Friday, February 27, 2009

Don't Follow the Chickens!

If you are one of those that doesn't want to consume your animal products from confinement operations (CAFO) for varies reasons or don't live by a CAFO, you still might be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

You may not know it, but the agriculture industry is the biggest user of antibiotics and they're playing a major role in our antibiotic-resistant bacteria problems. Antibiotics are continuously used to ward-off diseases due to the confinement nature of their operations.

The findings below gives us all the more info that we need to boycott meats produced in this manner. Yes they produce cheaper products, but in the long run it is hurting us more than we it is worth it? The solution: buy from a local farmer that does it the humane, healthy and grass-fed way!

***** from: Acres, March 2009 ********

Researchers at John Hopkins University have uncovered an unusual means whereby humans may become exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria: driving behind chicken-laden transport trucks.

The new study was conducted on the Delmarva Peninsula coastal region shared by Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, which has one of the highest densities of broiler chickens per acre in the country. The investigators collected air and surface samples from cars following 2 to 3 car-lengths behinds poultry trucks for a distance of 17 miles. The cars had air conditioning and fans turned off with windows wide open.

The strains of pathogenic bacteria collected were found to be resistant to 3 antimicrobial drugs widely used to treat bacterial infections in people. These drugs are approved by the FDA as feed additives for broiler poultry. The bacteria were found on a pop can inside the car, on the outside door handle, and in breathable air samples collected inside the vehicle. The study is the first to look at exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria from the transportation of poultry.

The findings can be found in the first issue of the Journal of Infection and Public Health (

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free-Range, Pastured Eggs

My apologies to all for not posting in a while. School has started up again and my attentions have gotten diverted to other activities. However, I would like to continue my series about our products. Today, I will talk a little about our free-range, pastured eggs. What makes our eggs so different and special from other free-range eggs? The same thing that makes all our meat products different: grass. The laws regarding free-range eggs only specify that the birds need access to the outdoors, not grass. This "access" could merely be a concrete or dirt yard. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens within the industry.

The great thing about our production methods is that our chickens actually get to act like chickens. They get to run through the pastures, breath fresh air, and scratch around for seeds and bugs. This is how eggs were produced 100 years ago, and that is what we are trying to accomplish today. This is what produces the dark yellow yolks our eggs are known for. Also, because our hens live in a portable house with a wire floor, their droppings fall directly onto the pasture and fertilize it. To discover the amazing health benefits you can get by eating our eggs, you can refer to the post titled "Egg-citing News!" under the labels "Our Products" or "In the Know."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pure Maple Syrup


There is nothing like the taste of pure maple syrup either on a stack of pancakes/waffles, french toast or added as an ingredient to a recipe. Maple syrup makes a great natural sweetener with the addition of a natural maple flavor.

A few weeks ago we started the 2009 syrup season here at the farm. It is not an easy process in many way as it is just hard physical labor plus it's time consuming but afterwards it is rewarding as we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors. I would like to give you a little glimps of the maple syrup making process so you can see what is involved in making real maple syrup.

Before I get into all that though, I thought I would first give you some maple syrup facts:

--Ohio ranks 4-5 each year among the 12 syrup producing states.
--Syrup season begins when you have above freezing day temperatures (ideally in the 40's) and below freezing night temperatures(ideally in the 20's). This creates internal pressure that causes the sap to flow up through the tree.
--Syrup season ends when it continues to stay warm and the tree buds begin to swell. The sap develops a bitter tastes at this point.
--It takes on average, about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.
--In a GOOD year, each whole tapped into a tree will yield about 10 gallons of sap which equals about 1 quart of syrup.
--Sugar content of sap ='s clear with 98% water.
--Sugar content of syrup ='s light brown with 33% water.
--Native Americans taught the settlers the process of "sugaring".
--A grove of sugar trees is called a "sugar bush".
--When the sap flows it's "sugar weather".
--Place where the sap is boiled down into syrup is a "sugar house or "sugar shack".
--The word "sugar" is used more than "syrup" in industry lingo because the sap was made into hard sugar instead of syrup because it was more easily preserved.

Here are some nutritional facts about maple syrup:
--Maple syrup contains as much calcium as does whole milk.
--Good source of potassium, manganese and zinc.
--Contains trace amounts of other minerals, vitamins and amino acids.
--Low in sodium.
--No fat or cholesterol.
--Lowest in calories of all the natural sweeteners.

The ingredients of pure maple syrup: pure maple syrup.

The ingredients of Mrs Butterworth syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Molasses, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Natural and Artifical Flavor (Caramel Color, Corn Syrup), Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Mono and Diglycerid.

