to you stands firm,  we will not sell a product that we can not honestly say is the best,  and for now  honey produced in sams valley is contaminated  when the alfalfa blooms. 

It is sad to see this happen,  on many fronts.  Our own investment of time and money is potentially wasted due to their actions.  A health product is now not capable of being produced locally.  People loose part off their livelihood,  and others loose a necessary local product. Yes,  it is sad. But it is reality.

Hopefully this farm will see the impact they are having on their neighbors  and decide to stop this inanity.  But until then,  we all pay the price for their actions.  Hopefully no one will be physically harmed through their own backyard hives feeding of this genetically altered pollen,  only time will tell. 

Thank you for your support.

Struggling to keep chicken in stock

The demand for properly produced chicken and turkey products has increased dramatically as of late.   Add a result,  we are struggling to keep up with demand.  It if great to see so many using these health giving products like get,  heads,  organs...  There just isn't a substitute. 

But....  Wet struggle to keep up with demand.  Our apologies if your order was shorted last delivery.  We are working on picking up the pace of production.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to make a small cheese cave

a cheese cave is where the magic of cheese "happens".  The slightly fermented milk curds are left in controlled cool damp dark area to "mature" and finish the transition from milk to some amazing flavor of naturally fermented and aged cheese. I the olden days, it might ell be an actual "cave" where the air is always cool and moist. Today, we create cave conditions through some means.

For our size of cheese operation, we choose to build a cave from a fridge. Not the typical fridge / freezer, but a fridge only. It is the size of a normal kitchen fridge freezer, but without the freezer part, the interior is just a big open space with shelves. The freezer would only waste space for no good reason.

But... there must be a modification. Fridges are too cold. Cheese does best aged at 50 to 60 degreesF. Fridge thermostats can not go that high. To accomplish this, we added a new thermostat. One from a home brew store for about $40. This is a simple mechanical thermostat with a dial range from 30 to 90. Digital ones are also available , but seem an overkill for this application. the mechanical one works fine and is cheaper.

These thermostats are made to "plug in" between the AC plug and the wall socket, to control the power to the entire device. A decent approach for home brewing, but not for cheesemaking.  To keep the air inside the cave "live" and working properly requires breeze, airflow, as you would find in a real cave. We tried to age cheese without this and the humidity was just too hard to maintain. The mold growth was off. The aging wasnt consistent. To overcome this problem, requires some wiring.

Its simple. There are 3 basic component to a fridge: thermostat, fan, and compressor.  The thermostat turns "on" when the interior temp rises too high. This applies electricity to both the internal fan and the compressor. The compressor moves heat from inside to outside and the fan circulates the air inside to make cooling even.  To age cheese we want the fan to run constantly but the compressor to be controlled by the new thermostat set to 55 degrees.

This is accomplished by simply finding the "hot wire" going to the compressor. There are always at least 2 wires... hot and neutral. (some may also have starting capacitor wires). It is important to find hte hot wire for this to work properly. the fridge wiring diagram will help in locating which this is, or a little investigation work of tracing wires can help. Whichever method, find the "hot" wire and cut it (MAKE SURE THE FRIDGE IS UNPUGGED!).  then run a set of wires (i use an old exterior extension cord piece) from the two cut ends to the thermostat.  Simply connect a wire to each side of the thermostat, so that when the thermostat clicks "in", the two wires are connected, making the circuit complete to the compressor.  Make sure all the connections are covered and safe, and thats it!

Now run the thermosat sensor through the back side of the door and into the cave. It can hang somewhere near the middle out in the open. .

Now, when the interior thermostat is turned on (the setting doesnt really matter). It will always call for "cold" because the interior will be held at about 50 degrees.  The second thermostat will click on the compressor only to get down to 50 and turn off, but because the interior is still on, the interior fan runs constantly. The defrost timer and interior light even work as expected.

The last step is to cut and sand some clean, aged pine boards to fit on the shelves, leaving about an inh of space between them and around them for airflow. Cheese ages best on wood, and the wood will greatly help to maintain the humidity by soaking up the excess water from the cheese blocks and slowly redistributing it into the air.

I like to put in a small temp / humidity sensor that will track hi/low over time to ensure that the temp and humidity stay within range.  Opening the cave every day to check on things will provide enough fresh air to control bad mold growth.

and there you go! we get enough space in this cave to age up to about 30 5lb cheese blocks at a time, which would represent a block made every other day for the required 60 says. thats more capacity than we need for now, but adding another cave for longer aging would be simple.

thats how we did it... and it works beautifully at our scale.

Getting ready for cheese making!

It's been several months pause in our Cheese business that is now coming to an end.  I spent the afternoon yesterday finishing the new cheese cave (a Fridge without freezer).  Today will see the  kitchen tidied up and organized after the winter pause.

