Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wendell Berry Quote - The Art of the Commonplace

"If we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of the earth, but also the earth's ability to produce. We will see that beauty and utility are alike dependent upon the health of the world. But we will also see through the fads and the fashions of protest. We will see that war and oppression and pollution are not separate issues, but are aspects of the same issue. Amid the outcries for the liberation of this group or that, we will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man's only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place - a much humbler place than we have been taught to think - in the order of creation.
(pg.89, "Think Little")"
Wendell Berry (The Art of the Commonplace)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Slow Roasted Beef

It you have time, thaw the roast and set it on a rack over a plate in the fridge for 3 days. Trim away any leathery, dry bits. This gives the best flavor with the most tenderness.

1 Grass-Fed roast - Sirloin, Rolled Rump or Round- around 3 lbs
salt and pepper
1 tbs olive oil

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 250F. Season the roast liberally with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven or heavy-duty roasting pan over medium-high heat until just smoking. Sear the roast until well browned, about 2 minutes on each side.

Transfer the pot to the oven and cook, uncovered, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reaches 120F for rare, 125F for medium-rare, or 130F for medium, 10-20 minutes longer. Remove the roast from the pot and transfer to a cutting board. Tent the roast loosely with foil and let stand for 20 minutes. Cut crosswise into thin slices and serve.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cut of the Week: Roast

Over the many years we have been butchering grass fed beef we have made several different types of roasts available for our customers. These different cuts can be confusing especially when some names differ even between butchers.

For simplicity's sake I will divide all roasts into three categories:
  • sirloin - coming from the lower back
  • round - coming from the back leg
  • chuck - coming from the shoulder
Meat becomes tougher the more it is used and that makes the cuts cheaper but much more flavorful. This toughness however, dictates different cooking methods.

I have found that all roasts from the sirloin and the round are best roasted in a slow oven (250F) with liquid filled to the halfway mark on the roast. Too little water causes the meat to dry out and too much liquid makes more of a stew, which is not what we're going for here.

For the quintessential sliced roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, I like the tri-tip sirloin, round roast or the rolled rump. If I am looking for the break apart, impossible to slice, melt in your mouth roast with tons of flavor I go for the chuck.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Raw Milk News

Those interested in raw milk issues may need to learn some of the goings on in Washington this week which will certainly affect us all.

A new Food Safety bill was passed last week with new wording and an amendment that would exempt small farmers who sell directly to customers within a 275 mile radius. Hopefully the bill will reach the President with the new amendments intact.

There have been rumblings in the recent months regarding changes to Tennessee's stance on raw milk and raw milk products. As many of you know, we fought the state of Indiana for the right to make raw milk products available through cowshare programs and it looks like that fight may be coming to a state near you! Tennessee plans to change wording in the present code and require inspections for all raw milk dairies. While we support inspection of dairies and required testing we are always concerned that the new rules will be aimed at closing the diaries rather than working towards true food safety issues. Kentucky has also laid down the gauntlet and has begun to harass farmers producing raw milk. Keep your ear to the ground and we will be sure to keep you all informed on the happenings.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farm News: Sheep

A Visiting Ram

One of our most urgent jobs last week was the introduction of the new sire into the sheep flock. Due to our extensive losses from neighborhood dog attacks last year, we lost our precious rams. In keeping with the amazing camaraderie within the farming community a fellow farmer loaned us her beautiful Romney ram for the season. We are so excited about this new fellow. I think he will throw some beautiful babies and you can bet that plenty of lamb pictures will ensue five and a half months from now.

The Sheep Are Shorn

Another job for this month was the shearing of the girls for breeding. Don't worry, the girls are kept in the barn until the fleece grows back enough for warmth. We are thrilled with the fleeces this season and will have yarn and roving available as well as raw fleeces for the spinners among us.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mini Meatballs in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This week's recipe is perfect with grass fed ground beef from the Farm Shop!

· 2 pounds Grass Fed Ground Beef
· 1 cup soft bread crumbs
· 2 eggs
· 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
· 2 garlic cloves, crushed
· Dash salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl combine Ground Beef, bread crumbs, eggs, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape mixture into 64 one-inch meatballs and place on broiler pan. Bake in 350 degree F oven for 18-20 minutes, or until no longer pink and juices are clear.

· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· 1 medium onion, finely chopped
· 3 garlic cloves, crushed
· 1 cup beef broth
· 2 teaspoons cornstarch
· 2 jars (7 ounces each) roasted red peppers, rinsed, drained, finely chopped
· 1 cup dry white wine
· 4 ounce can of tomato paste
· 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

In large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Combine broth and cornstarch. Add red peppers, wine, tomato paste and thyme to skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Add meatballs to skillet and cook until meatballs are heated through.

Makes: 64 appetizer size meatballs
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cut of the Week: Grass Fed Ground Beef

Every so often we see a huge surge in ground beef sales. Whenever this happens we find someone with a TV and inevitably there has been a ground beef recall. In his brilliant book Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser reveals that the typical fast food burger contains ground beef from as many as 100 different cows. Farm Shop ground meat comes from one grass fed animal and we never add back fat from other animals.

Since all of our animals are 100% grass fed the fat content of our meat is lower than the average supermarket ground beef and comes in at around 90% lean which ensures a tender, great tasting burger for your recipes.

Remember, you can always try our ground beef and lamb in the Local Burger at Fido's in Green Hills.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Organic Cooking: Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary

Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary
  • 1 (7-pound) grass fed, butterflied leg of lamb, and lamb tied
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine or beef broth

Pat lamb dry and score fat by making shallow cuts all over with tip of a sharp small knife.
Pound garlic to a paste with sea salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash with a heavy knife) and stir together with rosemary and pepper. Put lamb in a lightly oiled roasting pan, then rub paste all over lamb. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325°F.

Roast lamb in middle of oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted 2 inches into thickest part of meat (do not touch bone) registers 130°F, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 15 to 25 minutes (internal temperature will rise to about 140°F for medium-rare).

Add wine to pan and deglaze by boiling over moderately high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Season pan juices with salt and pepper and serve with lamb.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cut of the Week: Leg of Lamb

The leg of lamb is the most versatile cut of lamb. We sell our grass fed lamb legs whole or butterflied. To butterfly a leg of lamb, it is deboned and rolled and tied, this is a tough job and is better left to the professionals. Butterflied leg of lamb is perfect for roasting, stuffing or grilling. I like to cut kabobs or stew from the butterflied leg since I don't have to deal with cutting around the bone and can cut the meat in cubes easily.

A whole leg of lamb can weigh up to 9 lbs which tends to be more than a family can eat in several sittings so butchers have invented many new and exciting cuts but they can also be a bit confusing.

