Monday, March 30, 2009

Giving up the Organic Certificate

Lately Dante and I have become increasingly disenchanted by " certified organic ". Don't get us wrong, we believe wholeheartedly in organic agriculture, and will always farm organically. We have really struggled with the decision but in the end feel it is best for our family, our farm, and our customers.
We don't use chemicals on our land, routine antibiotics on our livestock. We wouldn't hesitate to turn to antibiotics to save a life, just like we wouldn't deny antibiotics for one of our kids, our animals are all pets with names and the right to life saving medicine if it is needed.
All our animals are pastured during the grazing season. Not only is this healthiest for the animals, it is also healthiest for the farmer, physically, mentally, financially. We also take care of the local wildlife, by keeping the fields organic and open, surrounded by woods, and keeping our cows out of the year round brook we have, we are preserving important habitat for them as well. We employ a loving and highly effective LGD ( livestock guardian dog ), so we can coexist peacefully with woodsland predators. We are doing a major fencing project late spring, so we can utilize every blade of grass.
A couple of events spearheaded this decision to drop organic certification.
1.) A screw up by our butcher, totally his fault not ours, cost us $12,000 right as we were going into winter. Disastrous timing, eh?
2.) We learned that we could not use my Dad's locally grown hay for our cows, because he is not-and doesn't ever wish to be certified organic. So there went certified organic dairy. We decided it wasn't sustainable for us to purchase hay from a great distance, at a higher cost, and a greater expenditure of gasoline, when we could get it locally and at a great price. ( he is my Dad and he likes to eat pork and drink milk as well).
3.)The only certified grain we could get delivered to us was grown in Canada, and also trucked a great distance, and we were forced to buy more than we needed at atime at great expense all at once. All that money wasn't going local, wasn't even going to our country! We just didn't feel good about that. Yet organic certifiers recommend this feed company.
4.) The economy is tanking, we all need to tighten our belts. Basically we decided we could remain organic, but wouldn't actually be able to afford to feed any animals that way! Or we could continue to farm organically, with less restriction and governmental interfrence and standardization, do what makes sense and is the most sustainable. We will still be able to provide our delicious food, we are farming exactly the same but decided not to buy the word"organic" this year.
5.)We have made a dramatic move away from wholesale distribution of our goods to almost exclusively selling directly to our customers. This allows us to get to know our customers and speak face to face, and field any questions personally. We welcome you to be informed consumers and ask about how we raise our animals. I personally feel that organic certification is more important when you are selling to a middleman ( someone who is going to resell your product in his establishment ) because in that situation all the consumer has to go on is the appearance of your product and what the label can tell you about that product. You can't ask that package of porkchops what its life was like or what it ate for breakfast, but when you buy from us on the farm or at a farmers market you can ask us anything you want. We can build a relationship of trust between farmer and consumer because where would one be without the other?
6.) The fees for organic certification doubled this year! Another example of excellent timing. We like Mofga and are members and support what they do, but just couldn't see paying that kind of money for a label this year, being organic means so much more to us. Not to mention that it seems the USDA owns the word "organic " you can't even use it unless you buy it via certification. Our main focus is on Local agriculture and sustainable farming methods and a sustainable business so we can be around for years to come doing what we love!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Barn Cats

This is Kevin, one of our 5 barn cats. He and his 2 sisters Muffin and Puffin, were born here last July. We also added M&M and Skittles last November.One week last October, we lost their mother and Zoie's beloved cat Blueberry to some predator. They had started wandering pretty far in their nighttime hunting expeditions.

So we decided to turn our nice Amish chicken coop into the cat house and lure them in each night with canned food to keep them safe. The real challenge will be when the weather turns nice to see if the cats still go in their house. We love these cats, not only do they keep mice and rats out of the grain they are pets. We found an interesting article about barn cats and learned that they actually recommend at least 4 barn cats for their own protection, and for warmth at night.
Especially if you have one feral, predator savvy cat mixed in the bunch. More eyes and ears on alert I guess. Less likely than 1 cat to be ambushed.
And who doesn't need to release stress in a healthy way. When I'm milking the cows and there is a cat purring and rubbing against my leg, it is so peaceful! I really do look forward to pouring a little milk off the top for these very deserving felines.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Camden Farmers Market Menu for March 28th

Camden Winter Market tommorrow 9-12

We picked up lots of goodies at the butcher on Monday so are pretty well stocked.
Osso Bucco
stew meat
sirloin cutlets
nitrate free ham steaks and bacon ends
boneless butt
st. louis, baby back, and countrystyle ribs
pork chops
Sausages- bratwurst, andouille, hot and sweet italian, garlic, chorizo, and maple breakfast.

