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The Part I Hate.

I hate taking my livestock to the butcher. I’m not sure there is any farmer that looks forward to the moment they have their animals that they have worked so hard to raise and spent so much time on loaded up ready to go to the butcher. This week we took our turkeys to the butcher and I was incredibly sad to see them go. Seriously, it always sucks.

BUUUUT…

I also know I am making a sound decision sending my livestock to butcher. Here is why. Many, many thousands of years ago, before we had domesticated animals humans had to hunt all of our food. Over time we have domesticated a large number of animals starting with dogs, then cats domesticated themselves (because we all know that cats don’t do anything on anyone’s terms but their own) and on to livestock and other animals. The one thing that all domesticated animals have in common is that they exist with humans in a mutually beneficial relationship. For dogs, this meant that the dogs and humans would work to protect each other and hunt. For cats this meant that humans would supply them food and shelter and in return they would kill the rodents that spread disease and destroyed food in ancient Egypt. For livestock, this means that we provide them with everything they need in life (food, water, shelter, healthcare, protection from predators, etc…) and in return they help us nourish our bodies. (Fun Fact: Chickens were originally domesticated for fighting!)

It is that simple. We help them and eventually they help us. In science they call this a symbiotic relationship, where both parties need the other to live. I am positive that I gave my animals the best life they could have in the time they are on my farm and I am incredibly thankful for the fact that I am able to nourish my family, myself, and my customers using those animals.turkey

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A Pork Public Service Announcement

My fellow Americans,

We have done a great disservice to the pork industry (and the meat industry in general). You see, farmers listen to consumers, and adapt their production methods accordingly- just as any good company listens to its customers. A number of years ago a study was published regarding the effects of dietary fat (aka fat that you eat in your food) on heart health. This caused the nation to go into a frenzy over eliminating fats from our diet. The demand for “lean meats” became pervasive and farmers began to breed for leaner and leaner animals. As consumers continued to demand lean meat for decades, the animals got even leaner and the National Pork Board launched its “Pork, the other white meat” campaign. The days of a beautifully marbled (the intramuscular fat that gives meat flavor) bright red pork chop from the grocery store were gone and consumers were left to figure out how to make that plain, pale, completely fatless pork chop they wanted so badly taste good. In addition, the true effect of dietary fat on heart health has come into question. The pork industry isn’t the only one this has happened to. The cattle industry is suffering similarly.

It is no wonder that meat sales are decreasing.

My friends, I present to you here a pork chop from a heritage breed hog.

   

This chop looks almost nothing like what you would find in the grocery store, because consumers decades ago decided that this wasn’t what they wanted. Consumers are missing out on the full, rich flavor of a pork chop that looks like this! I think that this is simply unfair! Unfortunately, demand is a very strong pressure and farmers are obligated to respond.

There is good news though! Heritage breeds with stunning marbling do exist! This is a hog that we raised just for ourselves, but we are considering raising some for sale in the next year. If you think that buying a share of pork is something you might be interested in, send us a message or drop us a comment! Your input helps us decide what we will raise!

And who knows? Maybe we can work together to make pork great again!
 

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Harvest Salad

Okay. I slacked a little. I didn’t get Tessa’s amazing salad recipe posted like I said I would yesterday. BUT I am posting it now. Will you forgive me? I promise to make it up to you somehow. Maybe some pictures of the cattle on Instagram later? I hope that will work. Also, during our presentations on Saturday I had planned to take pictures of her demonstrating this recipe and then I got really into the presentation and totally forgot, so you also don’t get pictures for this until I actually get time to make it for myself! I clearly have failed you too many times today… I’m going to have to really work to make this one up…

Harvest Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Real Maple Syrup
  • 4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Add all of the ingredients together in a mason jar (or other container) and shake to combine. Allow the dressing to sit overnight for a fuller flavor.

Harvest Salad

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. Brussel Sprouts
  • 1/4 cup Dried Cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese or 1 container of Goat Cheese
  • 1 pear, Chopped
  • 1 apple, Chopped

Directions:

  1. Peel the hard outer layer of the Brussels sprouts off. Hold on to the core and thinly slice the Brussels sprouts, discarding the cores.
  2. Use your hands to separate the layers of the Brussels sprouts.
  3. Place the shredded Brussels sprouts into a bowl and add the other ingredients, drizzling the dressing on top and serve!

 

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SQUASH SOUP!!

