Dishwasher Soap

I try to be as self sufficient as possible but there are certain things that I just don't do. I don't make my own toilet paper or paper towels and I don't use any "old fashioned alternatives" for those products. After all, we need a few luxuries in life, right?

I do make my own soap but I am not religious about doing so. Although, I would like to get in the routine and even begin making some to sell as the cow's milk soap does wonderful things to soften my skin.

Running short and not wanting to go to the store to get dishwasher soap a couple of weeks ago when I ran out, I grabbed some baking soda and some vinegar and ran a load of dishes. I was very happy with how they turned out, so I tried it again. After using this method several times, I researched "homemade dishwasher soap" on the internet and found several "recipes" that said to use Borax and Baking Soda in equal parts. So, the next time I went to the store instead of buying dishwasher soap, I bought the Borax and Baking Soda and mixed them in a little plastic container in equal amounts. I have found this to work very well. When I have especially dirty dishes or glass jars that have a lot of grease on them from butter fat, I sometimes put a little vinegar in the dishwasher as well as a pre-rinse to cut the grease. I'm not sure I will ever go back to using commercial dishwasher soap again.

*** Modified to include: Thanks to one of the observant readers of this post, it was brought to my attention that I did not specify how much of this powder to use per load. I am using 2 Tablespoons per washing.*****************

You guessed it.....More pictures


Zucchini Fingers

Here is a simple recipe for some sinfully delicious fried food! ;-)

Zucchini Fingers

Mix equal amounts of Italian Bread Crumbs & Parmesan Cheese
Peel and cut zucchini into wedges
Roll Zucchini in an egg that has been slightly beaten
Roll Zucchini in Bread crumb/Parmesan mixture
Freeze for at least an hour before frying
Fry in hot oil (I used coconut oil) until brown on both sides.
Salt and Pepper to taste

If you want to enhance your Zucchini finger experience even further, dip them in this Buttermilk Ranch dressing.



Just Pictures~Just Because

Ice Cream Update

As you know I got a new Cuisinart Ice cream maker and I have been making different flavors of ice cream every two to three days. What can I say? We love ice cream in the summer and we have plenty of creamy Jersey milk! It's just the perfect treat at the end of a long hot day.

Everything was going well with my new machine until the days started getting hotter and my kitchen began to maintain temperatures of 85 degrees or more in the summer heat. (We don't have air.) It was then I found that the bowl thawed too quickly and the ice cream was more like soup than being the texture it should be. Running the machine longer didn't help, of course, because the bowl continued to thaw the longer it ran.

I had several folks make suggestions and the one that finally seems to work is putting a towel over the machine as it churns. This seems to keep the cold in enough that the ice cream maker can make a decently chilled ice cream with a good texture.

Mike came home from the hay field the other day with enough wild raspberries to make a batch of ice cream! Boy was it yummy! We have had vanilla, pineapple, banana, peach, strawberry, chocolate, peanut butter, and mixed berry but the very best we have had so far was that wild raspberry!

Mike found a black cherry tree yesterday so guess what the flavor of the day is?

Seven Things You Need To Know About Buying Meat From A Farmer

Buying Meat Directly From a Farmer: 7 Things You Need to Know

6/18/2010 10:15:53 AM

by S.M.R. Saia

Like most things that I’ve done around here over the course of the past few years, I started buying meat directly from a local farmer in idealistic and almost utter ignorance.

I mean, it’s not exactly like I went out looking for someone to sell me half a hog.

As a matter of fact, when I first started looking into buying local food, meat wasn’t even on my radar screen. Like most people, when I thought of “local food” I thought of CSAs and farmer’s markets, which to my limited understanding meant produce, plain and simple. But when I started participating in a local area food group in Southern Maryland, there was much more than produce on the menu. There were eggs. There were broilers. And then one day there was this:

“For one more week, I am taking orders for meat from half or whole hogs for fall delivery.”

Hello! What’s this? Are you telling me that I can buy a hog?

Of course I had a ton of questions. Starting with, why on earth would I want to buy a hog?

Well, for me it was all about the quality of the meat.

It’s only recently that I’ve become aware of the shortcomings of even organic and “naturally-raised” grocery store eggs and meat, and it wasn’t until I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma that the penny dropped. In Pollan’s tongue-twisting words – we are what what we eat eats. And just because our beef was raised “without the use of antibiotics or artificial growth hormones” or has been certified “organic” doesn’t mean that it wasn’t standing in a feedlot up to its ankles in its own manure, eating food that cows were never meant to eat and that makes them sick, which is why they get fed all those antibiotics in the first place.

It’s enough to make a person lose her appetite.