One way that we like to cut our whole legs is to take several steaks from the top end of the leg with gives what is called a "half leg sirloin end". Sirloin steaks (also called leg steaks) are perfect for grilling or pan frying when you want a nice tender piece of leg without having to cook up 5-6 lbs of meat. The half leg also takes off the shank which is best stewed since it is the most used portion of the leg. Osso Bucco is the recipe that made the shank famous.
The most important thing to remember about cooking a lamb roast is to not over-cook it. Lamb has such wonderful flavor on its own, and is so naturally tender, that it is bound to turn out well, as long as it is still a little pink inside. There is some debate over which method yields the best results - slow cooking at low heat the entire time, or searing first on high heat and then slow cooking. James Beard in his American Cookery prefers the slow-cook-low-heat method (he rubs the roast with salt and pepper and cooks it at 325°F the whole time.)
Another point where there are wildly varying opinions is the internal temperature that constitutes "medium rare". I've seen references that range from 120° to 145°F. I pulled my lamb roast out at 130°F. As it rests the internal temperature continues to rise a few points as the meat continued to cook. We like lamb on the rare side of medium rare, and this roast was perfectly done to our taste. Clearly an accurate meat thermometer is essential and is one of the tools I can not be without in my kitchen.

Grass fed lamb cooks faster than grain fed lamb so keep checking the temperature to avoid over cooking.

Remember that any meat with a bone will cook more quickly than a boneless piece of meat so adjust the recipe accordingly.

Amount to Buy: For bone-in leg of lamb, allow about 3/4 pound per person; for boneless leg of lamb allow about 1/2 pound per person.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comfort Food: Home Style Pot Roast

I love chuck and arm roasts since they come from the most used muscles on a cow. Remember the equation:
  • heavily used muscles = tougher meat = more flavor = cheaper cut
  • less used muscles = more tender meat = less flavor = expensive cut
Home Style Pot Roast

3 yellow onions
grass fed beef chuck roast, about 2 1/2 lb.
3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs. rendered bacon fat or olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian or Spanish
1 1/2 cups beef stock or broth
1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

Halve the onions through the stem and cut the halves into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons. Set aside.

Season the chuck roast with the 3/4 tsp. salt and the 1/2 tsp. pepper. Spread the flour on a plate. Coat the roast with the flour, shaking off the excess.

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the bacon fat. Add the roast and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. bacon fat to the pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and paprika and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, tomatoes and the 2 Tbs. parsley. Return the beef to the pot, nestling it in the onions. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the beef is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

Transfer the pot roast to a deep serving platter. Season the onion mixture with salt and pepper. Skim off any fat from the surface. Spoon the onion mixture around the roast and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

To make beef paprikash, simply add sour cream to the sauce: Transfer the pot roast to a platter and skim the fat from the sauce as directed. Stir 1 cup sour cream into the sauce and cook just until it is heated through; do not allow it to boil. Season with salt and pepper. Pot roast also makes excellent hot sandwiches. Slice the roast and serve it along with plenty of the saucy onions on crusty rolls.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 8, 2010

News from the Cows

The girls are trying to work their way back up in production but this is bad time to try. With the winter coming on and the grass gone, everything in nature says to cut back. We have found some wonderful hay from a farmer in Kentucky (Brayden is so pleased with it that he drives to Franklin, KY once a week to pick it up) and the girls really seem to be doing well on it. The production has increased slightly but we have hopes for more as the babies start to come.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Spinning Yarns: Fiber Arts for the Fall

As the temperatures drop our sheep look more and more in their element. The winter is a happy, happy time for the sheep. They work all year to grow a great fleece and it comes in mighty handy as the temperatures dip. I am looking forward to a great fleece harvest next year as I spin up the final wraps of last year's fleeces. The cooler weather keeps me inside spinning and knitting; it just seems like the right natural rhythm.

When people learn that I spin and knit the wool from our own farm they seem shocked that spinning wheels are still available for purchase. Thankfully the art of spinning, weaving and knitting are on the upsurge. My theory is that as our societies grow more chaotic, our hearts and souls search for things that are timeless, repetitious and quiet. Fiber Arts certainly fit the bill. I can't count how many time my children fell asleep to the whirl of my wheel and no matter how ADD a child is, they stand almost breathless and completely amazed watching the wheel spin, and spin.

This winter we will have yarn from our own sheep as well as hand dyed yarns from several talented artists from Tennessee for sale at the Franklin Farmers Market. We have a wide range of fleece products available from raw fleeces for spinners to hand spun yarns for those who prefer knitting and crocheting.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Plenty - Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet"

If you're determined to eat locally, you might enjoy Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. The couple embarked on an experiment to spend a year eating only what they could grow, gather, or purchase from a 100 mile radius around their home in Canada.

I found the memoir interesting and thought-provoking in parts, although at times the authors' tones were a bit strident for my taste and I could have stood less gratuitous profanity. However, if you're attempting to eat locally yourself, especially from an urban environment, this book may be helpful to you.

If you only have time for one local eating memoir, we would more highly recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but if you're a fan of this genre and have the time, you might also enjoy "Plenty."

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"The Cook and the Gardener"

Although set in the French Countryside, Amanda Hesser's book The Cook and the Gardener holds many lessons and much encouragement for Americans seeking to tie their living more closely to the land. Over the year she served as a cook in a chateau in Burgundy, Hesser developed a friendship with the chateau's gardener and documented the garden and its impact on her cooking throughout the months. I enjoyed the descriptions of what was happening on the land during each month and also the interesting descriptions of heirloom foods and how to cook them. In each section, Hesser covers one month, with additional chapters devoted to the seasons in general, and includes many recipes and shorter essays on particular foods and how to select and prepare them. The recipes are adapted for American cooks, and Hesser notes, where possible, how to find and select the foods she mentions from American sources.

The book's emphasis on cooking with fresh in season foods, preserving for the colder months, and adapting the kitchen to the rhythyms of the seasons makes this a great read for those who would like to incorporate more local seasonal foods into their diets, but also invites the reader to consider the passing of seasons in our own backyard gardens and homes.

It is difficult to say if this book is a cookbook that also includes interesting reading, or if it is a memoir/treatise that also includes recipes. Either way I think you'd find something to interest you and I'd recommend it.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Angel, our beautiful Great Pyrenees, is pregnant. She seems to be about 35-40 days into the pregnancy and we are so excited about the coming puppies. Many of the puppies are already spoken for and that helps us to plan for puppy sales. We will train several of the pups to guard chickens from an early age. Most likely Angel will whelp in the barn with the chickens so that the puppies will come to think of the chickens as litter mates. We’ll have some great picture ops once that takes place. We are guessing that she will have between 6 and 10 pups. For those of you who have been, or are pregnant through sweltering summer weather here is a picture you can appreciate!