Happy Birthday Dad! We'll see you tonight.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Canadian Bacon w/ Carmelized Onion Sandwich

This is just as good for dinner as it is for breakfast. Today I have used my brain way too much for paperwork, and neglected to plan dinner. We still have to corral the calves Brody and Bazil so I can milk Gale and Half Past tommorrow morning. I've enjoyed my mini vacation from milking. I haven't milked for a week since I dried off Teeny. Gale and Half Past have their calves which will drink every bit they produce, if left to their own devices. It's been nice, but we need milk for customers and the house. Cream for our coffee.
Maple, another one of our Tamworth sows, is looking pretty close to farrowing. I heard a nasty rumor that there may be a late season Nor'Easter snow storm next week. Bet we'll have piglets right about that time. Murphy's Law.

Canadian Bacon w/ Carmelized Onion Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches

REAL canadian bacon
4 farm eggs, fried in butter or bacon drippings
1 onion sliced, also sauteed in butter or bacon drippings
4 slices cheddar cheese
Dijon mustard
8 hearty slices of homemade or sourdough bread
Greens, whatever you have on hand

Assemble and Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Farmhouse Corn Chowder and Brody Pic

First off, here is a pic of Brody. He is a purebred Jersey bull out of the New Zealand Jersey bull " Manhatten ". He will be our next herdsire. This guy is meant to eat grass. Calves, even dairy, raised on a cow are always pretty fat and bouncy but this guy is exceptional. I don't know if I've ever seen a calf this young so heavily muscled ( dairy calf ) and with a barrel like his. He is 4 months old. I can't wait to see some daughters' out of him. He'll be old enough to breed the late Fall calving cows this year.

Now onto the chowder. Chowders' are classic farmer's fare, made with easily grown staples such as corn, onions, and potatoes. Then you throw in a little bacon or salt pork from the spring pigs, add some cream from the cow and your set to rise at dawn and till another field. These days, I rise at dawn for an entirely different reason. ( Baby Ida May )

Farmhouse Corn Chowder

1/2 pound bacon, diced
4 Tbsp butter
2 large yellow onions, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
2 tsp thyme, ground
1 tsp cumin, ground
1/4 tsp turmeric, optional for color
2 pounds white potatoes, washed, skins on and cubed
6 cups chicken stock, homemade

6 Tbsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp cold water
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
4 cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned and drained
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper, ground
In large stockpot, fry bacon until cooked and crispy but not burned. Drain fat, reserving 2 Tbsp, and place bacon on paper towel to cool. Set aside.
Add butter to the reserved fat and cook onions, and peppers until crisp-tender.
Add the spices, potatoes and chicken stock. Cook on low until potatoes are almost cooked through.
In small glass, dissolve cornstarch in cold water.
Add mixture to hot soup a little at a time stirring constantly. This will thicken up very quickly. Keep stirring.
On low heat, add cream or half and half or milk to the chowder and stir. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until hot. Do not bring to a boil.
Add corn and black pepper, stir and remove from heat.
Serves 10-12 or more.Read more: "Chunky Corn Chowder Recipe: Recipe for Thick Corn Chowder: Vegetarian, Vegan & Low Fat Versions!" -

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Death on a Factory Farm

Last night while I sat up with sick kids I happened to catch a documentary that was on HBO at 12:00am, called Death on a Factory Farm. This was an undercover investigation on an Ohio hog farm into an allegation of animal abuse. I sat there thinking about my own pigs and the way we care for and love them, and cried through the heinous video of unthinkable abuse. And to think that people just write it off by saying " I love pork " or " It isn't economically feasible" to afford that animal a humane end after all they give us. Frankly I'm a bit afraid of living in a society where anyone watching footage like that isn't moved to tears or gets sick to their stomachs. Remember, most likely any pork you buy through a warehouse, or grocery store unless specifically noted otherwise suffered the same fate as those poor pigs on that farm in Ohio.
Here's a link to a synopsis, if you get a chance to see the whole documentary please do. Compare those pigs with the photo I posted yesterday of Marigold and her litter curled up snoozing in their nest of hay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tamworth Piglets

