Have you ever fell in love with a specific flavor? Or at least the idea of that flavor? I did a few years ago with hibiscus. Every time I would go to Panera/STL Bread Co., I would get the hibiscus iced tea and relish every drop. Then I found hibiscus jelly and I would just stand there in front of the fridge with the jelly jar and a spoon. Hibiscus and I had a love affair that lasted briefly, but burned brightly. So two years ago I decided to grow hibiscus in our herb garden, but to no avail. It … Continued
Welcome to Such and Such Farm’s Hungry Games! Hey! Have you ever wanted to fill your freezer with high quality, pasture raised pork? Or have you ever wanted to do whole hog butchering at your restaurant? Have you ever shyed away from purchasing a whole hog because the up front cost? What if I told you that you could get the price of a whole hog for only $25? WHAT?! (Yes) ARE YOU SERIOUS?! (Also yes) Welcome to our whole hog meat raffle! Individual Raffle Prizes ($25 price level): Three winners drawn every 20 entries sold First Prize: Whole … Continued
As you may have noticed, goat yoga is actually a “thing” now. And it’s an awesome thing. It’s not a thing like fidget spinners sold at the gas station or disgusting unicorn frappucinos are a “thing”. Goat yoga has been bringing experienced yogis out to new locations and it has given those brand new to yoga a fun opportunity to try it. Last fall, we got together with LotusEater Collective to bring goat yoga to the St. Louis area. And this June we came back bigger, more better, more goatier with Goat Yoga 2: The Sequel. When we tell people that … Continued
Hello, dear readers. Have you ever walked into your living room to find a house full to the brim of nine to eleven punks and six dogs? Have you ever come back from a post office errand to walk into your house during a homemade tattoo party? Have you ever taken a break from harvesting tomatoes to find yourself in the middle of an epic colored water balloon war? Have you ever done a podcast in the back of a van while drinking moscato straight from the bottle? Have you ever partied hard with so many of your closest friends all the while hosting three epic food events in one week? Then, my friend, you have not experienced the true Such and Such Farm. This has been our past month. This is our life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. #sorrynotsorry
There comes a time in (almost) every goat farmer’s life where you need to bite the bullet, dive in head first… and buy a buck. After three years of owning goats and two seasons of borrowing bucks from friends’ herds, it was time for us to go shopping for our own leading man. It’s a big deal! A buck is half of your herd! I really didn’t want to screw the pooch on this one. So I did my research, gave it a really good thought, did some math (!!!!), then did more research and more planning. But then it came time to go shopping for our buck. Two weeks ago, we brought him home. His name is Humphrey Bogart (Bogey), our first leading man, and he’s amazing. Let me introduce you to him and walk you through the process of buying our first buck.
Welcome to the recap for our first live facebook broadcast! Something that will be henceforth be known as Such and Such LIVE! Episode… whatever. Or at least until we come up with a better name. After each episode we’ll do a show note/recap on our blog so you can get more information! Without further ado, here’s what you missed:
Sometimes the most eye opening experiences are also the simplest. If you live in St. Louis, you should know Lona’s Lil Eats. If you don’t know, then read on and prepared to have your mind blown. We had the pleasure of hosting Lona, Pierce and their family at the farm for a special experience. Lona wanted the opportunity to slaughter and butcher chickens and hogs like she did back in her tiny hill tribe village in southern China. When she said that all she needed was the animals and hot water we were intrigued to say the least. So on Monday afternoon, we got her all set up and we ended up learning all about her culture and her tribe’s butchering methods. And we learned just how much of a badass Lona really is. Our minds were blown.
Kidding season is almost here! We have three girls due beginning-middle April. This year will be our second season kidding and milking. I miss the anticipation of kidding. I miss the smell of fresh goat kids (they smell like vanilla milk). But most of all, I miss milking! It’s my favorite “chore” around the farm. I also miss opening up the fridge to see a shelf full of fresh milk. But mostly, milking is the shiz. I put in my headphones, listen to a podcast or audiobook and head out to the barn to see my girls patiently waiting for me. One by one, they walk up to the milk stand and I get to spend lots of personal one-on-one time with each of my girls. My cold hands on their warm udders, the sound of their breathing and ruminating bellies next to my cheek. Then marching out of the barn with a pail full of liquid gold. It’s like carrying a trophy back into the house every morning. I am the milk maid victor!! But there’s a lot more that goes into milking. Cleanliness, feed control, blah blah blah that you don’t always hear about when you’re getting ready for milking for the first time. So today, I’m going to fill you in on my all natural milking supplies that I use for my girls. First of all, I like raising my goats as naturally as possible. Meaning, I give them herbal dewormers and tinctures when they need medicine as a preventative and treatment. If those don’t work or something serious happens, I go ahead and use regular medicine. When they’re in milk and I’m milking them, everything that happens from start to finish is all natural as possible. After all, you are what your milk… consumes. That doesn’t really apply. But when milking, I like to use as few chemicals as possible to ensure the best possible, farm fresh, most delicious, all natural goat’s milk as possible. So let’s start from the beginning.
Well, hello! Welcome to Such and Such Farm, version 2016. The year of… I don’t know what it will be, actually. Hopefully our successful grafting of the world’s first money tree (patent pending). Or the year of the new living room couch that is dog hair resistant. Or the year of perfect Missouri farming weather. Ok, that last one is a bit of a stretch. But for real, real (not for play, play) I’m hoping that this will be the year of growth and community. Growth can mean many things; expansion, maturing, physical change, emotional change, advancement, the list goes on. Community can mean a large group of people (nationwide/statewide/online), a specific group of people (our immediate St. Louis region/like-minded farmers/our wonderful clients) or it can mean family (by blood or by fate). Which brings me to the subject of this post. This post is all about real talk. Real things, real people, real events, real farming. No veil of white picket fence, picture perfect farm life. But to start, I need to go back. (que dreamy, harp music a la Saved By the Bell imaginative sequence).
I know things have been quiet over here on the blog and social media. Why? Well because it’s finally fall and most days (and nights) are spent outside enjoying this beautiful fall weather we’ve been having! I feel like this entire spring/summer season has been one long marathon and fall is finally our finish line. It’s that perfect time of year in between extreme chaos and hibernation. But that doesn’t mean we’ve all been lollygaggin’ and jumping in leaf piles. Maybe some of us have. Certainly the dogs have been. Fall is the perfect time for reflection and construction and both of those things have been happening. Here’s a little catch up on some of our fall activities and one new adventure that I’m about to start (hopefully with all of you!).
When we were first looking to buy the farm back in 2011, we got the standard tour. Nice farmhouse with porch, fresh water springs, many outbuildings, chicken coop, small pond and cemetery. Wait, what? A cemetery? Oh yes, our farm came with a cemetery. I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while now, but honestly didn’t know what else to say besides… “Uh, our farm comes with dead people.” But this year I’ve been able to do some research about our cemetery to see why it’s here, how long it’s been here and most importantly, who is here. So light your lantern, que the wolves howling and let’s take a walk through our small cemetery and our property’s history.
This summer has been hectic. I know that I say that almost every single blog post, but it’s true. The summer has been crazy. The farm has been crazy. It’s always crazy. It’s a farm. We’ve had some huge projects going on this summer including the expansion of our rotational grazing pig pastures, a big ribbon gutter concrete pour over our driveway and the installation of our energy free irrigation system, just to name a few. Alongside those projects, we’ve had the weirdest summer weather ever. It rained the entire first half of the year, leaving our garden wet and confused… like spectators at a Gallagher comedy show. We (well… I) said a tearful goodbye to a few animals on the farm that crossed the rainbow bridge before their time. That was the most awful part of the summer. I can start the garden over again next year but I won’t be able to get our beloved animals back. I cursed Mother Nature and the farm for my pain. I was mad. But again, that’s farming. After I dried my eyes, I realized that there was still a beacon of hope… rather, a bacon of hope. Last week, we had five sows deliver 48 beautiful baby piglets. One of those mommas was my good friend, Amy Swinehouse. So this blog post is an open letter of thanks and gratitude to her.