But as I said, all of this had not yet arrived in my sphere of notice when I decided to throw caution to the wind and order half a hog. The question I asked was “is it organic,” not “what is the farmer feeding it.” So with approximately 80 pounds of meat coming my way, I really lucked out to find a few months later that my Tamworth hog was being fattened on foraged acorns, an image that calls to mind the feral hog that Pollan shot for his “perfect meal.”

Here’s seven other things that I learned:

1. You’ll get your meat on Nature’s timeline. Not yours.

First off, when you order a whole or a half (or in the case of a cow, a quarter) of an animal, you are entering the Rubicon of fickle nature. Temporal exactitudes are impossible. The hog will be butchered when it reaches approximately 250 pounds; when that is depends on a number of factors, and in our case the biggest factor of all turned out to be the weather. The hogs had a large field to themselves and spent much of their time foraging for acorns underneath a small grove of trees, a task that was made much more difficult by our unusually wet fall. Week after week of rain and several feet of snow apparently made the acorns – and so the desired butchering weight – harder to come by. When I originally placed the order, delivery of the meat was scheduled for sometime in November. It was March before I actually brought anything home.

2. You and the farmer are not the only players.

Fact number two is that you and the farmer (and the hog) are not the only players involved here. In Maryland it’s illegal for the farmer to butcher the hog himself on his property, so they are taken somewhere else for slaughter. But not to the butcher. It turns out that the butcher, who keeps a shop five minutes up the road from me, doesn’t do the slaughtering. What he does is turn the freshly killed animal into various cuts of meat – the chops, the tenderloin, the ribs, etc. He can also smoke the bacon and make the sausage.

3. Some of your meat may require further processing.

We tend to think of “processing” as an ugly word, but the truth is that there are also ways to “process” food which are age-old and natural. For instance, the cut of meat that becomes a ham does not spring off the hog as a ham. It needs to be cured and smoked. The cut of meat that is sliced for bacon is not exactly bacon as we know it until it, too, is cured and smoked. The part of the hog that will become sausage requires grinding, seasoning, stuffing and/or shaping. Chops don’t come off the pig ready to grill. They need to be cut from the loin, and you’ll probably get to specify how thickly you want them cut, and how many of them you want packaged together. All of these things add to the timeline and affect when you will get your meat, and you have to understand what these processes are in order to have a conversation with the farmer and/or the butcher about them.

Which leads into the next thing you need to know.

4. The price of your meat per pound may not reflect the entire final cost.

Meat is usually sold at a certain price per pound. Ask questions to make sure that that price per pound is not just what the farmer is expecting for raising and selling the meat. The slaughtering, the butchering and the processing must also be paid for. Is this part of the farmer’s cost of doing business, figured into the price per pound, as it is when you buy meat packaged and ready to go at the grocery store? Or are you expected to pay these costs in addition to the price per pound that you’re paying the farmer? And who do you pay them to? And when? You need to ask these questions.

5. Half an animal means – well – half an animal.

By which I mean to say that I was offered half the head. I graciously declined.

But I did receive two hocks and two hooves. What does a person do with a hog hoof? Apparently use it to flavor beans and soups. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m sure that at some point I will, though seeing that hoof bobbing about in my cooking pot may make me feel like I’m in a cartoon…

6. Smoked/cured hams are “cooked” and ready to eat.

When I decided to prepare my “picnic” ham I’ll be honest with you, I had no idea what to do with it. So I threw it in the crock pot. I rubbed it with honey and molasses and Dijon mustard, covered it with water and cooked it until it fell apart like pulled pork. It was pretty doggone good. When I told the farmer this he looked at me in amazement. At first I thought he was impressed with my recipe. Then I realized that it wasn’t my recipe that had dazzled him, it was my stupidity. The picnic ham is already cooked, he told me. "You just have to soak it for two hours." Come to think of it, my pulled pork was quite – um – salty.

If the farmer gives you something that you don’t know how to prepare, don’t fake it. Ask him!

7. Buying meat directly from a farmer is totally and completely worth it.

I may not have gotten my meat when I expected to get it, and it may have ended up costing me a little more than I had thought, but my whole meat-buying experience has been completely satisfying and fantastic. I have great peace of mind about what we are eating. I have ordered a quarter cow for fall delivery, and whenever I head out to the farm to pick something up I can see these longhorn beauties grazing in the field. And I should add that every time I go out there they’re in a different field, so I know that the farmer is employing rotational grazing.

And my goodness, the chickens! The other day we ate a chicken that was fresh, and I mean slaughtered-the-same-day-we-ate-it fresh. It was amazing. These moist, meaty chickens have ruined me for store bought chickens.


