The Story of Skelly and Luna

I am an animal lover, which can be hard at times in this biz. As bittersweet as slaughter days are I usually maintain a level head and remind myself that this is their purpose and we take comfort in knowing we've given them great lives. 

But for some reason I got attached to this little lady, who I named Skelly (short for Skeleton because of her skull-like markings). She was always the first to come running to see me and when the pigs made their way over near the house, I'd sit in the evening with a happy hour brew and my girl.

As slaughter day approached, I found myself dreading saying goodbye. We had raised plenty of pork this season, so the meat wasn't necessarily needed. Pigs aren't pets, so if she stuck around, she had to have a purpose - which meant we would need to breed her. I wasn't interested in having a boar around, but through the farm community on Instagram, I had seen other farmers have success with artificial insemination. I decided I'd give it a try so on the last pork processing day we sorted Skelly and her friend, Luna, out of the trailer (pigs don't like to be alone so we needed to keep at least two).

Luna and Skelly, BFF's

Luna and Skelly, BFF's

A few hours of instagramming, googling and youtube videos later - I had a plan. When the gals came into heat, I did my best attempt at AI-ing them, though I was not confident it had been successful. The only way I'd know was to wait three weeks and see if they came into heat again. 

Well it's been nearly four weeks and neither pig has shown signs of heat. I'm crossing all my fingers and toes that they are bred and we'll be welcoming the first pigs born at Fair Valley Farm in about three months. 

And with that I will leave you with a video of baby Skelly eating grass. I mean seriously, who could resist?! :)

Philly Cheesesteaks

Here's another quick and easy idea for your dinner repertoire: Philly Cheesesteaks

Our veggie CSA had a few Italian frying peppers in it a few weeks ago, and Farmer Erica (of Good Food Easy) suggested they'd make a great topping for Philly Cheesesteaks. She was right! I used top sirloin steak, but the original recipe calls for skirt steak. 

I loosely followed America's Test Kitchen recipe, here's what I did:

  • 1 lb top sirloin steak, sliced thinly against the grain and then chopped into small pieces (it's easier if the meat is slightly frozen) 
  • 1 T oil (use one that has a high smoke point - I used sunflower)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 1/3 cup grated cheese (we used pepper jack cause that's what we had)
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 Italian frying peppers or 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • A handful of cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Approx. 1/2 cup pickled peppers, sliced
  • Hoagie rolls 
  1. Slice your steak against the grain into thin strips and then chop coarsely until in bite sized pieces. It's easier to do this if your steak is slightly frozen.
  2. Heat 1 T. oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat until smoking. Add the beef in a single layer and cook without stirring for 4-5 minutes. Stir and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Transfer the meat to a bowl and mix the cheese in to melt. 
  4. Meanwhile, saute your fresh peppers, onions and mushrooms in butter or oil. Add in the pickled peppers toward the end to warm them up. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add the cheesesteak mixture onto a warmed hoagie roll, top with the veggies and enjoy!

Around the farm // July

July has been kind to us so far. We've been enjoying these cooler, cloudier days and were overjoyed at the rain we received recently. While others may be bummed that their summer hasn't been hot and sunny every day, these farmers are loving it! As I was building cow paddocks the other afternoon I thought to myself how much working in the heat takes a toll on us, both physically and mentally. It's also tough on the animals, particularly the meat birds who are simply not well suited for very hot days followed by large day-to-night temperature swings. I'm sure we have more hot spells to come, but so far I'm thankful for a cooler summer that last year's.

The newest development on our farm has been the addition of a new team member. As we've grown, we've come to need another pair of hands and we were lucky to find Jason through the help of the Friends of Family Farmers job posting site. Jason has experience from another pasture-based livestock farm so he has been able to hit the ground running, helping with chores, animal moves and projects around the farm. If you see Jason around the farm be sure to say hi!

With the additional manpower, we've been able to increase the intensity of our grazing program - going from cow moves every 2-3 days to daily moves. Now, we are taking it to the next level and experimenting with a high-density, mob stocking approach. We are optimistic that this approach will help us tackle the weeds in our pasture and increase the water holding capacity of our land - critical for our dry, Oregon summers. I'll report back later on our findings!

