Saturday, February 28, 2015

Baby Chicks!

We've been hatching a ton of chicks. Partly because I haven't had eggs to hatch in over a year. Partly because we aren't selling eggs fast enough (I know, I know, this will just cause more issues down the road), and partly because it's fun! The weather is the WORST for this endeavor, so they have been living inside the house for the first 2-3 weeks of their life, then moving to the big brooder in the barn. When the snow melts, these guys will get to go outside. For now, inside it is!

But with such successful hatches, which is rare this time of year, usually my fertility rate hangs out with average temperatures, so that colder days mean less hatches, but these have been doing great. We are going to see if anyone wants to buy any baby chicks. Lots of folks hate the idea of buying from a hatchery, and having these poor babies shipped in a box. Not only that, but hatcheries, especially for laying breeds, sell mostly the females. Some even give away the rooster chicks. And the rest - honestly, you don't want to know.

So we are going to sell some chicks. I am hatching plenty for our own use, and I can hatch more. So I'll be putting that out there. For the first time since the beginning of the farm, I have essentially one breed on the farm, so my chicks hatch to a true breed. I don't get mixes of unknown egg rates. We have primarily Rhode Island Reds, an all around robust little bird. Great feed conversion to egg output, they lay year round (we're getting over 70 per day, which is unheard of for us in the winter!)

So here's the dealio, let's see if anyone else wants a few chicks!

Day Old Hatchlings are $3.00/chick
1 Week old chicks are $4.00/chick
2 Week old chicks are $5.00/chick
3 Week old chicks are $6.00/chick 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What to do with Lamb Ribs?

Ribs ribs ribs!  My husband is the cook in the house. When he left for his year in New York, I suddenly had to not only take care of the whole farm, the house, my job and my daughter - but I discovered I had to feed us, too. I didn't have time for elaborate meals, and sometimes, my best kitchen time is in the morning, when the kiddo and the critters are still sleeping.

Not only did I need meals that were quick to prepare, but  I discovered I had a freezer full of RIBS. We ate all the "good" cuts - the shanks, chops and ground. I had to figure out what to do with all these ribs. PLUS, I HATE picking meat off bones. I prefer it to fall off for me...

I have a crock pot cook book and decided to hop in and see what I could find for a rib recipe. Relatively disappointed, I found about 40 pages of various beef stews and found one and only one rib recipe.

Basically, it said to put your ribs in the crock pot and cover them in BBQ sauce and simmer that way all day.  OK, I could do that. But what BBQ sauce did I have? Voila!  I CAN my own, but it's made with peaches.

You can find the recipe for Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce here.  I can my own, and all the fruit and veggie products are Colorado locally grown. I buy so many Palisade peaches every year, I have to get creative with my products. And this BBQ sauce is one of my favorites, but I make WAY more than I can sell, and much more than I can eat. Until I tried it on ribs - I used it mostly for chicken (which it goes very well with!)

So I decided to give it a whirl. I pour some in my crock pot, to coat the bottom, and put in a package of ribs. I've tried this with beef and lamb ribs and love it both ways. I then cover the ribs with more BBQ sauce, put it on low and let it cook all day when I am at work.

I come home and steam up some veggies, pull out the ribs and we have dinner ready to go. Now, my husband was raised in Virginia, and every Southerner I have met from South Caroline to Tennessee to Missouri to Texas all want to share with me their BBQ recipes. So my husband was a little leary that his northern wife not only could pull of BBQ, but BBQ sauce that included PEACHES? Pfft...

Well, he loved it. So do I. The only ones in the house that wonder are the dogs, when we throw them the bones, they are a little unsure about the zesty part of that BBQ sauce. The sauce is not too sweet and not too spicy - it's got a good tang to it, but it settles in really well with the lamb ribs. All day in the crock pot and the meat comes right off the bone, and the sugars in the BBQ sauce caramelize a bit to make the perfect flavor.  I definitely recommend it! So does my Southern husband, who requested I post this on the site!

To make this official:

Peach BBQ Ribs

1 package of ribs (lamb, pork or beef)  1 - 2 lbs in size
1 quart jar of Peach BBQ sauce - enough to cover the meat in your crock pot. (you can make your own, or buy a jar from us!)