Paradoxically, individual self-sufficiency inherently involves community. We’re participating in community when we buy food at our local chain grocery store too; we just don’t see that community, and we may not always share its values. Profit as a motivation is not always compatible with optimum human health. Buying a whole or a half animal directly from a farmer that shares your food values puts you in touch with your local community. It’s also a sound alternative to industrially produced food. You’ll know where your meat came from, how it was raised, who raised it, and what it ate. You can probably even visit the farm while it’s being raised and see all of these things for yourself. Also, there’s a real good chance that the particular kind of animal that you’re buying isn’t the only thing available to you from that farm. You may find that you can meet all of your meat and egg needs – and maybe even get some produce – from a single point of contact. For instance, the farm I go to raises hogs, goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, Guinea fowl, chickens (for meat and eggs) and turkeys, and beginning this spring, the longhorn cows.

If you’re interested in buying meat directly from a farmer and you live anywhere near the D.C. metropolitan area, by all means check out the It’s Only Natural Farm website, where you can see what’s available, put down a deposit on an animal, and even order (cut meats and eggs) online for pickup. If you live anywhere else, you can start your search for a local farm at eatwild.com, which claims to be “the most comprehensive source for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada.”


Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Buttermilk Ranch:

1 cup buttermilk or clabber
3 cups mayo
3-4 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon minced dried onion (or grated fresh onion to taste)
1 rounded tablespoon of minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Run through food processor, blender or mixer. Allow to chill for at least two hours before using.

Variation: Use chives in place of the parsley and onion.


A Newborn

Mike and I went "on the hill" late this morning to check on the cattle.
When we took a litte ride up there Sunday we noticed that four cows were close to calving and Mike wanted to check on them. We found three of them right off, hanging with the rest of the herd. Then we went to the opposite side of the field and sure enough there was one of the cows we had noticed on Sunday. You could tell instantly by her body language that she had hidden a calf somewhere and did not want us to find it. We had to look a bit, but find it we did! It was a nice little bull calf that we promptly vaccinated, banded and tagged. Momma was none to happy about that and actually was pretty threatening at times coming within just a few feet of us, shaking her head and pawing the ground. It's always fun trying to assist with a banding while trying to keep an eye out on an angry momma cow that is getting in your face! We managed to complete the task without incident and Momma cow was quite happy to see us leave!


The Great Pig Escape

Yes, it happened.

Six hungry, crazy, wild and fast little pigs escaped their pen today. They had obviously been out for a while before I noticed. How I could have missed it? The chickens were squawking, the cows were bawling, the geese were hissing, the younger heifers were running around kicking up their heals, the dogs were not sure which pigs to chase but were doing their darndest. There were pigs everywhere I looked! You would think that at least two of them would stick together, but NO, they each one had to run squealing in a different direction. Chaos does not even begin to describe the scene as I went out for the evening chores.

A quick glance at the fence told me that one of them had pushed the post of the electric fence away from the gate post, and all the other little piggies had followed out single file. Once they had their freedom they were not going back!

Thinking quickly about what to do, I grabbed a bucket of clabbered milk and yelled "Pig, pig, pig, pig!!!!"

Nothing but bedlam.

So, I tried again, "Here little piggies!"

Nothing but chaos.

Again I tried, "Come on piggies! Pig, pig, pig, pig."

Still nothing but mayhem.

Then I got the bright idea of finding one little piggy and showing them the bucket. I figured since I wasn't very good in the language of pigs yet, I would "speak" to one of them by "sign" and then let him tell the others.

It worked. One little piggy saw the bucket and started yelling to all the others.

"Hey, Mom's got food!"

In nothing flat I had six little piggies right on my heels.


They were all gathered around my legs and I was running down the hill leading them with a big 'ole bucket of clabbered milk in my hands. There was still chaos all around me as the cows kicked, the dogs barked, the chickens squawked, the geese hissed and the goats looked on wide-eyed from the safety of their separate pasture.

I could feel cold snouts on my legs as I ran down the hill. Spencer who was suppose to be "helping" herd the pigs somehow ended up in front of this parade and turned around with a look of surprise when he realized if he didn't move it, he was going to be trampled by six pigs and a crazy woman yelling "Pig, pig, pig, pig" and carrying a big bucket of clabbered milk.

Somehow, I managed to get the gate open and all six pigs followed me in. I quick shut the gate, turned the electricity off, fixed the fence, and got the electricity back on while the pigs were eating their clabbered milk.

Something makes me think if I had somehow been able to video tape the whole adventure, I surely would have won a prize! Since I didn't get a movie of all the excitment, these pictures taken with my cell phone after the pigs were once again contained will have to do!

Cabbage and Cauliflower

Today I made a small batch of sauerkraut with the two heads of cabbage and tonight we will have the cauliflower with sauce for supper.

Why Your Organic Store Bought Eggs Might Not Be The Best Choice

Why You Don't Want to Buy Organic Eggs at the Grocery Store

By Dr. Mercola | June 08 2010

Eggs are one of the most beneficial foods you can eat, and it's a shame they've been vilified for so long in the United States. In the U. S., roughly 280 million birds give us about 75 billion eggs per year, which is about 10 percent of the world supply.