This has been the weirdest year for our tomatoes. Early in the season it was so cool and rainy, which meant that our tomatoes would keep producing new growth but no ripe tomatoes. Once the summer got its act together and shot up to 90 degrees, we got an overflow of ripe tomatoes. Thank you jeebus! On the weekends I’ve been canning my brains out. I’ve done tomato jam, tomato puree, tomato sauce, but I wanted to do something different this year. Because I don’t really want to live off of lasagna this winter. I’m not Garfield. I thought about canning something outside the box… or.. jar. Something that would incorporate a lot of our garden’s bounty and also be very useful. So obviously, I made bloody mary mix. Here’s a big shocker: we have a lot of friends that come over to visit, camp, help out on the farm, visit the animals and surprise, surprise… drink. And drink a lot. In the morning, they’re often searching for a delicious hair of the dog antidote. Who doesn’t love a good bloody mary? And what’s better than a bloody mary than a healthy homemade bloody mary mix! You’re welcome, friends.
Last week we talked about whole hog butchering. The whole idea of whole animal butchery is using every part of the animal that you can and letting virtually nothing go to waste. The only part of our pig that we didn’t use was the skin (we skinned it instead of scalding it) and hooves. There are things you can do with the skin and hooves, namely cracklin’s and… I don’t know, pickled pig feet? For this first time around we didn’t use them. But something we were very excited about using was the head for head cheese and pork stock. Oh buddy! It’s a twofer! Head cheese is awesome and it often gets a bad rap because it’s a weird name. Much like the very popular AMC Gremlin or Hoobastank. We’ll talk about the name in a second. I know there’s something called “head cheese loaf” you can get in the grocery store but let me assure you, that stuff is weird. Real head cheese is a delicious, rich mixture of fat and muscle with endless spice options. So let’s get on this salty meaty train and learn how to make authentic head cheese at home.
If you’re anything like us, you may have over-planted summer squash. And that means that, also like us, you have summer squash coming out the yang right now. It’s the summer squash-pocolypse. We may be sick of it now but come winter, we’ll be begging for a taste of summer. Squash and zucchini can be so easily preserved in a number of ways besides just zucchini bread. I mean, zucchini bread is delicious but c’mon… who needs 20 loaves of that in their freezer? Maybe your grandma. Like, if she was storing up for the winter church bazaar or something. Variety is the spice of life, grandma! Here’s three ways to preserve your summer squash and at the same time give you lots of different meal options throughout the rest of the year.
This past weekend marked four years since we moved to the farm. Not four years since we’ve been farming, because that first year was a lot of cleaning and moving. And honestly, we didn’t know what we were doing. But four years ago we started this weird journey. I remember sitting down by our creek and in our new house full of old people furniture from the previous owners and dreaming of what our life would be like in the future. We moved out here with the goal to be homesteaders; have a few chickens for eggs, a garden, maybe some livestock. Over the past four years we learned a lot, quit our jobs, started a business, expanded our garden three times, currently care for 100+ animals and met some pretty incredible people. We had some of those incredible people out at our farm this past Sunday to help us fill our freezer with delicious, heritage breed pork that we raised ourselves. In short, it was the best day ever. Oh, besides our wedding. Whew. That was a close one.
Goat’s milk. It’s what dreams are made of. It’s everything I dreamed of when we started raising goats almost two years ago. Well, that and lots and lots of cuddles. And goat kids. Really, goats are just the best. But the reason why we started raising goats is for goat milk and goat’s milk products. About a month ago we finished drinking our last gallon of store bought milk and started milking our first freshener does, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli. More on the joys of milking goats later. But ever since then, our fridge has been full of delicious goat’s milk. Once we started getting milk in larger quantities, our eyes widened with all the possibilities of what we can do with goat’s milk. Homemade greek yogurt, homemade ice cream, soap, butter, and cheese! In fact, I started a pinterest board dedicated to goat’s milk products and recipes. Honestly, I’ve been practically standing on my milk stand, preaching the benefits of goat’s milk to anyone who will listen. But let’s get right down to it. Today we’re talking about reason #459 why farming is awesome. And that’s cheese. Delicious, creamy, farmmade raw goat cheese (also known as chevre).
This week we took our first pig into the processor. We’ve brought other pigs into the processor for friends of ours, but this week was the first time we brought in one of our own. Another big “first” for us at the farm. When we first got our pigs last fall, we got 11 gilts turned sows that will be our forever mommas. Then we also got some barrows to raise up as feeder pigs. I knew this day would come, pasture raised craft pork is why we got into this racquet. Because responsibly raised heritage pork is delicious and amazing. And our breed, the Iowa Swabian Hall, is extra special and succulent. Raising hogs has been a great journey/comedy/soap opera during sweeps week and also a workout that’s better than any Richard Simmons’ VHS. God bless you, Richard Simmons. But it has also drummed up some emotions that I had never experienced as a farmer or a regular person. When people come out to the farm or even ask us about the farm, we always get asked similar questions when it comes to raising up pigs for meat, and I thought I would answer some of those questions here. Hopefully it will shed a light onto our experiences as hog farmers, animal lovers and also meat eaters and how it’s possible to be all three at the same time.
Last weekend was a big one for us! We started milking our goats every morning and it was Dave’s birthday! Since Dave is a certified and qualified workaholic, getting him to relax and pull himself away from work is sometimes a battle. For his birthday weekend, I tried to equalize his fun:work ratio quadrant. And other.. math related.. stuff. And things. I don’t know. For a while now he has been wanting to build a chute around the goat barn to make our morning milking rodeo a little easier. And he has also wanted to make a pallet fence somewhere … Continued
This past weekend two amazing miracles happened. After months of anticipation and many nights of worrying that I would screw everything up; our goats finally had their babies. Judy’s due date was on Thursday the 14th and Liza’s was on Wednesday the 20th. The day before and the day of Judy’s due date, I checked her over a few times throughout the day. I had heard that first timers usually kid a few days late anyway so I wasn’t all that concerned. But then around 5pm I went to check on her and saw Liza in the corner with babies. Well, so much for first kiddings going a few days late! Liza was six days early. This was the beginning of a whirlwind weekend and our experience of our first kidding with our first fresheners.
A few years ago, I begged and begged Dave to let me get goats. Because 1) They’re adorable and 2) goat’s milk!! But not only that, but goat cheese, goat’s milk soap, ice cream, the works! Eventually he did let me get two yearlings (Judy and Liza) and then a few months later he surprised me with two 1-week old bottle babies. Jump forward to last December when Judy and Liza were ready to be bred. They got knocked up big time by our stud buck, Ridge Runner. And now… they’re a few weeks away from their first kidding. Every time I look at their growing udders I start salivating at just the thought of the wonderful goat’s milk we’ll be getting soon. And of course, beautiful, bouncing baby goats! But the closer that we get to their kidding due date, the more and more nervous I’m getting. What do I need? Are they going to have trouble? How are they going to behave on this milk stand when they don’t even like me touching their belly?! Are the babies going to be ok? Did I feed our does correctly during their pregnancy? How do I actually milk a goat? Am I going to screw all of this up? I’m not going to lie to you guys, I’m really nervous.
Two weeks ago, Dave, John and my dad undertook a bit of a daunting task. It was time to wrangle up and castrate all of the boys in our piglet group. To begin, we had to separate the mommas from the babies, which the mommas weren’t really a fan of. Then we had to round up each baby pig in their huts and castrate the boys, which they weren’t really a fan of. This involves a lot of squealing, biting and castrating, which we’re not really a fan of. It’s an all around great day full of sunshine and rainbows. Trust me, you don’t want to visit our farm on castration day. I don’t know why you would want to. While the guys worked efficiently like a professional pit crew, or the team that replaces Kim Kardashian’s plastic and robot parts when they go defective, I had the task of holding darling baby piglets after their castration. It’s a tough job. One of the last piglets we picked up was a girl that happened to have what looked like a large hernia. The boys handed her to me, while I held her close and transported her to a large dog crate until we could take further action.
Man, just when we had March figured out, it turns around and throws us for a loop. It’s brought us 75 degree days and 30 degree days all in one week. It’s brought us life and death, great opportunities and horrible mistakes. Basically, March just doesn’t give a fuck. Have you ever had one of those days or weekends where you look back on it and you have no idea what happened or what you did? Even though you actually were productive with your time? But for the life of you, you can’t recall what really happened? That’s what the entire month of March has been like. In addition to all of March’s shenanigans, our schedule has been incredibly hectic. Dave and the boys have been going up to Iowa, we have lots of construction/projects going on, and I have a house that is in the perpetual state of what seems to be a tornado disaster zone. Plus, we’re running low on our overwintered savings so money is real tight. So basically… Goodbye March! It’s been real weird. We’re ready for April.
By now you’ve selected your hatching eggs, you’ve set your eggs in your incubator, started picking out baby chick names (naming them all flowers would be really cute) and now comes the best part. Today we’re talking about the very last three days of incubation (called lockdown) and hatching. The actual hatching part. Also known as THE BEST PART!