Marigold has had the first litter of the season. Now it really feels like spring with baby animals!
I think these sweet ones are already spoken for.
She had a smaller litter than I would have expected. I think Boris, the boar, may be past his prime.
Four out of the five kids are coming down with colds. Baby Ida May scared us last night with our first experience with croup. I have a sore throat too.
There were cow tracks the whole way down our lane today. This means the 2 bull calves and probably Madeline the heifer went galavanting while I was gone. I'm not too impressed, when the cat is away the mice will play, I guess. With all the snow we've had, the electric fence is in shambles and a joke. Another project for Dante.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Old Wives Tale?

There is an old wives tale that you can tell the gender of the calf a cow is carrying by the way the hair lays on her poll ( forehead ). If the hair lays flat and smooth it is a bull calf. If the hair sticks up or is spikey, it is a heifer. What do you think these girls are having? I vote heifer, which also compliments Murphy's Law. Whenever I breed the cows to a beef breed for chunky bull calves to be eaten, I get heifers. When I breed to Jersey for replacement heifers, I get Jersey bull calves. These girls are both bred to my Dad's Highland beef bull. Oh, Well. Stay tuned, Teeny the first cow is due May 20th, and Beretta is due May 14th. I've had this weird feeling Beretta is having twin heifers. Teeny is to be dried off this Friday, so she can have 8 weeks rest before calving. I'm gonna miss her milk, she gives TONS of cream.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Child's Garden

This is Jude, our only son, in a family with 4 sisters. A week ago Dante was taking Jude to meet his grandma for an overnight, and said
" Uh-oh, Jude this means I'm gonna be alone in the house with all those girls. You got any advice for me?" and Jude simply replies, " Just do whatever they tell you to, or they get really mad." He's gonna make an EXCELLENT husband some day.
This year I really want a space just for the kids to garden. I got the book " Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots " by Sharon Lovejoy through an interlibrary loan. It is really inspiring and I think a good project for Grandma to help us with. Here's what I'm most interested in:

Sunflower House


1 seed packet 12 foot " Russian mammoth" sunflowers

1 seed packet 5 to 8 foot "Valentine", "Velvet Queen", or " Evening sun" sunflowers

1 seed packet 1 to 2 foot " Elf ", " Music Box Mix ", or " Sundance Kid " sunflowers

1 seed packet " Heavenly Blue " morning Glories


1 40lb bag aged manure ( or in our case a wheel barrow load from the manure pile )

3 bags shredded bark or straw

1 roll twine

And / Or Moon Garden


Inside the crescent

2 seedlings Jasmine tobacco

2 seedlings evening primrose

2 seedlings four o'clocks

2 seedlings evening scented stocks

The Borders:

2 six-packs white alyssum

2 six-packs white petunias

2 six-packs white yarrow

The Tent:

6 seedlings, moonflowers


(5) 6-foot bamboo poles or 2x2 inch lumber

We have several spots for gardens thanks to the roto tilling our pigs have done in various paddocks around the farm. We are doing less pigs this year because we simply can't afford all the grain that they require. It is tough because the farmer pours out all this money for at least 6 months feeding them while they grow, out of pocket with out making a dime on them until they are butchered , which also requires cash ahead of time before you can even pick up that lovely meat. Not to mention the costs of labels, and spices and sea salt for sausage. Anyway, needless to say we need to take it easy this year with pigs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ida May

Ida May born 08/08/08 at 2:22p.m. She just turned 7 months a couple days ago. She is beautiful, inquisitive, quick to smile and laugh. We love her so much! She also has 3 teeth, and boy are we glad that last one finally came through.

She was a bit cranky, poor thing. Ayla ( 2 years old) calls her " pickle" and " little popcorn". She is almost crawling and presently rolls from place to place. She also says "ma ma", "da da" and "ba ba"

and a whole bunch of razzing and blowing sounds.