But not all eggs are created equal.

Eggs from truly organic, free-range chickens are FAR less likely to contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, and their nutrient content is also much higher than commercially raised eggs.

The dramatically superior nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens.

If you are eating organically, then you have learned how important the diet and care of an animal is to the quality of its meat, and in this case, their eggs. But have you ever thought about what happens to these eggs AFTER they are collected?

You would think that organic eggs would be your best choice when picking them up at the grocery store. However, most states have laws that make them illegal unless all the eggs that are sold commercially are processed in a way that could damage them.

Some states require that all eggs receive a chlorine bath and mineral oil coating before they are nestled into their cartons.

There are vast differences in how eggs are processed and handled, even under the "certified organic" label.

As it turns out, what happens outside the shell is as important as what happens inside the shell, and that is the focus of this report.

Your Egg's Journey from Hen to Market
Ideally, eggs should be processed the day after they are laid. The USDA requires processing within 30 days of lay. High quality eggs are processed within seven days of lay.

Egg processing involves the following six steps:

1.Egg collecting
4.Candling (a measure for assessing the interior quality of the eggs whereby eggs are held up in front of a high-intensity light and visually examined; among other problems, cracks can be identified that necessitate disposal of the egg)
It is the cleaning process that you as a consumer should be aware of, because in this step, chemicals and contaminants may be introduced that compromise your eggs' quality.

Why Eggshells are Like Your Skin
Did you know that, like your skin, eggshells are actually a porous membrane rather than an impermeable barrier?

An eggshell contains approximately 7,500 pores or openings. The outer surface is covered with a waxy cuticle (called the bloom when on a chicken egg), sealing the egg and helping prevent bacteria from entering.

Gases are transferred and moisture is lost through these pores.

When moisture is lost, carbon dioxide is also lost, speeding up the breakdown of the egg.[i] Loss of carbon dioxide causes the egg's pH to increase, which results in thinning of the albumen.

Why is this important?

Because commercial processing regularly destroys this protective cuticle.

As it turns out, it is standard industry practice to wash chicken eggs. Depending on the method of washing, the cuticle can be easily damaged, which leaves your eggs vulnerable to contamination and faster spoilage. The egg industry knows this, so to replace what Mother Nature put there for good reason, they must coat the egg with something—often mineral oil. It's akin to adding preservatives to processed foods.

Not only is mineral oil a non-natural agent, but it's a petroleum product that was never intended for you to eat.

Some egg producers use vegetable oil as a more natural alternative.

If you are a culinary talent, you might be surprised to hear that using eggs whose shells were oiled will prevent those "stiff peaks" from happening, because some percentage of the oil seeps into the egg white.

Not all eggs undergo oiling, but many larger producers do, particularly if they are preparing their eggs for long-distance shipment and/or storage.

According to the "incredible edible egg[ii]" website, about 10 percent of all eggs are oiled. I could find no statistic about what percentage of eggs are cleaned in a way that their cuticle has been wiped out, but I suspect it is much higher than 10 percent.

Like your skin, what's put ON your egg goes INTO your egg. Meaning, whatever the eggshell comes into contact with can cross over this semi-permeable membrane and end up in your scrambled eggs, from chlorine to mineral oil to dish soap -- to salmonella.

Your Organic Eggs May Be Chlorinated or Rinsed in Lye
According to A Guide to On-Farm Processing for Organic Producers: Table Eggs[iii], detergents and other chemicals used for "wet cleaning" eggs must either be non-synthetic or among the allowed synthetics on the National List of allowed non-agricultural substances (205.603 of the National Organic Standard).

These synthetics include:

•Chlorine (sodium hypochlorate)
•Potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide (lye)
•Sodium carbonate
•Hydrogen peroxide
•Peracetic acid (peroxyacetic acid) -- a mixture of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide
These agents serve mostly as sanitizers, rather than washing agents.

If chlorine is used at levels over 4 ppm, it must be followed with a clean water rinse at no more than 4 ppm residual levels. Chlorine itself is relatively benign and breaks down to chloride in your body -- which is not much different from the chloride ion in table salt.

However, chlorine can interact with organic materials to form highly toxic compounds called DBPs (Disinfection Byproducts), which can be carcinogenic and mutagenic. And eggs are an "organic material," which bears the question of what chemical interactions are occurring in a chlorinated egg that have yet to be discovered?

Instead of harsh chemicals, the guide cited above4 recommends cleaning eggs with plain vinegar (mixed with 3 parts water) because it is non-synthetic and quite effective at removing both bacteria and stains on the eggshells (which some people find objectionable).