Last year we were honored to be asked to host an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner! And now we’re thrilled to announce that we will be hosting our second farm dinner this fall! AND we’ll be working with chef Joshua Galliano of The Libertine! We love everyone at the Libertine and can’t wait to collaborate with this during this growing season. On October 11th, we’ll be opening up our farm once again to the wonderful crew of Outstanding in the Field and enthusiastic diners. But more than the food (which is excellent), more than the service (which is above and beyond), this event is all about the diners and community around the table. We can’t wait to see familiar faces and meet new ones! But first, to get you excited, here’s some more information about Outstanding in the Field and our farm dinner last year.
Alright friends, this is part two in our guide to incubating and hatching out your own eggs. Earlier we talked about collecting eggs for hatching and choosing your incubator. Now that you have your hatching eggs patiently waiting on standby, and your incubator cleaned and ready to go.. just sitting there, watching you. Whispering to you as you walk by. Taunting you. Begging to be plugged in, allowing you to bask in the soft glow of a dimly lit lightbulb. It’s time, kemosabe. Time to warm up that incubator and anxiously wait three weeks for a tiny crack in an egg. Part two in our beginner’s guide to incubating and hatching eggs is all about setting up your incubator, setting the eggs and things to do to help you pass the time so you don’t drive yourself crazy staring at a glowing styrofoam box.
Every year we try to improve our maple syrup operation. Last year we increased our taps from 30 to over 100 and built our own maple syrup pan. This year we’re increasing our taps from 100+ to 200 and building a new maple syrup evaporator (or cooker). The way we’re cooking off our maple sap right now works just fine but is rather inefficient. Our basic set-up is this: maple syrup pan on top of two metal saw horses inside of our fire pit with sheets of metal leaned up against the sides to try to keep heat in. It’s a super primitive way of cooking maple syrup.. like we’re some sort of animals! We’re losing a lot of heat through the metal sheeting and therefore going through a lot of wood in the process. And we’re also losing a lot of time. It’s all fine and dandy during the day but as soon as the sun goes down, Dave and I end up taking shifts throughout the night to tend to the fire and sap. Usually one of us ends up sitting down by the fire at 2am listening to the coyotes and owls and getting so delusionally tired that we start communicating with them. So… we had to make a more efficient maple syrup cooker this year.
There comes a time in every farmer/homesteader’s lives where you fall victim to peer pressure and you break down and buy an incubator so that you can hatch your own chickens. It’s ok, you made the right decision. Hatching out your own eggs is the funnest! Hatching out your own eggs and watching that first baby chick pip through the shell is truly a farming/homesteading miracle. The first time can be intimidating, but don’t be nervous! I’m here to hold your hand through it. We’ll get through it together, and then you’ll be hooked. Here’s the first installment of our beginner’s guide to incubating eggs and hatching out your own baby chicks!
Gather round friends, this is a story for the ages. All of the pig adventures we’ve had all rolled into one still couldn’t top what happened last night. This is a story of small odds, hope, denial, living nightmares, disbelief, kindness and small victories that turn into great ones. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, friends. And pigs really do fly. This is the ballad of Boarzilla.
It’s that time of year again! The time of year where we schlep through the woods to tap maple trees, collect sap and spend hours upon hours of boiling it down in order to make sweet, sweet maple syrup. This year we’re stepping up our game by increasing our taps from 100 to over 200. We’ll also be doing something very special with our finished syrup but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to see what that is! We’ve been storing last year’s syrup away like squirrels and we’re almost to the very end of our stash! So I thought that this week would be a great time to make something special with our homemade maple syrup. With lots of syrup, fresh duck eggs on hand and a sudden “heat wave” (50 degrees!) that meant one thing and one thing only…. dessert. Sweet, creamy, most excellent dessert. In my belly. Now.
This weekend our metal shop was buzzing with activity, testosterone and beer. Dave and our buddy John were replacing the motor in a bobcat and getting that thing up and running. Our other buddy Bob was here working on setting up some new electrical lines in the shop so that they can all do more manly stuff in the future. Dudes are genetically designed to survive off of beef jerky, canned ravioli and tuna salad. They can do this for days, weeks, even 31 years. But this weekend I wanted them to eat some real food. Gasp! They had been working so hard this whole weekend. But the problem is that we haven’t gone grocery shopping in three weeks. I didn’t have much in the fridge or pantry but I did have some fresh farm raised rabbit! How that is possible, I do not know. I used what I had in the pantry to make a sweet honey and curry oven roasted rabbit. Not all guys like sweet with their meat but I figured since they can ravenously eat this with their hands, they wouldn’t mind.
Where did the year go? Seriously. Someone please tell me what happened to 2014. This has honestly been the most amazing year for us, personally and business..ly. (What?) And now it’s time to look ahead! I have no idea what 2015 has in store for us, but we’re going to keep going with this great momentum and set the bar higher for ourselves. This New Years I’m taking a cue from Jack Spirko who is the creator of the website 13 Skills. The idea of this website was to inspire members to learn 13 new skills in 2013 to strengthen their self-reliance or self-confidence. For 2015, we’re selecting fifteen skills that we would like to accomplish either personally or through our farm.
It’s all been leading up to this moment, my friends. We got the goats, we built the barn, then we got some more goats. And now it’s time to (finally) breed the goats for the first time. I sat down with Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli and gave them “the talk.” But I wish someone would have given me the talk. Wait! No! Not THE “the talk.” The talk about scheduling goat breeding, what to expect when breeding goats for the first time and then the consequential cloud of goat math that has been following me around for the past few days.
There are some pivotal points in farming that you just always remember. Your first garden harvest. Your first freshly laid chicken egg. The first baby born at the farm. Your very first dollar you made. The first time you harvest an animal. And your very first massive livestock escape and consequential heart attack. Oh yes, it will happen. And you will pee your pants. We’ve had an interesting weekend with our sweet, darling pigs. One that involves wrangling, road trips and a little night time trickery. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
I’m going to get right down to it. I’m talking about making homemade marshmallows, people. Home. Made. Marsh. Mallows. It’s about to get real. Let me back up a little bit. This year for Thanksgiving I was in charge of bringing the sweet potatoes and a pie. We all know that the best part of the sweet potatoes is certainly not the sweet potatoes, it’s the gooey, messy, sweet morsels of heaven on top. Duh! But for real, the best part of anything when it involves marshmallows is ALWAYS the marshmallows. Hot chocolate is nothing if not a hot tub for mini-marshmallows. A s’more is given that soft, velvety (sometimes chard) texture when marshmallows are added. It’s the best. Everyone knows that. But I digress. This year I really wanted to step up my culinary game for Thanksgiving. So why not go for gold and make homemade marshmallows for the sweet potato casserole topping. Not only are they great to bake with, but they make an impression addition to the dessert spread and make wonderful homemade gifts.
Dear Patron Saint of Heritage Hogs, give me strength. Let me start off by saying that I love pigs, I love them very much. More so than I thought that I would. When we were first talking about getting into pigs I wasn’t so thrilled about it. In fact, I was a little scared, especially since our breed is half wild boar. Months and months ago, I had told myself (and Dave) that I would not get in the pens with the adults and instead would play with the babies. Fast forward to yesterday when I climbed into the pasture … Continued
I can’t believe it but we had peppers still thriving well into October! We’ve been letting our jalapenos turn red most of the season so we had a myriad of red peppers left on the plants. Before we pulled the plants up for the season, we tried to harvest and make use of every single pepper possible. Since I don’t think our pigs would be a fan of hot jalapenos, I needed to think of something creative to do with these spicy guys. I immediately thought of hot sauce! Duh! But not just any hot sauce, the most amazing, most special hot sauce there is… Sriracha Hot Sauce. We love the heat, the flavor and the extra punch of sirracha. We put that ish on everything! Eggs, pizza, burgers, chilli… hell, I’d even have a sriracha birthday cake if I could. The only thing that’s better than sriracha itself is homemade sriracha, which turned out to be really easy to do.
It happened. We had our first baby pigs born at the farm. When we first got our gilts, we knew that some of them were pregnant and that they were about two and a half months away from farrowing. In my mind, it would be this picture perfect plan where we would finish building their farrowing pen in the new rotational pasture system then move the gilts in there and they would magically all drop their litters in sync. That is not what happened. That’s not what happened at all! That’s actually the complete opposite of what happened. Here is the story of our first farrowing.
