Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Lil Farmer Mac has been helping work on this video for you.  If nothing else, may we provide you with a bit of cheap entertainment this holiday season.

Thanks to all who supported us this year.  We really appreciate your encouragement, more than you know. 

The Mactutis Family

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gingerbread Granola

In an effort to reduce the use of boxed cereal in our diet, I make Farmer Mike's granola from a recipe his mom developed when he was young.  It was so kind of her to share that because it is his favourite thing on earth for breakfast.

It dawned on me one day that gingerbread spices thrown in with a homemade granola recipe might just be the perfect marriage of Christmas tradition and breakfast cereal. And best yet, if your low on eggs, as we are around here, there's none required for this recipe.  Which makes it a sure thing for food gift giving that we tend to do this time of year.  To make this even easier, we tend to make up batches of just the dry ingredients and store them away, so it's even quicker to make up a batch of homemade granola.  I suppose the dry ingredients could be packed in a jar, and given like those popular soup or cookie in a jar gifts.

Gingerbread Granola

8 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon allspice
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon powdered ginger
1 Tablespoon cloves
(spices are highly subjective--more or less is up to you.)  :)

1 cup oil of any kind
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 molasses

1 to 1.25 cups of water

Mix all dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients to the top.  Note with the water, that you'll want to use just enough to make the oats clump together.  Spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 225 - 250 degree F for 30 minutes.  Then use a spatula to break up the clumps and turn the granola over.  Bake for another 30 - 60 minutes, until the clumps are rather dry and toasty.  Let cool.

Storing: At this point, you can make your homemade granola more nutritious by adding nuts, seeds, or dried fruit.   Add as little or as much as you'd like.  We tend to store it simply as it comes out of the oven, then we dress it up as we like on an individual basis. 

You can't even imagine how good this tasted for dinner last night with chopped pecans and eggnog, instead of milk.  It was like having dessert for dinner.  :) 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Lesson Learned

WARNING:  this could be a highly depressing post.  This is the story of the real deal, nitty gritty side of farming.  Especially nitty gritty when it deals with living things.  I will try to lighten the mood a bit with a picture here and there.  However, those extremely sensitive to untimely deaths of sweet cuddly creatures may wish to end their reading here, and come back tomorrow when I post a recipe from some Christmas baking.

There.  You've been warned.  The rest is up to you. :)
Salmon Faverolle roo

Some of you have probably been wondering what the deal is here at the farm.  Where's the eggs?  A refrain similar to a beloved Wendy's commercial of my youth.  Well, it's a long story, so long it feels as if it could qualify as an epic story.  As with all respectable epics, this one has its moral of the story as well.

Exasperating doesn't even begin to describe the recent family of chickens we purchased back in July.  If we weren't so committed to well grown food, addicted to "fresh from the nest" eggs, or so blamed stubborn, we might just be giving up the ol' farming dream and moving somewhere where we could walk to decent organic market or bike to a few local farms.

In July, we adopted the largest flock of chicks we've ever had. 50 chicks, give or take, purchased from a small, local breeder.  We were dreaming of chocolate colored egg shells of the Black and White Marans, such a cute breed with their sweet little feathered feet.  We were mesmerized by the beautifully mottled patterns on our Salmon Faverolle roos and hoping they would be friendly enough to keep around to father plenty of babies.  We dreamed of all the fattened roos that would eventually become table decorations.  In actuality, what we've found is that our commitment to keeping our dollars local might not have been the best idea for a main flock of chickens that was intended to keep us in eggs all winter and add a little pizazz to our cartons come spring and summer.

After a couple months, our chickens started succumbing frequently to something that looks like Marek's disease.  It is like a Herpes virus in humans, yet presents like a lymphoma, is very prevalent, and is believed to be incurable.  Our flock seems to be affected by the neural form of the disease, which eventually leaves them paralysed.  Mortality rates in infected birds are usually 100%.
White Sussex and Salmon Faverolle hen

It's been hard living with the possibly of total defeat.  It was harder looking out the window to check for the latest victims.