If you're interested in one of Angel's puppies, please let us know!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Good to the Grain"

If you enjoy baking with whole grains and enjoying fresh seasonal food like we do, you will love Kim Boyce's excellent cookbook Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours. Boyce is a trained pastry chef with experience at famous restaurants like Spago and Campanile, but her recipes are accessible for the average cook and I guarantee you will be inspired by what you find in this book.

The book covers flours including whole wheat, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, kamut, oat, quinoa, rye, spelt, and teff. I appreciated how Boyce explained the characteristics of each flour and how to use it without getting a dense or tough product. I've been frustrated in my past efforts to translate white flour recipes to whole grain, but Boyce takes the guess work out of it.

If nothing else, you'll certainly enjoy the beautiful food photography in this book and the author's reflection on different grains. I love books that make it easier to eat healthy, beautiful and delicious food, and this book certainly advances those three goals.

If you decide to read the book and try any of the recipes, please let us know! You can get a variety of whole grains (including, at the time of this writing, white wheat, kamut, oat groats, and spelt) as well as various natural sweeteners and baking needs at the Farm Shop. Happy baking!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"The Animal is the Product of the Soil"

Published on behalf of Debbie via the Farm newsletter. To subscribe to the letter, please contact us! It's a great way to stay up to date on farm news and product information.
Well, the heat is on. Temperatures are soaring and things just seem to naturally slow down on the farm. Chickens stop laying eggs, we need more breaks, and the pace of life mimics the pace of nature and becomes slower and quieter.

I sometimes wonder about our running around and hurrying from one emergency to the next. Chaos seems to find a crack in the door and pries and pulls until it finally enters into our lives, fully and with force, almost without our knowledge. And then come the storms or the heat or the snow and life takes on a whole new look. We remember that things can be set aside and the truly important always get done if we look through the eyes of peace.

And that is where we find ourselves this week. We are sitting more, talking more, reading more and allowing ourselves more rest once all the needs of the animals are tended to. I have picked up a book I read years and years ago by Andre Voisin called Soil, Grass and Cancer that fascinated me 13 years ago and continues to do so each time I slow down enough for a reread.

Andre begins by reminding us that the famous quote “Man, remember that you are dust and that you will return to dust” is not just a religious or philosophic statement but that it should be engraved above the door to every faculty of medicine. I would add that every farmer should have it engraved above the barn door to remind us of the direct link between the “dust” that grows the grass consumed by our animals and the “dust” that makes us what we are. The fact that our farming ancestors understood this connection is obvious when you read old farming manuals that repeat the mantra “the animal is the product of the soil”.It would do us well to remember this also. There was a time when serious detective work could be done to determine where a problem was stemming from since most of the food and water consumed came from a small circle around the home. Now, with our foods coming from all parts of the world it is much more difficult to pinpoint insufficient “dirt” in order to fix a problem due to missing nutrients.

Carlo Petrini of Slow Food coined the phrase “co-producers” to explain the relationship between farmers and consumers. Indeed we could not do what we do without your support. Thank you for your patience as we learn the ways of this “dirt” beneath our feet and as we continue to understand the relationship between, soil, animals and man.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meet the Buckeye Chickens

After some heavy casualties from hawks, we are moving the chickens and the dogs to the farm by they shop. We are looking forward to having them here for visitors to see. We also have some wonderfully adorable baby chicks chirping and doing their best to be cute.

We are going to experiment with several different breeds this year. At the top of the list are Buckeyes. Famous for being the only breed in this country to be developed by a woman breeder, these birds have plenty to boast about. Bred in the mid 1800 they have beautiful deep red feathers and yellow legs. They lay large, dark brown eggs and they are wonderful foragers. Another reason we have looked into this breed is that they are the top of the American Livestock Conservancy Critical List. This means that they are on the verge of becoming extinct. Being placed on the Critical list means that there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and the estimated global population is less than 2,000. These birds are definitely worth saving and we are proud to participate in that effort.

To receive updates like this on the animals, please subscribe to the Farm Newsletter!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Store Update

Due to heavy workload on the farm this season, the Farm Store will be closed Monday through Wednesday until further notice, but will continue to be open Thursday through Saturday from 9 to 4. Thank you for your understanding!

Monday, May 24, 2010

More CSA Shares Available

If you haven't signed up for a CSA share yet, or if you love your share so much that you'd like another whole or half share, there are more available! As you might know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is a great way to support local farms and enjoy locally grown produce - both family favorites and new things to try.

The following shares are still open at a variety of pickup times and locations:

Mondays (On-Farm & Centerville Delivery) – 6.5 shares (or 13 half shares)
Wednesdays (Riverwalk & Asurion Deliveries) – 9 shares (or 18 half shares)
Saturdays (Franklin Farmers Market & Windy Acres Deliveries) – 9 shares (or 18 half shares)

If you're interested or know someone who might be, let us know and we'll put you in touch with the right people.

If you're participating in a CSA, what has been your favorite vegetable so far?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A smoothie for your garden

Compost, as you are doubtless aware, is both excellent for your garden and a responsible thing to do with kitchen scraps and other biodegradable garbage. If you have the time and space to compost the traditional way, you should do that by all means. However, sometimes your garden needs a boost and your compost pile is far from ready, and sometimes (as is the case in my neighborhood) traditional compost piles are illegal. I know, it's insane.

A friend told me that during a busy season in her life she used to grind up her compost in the blender and pour it directly on her garden. I figured it could not hurt to try. I will admit to a moment's hesitation at putting garbage in my Vitamix, but I overcame my reluctance for the sake of vegetable production.
Compost in the blender.
My kids thought we were having a smoothie for lunch. I said, "Not directly."
I brought the blender full of compost smoothie out to the garden and fed it to the dirt and worms for lunch. Hopefully we'll see good results in a few weeks!
Some notes on blender composting:
  • It's best to blend every day or two so the stuff doesn't get moldy.
  • Use a trowel to dig the compost smoothie into the dirt so you don't attract bugs or bees.
  • You may not want to blend paper and some other things that are normally compostable. I stick with coffee grounds, tea leaves, fruit and vegetable peels and trimmings, and washed eggshells.
  • Add plenty of water to the blender so you don't burn out your motor.
  • And, last but certainly not least:
Wash the blender well when you're finished!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's not too late!

It's not too late to start your garden or plant a few containers on your porch or patio. The farm store is offering seeds of a variety of heirloom vegetables and plants for purchase this year. Heirloom plants are hardier and often more flavorful than their conventional cousins and we think you'll be glad you tried them!

