Friday, April 19, 2013

We Have Chicks!

...and they're so darn cute when they're just so little!  Here's a few pics of them, just one day old...

Just the layers and guinea keets

103 cornish cross meat birds, 25 layers, and 5 guineas!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We're Ready for Chicks!

Here's a few pictures of our brooder setup!  Tomorrow morning we will be getting 100 cornish cross meat birds, 25 layers, and 5 guinea fowl.  They'll be sharing brooder quarters to begin with and move to their different "permanent" housing in several weeks.  This brooder is an updated and improved version of the one Dan built last year.  It easily accommodates 100+ chicks for at least 2 weeks.  It's 4'x8'.  The main difference this year is the taller sides to allow for deep bedding.  It has a board inserted on one end that allows us to start with a smaller space and open it out further as the chicks need more room.

I plan on posting more pictures tomorrow (or soon after that!) once all our chicks have arrived!

We use only organic feed for our meat birds!   We are blessed to have a local farmer in our county that is certified organic and grows nearly all the ingredients for this ration on his own farm.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Born-Again Farm Prayer Day

Hi everyone!  A full-length post will (hopefully) be coming soon to update you all on our progress!  I just wanted to pass this along to you so you can all take part in this great movement with us.  It's called the "Born-Again Farm Prayer Day".  I plan on fasting and praying during one meal tomorrow.  The focus of this prayer day is on Christians who run small family farms, whether as a business or just as a means of providing for their own families.  Here's a link to the blog post...please join us!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Highlights, In Photos

I've been a bad blogger again...I could tell you a whole lot about the summer, but instead I'll just give you some pics of the highlights!

At the Battle Creek Air Show--so cool!

Our first chicken...yum.

My birthday present:-)  Isn't it so pretty?

Some dune jumping at the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Nat'l Lakeshore.  This place was voted "The Most Beautiful Place in America", and for good reason.  Who  would ever want salty sticky oceans over this has got to be out of their mind.

The kids preparing for our group photo on our annual family camping trip--quite a crew!  Hoffmaster State Park, right on Lake Michigan, is one of our favorites.

Ezra got to celebrate his 8th birthday at the campground!!

Our first GORGEOUS tomato from the garden...a Bonnie's Best weighing in at almost 1 pound!

The monarch caterpillar...we got to watch it make its chrysalis!  Still waiting on the butterfly!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Heavenly Grilled Chicken!

Alright, I'm not trying to toot my own horn here but...last night I think I made the best chicken I've ever tasted.  Of course I can't really take all the credit.  Google might have had something to do with it!

Have you ever tried grilling a whole chicken?  Not a whole chicken cut up...really whole!  If not, you absolutely must try it.  It's fabulous.

Here's what I did.  I hesitate to call this a recipe because many of the steps are open to interpretation, but you'll get the idea.  It's super easy and so remarkably delicious!  Sorry there's no picture, but we ate it up too fast.

1.  If frozen, thaw your chicken (a pastured chicken from The Family Farm would be best, haha!).  I used 2 chickens about 2 lbs. each.  (We had a number of really small ones from our first batch).  But the method will work for larger birds, too.

2.  Brine chicken in salt water for about 2 hours.  Don't get all worried about amounts here.  Just dump about 1/2 cup sea salt in a freezer bag along with your chicken and add enough water to just cover it.

3.  Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Brush with olive oil all over.  Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and put a few in the cavity.  Again, this is open to what you have on hand.  Here's what I used:

On the outside:
-olive oil
-lemon pepper seasoning
-Alderwood-smoked sea salt (wonderful stuff, from a local lady who makes spices!)

And the cavity:
-1 sprig fresh rosemary
-3 sprigs fresh oregano
-about 1/4 onion

4.  Preheat grill--gas is best for this.  Light just one side on high.  When grill is hot, place chicken breast down on the unlit side of the grill.  You are essentially making an "oven" with the grill.  Grill with lid closed for about 90 minutes for an average 4-5 lb. chicken (ours, of course, went a little faster!)  Rotate chicken (don't flip it over; rotate like a clock!) halfway through cooking.  Resist the temptation to keep opening the grill lid to peek!  This lets all the heat out of your oven!  Test for doneness with a meat thermomete inserted in the meatiest part of the thigh--you're looking for 160 degrees.  When done, remove and let sit for 10 minutes before carving.

Simply delicious.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Factory Farm vs. Pastured Poultry: a Side-by-side Test!