The cows watching me set up their next paddock - they know the drill!

The cows watching me set up their next paddock - they know the drill!

A "before" shot, they've just been moved in this shot. Chowing down!

A "before" shot, they've just been moved in this shot. Chowing down!

An "after" shot. After one day, they've eaten and trampled the grass and fertilized the pasture with their manure. 

An "after" shot. After one day, they've eaten and trampled the grass and fertilized the pasture with their manure. 

This week we picked up batch 8 of 12 of our broiler chicks. It's hard to believe we are more than halfway through our chick brooding for the season and a third of the way through the processing. Be sure to put in your bulk orders for chickens so you can enjoy pasture-raised chicken through the winter. 

Speaking of chickens, we have poultry coming out our ears this time of year. Every other week we get 250 new chicks which means at any given time we have about 1000 broiler chickens on the farm of various ages. In addition we have our flock of egg laying chickens in the field as well as 100 pullets (young female chickens) in the brooder, growing and getting ready to provide the next generation of eggs. Next month we'll get our turkey poults to grow out for Thanksgiving!

It's a busy but fun time on the farm!

Easy Lamb Gyros

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My sister-in-law gave me this idea for making easy lamb gyros at home, so when I looked into my veggie CSA share the other night and saw a cucumber, some tomatoes and a red onion I knew what to do!

Basically, you make a free-form meatloaf using ground lamb and Greek-inspired flavors. You could tweak this to whatever herbs and seasonings you have on hand, but here's what I used:

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • about 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • one clove garlic, minced 
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix all the ingredients above and form into a loaf on a greased pan.
  2. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees.
  3. Finish under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nice browned exterior.

I served this with warmed pitas, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, feta cheese and a homemade tzatziki, which was adapted from America's Test Kitchen's recipe:

  • 1/2 c. greek yogurt 
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. dill, minced (or could use parsley, mint, etc).
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

It was so good and all came together in less than an hour. A great way to use your ground lamb for a quick and satisfying weeknight meal.

Around the farm

This time of year, weeks seem to zoom past in a blink of an eye. Here's some of what we've been up to lately.

During the hot spell last week, we rigged up sprinklers to spray down the meat birds and pigs periodically. The sheep and cows were moved to shady paddocks where they stayed comfortable. Needless to say, we've been very happy for cooler temps and RAIN this week! We did not get any sizable rains this time last year, so we are looking forward to see more grass growth through June!

We had our first chicken butcher day about two weeks ago and will continue processing every other Friday through October. If you are in the market for fresh chicken, be sure to stop by the farm store this Saturday 2-4pm (or every two weeks thereafter). Our chickens are also available at a discounted price when you purchase 10 or more at once.

You can also find our chickens periodically on the menu at Rye and Marche as well as in the meat case at Marche Provisions Market Hall. We are so excited to be working with the newly formed Heart of the Valley Growers Cooperative. This group consists of a handful of small poultry producers who are working together to supply bigger accounts like Marche. It would be difficult for any one of us to do it alone but together we can meet their demands. We are looking forward to seeing how the Cooperative develops and grows to make local, pasture-raised meat and poultry more accessible in our area.

After busy days, it is so peaceful to walk down to the pasture at dusk and say goodnight to the farm. This photo captures our multi species rotational grazing approach - meat birds in the foreground in their moveable chicken tractors; layers egg mobile on the left hand following the sheep and cows on the far right grazing their paddock. 

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The only animals who didn't make the pic are the pigs who are rooting their way through the woods. We have been using them to help clear the blackberries in the wooded areas of the farm. Here is a shot of what they can accomplish in one week's time. 

The pigs do a great job uncovering fallen limbs and trees. We'll go behind them to cut up trees and haul off the wood and limbs. We are also planning on using them to till up areas of the pasture that has some invasive weeds and reseeding in the fall. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful these pigs are. Nature's tillers.