For more information about specific seed varieties and availability, please visit the store or contact us.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Good news for CSA members!

Due to unexpected progress in the Beaverdam Creek fields, CSA produce shares will start THIS weekend rather than next. If you are a member, please come pick up your first basket this Saturday, May 8, at the Farm Shop between 3:00 and 4:00 pm.

Enjoy your fresh, local produce!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Break Out the Grill!

...or not. Just when we thought Spring had really arrived, we got hit with another cold snap. Hopefully it's warmer where you are! Still, I had summer food on my mind and so I used a grill pan to cook up some delicious Korean Barbecue Burgers.

If you're a fan of Korean food, these burgers really taste like bulgogi. If you're not familiar with Korean food, just be assured the burgers taste fantastic. I served ours on wheat buns (it's pretty simple to cobble together a hamburger bun recipe from whatever recipe you use for pizza dough) with some of our homemade kimchi on top. They would be great without the kimchi too, but I think it added a nice zip. Did you know you can get kimchi in the farm store? Or you can get whey at the farm store and try making your own. Don't forget that you can get grass fed ground beef at the farm too!

Korean Barbecue Burgers
recipe taken from Cooking Light

1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds grass fed ground sirloin

Mix all ingredients together, shape into patties, grill and enjoy! This recipe is easily doubled if you want to make extras to freeze for another time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Easy Summer Bread

Debbie did an excellent post on bread baking last fall, and we've also talked about how baking bread fits in to the rhythm of the seasons, but when spring rolls around I'm much more likely to want to spend time in the garden than in the kitchen.

And yet, curiously enough, my family still requests regular meals.

I find that my cooking style becomes more streamlined and simple in the warmer months, and now I've found a way to still enjoy fresh homemade bread without requiring a huge time investment.

In their book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day Jeff Hertzberg (a scientist) and Zoe Francois (a chef) outline a method for mixing and storing dough in the refrigerator, taking out portions as needed, that eliminates the need for kneading, long rise times, or additives. I'll admit that I was initially skeptical, but since getting this book I've made several of the dough variations and have achieved uniformly excellent results. The bread is well shaped, has a great crusty outside with a good texture and crumb inside. The taste is comparable to artisan bread from a bakery, just as the authors claim.

In addition to the basic recipe, which makes a boule loaf or baguette, the book contains a wealth of other breads ranging from Limpa (a Swedish bread made with cardamom, orange zest and honey), to za'atar flat bread, to na'an. Breads from all over the world are well represented in this book. The book also contains recipes using bread, such as Aubergine Tartine, Panzanella, Red Pepper Fougasse, and Fattoush. Many of the bread-containing recipes make use of fresh seasonal produce, which also makes the cookbook handy for the summer months.

I found the authors' section on alternative flours particularly helpful since they note that the different weights and compositions of flours, including how they are ground, influences the outcome of their recipes, and their instructions for substituting flours are clear and easy to implement.

Although there are few things as comfortable as making bread the old fashioned way in the fall and winter, if you're in need of a simpler method for spring and summer I would highly recommend this book.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Unconventional (for our times anyway) Lawn Mowing

Even though the weather has been dry my lawn has been growing at an astounding rate and of course, my Craftsman lawnmower is on the blink. Well, when that happens on a farm all you need is a little thought and a few well positioned fences and you can have your lawn mowed for free. No gas, no fuss. Well, O.K. just a little fuss.

Let me introduce you to my new lawn mowers, Domino is slacking in the back, Suzie is up front with Cordelia Grey and Peanut in the back. Elvira II and her two boys are lounging. For the past two weeks they have been more than happy to keep our lawn looking good, one small spot at a time. Our girls here at the farmhouse are Icelandic sheep and although they have horns they are surely enough girls.

Even as I sit here in the comfort of my living room with the windows slung open and the lace curtains flapping in the breeze I can hear chomping, wonderful grass removing chomping. In a section of fencing 150’ long it will take the girls and their babies two days to get the lawn looking good and evenly mowed.

Unfortunately there are always some slackers in the bunch. Elvira and her two babies decide to let the others mow while they rest.
Elvira’s one boy thinks he is getting away with it by hiding behind a basket of tools while the other one couldn’t care less if I see him laying down on the job.

If you'd like to read more stories of life on The Farm and get updates about products available in the shop, be sure to sign up for the email newsletter by clicking the "email us" button in the top left sidebar of the blog.

Posted by Catherine on behalf of The Farm, written and photographed by Debbie

Monday, April 19, 2010

Milk Consumption Tied to Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

A study published in the International Journal of Cancer has shown that childhood and adult milk consumption can protect against breast cancer.

Women who drank more than 3 glasses of milk per day had half the risk of breast cancer compared to women not drinking milk according to a study of 48,844 women in Norway. The results of this study are in line with earlier research results showing the protective effect of milk on breast cancer. A study published in the British Journal of Cancer showed that the women who consumed the most milk had less than half the risk of breast cancer compared to women consuming the least milk.

Milk's protective effect can be attributed to the cancer fighting substance conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in milk fat. Numerous studies indicated that CLA had a protective effect against breast cancer.

A recent Finnish study has shown that postmenopausal women with the lowest levels of CLA in their diet and in their blood had, respectively, a 3.3-fold and five-fold greater risk of breast cancer than those with the highest levels of CLA.

Milk from grass fed cows contains over 5 times the levels of CLA than grain fed cows!!
So drink up!

Here is a great way to get more milk into your diet without high levels of sugar. Brayden made this last night and we all went wild!

Brayden's Late Night Shake

2 cups Trader's Point Chocolate milk
2 scoops vanilla ice cream - homemade at best, Breyers at worst (check their ingredients, some contain high fructose corn syrup and other nasties)

Add all to blender and blend. Absolutely the best shake we have ever had!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Hang a Clothesline - the Technical Part

Clothes and linens dried in the sunshine smell fresh and feel crisp. A clothesline is a wonderful addition to any back yard. Here are two ways to install one:

The first method is for a simple, single line that is easy to take down and put back up. The second is for a line that is a loop strung between two pulleys. Both are easy to tighten if they sag.For either version, you can use a cotton or plastic clothesline rope. I prefer the look and feel of cotton.

The height of the line depends on how tall you are -- make sure the line is comfortable for you to reach, and high enough that your laundry won't touch the ground. If you use the pulley system one end can be sent high in the air to catch every drop of breeze.

The length of the line depends on the size of your back yard, but 20 to 25 feet is average. You'll need two strong supports, such as trees or a post of your porch. Choose an area of the yard where the clothesline won't get in anyone's way.

