Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Update on the Fire Damage, Cost, and Consequences

It is getting close to two weeks since our "kitchen" fire.  Here is a rundown of what this means going forward.

Surprisingly light overall. The actual fire damage is limited to the heater/air unit itself, one light fixture, some wiring and some plumbing. Smoke damage is actually the worst. It appears that everything inside made of plastic is ruined, not cleanable due to the toxic nature of the electrical/plastic smoke. This includes plastic shelving in the fermenting room, plastic devices and tools, etc. Any food items are obviously ruined due to toxic smoke exposure. Wood used in cheesemaking is also "suspect" and must be tested, also the cheesecave itself.

View into the fermenting room where the fire started.

End of the kitchen against the fermenting room, shows fairly severe smoke damage all around

Fortunately most of the pumpkins and melons were already gone, the ones left are now ruined from toxic smoke fumes.

Here is the long view of the kitchen area

The source of the fire is inside this heating unit. Flames were shooting out from inside and caught the plastic front on fire. As the burning plastic from the front grill dripped down below, it landed on the plastic water pipes. As the pipes burned through, water sprayed out and doused the fire, extinguishing it completely.

You can see the smoke on the exterior fins of the heater unit.

Cleanup Cost:
We have an estimate from a local fire recovery business, at $8000 to $10,000 for a complete cleanup.  this is obviously beyond our budget so we will need to do cleanup on our own.

The good news is, cheese season is still a few months away, so there is time to proceed with cleanup without a huge rush. By the time cheese season rolls around, the kitchen should be back in operation.

The biggest consequence, other than the cost of replacing items inside and cleanup, is the delay in announcing our new products. Actually, this is perhaps the deepest cost. We had several products in testing but not yet finished for production scheduled for this year. These are now delayed indefinitely until we have appropriate work area.

Products now delayed:

Non-Toxic De-Greaser based on vinegar, essential oils, and baking soda
Organic Lip Balm from our bee wax
Non-Toxic Deodorant
Organic Oil based Anti-Acne Face Scrub
Frankincense Essential Oil + Full Resin Extract at naturally occurring proportions
Lard and Goat Milk Soaps
Chemical Free Baby Bottom cleaning system (Baby Wipe Replacement)

That gives an idea of the products under development... these are things that we use ourselves and were in the process of developing the packaging, sizing, and consistent recipes for resale. Some of these we can pursue without the "kitchen" work area, and some we can not. We will do our best, but it is safe to say that our schedule of monthly new product releases for 2017 is going to be tough to meet.

The good news in all this is, no one was hurt. Damage can be repaired, things can be replaced. We are prayerfully thankful that no one was around when the fire broke out and ultimately no humans nor animals were injured.

I'd also like to give a SPECIAL THANKS to the kind generous individuals that have donated directly to the farm during this trying time.  We deeply appreciate your gifts and touching words. Tragedy has a way of bringing out the best in neighbors, and we have some very kind neighbors!

Thank YOU!

(If you are interested in donating funds directly to our farm to help recover from this fire, you can do so with the "DONATE" button on the right of this page, under the weather report. If on a phone, click below on "view web version" first.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Yummy Recipe - Salami in onions

Everyone know that salami is a great snack food. It travels well, has a long shelf life, is tasty (and healthy when made right) and is just quick and easy. But what about cooking with salami?

We tried a dish the other night that came out beautifully....  perhaps this will inspire some unique dinner ideas.

2 Little Sprouts Mild Salamis, sliced thin
1 heaping scoop of Little Sprouts Lard with Cracklings
1 large onion, yellow or red, sliced thick
1 entire cluster of garlic, smashed, peeled, chopped
2 cups of cooked "starch" (we used rice, sub with whatever your acceptable starchy food is)
2 tablespoons of dried oregeno
Salt to taste (always real salt, not white)
crushed red pepper if you like spicy

In a large skillet, melt lard and get hot to sizzling stage
Add onions and cook until almost tender
Add salami slices
Stir frequently, this is almost like a stir fry
When salami just starts to get crispy on edges, add in garlic, oregano, rice, salt
Cook until rice is heated through and soaked up the lard

Sprinkle with crushed red pepper if desired, and serve!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Significant Setback Strikes - Fire

This has been a sad week. On wednesday we experienced a small taste of realization of one of the worst fears of rural life.