We are gearing up for our next CSA session that runs July - December. Our CSA is year round but we do ask our members to make a commitment to the 6-month session, just as we make a commitment to raise and provide our members' beef, pork, chicken and lamb . It is a mutually beneficial relationship that has become the cornerstone of our farm. We still have a handful of spots available so check out our website to read more about how it works and to register. Click here to read what our members are saying about our CSA.

Hope to check back in more regularly, and keep sharing tidbits from the field and kitchen :)

Oh Lardy!

Last night we made an outta-this-world taco feast of carnitas (using a pork shoulder roast) and homemade tortillas using our homemade pork lard.

I thought I'd share this very old blog post on an easy way to render lard in case you want to try your hand at it. Pack it into wide-mouthed mason jars and store it in the fridge - it lasts a looong time. 

{I used Americas Test Kitchen pork carnitas recipe and Pioneer Woman's tortilla recipe - both highly recommended!}

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One of the things on my list to make ever since we got our pork back from the butcher is LARD. I know that that word has many negative connotations and associations with unhealthfulness but hear me out on this one.

Did you know that homemade lard has no trans fat, and has less saturated fat and more monounsaturated fat (the "good" type of fat) than butter? I specify homemade since commercial lard is typically hydrogenated to increase its shelf-life and thus has trans fat in it.

To make lard, all you have to do is render pork fat. I used Sheri Salatin's (of Polyface Farm) crock-pot method to render my lard, which made it super easy. All I did was fill my crock-pot with cut up pieces of pork fat (about 4-5 lbs), turn on low and let it melt (I did mine overnight).

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After a few hours the fat has melted into a yellowish liquid, leaving behind some solids, aka cracklings. I removed the cracklings and carefully strained the hot liquid into sanitized & hot quart-sized jars (ETA - I have since learned to use widemouthed pint jars - it's easier to scoop out the lard later).

I tried the cracklings, but I must admit that was not my thing. Chloe, however, did seem to be quite interested in them. She may or may not have gotten a small piece. :)

Let the jars cool some before putting on the lids and transferring to the fridge. After a few hours, the lard will solidify into a milky, white color.

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All in all, the whole process was much easier and less messy than I expected it to be.

I plan on using the lard to make biscuits, tortillas and other baked goods which typically call for butter or shortening. It's an affordable, healthier fat option that honors the pig by using as much of the animal as possible.

Ready to try yourself? Come by the farmstore Saturdays 2-4pm to purchase pork fat for rendering.

Want to read more? Here are some good articles about lard:

Lard: The New Health Food?

Put Lard Back in Your Larder

Happenings around the farm

Every season I get excited as the broiler pens start to line up in their diagonal formation. Since we stagger our production over April - October, it takes a few weeks to build up to full capacity in the field, which is good because it gives us a chance to build up our farmer muscles again :) Eventually we'll have a total of nine pasture pens in the field, which are moved daily to fresh pasture. This helps encourage the birds to eat as much grass as possible and also spreads out the manure over the field without overdoing any one spot. 

Right now, we are running our lambs in front of the pens to graze down the grass. It's easier for the chickens to move around shorter grass, but more importantly, we try not to waste any of that grass goodness, as the chickens wouldn't be able to eat that much in one day.

The sheep weren't quite sure what to think of their new neighbors.

Elsewhere on the farm, our bovine friends are straightening up after a week or two of rebellion. As I joke, they spent a couple weeks rotating themselves around the field. We had borrowed their fence charger to hotwire-train the pigs and they took the opportunity to explore the pasture. After one little lady was separated from the herd and ended up in a neighbor's field, we have now procured a new charger and reinstated our rotational paddocks.

All joking aside, it was a stressful situation and reminded me that farming is not always the bucolic bliss that appears in instagram photos. There are times when things do not go according to plan and you're tearing your hair out wondering why you don't grow something that is firmly rooted in the ground.  Thankfully all's well that ends well and we are back to the plan for now :)

Let's try this again!