Three years ago, when we moved out to the farm, one of my mom’s first questions was “are there any persimmons out there?” My mom LOVES persimmons. I mean, like, for real really loves them. Truth be told, I didn’t think that we had many persimmons out at the farm. However since we’ve been out in the woods a lot recently, working on our new rotational grazing pasture, we’ve been finding multiple groves of them! This past weekend my mom and Aunt Linda came out to the farm to help me forage for some persimmons after the first frost of the year and we were able to gather about 5 lbs of wild, native persimmons! But now that we found them, there’s one question to ask: What should I make with all these persimmons? Persimmons are nature’s gummy fruit, my friend and the possibilities are nearly endless for this forgeable fruit.
It’s been a month since we got our first installment of our heritage hog herd. 11 gilts (most of which are preggo, a few of which are super preggo), 4 young boars, 3 barrows (snipped boys) and one very adorable little Piggy Azalea (the pig formally known as Britney Spears). In the past month they’ve taught us a lot; how curious they are, how they can really make you appreciate a mid-day nap, and how quickly they can completely tear up an entire pasture within a few days. Luckily, it’s only a temporary pasture that’s buying us some time until their permanent home is finished. We’ve been sketching out ideas for their pasture for about a year now after talking with Carl Blake of Rustik Rooster Farm, researching the Joel Salatin method and bouncing off ideas with fellow farmers. I think we’ve finally come up with a great easy to manage intensive rotational grazing set-up for our pigs that will keep them well fed on open pasture and woodlands containing hickory nuts, acorns and persimmons.
About a year and a half ago, Farmer Dave had a plan. And that plan was to get pigs. Oh, and also to marry me. We got married on September 20th at the farm and it was absolutely beautiful (pictures to come). At the wedding, our buddy Carl Blake came and roasted a whole hog and also brought with him a little friend, a week old Mulefoot/Large Black cross. Because you can’t have a farm wedding without a baby pig running around, am I right?! Well that little lady pig wasn’t just there for the hell of it, she was our wedding gift! Little Britney Spears (as Dave named her) was the beginning of our pig herd but we had no idea what that was about to snowball into.
It’s that time of year again where we’re up to our eyeballs in produce. So much… so, so much… So at the end of each week I’ll spend a day or so canning. But after three weeks of canning dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, Such and Such pickles, pickle this, pickle that, it gets old. And I don’t want to be eating the same flavored pickled cucumbers all winter long. That would be a long, boring winter. It’s time to shake things up a bit. We have stacks on stacks on stacks of zucchini and green beans this year so it’s their time to shine! Instead of going to regular dilly bean, spicy beans or whatever route, I decided to spice it up and make curry zucchini pickles and curry bush bean pickles. Curry, apple cider vinegar and turmeric make for a zesty Eastern flair pickle that would be perfect on a winter’s terrine or charcuterie board.
Canning season is among us! Every time I go out to the garden I’m greeted with rows and rows of bush beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, okra, I could go on and on… For a second I stop to think, “Man, this is really beautiful! And amazing that we’re growing so much food!” But then I’m like, “Holy expletative! This is a lot of food! I need to can this ish.” So now after I spend my day in the gardens, my nights are filled with wedding planning and canning/preserving recipes. After taking a quick straw poll of everyone who is a frequent visitor and therefore will be eating pickles whether they like it or not in the winter months, I found that there was no general consensus as to whether I should make kosher, spicy, garlic or ‘whatever’ kind of pickle. So I took matter into my own hands and came up with our own blend of kosher, garlic dill and spicy pickles. And so was born the Such and Such pickle.
Last year we had a dream. In that dream were rows and rows of perennial vegetables, fruits and herbs. That dream turned into a plan on paper. That, paper became a section of field. That section of field got plowed and tilled……….AND NOW……. it’s almost a reality. squeeeeeee! But there’s one problem, we did our homework and in all our research it was kinda difficult tough to find exact information on how to build a perennial garden/mid-size berry patch/herb garden/ or anything! Sure, there’s info on how to grow a a few plants here and there. And I can see pictures of huge U-Pick orchards and such but what about us in between dudes? Hopefully this will help be a guide for anyone else wanting to plan a mid-size perennial garden and berry patch.
Alright guys, it’s time for a tea garden update! A few months ago we did a post about the very start of our herb garden. We were deciding on varieties and tending to our baby plants in the greenhouse. I have to admit, creating a tea or herb garden is probably the best idea ever! There’s nothing like going out in the morning, walking amongst the fragrant herbs and watching our honey bees float from flower to flower. We have most of our plants in, there’s just a few more that I would like to add this year. After that, we’ll just see how it goes and then decide on what we want to add or take out next year (I’ll tell you already that I should have planted three times the chamomile that I did). But as for this year, our final piece to the tea garden puzzle is to add different varieties of mint!
You guys, it’s been way too long since we’ve posted anything decent. Our bad, dudes. Frankly, I’m ashamed and a little sad. But we have a good reason why we haven’t had time to chat. You see, every year the month of May is when we basically disappear off the face of the Earth and continuously work long, grueling hours trying to get the garden in and summer projects completed or started. And we also begin a strict farm workout regimen of dirt and sweat. We’re looking like bronzed lobster “after examples” in medical weight loss ads. It’s great. (PS I will never, ever convince myself in January that I should join a gym. That would be silly.) It’s like the entire month of May becomes farmer hell week. So here’s what we were up to during our month of May.
It’s that time of year to put those tomatoes in the ground! YAY!!!!! As much as I love our tomatoes, they sure are needy little things. They’re always like “I’m thirsty, I’m hungry! I fell over! There’s bugs on me! This weed is touching me!” Sheesh! Yes, as wonderful as they are, they sure do need some additional attention and support. Emotional support (in the form of fish emulsion application and pep talks) and physical support. Oh yeah, we’re talking about the ever so important tomato cage. Those of you that usually buy tomato cages at big box stores can know how flimsy and unreliable can be. Instead of buying those or stringing up trellises, we make our own super sturdy and durable tomato cages from highway mesh. They’re very cost effective, can be used year after year, really strong and really awesome.
The wonderful month of May means many, many things. It means endless stressful days of planting in the garden, the first sunburns of the year, a pile of empty beer cans in the trash (and sink. Because for whatever reason grown ass boys will put the cans in the sink but can’t seem to go over 1.5 ft to put them in the trash can. It’s must be some debilitating disease that boys have called “laziness.”). May is also the beginning of grilling season! This is when our meal rotation for the week goes like this: brats, burgers, pork steaks (for fancy guests), leftovers and repeat. I was tired of making the same ol’ burger so I thought I would take the standard burger to the next level. THEN take it to the next level after that! Yes, my friends, it’s the Next-Next Level Burger. A bacon juicy lucy topped with homemade tomato jam, a bacon-onion-balsamic jam and homemade pickled peppers to top it off with. Commence the drooling.
When you raise chickens you get the joys of collecting fresh eggs daily, the joys of watching “the chicken channel,” the little peeps of baby chicks, the sweet sound of the egg laying song the proud (and sometimes awkward) robust crows of the rooster… and also the pleasure of watching them completely tear your yard down to dust. Two years ago our chicken yard was a beautiful, lush pasture. Now half of it is just a barren, dust pit full of feathers and poop. Not very glamorous if you ask me! Not like raising chickens is a very glamorous thing in the first place. Unless you’re Zsa Zsa Gabor or the Queen of freaking England. But I digress. We prefer for our chickens to forage for food, bugs and things and supplement with chicken feed so we needed to do something about our pasture. But re-seeding the chicken pasture while they’re in there can be really tricky. But we figured out a way with our moveable “salad bar.”
Awwwwwwww Snap, it’s that time to start up-potting our greenhouse plants again! One minute, we’re planting seeds and then quicker then two jiggles of a jack rabbits ass they’re already growing out of their frigg’n pots! So far we’ve planted a buziillion herb seeds for our herb/tea garden. But for our real deal Holyfield garden (get it? Holy…field. It’s a farm reference but also like Evander? The boxer? His tagline? Trust us, it’s funny). We started eleven pepper varieties, two kale varieties and nine tomato varieties, and thats just for…starters. (Get it? Like, plant starts? ZING! We’ll be here all week, folks). We started our seeds at different intervals depending on their respected days to maturity so we’re constantly up-potting in the greenhouse. This is great because we don’t get too overwhelmed with having to up-pot every single variety all at once. Because when you have over four hundred plants in the greenhouse, it can all get a little daunting! To hell with all that. Work smarter not harder says old wise people! So this year with our up-potting, we’re trying something a little new.