Some farmers report rinsing eggs very quickly in water, just to dislodge any debris, and believe this is adequate. Others use a dry brushing process -- no liquids at all -- just a brush, sandpaper, or a loofah sponge.

This dry brushing technique is highly recommended for small producers.

If eggs are rinsed in water, it is very important that the wash water be about 20 degrees warmer than the eggs, and at least 90 degrees F, but not more than 40 degrees above the eggs' temperature because of the risk of thermal cracking. This proper temperature gradient encourages the contents of the egg to swell and push the dirt out of the pores.

If the water is too cold relative to the egg, the egg can literally "suck in" the washing solution -- along with the bacteria in it. Water exposure should be as brief as possible to minimize the potential for contamination, and the eggs dried immediately.

Mineral oil is not listed in the National List of allowed substances.

I think it is unlikely that an organic farmer would choose to use mineral oil, but the regulations are so variable from state to state, and the national guidelines so nebulous, that there is lots of wiggle room.

Scrambled Federal and State Regulations on Eggs
There are different federal and state regulations for egg farmers, depending on what the eggs are intended for.

Eggs that are going to be used in egg products (i.e., those that will be cracked and emptied) are subjected to one set of regulations, and eggs that are sold as "table eggs" or "shell eggs," which are sold fresh and whole "in the shell," are subject to another set of regulations.

And then there are state regulations, in addition to federal regulations.

In 1970, Congress passed the Egg Products Inspection Act (administered by the USDA) to ensure that eggs and egg products are safe for consumption. This act imposes specific inspection requirements for both shell eggs and egg products for anyone who sells eggs to retailers (grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, etc.).

In 1972, on-site inspections of all shell egg producers became required quarterly. However, any producer with a flock of less than 3,000 birds is EXEMPT from this act.

Every state has its own specific egg laws, which makes it more complicated to figure out what process your eggs have gone through. Although the USDA does not allow immersion washing (allowing eggs to soak in water), most small producers are not subject to those restrictions.

And most state egg laws do not specify washing methods.

For an extensive list of egg regulatory agencies, you can refer to this USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service "fact sheet."

Egg Cleaners and Sanitizers
According to the USDA's publication "Guidance for Shell Egg Cleaners and Sanitizers"[iv]:

"Compounds used to wash and destain shell eggs are potential food additives. Therefore, they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unfortunately, FDA does not have any published regulations dealing with shell egg cleaning and destaining compounds."

Leaves it wide open, doesn't it?

The publication goes on to give some guidelines for egg cleaning chemicals, basically instructing farmers to use substances that are "GRAS" (Generally Recognized as Safe), but these substances are not limited in any way.

Since organic egg producers are interested in producing high-quality eggs, many of them—especially small, local farming operations—have implemented gentle washing methods that don't compromise the cuticle.

Interestingly, in Europe, Grade A eggs are not washed. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service[v]:

"This practice is a result of research done in the early 1900s that indicated washing eggs before storage resulted in unpredictable and sometimes deleterious results. However, the length of wash time, cleanliness and temperature of the water and the proper use of sanitizers varied widely in these studies.

Older egg production books do not recommend washing eggs at all. In the past, it was important to protect the cuticle because refrigeration was not always possible."

To Refrigerate or Not to Refrigerate
Despite what you've heard, eggs that are fresh and have an intact cuticle do not need to be refrigerated, as long as you are going to consume them within a relatively short period of time.

In other countries, including most of Europe, eggs are frequently not refrigerated.

In the U.S., refrigeration of eggs became the cultural norm when mass production caused eggs to travel long distances and sit in storage for weeks to months before arriving at your superstore. The general lack of cleanliness of factory farms has increased the likelihood that your eggs have come into contact with pathogens, amplifying the need for disinfection and refrigeration.

Not only that, but as a culture, we are rather "germ phobic" here in the U.S., compared to other countries.

So, IF your eggs are very fresh, and IF their cuticle is intact, you do not have to refrigerate them. According to Hilary Thesmar, director of the American Egg Board's Egg Safety Center[vi]:

"The bottom line is shelf life. The shelf life for an unrefrigerated egg is 7 to 10 days and for refrigerated, it's 30 to 45 days. A good rule of thumb is one day at room temperature is equal to one week under refrigeration."

Eggs purchased from grocery stores are typically already three weeks old, or older. USDA certified eggs must have a pack date on the carton, and a sell-by date. Realize that the eggs were often laid many days prior to the pack date.

For cracking the egg carton dates code, click here.

For more information about how to maximize the health benefits of your eggs, please review my earlier article.

Hello, Big Farma
About 95 percent of the eggs produced in the U.S. come from gigantic egg factories housing millions of hens under one roof.