Farmer Mike has been dealt a heavier hand, as I am proving too much of a "girl" to actually assist the bird into it's afterlife.  Sadly, if the birds aren't assisted, they starve to death because they are unable to walk to food or drink.  We don't think that that would be very respectful of the animal.
So, to date, we have 27 chickens left between 20-24 weeks old, including a handful of roos.  Farmer Mike estimates that we have about 17 laying hens so far.

White Maran with her sweet little feathered legs

After all this loss, we've felt like maybe we shouldn't put ourselves out there and try to be part of the food movement by helping produce food.  We may just be too green for that kind of responsibility. Maybe we should just focus on growing food for ourselves and thereby only be accountable to our own hunger pangs.

Then, something happens like yesterday, when a gentleman called up looking for eggs.  Although we don't even have enough eggs for us right now, I was still able to talk with him and help him find alternative farms, owned by friends and neighbours, producing the wholesome eggs he was looking for.  Which reminds of how supportive our farming friends have been and how kind and eager they have been with insights and advice.

White Sussex roo

We know how much better we feel when we eat real food from small farms, and we enjoy helping others discover better health too.

So, what this does this mean for the future? 

From this day forward, any chick that arrives at our door will be vaccinated for Marek's!  Unfortunately, it seems the only way to responsibly and humanely raise chicks on our land, knowing that it could be a death sentence for them if they don't have a little poke. 

Our plans for entering a farmers market may need to be put on hold, depending if we can get a new batch of chickens this January.

Salmon Faverolle hen
And in the short term (for the next month), eggs will definitely be out of stock on our farm.  The elders had been laying one egg a day over the course of weeks, so they have been dispatched to freezer camp.  These past few months without homegrown eggs has been completely maddening! 

Small eggs are just starting to trickle in from the new gals, at a rate of about 1 to 2 per day, so here's hoping the news only gets brighter from here, along with the days getting brighter after the Solstice. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Power of the Internets

Rainier from Sunrise
Have you seen the ads on t.v. for farmersonly.com?  It's the equivalent to Match.com for farmers.  We laugh, but truly, The Internet has become a wonderful tool in gathering perfect strangers with common goals and helping them establish a community and become good friends.

When we moved to Enumclaw, I started driving around looking at farms for signs of what I considered to be sustainable farming:  cows in the meadow, chicken tractors with chickens afoot, and things like that.  One farm that I particularly admired had a banner out front.  A name that I googled and found had a website and a Facebook page.  After a few weeks spent reading the content on the owner's Facebook page, I contacted her with a question.  That one question led to a coffee date where we discussed farm building and chicken rearing and all other kinds of interests we had in common--and more importantly, I felt I had found an inspiring mentor.  During our discussion, Joyce mentioned that she had this idea that maybe there were more people like us lurking about the Plateau, and she thought it would be neat to start an online forum for sustainable farmers in our area to share ideas, ask for feedback, and have gatherings.  It was a marvelous idea.  And thankfully, one she went home and put one together.

After a few weeks, we had our first potluck in an old schoolhouse in the area.  Man, did we eat like kings?  Sausage and kale soup, fermented foods, homemade kombucha, tapioca pudding, and apple cake...the list goes on.  All from food that we all had collectively grown.  But the best part of the day wasn't the food, but the seeds of friendships that were started that day.  Some of the people had already known each other, and then there were people like us that had just moved here and were looking for a community to belong to.  It was one of the best days of my life.

From that one meeting, we've found ways to support each other.  Some of us buy produce from one another, and some of us trade items.  We promote each other's endeavors with our friends and acquaintances outside the area.

Since that simple little action of starting a Facebook page to connect us all together, a beautiful opportunity has presented itself.  A member of the group has reached out to people she knows through a local gym, and has developed a relationship with customers interested in purchasing locally produced foods--a partnership I've seen referred to as "Farm to Gym".  The concept couldn't be more perfect!

