A secret…

Shhhh... I'm secretly a fall-lover. I tell myself (and others) how much I love winter, but there is something invigorating about fall. The crisp air and blustery wind makes me feel alive!

This is a very lengthy segue to letting you know that all of a sudden we are back in what I call “body butter season”.

Last month I had a few jars of body butter around the house. I didn’t really know where; they aren’t used much in the Summer here. But in the last week or so, I have found all of the jars and they’re now planted in strategic locations. The largest is next to my bed. I keep that for my hands and feet before I go to sleep. The second (also large) is in the bathroom for after showers, and a third is near the kitchen sink. Finally, there’s the jar in our coffee table drawer for dry hands while watching TV; it doesn’t get much use because TV watching is also clothes-folding time, and body butter and clothes-folding don’t work well together. But, I know where it is just in case!

Without frequent body butter applications in the fall and winter, my hands get dry and cracked. Beyond looking unsightly, they hurt, and the scruffy skin catches on clothing. With body butter, my hands feel like… normal hands! They’re soft and moisturized even in the middle of winter when the cold winds are blowing and the woodstove is sucking all the moisture from the air!


The hardest day…

I wrote this on a Tuesday morning, as I was dropping two pigs off at the butcher.

This is one of the hardest days for a farmer. Today two of my piggies are going to the butcher. One of the ways I know that I am a farmer is that it is so hard for me to do this. To me, that means that I have given these piggies everything that I can so that they can have a good life. I eat meat. I’ve tried being a vegetarian for ethical reasons but I just feel ill (and get sick) after a few weeks with no meat. And for me to eat meat and have a conscience, I need to know that the animals had the best life possible. So this is why I do what I do. I love these piggies from the time that they are tiny piglets. I give them scratches. I talk to them. They know they are loved. And beyond all of the things I do to keep them healthy, that love is the part that I think makes all the difference.

So I celebrate these piggies. And I celebrate the pain I’m feeling right now.

I feel the same with my other animals, but pigs hold a special place in my heart.

Where are the eggs?

Molting is a normal process for birds that disrupts egg production for me every year. Sadly, I tend to forget about it until the feathers start coating everything and the egg numbers go wayyyy down. I was just looking back on last year’s numbers and saw that the chicken molt didn’t start until the last week of September but that the egg numbers never really recovered whereas the duck molt was most of September and October but recovered after that. 

Birds molt to replace their feathers. It’s important even for birds that don’t fly much because feathers are their insulation! Over time, feathers tend to get a bit worn and unkempt. To replace the feathers, the birds lose their old feathers and then regrow new ones. This process requires a lot of protein so the chickens redirect the protein they usually use to make eggs into producing new feathers. To support them, I raise the protein level of their feed to help them molt more quickly and easily, but it still takes time. Chickens can have a hard molt or a soft molt. The hard molt is when they lose their feathers quickly and look half naked. My chickens rarely do this. Instead, they do a soft molt where they gradually begin losing feathers and replace them all more slowly. This means they look a bit scruffy but rarely do they have bald patches. It takes a bit longer and this is why I don’t have many chicken eggs in the fall and winter!

Ducks molt a bit differently. They do a hard-core molt and are generally done in a few weeks. They don’t all do it at the same time, so I usually just have fewer duck eggs rather than none! The other day Abby brought me a duck who was limping slightly to check. She didn’t know the duck was molting (growing feathers can be rather sensitive so I try not to handle the ducks too much during molting). After checking her feet, I was able to take two great pictures of her wings with their feathers growing in! Check out the images below.

Custom processing means you get the meat cut and processed the way YOU want!

Pork, Lamb, and Eggs… Oh My!

Do you love good quality meat but get frustrated when cuts aren’t available or aren’t cut the way you prefer? Custom ordering is a wonderful way to get the meat you want at a lower price than the stores AND have it cut to your specifications!

Our pork and lamb is the best you can buy. Our pork is raised in the forest. The hogs have access to up to 30 acres of land to forage and they’re also given a ration of GMO- and soy-free grain that’s been soaked for at least 12 hours, as well as minerals, kelp and fishmeal for protein. The pigs are fed and checked on twice a day and love the head scratchings and pats they get. 

Our lambs live out in the fields and only come in for shelter, minerals, and when we call them to get checked out. They are completely grass-fed and spend their time happily munching grass and greens as part of a large flock, including their mamas. 

We have both pork and lamb ready for pre-order. Pork is $4.75/lb hanging weight* and lamb is $5.95/lb hanging weight*. If you’ve not bought meat in bulk before, here is how the process runs:

  • place a non-refundable* deposit of for the animal(s) you want – $50 for lamb, $100 for a half hog, and $150 for a whole hog
  • shortly before their harvesting date, we will put you in contact with the processor to choose your cuts
  • soon after delivery to the processor, we will receive the hanging weight * of the animal and send you an invoice for the balance
  • the processor will contact you with a pickup date. It’s generally about 2-4 weeks after harvesting. You pick up your meat from the processor (Mt. Airy) and pay them for their services

*What is hanging weight? It is the weight of the animal after the processor has started processing your meat but before the final cuts. It’s typically about 40% of the live weight, but it varies by species. Our hogs typically run about 125-200 lbs hanging weight and our lamb runs about 40-65 lbs hanging weight. 

Fermented and soaked grains are as beneficial to animals as they are to humans

pigs enjoying fermented grain

I’m guessing you have already heard great things about soaked and fermented food for humans, but did you know they can help our our animal friends too?

Our chickens, ducks, and pigs are all fed soaked or fermented grains every day. It makes a huge difference in their health and the quality of the food they produce! Think about it; for a seed to become a plant someday, it needs to be able to pass through an animal’s stomach whole to be replanted and grow. By soaking and fermenting, we making it easier for those seeds to be digested, rather than planted!

To start, the grains are soaked in water for at least 12 hours. This causes the seed coat to swell and the “good stuff” inside the seed is easier for the animals to access and process. Because they’re better able to break down the seed and access the nutrition inside the seed, less seeds are passed through the digestive system without being utilized, so more nutrition is gained.

At this point in the process, I sometimes feed the grain to the animals. Space and time constraints mean I can generally only have once bucket of grain soaking at a time, so while some of the grain continues on to the fermentation process, some of it needs to be consumed after 12 hours.

What’s left goes on to ferment. This process takes about 2-3 days though I’ve seen it happen in less time. Unlike cattle and other ruminates who ferment what they eat on their own, pigs, chickens and ducks do not ferment their own food and thus miss out on the added benefit of fermentation.

Fermentation encourages the natural yeasts to modify the anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are substances that actually inhibit the absorption of minerals (gluten, lectins, phytates) and removing them or changing them increases the absorption of nutrients.

When fermentation occurs, you can tell because you can see gas bubbles rising from the grain!

chicks enjoying fermented grain
fermented grain draining excess liquid