According to the American Egg Board:

•Prior to World War II, most egg production came from farm flocks of less than 400 hens. By the early 1960s, technological innovations caused a shift from small farms to huge commercial operations.
•There are currently about 245 egg companies with flocks of 75,000 or more.
•Of these 245 companies, 60 have at least one million laying hens, and 12 have more than 5 million hens.
You can only imagine how difficult -- if not impossible -- it is to keep 5 million hens healthy and happy, under one roof... a clucking nightmare!
This is just another reason you should buy from your local organic farmer.

According to Robert Plamondon's Poultry Pages[vii], the most common sources of dirty eggs are the following:

•Hens who sleep and poop in the nest boxes
•Hens who enter the nests with muddy feet
•Broken eggs (from insufficient nest litter, or too many hens jammed together)
•Traffic (too many hens coming and going in a small area)
It is much easier to produce clean eggs than to clean dirty eggs.

Preventing dirty eggs is best done through better management of the hens and their nesting spaces, which greatly reduces the need for egg cleaning in the first place.

As the guide states, "Disease prevention in organic systems starts with clean birds." Your egg farmer should be paying attention to proper nutrition, clean water, adequate housing space, and good ventilation to reduce stress on the hens and support their immunity.

Crowded conditions in factory farms are a major reason why so many commercial eggs have to be bathed in caustic chemicals in order to be "safe" for you to eat!

How Can You Guarantee Clean, Fresh Eggs?
So, how can you tell if your eggs have been washed in chlorine or lye, or in some other chemical, or coated with mineral oil?

You certainly can't tell by looking at them.

The only way to know if your eggs have been washed or oiled (and using what agents) is to ask the producer -- and the only way to do that is to buy from small local farmers you have direct contact with.

It is important to know where your food comes from. And if you don't ask, they won't tell you.

The key here is to buy your eggs locally. About the only time I purchase eggs from the store is when I am travelling or for some reason I miss my local egg pickup.

But finding high quality organic eggs locally is FAR easier than finding raw milk as virtually every rural area has individuals with chickens. If you live in an urban area visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding the high quality local egg sources.

Farmers markets are another great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you're buying. Better yet, visit the farm -- ask for a tour. If they have nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation.

Remember, clean and happy chickens lead to healthy eggs.

NOTE: Our chickens are truly free range. We make every effort to keep their nesting boxes clean and gather the eggs every day. Unless the shells are particularly dirty, we do not wash the eggs so that the "bloom" is left intact. If we must wash eggs, we do so with water only and eggs that are very soiled are never sold to the public. We cook those and feed them to the dogs or pigs.


Pineapple Ice Cream

I finally decided to give up my electric, bucket, ice cream maker circa 1970's that I got at an antique store new in the box for $20 and go for one of those "iceless/salt free" counter top models. After asking everyone I could think of what type of ice cream maker they would recommend, I finally bought the Cuisnart ICE-30BC. Knowing how much ice cream we eat in the summer (after all we have a free supply of milk and cream), I worried that the 2 quart bowl would not be nearly big enough. However, it turns out that it is just perfect for the two of us. We can make a batch of a different flavor every night if we want to. So far we have made vanilla, strawberry, peanut butter, peach and pineapple.

Pineapple ice cream is something I had never tried until I married Mike and I must admit that I tried it reluctantly. However, let me just go on the record as say, "It is absolutely delicious!"

Pineapple Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 large can of crushed pineapple
2 egg yolks from free range hens (optional to add color)

Mix all ingredients together until sugar has dissolved and then pour into Cuisinart ice cream mixer and freeze.


Red Wattle Hogs

Red Wattle Hog

The Red Wattle is a large, red hog with a fleshy wattle attached to each side of the neck. The wattles have no known function. They are a single gene characteristic and usually pass to crossbred offspring. The Red Wattle comes in a variety of shades of red, some with black specks or patches, and red and black hair. Some individuals are nearly black. The head and jowl are clean and lean, the nose is slim, and ears are upright with drooping tips. The body is short coupled and the back slightly arched. Mature animals weigh 600-800 pounds, but may weigh as much as 1200 pounds and measure up to four feet high and eight feet long.

Red Wattle hogs are known for hardiness, foraging activity, and rapid growth rate. They produce a lean meat that has been described as flavorful and tender. The sows are excellent mothers, farrow litters of 10 – 15 piglets, and provide good quantities of milk for their large litters. They have a mild temperament.

Red Wattles adapt to a wide range of climates. Their active foraging make them a good choice for consideration in outdoor or pasture-based swine production. Their gentle nature recommends them to the small-scale, independent producer.

From The American Livestock Breed Conservancy. The Red Wattle Hog is listed as Critical on the endangered list.

