Archive for November, 2013

Death on a Farm

It happens at times without explanation, and it can seem to be catastrophic. Around here, catastrophies tend to happen whenever I (Daniel) am at work at the fire station and Katie is managing the farm alone. Escaped pigs, loose rabbits, and attacking roosters have all created havoc for Katie when she was here alone, this time it was the death of a cow.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and I was on duty. I was checking out my fire engine when the station phone rang. My Lieutenant answered, looked at me and said “It’s for you and it don’t sound good.” On the phone was Katie, near hysterics saying that she found Rosie, our yearling heifer, dead in the pasture. Those words hit me like a truck load of lead on my shoulders and I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing. I felt sick, confused and angry. I told her to cover her up with a tarp and I would take care of things when I got off duty, which would be 7:00 this morning. For several hours I operated in a pensive, melancholy manner questioning myself, my abilities, what I was doing and even if I should just give up. I know that to many, that may sound extreme but there comes a point when one gets weary of roadblock after roadblock.

I’ve dealt with death a good bit. I’ve had several dogs in my lifetime, and when they passed away, I buried them. I grew up with horses and a number of them I knew for large portions of my life. I recall when 20 years ago or so, my mother’s first horse Tony died. He had been her 14th birthday present and she was his only owner since. I learned to ride on Tony and he was very much like a family member, and it was like losing a family member when he died. When I was about 12 years old, one of my mother’s mares foaled a colt she named Hagi. I literally grew up with him and when he died last year, it was again like losing a family member. When my sister’s horse had to be put down, I was there to hold her by the halter when the vet euthanized her, and then I dug the hole to bury her. These losses had emotional value because these were animals that we had a bond with, they were companions and cohorts. Now that I’ve transitioned to raising animals for meat, milk, and eggs, a sudden loss has a completely different significance. Every time I find a dead broiler on the pasture, a hen in the coop, a rabbit in the hutch and now a cow there is more than just the sadness at the untimely loss of life. The investment of time, money, energy adds a very different aspect to it. These were animals that were part of a dream for creating a community hub that revolved around locally grown food that is untainted by cancer causing, petro-chemicals. Losing one is an blow to self esteem, the heart, as well as the pocketbook. The loss of a chicken or a litter of rabbit kits are not too hard to absorb since these are short lived animals that frankly are not always that personable and at most it’s a loss of $20 (not counting what our potential return would be had they lived and thrived). It was very different with Rosie. She is Rachel’s daughter. She was to be one of our next milk cows in less than 18 months. She represented future hope and success. Losing her is extremely hard to absorb. I buried her today among our young apple trees and so in a way, she is still a part of our farm’s future.

Rosie wants to drink from the hose.

Rosie wants to drink from the hose.

Thanksgiving Chicken?

Thanksgiving Chicken?.

Our phone has been ringing off the hook with folks looking for Soy-free, non GMO, pasture raised turkey. After losing a few hundred dollars on baby turkeys earlier this year, we decided to stick with chickens and so we are not raising turkey this year nor in the foreseeable future but, never say never, right? So instead of turkey, why not chicken? We have our Soy-free, non-GMO, organic fed, pasture raised chicken available in the Marietta Locally Grown Market. With a number of birds weighing in at 6 and 7 pounds, they could be mistaken for turkey! At $6/lb, they are much more affordable than turkey that is raised with the same model and the same feed.So treat your loved ones to pastured poultry this Thanksgiving and see what chicken is supposed to taste like. For you organ meat lovers there’s hearts, livers and feet in the market as well. 

No Turkey

If you come across us searching for heritage turkey for Thanksgiving, I am sorry to say that we don’t have any. After losing a few hundred dollars on baby turkeys who seemed determined to die as fast as possible, we hung up the whole idea. There’s nothing I’d like better than to have turkey that we raised for Thanksgiving, but we’re just going to settle for chicken.

Wow, What a Cup of Joe.

At today’s Market Day, we had a very special guest who opened my eyes to a whole new world of coffee. Java Genesis roasts small batches of green coffee beans from various countries; Costa Rica, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mexico and a few more. They then roast them just prior to delivering the coffee to their customers. The key, I have learned, to really good coffee, is the freshness since roasting.

Early on in my coffee drinking career, I basically had to adulterate it with gargantuan amounts of sugar and “creamer”, that it was like drinking a Krispy Kreme doughnut. As I aged (ahem) matured, I weaned myself from the sugar, but I still had to have dairy. Now a days of course, it’s my own fresh dairy.

Whenever I’m working at the fire station, I subject my palette to some really low grade, cheap, nasty stuff because that is what we have. At home I thought I was drinking good stuff, and it is in comparison to the cheap stuff. But today, all that has changed. Today I had coffee from freshly roasted beans that had just been ground. For the first time I drank a cup of black coffee that I didn’t want to spit back into my cup. Nice right? Really and truly though, this stuff is GOOD. And when I added some of my fresh milk to it, it became AWESOME. If you haven’t had a cup of java from Java Genesis, you’re missing out. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow so I can drink some more.

And now I am a true coffee snob, and you will be too if you get some coffee from our Locally Grown Market.

Nothing like a swift kick in the…

Butt for a dose of reality.