Why the pause?  Well....  Winter is our only chance to slow down around here.  To save our own sanity,  it's necessary to not "Sprint"  always.  One way to do this Thai makes sense is to follow the seasons.  Winter had shorter days,  less daylight.  This traditionally equates to less work per day.  Just because we can flip a switch and make light today,  doesn't mean we should!  Our creator built in cycles and limits into nature,  and set would be wise to follow those.  So...  Winter is our slow time.

Another practical reason is less milk.  Less milk production was partly due to winter and partly due to breeding difficulties last summer.  But the milk supply is now increasing and with that...  Cheese!

Stay tuned for a the fun flavors coming this year.  And remember..  There is a small amount of last years cheese left for sale.  The last two blocks of well agreed cheese will be available soon!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chicken parts in stock now!

Good news!  We just finished packaging some chicken organs and parts for immediate sale. we have available:


Supplies are limited, so be sure to place your order soon for your next delivery. Remember you can place an order as much as 2 weeks in advance to reserve yours.

These are from our own laying flock, and are of course all of:
pasture raised, heritage breed, soy free, non-gmo, organically fed, raised with love!

These parts make excellent stock! You can mix and match them for an incredibly flavorful and medicinal soup stock, broth to drink, or even just cook them in with other meats and veggies.  Any way you do it, you wont find a better quality product anywhere.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Miracle at Little Sprouts!

Ever so often something happens that gives you pause, something so unexpected and unusual that it makes you think there is more here than meets the eye. Today.. is one of those days.

There was a tragic setback in our new chicken flock last night. It got colder than expected, and the baby hens didnt stay put under the heaters. They wandered. They wandered so far that they didnt manage to find their back to the heaters in time. Kaelyn found them this morning, laying lifeless in the corner of the brooder. 18 little hens on the brink of death.

Now.. let me say this before I continue... this happens occasionally for one reason or another. Chicks do not have the capacity to maintain their own body heat for long and quickly "go to sleep" and die when they get cold.  What we do in these situations warm them as quickly as possible by placing the babies into a warm incubator  with light airflow. BUT.. it has rarely worked. In fact, historically speaking, the chances of these chicks living were about 1 in 100.

But you do what you can.. so we placed them into the incubator as usual and waited. The children got together and prayed for the little birds. It was quite a sad moment. We didnt expect many, if any, to make it. They were lifeless, most totally without movement.  The ones that could move would only slowly slide their limp head back and forth. some... were stiff.

2 hours later... I am sitting in my office and in runs the children overwhelmingly excited! Levi is holding the tray in his hands. I didnt know what to expect until they announced "they ALL made it!" Sure enough, looking into the tray, all the chicks were alive, standing, chirping, and looked perfectly healthy!  Totally amazing! So the children ran them back to the brooder heaters and let them get some food. They were running around, eating, drinking, acting like nothing ever happened, all 18!

I have no explanation for this... except that... the children prayed.  God hears the prayers of little ones... and answers.

First chickens ready for delivery!

We finally were able to get started on chicken processing!  We did a smaller batch today,  enough to fill the subscriptions for this week.  We will follow this with another day or two of processing this week so we have enough to last a while.

Thank you for your patience!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Back in the Chicken and Egg Business!

Finally... after more than a year since the fire that destroyed our chicken genetics, chicken business, and egg business, nearly devastating our entire business model and driving us into a yer of "rest".  We are BACK in the chicken business!

We had planned on retiring a few older birds today for stewing chickens and broth but.. early this morning we got the call. Our new chicken flock had arrived a couple days early! So.. we dropped everything and raced around today to prepare the brooders and retrieve the new chicks from the post office.   260 chicks, Buff Orpingtons, healthy as can be. Well, we lost 2 in the shipping, but 2 out of nearly 300 is pretty good.

So here are some pics..  of the chicks, the excited children, and the brooders finally being populated.  In another 6 months, we will have a steady supply of chicken eggs! Then we start our yearly rotation to provide constant eggs, meat, broth, and happiness!

Thank you for your patience,  just a few more months....

Everyone anxiously waiting to open the boxes of chicks!

Empty brooder on fresh green grass

Ok now.. which are males, which are females....

Finally baby chicks!
So exciting! new life! fun!

1... 2.... 3.... 

They are everywhere dad!

Hunter and his chicks

These little girls would not leave my feet!

Ollie getting the water ready!

Levi is checking on those boys

They are so tiny dad!

Here is the finished setup for the girls, 4 flat panel heaters.

And of course , plenty of fresh water

The guys place... 2 flat panel heaters and 2 heat lights. Party all night!

First taste of large black pork

All I can say is WOW!

We got back the first large black pork last week...  Cooked a few pork chops on the grill with nothing but a little salt,  pepper,  and garlic powder.  The flavor and texture was nothing short of astounding!  I have honestly never tasted pork like this...  Never

The chops are a bit small,  but the results were amazing.  These pigs are a tad younger than normal,  but I don't know at this point how much of the unexpected goodness to attribute to that vs the breed be the feeding.  All I know is...  WOW.

There is a limited amount for now...  So you must hurray to get some of this incredible pork.  You will not be disappointed!