Well, clearly blogging took a back seat over the past year, which to be honest was probably our toughest one yet - between a very hot, dry summer and some business growing pains - but it's a new season and I'm giving it another go! 

Our season has begun in earnest. We have our cows and lambs rotating on pasture, we've got our first three batches of meat chickens going, and we've got piggies coming out our ears. One group is out in the woods and the other group is learning the ways of the hotwire in the barn. 

the meat chickens reside in these Bottomless pens which are moved daily to fresh pasture. the pens allow the birds to forage and enable the manure to be spread over the pasture for natural fertilization while protecting from predators and weather. 

the meat chickens reside in these Bottomless pens which are moved daily to fresh pasture. the pens allow the birds to forage and enable the manure to be spread over the pasture for natural fertilization while protecting from predators and weather. 

black angus cows enjoying the spring grass

black angus cows enjoying the spring grass

berkshire pigs rooting in the woods

berkshire pigs rooting in the woods

suffolk/hampshire lambs grazing with a view

suffolk/hampshire lambs grazing with a view

The biggest development on the farm is that I am now a full-time farmer! (Previously I was doing some part-time engineering work in addition to the farm) It is a bit nerve-wracking but all-in-all I am excited and optimistic about the opportunity to full-time farm. The farm has grown to the point that with both of us working off-farm jobs, we were getting close to burning ourselves out.  

With these changes, we are continuing to expand the farm to help it become more financially sustainable. We'll be increasing our CSA shares as well as keeping our farmstore stocked with plenty of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and eggs. We're also going to be offering specials at the farmstore more frequently so be sure to sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar -->

Be sure to keep an eye on the blog too for updates from the farm, as well as the kitchen! 2016 - Let's do this!

Spring to Action

Spring is here and that means lots of action on the farm!

Our first batch of chicks has gone out to pasture and have been enjoying the sunshine and steady access to grass, bugs and whatever else their little beaks can find. Our second batch will go out tomorrow and the newest babies are doing great in the brooder - growing out their feathers before they head outside. We'll continue to get new batches of chicks every two weeks until August.

Our cows and sheep are rotating around the pastures, trying their darnedest to keep up with all the spring growth of grass. More lambs will come to the farm in another week once they are big and strong enough to leave their mommas. 

Following behind them, are our flock of layer hens. They scratch through the cow patties, devouring larvae and flies to keep the pest populations down, spreading manure as they go to help fertilize the pastures. Nature knows best!

Our first batch of hogs spent their days foraging under the oaks, rooting up a storm and knocking down blackberries and other undergrowth in the process. Our next batch of piggies will arrive next week so we can continue the rotation through the fall.

It's a beautiful time on the farm, brimming with activity and excitement to see what the season will hold. Everything is coming out of its winter slumbers - lush grass, new leaves on the oaks, blossoming fruit trees and the ever present weeds. We still have our fair share of pasture rejuvenation ahead of us, but we are cautiously optimistic that even just one year of rotational grazing has vastly helped the weed problem from years of overgrazing this farm. Stay tuned for an update on weeds in July. 

Here's to the 2015 season! Let's do it!


Simple Lamb Stew

Sometimes it's the simple food that ends up being totally out of this world good. That's what happened the other night, when Scott and I whipped up this lamb stew, adapted from my cooking bible, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. We think it was the red wine vinegar and our homemade beef broth that took it over the top. Chicken stock would certainly work too if that's what you had on hand. 

Here's the recipe in case you want to try it out for yourself:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb lamb stew meat
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1 qt. beef bone broth (or chicken)
  • 4-5 yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • 4-5 carrots, chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste (we use the kind you get in the tube - adds amazing depth of flavor!)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven.
  2. Season the lamb with salt & pepper and brown in the oil.
  3. Once browned, remove the lamb to a plate. Add onions and garlic, saute until translucent.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the red wine vinegar.
  5. Add the bone broth, lamb, potatoes, carrots, bay leaves, thyme and tomato paste. 
  6. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, covered, for about 1 hour.
  7. Remove the herbs, season to taste and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!

