Thursday, September 29, 2011

A weekend away from the farm

Last weekend we didn't spend much time at the farm. We were here on Saturday:
This year we are proud owners of WVU season tickets! It's been so much fun to head over to Morgantown for some tailgating with friends and cheering for the Mountaineers.

Farmer John is a huge fan of WVU and all college football. He would want me to stress to you what a big game they had last Satuday. WVU played LSU (who was ranked #3, but is now ranked #1 after playing WVU) and ESPN chose this game to highlight on their College GameDay Show. It upped the ante quite a bit. WVU did not win - but we still had a great time. In fact we were both a little hoarse the next day from all the cheering!

On Sunday we headed over to Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania where the Mother Earth News Fair was taking place. We attended the fair last year and learned a lot.

One of the first stops was to check out this portable saw mill. I'm terrified of these things, but Farmer John drools over them. Maybe someday we will have one at the farm - although I can guarantee it won't be this top-of-the-line model.

Next came the highlight of the day. We met a Rock Star Farmer!

If you've read "Omnivore's Dilemma" or seen "Food, Inc." then you probably know about Joel Salatin, the owner and operator of Polyface Farm. Joel is a pioneer in the bio-dynamic/sustainable farm movement. He raises livestock on pasture and makes big profits at the same time.

Farmer John and I were able to talk with him for a few minutes during his book signing. He was helpful with a question about our cattle, then gave me a hard time about being a "lefty"(my hand preference not my political views).

He gave a two-hour talk about the ideas and methods that are in place at Polyface Farm. We've only read his books, so it was fun to hear him in person. We don't agree with everything Salatin speaks and writes about, but his farming ideas are just fantastic. He is encouraging and inspirational. We left the fair with lots of ideas and goals for our farm. Salatin has us motivated to quit our real jobs and make the farm our full-time job....someday. The fun part will be figuring out how reach that goal.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Escaped Ruminant

Do you need a little farm story to brighten up your Monday?

Good, I've got one.

This morning I walked down to the car by myself. Farmer John stayed snug in the bed and took a "mental health day". When I got to the car, I looked across the road to where our neighbors keep some cattle. Usually they are behind a very nice fence. This morning, one appeared to not be behind the fence but instead standing in their driveway.

Now, I wasn't positive it was out of the fence because it was still fairly dark. Also, sometimes they string electric fence across the drive and let the cows into that area. Still, I couldn't see anything that looked like it would hold a cow on the right side of the road. I was running late and didn't want to explore over there too much, so I called John. The still-sleepy Farmer John assured me he would check on it.

What follows is the e-mail I got at lunch today:
"You were right. Just in case you wanted to hear that again to brighten your day....YOU were RIGHT. Not too long after you left I heard a semi-truck horn blowing loudly in front of our parking spot. I went outside to take a look and some friendly yooper from Caiman Energy was chasing one of Joe's cows off the road and back up towards the cabin. I guess the situation nearly resulted in 1200 lbs of premium hamburger scattered down Route 7. I couldn't reach Joe or the Smiths so the Caiman guys and I strung some electri-twine across the driveway to prevent the rogue bovine from merging onto the highway. Hopefully that will work."

It is so rare that I'm right about farm stuff I just had to share it. Hope your day is going better than the cow who almost got hit with a semi!

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Chickens

We adopted some new chickens a few weeks ago. This is a Buff OrpingonWe got 5 hens and 1 bantam. They were living at a neighbor's house up the road. She was moving and couldn't take her little flock with her.
They are beautiful birds and it's obvious that they were well cared for. We're pretty sure they lived a coop before they came here. I don't think they know what to do with the freedom of a pasture. Mostly they just hang out in, or under the coop.

This gal is a Barred Rock.
Welcome chickens, thanks for the eggs!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Date Night

After work yesterday we decided we needed to go out on the town. Farmer John took me out to a local restaurant where we enjoyed a tasty meal as well as a chance to catch up with some acquaintances.

The next stop of the night was at Tractor Supply. We had some feed to pick up for the chickens and cats. Then we headed over to the medical supply area. The blind calf has diarrhea. Farmer John called our large-animal vet and he recommended a treatment. However, his treatment is for scours.