Now you tell me which one you think is better for you....the God-given one that is nutritious and only has one ingredient OR the man-made stuff that has no nutrition what so ever in it.....actually it will probably pull nutrients out of you to digest it?

On to the process of making maple syrup:

When syrup making temperatures look like they are going to hold out for a while, you start the process by putting a whole in the tree....we call it "tapping the tree". Sugar and black maple trees are best to tap. If you start too soon your holes will dry up before the real flows start and you will have to retap-- so it is a bit of a guessing game at this point as to whether it's time to tap or not. After the hole is drilled, you hammer in the spiels (the thing that directs the flow of the sap out of the tree) and put on a bucket holder.

After the bucket holder is on, someone needs to follow with a bucket that has had a lid put on it (this keeps out rain, snow and other unwanted stuff) and hang it on the tree. Walking around in the woods and carrying all the items you need from tree to tree in this weather can be exhausting as the snow can still be deep and hard to walk in....or it's wet and muddy everywhere. Our farm has a little over a hundred buckets to hang. My mom volunteers to help us make syrup as she wants to do it 'for the exercise'...gotta lover her...she's getting her exercise alright. She is a big help! Thanks mom.

It is kind of neat to walk through the woods and see all the buckets hanging and listening to the pinging of the sap dropping in them.

Now we've gotta get that sap out of the woods! After the buckets are full, they need to be collected and this can be a great chore at times. Early spring is not the best time to be trying to get around (at least in our low lying woods) as you have to navigate through spots like these to get in and then hope you can get back out with a wagon fully loaded without getting stuck. This is all melting ice that you see in this picture.

In the middle part of our woods, we have a dry stream bed that flows through it and it's NOT dry in the spring. I am sometimes amazed that we don't get stuck more than we do. When this picture was taken, we had over a foot of snow on the ground that was melting (last winter we had a big snow storm that come after the seasoned started and getting around was just horrible). After the snow and the top layer of ground had melted this time, it was another real challenge! When it was time to collect sap, because it was so bad out, the fear of getting stuck was very high on the list. We decided to park the wagon in the higher dry spots and bring the sap to the wagon instead of the wagon to the sap. It's not easy walking through all this plus also carrying 2 five gallon buckets full of sap...and not to spill any of it. We've talked about going the tubing route, but we are not quite big enough to warrant the cost....and that has it's own set of problems.

After the sap is collected, it is brought up to the sugar shack in the back yard so it be watched while it boils down. Yeap- it's a shack, it's not anything pretty, but it works! What you see in the picture is the steam coming off in the boiling down process. It takes a good deal of wood to keep the fire going so it can stay boiling. Someone has to keep stoking it and adding more sap as needed....and round up wood when required.

When enough of the water has been boiled out of the sap, it is maple syrup--well almost-- it's not quite ready yet. We take it off, get another batch going if we have it, and move the boiled down batch to the next stage.
It is now brought indoors for a final consistency check. After that is completed, it's ready for filtering (which is what is being done in the picture above). The filtering process gets out all the twigs/leaves, ants, syrup sand, etc. This can be a slow process especially at the end when the filter is plugging up. Every batch is different in how fast it goes through the filter but it never seems to go through fast enough. When it is done being filtered, it is graded (by it's color) then we need to reheated so it can be bottled.
Now we have maple syrup!

Maple syrup does has many uses beside pancakes. Use it as a natural sweetener in coffee, tea, milk shakes or smoothies. It is delicious on oatmeal, granola and grapefruit. Maple syrup adds a wonderful flavor in baked beans and baked apples. It is a great glaze for meats or vegetables like sweet potato, squash, carrots. Many baked goods are yummy with maple syrup added for sweetness and flavor. There is also a cleanse program called 'The Master Cleanse' that uses it too for it's nutritional qualities.

Some people complain about the price of maple syrup but hopefully you will get an idea of why that price is justified as there is quite a bit of labor that goes into making it. Real maple syrup is, by far, more nutritious (and tasty) than its 'competition'. You should expect more from your food.

With all that, I want to encourage you to get some today and enrich your life by adding some pure maple syrup to your diet. We now have some new 2009 maple syrup to offer but don't wait too long to get yours as it is many times sold out by the time we make more the following year. Small containers are welcomed specialty gifts for family and friends or a great addition to a gift basket.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Roast Leg of Lamb

A week or so ago, I was tired of thinking about what to make for suppers, so I told Nathan it was his turn and he needed to pick something to fix for supper one night and make a meal for us all. After thinking about if for a while and going through some of my cookbooks, he decided to go with a recipe from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook. Because lamb is a new product that the farm has started to carry, he (and us) wanted to try some of he went with a Roast Leg of Lamb

I know this picture is not going to do it justice or make it into any cookbook, but I needed to take it quickly before it got too cold and everyone started eating chunks out of it. I want to give you an idea of what it looked like though.