Project Eggmobile

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If you've followed us from the beginning you might recall that we started our farm with a flock of 200 laying chicks with the hopes of producing lots of pastured eggs. After relentless predator issues at our old leased pasture land, we ended up selling the flock and put our egg production on hold. 

This past August, we dipped our toes in the water again by purchasing another batch of laying chicks (this time only about 25). We wanted to be sure that our predator control was better this time around before committing to a production flock. Luckily we have not had issues this time around (we think that our living on site helps a lot).

Through the wintertime, our hens have been free ranging from a stationary coop in the barn, with plenty of access to fresh pasture, bugs and whatever else they get their little beaks on. While this made for delicious, healthy eggs, we prefer a rotational approach, so the pasture they eat and disturb has a chance to rest and rejuvenate itself. Additionally, we need to be able to move them to all parts of our field so they can follow our cows and sheep around, a few days behind, and spread the manure and help sanitize the pasture. 

If you are familiar with Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm, you might have seen his moveable chicken trailers that he calls egg mobiles. We went to work on our very own egg mobile this past month. We found an old trailer on craigslist and added a wire-covered floor (so their manure can fall through to the pasture) and framed out the structure. We were able to repurpose scrap wood around the farm for most of the frame and used some of the endless aluminum siding around the farm for the walls. 

This past week we moved the flock into their new digs and out to the field. Since then they've been frolicking their way across the pasture. The result will be happy chickens, healthy soils and tasty eggs. 

Speaking of eggs, we are starting to have plenty available so just give us a call/email if you'd like to order any. They are available for pick up at the farm and we are considering adding occasional "egg drops" in town. If you would like to receive notifications of if/when we'll be doing these drops, please email us or send us a message on our contact page.

Planning ahead for 2015.

One of the challenges of being such a small farm who direct-markets everything is the planning ahead. Right now we are planning everything we'll raise in our 2015 season. We only plan on raising what we have a high degree of confidence that we can sell since there are huge costs to raising animals. Moreover there is something so sacred about the life of an animal that we are unwilling to risk having old product go to waste (we can't just feed/compost excess like a veg farm). That is why this time of year, fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, we are tight on our products and CSA spots. It's also why I probably sound like a broken record when I say that it's never too early to put in an order for a quarter/half/whole animal.

If you know that you would like to order any beef/lamb/pork by the side, please go ahead and fill out the order form here (especially if you want beef, as our 2014 beef was all reserved by May this year).

In the comments section, you can note about what, if any, time-frame you'd prefer (early summer, late summer, fall, etc) and we'll do our best to match you up with an animal from that window. In the 3 months leading up to your order's butcher day, we'll request a $100 deposit to finalize your reservation. If you cancel before then there is no obligation on your part (though, again, we are trying to mitigate our risks of over-supply so please don't order until you are fairly certain you'll follow through).

Fun fact: we've calculated that you could pay for a 7cuft chest freezer within about a year from the savings you get by purchasing by the side. While we love our CSA program, we will always champion for side-sales too and if you are a current CSA member who is looking to save some money or supplement your share in an affordable way, this is a great way to do it.

If you have any questions about how buying by the side works, please just give us a call or email. I am also working on an information & FAQ sheet which I will post as soon as it's available.

Thanks for reading and here's to healthy, responsibly raised food in 2015!

Gratitude

DSC_0092 The days have gotten shorter and our 'busy' season has come to a close. We've been winterizing the farm, tucking away all the broiler pens till next spring. The turkeys, cows and our new layers (not yet laying) have been keeping our attention but things are definitely quieter. Which gives way to more time to think and reflect on this almost finished growing season.  It's definitely been the best one yet and our hearts are overflowing with gratitude.

Grateful for this land, both productive and wild, with so much potential just waiting to be tapped into.

Grateful for our animals who grace us with their presence and peaceful spirits, bringing us joy, connecting us with the natural world around us, and ultimately nourishing our bodies.