For the single line, you'll need a heavy-duty hook, a metal eye hook, a cleat, a small metal fitting that you'll wrap the rope around to anchor it (imagine the device you use to secure a rope on a flagpole), and a metal ring.

Start by marking the height you want the line to be on each support. On one support, screw in the hook at the point you marked; start the hole with a drill. On the other, screw in the eye hook. Twelve inches below the eye hook, install a cleat. Using a tight knot, tie one end of the rope to the ring. Loop the ring over the hook, and walk the rope over to the other support. Thread the other end through the eye hook, pull it tight, and wind it around the cleat to secure.

For the double-strung line, you'll need two heavy-duty hooks, two pulleys, a line tightener, to allow you to take up the slack in the line, and a line separator to keep the top and bottom lines separate but parallel.

Screw the hooks into the supports at the height you want the line to be. Tie one end of the rope securely to the ring on the end of the line tightener. Thread the other end of the rope through the pulley, the line separator, the other pulley and the line tightener. Hang the pulleys from the hooks on your supports, pull the end of the rope through the tightener until taut and cut away the excess rope. Hook the line separator around the bottom rope.

If this is a little to technical for you, come out to the farm and I can walk you through my system so you can get a good idea of what works.

Happy Hanging!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Laundry on the Line

I have been a die hard clothesline fan since I purchased a kit from Martha Stewart and set up a proper line. Sure you can use a couple of hooks and a plastic line from Home Depot in a pinch but if you intend on committing to forgoing the dryer whenever possible you really need to respect the line, especially if you want to enjoy the process.

The first thing to think about is how you do laundry now. Do you like to do a load a day or do you save it all up for one day a week, put your head down and plow through? The answer to this question will determine how much space should be dedicated to your line. I have some Amish friends who have a 300 foot line from the back door to the top of their barn. My line is about 75 ft and with my Ecosmart washer that does me just fine. I have a Fisher & Paykel Ecosmart and with its 1000 rpm spin cycle I can get 5 loads done and folded in an afternoon.

Here is what you need for a great line.

1. Clothes line, I like cotton it runs through the pulley system easily

2. Line tightener - keeps the line good and tight - you tie one end and feed the other through

3. Spacers - to keep the clothes off the ground by pulling the lines together

4. Clothes pins - I like wooden but many like the plastic because they come in pretty colors

5. 2 pulleys - Rust proof is a must

I like to put one end of my line near my back door and the other I will put way up in the air somewhere like a tree or a tall post. The higher the clothes the more wind you can catch and the quicker they dry.

There is truly nothing like clothes fresh off the line for a sense of well being. Guests at our farm ALWAYS get bedding fresh off the line if the weather is co-operating and fresh linens off the line are a gift to my children of wonderful memories they will always cherish.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Time to Plant Beets

Most people will tell you they hate beets but that's only because they have only tasted the horrid red imposters sliced and jammed into tin cans. For shame!!! Beets are one of my favorite vegetables and dressed in Celtic Sea Salt and Kerry Gold butter, you just can't beet it!

I planted my beets in one long row along the edge of my peas. I planted three varieties, Chioggia (my personal favorite) stiped in red and white rings it is a sure kid pleaser, Detroit Red and Burpee's Golden.

Beets grow well near bush beans but don't like pole beans - go figure! They do very well near lettuce and most members of the cabbage family. I like to plant my beets very close together and then throughout the season I will thin, first for the tops in salads and then for baby beets. By then I have made enough room for the full grown beets. I will plant beets all summer since they can take a good frost and still come out fine. As long as you can get into the soil you can harvest beets so be sure to have plenty of seed on hand.

Remember we have Seed Savers Exchange seeds in the store and will keep a good supply of all the seeds you need for planting and replanting.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from The Farm!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maple Syrup Restocked in the Store!

This season's REAL maple syrup is in stock now at the Farm Store. If you've never tried real maple syrup on your pancakes or as a sweetener in recipes you are in for a treat.

Don't miss these posts on maple syrup from the archives:

A discussion of maple syrup versus store-bought fake syrup

How maple syrup is made

The difference between Grade A and Grade B maple syrup

Recipes for Maple Syrup Viniagarette and Maple Syrup Ice Cream

Health benefits from maple syrup

What is your favorite way to use maple syrup? If you don't use maple syrup now, what is holding you back?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Small Changes Matter

They say that it's important to always be learning and growing as you go about your life. Sometimes this takes the form of huge leaps forward, but more often people take small incremental steps. You may not be able to make a comprehensive shift to a completely local, natural, sustainable lifestyle all in one fell swoop, but the small changes are no less important. Even little things like planting a new vegetable in your garden can give you momentum and be an encouragement.

Now that we're about a quarter of the way through 2010 (that was fast, wasn't it?), what have you learned about health? How have you changed your lifestyle to be simpler, more natural, or more in tune with the seasons? Do you have any plans to take other steps this spring and summer?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Planting Peas

When it comes to fresh-from-the-garden vegetables that cause you swear off grocery store knock-offs, peas are at the top of the list. Fresh from the pod, peas are exquisite! They are easy to grow, easy to pick and if you have never eaten a fresh pea still in the pod, you are in for a great treat. Now is the time to plant peas.

Peas don't require much in the way of fussiness. Good, well drained soil and a good sturdy trellis or fence to climb on are the components of good pea-keeping. Well rotted compost will ensure loads of thick pods but don't fertilize much more than that or you will get more vines and less pods.
Here is a bed that begged to be a pea bed; long, straight and thin. I opened up the soil with a U-bar so no tilling was necessary and set a good straight trench in the middle of the bed. I plant my peas in single rows on each side of the proposed space for the fence. I have tried the double rows in the past with less than desirable results each time so I stick with the tried and true single row.

I filled the trench with compost and planted the peas 4" apart with my two rows a mere 8 inches apart. Once the peas were spaced in the row I covered with the loosened dirt and began the work of putting up the trellis.

Peas can and will climb so be sure to set up a fence or trellis. In the past I have tried fence posts with string - don't try it - it doesn't work. I have tried utilizing coral panels from the co-op and they were great for shorter beds. They come in 16 foot lengths and they are inexpensive and last forever. For a longer bed though I felt that I had to use actual fencing. We strung it tight with two t-posts which is very important for picking time. You don't want the weight of the peas to pull the trellis over.

Once that hard work was over we transplanted spinach on one side and planted lettuce seeds on the other. As long as you keep the peas twining up the trellis you can keep weeds out of the bed by planting another crop on each side. Remember that mother nature will try to cover the soil if you don't. Also the lettuce and spinach will shade the soil and I will need much less water to maintain the growth of peas. As we get closer to picking I will post several recipes for fresh peas!