The reception was so remarkable, that a collective of producers has been formed to hopefully create a local farming co-op called Plateau Producers.  There is research going on to find a commercial kitchen with a small store front, in hopes to support the canners and bakers within the group as well. Others in the group are contributing their talents by designing websites or logos.

The point being, from something as vague, yet simple as starting a forum online for a small group of like minded people, has sprung a supportive community of inspirational people with the goal to start a grassroots local food movement in our area.  And in supporting each other both personally and professionally, I feel we've made a pretty great group of friends for life.

What actions have you taken to help build community in your area?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Random Thoughts With a Purpose.

Happy July!  Hope you enjoyed your 4th!  We had a wonderful time participating in our local parade with some of our farming friends and new acquaintances we met by joining a group to promote labeling of GMO's, watching a movie at the theatre in town, and working a bit around the farm. 

Since our move, we've been working on changing our diet a bit too.  As with anything, slow and sure wins the race, but the longer we're at it, the better creativity seems to flow through me.  Sure, some lifestyle changes are as easy as switching to your local dairy for raw milk or avoiding walking down the aisle of chips so you aren't tempted to purchase them.  Then there are the harder things...like the question that comes up every day, three times a day:  "What am I going to make for (insert breakkie, lunch, or dinner)?"

Maybe you can relate: once you find a tasty recipe, you tend to make it for a few months and then tire of it and move on to something else.  That has happened a lot with me this year, especially because my time I used to spend searching for recipes is now spent growing food. :)  So I fall quickly into a pattern of cooking by the seat of my pants:  smelling spices and throwing together a few that seem to work together, throwing in what ever veggies I have, and making twice as much as I need, in hopes of not having to think of what to cook another day.  Honestly, sometimes this works out, and other times...well, we have a crumby tasting meal a couple times that week.

Yesterday was a banner day though in the fine art of the throw together.  Can't go too wrong with burgers, although if there's a way, I'll be sure to find it. I wanted to share, not only in case you are on your journey to incorporate more spices and veg into your diet, but also to document it for my Swiss cheese brain.

I started off dicing half a small onion and a clove of garlic.  Then I used half a zucchini--slicing it lengthwise into as thin of strips I could make with a knife, then I diced those into small pieces.  I knew I didn't want to shred it with the box grater, because I was afraid it would be too slimy to incorporate into the burger with all the fat in it.  Added a teaspoon of sage, marjoram, and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Rosemary might have been really good in here too, now that I think of it.  Cooked those burgers up and added a little butter to the buns to toast them.  They were mighty tasty. 

But the biggest success of all:  my zucchini-despising family ate it joyfully, without a hint of concern for the little green things they saw in their burger.  Good guys win!

What are some creative ways you've found to incorporate your least favourite veg into your meals?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Results of a Few Experiments Run Afoul

Hi there!  Everything's been so busy the past month, i hope you didn't think we'd gone out of business. :)  Our homeschool is finally easing a bit for the summer, field trips are on hiatus, the tomatoes are humming along without too much from me, and winter gardening in the greenhouse doesn't start for another month at least.  There is so much to catch you all up on.  We'll start today with our fine feathered friends.

A few weeks back we mentioned a few experiments with the birds we had going: we had the ducks in with the chickens and we had a broody hen sitting on eggs from our friend, Liz.

The duck experiment didn't work for too long.  Our drake started mating with the chickens, and was making an absolute nuisance of himself.  The hens would dog pile him, the lil' puff ball roo would (try to) attack him--not a good scenario for egg production.  The last straw was when he hopped on our broody hen in the nest and crushed all her eggs she'd been sitting on for a week and a half.  He and the duck hen have been banished from the chicken pastures, back to wandering around the property.  Thankfully they've been working diligently on decimating the slug population in the Abominable Growman.