Grateful for our faithful customers, some of which have been with us since day one, as well as new faces each day that are seeking out the most nutritious, responsibly raised food possible.

I can't help but recall this time last year, a period of such great uncertainty and angst as we struggled to finalize the farm purchase, which makes us all the more thankful and counting our blessings.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being a part of our farm community and joining us on this journey toward a new food system.

Farm Party!

This is a bit delayed, but thank you to each and everyone of you who came out to our first farm party. We had a blast and could not have asked for a better way to celebrate our 2014 season. When we purchased our Fisher Road property, a major selling point was its proximity to town because a big part of our mission is to connect people with where and how their food is grown. To begin to see that vision come to light is beyond exciting for us. Here are a few pics to commemorate the occasion. Thanks again for everyone who came as well as to our grill-masters, Kyle and Robin, the ever-talented Wootchie Band, Falling Sky Brewing and Sam Bonds Brewing for their contributions and the numerous friends and family members who helped us pull this off. We can't wait to do it again :)

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Round Here

The fact that it is almost August is a little bit mind-boggling yet also not, considering this is just how the busy season goes. If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you know that a lot of our free time has been spent finishing out our new farmstore.

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We cannot thank my dad enough for helping us tackle this project (as well as my mom, our friend Dave, and my aunt and uncle for loaning us lots of tools and consultation!) Not only do we want a nice spot for our customers to come out and pick up their CSA shares or other products, but we needed a dedicated space in order to meet our licensing requirements, and between day jobs, daily chores and all of the other farm demands, I don't know how Scott and I would have done it without their help. We are so very thankful, excited and extremely proud of my dad's work, and can't wait for all of our customers to  see it. As such, we now have regular farmstore hours on Saturdays from 4-6pm. C'mon out for a chicken, lamb and, starting next week, pork!

All other free time in July was spent pulling tansy and hacking thistle. We are seeing firsthand what years of overgrazing does to the land and it ain't pretty. We've spent countless hours pulling tansy, but seems like we've barely made a dent. That is hard for a perfectionist {like me} and a notorious project-completer {like Scott}. But something is better than nothing and we'll continue working on it next season.

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July was also a bit nutty, due to the fact that Scott was in Texas for nearly a week for a funeral, directly followed by me being gone for a week for work. With just the two of us doing all of the farm operations, needless to say this made for a tiring two weeks. Admittedly, it was the first time that I've been completely on my own during the busy season and I have to say I was proud of myself! Also made me appreciative of Scott taking care of the farm every time I have to go out of town for work.

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August is always a fun month, as we get our poults (baby turkeys) and our last batch of broiler chicks for the season. An added excitement is that we put in an order for some laying chicks, which we'll get one week from today! We are starting out with just a few barred rocks, black australorps and aracaunas. They won't begin laying for a while, but we are already looking forward to the delicious, vibrant orange-yolked eggs that they'll start providing this winter.

It's hard but rewarding work and we wouldn't trade it for anything. The days can be long, but the weeks fly by so we're trying to remember to take moments to stop and take in all the beauty and goodness around us.

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Turkey, Deconstructed (plus a turkey special!)

photo-2 Ever since I received a meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid last Christmas, I have been itching to make some ground turkey.

We had a few biggin's leftover from the holidays. After thawing out the bird, I went to work breaking it down. For the most part it was just like parting out a chicken, only much larger. To be honest, this was the most difficult part and admittedly would've been easier if I had sharpened my knives beforehand.

I parted out into wings, drumsticks, boneless thighs and boneless breasts. I wrapped up the drumsticks in aluminum foil and placed back in the freezer to be smoked another day. The wings and rest of the carcass were thrown into a big stock pot with carrots, celery, onions and seasonings to simmer away into stock. I think I ended up with about 7 quarts of stock!

Next I went to work on the ground. It was surprisingly easy to slice the boneless breast and thigh meat into chunks and run it through the grinder. After it was all said and done we got about 10 lbs of ground meat from our 24 lb bird, a ratio that I was pretty pleased about. We packaged into 1 lb portions in Ziploc bags and stored it back into the freezer. Ideally we would have done all this with a fresh bird, but we haven't noticed any quality loss from the thaw and refreeze.

