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).
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.
We were so excited to have Strange Donuts visit our farm to shoot an episode for their first season of Strange Louis!
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.