So with a broody hen and no eggs, we asked for help.  Our friend Liz came to the rescue as she had some fertile eggs she was willing to give us to help with our predicament.  Our roo is about half the size of our hens, so as you can imagine, about half the time the eggs we get aren't fertile. :)  So we placed the eggs under the hen, and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately, last week was the hatch date, and no chicks materialized.  We aren't quite sure what happened, but we are thankful the hen lived through the 4.5 weeks she was on the nest.  She sure stinks of rotten eggs, but she's slowly putting on weight again and fitting back into the flock.

With the hatching plan defeated and our egg sales picking up, we started looking for ways to add to the flock locally, and our friends in the farmer's network suggested giving Bradley Farm a try.  We are so glad we did.  It has been the one experiment that has worked well lately! :)  Anthony and Joanne run a beautiful operation, they have the most welcoming place, and their chicken set up is really something to see!  It's amazing!  We were sold with the descriptions of their stock, all touted as friendly birds.  Then to see the chickens at the farm--with more than one roo in some tractors--and nary a one making posturing gestures at us while we walked along their homes.  It's absolutely unbelievable!  Joanne is helping us fill our order of 45 chicks total for our 4th flock we'll be raising.

Today we picked up half our order: 20-ish chicks including Dorkings, Light Sussex, Salmon Faverolles, and a couple Marans.  We're hoping with these breeds, and a few Americanas we adopt in the fall, that we will have designed a beautiful and inspiring egg carton for our customers, starting in spring of 2014.  It's so comforting to have babies in the (pump)house again. :)  The building just behind our house that used to be the old pump house makes a great chick brooder.  Not to mention it's so handy for hourly trips out to daydream with the little ones!!

Ready for your (over)dose of sweetness for the day?

Lil Farmer Mac has nicknamed this little one "Dorky"

Dorky at 1 day old
Dorky's housemates
 If you are in need of some chicks, fertilized eggs, or Patriot Feed, we would highly recommend The Bradley Farm.  Would be especially wonderful to support them now as they are transitioning into meat production.  They are located in Puyallup, off of Canyon Rd.

Did you know that it takes a female chick 20 - 24 weeks to mature into an egg layer?  What is your favorite breed of chicken?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tomato Plant Sale. This Weekend. Be There. Please?

You know what happens to a person who can't bare to cull the promise of a warm, vine ripened tomato by snipping all the extra seedlings during thinning, don't you?  That person has a plant sale.  And you, dear readers, get well loved plants. :)  Hopefully, you'll get them in time for good summer weather, without too much fussing over them.  

We will have tomato and pepper starts for sale this weekend, May 25th through 27th.  We waited til the end of May in hopes the weather might be a bit better for your summer gardening endeavors.  

Here is a list of the varieties we will be offering.

In the Cherry Tomato Category:

Galina:  an heirloom yellow cherry tomato from Siberia with wonderful sweet-tart flavor profile. Flavor improves as cooler fall weather approaches.  Tomatoes store well off vine for a month or two.

Yellow Pear:  a classic heirloom, pear shaped cherry toms growing on vigorous vines.

Black Cherry:  an heirloom variety known for its sweet, smoky, complex flavor.  Fruits are large and reddish brown.

Velvet Red:  bares sweet red fruits on vines with these peculiar fuzzy leaves.  As much for food production as for ornamental gardeners, and an heirloom variety to boot.

Snow White:  extremely productive heirloom plant with oh-so-sweet cream-colored cherry tomatoes.

Isis Candy:  an amazingly prolific heirloom that grows stunning red tinged golden fruits.  Very sweet...perfect for getting those wee folk hooked on tomatoes. 

In the Slicing Tomato Category:

Oregon Spring:  known as the first tomato of the season, nearly seedless fruits of this plant ripen early summer.  No staking required, as these are compact bushy plants.  Determinate tomato whose production will cease around mid summer; just in time for your indeterminate varieties to start to produce.

