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Today is slicing day. I’m slicing coppa, guancialle, fiocco, and ham (for sandwiches). Of course, we make sure it’s all good as we go. That’s a more important step than one may think. After hanging for some time, the pieces ideally have some mold on them. This helps impart desireable flavors and keep the meat safe–if it’s a good white mold. Green and black mold are BAD. We’re constantly patrolling the hanging room for good molds and bad molds, and I also check as I’m slicing to be sure a given piece doesn’t contain an unpleasant surprise. When we see green or black mold it gets treated with apple cider vinegar. If it’s just a small spot, a spray from a spray bottle usually does the trick. Larger areas require some scrubbing and rinsing in the shop with the vinegar and water. Then the piece dries and hangs in the shop a day or two to make sure it got cleaned thoroughly before returning to the hanging room. Mold spores are airborne, so when I find a little mold on a piece I mist the floor and general area lightly with the vinegar as a precautionary measure. Last year we had more trouble with mold, but this year these measures have worked well.
Another lesson learned this year is that seasonality is an element in the quest for good vs. evil molds. The reasons for harvesting hogs in the fall when the nights are cold include the fact that the cooler temperatures retard mold and allow the pieces to go through the initial cure, when they are most moist and therefore most vulnerable, with greater safety. When the more humid summer months come the pieces are either done and in use, or have a protective layer that is dryer and less conducive to mold growth.
There are many other reasons to harvest pigs in the fall and many other ways to control molds in your hanging room. We discuss them in the classes, which are now all updated and available. Check out either the Saturday classes to jump into the process that interests you, or come to the weekend class to get an intensive experience!
The Hog Harvest classes are coming up! Here’s a cool video a friend of ours did about our pigs:
“How can I become a farmer?” someone recently asked us. Well, if you have dirt and can put a lettuce or tomato or carrot seed in it, you can become a farmer. It’s that easy.
However, growing food is also a science and art that can be learned and honed. That’s what this course is about: learning the science and art of growing food that truly nourishes body, soul, and soil. Here’s what the Bionutrient Food Association says about the course:
They do have scholarships, so don’t let the money deter you. We have hostel type housing on-site, so don’t let that deter you. This is a great course for beginners and seasoned growers alike as Dan Kitteredge is a wealth of information and a down to earth communicator. If you can’t attend our class, look for one near you. It’s an opportunity that’s not to be missed!
Matt is a young man with a vision. He sees himself revitalizing the dormant family farm using regenerative agriculture practices. He wants to, ultimately, offer pork, beef, and chicken to local customers. Where to start, he asked himself. “Chickens,” was his decision. So, he attended our recent Pastured Poultry class to get a jump on the learning curve.
Not only did he get an intensive weekend on everything chicken so that his first 150 broiler chicks would go well, he got to see how the whole farm works together and gathered ideas for his own farm of the future. We walked the fields, watched the pigs tilling up the gardens,
milked the cows, and talked politics while learning about chickens. We also talked about marketing and the importance of sound (rather than haphazard) business practices.
Chickens are a great place to start in raising livestock. You can have a few hens in your backyard, or let the kids have a small start-up business supplying eggs to friends, or raise broiler chickens to build a market base and learn farming (like Matt is doing) before jumping in with both feet.
The next class is May 23-25. We hope to see you there!
The farm is in it’s restful winter mode, but we haven’t been. We just realized that it’s the middle of February! We are making the schedule for this coming year and are looking forward to seeing you. The Pastured Poultry weekend classes, Hog Harvest classes, and Permaculture and Soils class are up on the course schedule. We are still working on a couple of new classes and some one day classes. Those should make an appearance very soon.
Last summer proved too busy with our legal wranglings to get the online videos done. We hope that this summer won’t be so busy and we can complete one or two of those.
Check out the new class dates! Check back for more information soon!
Chop together in a bucket: rotten apples, sour milk, a couple of chicken carcasses, cracked barley, assorted vegetables.
Allow to sit for one to eight hours to allow the ingredients to soak and blend.
Dump over fence into feeder.
This is the recipe for our baby pig starter feed. Which only goes to show pigs will eat anything. Plus, a heritage breed pig can even grow on it. One of the reasons pigs have been historically popular on farms is that they can eat the refuse that other animals can’t or won’t eat and can convert it into food. Pigs are omnivores, so they can eat vegetable, dairy, meat, and grain food stuffs. They are not particular, either, about the condition of the food.