The heater inside the farm kitchen/fermenting/storage room caught fire. No one was hurt, and the building itself is fine, but lot of cleanup and repairs are needed before it can be usable again.

Best we can tell, some sort of debris got inside the heater unit. It is an electric heating element inside a window air conditioning unit. We had not run the heater yet this winter. We were not actively using the farm kitchen for anything during the off season, and the same unit handles the storage area for winter feed, so we let it drift down to almost freezing.  Then, this week, flipped the heater on to start making soap.

Well, several hours later I noticed water running out the floor at the end. Not good. What we found inside was the front cover of the heater / air unit had burned off from the inside, dripped burning plastic on the water pipes below which burst and thereby put out the fire. It is obvious from the areas burned that the fire started inside the heater unit and flames were actually blown out the vents. Most likely, some sort of debris accumulated inside or perhaps some sort of critter built a nest. Hard to say until we dismantle it all to see whats inside.

Nevertheless, we are heartbroken. The building is fine and no one was hurt, so that is worth celebrating. Yet we have a pretty massive cleanup to do, then some wiring, plumbing, and fixture repairs.

This is going to put a pause on the new products planned for February. We will do our best to stick to the plan, but life just got significantly more busy.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

First Lamb of 2017

Here is the first lamb of 2017, born at the end of a 3 day snow storm!

This little guy will definitely move into the warm dry barn today. With single digit temps due for the next two nights, he would never make it in the pasture with the herd.

Now starts the lamb watch... soon there will be on to three lambs per day till they are all on the ground. Exciting days!

Starting out the new year WHITE!

January 1 of 2017 it started snowing...

                                 and it's still snowing, 3 days later!

Snow covered pastures
If you look VERY closely, past the pigs, deep into the back pasture where the sheep are, just to the right of the makeshift door / motion light, there is a lone sheep by the fence. Turns out she JUST had a lamb! The first lamb of the year.
 At the end of the storm, just as the sun is rising to clear the frozen fog, we find a baby lamb! First lamb of the season. Why do they always come in the worst weather??? Look closely at the lower picture, just to the right of the door converted to motion light holder, way back in the sheep pasture. You can see one lone sheep up near the fence by herself. Sure enough, she just gave birth to the first lamb of the season in the snow.

Today we will move her and the new baby into the barn. There is no way a fresh baby will survive in the herd with snow all around, lots of activity, and single digit temps due for the next two night.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Success!!! Feeding Home Raised Zucchini in the Winter!

It's always a great feeling when something works! This is one of those days... as we sit inside covered in inches of still falling snow... we are able to feed a mix of feed based on zucchini from our own garden!

How you ask? Zucchini is a decidedly summer plant, thriving only in hot weather, surely not growing underneath all that snow!

My reply... have you read the book?  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1520227116   A chapter in this first book touches on growing feed in the summer, dehydrating and storing it, for feeding in the winter.

And the good news is, it works! Today in January we started opening the storage buckets that were filled mid summer, and the feed looks literally perfect!

Click on the picture for a closer look, you can see whole seeds, stalks, roots, leaves, from the fresh plants. the orange color comes from the mature zucchinis. We allowed some to mature to increase the protein content of the seeds. 

This particular recipe looks like a mix of zucchini, dandelion greens, and kale. We ripped up the fruits and plants, roots and all, added some mineral rich salt, and dried the mixture on our special home built drying trays.  After only 4 days in the hot summer sun, the dried flakes are scraped off easily and stored in air tight buckets for the winter.

This 3 gallon bucket of dried feed represents about a quarter of a full RTV bed load (about 4 x 4 x 2 feet) of fresh vegetables and plants.  the compression ratio is immense, which means the storage space required is minimal compared to what the fresh veggies were.

The nutritional content is very high. Unlike feeds based on some "cheap" source of protein like soy (which is NOT a natural feed for any animal) this feed gets its protein mostly from the mature zucchini seeds, which are about 40% protein, plus the protein in the kale plants which makes up about a quarter of this mix.  But besides the protein, this mix contain all the nutrients of zucchinis themselves, plus kale complete with roots and dandelion greens (a super green) and dandelion green roots (highly medicinal). AND these are all heirloom varieties AND grown organically, fertilized with the very animals it is feeding.