So you’ve planned out your tea garden, you’ve planted the seeds, you’ve tended to the baby plants and your greenhouse (or growing area) is starting to smell amazing. By now, the plants are getting tall enough to move out of the 1×1 cells and be up-potted into your larger pots. This is when things get exciting, folks! But this is also when you need to keep a good eye on your plants because this is when you will prune them, feed them and start to grow them into all that they can be.
IT. IS. FINISHED!!! Kindof. For the most part. We finished converting our old pole barn into our new goat barn a few weeks ago and have since been working on getting the inside complete and ready for the girls to move in. It took a little work to get the inside of the barn human friendly and goat ready. This is the fun part (for me, at least). I guess Judy and Liza saw that we were pretty close to being done and ready to move them in because the last week before it was completely finished, they started escaping from their temporary pen and always found their way down toward to new barn. That was always a fun surprise. So we figured if that’s where they want to go, that’s where they’ll be! We moved them in, along with Greta and Lucy. Here’s what the fuss was all about and a look at how we set up the inside of our goat barn.
Spring is springing around here! I can always tell when spring is right around the corner here at the farm. Not because of the awesome temperature increases, although I am loving these 60 degree days. But because everything starts buzzing (and chirping!) around here. I went out this week to take some pictures of the first signs of spring around the farm!
This week we had an amazing warm streak of weather; beautiful 70 degree weather, the sun was shining, we traded our thermal shirts for short sleeves, I even think I saw a fly! Hell, I was about to put on my swimsuit and jump in the swimming hole but quickly realized that would be a bad idea… the water does NOT feel like summertime. And the forecast is calling for snow tomorrow. Thanks Missouri! But anyway, one of my favorite things about spring/summer is making a nice glass of sun tea out on our back porch. I love experimenting with flavors and herbs for either iced tea or making my own hot tea from loose herbs, dried fruit and whatnot. And what’s better than making your own tea? Growing it yourself, thats what! That gives you bonus points when company comes over and tastes your delicious tea and they’re all like “Daaamn homie, this sun tea is some good shit, my dude! Namsayin. How’d you make this delicious and refreshing beverage, b?” And then you can be all like, “Thank you very much Ghostface Killah, I grew it myself.”
This is perhaps the most exciting announcement that we have ever made and we feel so privileged to be able to do so. I’m getting all verklempt just thinking about it! Last week, our super homie, chef buddy Joshua Galliano at The Libertine restaurant in St. Louis (who is the mother fuckin’ man!) gave us a call to see if we’d like to pair up for a collaborative dinner. But not just any dinner, my friends! We’re proud to announce that we have been selected to participate in the 2014 tour of Outstanding in the Field!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!! Spring is right around the corner, we have our seeds selected, our planting schedule complete and a greenhouse that’s just begging to be filled with heirloom vegetable and herb plants. Seed starting is probably one of my most favorite tasks around the farm… that and the required goat cuddling that must be done at least twice daily. Each seed planted is a little hope for the season to come. But if you’ve never started seeds indoors before, or just need a refresher or some new tips; here’s a look at starting seeds in our greenhouse.
Hello again friends! A few of you have already gotten to know our girls, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli. And a few weeks ago we introduced you to our new babies, Lucille Ball and Greta Garbo. Since Judy and Liza’s arrival, weâ€™ve been busily working on their permanent goat barn because according to Dave, Lucy and Greta can’t live in the house forever. However, before we started building I did some research and really couldnâ€™t find much information about how to build a goat barn. How much space do they need? How big should kidding stalls be? What about feeders and waterers? Do they need an in-ground pool or spa? Would they prefer a breakfast nook or a veranda? So many questions. But anyway, here’s a look at how we built our goat barn.
Last year we showed you how to tap maple trees and how to collect that sap and make homemade maple syrup. This year we’re stepping up our game! More trees. More taps. More sap. More fire. More syrup! Last year we did about 12 taps, but to make the most out of our short sugaring season this year, we added on a bit… just a bit. Like, added on 100 or so more taps. We started searching online for new taps and decided on two styles and compare the two. Here’s our comparison of two different maple taps (also known as spiles), and a guide of what to look for when buying maple tapping equipment!
During the summer I really love to can and preserve all that I can from our harvests. I want to can gallons and gallons and gallons of things however I’m always stingy to use it and I try to ration it out so we have enough to get us through until next season. Anytime Dave reaches for a can of pasta sauce I’m always quick to say “No!! I’m saving that! Let’s make something else tonight!” He replies, “What are you saving it for?” “I don’t know.. I just am!” However, when company comes over I’m popping pickled peppers and dilly beans like it’s Cristal or something. I know, I don’t get it either. But there’s a big pile of snow outside and no sight of above freezing temperatures for a while. So that means I want some warm, hearty homemade soup. And I figured that this would be the perfect time to pop open some of the cans I put up to treat myself to a taste of summer in this hearty Tomato Pepper Chicken Stew.
Ever since we got the farm, I’ve dreamt of the day that I can hold a baby goat in my lap and bottle feed it in the kitchen. I’ve spent hours and hours watching baby goat videos on YouTube, read every book and blog that I could. And I’ve even bought tiny goat pajamas to have “just in case.” I’ve been nesting in preparation for baby goats. We were planning on getting some in February, around the time that the new goat barn will be done. But one night, I was in the kitchen and Dave had just gotten home. I heard the front door open and in walk two three-day old baby goats! They looked around and bleated as if to say, “Hey, nice digs! Are you our momma? That’s cool. Now feed me!” So there they were. Baby goats. In the house. My dream had come true. But I wasn’t prepared… what do we do with these babies?! Where do they sleep? How often do they need to eat? Let this blog be a guide for you on what to expect when you’re (not) expecting goats and all about my adventures in bottle raising goat kids in our house.
It’s the beginning of January but the middle of cold and flu season. And there’s a crap ton of snow heading our way. We have a lot of friends that are sick, so we didn’t want to risk one of us getting sick then being snowed in together. Passing the nasty flu virus back and forth between the two of us. Forever. To prevent such catastrophe, I decided to whip up some super homemade chicken noodle soup. With our own pasture-raised, free range chicken, homemade broth and homemade egg noodles. I’m pretty sure this recipe has some sort of curative gypsy curse voodoo powers. And even if it doesn’t, and we still end up with bodily fluids flying out of every orifice of our bodies and 12″ of snow outside; at least we have this soup. With one pot, you can make your own homemade chicken noodle soup, homemade chicken broth or homemade chicken stock. It’s magic.
Oh man, what a year it’s been for Such and Such Farm! It’s been a year of firsts for us; our first full size garden, our first sales, our first restaurant clients, our first broody momma and baby chicks, our first goats and more! We’ve been extremely blessed this year and extremely busy! We want to say thank you for everyone that has followed us along the way. We have a lot of be thankful for and a lot to look forward to this coming year. As we look back on our first year, we can’t believe how far we’ve come and remember why we started farming in the first place. To live sustainably and self sufficient, to grow amazing food, raise happy animals and to ultimately live a happy and fulfilled life.
Itâ€™s the most wonderful time of the year! Snow, cozy fireplaces, holiday decorations, bringing your favorite flask with you to company parties and family gatherings. Yeah, all that stuff is great and all but when Iâ€™m talking about the most wonderful time of the year, I mean that itâ€™s freakinâ€™ seed catalog season, son! Yes, itâ€™s December and weâ€™re already talking about summer gardening. Like the holidays, seed catalog season can be very stressful and overwhelming! Whatâ€™s the best seed catalog to order from? What do you do when you have five or six seed catalogs stuffed into your mailbox all at once? Thereâ€™s hundreds of varieties of tomatoes out there, how do you decide which variety to grow? Hereâ€™s some of our tips to help you decide on seed catalogs and seed varieties.
Alright guys, so a few months back I told you that I had found the best homemade white sandwich bread recipe. But I lied. THIS is the best white sandwich bread recipe. It’s the new favorite in our house. It’s a bit sweeter than the previous recipe that I had posted, but I think it’s also more moist and fluffy than the first one too. The sweet smell of fermentation and yeast fills the house on chilly December days. I could probably make this bread all day every day and eat every last bite… and gain 300 pounds. Then eat my way out of the house and go to the grocery store to get more yeast to make more of this bread. It’s that good, folks. But for real, this is sweeter than your average white sandwich bread. But it’s the holidays, so who the hell cares?