When you think of a farm, what are the three critters that immediately come to mind? C’mon. You know it. Cows, chickens, and PIGS! Every family farm prior WWII had these three animals. They might also have horses, mules, rabbits, goats, sheep, turkeys but… a milk cow, some laying hens and a pig behind the barn were the staple livestock no matter what else the farm might produce. So of course I wanted to add pigs to our farm. Not just because I have a flair for agrarian romanticism, but I LOVE pork. Bacon, ham, pork chops, ribs, Boston butt, shoulder roasts, fat back, grease… all the good stuff a growing boy needs, so long as it doesn’t include soy, GMOs, antibiotics, and torture.

So we started off with a pair of Large Black pigs to breed and a Tamworth to be our first feeder. All was goiung well until they started escaping. And they always did it while I was at the fire station and Katie had to deal with them on her own. The straw that broke it all was when Katie and the kids were rounding up an inordinate number of roosters destined for processing when one leaped into her face, gouged her cheeks and lip, and then both boars got loose. Yes, I was at the fire station when she called me hysterical and crying. When I got home, she had managed to round the pigs up, but for some reason the LB boar was literally raping the Tamworth. Why? Dang if I know, maybe he sensed that our stress levels were particularly high and he thought it would be a good way to add icing to the cake. They had to be separated and the only way was to just grab hold of one and drag him to another, slightly less penetrable pen.

I don’t know if you’ve ever wrangled a pig, namely a 200 pounder, but they scream as if they are being eaten alive. There we were. Katie with gashes in her beautiful face, blood running down; kids scared and crying; me in my uniform, dragging this pig, kicking and SCREAMING bloody murder. It was something like this video, only louder.

The end result was, we took two pigs off to be processed, and sold another to the same fate.

Did I learn my lesson? NOPE! Some friends had three barrows (castrated males) for sale and I couldn’t pass them up. My mother and I had already been talking some about raising pigs in the forest behind her house. So I paid a deposit on the three pigs and she paid the balance when we picked them up. Initially we brought them to our farm where I would train them to electric fence. If you are going to have pigs, electric fence is the ONLY way to go. I especially recommend using netting. There’s a reason the old timers say to build a fence “hog tight”. THEN, I was contacted by someone at another farm who was looking to get rid of some pigs and made me an offer, did I refuse? I think you know the answer. We (my mother and I) took a trip to Dacula to fetch some more pigs.  On our arrival, I saw why she was getting rid of them, Pigs were loose and running amok. After a couple of hours of vain cajoling, chasing, and maybe a little cussing, we were considering just packing up and leaving. BUT, we caught one. So of course we kept at it and caught another. After this point in time, I did call it quits. I was done and really considering my lack of sanity.

So we get these two additional pigs home, and I was met with a grim stare from my lovely bride. She was already annoyed with the three, but since they weren’t getting loose, she’d held her tongue. Now two more (who were much bigger) were being added and she couldn’t hold back. “I thought they were all going to your mom’s” “Yes, once we have them all trained and we get things out there set up.” “Hmmmp.” Any lesser woman would’ve divorced me by now.

The condensed version of the rest of the story is that all five made it to Talla Glen Farm and were set out in about 4 acres of forest, contained with electric fence. Until. We had a visitor. A pot bellied pig from who knows where. A  pot bellied pig who was not trained to electric fence and proceeded to destroy it. Now our pigs found there was a greater world beyond their patch of woods, and in that world they found the home of the lady who brings them food. I tried containing them but now that they knew where the good stuff came from, they would not be held. So now it was my mother having hysterical moments with pigs swarming her back door and cows in the road (another story I don’t have time for). Besides, the cost of feeding five pigs was getting beyond our means, so the decision was made to have the three barrows processed.

Now I had pre-sold two of the pigs to help pay for their up-front costs. After I took them to the processor, and got their hanging weights, I was very dismayed at what the final numbers were. We didn’t even come close to breaking even. Yikes. So my good people who had paid deposits, agreed to chip in some extra cash to pay for the processing fees (BTW, if I am ever so stupid as to sell a whole pig again, the person buying it will deal with the processor). I’m still in the hole but at least it’s a little shallower. So folks get me their money (and tell me they’re out of town, have plans, can’t make it Saturday but….sigh.) and I get on down to the processor. I get the meat loaded up and head for home. Now I have to start divvying up. I open boxes and start sorting when I find a huge slab. It’s a whole pork belly. Not the one pound packages I expected so folks could easily salt cure their own bacon. Then I find the hams. Monstrously huge hams that the average person would be challenged to find a pan to cook it in, let alone find enough people to eat it. Holy Moley. Then I found that certain cuts weren’t there and that we had THREE times as much sausage as I had wanted, hence the missing cuts. I got sick. I got angry. I even felt a little panicked. The only way I was going to get out of my hole was to sell some of the meat I had intended for me and my family, but the only cuts that were really marketable were the chops and a couple of Boston Butts. So we shall see, maybe someone wants a HUGE Christmas ham for $130.00.

First Market Pick Up Day is Tomorrow!

Fridays are our pick up day for our Locally Grown Market. The time to pick up is from 4:00 – 6:00, here at the farm. Thank you to all of our first time Market customers!

Two Hours Left until the Market Closes!

Marietta Locally Grown

The Market will close for orders at 7:00 tonight so get your orders in so we can have them ready for you to pick up Friday from 4:00-6:00. We have a lot of new stuff in the market; soaps, lip balms, and t-shirts!