For your own garden we still have few different varieties of pea seeds for sale in the store. You will even find some varieties that thrive in pots for those who want the delicious taste of fresh peas but lack the space. So, there's a pea for everyone.

Have Fun!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Traders Point Dairy Products

When I was in the throes of starting a new farm I met a couple from Indiana, Fritz and Jane Kunz, who had an idea to start an organic dairy on inherited land in Zionsville, Indiana. They planned to bottle their own milk and yogurt for sale from the farm. For those of us who were lucky enough to watch the growth of this company it was a sight to behold. The lessons we learned from this adventurous couple will remain with me and guide my farming principles for years to come.

Trader's Point Creamery bottles their own 100% grass fed, certified organic whole milk, chocolate milk and yogurt. We now have their award winning chocolate milk and yogurt available in the store.

Only the highest quality organic ingredients are used and the awards received speak volumes for the small company. All of their yogurt products are flavored and colored with 100% certified organic fruit puree even though only 6% is the industry standard. Try Traders Point wild berry or raspberry yogurt poured over granola for a quick, nutrition breakfast. Yummy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Fine Art of Letter Writing

Most of those closest to me know of my utter and vehement dislike for Facebook. Unless you have nothing planned for the afternoon you shouldn't ask me if I have a Facebook page.
I have many, many good reasons for shunning this newest form of "socializing" but at the top of that list is the fact that it has changed the face of true, deep and honest friendship and the form of communication that occurs between friends and acquaintances. For that matter Facebook doesn't even differentiate between true friends and acquaintances, oops, you almost got me started!

I am a true lover of the letter and the written word (on paper, can you guess where this is going?). When a good friend came to spend a few days at the farm she mentioned a poem called Elegy for the Personal letter. After reading this mournful poem I felt that it conveyed all of my passion for the letter with my soapboxing.

To help you make the transition from half-hearted, half-sentence, virtual "friend"-rich, relationship-poor, non-conversations back to the elegant, thoughtful art of letter writing we are proud to announce our newest section in the The Farm Shop, The tools of Writing. We now carry many beautiful card sets with fountains pens and a wide selection of scented inks on the way.

Elegy for the Personal Letter

by Allison Joseph
I miss the rumpled corners of correspondence,
the ink blots and crossouts that show

someone lives on the other end, a person
whose hands make errors, leave traces.
I miss fine stationary, its raised elegant
lettering prominent on creamy shades of ivory
or pearl grey. I even miss hasty notes
dashed off on notebook paper, edges
ragged as their scribbled messages—
can’t much write now—thinking of you.

When letters come now, they are formatted
by some distant computer, addressed
to Occupant or To the family living at
meager greetings at best,
salutations made by committee.
Among the glossy catalogs
and one time only offers
the bills and invoices,
letters arrive so rarely now that I drop
all other mail to the floor when
an envelope arrives and the handwriting

is actual handwriting, the return address
somewhere I can locate on any map.
So seldom is it that letters come
That I stop everything else
to identify the scrawl that has come this far—
the twist and the whirl of the letters,
the loops of the numerals. I open
those envelopes first, forgetting
the claim of any other mail,
hoping for news I could not read in any other way but this.

PS Teach your children to write before they can type. It will serve them well. These three letters came in the mail for my daughter when she was under the weather.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beaverdam Creek Farm CSA Comes to Windy Acres Farm Shop

At my advanced age I have finally realized that I can only do so much! Beef, lamb, chicken, dairy, homeschooling, opening and running a farm shop, running a household, gardening, canning, spinning, knitting, etc., etc. It makes me tired just listing it all. Well I have finally drawn the line at trying to grow all of the produce my family consumes. I decided that I will still grow a garden but I want it to be fun and I need to take a bit of pressure off this year. So after searching high and low for a farm we could trust, with the strong values and purist tendencies of all of us at Windy Acres we have turned to our friends, the Lingos at Beaverdam Creek Farm to provide us with the bulk of our vegetables. In the course of our conversations we realized that this would be the perfect situation for many of our customers looking for a CSA for themselves.

What is CSA?

CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”. It’s simply an agreement in which you purchase a ‘share’ in our garden. Your share provides a portion of the farm expenses, including labor and the purchase of seeds and supplies (soil amendments, equipment, etc.). In return, as a “shareholder”, you receive a basket of whatever produce is harvested from our garden each week along with our newsletter updating you about farm happenings and giving you storage hints and recipes for cooking our delicious veggies and herbs. Think of it as owning a garden, but not having to pull the weeds!
General Share Info

CSA Shares will be distributed for approximately 26 weeks May-October. A share is a half-bushel basket containing enough produce for approximately 4 people, depending on your eating and cooking habits. Half shares are also available. Along with your produce, you will receive a weekly newsletter with recipes, farm news and tips on how to use and store your produce. You can pick up your share at our farm after 2:30 pm on your scheduled day. We also deliver to the Franklin Farmer’s Market on Saturdays 8:00am until noon. Other delivery locations may be scheduled as we receive sufficient requests.
  • You’ll receive a basket of fresh, tasty produce every week of the growing season.
  • You will be buying from us, a family that you know and trust.
  • Your veggies will be chemical–free and clean; no worries about salmonella-contaminated tomatoes!
  • You will have a say in what your farmer grows.
  • You will be helping to boost your local economy.
  • You will have the fun and anticipation of seeing what new and different treats are in your basket each week.
  • You will be motivated to try some new and different meals using your seasonal produce and the recipes we provide.
  • Weather-All farming endeavors are at the mercy of the weather. There might be an early frost that kills the strawberry blossoms, so we have to wait until next year to enjoy them.
  • Pests/Disease-There’s always a chance that pests or blight might do damage to a certain crop. What happens then? We just do as our grandparents would have done. For example, if Colorado Potato Beetles destroy our potato harvest, then we eat more sweet potatoes instead! If we lose some summer squash to powdery mildew, then we add more zucchini to the menu!
What We Grow
Early season baskets include spinach, lettuce, radishes, scallions, kale, broccoli, sugar snap peas, bunched beets, salad greens, and more…
Mid season baskets include zucchini, garlic, yellow squash, cucumbers, carrots, sweet onions, beans, corn, potatoes, herbs, flowers and more...
Late season baskets include salad greens, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, leeks, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, broccoli, kale, spinach, pumpkins, turnips and more…
All produce, freshly picked, will be delivered to Windy Acres Farm Shop every Saturday by 3:00pm.
So if you are a customer of Windy Acres Farm Shop and are interested in participating with us in the Beaverdam Creek CSA please contact us as soon as possible to reserve a basket with your family's name on it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Soaked Grain Pancakes

Pancake breakfasts are a solid staple in our home and have been for years. I think that of all the meals I love to share, breakfast is the fast winner. I just love to invite people over for breakfast. I will squeeze fresh orange juice, make toast from homemade bread, roast a great blend of coffee beans, make pancakes, homemade veal sausage and fried eggs fresh from the henhouse and we will sit in the garden and talk for hours.