From a financial standpoint, this feed is virtually free. It only requires a few seeds, a little water, and some labor to grow, harvest, and dehydrate. The labor is minimal compared to the cash it would take to buy this much high quality feed on the market. That is, IF you can even find such a feed!

So bottom line, it is better nutrition and much lower price than any commercial feed.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Beginning - 2017 is here


2016 was a crazy year in so many ways. It seems that every aspect of life was touched in a deep and earth shattering way during this last year. No stone was left unmoved, none. Little Sprouts Farm has experienced more turmoil in 2016 than any other, and our family has also. 2016 was a year that, on Dec 31, you think, "Really?".  But now it is over.

So now we move into 2017, leaving the turmoil of last year behind, we face a new start, a new beginning.  For this farm, 2017 is a promising one. We have been preparing for this moment over the last several months. Now it is here! Let's take a moment and run through the new changes that start now, jan of 2017:

A One Stop Shop for all your health needs

Instead of just offering great food, we have decided to expand into other areas of life. As you may know, we have personally faced a variety of serious health challenges, and the successes of facing those is what gave birth to Little Sprouts Farm. It is still true that animal products are the central and critical aspect of health, that has not c hanged one bit. We are fully committed to bringing to you the things that allows our family to experience health when medical science had nothing left to offer. BUT, there is more. We not only changed how we eat, but how we live. The things we use on our home, and products we put both in and on our bodies have a lot to do with health. Everything from toothpaste to laundry soap to fish oil to probiotics to snacks. It all matters. So we have spent the last few months making relationships with the companies that produce what we used ourselves, so that we can offer it all to you.. as a package. We want to be the place you go to fill your diet and your home with health.
We are not seeking to be just another retailer.. but a trusted source of both information and products that are personally tested and utilized by our own family. that is our commitment to you, we will only offer what we use.

Focused Food offerings

We have reworked out food offerings for 2017 for a variety of reasons. While we cancelled the milk herdshare, we are replacing it with a upsized raw cheese offering. We have teamed up with Taylor Sausage to bring a variety of meat products like salami, broths, etc. Everything is still made to our exacting specifications, using all organic ingredients and traditional processing, but outsourcing allows us to expand at lower labor costs.  We have added Guinea Fowl and will bring back a steady supply of both turkey and chicken (yes... the famous Little Sprouts Eggs are returning!). We are also investing heavily on our own brans of soaps and other personal care products... most made from our own animals.

Share the Knowledge

Our first of many books was released on Christmas eve on Amazon. We are now in the process of documenting the business and operational model of farming that we have developed, so that others can easily implement the same model on their own. This model is innovative and disruptive, positioned to bring small family farms back into operation all across america. In fact, our goal is to see ten thousand small local farms launched over the next few years. It is time to stop complaining about the food system and healthcare, and do something about it! It is time to rebuild America from the ground up.

Road Show - Complete Package

In February we start the road show, the first even to be the Mother Earth News Fair in Benton Tx.  There we will formally announce the line of books and ebooks, plus open the door for investors to join the movement to restore the american farm.  This is much more than just books, this is an entire program designed to make launching a farm easy and safe. Similar to a franchise, this will be a  pre-packaged model, sized through computer prediction to meet resources and requirements of the individual. We are not just teaching people how to start a farm from scratch, but actually empowering them to do so at low risk and a predicted expected return on investment.

On a personal note.. financially we are extremely challenged. With our source of capital dried up months ago, and our savings gone, we are relying on the month to month income from the farm to exist. Had we been able to prepare for this, it would not be an issue, but the sudden change from cash flow to no cash flow has been quite the challenge to live through. There is no full resolution in site yet, we are taking things day by day and trusting in the God that led us to start this farm to provide. We know if this is an effort in line with His will, it will succeed, and trust in that even when we can not see the road for the fog.

And that is how we end 2016 and start 2017... in a fog. What will tomorrow bring? Next week? next month? Who knows. In my younger days, I could plan everything out clearly... but as the wisdom of age sets in we come to realize that life is a bit more about providence and random luck than it is planning. At the end of the day.. either God is in charge or He isnt.. and if He is, then all that happens is overseen or brought about by Him.

I have finally learned what it means... "We do the work, He brings the harvest."  so....

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;