About a month ago we started on an exciting (albeit stressful) endeavor. We started growing wheatgrass in our greenhouse, filling every square inch top to bottom with trays, soil, seed and bright green blades of grass. Why does one need 100+ trays of wheatgrass? What is that stuff anyway? Why do crunchy-granola health junkies go nutzo over wheatgrass? Who decided that juicing lawn clippings was a great source of vitamins and nutrients? That last question I can’t answer but for real, let’s talk about some wheatgrass shall we?
There’s no place that I would rather be than at the farm during fall. The air is cold and crisp and it almost reminds me of ocean air. It’s a fresh, rejuvenating air scented with baked pumpkins, cinnamon coffee and freshly cut firewood. The leaves are changing and creating a beautiful contrast with the overcast clouds. While Dave and I were working in the greenhouse one day, we noticed the looming clouds coming from west and the sun hanging in the clouds to the east. I quickly grabbed my camera to capture the moments and some other shots of the farm during fall.
It finally happened.. Dave caved and let me get some goats for my birthday! Birthday goats. Wow, if that doesn’t scream “I live on a farm” then I don’t know what does. Anyway, I was on the search for two Nubian doelings within minutes. Nubians are known for their excellent milk production, they have a high butterfat percentage (good for making cheese, not good for dieters) and can produce about 1,800 pounds (225 gallons) of milk each year. Plus, they got these big ol’ floppy ears. We found a family farm that was wanting to downsize their herd and wanting their two twin Nubian/Alpine mix doelings to go to a good home. The Alpine goats are known for their high milk production. Our goats are 75% Nubian and 25% Alpine so basically, we will get the Nubian butterfat with the Alpine production. Awesome! After talking to “Ashley the Goat Lady” as she’s listed in my phone, I knew that this would be a perfect fit. I immediately began nesting and preparing for their arrival but I had no idea what to expect the first few days of owning a goat. Allow me to be your guide of what to expect when you’re expecting your first goat.
One thing we learned from our garden this year is that we planted waaaaay too many cherry tomatoes. It got to a point that if we needed to punish them, we sent them out to pick cherry tomatoes. Forget water boarding… come to cherry tomato hell. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad but it was very tedious and we were left with plenty of spare cherry tomatoes after our restaurant deliveries. What do we do with all of these suckers? You can’t really sauce them, we don’t have freezer space to freeze them but there is one more solution… to shrink ray them! Or, you know, dehydrate them. I really love sun-dried tomatoes but I don’t have the time (or the daylight) to do that, so the next best thing is to fake and bake. No tanning goggles necessary!
So we’ve been really quiet on the blogosphere lately… shame on us! See, what had happened was that we got hella busy you know… farming. But that’s no excuse! But we’re going to make it up to you, I promise. Here’s a rundown of what we’ve been up to and where we’ve been lately:
A few weeks ago Dave and I were out and about running errands. Picking up some chicken feed, light bulbs, chainsaw blades, torque drivers, valve wrenches… left phalange coupling… cordless… steel… drums… stuff. Oh, and free popcorn. Anyway, we just happened to go down the ‘farming’ aisle where they just happened to have some baby chicks and I just happened to look at them. And what happened to be there was a tub full of week old salmon faverolles! We had just moved the last batch of chicks out of our house and into their respective new big chicken coop. I was kinda looking forward to a living room without chicks but these were salmon faverolles! They were right there! How could I pass those up!? But I told myself (and everyone else) that we were done with chicks for the year. Done. D-O-N-E. Needless to say, we ended up walking out with all 13 of them. Fellow chicken people may understand the excitement of surprise salmon faverolles. But for those of you that are like “Cool. Tiny yellow chickens that are mega cute. What’s the big deal?” Well, I’ll tell you what the big deal is, buddy!
It’s summertime. It’s hot. And I’m hungry. Actually, it’s beyond hungry… I’m hangry. Hangry is when hunger takes over and your stomach becomes very angry at you and you find yourself tearing through the kitchen cabinets and ripping the doors off the hinges. There’s a house full of boys that have been working hard all day so I start to go through my mental recipe rolodex. What do boys want to eat? What do they like? Meat. Cheese. Beer. Grilled things. And that’s pretty much it. And how do you satisfy insatiable man hunger? With man food. Enter the beer cheese burger.
Earlier this summer, we started solarizing our new garden expansion. Basically, we plowed and tilled up the next section of hay field that’s going to be next year’s garden and laid a bunch of tarps over it. The tarps prevent weeds and hay from re-growing there all summer long. The basic idea is that all that summer sinshine heats up the ground under the tarps and fries all the grass and hay underneath. It also prevents a buttload of cursing next summer when we’re trying to weed. So the tarps were all spread out and so we waited. And waited. And waited. But now it’s time to pull off the tarps and see if this whole solarization thing actually worked, then we’re fixin’ to get our fall garden started!
I’m not gonna lie to you, friends. Sometimes I get in a canning rut. I look at a pile of peppers and think… this is boring. But I need to can. But I know I’m not going to want two gallons of pickled jalapenos. I mean, I love nachos and all but do I love them enough to make two gallons worth of jalapeno pepper toppings? Maybe for football Sunday. But we’re not sports people, per say. We don’t follow the sports balls. Maybe we could invite all of our friends over and have a nacho party. But 1) I don’t think we have enough friends to warrant a nacho party and 2) can adults even have a nacho party? Maybe if there’s an e-vite. That would be legit. But I digress. Basically, I don’t want a boring old pickled peppers canning recipe. If I’m going to slave over a hot stove for a few hours, it better be worth it. And lemme tell you friends, this here pickled peppers with shallots and thyme is worth it. And it sounds fancy.
Sorry that we haven’t been posting lately, friends! But if you’ve been following us on facebook or instagram, you know that we’ve been super busy in the garden (Dave calls it “the field” so it sounds cooler but I just think it makes him sound like a Baba O’Reily lyric. 10 points for The Who reference). Right now we’re knee deep in peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and bush beans. Here’s a look around the garden, a.k.a. the field, show you what we have going on and what we’re doing with our harvest.
I’ve already confessed to you my love of strawberries and canning season with my strawberry shrub recipe. With strawberries still in season, I’m trying to preserve as much as I can. I started out with your classic strawberry jam but as soon as word got out that I made homemade strawberry jam, it was gone. Seriously… how can a gallon of strawberry jam disappear in a week? I asked the boys where it went to and they convinced me that we must have some sort of strawberry jam starved honey badger in our neck of the woods that unlocks our kitchen door and goes through our pantry at night. I’m sure that’s what it was. Anyway, I decided to kick it up a notch with my next batch of jam. A twist on the classic, if you will. A sweet jam that will bite you back. Introducing, the strawberry chipotle jam! Or as I call it, “Sweet, Spicy and Everything Nice-y Strawberry Jam!”
CONCRETE DAYYYY!!!!! We sure do love pouring concrete around here. Concrete day means all the guys show up, bust their asses shoveling, skreeting, troweling, and finishing, and then we all get to the drinking, eating, drinking, chatting and drinking. Yeah! Lucky for our livers this pour ain’t our first rodeo. We’ve had to pour a lot of concrete out here. The pad for the wood boiler, the pad for the greenhouse, replacing drain pipes in the basement floor (that sucked), putting a new culvert pipe in the driveway, etc, etc, etc. Today we’re converting an old ass pole barn into a wood shop.
Is it the end of June already? By the looks of our garden… yes. Yes it is. Our garden is looking nice and delicious, many of our plants are just on the brink of harvest. Each row is flourishing with dark green foliage, flowers and fruits of our labor. Well, mainly Zach’s. He’s been doing a great job of keeping a steady schedule of pest and insect management, weed control and watering when Mother Nature hasn’t been. Before you know it, it’ll be harvest time, selling time and (our favorite) eating time. Here’s a quick look around the garden…
Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some freezer pizza. I love it. Jack’s, Tombstone, DiGornio, I love em’ all. Get in my face! But some times I gotta branch out. Stretch my food legs ya know. There’s a time and a place for everything, and freezer pizza fills many food voids. It’s great for the really hungry, but really lazy, or the really drunk, or really tired. One food void that freezer pizza does not fill, is for the really hungry, but really bad ass. And it just so happens, that’s how we roll (in our minds).
We had our very first harvest of the season last Saturday. We’re growing a dinosaur variety of kale and it’s coming up with a vengeance. Seriously, these kale leaves are as big as your head! We woke up early, early, early on Saturday morning to harvest and prep the kale before selling at the DeSoto Farmers Market. So we packed up our booth and headed over to the market to sell our kale, herb seedlings and fresh homemade beer bread.
