Week 5- Summer Squash!~!

I do believe we will be the first in the area with summer squash, and I’m really excited about it!   I remember Mother’s Day this year covering our tender plants to protect them from frost.   We still lost a few, but have since replanted those, and the ones that made it are ready to go.   We also have a couple of other things growing up and ready for their trip to your table too.


We also have some beets coming to you, and I have a recipe for you to try using the beet tops too, so don’t throw them out, they are good and good for you.

Beet Greens Recipe

Makes 4 servings

2 bunches of beet tops

1 strip of bacon (optional)

1/4 cup of chopped onions

1 garlic clove minced

3/4 cup of water

1 T granulated sugar

1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes

3 T apple cider vinegar

Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In a large skillet or 3-qt saucepan, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat (or heat 1 Tbsp of bacon fat). Add onions, cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occassionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and red pepper. Bring mixture to a boil.

Add the beet greens, gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until the greens are tender. Stir in vinegar. (For kale or collard greens continue cooking additional 20 to 25 minutes or until desired tenderness.)

Beets Infused with Garlic and Olive Oil

4-6 medium beets, scrubbed clean, then covered with water and boiled on a stovetop or zapped in a microwave until a fork stuck in the middle slides in effortlessly. (I don’t skin my beets). Slice the beets thinly and cut each slice into quarters, then eighths.

In a small bowl, mix together:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed, preferably with a garlic press, or minced really fine.

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

Pour the oil-garlic-lemon mixture over the beets and toss well.

Set aside for about half an hour for the flavors to infuse. Serve at room temperature.

Squash and Onions with Brown Sugar
serves 2

1 large yellow squash (or 2 medium)
2 small onions (or one medium)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

Slice the squash into 1/2-inch rounds, cutting large ones in half. You should end up with roughly 2 cups of cut squash. Cut the onions into similar-sized slices.

Add the butter to a wide sauce pan that has a lid and heat over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add squash, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Stir, then cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until squash is very soft.

Remove the cover and continue to cook for about 8 minutes, just to give the juices a chance to evaporate slightly. There will be some liquid in the pan, but it should be thicker than water, almost like a glaze. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve immediately.

Here’s the line up for this week’s CSA shares-

1.   Peas- lots more than last week:)

2.   Beets

3.   Onions

4.   Radishes

5.    Salad blend lettuce

6.   Zucchini

7.   Mustard Greens

8.   Kale


Organic Certification Application

ARRRGH!!!   How am I to be a farmer and write down everything that’s in my head about it too?   I have been spending my late nights filling out the PA Certified Oraganic application, which is very thorough, indeed.

Save my seed packets for three years…really?   Well, I hope receipts will do, for now, and I need to clear a space for the packets in years to come….Later in question105 I am  asked how long I keep my records, followed by their own answer “minimum five years.”   So should I still answer it?

How do I measure the carbon to nitrogen ratio in my compost?   And is that before it decomposes or after?

Does it really make a difference how I dispose of my garden hoses?  (I usually just keep patching them until they become tree ties!)

My goodness!

I am serious about the certification, serious enough to purchase the application for $75.00 and serious enough to send another $700.00 after I’ve filled it out.   The point is, it is 66 pages, not counting the attachments I am to add which may run into hundreds of pages.   I can see why people aren’t jumping in line to go through with it.

I am confident enough in our farm’s management practices to go through with it.   We have been working hard to do the right things concerning stewardship of the land.   It is a lot harder to manage land without the use of “prohibited materials.”   And we have been working hard to stay within the confines of restricted materials too, manure included.   Since we have been doing the right things, I believe we have earned the title organic.   The process is daunting and expensive, though.   And I’m not sure if I’m willing to spend the additional $660.00 for my five dairy goats and another yet additional $660.00 for our four pigs and 130 chickens, oh and those figures are annual contributions.   That just doesn’t make sense, so again the small family farm can be outnumbered literally.   I’m not even sure I can get certified without spending all of the application fees for each “division” of the farm.   I’m still going to try.   It’s going to be another long night.

I love my vet!

Finding a livestock vet can be grueling especially if you have small animals, and only a few.   Right now we have five milking nannies, one buck, 1 yearling doe, 8 kids, four ewes and 6 lambs, four pigs, and about 130 chickens of various ages and breeds.   This list could be why so many vets have said, I can’t help you.   Is it too diverse?   Should we need to have 100 head of cattle to make your trip worth while?   How about if we just raised chickens, or pigs, or goats or sheep?   Maybe I can find an egg laying dog and just make the whole thing much easier!

Dr. Michelle Anderson is a diamond in the ruff, and a Godsend to us.   We have a standing yearly appointment with her to make sure that all of our animals are happy and healthy.   We are also coached by her along the way to make sure that we are doing all of the right things to keep it that way.   Dr. Anderson has taught me so much about livestock health.   She has instructed me on giving tetnus shots, the life cycle of a parasite, nutritional requirements and infection prevention.   She also has shown me how to castrate and dehorn in the safest, mildest way, train my goats how to not kick me while I’m milking them, and handle my sheep so they respond to guidance.

Dr. Anderson is also working with us on our raw milk certification for the goats and sheep.   A vet that does all of this for their clients is PRICELESS!!!!   And even though her value is far beyond what I could ever afford, she still only charges  a very minimal fee for her work.   Infact, she will tell us if there are state programs to cover the costs of testing for milk permits, just to save us a little money.

My animals are very healthy, but I know that if I had any other vet, that wouldn’t be the case.   Dr. Anderson is in every way a teacher of good things for the farmer and the animals.   When looking for a vet, consider this post.   Remember to ask your vet if there are things that you can improve on.   It is horrible to have an emergency with pets and animals.   If you are armed with a good animal first aid kit, and the right knowledge, you may only need an annual well check too!