Ever since we gave up boxed cereals breakfasts have fascinated me. What a difference between tearing open a cardboard box and pouring hard, lifeless flakes into a bowl and getting the family together to make a wholesome, delicious breakfast together. In our house, Brayden was always the orange juice squeezer and Rhayna learned to get the pancakes ready at the age of 8.

Most people believe that a made from scratch breakfast is impossible on the weekends let alone every day of the week. Thanks to Sue Gregg, this is no longer the case, even in our frenzied world.

Sue discovered the secret to soaking grains in the blender many, many years ago. I remember purchasing her extensive collection of cookbooks over 15 years ago but at that time she, along with many others, were promoting the use of soy, fructose and a few other unhealthy foods. Then one year at a homeschool convention in Indianapolis Sue's husband approached me and we struck up a conversation. He proceeded to tell me a tale of a woman who wrote cookbooks for 25 years and then read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and it turned her cooking on its head. "After 25 years and finally thinking we were finished writing cookbooks, she wants to start all over and switch the recipes to fall in line with Weston A. Price's recommendations."

This conversation caused me to take another look at Sue's work and indeed she was on a new road. Her work with soaking grains is the best anywhere. She is truly an innovator and her website is full of wonderful lessons in cooking with whole grains.

Make sure you try the pancakes!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Shear Surprise

Last Tuesday a surprise call at 6:00 am changed my plans for the rest of the week. A shepherdess friend was on the other end of the line with an unusual question, "How would you like your sheep sheared today?" Her shearer had made the trek down from Missouri but her sheep were wet from rain and snow so the shearer was sitting around with nothing to do (waiting for wet sheep to get dry is like watching paint dry!). A quick glance outside assured me that the precipitation had not yet reached my sheep so all I needed was a truck, a trailer, some hired help, a barn to shear in and some co-operative sheep! Most days those things don't align at once, but on Tuesday they did!

Thanks to Brayden, Rhayna, Sam, Dennis, Alfred, Jose and Molly (our sheep herding border collie) everything fell into place.

The girls waited patiently in line for a new 'do. We sheared 39 sheep for almost 6 hours, but the results were well worth the hard work. Despite the burrs in some fleeces from dog attacks and neighborhood roaming, we were able to save 20 of the fleeces and have great hopes for even better numbers in the fall.
Don't laugh! They will look beautiful again in a week!
Since they don't have mirrors, the sheep just know they can scratch their backs again!
Now the real work begins. We will go through each fleece to pick out burrs and other unpleasant things, then wash the fleeces. Once they are sparkling clean we will card and spin the fleeces to make them available for sale as roving (wool for spinning), yarn, and knitted garments. Each skein has a picture attached of the sheep responsible for the wool so you can put a face with a fleece!

Over all the years of farming, I have learned that I am merely the helper. Just as I help my chickens get their eggs in the cartons and my cows get their milk in the jugs, I help my sheep get their wool to you, their friends and fans!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Soaking Grains

Here is a cereal I could eat everyday. It is quick, nutritious, filling and a very healthy alternative to boxed cereals. I first tried this super granola in Italy and then feasted on it again in Switzerland and I have been hooked ever since.

It is always so interesting to me when I learn a concept, such as that all grains should be soaked to remove phytic acid before eating, then I open a German cookbook and viola! a cereal that is soaked. The concept behind this healthy breakfast is best described by Sally Fallon in her wonderful cookbook/ traditional eating encyclopedia Nourishing Traditions:
Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, clocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, Pg 25
I learned about the benefit of soaking grains when I began to develop symptoms of diabetes, which runs in my family. I realized that each time I ate grain, even my own milled grains, I steadily began to feel sluggish and tired. I finally came to the point when after eating grains I needed to lie down and rest. After a bit of research I found that certain people (especially those predisposed to diabetes) can be affected by the insulin inhibitors that are released from the pancreas after eating grains. Once I began to soak my grains the symptoms went away.

Wonderful Soaked Grain Breakfast Cereal

1 2/3 cup Windy Acres Farm Shop Muesli Mix (try some from the Farm Shop!)


1 2/3 cup your choice of grains

2-4 apples
2 tb buckwheat
2 tb sesame seeds
2 tb sunflower seeds
4 tb raw honey or maple syrup
2 ts vanilla
2 ts cinnamon
2 tb raisins or dried cranberries
Seasonal fruit

Grind the grains and oats coursely the night before and the barley and barely cover with water (and two tablespoons cultured dairy product or whey if available). Leave overnight.

The next morning grate the apples and but the fruit into small pieces and mix with the grain mixture. Lightly toast the buckwheat and sesame seeds and sunflower seeds and mix into grains. Season with honey or maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla. Pour cream or milk over cereal and garnish with raisins and nuts.

Serves 6

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Chores - Pruning

Before the month of March is over I plan to get all of my pruning finished. February is usually just too darn cold to get out with my pruners and my handy dandy folding saw so I have made a deal with myself that I can feel good about: March is pruning month. Once we see the longer warmer days of April the trees and shrubs have started to send out new shoots and the sap begins to flow making it harder to heal the cuts.

Before you head out to your unsuspecting trees and shrubs armed with saws and pruners you need to know what you are pruning and when it flowers to understand how it responds to pruning. The reason we go to all the trouble of pruning is to keep our trees and shrubs healthy by removing dead and diseased limbs, opening the plant for better circulation or just plain old shaping to keep it looking great.

Hardwood trees and shrubs without flowers: if you prune these trees and shrubs while they are dormant it is easier to see the main structure and it makes it easier to see how the tree wants to be pruned. Usually, the best time to prune in this case is during the late fall through early spring since leaving wounds here can cause severe problems with insects that are actually attracted to the scent put out by these trees and shrubs.

Trees and shrubs that flower in early spring (redbud, dogwood, etc.) should be pruned immediately after flowering (flower buds arise the year before they flush, and will form on the new growth). I learned the hard way that lilacs need to be pruned right after they flower to give the plant time to rest otherwise they put all of their energy into the seeds and you will have no flowers the following year.