Sheboygan:  an indeterminate heirloom paste tomato with great flavor and texture that doubles as a slicer, perfect for eating fresh or canning or freezing.

In the Bell Pepper Category:

CA Wonder 300 - classic green bell pepper variety with resistance to Tobacco Mosaic Virus.  Matures in 68 days.

Sunrise Orange - short season colored pepper that starts off yellow, turns orange, matures into a red bell pepper.  Resistant to Tobacco Mosaic Virus.  Matures in 60 days.

Purple Beauty - short season purple bell producer that matures into red bell pepper.  Hybird, yet open pollinated variety.

All seeds are from organic sources and so is the soil they've been raised in.  Plants will be $2 each.
I will be posting growing instructions later this week.  

Hope to see you this weekend!  Don't let that rain get ya down...summer's coming. :)

Our farm is located at 40622 - 196th Ave SE, Enumclaw at the old Thunder Mountain Nursery.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Curious Minds Want to Know (aka Hi Mom!)

Talked to my mom the other day.
She wanted to know why she hadn't heard from us in a while.  
"Been really busy in the greenhouses."
She replied, "Well, put up some pictures so we can see!"

And this is the real drag about living 400 miles from your family. 
The other drag being that we can't share this glorious bounty with them!

So here is your proof, Ma, that you and Pop successfully cultivated a green thumb in your little girl.

Here is the first bed Moose and i have tackled in the AG.
Planted are Early New York storage onions, Walla Walla's, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Here in the second bed of the AG, we cleared last fall, and planted Musik garlic.  Transplanted a type of red lettuce that was the only seed to germinate out of last year's mesclun packet.  These were started in February.

Here's a head from last year's Jericho lettuce that I let go to seed during the summer.
You can see where I'll be taking the short hauls this year. :)

"Sugar" snap peas (under the string) have started germinating along with the French Breakfast radishes (upper left corner) and Bull's Blood beets (lower left corner).

Moving on to the seed nursery...

The tomatoes are slo-o-o-wly being potted up (aka taking over everything).
These are the Galina and Yellow Pear cheery toms.

Snow White cherry toms and Sheboygan paste toms

and more Yellow Pear and Black Cherry toms.
The idea this year is to have a mixed cherry tom basket to offer.
Practicing this stuff now in case Lil Farmer Mac wants to work a farmer's market next year.

The bell peppers.

And more onions. 
I got this great idea from a podcast I listen to from Chicken Thistle Farm in NY state.
Use these bunched like this to grow bunching onions that are easily harvested.  
I seeded up a combo of red, yellow, and white onions this way.

In Rosie's greenhouse, Moose has been starting on his potato tower. 
Plans to finish it next week when he is on vacation.
Yellow Finns are going in here.

And there you are...a photo update. 
I'll leave you with one last one...

She said she wasn't going to smile until a customer showed up. 
A discussion ensued about how her Irish dancing in the parking lot to draw attention to our eggs might be a better advertising strategy. :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Happenings :: April 2013

Spring is humming right along here on the farm.  
Hope you are finding ways to enjoy the season.

Mr. Farmer Mac is weary with weed detail.  He is hammering away at the unwanted vegetation in the large greenhouse, affectionately referred to as the Abominable Growman, or AG.  Hammering is actually not the gist of it...he's having to pull everything by hand, as the ground is way too wet to use a shovel out there.  He has done an amazing job in a short amount of time he's got outside of his day job, and our seedlings (and Mrs. Farmer Mac) are grateful for it!  You're the berries, Mr. Farmer Mac!  xo, Mrs. Farmer Mac

Last weekend while I was planting the onion seedlings in the AG, I noticed our chives were in desperate need of a haircut.  I took a handful in and mixed them in my scrambled eggs.  They tasted heavenly of sweet onion and early spring.  Also tried my hand at drying them.  After chopping them up and placing them on a stoneware plate, I set the plate on our propane stove's grill.  I couldn't believe how quickly they dried in just a few hours!  So the jar of dried chives is full again, but there are still more chives to be had.