Our pigs get a large variety in their diet. Mark plants fields with an assortment of crops, including field peas, turnips, rye, mangals (fodder beets), corn, radishes, and the occasional sunflower. Radishes, buckwheat, field peas are spring food as they don’t mind cool soil and are ready quickly. Turnips and fodder beets are good crops to plant mid summer for fall food as the turnips need to freeze a bit before the sugar sets and the pigs like them. Mark plants turnip and rye to serve as early winter food. Rye is a very cold tolerant grass and the pigs will dig turnips out of frozen ground.
As omnivores, pigs need protein. Most grain rations use soy to meet this need. We use the refuse from our chicken processing (heads, feet, hearts, livers, gizzards) to supplement their feed. We haven’t found that this makes them more prone to hunting their own meat as the chickens sometimes help them clean up their grain. We don’t separate the meat and other scraps (including coffee grounds and egg shells) from the kitchen as the pigs enjoy and convert it all. When we had a couple of beef processed we asked for all the scraps and discard stuff. The oxidized cover fat and large joint bones were great feed supplements!
We have used scraps from the prep table at a restaurant and high quality sourdough bread as feed sources. Bruised apples, unsaleable or uneatable produce, seconds potatoes, etc. are all good sources for pig feed. Creativity can find lots of pig feed. Be sure that what you find is of good quality to begin with. Free Wonderbread is still Wonderbread and the result will be Wonderbread pork.
What you can feed pigs is only limited by your imagination!
This week we moved the smaller feeders out into a fresh pasture. That brought to mind an important topic for anyone considering adding livestock to their repertoire. One of the most crucial factors to the success of raising animals of any sort is having the appropriate fencing. We say this from hard experience. In the range of difficulty, goats are by far the most difficult to fence, with cows and horses being about the easiest.
Because we use our pastures for multiple species, we’ve invested in a woven wire perimeter fence and then use electric to protect the fence and subdivide the fields as needed. Electricity is the essential ingredient for all fencing. You can fence just with electric, but we’ve found that the combination is a good guarantee of positive neighborly relationships. Here is how the pig fence is set up:
The standoff electric fence is about 6-8 inches off the ground–right about where the pig’s nose snuffles along. We make a point of “electric fence training” them before they go out into a bigger field. You can subdivide a field using the wire at about 6-8 inches and another at about 14-18 inches. We’ve used various types of posts and insulators over the years. We came into some fiberglass pipe recently and it works really nicely for electric wire. Pigs have a great respect for electric fence, but are contiually checking it and will sometimes figure out that they can run through it. That’s why we use a woven wire fence to back up the electric. Note the yellow insulator up high. When we have cows in this pasture we can run a wire at the top to keep them from leaning over the fence.
The key to a good system is a good fencer. Plug in fencers are great. They are powerful and reliable. We use several of them near the barn. Solar fencers give you the flexibility of containing and moving your animals anywhere you need them. You don’t have to buy the most expensive fencer, but don’t buy the cheapest either. A good quality fencer that is more than adequate for the space you’re electrifying is a worthwhile investment. This fencer has an insulated “hot” wire running to the electric fence and is grounded on the woven wire fence. Be sure that your fence is grounded well. We’ve chased animals back in (especially goats) more than once only to discover the sand around the grounding rod was bone dry and not working as advertised.
This is one example of an easy way to pasture birds. Turkeys, hens, ducks, geese don’t like the confinement of a “chicken tractor.” They need to roam, but can do a lot of damage to gardens and flowerbeds if they can wander anywhere they like. The feathernet fencing keeps the birds in and predators out. It can be electrified, which is a very satisfying way to convince racoons to leave your hens alone. You just need two fences: one in use, the other set up around the next section of grass so that you just shoo the birds into the next net, close it up, and leapfrog the first net to the next section of grass.
Then, there are always the ones that won’t cooperate and find the alfalfa is higher on the other side of the fence. However, our sheep doesn’t stray far from her herd mates, the dairy cows, who are on the right side of the fence. Plus, since we have the whole pasture woven wire fenced, she won’t be eating the neighbor’s daffodils. This fence does work really well on the cows and horse. A single strand of electric fence on a step post contains the animals and is easy to move using the same leapfrog method as with the feathernet. With the dairy cows, someone goes out to move the fence and open up new pasture while the cows are up at the barn to get milked.
Being able to put your animals on grass is the key to utilizing your resources to the maximum. Weeds become feed, which in turn yields to you the most nutritious food possible, whether it’s eggs or steak.