Strawberry season is here! You know it’s summertime when strawberries are ripe for the picking. And although we’re not growing our own this year, we’re looking forward to starting our own strawberry patch next year. I feel like they’re one of the most versatile foods known to mankind. Alright.. maybe that’s a stretch but you can do so much with them when it comes to preserving. Is it bad that I went to the market to buy strawberries just so I could preserve them for later? Did I also mention that I love canning season? I love canning/preserving so much that I actually refer summertime to “canning season.” You know, like fall time, wintertime, springtime, canning time. My first canning adventure this year wasn’t a jam or jelly but a strawberry shrub. What the hell is a strawberry shrub anyway?
It pays to plan ahead (hopefully, with actual money!). And that’s why we’re planning ahead for next year’s garden expansion! Right now we have a 75′ x 100′ garden plot, but we have lots of room to grow. If we’re going to sell at farmer’s markets, shared CSAs, local restaurants and chefs and feed ourselves we gotta expand. However, were going to take baby steps to do it. We wanna learn to crawl before you learn to walk. Besides, the more we learn about farming the more we realize that we don’t know noth’n!
Last week I started a new series all about my adventures in cooking for boys. Last week was all about beef and blue sliders, this week I’m giving you a recipe for the morning after. You know the drill, everyone comes over in the afternoon, drinks well into the evening. Maybe the party moves from the porch to the swimmin’ hole and we gather around a giant bonfire. Maybe there’s another beer run. Maybe a push-up/arm wrestling contest. Maybe that’s followed up by a real wrestling contest. Maybe everyone strips down to their skivvies and jumps in the creek. Maybe an entire handle or two of Jim Beam is consumed. Maybe some Jagermeister as a night cap. Maybe some folks don’t make it back to the house. Maybe they just sleep wherever they fell down. I mean…maybe. No matter how the night goes, the morning always ends up the same… the kitchen is trashed and all of the boys are slowly starting to wake up, and crave bacon like zombies craving brains.
It’s officially June and the garden is officially looking kickass! Zach has been hard at work pruning, weeding and tending to the garden. After we transplanted everything, we made some improvements to the soil, constructed supports for the tomatoes and laid down various materials for weed suppression/organic amendments. Translation: our garden looks hella profesh and waaaayyyy better than it did last year.
When you live on a farm with a bunch of boys, they’ll probably want to invite their fellow dude friends over. All the time. And you might suddenly realize that it’s Saturday afternoon and you have to feed a small army of hungry boys who eat like they’re pregnant with twins. However, when you’re the lady of the house you don’t have the time to spend all day slaving away in the kitchen. There’s chicken to feed, weeds to pull, guns to shoot, etc. Also, boys will use up every single dish, pot, pan, fork and knife just to make one meal then leave it in the sink. Am I right? When I found out that I was once again cooking for boys this weekend, I had to come up with a solution. So here’s a recipe that I whipped up that will satisfy the craving of a bunch of hungry boys, will allow you to get out of the kitchen and not leave you with a dozen dirty dishes. Enter the beef and blue sliders…
Ms. Broody Pants has been so much fun to watch over the past few weeks. Her babies are now three weeks old and are moved into a new pen so they have plenty of room to be chickens. The other chickens are able to see but not touch them so hopefully they’re getting acquainted with each other through the coop. The other day I noticed that Ms. Broody Pants was pacing in front of the door to their coop so I trusted her judgement and opened up the door to see what would happen.
It’s finally time to put all of our greenhouse starts into the ground and start direct sowing! We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for the weather to cooperate with us, but now that we finally have the garden tilled and the beds made, we’re ready to get into the garden.
We’re in the final stages of building our new coops. Which is super great, because we have a buttload of chicks in either temporary coops or en route. The buildings are built, we just had to make them chicken friendly. Now came time for the fun part… the roosts, feeders, nesting boxes, brooder, lounge, discoteque and luxury day spa.
We got our first group of Marans about 4 weeks ago, back then they were precious little one week old balls of fluff that bounced around their roomy brooder. Now they like like prehistoric dinosaur-like chicken creatures that I’m certain are going to start breaking out of their brooder while I’m sleeping and start revolting. It’s time for them to move out and start living like normal chickens instead of house chickens.
Getting the garden together this year has been a long, arduous process. Like many farmers in Missouri, we’ve been sitting around the last two months with our thumbs in in our bums, waiting for the weather to be decent enough to get in the garden. It’s been really cold and really wet for a really long time. This is how we prepared our soil for this year’s garden.
Friday night I rushed home from work to see what Ms. Broody Pants was up to. One of our buff orpingtons had been sitting on her eggs for 20 days so I was almost sure that when I got home I would see some chicks. But alas, no chicks. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be, maybe the chill last week was too much for her. But Saturday morning I went out to the coop to check on the chickens and looked in her nesting box. A tiny yellow chick with a black spot on its forehead was peeking out from underneath Ms. Broody Pants. She did it!! She hatched a chick! I ran to the house to grab my camera and by the time I got back out there were three tiny faces peeking out from underneath her wings. Three beautiful chicks!
If you give Autumn a chicken coop, she’ll probably want some chickens. If you give Autumn some chickens, she’ll probably want some more. If your chickens start to lay eggs, your friends will probably want some eggs. If your friends want some eggs, their friends will probably want some too. If your friends’ friends want some eggs, you’ll probably need more chickens. If you want some more chickens, you’ll probably need some more coops. Translation: We’re building not one but two additional coops so that eventually we can have three separate thirty bird flocks. By keeping three separate flocks, we’ll be able to sell eggs for consumption, hatching eggs, chicks and full grown chickens. And we are really effing excited.
When we first got into raising chickens, we researched many different breeds. We knew that we wanted to get buff orpingtons because they’re a great utility breed. Then we were gifted three Easter Eggers and immediately fell in love with them. But we knew we wanted to raise a whole flock of one specific breed to keep in a dedicated coop. A breed that was really special, unique or rare. It wasn’t long before we discovered the marans breed. They’re a rare breed that lays a coppery-chocolate colored egg, which is really badass. They’re also James Bond’s favorite egg… mega badass. We had to have them.
So, we’ve got this spot by the entrance to the new wood shop that needs a retaining wall. We had to dig the floor to the new wood shop down about 10 inches. On top of the fact that it was already 8 inches lower than the shop next to it. This left us with about 18 inches of hill that just can’t wait to slide in front of the door and block the way like a big dirt bouncer at a wood shop club. So we decided to build a railroad tie retaining wall to hold all the dirt back and guess what? We had a bunch of railroad ties laying around the farm. Perfect!
Spring has finally sprung here at the farm! Let’s just hope it stays this way. Now that it’s April, Missouri’s weather needs to get its act together! Anyway, we’ve started to notice some signs that spring has arrived; the hyacinths in Rob’s flower bed have started to bloom, we have a seriously broody buff orpington, the greenhouse is full of seedlings and germinating herbs, we have construction projects out the wazoo and there’s this bright light coming from the sky… oh yeah, the sun.
We’ve been collecting old tires for a while now. Whenever we would get our hands on one, we’d throw them on the side of the barn in hopes that in one day we’ll think of something useful for them. In fact, old tires are hella handy to have around the farm. You can grow potatoes in them (although that didn’t work out too well for us last year), make nesting boxes out of them for your chickens, build an Earth home with them, just throw them down a hill and see whose tire goes the furthest or make flower planters out of them… which is what we did.
Ok, the greenhouse isn’t really leaking. We just like wordplay. In fact, the greenhouse is looking pretty awesome these days. Zach has been kicking some plant ass! He just finished the first round of up-potting tomatoes, peppers, kale and leeks. Ahh.. seed babies. They grow up so fast!
When we bought the farm, it came with our very own apple trees in the front yard. They were really neat to look at… but didn’t really produce squat. We were sure that they were a lost cause since it didn’t look like anyone had touched them for many, many, many, many years. However, our friend Nice Guy Ted, proved us wrong.
Saturday, March 9th marked the one year anniversary of our friend Rob’s passing. But it just so happened that on Saturday, March 9th, the sun came out, the weather warmed up and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was the perfect day and date to plant a flower bed in honor of Robby. Nice Guy Ted had been collecting annual and perennial bulbs for us and brought them over that Saturday to plant. I wish we could plant a PBR tree or concrete flowers for him, but tulips and day lilies will have to do.
With springtime just around the corner (we’re hoping), our interior space sufficiently set-up and our climate control system installed, we were finally ready to put this greenhouse to work! But wait! We were missing one important component. We need to get lit! I mean really lit.