Our surplus is your gain...  

Today is the first day we will be stocking packages of chives in the cooler for sale.  What better combination to celebrate spring that enjoying chives in omelets or shirred eggs?  Early this morning, I headed out to harvest, armed with a kitchen knife in one hand and a mason jar of water in the other, and proceeded to fill it with lush, onion-y goodness. Oh, how I long for the ease of a system where we could clean a bundle, tie it with string, and place in a vase of fresh water for the taking.  Alas....you will find the bundles enclosed in a plastic baggie in the cooler. Having compared quantity to the kind customers would find at the grocers, I believe we have them reasonably prices at $3 per package.   Let us know what you think.  We *love* feedback.

Next up was seedling duty in the Mini.  
Galina and Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes are growing up so fast!

Since March, these lovelies have been receiving extra TLC.  All their lounging under grow lights, drinking rainwater has paid off, and I am slowly transplanting them to their individual pots.  They grow so quickly and healthy in the organic potting mix that includes worm castings.  We'll give them another month under the lights in their climate controlled oasis, then they will be planted out in the AG.  I love this time of year...when you walk outside to tend to chores, and you return with your hands smelling of tomatoes and dirt.  Second best only to picking a tom right off the vine and popping it in your mouth, of course.

While I wasn't insane enough to start 300 tomato seeds like I did last year, it looks like there is potential for a tomato start sale this year.  I will let you know when that may be on our Facebook page.

After the chores are done, I like to reward myself with a little adventure in plant exploration around the farm.  I am still trying to learn all these varieties of plants we have here.  I think I've identified dock and loads of spearmint over in the formal gardens.  More time on The Google is needed.

Was happy to discover that our citrus trees and olive plant are budding!  If you need a real pick me up, get yourself a flowering Bearss lime tree (or come smell ours!)  Those flowers smell every bit as wonderful as a pile of freshly squeezed limes!

Please be a juicy lime someday?
And invite your friends to join you!

Potential olives?!?
Very excited to see what olive flowers look like.  

What is your favorite sign of spring?  How do you like to use herbs in your cooking?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Using Your Eggs :: Pucker Up with Lemon Curd

In exploring other ways to use those wonderful farm fresh eggs, we made a favorite sweet treat of ours:  lemon curd.  It is a versatile dessert which can used alone with digestives or scones.  It can also be a custardy base in a fruit tart.  We've used it to fill cupcakes (made a delicious strawberry cupcake that when filled was reminiscent of strawberry lemonade.)

If you pick up a jar of lemon curd at your grocer, you'll find the list of ingredients familiar until about halfway down the list, where things like locust bean gum, "natural flavor", and yellow #5 start to show up.  I don't know about you, but i am curious to know just what makes "natural flavor" and why is it something that they need to list in quotes?  Our eggs are so wholesome that i guarantee you won't need to add any "Yellow #5" to make your homemade curd look yellow.

"What about all those laborious recipes, dirtying half the cooking implements in your kitchen," you ask.  I have a secret for you--you don't have to do all that fru fru stuff (or all those dishes!)  I mean, there's already a dirty bowl from making scones, eh?

Here's what you do:

Homemade Lemon Curd
recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa 
In a saucepan, combine

1.5 cups organic evaporated cane sugar
zest of 3 organic lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
pinch of salt
4 larger eggs

Mix all of these together over low heat until combined.  Then add

1/4 pound of unsalted butter, room temperature

Stir rather consistently, you don't have to helicopter, but you'll want to be nearby.  The mixture will start to thicken in about 10 minutes, or if you like to use a thermometer for these things, at about 160 degrees F.

At this point, you could strain it, but i find that i like those bits of lemon peel in my curd.  Also, if you keep the cooking temperature low enough, you shouldn't find curdled eggs in the finished product at all.