Scours is a very common disease in calves. The main symptoms of scours is diarrhea, so this diagnosis makes sense. However, our calf looks very healthy. She's eating normally, is active and alert and is plenty strong (especially when I'm giving her a bottle). So, as opposed to buying everything the vet recommended we bought what we thought would be the best for treating her symptoms.

We'll give her some pro-biotic, to get some good bacteria back into her system. We also bought a treatment specifically for diarrhea. Everything I've read about scours emphasizes that the calves need electrolytes. I've given her a couple bottles with just a little bit of salt mixed in with water. The stuff we got is more like Gatorade for cows.

We'll keep our fingers crossed and a close eye on her over the next few days to see how all this stuff works. After that, maybe we'll stop being stubborn and listen to the vet!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our week in food

Have I mentioned that we started back to school recently? I think we're still in shock about this. Therefore the focus on the farm and blog hasn't been as strong recently. But, I promise we'll get in the swing of it soon, and I'll stop complaining about having to leave the farm everyday.

The best parts of our days this week have been dinner. It's tomato season, and all our meals have been based around them. Here's the breakdown:

Monday - Labor Day, so I had some time to cook. I made an eggplant lasagna with the intention of having leftovers for lunch for the week. Well, it was AWFUL! We could barely choke down two pieces and the rest went to the chickens. (This meal was another argument for getting hogs. Hogs would appreciate that nasty eggplant lasagna a whole lot more than the chickens did.)

Tuesday - Penne with vodka sauce. We used the one jar of tomatoes that didn't seal when we were canning. Also threw in a handful of fresh basil. Tasty!

Wednesday- Pizza with fresh tomatoes, peppers, roasted eggplant and basil. I could eat homemade pizza everyday. Farmer John needs some variety. But, he gobbles it up when it's topped with some garden veggies.

Thursday - Fried Green Tomatoes with okra and a garden salad. We just finished eating. It was a delicious meal and I'm stuffed!

I'm headed out to Illinois for the next several days. Farmer John is going to take care of everything around here. He'll be on his own for meals. So, I'm guessing there will be more tomatoes and some meat consumed while I'm away.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eat your vegetables

I'm embarrased to say this, but I didn't always like green beans. In fact I remember an incident where a friend's dad forced me to eat them. It was with some spite that I choked those beans down.

I don't know what I was thinking! Green beans fresh from the garden are delicious! I eat them sauted, steamed or grilled, sometimes I'll even munch on some raw ones while in the garden.
This year we only put in a row and a half of beans. The ones that survived being eaten by rabbits did very well. We've had several meals based around the tasty beans.

And if Farmer John goes hunting this winter, we may have some meals based around those rabbits!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Feelin' Saucy - The Tomato Season Version

As I've mentioned Farmer John and I have returned to work. Between working and taking care of the farm when we get home we don't always spend much time preparing meals on weeknights. We like to prep lots of winter meals during the summer. One of the staples around here is anything involving tomato sauce.

Several weeks ago we spent an entire day working up tomatoes and cooking the sauce. Farmer John's Mom and Dad picked up these tomatoes at a local Amish produce auction. They got a great deal on them. We got 7 boxes of perfect Roma tomatoes for the price of 7 jars of sauce at the store.
Farmer John and Migrant Farm-Hand Becky cleaned and quartered the Romas.

Then we all took turns running the tomatoes through the "Squeezo Strainer." The quarters went into the hopper. We pressed them down using a wooden plunger while cranking the handle. The sauce comes out and into a pan while the skins and seeds are pressed out the end and into a bowl.

This contraption was a huge time-saver. Normally we have to blanch the tomatoes to get the skins off. Then we cut the up and run them though the food processor. The Squeezo might be the best thing that ever happened to tomato season.
Let me take a moment to mention a detail from the above picture. I'm wearing my chicken apron. Migrant Farm-Hand Becky made it for me. Wasn't that nice of her? She made a matching one that now lives with our friend Anna in Belize. Hi Anna!

Alright, back to the sauce. We use a recipe from Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" as a guide. Since we freeze the sauce rather than can it there is more flexibility with the recipe. Some years we threw in fresh basil, sometimes it was lots of peppers. This year, we actually followed the recipe pretty closely.

We ended the day with four pots simmering on the stove and one pan in the oven. It was a whole lotta sauce.

The following morning we ladled the sauce into bags and then put them in the freezer. We're looking forward to having a burst of summer in our meals this winter.

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