Fresh Chicken this Sunday (10/18/09)

Farm will be open from 2-5pm this Sunday with fresh Cornish Cross birds available right from the chill tank.  This may be our last open day (we only have about 80 birds left for the season) until the turkeys have their ‘one bad day’.

The Farmer’s Markets are over for the season.  We are both sad and glad about this…sad that we won’t see many of you for the winter, but glad to catch our breath for a bit.  There is no better feeling for us than hearing back from you about our products- hearing ‘the yolks were so orange’ or ‘we used the bones and scraps for stock and there was a layer of fat this thick’ or ‘I need to stock up on sausage for winter’.  Kind of makes you pity the farmers that are dozens of processing steps away from their customers- how in the world are they supposed to get better at what they do?

We are going to wait a couple of weeks on the egg drops as the girls are all about feathers right now and not about eggs.  It certainly makes me question our decision to sell eggs for $4 a dozen when we get only a couple dozen a day after feeding 300+ birds; however, this production rate is my fault not yours.  Most of the birds are neck molting- also called stress molting, which takes us back to mid-July when we attempted a 2 acre move with the girls.  It was too much- when things go wrong here at the farm – we kick ourselves and think- ‘farming would be easy if it wasn’t for management.’  This is really true, we try and let chickens be chickens here and they repay us well if we just don’t push too hard.  Hens have an unbeatable GPS system- they know where home is regardless of where we place the doops.  When things don’t come together by night fall for the hens they stress out…drop feathers and stop laying.  We know these limits better now and hopefully ‘management’ will not make the same mistake again!!  It is wonderful to see the pin feathers coming in and the hens starting to preen with full plumage again….chickens are really amazing animals.  One more note of eggs….we are thinking about Delawares to expand our flock for next year.  This is a relatively new breed that was to be the ultimate dually- however, industry ended up splitting in half between eggs and meat and all the duallies have essentially been relegated to small timers like us.  If anyone has experience with these birds please send us a note.

Anita is working on the turkey list and will be making calls early next week.  Demand has been great for the turkeys and we look forward to being a small part of your holiday!

Hope to see you Sunday!

Chicken this Sunday (10/11/2009)!

We will have fresh unfrozen and frozen chicken ready at the farm this Sunday from 2-5pm. We really enjoyed this last weekend, we had a great turn out in a relaxed, low key, albeit freezing, environment. We really hope this continues to work out. We will be offering the same deal as last week – $2.70/lb if you need five or more birds and $3/lb for under five.   Come on out and stock up for the winter with clean, healthy, factory-free chicken! Please give us a head’s up if you are coming out Sunday so we can make sure we process enough birds.

The hogs are finally back from the butcher! We can now get your pre-ordered cuts to you either next Wednesday or at the farm. For folks that didn’t have cuts on order we will have a full assortment of cuts once again…with lots and and lots of sausage. There is also a new cut available- a leg cutlet. This is a clean, boneless cut from a single muscle group in the leg. We had them cut thin and lean with two in a pack- this cut is intended for a quick breakfast meat but has lots of additional potential.

We are thinking about joining with a couple of other venders from the farmer’s market to form a meat CSA. The idea is that a member of the CSA would get a monthly slew of different meat cuts. We are completely dependent on ‘direct to the cook’ sales and we worry about the long winter (hence the ‘Winter List’) and this might be a nice way to keep the variety that’s available to you at the market coming to you throughout the winter. Please let us know if this is of interest as we have made no commitments to date. Advice is welcomed if you have participated in one of these deals in the past and have some tips for us.

Egg drops are still being worked out….we will talk with the Environmental Center early next week. Regardless of the drop location we need to figure out a way to exchange eggs for cash without putting the burden on the drop site people. I would be fine with an honor box of some sort; however, security of the box would be a critical concern both for your identity and our paycheck. Again, ideas welcome.

Turkeys….we have about fifty turkeys available for the holidays. This is our first year raising turkeys and our timing is a bit off….the Bronze are incredible growers and might get too big by Thanksgiving. We might want to butcher a few a week so we get a range of sizes. Picture shows a tom (~35 lbs), a hen(~20 lbs), and a chicken (~6 lbs)……please let us know the ballpark weight your interested in and this might help us plan their ‘one bad day’.

Tom on the left, hen on the right, broiler in the middle.

Tom on the left, hen on the right, broiler in the middle.

That’s it for now…hope to see you Sunday!! Oh yeah, and we will put a sign out this week!

Factory-Free Broilers

Below is a link to a pdf file that shows the differences between our Factory Free Broilers and the factory birds.  We think ‘factory’ is the fundamental difference.  I do not see a distinction between a factory raising organic broilers or one that produces Twinkies – these are both processes that rely 100% on off-site inputs to produce a trucked off commodity.  Factories do not raise animals – they make meat.   This list was started by the guys at Polyface Farms and we have been adding to it as we refine our practices on the farm.

factory-free-versus-factory-broilers

Maybe I should add the one about Tyson suing to once again label their birds ‘antibiotic free’ even though they inject antibiotics into the chick prior to hatching…..I guess they were able to use the label for years, until the USDA finally drew the line.

Making Bacon

We sell fresh pork sides- mainly because we cannot sell bacon. There are many things to do with a fresh side; you can slice it thick batter and fry, you can brown-braise and bake, or you can make bacon. Granted that there is a limited market here and lots of pork belly to serve it. For you brave souls- I submit a simple bacon cure/smoke/breakfast bacon makin’ method. First a note on cures…there are wet and dry cures. Most every bacon that you can get at the store and we could get made at the butcher shop is made with a wet cure. However, you can make something that was made for centuries, yet has disappeared from the diet in the last fifty years. A dry cured bacon. What an opportunity! So how do you make a dry cure? . . . Easy – make a dry rub, cure in the fridge for a week, smoke, slice, cook.