I thought he did a very good job! Maybe he ought to do this more often. The lamb had a pleasant (but not strong) flavor and was very tender. I was very pleased with the taste. Along with the leg of lamb, we also had grilled veggies, basil pesto pasta, and garlic bread. The pesto was from a pasta sauce mix from Simply Organics that wasn't too bad.

I will have to say it was very nice to just show up at the dinner table when the meal was ready and to walk away when I was done eating.

This recipe is simple as he just put on a paste then baked the leg of lamb in the oven. Hopefully you'll find this recipe helpful and want to make some for your family as well....maybe you can even get one of your kids to do it for you like I did, which would make it all the more enjoyable. : ) Enjoy!

Roast Leg of Lamb
The paste would also be good on grilled rib, loin or sirloin chops

5-6 lb leg of lamb (we used 2 of our half legs)
Rosemary, Thyme and Mustard Paste (recipe follows)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. course salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 T. rosemary, chopped
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
6 T olive oil

Rub paste all over leg; rest leg at room temperature for 1-2 hours, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 500*F

Place leg in roasting pan, set in oven, and immediately lower the heat to 250*F; continue roasting until thermometer reads 120*F for rare, 130*F for medium or 140*F for well-done. Cooking times will vary based on the size of the leg and the desired doneness, but allow at least 2 1/2 hours (at 250*F) for a medium-rare 5 1/2 pound leg.

Remove the lamb from oven, cover loosely with foil and rest for a minimum of 15 minutes before serving. The lamb will continue to cook during this time and the tempature will go up another 5-10*F


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Egg-citing News!

If you are into eating pastured or grass-fed farm products at all, you probably already know of the health benefits of consuming food grown this way so this might not be real big news for you. I thought I would share it anyway though, as it only helps us to keep our commitment strong to eating this way when it's tempting (especially now given the down turn in the economy) to give up those healthier higher priced foods for cheaper foods in hopes of saving us some money. I personally like the nutrient comparison chart--it's a good visual.

I think you will agree this is Egg-citing news!

*** ***Taken in part from the current issue of Mother Earth News (Feb/March 2009) and their website******

Eggs from hens raised on pasture are far more nutritious than eggs from confined hens in factory farms.

The results from Mother Earth News’ latest round of pastured egg nutrient tests are beginning to come in. So far, pastured egg producers are kicking the commercial industry’s butt — yippee, go free range!

We’ve invested a lot of time and energy over the last few years in researching the differences between the meat and eggs coming out of the commercial industry and those produced by conscientious farmers who let their animals graze on fresh pastures. In the past, we’ve found that eggs from hens raised on pasture, as compared to those commercially raised factory farm eggs, contain:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

If you'd like to see a cool nutrient compassion chart of free range vs. standard factory eggs go to:

Now we’re looking at vitamin D, which many of us do not get enough of because we don’t spend any time outdoors, and even when we do we use sunscreen that blocks vitamin D production. (More about that here.) Eggs are one of the few food sources of naturally occurring vitamin D, and we wondered if true free-range eggs might be higher in this important vitamin, too.

Our latest tests show that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.

So …
(1) Get out there and eat some fresh, free-range/pastured, farm eggs!
(2) Check out our ongoing pastured egg research here.

Want to read the link for the Oct/Nov 2007 , Meet the Real Free-Range Eggs article, go to:

Another cold one!

Well it was another cold night last night....hopefully our last for a long while!!

As you can see by the picture below that Chad took at 6:00 AM this morning, it was about -6* outside. This thermometer is connected to the house under the patio so it was more than likely colder out in the fields.

I, along with you I'm sure (and the animals too), will be glad when it warms up a bit. This has been a very cold and snowy winter. Last winter it was warm which made it hard to do things around here in other ways as it was never quite cold enough long enough to freeze anything so we always seemed to be in working in this year we are in cold, ice and snow. Whatever happened to global warming--I like it better warm!! I'm not sure which is easier though (warm or cold) as the snow is making it hard to get things done around here too...just walking is a chore.

We have found it a major task to bring firewood out of the woods to sell as the 4-wheeler can just barely get itself going let alone a wagon full of wood.

It looks like we are in for a big thaw this weekend (YEAH) and temps are looking good for the beginning of maple syrup season, BUT I think we will have to sit this one out as even if we did tap trees and the sap flowed, we won't be able to get in or out of the woods to collect it until some of this snow melts. We had a big snow storm last year right before a major flow and it was horrible working in that. So I guess we will have to just watch the snow melt this time and catch the warmer temps next time around. Maple syrup season can be a short season (it depends on the weather) so we will be watching that closely.