And why stop at lemons?  We are experimenting with oranges, limes, and up next i have plans to experiment with honey rather than sugar.

What other creative uses do you have  for citrus curd?  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Fowl Experiment

Please, don't fence me in.
Up until a couple weeks ago, we were trying to corral our ducks out in the back pastures (boy, who would have figured on them being such escape artists!)  One of our ducks was taken as vittles by some wild critter.  It was time to come up with another plan for these guys, but we weren't quite certain what.

We'd heard that ducks and chickens get along quite well, but hadn't had a lot of luck with that in the past.  Now it seemed we had no choice but to try. 

So in they went.  Kiddie pool and all.
We worried that this little dude would cause a ton of trouble with Cheevy, our drake.  So far, he's been on his best behaviour.
Teddy Crowsavelt, Resident Roo
 The ladies haven't been really impressed by Cheevy's manners.  He is a bulldog with those hens.  They look in the same direction as the hen duck, and Cheevy's racing toward them, biting their feathers.  Seems as though we picked the perfect name for him when we named him "Mis(ter) Chevious".  We've had to break up a scuffle or two, but for the most part, it's gone better than we expected.

Leaving you with some more pictures of the poultry pasture and some of the hens.
Sun's out, so i am going to take this break in the rain showers to tackle the daily chores out there.

Honey Boo Boo and her sissy getting out of Cheevy's way

Caroline.  She lays the green eggs in your cartons.

Kathleen (Teddy's dame), Meringue, and Honey Boo Boo

Bird's eye view of life in the Poultry Pasture
Have you ever raised mixed poultry before?  How did it turn out?  Do you have any suggestions for keeping the peace (besides a cardboard cutout of Marshall Dillon)?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Using Your Eggs :: Making Mayo

Basil Garlic Mayo with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

One of the ways to reduce your food bill and guarantee nutritious food for your family is to make as much of your own frequently used food items as you can from wholesome ingredients you already have around your home.

Mayonnaise is a popular condiment that is simple to make, but unfortunately has been shrouded in so much mystery that it seems easier to buy it from the local one stop shop, even better in "family size" so that the customer "gets a good deal". 

Can you believe it's as easy as slowly mixing drops of oil with an egg yolk until a sauce is made?

Did you know that the US FDA regulates mayo?  In those plastic jars you'll find approved amounts of various oils, egg or egg yolk, vinegar, and spices, which are coincidentally the same ingredients in a bottle of salad dressing, just in different ratios.  The eggs are pasteurized, thereby killing all the good stuff with the bad, because they are likely produced by factory chickens, where incidence of disease runs high.  The oil used is typically derived of the soy bean plant, which is the most genetically modified crop in the country.  The vinegar is derived most likely from a process using distilled alcohol.  If we're talking "low-fat" versions, egg yolks are removed, replaced with egg whites and something called "modified food starches" that act as thickening agents.  And we haven't even covered the shelf stablizers and preservatives they add.  Even "organic" or "natural" versions can still contain ingredients that really aren't necessary for a wholesome mayo.

A fresh, flavourful mayo can be made using 4 ingredients, a bowl, and a handheld beater or a whisk and an arm of steel.

The recipe is as simple as remembering that one egg yolk accepts up to one cup of oil to make mayo.  This 1:1 ratio will yield about a pint of mayo.  If you are in need of a bulk quantity, quadrupling this ratio yields about a quart.  Just make sure you can use it all in about 3 days.

Here's the deal-i-oh:

Place one egg yolk in a bowl.  Add a drop of lemon juice to help with stabilizing.  Then slowly add two to three drops of oil at a time (oils like olive or walnut pack even more nutrition) while continuously mixing it together with the yolk.  This will slowly evolve into a thickened sauce, and with the addition of more oil, over time, you'll get the consistency of mayo from a jar.  It will look very different however, because you have used wholesome, fresh, and nutritious ingredients.  You can add up to one cup of oil, but more than that will break the emulsion and the magic will be gone. You'll also need to add a little lemon juice--make sure you start with small quantities (adding a teaspoon at a time, unless your goal is to have lemon-flavoured mayo) and a pinch of salt.