Layer the sauce and the meat in the crock pot, to ensure all surfaces are covered. Simmer in the crock pot on low 8 hrs or more.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

To Debunk Some Misconceptions...

We've heard and seen it all on our farm, I swear. But after answering the phone 3 different times this weekend alone, just to let people know we don't raise goats, I had to figure out WHY people think we raise goats, and along those lines, consider some other misconceptions on our farm...

  • Those are nice goats you have...
I understand that most folks think sheep are white and fluffy, and having sang the song "Baa Baa Black Sheep", that there is an occasional black sheep. But sheep can be spotty and stripey and white, brown, black, horned or unhorned. They come in all shapes and sizes. Ours are even more special to us, because they are a "hair" breed, so they shed, and don't have to be shorn. But no, these guys aren't goats. These are sheep. Slightly less clever and troublesome, but still will eat almost anything. These are sheep. We don't raise goats, and never have. That being said, we have no idea why people keep calling us for goat milk and goat meat. We don't have it!

  • Why are your chickens so expensive?
Yeah, we get a lot of folks who want cheap food. Our highly subsidized food system makes us believe that chicken should be $0.65/lb and your Thanksgiving turkey should be $0.95/lb. Yeah, the BIG factory farms get some major subsidies and discounts to get you there. So their chicks cost less, their cheap, medicated garbage feed probably costs pennies to the dollar for the organic, non-GMO feed that I supply. Plus, those birds are in a controlled environment, AKA a giant airplane hangar with concrete floors. My guys are outside. Sure, we lose some to predators, we lose some to stupidity, and we lose some to weather, but we don't lose them to illness and trampling. And ours get to live a happy life.  I could do the math, but it's been done for me here, the cost of raising meat chickens. There also is a great article talking about the WHOLE chicken, and how the price isn't so hard to swallow when you figure in using ALL the bird - not just the breast. Besides, the cheap grocery store chicken not only is raised in deplorable conditions, the heavy use of antibiotics is bad for them, bad for us and bad for the environment.

All that being said, yeah, raising birds isn't easy or free. And at the end of the day, I buy a chick, I buy a bunch of feed, and I provide water. Once I get the chick, I raise it for its whole life. It never leaves my farm. I butcher it here, I package it here, I sell it here. And you know what? I don't ever get paid. If I had to pay my mortgage with my farm, I can't even imagine what my prices would be, and how fast people would run to the hills. But why can't my farm pay for its whole self? Why shouldn't it pay for the land it is on, the electricity it uses, and my time? We're still stuck in the middle here, and the mindset is that my prices are too high? I have to work 2 jobs to make this work, and there are plenty of people that still think that food produced on family farms is too expensive.

  • Farmers are always on the farm
As seen above in the cost breakdown of JUST raising meat birds, we don't get paid for our labor. That includes daily feeding, building of fences and pens, managing water, and the slaughtering process. we barely get paid back from our inputs, the farm certainly doesn't pay the mortgage. I like Joel Salatin, his books helped encourage us to get started. But he had 400 acres handed down to him from his family. OH what I could do with 400 free acres! No, I have a mortgage to pay. Therefore, we work off the farm to pay for that.  There's also no way that selling eggs would ever allow us to remodel our kitchen. So we work off the farm. We keep our prices low that way, and folks still complain. That means, we are busy off the farm and race home at night to take care of the farm. Not only are we not always here, but even when we are, we are busy caring for our family, feeding our critters and working on farm and home improvement projects. That doesn't mean folks aren't welcome here, we love having customers visit. But that does mean if you just stop by, you might not find us.