The Red Wattle hog is a large, red hog with a fleshy, decorative, wattle attached to each side of its neck that has no known function. The origin and history of the Red Wattle breed is considered scientifically obscure, though many different ancestral stories are known. One theory is that the French colonists brought the Red Wattle Hogs to the United States from New Caledonia Island off the coast of Australia in the late 1700’s. As they adapted well to the land, the Red Wattle quickly became a popular breed in the US.

Unfortunately, as settlers moved west, the breed began to fall out of favor because settlers came into contact with breeds that boasted a higher fat content, which was important for lard and soap. Red Wattles were left to roam the hills of eastern Texas, where they were hunted to near extinction, until Mr. H.C. Wengler came across a herd in the dense forest and began breeding them into what they are today. Five year later, in a similar incident, Robert Prentice located another herd of Red Wattle hogs, which became known as the Timberline herd, after its wooded origins in eastern Texas.

Red Wattle hogs are known for their hardiness, foraging activity, and rapid growth rate. The sows are excellent mothers, who labor litters of 9-10 piglets, and provide good quantities of milk for their large litters. They adapt well to a wide range of climates, making them a good choice for consideration in outdoor or pasture-based swine production.

Red Wattle pork is exceptionally lean and juicy with a rich beef-like taste and texture.

The Red Wattle hog is listed on the ALBC Conservation Priority List as being critically endangered meaning there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the U.S. and estimated to have fewer than 2,000 individuals of this breed globally.

From Slow Foods USA Ark of Taste

Let us Farm in Peace

In general, I believe farmers are by nature passionate and dedicated people. Farmers would not continue to daily manage the physical aspects of farming along with the tremendous stress involved if it were not so. Farmers, for generations have been loyal and steadfast while waging a war against the odds.

I love farmers and I believe the hearts of most farmers are genuine and pure. Yes, there are "bad" farmers out there whose idea of success is to rape and pillage the earth and who drive their animals into the ground in order to make another dollar. But, the reality is that overall, farmers are hardworking, compassionate people who love what they do for a living, respect their animals and treat them well, and who respectfully manage their farms.

This is why I find the battle between various agricultural groups to be disheartening. I will admit, I am one who loves peace. I promote peace and do not like to see the ugliness that comes when two sides wage war on one another. I do understand that life is not simple and that often change (for good or for bad) only takes place when confrontation takes place. Don't get me wrong. I am one who thoroughly enjoys a thought provoking conversation with someone who does not have the same belief system as I do. A conversation with someone who has different religious beliefs, political views, and even different views on farming is educational and thought provoking to me. If both sides can treat one another with respect and agree to disagree on certain points, then these types of conversation can actually build bridges instead of walls without either side finding it necessary to give up their own core values.

I find that with most everything, the truth is rarely what is being forced upon us by the shouting of either "side". The truth is usually found by looking at both sides with an open mind and finding the truth "somewhere in the middle".

On one side of the agricultural battle, we have those who have been labeled as "Big Ag" or "Conventional Farmers". On the other side, we have the so called "Organic Movement", "Sustainable Farmers" or those who promote the "Buy Local" movement. In case you did not realize it, a real battle is going on between these two groups. I subscribe to news feeds and articles from both "sides" and I find it very distressing to see the two groups fighting each other when I personally feel that both groups are made up of mostly good people who really have a lot in common. Instead of being able to focus their energy into their true passion..............farming............they are finding it necessary to focus their energies into providing "proof" and "documentation" as to why their way of farming is the best. There are groups such as ADVOCATES FOR AGRICULTURE whose sole purpose is to promote conventional farming and dispel the "myths" that are being propagated by such folks as Michael Pollen, Joel Salatin, and others who are proponents of the "BUY LOCAL" movement. Yesterday, a Washington Post article was posted on this site as "proof" that homegrown, backyard eggs do not taste any better than eggs from "commercial" poultry houses. On the other side we have groups who are posting gross abuse of farm animals in an effort to get folks to make a choice based on the emotions they feel after viewing such a disgusting display of cruelty. These folks are being led to believe that all "conventional" farmers treat their livestock in such a manner. Ploys are being used by the extreme right and the extreme left to persuade folks to make emotionally charged decisions.

Personally, I have been "blasted" by some who have stated that I am not "organic enough" and I have been ridiculed by others who say that I am not a "real" farmer because I am unconventional in a lot of my ideas and methods.

My purpose of this post is not to take sides because I honestly feel that both sides have some valid points. Rather, I believe that there is a market for those who believe and support conventional farming as well as for those who are interested in farming using organic methods and those farmers who are not necessarily organic but who farm on a small scale and provide quality products for their local customer base. I know I am making this overly simplistic but just as there are several different brands of jeans made for folks with different styles and needs, why can't we just all agree that there are different types of consumers who will support various types of farming? For the consumer, I would advocate looking beyond the emotional, knee-jerking videos and articles of either side and take the time to search deeper and learn who the farmers are behind the products that you are consuming.