I recently came into some back fat from one of our pigs. The loin had so much fat on it that Mark trimmed half of it off so the chop would have a balanced amount of meat and fat. I’ve been using a good share of lard lately, so I decided to render it. Last fall we met a lady from Maine, Debra Evans, who introduced me to a different way to render. She puts the well chilled fat through the largest plate on her grinder and then uses a double boiler to render it. The double boiler has the advantage of keeping the fat at the low end of the proper temperature. Temperature is very important in rendering. Too cool and you won’t get the fat out of the lard in this century. Too hot and you can scorch the lard pieces and infuse the protein into the fat, making your lard smell and taste like roasted pork. That’s OK for frying eggs, but makes a blueberry pie taste funky. I’m not convinced that the double boiler is better than my wok/lard pan method, but it is easier to manage in a busy kitchen because if I forget it for a while or have to run to the bank it just keeps on safely doing its thing. For the purposes of a homestead hog harvest situation this is invaluable. Maybe this fall we’ll get both pans going and do a methodology comparison.
How can you use lard?
- Fry eggs.
- Make baked goods. Leaf lard is better for this than back fat, I’m told, but for not-so-discerning palletes, either works well. The consistency of your baked goods is lighter if you mix the lard 50/50 with butter.
- Pop popcorn. Dorothy loves a late night snack. She even uses the greasy cracklin’s, which get nice and crispy while the corn pops in the pan.
- Top dress steamed veggies with some real sea salt and garlic. Anyone will eat those beans or broccoli!
- Mangalitsa lard can be whipped and then used as a spread in place of butter. Add some real salt and herbs and you will be hooked.
- Test your imagination!
Remember: Fat is flavor. Fat is your friend. (Thanks to Brian Polcyn for that mantra!)
Multi-modal learning means leaning with all your senses. That’s what an on-farm class is all about. Here are a few snapshots from our last class and the tips being the students learned with their eyes, ears, nose, hands, etc.:
Joe showing Remi how to pluck a chicken. The scalding water (to loosen the feathers) is about 140 degrees. The bird is completely dunked for about 20 seconds, then checked. Ideally the feathers pull out easily and leave the skin intact.
Jadwiga picked up quickly on cutting the back side of the bird open prior to gutting. We start about halfway between the vent and the breast cartilage, cut a slit down and around the bottom of the vent. You should have an opening big enough to stretch and allow your hand in to pull out guts, but not so large that the rear end looks skinned. The vent should come out with the guts. The tricky part is in not nicking the intestines. If you do, rinse with clear water quickly.
How to brood a brand new chick is not too hard, but requires a bit of know-how. They need 90 degrees and dry bedding for the first several days, and the temperature can back down from there. Brooding in July and August is, of course, much easier that in early spring or winter, but proper equipment and a well set up brooder can make all the difference. People can brood chicks in almost anything (and do!), but the key is to be able to expand it as the small day old chicks grow exponentially. Another trick is to shape the brooder, or add wedges, to make it have rounded corners. Chicks “pile” in sharp corners and simply rounding those corners discourages that tendency.
Assessing the health of your birds is important. Examining the manure for rusty or red spots is an easy way to catch coccidia before it overwhelms the bird. Coccidia is a protozoa that burrows into the intestinal lining, causing bleeding and scarring. It impairs the intestines ability to function and, therefore, the bird’s ability to gain nutrients from its food. When you process your birds, the quality of the carcass and the condition of the internal organs can also tell you about the health of your birds. Here the class looks at a not-so-healthy liver and a vibrant liver. This was the only poor liver we saw, so likely the bird was just not as constitutionally strong as the other birds and its liver had to work harder. Because it was the only one in the bunch, the birds were a healthy bunch overall.
Everyone’s favorite part of a class is dinner! You are invited to eat with our family for the weekend, enjoying lots of chicken and learning how you can utilize the whole bird at home.
There’s a Pastured Poultry class coming up July 19-21. We hope to see you there!
Our Pastured Poultry class in June featured an international flare. Two of the students had come all the way from Poland to learn how to raise animals on Pasture. Remi and his wife Jadwiga have worked with SAND International to learn vegetable production for many years. Now Remi wants to expand his hilly 9 acres on the edge of a small Polish town to include pastured chickens and sheep. They chose to attend an Anyone Can Farm class because we are located on about the same latitude so farming conditions will be similar. Remi faces other challenges that make sustainable farming appealing: his land is pretty much all fairly steep hillside, and gas is about $8/gal. so gas powered implements aren’t an economical option.