Here are some examples of trees and shrubs to prune in late spring/summer, after they bloom:
  • Azalea
  • Bridal Wreath Spirea
  • Forsythia
  • Hydrangea
  • Magnolia
  • Mockorange
  • Rhododendron
  • Weigela
Trees and shrubs that flower in the summer or fall always should be pruned during the dormant season (flower buds will form on new twigs during the next growing season, and the flowers will flush normally).

Here are some examples of trees and shrubs to prune in the dormant periods between winter and early spring:
  • Bradford Pear
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Flowering Plum
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hydrangea
  • Redbud
  • Spirea
  • Wisteria
Prune dead branches any time of the year. This ensures safety year round. I take out a bucket with chlorine and water to dip my pruners between cuts on anything that looks diseased. I don’t want o spread anything nasty. In order to keep disease to a minimum in the tree or shrub I take out any branches that are crossed or toughing. Just cut these back to a bud that is facing outward. Once that is done I can look at the tree objectively and see what else it needs. I never take out more than 1/3 of a plant at a time so as not to put undue stress on it.

So, take a look at what you have in the yard and start to make a pruning guide for the yard. Document the type of plant and how it should be treated. Mark the dates on a planting calendar so that you can start to make your own garden guide. It really helps to keep it all in one notebook.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reduce Breast Cancer Risk With Grass-Fed Meat and Milk

A little over 10 years ago while traveling in Europe I came across a study that found that women who consumed 100% grass fed animal products could lower their chance of developing breast cancer by 74%.

Why do 100% grass fed animal products protect women from breast cancer? Grass fed meat, milk and eggs contain a much higher concentration of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) than do products from grain fed animals. Studies show that CLA offers many health benefits, including reducing the risk of breast cancer and tumor reduction. You can read more about the benefits of CLA from Eat Wild, The Townsend Letter, and The California Breast Cancer Research Project.

Reading the European study a decade ago changed the way I farmed and made me a purist when it comes to grass versus grain for my animals. For me, this means no grain fed to ruminants at all: not to get them to love me, not to get them to come into the barn or to stand still while milking or any of the other excuses I have heard for feeding grain. None of these reasons seem very important when I weigh them against the faces of friends who suffer with cancer, or women I know who have predispositions toward breast cancer. How can I imagine feeding grain if there is even the slightest possibility that my food could help them to avoid this horrible disease? Even the slightest chance is worth not having a little more milk to sell or an animal that goes to the butcher a few months sooner. The possibility is just too great to cut any corners here.

So please, if you purchase meat or milk from a farmer that you can actually speak with, ask them to stop feeding grain and let them know that you are willing to pay more to help them with the extra expenses. And if you don't buy milk or meat from someone you can persuade to go grass fed - you should.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Keeping a Gardening Journal

I have kept a gardening journal for about 19 years and I believe it is an indispensable tool for the home gardener as much as for the market gardener. I started keeping a journal for my garden the first year I set my foot on a spade in my tiny flower garden on Shelby street in East Nashville. I grew pink primrose, iris, lavender and hostas. I started from seed pink caterberry bells and bells of Ireland. My roses included Charles De Mills, Sarah Van Fleet and plenty of Fairy roses. Once I started to add fruit, in the form of Alpine strawberries I added square foot maps of the garden to remember what was planted where especially when it came to planting over the hundreds of bulbs planted in the fall. When we moved to the farm and began homesteading, gardening became more of a necessity and less of a hobby and my journal never left my gardening bag as I jotted varieties, location, problems, notes and yields. Some suggestions for the kinds of information you may want to include are:
  • planting dates for seeds and plants
  • transplanting dates
  • source and cost for plants and seeds
  • any guarantees and location of bills (if needed)
  • weather particulars such as rainfall, frost dates and results
  • plant characteristics, date of germination, date they emerge in spring, appearance of blooms
  • date of harvest (for vegetables) or cut flowers taken
  • date and type of fertilizer or other chemicals applied, and to which plants
  • observations
  • schematics for garden rotation
  • great color combinations for both veggies and flowers
My journals have been everything from 3 ring binders to beautiful, preprinted garden journals. They don't have to be expensive, just lovely. Try to find something that makes you feel good, something beautiful to keep track of all the beauty that happens by your hand. Be inspired.

Do you keep a garden journal?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A New Baby at Windy Acres Farm

Sunday morning we awoke to a wonderful surprise, a brand new perfect little calf. Although we are always happy to have a new baby on the farm, the thought of more milk is really what we all had in mind as we cheered the good news.

Thankfully Mom was able to have her during a very beautiful weekend when the temperatures were nice and mild.

For all you patient soon-to-be cowshare owners, we will milk Beauty while her calf is still nursing, thereby sharing the milk for about 10-12 days. Once the colostrum period is over we will contact you to come in and start getting your milk from your cow.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Organic Gardening: What would you like to know?

What have you always wanted to know about gardening?

What scares you about organic gardening?

What aspects of building and maintaining a garden confuse you or keep you from getting started?

Have you always wanted to try growing a particular type of crop but weren't sure how to get started?

Please give us your gardening questions in the comments and we'll try to answer them in future posts. Thanks!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tomato Sauce, Fresh from the Freezer

This past summer was crazy. I started a new life in Tennessee, moved my farm, opened a shop while continuing to homeschool and trying hard not to disrupt life for the kiddos as much as possible. Maintaining our normal lifestyle meant I still baked bread, made all of our dairy products, fixed three meals from scratch every day and tried to make a few of those meals somewhat gourmet, among other things.

When life comes at you that fast something has to give and for me it was canning. So, without the least bit of guilt I just packed up the produce from the garden into Ziploc bags and threw them into the freezer without any further ado.

Well, here we are now and things are slowing down a bit and we are getting ready to enter a long fast period with our church which means plenty of pasta and here I am without a can of tomato sauce in the house. Never fear, I thought, the garden is in the freezer! So here is my recipe for a delicious pasta sauce, fresh from the freezer.

This recipe is not for the faint at heart. There is no measuring or timing but this will help you to learn to cook from the hip.
I took several bags of frozen tomatoes, maybe 5 or 6 quarts and a quart of frozen green and red peppers. As you can tell from the photo I grew and froze several different types of tomatoes which gives the sauce a very rich flavor. To this mixture I added two very large onions, chopped, along with 1 head of garlic, minced, one bottle of wine (Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck), oregano, basil and thyme, and a good amount of Celtic Sea Salt.

I let this thaw slightly and put it on the stove for several hours to cook down. Keep tasting the sauce and adjust spices as needed. Trust yourself. Once you are happy with the results use a hand blender to mix it all up and blend in the skins. Once smooth, eat, can or freeze.

Voila! Thanks to the freezer you can eat fresh from the garden all year 'round.