I know that what really drives these heated debates is not that we can't agree that we should all be allowed to farm in the way we feel is right for us, but rather the contentions come from the fact that our government is controlling almost every aspect of farming to the point that the farmer CAN'T make his own decisions based on his own personal preferences and beliefs. This is true whether you are a farmer that must depend on government subsidies in order to keep the dream alive or whether you are a proponent of raw milk and wish to be able to legally sell raw milk to a customer base that is demanding the product. Our hands our tied and to add to the frustration whatever side of the fence the consumer might find themselves on, they are often blindly following one side or the other without truly getting to know the farmers who are producing the food.

Although there are bad apples in most every basket, in general Farmers are good people who love what they are doing and are passionate about providing a quality product for the consumer. Can we stop bashing the farmers? And as farmers, can we learn to respect our differences and realize that their are plenty of folks out there with different views who are willing to support us? Can we find a way to support each other without compromising our own beliefs? Can we support the right of the consumer to purchase raw milk if that is their desire while understanding that many folks would rather have their milk pasteurized and that is their right as well? Can we somehow find a way to get away from all the government control over the farmer so that we all have the freedom to follow our hearts?

Natural disasters, floods, droughts, blight, animals born breech, predators that kill , long hard days in the sun, skin that grows old before it's time, lines around the eyes from squinting as the sunlight reflects off the tractor, weary muscles, aching bones, long days, short nights, tears over the loss of livestock, and a multitude of other trials that the farmer must face is enough to deal with.

Is their an ulterior motive and some sinister mind behind all of the conflict between folks who should be supporting each other or is it the fact that we are just human and when we allow the ugliness of our nature to get the better of us, we attack and destroy those whom we should be supporting?

Just let us farm in peace.


Additions and Losses

I am really having a hard time keeping up with my blog lately! And, I have done a very poor job of keeping up with other's blogs as well! When winter comes again maybe I will finally get the chance to catch up with my "fellow bloggers". (A sexist comment, I know, but I couldn't think of any other way to say it!) So, I hope this finds all my blog readers and blogging friends well and enjoying the new season.

Mike has been busy in the hay fields and in the garden. We still have not opened our produce stand but will probably do so next week. We are a little behind schedule this year in part due to the weather and the way the crops have grown and in part just because we have been so busy doing other things.

Mayfield, my eleven year old foundation pure Miniature Jersey calved about a week early but had a difficult delivery in that the calf did not present itself correctly. We lost the calf and of course, it was a little heifer. She was perfect and would have been a small mini. It was a tough loss financially and emotionally. Mayfield had her own share of problems after the delivery and was not able to stand due to some temporary paralysis. We had to use a hip lift to get her up but she has been doing fairly well since then. She has been depressed and unwilling to enter the stanchion to be milked but as of yesterday decided to come in on her own.

This has certainly not been a good year for me with the dairy cows. We lost both foundation pure miniature calves one at birth and one shortly thereafter. We have two more cows due this year, one in July and one in November. Both of these will be standard size calves.

I have been busy finding new homes for bull and bull calves. We made a trip to Georgia to visit family and took along Zeke, a standard size bull calf. He has a new home with my brother who will use him to breed his heifer when they are both old enough. We also picked up Breyer, a foundation pure Miniature Jersey bull, and transported him to his new home in Tennessee. When we returned, I finalized the sale of Little Bull, another foundation pure Miniature Jersey bull, and his new owner picked him up and took him to Colorado.

While in Georgia, we picked up four, mixed breed, feeder pigs. Then we picked up an additional six pigs in Bedford County, VA on our way home. Some friends took four of the piglets (two pigs from the Georgia group and two from the Virginia group) and we are left with six pigs to raise up. We ended up getting two pure bred red wattle pigs in the mix and the breeder is willing to give us registration papers on them. We are seriously considering raising them for breeders and just butchering the other four piglets when they are big enough this fall. Red Wattle pigs are on the critically endangered list and a breed that I have considered in the past. Raising heritage breed animals is a privelege and I am thankful for this opportunity to have a part in preserving this breed for the future.

In addition to the new pigs, we also have a new goat. Nutmeg (Meggie) came to us when I saw that her current family needed to find a new home for her. She is so sweet and gentle. She was still taking a bottle once a day when we got her and we loved giving her a bottle so much that it was hard (on us) to wean her. However, I have finally taken the bottle away and she is doing great. She is a Nubian/Alpine cross.

(Pictures of mixed breed pigs before leaving Georgia. We only ended up with two of these pigs, one of them being the little black one.)

Monday Journals

January 11, 2018 We are back in Laurel Fork and the thought foremost in my mind is how wonderful it feels to not be cold.   Las...