So after two years of research, planning, digging, building, and drinking our greenhouse finally exists. There it is. Sitting right next to the garden. We are finally ready to grow some sick tight vegetables, yeah? Not quite. This is the story of how Zach got the final and most important part of our greenhouse puzzle.
The greenhouse is nearing completion. FINALLY! However, we are noticing one major issue. It’s hotter than balls in there! We decided that between the automatic window openers, the thermostatic pump control and ourselves; we have three separate systems working against each other. We needed a solution and we found one… in Canada.
Last week we collected sap from our maple trees in order to make homemade maple syrup. (See how we tapped the trees here) We tapped the trees on Sunday and by Saturday afternoon we had about 72 gallons of sap! With a 40:1 ratio, that means that we should have just under 2 gallons of syrup. Here’s part two of our syrup making endeavor.
According to my camera roll, this was a pretty busy week out here on the farm. And better yet, it’s starting to feel like spring is just around the corner. We’re starting seedlings in the greenhouse, there may be baby chicks in the near future and the taste of homemade syrup is close at hand. But then again, this is Missouri. There could be a blizzard next week. Who knows. But here’s a look around the farm over the past week!
We love our bagels around here. Savory bagels, sweet bagels, bagels with schmear, bagels with meats, bagels in the morning, bagels for lunch, bagels here, bagels there, bagels everywhere. In fact, two of my favorite eateries happen to be bagel places. The Ripple Bagel and Deli in Indianapolis and Bergen Bagels in Brooklyn. While I was on this homemade bread kick I figured that I’d take it up a notch and try making bagels. So on Friday night at about 8:30pm, after a long week of work, I decided to open up a bottle of wine and give it a go. Sounded like a good plan to me!
In Missouri, we have a saying, if you don’t like the weather all you gotta do is wait like, 15 minutes. However, in February these temperature swings are perfect for tapping a sweet little sugar maple tree. Ideally, what you want is for the temperature to drop below freezing at night and get up to the 40’s during the day. What happens is that at night, the tree is all cold, lonely and constricted, then as the temperature rises it gets all hot, loosens up and lets its milky white sap flow. Okay, enough innuendoes (haha, in your end-o!).
So with the greenhouse structure built, it was time to start working on the inside. Zach and Dave have been doing a lot of research on benches, temperature control, lighting, and watering systems, while Nemo has been designing the very important manifold for the radiant heat in the floor, and anywhere else we need heat. We wanted to make the space as efficient and easy to use as possible. But first, we had to find materials.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed that some of my girls have become the “favorite” of the flock if you know what I mean. The roosters have been a little too aggressive with them. My first plan of attack was to get rid of a few roosters (we have way too many) but that has taken longer than expected. Buying/selling chickens in the winter months is really tough! So my second plan of attack was to prevent the roosters from pulling out any more saddle feathers on the girls and there’s only one way to do this… with a chicken saddle.
Baking bread has quickly become one of my weekend rituals. Wake up, make coffee, check on the chickens, feed the dog and start making bread. I love it because I love to cook/bake, and baking my own bread means one less thing to buy at the grocery store. It’s cheaper and tastes better too. It also fills up the house with amazing, wondrous aromas and makes me feel like a real empowered female homesteader that’s going to meet the day and kick some ass. But I hate it because baking is a science and I didn’t do too well in science class. And also because as soon as I take it out of the oven, I have a 170 lb vulture named Dave who swoops down and eats most of the bread before the weekend is over and I have to make a second batch.
As we sit around, trying to think of good blog posts to keep you all interested on this cold and rainy January afternoon, we can’t help but think back to warmer days spent out here on the farm with our good friend, Rob. As we mentioned before, we lost our very good friend, Robert Corcoran Dixon IV (a.k.a. Rob, Robby, RCD4) last March. All of us out here at the farm loved him very much. His birthday was on July 7 so this past year (and every one after as far as we’re concerned) we decided to honor him with … Continued
It’s January but it sure felt like springtime this morning, which meant only one thing; weather was coming. So we woke up early this morning, did all of our errands and running around to make it back in time to do our farm chores before the impending monsoon set in.
It’s January 10th, so it may be a little overdue. But it’s never too late to set goals, right? Maybe my first New Year’s Resolution should be to stop procrastinating and make more lists. Maybe not. But here’s a list of goals that we would like to accomplish this year at Such and Such Farm:
Earlier this spring it was decided that we were going to build a greenhouse. We had originally planned to just build a hoophouse. But after deciding to try to heat the greenhouse with our wood boiler as well as doing a lot of research, we realized that a hoophouse just wasn’t going to cut it for many of the plans we had. It also would not be as strong or as efficient as a kit model greenhouse. A hoophouse would have taken care of some of our needs but not all. So as it turned out, we needed a real greenhouse. Not just any greenhouse. A really kickass greenhouse.
We’ve had a couple of bad storms these past few weeks. Wind, rain, sleet, snow, you name it. As a result, we had a few huge oak trees fall in some of our wooded areas. So we called up our friend and professional logger, John Lambert to help us take care of the fallen trees and surrounding dead trees. We’ve put together some photos and videos demonstrating how to properly select a tree for cutting, dropping the tree and cutting the tree for firewood. Dave, Nemo and Zach are pretty good at falling trees but John is a professional logger and is very good at what he does. Logging is more of an art than a science or chore. Please don’t try this at home, leave it to the professionals.
The other day I noticed that one of our buff orpington hens was getting a really dirty butt. So being the concerned chicken mamma that I am, I quickly began reading up on it. Turns out that there can be some pretty some serious complications from this. She could get sick from any disease that may be harboring in her dried droppings, her vent could get completely shut and could potentially become egg bound, etc. Now, I get concerned when one of my chicken sneezes so obviously, I was on the case. I turned to Dave and said “Well, it looks like we’re giving the chicken a bath today” to which he replied, “Correction… you’re giving the chicken a bath today.” Well… here we go. Sometimes you just have to give a chicken a bath.
Snow finally came to Such and Such Farm! We’re really excited but no one is as excited for the snow as Cadillac dog. Everyone was keeping busy today; Dave and Zach were finishing maintenance on the tractor and cutting up a fallen oak tree, Autumn had to take care of the chickens, make bread and work on stuff for the business. And Cadillac? Well, he was having a snow day.
Wintertime is finally here. It’s drab outside, it’s windy, it’s cold. To prevent the winter blues from getting to my chickens, I decided to make them a flock block substitute. They’re really easy to make, more nutritious and are more cost effective than the flock blocks you can buy in the store. You can make them out of virtually anything you have in your pantry. I figured, if I can make it then why should I buy it?
I really wanted chickens. I wanted them really bad. The farm already had a great coop on the property inside a large, fenced in chicken run. All I had to do was insert chickens… and learn how to take care of them. One Saturday in May, our good friends John and Lanette brought us over five chickens and the rest is history. I had chicken fever. Here’s a looksie around our coop.
After we got the wood boiler installed and part of the house rehabbed (the upstairs needed a new kitchen and the downstairs was transformed from one huge open space into an apartment style living quarters with a utility room) the next step was to make the garden. Our property has three large hay fields so we took a section of one field and planned our garden area. Deciding on the space was pretty easy. One hay field is too far from the house and another field has our septic system underneath it. The remaining hay field turned out to be the perfect place for a garden; it was flat with a gentle slope for drainage, across from the fresh water springs, next to the chicken coop and also viewable from my kitchen window.
So we decided that our first project would be to install a wood boiler. This way we’ll be able to heat the house, hot water, and greenhouse with wood instead of burning oil or gas. Unlike oil or gas , wood is a renewable and cheap/free resource. We got plenty of it, and haven’t had to chop down a live tree yet, only standing dead ones. The boiler burns wood slowly and very efficiently using a natural draft system, and it doesn’t release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment like most heating systems do.
Welcome to Such and Such Farm! Allow us to introduce ourselves and give you a look around the place. My boyfriend, Dave, and I dreamt of living a life in the country, creating art, growing our own food and becoming self-suficient as much as possible. In July 2011, we moved to our 88 acre farm in Jefferson County, about an hour south of St. Louis. The farm includes hay fields, surrounding wooded areas, fresh water springs that feed into a creek (complete with swimmin’ hole), a stocked man-made catfish pond, plenty of out buildings (including the barn, metal shop and wood shop) and a cute farm house. Now that you have the basic idea, let me introduce you to everyone on the farm…