Chickens in the Barnyard, Chickens in the Trees

Some of my favorite bloggers are posting quite a bit about predators harming their chickens.   I am familiar with this malady, as it took us six years to keep a clutch of chickens from harm’s way.

The barn hosted another entirely different set of circumstances, which we did not know about until our first clutch of chickens were nearly mature.    We didn’t know about these predators because they were primarily of the nocturnal species of wildlife that you only read about, never really seeing them too much.   These included opossums, raccoons, bats, coyote, rats and weasels.   Five of the six listed here are threats to chickens.   And these critters had at a feast every year for six years, despite my attempts at trying to fool, cage proof, catch and remove them.

One year, I even tried keeping our chicks in a pigeon coop on the second story of our tractor shed.   I climbed a ladder everyday, making several trips with water, feed and poultry litter.   This was done in vain, because it was one hot July morning that I climbed that ladder only to find lots of dead chickens.   Apparently a few raccoons figured out how to get into the top of the tractor shed and wasted the entire group of them.   It was horribly sad, and a real mess to deal with.

That was the last of the chicken massacres via wildlife predators.   That was also after we moved larger livestock into the barn, and decided to feed our chickens near the bigger animals.   These bigger animals were our goats.   We spent a considerable amount of time catching and removing the wild animals from the barn, and we moved and cleaned up many habitats they were apparently residing.

We acquired some adult Araucana hens and roosters.   We let them free range.   They took roost in trees, high barn lofts and along the stalls of the goats.   Araucana Americana or Easter egg chickens are not the same, but very similar.    Ours are probably not pure breed, that doesn’t matter to me because they are alive and thriving.   They have survival instincts far surpassing many other domestic varieties.    They can jump and fly rather well.   They can run fast.   The hens make great mothers.   They do not, however lay many eggs in the winter, I have addressed this by introducing other domestic breeds slowly and a little at a time.   I trade fertile eggs with other farmers and allow our hens to hatch them, and our hens protect their peeps fiercely.

The first winter we had our Araucana chickens, a peacock showed up and roosted with the chickens.   This was not only very strange, but entertaining and a fine conversation piece.   He came in with a bunch of wild turkeys in the hay fields.   I spotted him in the fields a few times wondering “What in the world is that?”   About two weeks after my first sighting of him, he decided to live with us for the winter.   He roosted in the trees too, and ate with the chickens, squawked when someone came to our house, and strutted his stuff for the hens.   When spring returned, so did the turkeys, and our peacock guest left the same way he came, with the turkeys.

I learned some valuable lessons through this experience.

If you can’t beat wildlife,  join it and try a wilder breed of stock to begin with.

Having our chickens in a cage or pen only kept our chickens confined to make it easy for predators to catch.   Once the predators know they can eat, they will return and find a way to their next meal.

Having diversity throughout the operation can serve many purposes, like having larger animals close by as a deterrent to predators.   Our first goats here had their horns.   I don’t  recommend horned goats, and prefer dis-budded goats, but they were able to defend themselves for the first few years and no major injuries occurred to the goats.

These Color Range peeps are a heritage breed chicken that we received on Friday.

Adding To The Mix

We got our piglets today from one of our neighboring farms.   The farm we got them from just raises hogs for slaughter. The farm is interesting, mysterious and curious to say the least.   We have never actually been inside the barn they came from, the farmer doesn’t allow visitors in.   I do know that it is really dark, I know this from trying to peak inside during the very short period of time the door is open.   There are no windows in the barn, and it is kept at 70 degrees all year-long.   The farmer raises and mixes his own feed, and I have bought grains from his field before.   The piglets I get from him are always healthy and docile, albeit very anxious when they first arrive in our bright world.

We raise a few hogs every year for a multitude of purposes.   All of the animals we raise here have many purposes.   Our piglets help keep our milk fresh.   When milk has gone beyond the point of using, we give it to the piglets.   Waste not want not.   They grow fast on sheep and goat’s milk, and when they are big enough, and it is warm enough, they move to their forever home, at least for the rest of the season.

The hogs on our farm work our compost.   Our compost is totally vegetarian, and so are our pigs.   As the gardens get cleaned of leftover broccoli plants, bolted lettuce, misplaced lamb’s quarter and other wonderful edibles, we feed them to the compost pile which is where our hogs live.  We also give them kitchen scraps and whey after making cheese.  Their home at this time of the season consists of an old concrete silage shoot that hold 287 cubic yards of debris.   We have never had it at full capacity, but I’d like to one day.   The hogs eat what they want, and more importantly, they are constantly working the compost heap with their snouts.   They also add vital manure to the mix.   In the heat of the summer, the pigs stay under a shade tent that Rob made for them over the silage shoot.   During hot afternoons, Rob or I will go and spray them with water.   They love it, it’s kind of like watching my boys on a slip and slide.   This spraying not only cools the hogs down, but it adds moisture to the compost, further helping it to breakdown.

When the weather cools, usually late October, our hogs make the ultimate sacrifice.   They are around 250 lbs by then, and eating much more voraciously than we can accommodate.   We humanly slaughter, with a 22 to the head and process the hogs here on the farm.   Ending lives is always the hardest thing to do, but if we are to eat meat, this is the only way we will do it.   It is sustainable to us.

I don’t feel guilty about our hogs, I feel that the lives they have here are far better than a fate of staying in that dark, densely populated barn, with no one to play with them.   I do get attached to them, sometimes that is hard.

Welcome Home!

A Little Help Here?

This is peanut’s biggest boy.   He was born on Feburary 6, 2012.   He was the last one of three born, and the first one to eat by himself with no help.   We will probably keep him and train him for cart pulling, so his name is really important because he will live with it the rest of his life.   Any ideas?

Call me anything but late for supper!