  • Hens need roosters to lay eggs
This one always cracks me up. Hens don't need roosters to lay eggs. Humans don't need the male of the species to go into menstruation, either. Hens need roosters if they want fertile eggs. Roosters sometimes act as protectors of their flock (try catching a hen and seeing if the roo doesn't come over to check out what's up) though they stand little chance against coyotes, foxes and owls. Too many roosters can actually be a bad thing for the flock, as the girls will get harassed all day long by their amorous advances. The right ratio of roosters to hens allows you to have fertile eggs that you can hatch, which is fun. But just because the egg is fertile doesn't mean you run the risk of cracking and egg and finding something gross inside. If you collect eggs daily and refrigerate them, they won't develop into chicks. My incubator is set at 102 deg F. That's the temp needed to develop. That isn't going to happen with eggs sitting on the counter, or in the fridge. And having a rooster or two on them farm is just nice, they have great personalities, and honestly, I love to hear them crow!

  • Sheep only give birth in the Spring
While some critters have a seasonal estrus, our sheep can go into estrus at any time. And with a 5 month gestation period, they can have 2 lambings per year. Some of our ladies are self regulating, and just don't let the ram have access. Some of them seem more eager to be moms. We take rams away for periods of time to give them all a break from birthing. But, unfortunately, they don't only lamb in the spring. We've had lambs born in the worst winter days, and I swear sheep have a knack for that. We try to encourage spring lambing, as it allows them to grow to butcher weight before winter, so we don't have to feed them hay in the winter time! It's a challenge to manage, as that means the moms are pregnant most of the winter, and they consume a lot more hay when pregnant. Sometimes you just can't win. But this does allow us to have lambs all year round,  meaning we can always stock our freezer with fresh lamb, instead of sending it all to butcher at once!

  • When it rains, turkeys will drown themselves by looking at the sky and filling up with rain water
While I have never seen that happen, I have seen turkeys find very creative ways to die. And it's heartbreaking every time. Chickens are smart enough to roost in their coops every night. Turkeys want to live in the forest. I've had turkeys live all winter spending their nights in an Aspen tree. No leaves for cover, and they didn't die. So they are hearty birds. But still, they will figure ways to drown (don't let them near uncovered stock tanks or ponds), ways to get trapped (make sure your brooders and fencing don't have spaces where they can get a head or foot stuck), or just plain stubbornness (brooding in an open field, and becoming coyote bait). No, I've never seen them drown in a rain storm, but they will stand in the rain until they are completely soaked and shivering, not even thinking to take cover. It's a bad sign when the ducks take cover in their coop, and the turkeys are still standing in the rain!

  • Farming and ranching are our business here, not butchering
 This one is a bit more tricky. We butcher birds. We advertise that we butcher birds. But it's just an offshoot of what we do. We don't do it every day, we don't do it in winter. It really just became a subsidiary of the farm because we have all the gear, we have the knowledge, and we have the ability. It helps us pay for the cost of very expensive butchering equipment. It keeps us in practice. But as I have already stated, we work OFF the farm. Then we come home to take care of our animals and our gardens. That being said, sometimes we need a weekend off the farm! Sometimes we need a weekend when we aren't elbow deep in chicken bits. So we aren't always available to butcher.  I think I went a 9 week stretch last year of butchering every weekend. That was time not spent with my daughter, time not spent doing repair work or projects on the farm. The price we charge barely covers supplies alone, and certainly isn't making me rich. And I get up at 4AM to make it all happen. Butchering is a service we provide to the community, because not many places can do it. But we don't want to make a living out of it.

  • You must farm and ranch because you love it!
Yes. Yes we do.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Self-Serve Eggs

We set up a mini-fridge on the front porch for self-service eggs. We're going to give this a try on the honor system. Prices are posted on the fridge. Both conventional and organic eggs are available.

We spent the weekend cleaning off and treating the porch, it may still smell a little bit like stain, but that will subside. And with the joys of Craigslist, we were able to get our hands on an inexpensive little fridge. I don't think I can squeeze ice cream into the freezer part, it was hard to find one that had a decent sized freezer on our budget. So we'll give eggs a try.

For now, there is an envelope inside for payment. If the honor system doesn't work out, the we'll switch to a lockbox.  I also need to put in a form for CSA members to list their name and how many eggs they took, I'll work on that this week.

But for now, we hope this makes it convenient for you. If you happen to be in the area and want to pop by for eggs, you don't even need to check to see if we are home!  Just come by! Eggs will be waiting for you!