No food for Ida yet, with Dante's strong family history of asthma and allergies we hold off. She is a lovely plump 22lbs anyway. Doing just fine on mama's milk.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pan-Seared Steak with Mushrooms

This is adapted from "Cooking light Annual Recipes 2006"
4 ( 4 ounce )beef tenderloin steaks
1/4 tsp Maine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground blk pepper
1 garlic clove minced
1 TBsp Olde Sow butter (shameless promotion )
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1lb button mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 TBsps worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
2 TBsp finely chopped fresh parsley

1.) To prepare steaks sprinkle evenly with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Rub 1 minced garlic clove over all steaks front and back. Melt butter in a large well seasoned cast iron frying pan or a heavy bottomed stainless steel one, you may need more than 1 TBsp. Medium high heat, add steaks and cook for 3 minutes each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan and keep warm.
2.) To prepare mushrooms, add shallots and mushrooms to pan and saute for 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add 2 garlic cloves and saute 30 seconds. Add wine and next 3 ingredients and cook until liquid is nearly evaporated. Remove pan from heat and stir in parsley. Serve mushroom mixture with steaks and a hearty red wine.
Of course potatoes go well with this meal.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Keeping a Bull

Definitely not something I wanted to do. This is "Wolfie" our 12month old New Zealand bred Jersey bull. That spiky ring in his nose isn't like one of those tough guy dog collars with the spikes, his is a weaning ring because he is a Momma's boy and instead of thinking about breeding cows and heifers he was still nursing.
There is a certain risk when keeping a bull that he will see you as competition for "his cows" and try to take you out. Jersey bulls, of which I have 3 little ones, have an especially nasty reputation. It probably has more to do with HOW they are raised than a particular breed though. In general ,because of the nature of dairying, calves are taken away shortly after birth and artificially reared on milk replacer, delivered by human hands via a bottle and often they will be isolated in individual pens as well. This leads the bulls to think of themselves on human terms, and when they reach puberty they will start to challenge their human counterparts.
It is recommended, especially for the small holder, that if it is necessary, and A.I. is not available- that you take a few steps to try to reduce the chances of those calves imprinting on you.
Raise the bulls destined for breeding on nurse cows, and/or in a herd situation so he learns cow language and how to be a good cow. Dam or cow raised calves usually have a larger flight zone, and are more leary of people and keep their distance better.
This is what we have done. We are only 12 months into our herd sire experience, and we made sure to never make a pet out of him. We aren't cruel toward him at all, we just remain indifferent and usually made a point to drive him out of our space while he was smaller. We are also prepared to load him on the trailer to the butcher at any moment, when he even hints that he no longer respects us. In all reality it is more a matter of WHEN he turns not IF. This is why I have a succession of younger bulls coming up the line. I don't want to feel like I have to keep a dangerous bull, this way I can just say " See Ya!" and be assured that the next bull is only 3 months away from breeding cows.
Beef bulls are usually safer to use for breeding, probably because they have been raised on a cow, in a herd, with much less human interaction. However, you should never trust ANY bull, don't turn your back on them, don't turn them into a pet. It is also said that people aren't killed nearly as often by the really nasty bulls, because you know they are nasty and untrustworthy and don't give them the opportunity. It is the ones that you falsely believe to be docile or a big pet, that get you when you least expect it. Here's a good read that explains it all better by the reknowned Temple Grandin :

Sunday, March 1, 2009

When it Rains it Pours.....or Snows.....Again

Wow, we are in for more snow, no big surprise really. It has certainly been a snowy winter. We attended a farmer's market meeting and then came home to do chores and couldn't get up our driveway. We have our house a 1/2 mile off the main road, mostly all uphill and wooded. This wasn't our doing, but the previous owners. It is very nice and secluded and private which I love, but a nightmare at times in the winter. The road is thick ice, really bad, then a thin layer of snow on it. Impossible to traverse, we could barely even walk it. The tractor has a flat, can't move it to bring a round bale to the cows. We are in for a storm, more snow, frigied temps, they need their hay to generate warmth, so we will have to unwrap it and carry it by armfuls. I would just let the cows loose to eat it, but the hay is surrounded by yet more ice, the cows would slip I'm sure and probably get hurt.
The kids are cranky, tired, I feel similar but want to get out there and start feeding hay. Oh, Yeah-the shavings to bed the cows down with are also trapped a half mile away. Well, things will look better, tommorrow morning in the daylight.