Now for the details:

  • Rub is equal parts salt, brown sugar, and maple syrup. About a 1/4 cup each is plenty for our 5 pound sides.
  • Rub the cure into the surface of the slab, cover equally all around the slab.
  • Place everything in a zip lock bag, and lay flat in the fridge.
  • Turn over every other day for 5-7 days…the longer the saltier.
  • Make sure that there is a cup or so of fluid that will pull out of the slab bacon.
  • Decide how salty you want your bacon…light salt- soak in water for a day, changing the water a couple of times. For heavy salt flavor (I go heavy when the bacon is used as flavor, like chopped for a salad or used on a BLT) just go straight to the smoker.
  • The pedicle is an essential step. Leave the slab out on a plate on the counter for a couple of hours, preferably in front of an open window. The slab will develop a glaze called a pedicle which is needed to seal in the flavor during the smoke process. Smoke for a couple of hours with fat side up…there are too many smokers to detail here; however, I have a Little Chief and I smoke for a couple of hours until the slab temperature reaches 150 degrees F. This smoker runs a bit over 200 degrees….yours may vary. If you want to cold smoke- call me and I will come over and turn green with envy over your cold smoker….but I digress.
  • Let the slab cool, in fact chill in the fridge a while to make slicing easy.
  • Slice to your desired thickness.
  • Cook it up….

Now for the visuals…

Thawed out slab...skin side down (although there is no skin on our slabs)

Thawed out slab...skin side down (although there is no skin on our slabs)


Here is the slab with the 3-part rub packed on a sealed in a bag ready for the fridge

Here is the slab with the 3-part rub packed on a sealed in a bag ready for the fridge


Ahhh...the magic of osmosis...the cure has pulled out the juice from the slab

Ahhh...the magic of osmosis...the cure has pulled out the juice from the slab


Ready for the smoker...let it develop some pedicle for bit before smoking to help the flavor stick

Ready for the smoker...let it develop some pedicle for bit before smoking to help the flavor stick


Cured and smoked bacon slab

Cured and smoked bacon slab


Chill and slice....then fry it up- ENJOY

Chill and slice....then fry it up- ENJOY

Final note….we sell these slabs for just $2.00 a pound- so 5 pounds of bacon will cost a bit over 10 bucks to make – or you can buy it from a specialty shop for around $10 a pound. Flipping a baggie in the fridge every other day doesn’t sound so bad anymore does it!!

Notes from the Farm

We are experiencing the storm before the quiet here at the farm.  Last hogs of the season are coming back from the butcher, we have a couple hundred broilers to process, we’re trying to get the last cutting of hay up, and work out the logistics for wintering the old and new flocks.  This is really what we live for- creating a sustainable, mobile, humanely productive farm that produces flavors that cannot be beat!

As the local farmers markets come to a close, we hope these email bulletins will keep you up to date regarding the farm. In addition, we want to invite you out to pick up chickens or pork to stock your freezers this winter. We’ll have just 200 whole chickens so you might want to get yours now (160 Cornish Cross and 40 Label Rouge). Once they are gone we won’t start up with broilers until the spring; raising them in deep bedding brooder boxes and moving them to the pasture as the grass starts to pop in late April. Fresh and frozen birds will then be available again in May- feedback is key here as we are trying to plan out whether the flavor of the Label Rouge is preferred over the mighty breast of the Cornish Cross.

As for eggs, the girls have decided to moult early so egg production is down a bit. They will move into their winter condo in a few weeks time to roost and scratch in the dry lot and start the basis for our spring garden in 2010. We’ve ordered a new flock of Delawares for the 2010 season. These beautiful dual purpose heritage birds (as always- no hybrids) will start laying just in time for market and should allow us to stop saying, “Sorry, we’re out of eggs” to you.  More soon on Winter egg drop locations…

The Broad-Breasted Bronze are growing a bit faster than we anticipated and will need to talk with you about oven door size soon!  The Bourbon Reds and Narragansetts are progressing nicely and should be ready right on time.

Our eight Tamworth cross piggies will be ready for butcher in March. This heritage breed is known for its great temperament, use of pasture as forage, and their long lean frames, hence the nickname, the ‘Bacon Pig’.  We are really hoping you will like these pigs…nothing beats the feeling of when farm pleasure matches plate flavor!

You have the choice of purchasing fresh or frozen chickens on the farm each Sunday from 2-5 pm for the next couple of weeks for $3/lb with a 10% discount for 5 or more birds. Note that picking up chicken at the farm is about 15% cheaper as we don’t have to stress about freezer space and expense.  You could even pick up a dozen eggs while you’re here.

It has been wonderful getting you know you this year, either at the market or through visits at the farm or to our website. We hope you will continue supporting your local farmers and producers because you drive the change in food production, one dollar at a time. Thank you for making local your choice.

One more note…let us know if you are looking for other products- we have a good friend that has an unsold Black Angus steer that has been rotationally grazed and finished out on our hay and minimal grain.  We also have neighbors with goat milk, feed for your chickens, and small wire-bound hay bales.

Hope to see you on Sunday- bring ice and a cooler….we will shrink bag right from the chill tank and hand them over- talk about fresh chicken!!!