Remi soaked in everything about chickens he could. A lot of the lessons were firsts for him! He had never slaughtered an animal before, never handled many of the power tools used to build the chicken tractor in class, and has never seen a diversified farm that strives to make everything compliment the whole. Remi already composts vegetable matter on his farm, so the compost piles and how we use the animal wastes to build compost that then makes better animal feed was of interest to him. He also made a point of discussing the pigs and the rotationally grazed cows with Mark. He even helped Mark move the cows on Saturday. He felt he carried enough information away from the weekend to start at home with his large plan for his small acres. The weekend was a success!
Hosting folks from Poland, as well as their American hosts who had experience in India, Liberia, and Poland made the class an educational experience for us, as well!
In this video, Mark explains what a Pastured Poultry class involves:
That is an excellent question and it strikes at the heart of basic pig husbandry. A strong immune system is the key to prevention.
2) Make sure your feed is separated from their dirty little feet as much as possible (they are pigs and can’t help it!).
3) If in doubt our first line is biochar (which Joe makes for us), which acts like activated charcoal and provides a double good when we’ve innoculated it first so that its full of good bacteria that strengthen the immune system.
The other thing to look at is your breed of pig. Heritage pigs of any strain have stronger immune systems than the hog house white pigs. They resist parasites and diseases that the others simply aren’t bred to resist anymore. It’s the difference between a layer hen and a broiler chicken.
Come learn more about good hog husbandry at Hog Harvest Days!
Frequently Asked Question: What kind of chicken should I raise for meat?
There are a few options now:
Broilers. These are a Cornish chicken crossed with another breed (Vantress, White Mountain Rock, etc.). They grow quickly, 6-9 weeks depending on how big you want them and how you raise them. They are not as hardy and need more careful brooding than the other types of birds. They are messier and smellier. They are not as efficient on pasture and do require grain feeding. That’s the downside. The up side is that they grow quickly so they are come and gone in just a couple of months. They do produce a nice, meaty carcass. They can be pastured (we have ours out), and do best in the contained “chicken tractor” because they are babies their whole lives.
Layer chickens/heritage birds. Roosters make great eating. There are “heavy” breeds and “light” breeds. You want a “heavy” breed like a Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Black Sex Link, Black Australorp, or Rhode Island Red. Down side: roosters take about 24 or more weeks to reach a nice butchering weight and are not usually as fat or meaty as a Cornish cross. They don’t make the boneless, skinless breast type of cuts. They can be chewier or tougher than the Cornish cross birds and need a little different cooking technique. Up side: They have more flavor in the meat. The meat can be fairly tender if cooked correctly. They are better foragers and can grow well on alternative feeds and grasses/bugs/etc. The rooster chicks are often cheaper than the broiler chicks. These fellows
like to “free range” and can be contained in a tractor but prefer an open house situation.
3) Freedom Rangers. This is a new hybrid. They look like a layer rooster but grow quicker like the Cornish cross. Most people we know who have raised them have done so in about 12 weeks. They forage well and can grow on forage and also need some grain. They don’t get as heavy as the Cornish cross, but still have a nice double breast. They are a little more difficult to find as chicks but are becoming more available.
That’s the quick answer. We do have a Pastured Poultry class coming up soon: June 28 – 30. Some scholarships are available, so let us know if that would help you be able to come. Here’s Mark’s intro to the class:
Mark brought home the first installment of bunkbeds for the Bunkhouse. The guys set them up this morning and they look great! We are excited to have people come and stay with us.
Sam and Joe would like you to think that they worked so hard setting up the new bunkbeds that they had to nap. They report the beds are comfortable and those who stay in the Bunkhouse will appreciate them. Especially after a hard day of making biochar, working in soil, or building a chicken tractor. We still have room in the Biochar, Soils and Permaculture, and Pastured Poultry classes. The Hog Harvest classes are a ways off, but it can’t hurt to plan ahead as that’s a popular class. Sign up today to get your spot!
Wondering what the Pastured Poultry Course is all about? Mark tells you here:
Sign up today! Share the word with your friends and food conscious groups. Classes are coming up soon and we want to make sure we get everyone in.
The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”
Bill Mollison (from the permaculture.net website)
I’m learning what permaculture is. This is a course that will be taught by someone else (Penny Krebiehl and Craig Schaaf), so I have a functional knowledge, but not the technical knowledge needed to teach it. In many ways, it seems to me that permaculture is what our great grandparents did, whether they lived on a city lot or an 80 acre farm. They studied their situation, which included the land, the climate, their social situation (this was important in the water sharing west as well as the urban areas), and their total resources. They figured out the best way to get the most production, both food and financially, that their situation would allow. They sought to work with the land as much as possible because they didn’t possess the petroleum means (tractors, fuel, fertilizer) to force their will. This is, to my understanding, the essence of permaculture. It’s the construction of a productive system that uses the components to benefit and sustain each other.