Speaking of taste buds, at this point you can add a minced clove or two of garlic and any kinds of herbs--heck, you could live a little and add saffron or tumeric (which are forbidden in trade mayos because it gives the appearance of added extra yolks.  Eek! The horror!)

What to do with those leftover egg whites?  They can actually be frozen for up to 3 months.  Most macaroon recipes need 3. :)

Hoping you will give this recipe a try.  Just another way to incorporate healthy vitamins and fats into our diets.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hello, Part Two

What if we could do our part in the effort to combat the growing threats to our food supply by starting a little farm? 

Reading the likes of Pollan and Kingsolver gave way to reading the likes of Elliot Coleman and Joel Salatin.  Becoming more intrigued with producing food, we started looking for a little farm. 

After 5 long years of searching, we finally found a little spread here in Enumclaw, formerly a nursery of some kind.  The infrastructure that was here already was part of the draw for us: 3 greenhouses and plenty of fruit trees and herbs.  Just add a family ready to build a small scale hobby farm, and we could be on to something.

With the possibility of raising animals, veggies and fruit, we have a huge learning curve ahead of us. The excitement of trying our hand at producing wholesome, real food, having people enjoy our bounty, and building a community based on food that is healthy and non-toxic is what drives us. 

We believe in nuturing our land--providing it much needed organic matter, rather than pumping it full of chemicals.  We believe in growing seed from small companies here in the Northwest that produce organic, non-GMO seeds and we try our best to support heirloom varities when we can.  We believe in treating our animals with respect and providing the best lives for them and in turn they reward us with the fruits of their labor.  We believe in supporting small businesses within Washington state, and whenever possible within our community.  We also believe it is important to give back to our community, especially to those who have a hard time providing any food, let alone fresh, wholesome food for their families. 

We hope you'll give us a try.  We currently sell chicken and duck eggs on site.  We are ramping up for veggie season and hopefully in a few short months will be offering things like onions, tomatoes, and peppers for sale as well.

Looking forward to meeting you and helping nourish you and your family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hello There, Part One


We would like to start this blog off by introducing ourselves and sharing a little bit about our history that brought us here.

For years, we were living like the typical American family in Suburbia, USA.  Shopping for our groceries from the nearest warehouse wholesaler, not even thinking about where those products in the cans, boxes, and styrofoam trays sealed in cling wrap came from or how they were produced. 

After our daughter was born, i had started reading the occassional article in the newspaper about industrialized food production and huge fluctuations in market prices that were steadily compensated for with frequent price increases.  Soon, i was reading books like Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Then we watched Supersize Me.  Chemicals?  Steriods?  Inhumane living conditions? Genetic engineering?  Massive Recall Efforts?  We were left wondering what we could do to try to reduce the risk of our family ingesting poisons and Lord knows whatelse, while taking more responsibility for our own food production.

Armed with a library card and a dream, we scoured the shelves for books on organic gardening and food production.  We adopted a half dozen chickens, traded a fraction of our lawn for 400 square feet of garden space, and raised what we could using chemical free practices to help nourish our bodies.  And what we couldn't raise ourselves we sought out organic sources for. 

After a couple handfuls of homegrown raspberries and a couple of batches of scrambled eggs courtesy of our girls, we were hooked.  We learned to can jams and tomato sauces. 

We were feeling impowered by the flavor of those tasty ruby red morsels.  We couldn't remember eggs tasting so flavorful since our childhood.  With the bounty we could supply our family from our suburban lot got me to thinking...

What if we could grow even more of our own food, and share this delicious and nutritious harvest with others???