Wow! Yesterday was such a whirlwind! I had the opportunity to present yesterday with my dear friend, Tessa, as our alter ego, 2 Farm Girls at a Women’s Event called Straight from the Heart, presented by Farm Bureau. It is such a fantastic event, filled with great food, phenomenal speakers and lots of fun! The topic we spoke on yesterday was eating locally. We made four awesome batches of a spicy squash soup and a harvest salad. I’ll talk you through the squash soup recipe today and post Tessa’s amazing Harvest Salad recipe tomorrow! Enjoy!

Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squash or an equivalent amount of other squash
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ a small onion diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth or equivalent amount of water and bouillon
  • spices of your choosing, I used cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder and season salt
  • 1 container or log of goat cheese or an equivalent amount of a similarly creamy cheese.

Directions

  1. Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush with olive oil, poke several holes with a fork and roast at 400°F for 35 mins or until a fork easily punctures the squash.
  2. Remove from the oven and scrape the guts of the squash from the skin. Blend in a food processor or use an immersion blender until smooth. Set aside. You can also freeze the squash to use later.
  3. In a medium pan, melt the butter and cook the onions over medium heat until they are clear. About halfway through cooking them, add your spices.
  4. Once the onions are cooked, deglaze your pan by adding either the chicken broth or the water followed by the bouillon. Stir until mixed.
  5. Add the roasted squash into the sauce pan and cook for about 10 minutes over low heat stirring occasionally.
  6. After 10 minutes add in ¾ of the goat cheese and then stir for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Ladle into bowls and then crumble some of the remaining cheese.
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Farming Friends

The other day was one of those days where you really learn the value of a good farming community! The day started out pretty normal. I was working, but was Jonathan’s day off and he had our 7 week old son with him. We had a hog that was supposed to be dropped off at the butcher first thing, so he hooked up the trailer. Loading a hog with a baby in the truck might have been complete chaos, except that our awesome friend Josh was able to help J herd the fat pig onto the trailer and get him secured. We are SO thankful for Josh.

Later in the day, J had run up to town to switch cars with me when his phone rang. It was the neighbor, Dale, telling him that one of our cattle was in the road. Of course. Great timing. Dale promised he would keep an eye on her for us until Jonathan got to the farm to get her back in the fence. Luckily, it was our sweet little heifer Schoolgirl who would follow us anywhere… as long as we have pears. So she trotted right back in the gate as soon as J got there.

Finally, after we all got home and were getting ready for bed that night J’s phone rang, it was our friend Josh. One of his calves was looking like it had a joint infection. Luckily, we had a bottle of the exact antibiotic he needed down in the tractor shed because we had just used it to treat a joint infection in a turkey the week before!

Our farming friends have called us out to help with a sick calf at 10:00 at night and have shown up at our farm to help us breed cattle before the sun was up. Farming is not an occupation that you can do by yourself. The saying goes it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m pretty sure that it also takes a village to farm!

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What the 1000 words miss

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but as I was scrolling through pictures on the computer from the last couple weeks the other day I saw one that really struck me. It isn’t a particularly great picture. It is of me ear tagging our new miniature Hereford/Mini Zebu calf, Hermione. In the picture I am wearing a nearly 14 year old sweatshirt with too big shorts I bought in high school, paired with manure covered boots. I am kneeling in the straw (and probably also some poop) and my hair is a complete mess, falling haphazardly out of a messy bun. I have my arms wrapped around the still wet calf aligning the ear tag on her beautiful, tiny new ear. She was barely a half hour old in this picture. On the ground next to me is a disposable cup filled with a naval dip solution to help prevent her naval from getting infected. Someone in jeans is standing behind me. I am focused completely on the task at hand and you can’t even see my face in the picture.