We've been enjoying our ground turkey in burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, enchiladas - any place really where we'd normally use ground beef or pork. It's quite lean even with the thigh meat mixed in - which is desired by some, but if you're looking for a higher fat content, you could simply mix in pork fat during the grind.

All in all, I was very pleased with how my project went and will definitely be doing again. I love having the turkeys around the farm - both for their personality and affinity for eating weeds - so I am on a personal crusade to make the turkey a year-round part of people's diet =)

If you would like to join me on this crusade, we do have a few extra holiday birds that we are eager to clear out of the freezer. We are offering a huge special on our frozen turkeys - $60/bird. These are big guys (20 lb+) so you cannot beat this price per pound! Smoke one whole for the 4th of July, save for a future family gathering or part it out and enjoy a little at a time. We only have a couple available so first come, first served. Email us at mail@fairvalleyfarm.com to order yours today. Don't forget - CSA members receive 10% off.

What kitchen projects have you been working on lately? I'm starting to look forward to canning season - just around the corner!

 

Porter Kitty

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We interrupt your regularly scheduled farm programming to bring you a crazy cat lady post.

I have become positively smitten with my kitten.

I've never had a cat before, but always wanted one. Due to allergies and a feline-intolerant dog, an inside cat was never in my future. When we moved to our new place and discovered this handsome little beast was included, we couldn't have been happier.

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We named him Porter (aka Porter Kitty, aka PK) and he has become a dear friend. At first we thought he wasn't a very good mouser, but he has proved us wrong over the past several weeks.

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Knowing little about cats, I didn't realize that when they find a mouse, they eat them pretty quickly (leaving no remains) so I think at first I just wasn't seeing his kills.

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Then one day when we were cleaning up an old wood pile and he caught a few mice and we praised him for it. Well, ever since then, he seems a lot more keen on bringing / showing us his prizes. In fact yesterday, I was in my office working when I heard the most pitiful of meows. I looked out the window and there was Porter staring back at me with a fat mouse in his mouth.

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Besides mousing, other likes include: perching precariously on things, friendship, helping with chores, begging for food, sunning and kneading. Dislikes include: rain, little white dogs and loud noises from the bobcat or DR mower.

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So that's Porter! He's a funny little guy but we love him =)

The Big Move

I think of all the things we had to move over to the new farm, the number one thing I was dreading was our broiler pens. As most of you know, we raise our chickens in bottomless, moveable pens. This keeps them safe from predators, while affording them the ability to do plenty of foraging. These pens have been thoughtfully engineered to be perfect for moving birds across the pasture 12 feet at a time. But moving from one farm to the next, notsomuch.

My brother and sister-in-law came down for Easter weekend, and graciously offered to help with any farm projects where we could use extra hands. So Easter morning, we started moving the pens from the top of the hill down to the bottom gate where they could be loaded up. Thankfully it didn't take too long to come up with a pretty efficient way to do so.

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Another huge thank you goes to my aunt and uncle who not only loaned their flatbed but also helped us load and drive them over. I'm sure we were a sight to be seen. I felt like we got a few quizzical looks from people wondering what we were hauling.

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God willing, this will be the first and last time we move these pens down the road.

In other news, we got our spring lambs on Saturday. They are now grazing alongside the cows, who have reluctantly accepted their company. Once they finish grazing down this pasture and move to their next paddock, Scott and I will move the broiler pens to this field. This practice of "stacking" is one example of how diversity beats a monoculture. The ruminants first mow down the grass to make it easier for the chickens to move through and eat. The chickens help spread out the manure and decrease fly and other pest populations, while naturally fertilizing the grass so it's even more lush and delightful for the cows & sheep next year. It mimics the natural pattern of how birds follow herding animals in the wild.

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Depending on the weather, we'll put the first batch of chicks out to pasture in the next week or so. And with that, it is safe to say our season is in full swing!