On our farm, we graze animals to build the soil to grow healthier plants to have food to graze the animals on. For our efforts we get meat, milk, and eggs. Plus, the animals provide the raw material for compost to enhance the soil of our garden so we have good vegetables. Any organic “waste” from the butcher shop or milk processing (such as whey when I make the family’s cheese) goes back into the system one way or another. This is one example of permaculture.
Since soil is the key to growing anything, it is a critical component in building your permaculture system. Craig Schaaf is an experienced farmer and respected teacher of this kind of agriculture. Craig has modeled his farm on Eliot Coleman’s work, focusing on soil building to achieve amazing harvests from small spaces. Craig will be teaching us how to use what’s naturally available to us to build a well mineralized soil that can support intensive planting.
This is a class that I anticipate will be of great use to beginners who just want to know where to start. I recommend it as the starter class if you’ve never grown a thing in your life. Permaculture ideas provide an umbrella for you to understand sustainable, organic type farming. Soils are the foundation of all growing.
I also anticipate that this class will be full of information for those of us who have been growing all sorts of things for most of our lives. There is a lot to know about permaculture and soils and building a sustainable system. Your farm or garden will benefit from your time with Penny and Craig. We will be inside learning the basics, but also out in the field applying what’s in the books. In this class you can learn:
- Principles of permaculture – your guides as you observe and plan.
- Ethics of permaculture – how to apply the principles to your land and your life.
- Soils – applying permaculture to the foundation of all that you will grow.
- Design – Planning your food growing enterprise with permaculture principles and ethics in mind.
Hope to see you here! Introduction to Permaculture and Soils
I’m working on the Permaculture and Soils course today. Here are some thoughts from Penny Kriebel, who will be working with Mark to instruct the course:
“O’k Permaculture Design, Penny Krebiehl:
Taking a permaculture course can be very inspiring, and for me and many others awakens a whole load of creativity, positivity and eagerness to be a part of the solutions for our world. I took my first permaculture course in 2005, with several more to follow. Why did I repeat a permaculture course? I wasn’t “held back” nor did I fail the course, I decided to continue my study and apprenticeship and because of the value of learning from many different teachers. Each with a shared permaculture language, yet, like the Baker family with their experience in farming and animal husbandry, shared their own passionate understanding and skill set.
In 2009 I traveled out to NY state and completed an intensive and incredibly valuable Permaculture Teacher Training with,Dave Jacke, author of Edible Forest Gardens. Since that time, I’ve also worked alongside of permaculture teachers, Peter Bane, author of Garden Farming for Town and Country, and Keith D. Johnson, who are also editor and co-editor of the Permaculture Activist Magazine. I feel honored to continue my study and practice of permaculture with a plethora of experienced teachers and students and have only named a very few here, but definitely recognize and credit them with being amazing, inspiring mentors, and while feeling very, very grateful.
Through the years of adopting my own permaculture life-style practice and then starting to teach, I realized that permaculture was more than just gardening and it could be used to really transform our lives and transform our relationships and turn us all into happier, healthier people. I’ve always planned my “career” and paid work around the needs of my family, and included my own children in the design of my working hours. Since 1997, I’ve worked at and tweaked a creative curriculum which has ultimately taught permaculture to children as young as age five, through college age. I’m pleased to say that in teaching my most recent permaculture design course in North West Michigan in 2012, I was able to work alongside of a remarkable group of adults, upwards to 69 years old.
Much information about permaculture is available electronically, in books and published on the web. But honestly, the most valuable learning experiences have happened when I’ve been immersed in a learning and sharing community that an on-site permaculture course offers. The people part of learning permaculture in a class or workshop setting is a way to consciously mimic what happens in the natural world, and has proven over and over again to be an amazing adventure in knowledge-based skill sharing.
In permaculture design we try to turn around the limiting factors of a system, so if we’ve got something that’s limiting us it becomes one of the aspects we pay attention to in our design. This is where we ask – how can we use the permaculture principles and design in all areas of our lives?
I’m pleased to be invited as a part of the Anyone Can Farm teaching staff and share whatever I can of my passion and learning of Permaculture Design.
Check out the class, which runs May 24-26. Hope to see you here!