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My face isn’t the only thing you can’t see in this picture. The 1,000 words that this picture is worth are not nearly enough to describe the moment that this picture captured. This calf was a particularly special one. In the 284 days since we had bred her mother, Ferdie, a lot had happened on our farm. We had completed our first year of our CSA and designed big plans to make our farm successful in the coming year. We had made the decision that we would work to grow our miniature herd, and that if this calf were a heifer (female), she would stay on the farm. If it was a bull calf, he would be sold.
This picture fails to capture the nights we woke up every couple hours to check on the cows to make sure they weren’t having calving and needing assistance. It doesn’t capture how truly exhausted we were or the relief we felt when a heifer calf was born without intervention to another one of our cows a few days prior to this.It doesn’t capture the fact that on that particular day we had left the farm for a few hours to stop and get my dad to come down and see the first calf and that we had just gotten ice cream when we got a call from Jonathan’s parents that Ferdie had her calf. It doesn’t capture the apprehension I felt as I drove questionably quickly through town and out the valley to get to the farm, because I couldn’t wait to see the calf for myself.
This picture doesn’t show the people that were there because they had all invested time and energy into waiting for the birth of this particular calf. You can’t see that I had people on all sides of me watching the gates blocking both mama cows, including a 1400 pound ball of protective mama anger named Jewel, from trampling me while I gave this calf everything it needed for a healthy start to life.
This picture doesn’t capture the wonder I felt when I saw that tiny little being standing in the stall for the first time. It doesn’t describe the tears that pricked the corners of my eyes when I saw it was a heifer, or the number of times that I looked at Jonathan and said “I’m not crazy, she is a heifer right??” because I couldn’t believe my own eyes. It doesn’t tell you how many times I told everyone around me how absolutely perfect she was.
This picture doesn’t even come close to showing the anxiety I felt deep in my throat as I worried about this tiny calf’s first few days of life as I remembered how hard it was to lose our only calf last year. The 1,000 words that this picture is worth cannot even begin to tell you how much we, and all of the farmers I know, care for our cattle; how much every calf means to us. It doesn’t describe the importance of why I needed to be in that pen with that calf, or why I needed a team of four men to block the mama cows from me.
While this picture certainly misses a lot to most everyone, but when I see this picture all of those things are what I think about. I remember the emotion that I felt during those few moments when I was with her. I remember looking in her eyes and giving her a kiss on her nose as my way of telling her that I would always watch out for her before I quickly jumped out of the pen. This picture is worth 1,000 words to some people, but to me it is worth far more.
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An emotional day.

Today is a little bit of an emotional day for me. I imagine it is for Jonathan too. Today is his last day as a large animal veterinarian. On Tuesday he will start a new job as a companion animal veterinarian. This might get a bit long, so grab a seat.

When I met Jonathan nearly five years ago he was laser focused on becoming a large animal veterinarian with hopes of getting a job at the local vet clinic after graduation. Through the three years of veterinary school that I knew him he was relentless in the pursuit of his goal.  He spent any free time he could being involved in large animal medicine related organizations. He would come home on breaks and ride along at that vet clinic to build a relationship with them to increase his odds of being hired when he graduated.

When job search time came around it was the first clinic he called. Unfortunately, they had no positions open at the time, so he applied to a variety of other clinics. The week  that we needed to make a decision he had four job offers on the table, but none of them seemed right. All of them would have required moving and for me to make a job change. We were down to a few days left to decide and were no closer to feeling confident in our decision. Then a miracle happened. His dream clinic had one of the veterinarians turn in their notice- a job was open and they wanted Jonathan to take it. I was so happy I cried. Watching his dreams come true filled my heart with unimaginable joy.

When he started working, he had a blast. He built relationships with farmers and handled the learning curve with as much ease as possible. Luckily for me, he wasn’t afraid to take me along for the ride- literally. Over the last two years we have spent countless hours in his vet truck and in the clinic. We have seen animals healed when we weren’t confident they could be, we have helped people say goodbye to their pets, and we have attended dozens of births of every kind. We’ve cut necropsies and cut c-sections. We’ve seen cows jump up and run away after being treated and we’ve had cows die in our hands. No two nights on call were the same. The stories we have from our adventures were almost always the kind where you would shake your head and say “you can’t make this stuff up”. We truly need to sit down and write down some of the stories before we forget them. It was a blast sometimes, but it was also a lot of work and it really drained you. And I wasn’t even the one making the decisions.

As time went by I started to see a shift in Jonathan’s attitude. He still loved treating animals and he had farmers that he would drop anything for to help out, but he started to become disenchanted with what he thought was his dream job. I did what I could to encourage him, but the excitement was gone. The romance was over. As the daily stress of being pushed around by 1500 lb animals, late nights and long hours continued to wear on him the disenchantment turned to dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction turned to burnout. I watched as his dream job turned into something he dreaded. It broke my heart.

Finally, he decided his best option was to look for another position in a different branch of veterinary medicine. In some ways I am happy that he is moving on to a safer, more consistent job. At the same time I will miss our adventures and the incredible people that we met along the way.

So today is his last day as a large animal veterinarian. He has told his clients goodbye and is starting over. The veterinarians at the clinic are top notch and we are so thankful for the opportunities they have given him. He is a better, smarter, person for having worked in that position.

Next week, we start a new adventure.