We just had our first batch of pastured poultry processed this morning, and I was eager to try one side by side with a store-bought, factory-style chicken.  I must say, I was shocked at the difference; not so much in appearance, but in taste and texture.

I bought the smallest chicken our local Meijer store had, which was over 5 1/2 lbs.  Ours was about 3 1/2 lbs.  For the sake of giving you a true side-by-side comparison, I did not edit these photos in any way.

Store-bought on left, ours on right

In the roasting pan.  A little butter in the cavity along with some celery.  Sprinkled with salt and pepper...that's it!  Wanted to really taste the "chicken" flavor.

Our chicken, done!  Notice the beautiful, even browning on the skin and nice proportion of the legs to the breast.

Store-bought, done.  This bird has such huge breasts that the skin was split, leaving it to dry out during roasting.  Also notice how the whole bird seems puny compared to those giant breasts...I have no idea how that poor bird could even walk.  

I shredded a bit of breast meat from each bird to show the difference...ours on the left, store's on the right.

I think the most shocking difference to me was the difference in texture between the two birds.  The only way I can really describe it is that our pastured chicken had substance, where the factory-farmed bird mush.  See the difference in the photo above?  Now don't get me wrong...ours was not "tough" in any way.  Just a very satisfying meatiness.  The mushiness of the other bird struck me as seeming really unnatural.

And how about taste?  Ours was, once again, far superior.  About the only flavor present in the store bought chicken was the salt solution they get bathed in before packaging.  In fact, the breast meat closest to the bone in the middle of the bird pretty much had no flavor at all.  The pastured chicken, on the other hand, had a rich "chickennish" flavor all the way through, in both the white and dark portions.  

Hands down winner?  Our organic pastured poultry!  We'll be running another batch starting in August, so give some a try!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Get Personal With Your Food

Listen to this while you read's what I was listening to as I wrote it!

Yesterday I was listening to an interview on NPR (yes, I listen to NPR.  Quite a lot.  Another one of those things that GCCRs* are not supposed to do).  They were talking with a lady who is passionate about teaching people how to grow their own vegetables.  Sorry--I didn't catch her name!  She said something to the effect of, "How to grow your own food should be common knowledge; something parents teach their children along with things like learning how to swim.  I have never been in a situation where I was in water over my head and afraid of drowning.  But I have been so low on cash that if I hadn't known how to grow my own food, I would not have had anything to eat.  It's far more likely for most people to have a financial crisis than to be in danger of drowning."  She wasn't saying that everyone should go out and become master gardeners...only that the knowledge of how to do it should be given a higher priority in our culture.

This got me thinking about what happens in our attitude towards our food when obtaining it gets "personal".  I already find myself placing a higher value on what I eat after experiencing the amount of effort it takes to get it from the field to my stomach.  Moving a chicken pen every day, although enjoyable, is pretty hard work.  Our cows plow through impressive amounts of grass every day to get to the size we want them to be to make great steaks.  Our neighbor, Rose, is in her garden every day with her garlic, veggies, and herbs before she takes them to the market.  When I realize what it takes to produce good, fresh food, I take a lot more care with how I prepare it.  I want it to taste its very best...I don't want to embarrass it--haha!

Now, I'm not knocking grocery stores because grocery stores are obviously important!  But when I buy meat there, all precut and shrinkwrapped, I'm not thinking about the farm or the animal it came from.  And I could buy virtually unlimited amounts of any particular cut if I wanted to.  If I take my New York Strip steaks home, cook them, and don't like how they turn out, I can just go back to the store and get more to try it again.  All I'm really out is the cash to buy them.  Did you know that one steer doesn't produce an unlimited proportion of New York Strips?  When our beef cows are done, we will have limited amounts of each cut and we'll be planning meals accordingly.  When it comes time for me to cook that filet mignon, you can bet I'll really be thinking it through first!

All of this is to say...try getting personal with your food, to whatever extent you are able.  Go to the farmer's market and actually talk to the producers!  Get to know them a little bit!  Find out why they do what they do...chances are they're pretty passionate about it.  If possible, visit their farms.  Stop by The Family Farm while you're at it!  Take a walk with us while we move the cows and chickens.  Or best of all, turn a little corner of your yard into a garden and experiment.  Some things will work, some won't, but I'll bet that you'll have a new appreciation for your food if you give it a try.

*Good Conservative Christian Republicans