We Can Back It Up!!

“Humanely Raised, Caged Free and Natural”  isn’t just talking points for us.  We can back it up!!  

There is a trend among large grocery chains and commercial meat producers to throw out terms like “humane” “free-range” “natural” “cage-free”, but is that real?  Are they being completely honest or just giving a half-truth.  You’re going to have to decide that for yourself, but please do your research.  Knowledge is power.  You can find pro-articles and non-pro articles on each animal raised for meat when it comes to commercial practices.  I can’t speak for any other farm–small or large.  But, I can assure you how it is done here!!  And you’re more than welcome to come and see for yourself.  Try that at a commercial factory farm and see what kind of open house you’ll have.  At some facilities you won’t even get on the farm much less inside where the animals are housed.

Since it’s the Thanksgiving season I’ll speak first on our turkeys!!  We only raise one flock a year.  We take orders for the Thanksgiving turkeys in March so that we can get on the Hatchery’s list and get the baby turkeys in around the end of July.  It takes a few months for them to reach the ideal weight for your table.  We practice strict bio-security with the baby turkeys due to diseases they are susceptible to, so they stay healthy.  We keep them in the brooder for several weeks until their immune system is ready for them to go outside on the pasture.  Once on the pasture they are contained in a poultry netting that is electrofied to help keep any predators out.  We also keep one of the Livestock Guardian dogs with them for protection.  The turkeys will take about 40% of their diet from grasses, leaves and insects giving them and us the benefit of higher Omega 3’s, Vit E, Vit C and Beta Carotene.  We move the netting every 2-3 days giving them fresh access to new grasses and insects.

Our chickens that we raise for meat are housed in mobile units that we move across our pasture twice daily giving them access to fresh pasture and it helps keep them clean and out of their own waste.  The mobile units are to keep them protected from weather conditions and keep them safe from predators.  We also keep one of the dogs with them in the pasture to watch over them.  We’ve never lost a bird to predators when the dogs are there.

Our pigs are NOT housed.  They have access to shelters to sleep and relax in but that’s it.  Our sows when it is time to have piglets will come in a stall so that we can monitor them and have access to the piglets when they are born.  We have several pastures set up for the pigs giving each group plenty of room to socialize, graze, root and wallow at will.  They are separated in groups by ages and gender. 

Our sheep flock is moved to different pastures throughout the year to keep them access to new grasses.  In the winter we have about 15 acres of woodland that we put them in for protection from the elements and this gives our pastures a rest for a few months.  The cloven hooves of sheep can do a lot of damage to wet ground so we keep them off the pastures during the winter months.  This is a time that the ewes are pregnant with next years lambs so they are fed with a high quality hay over the winter and if they need grains they are fed a locally milled grain mixture.

Last but certainly not least is our laying flock of chickens for our eggs.  They have access pretty much to the entire farm.  They roam around our yard, barn and pastures at will.  They keep all the bugs and spiders from getting into my house!!!  They dust bathe, sun bathe, peck and eat whatever they want—they’re slightly spoiled, but make the best eggs!!!

I welcome you to stop by and see how we raise our animals—cage free–YES, naturally–YES, free-range–YES, humane—YES and we can prove it!!

Farmer Amy

Hank Jr. Said It Best!!

Hank Jr. said it best “It’s a family tradition.”  One of ours is Buttermilk Biscuits.  My Mama has been making biscuits since she was about 9-10yrs old.  Always with Buttermilk.  When I was growing up, she didn’t keep no half gallon, she kept a GALLON of Buttermilk in the refrigerator.  Not only was it for biscuit making it was also for a tall glass of cornbread, sliced onion and Buttermilk all mixed together….Daddy’s favorite meal by the way.  It’s a family tradition that each and every supper came with Buttermilk biscuits.

Mama makes her’s strictly by hand—-NO gadgets for her.  Her hands, her biscuit making bowl and a rolling pin.  Yes, I said biscuit making bowl–not used for anything else, kept in its own special spot because it holds just the right amount of everything to “make a mess of biscuits.”   “Mess” for y’all not from the South means a bunch.

I have tweeked Mama’s recipe by using a food processor to do my combining of flour, buttermilk and butter.  Another tweek for me is using butter instead of Crisco (which by the way is NOT food—it’s a by-product of cotton seed processing).  Real butter is much better for you!!  Also butter contains water which will make the biscuits rise from the evaporation.  Just remember to keep it COLD!!

Here is a video I did for Facebook showing the steps of making my biscuits.

I’ll post the pictures and explain a little more about each step.

First are the ingredients:

Mama always uses self-rising flour, so of course I have stayed with that.  She also always uses Southern Biscuit and yep, me too!  I usually use 1 1/2 cups flour , 1/2 cup Buttermilk and 1 stick of butter cubed and kept cold.  You really want all your ingredients cold.

I place the flour and cubed butter in my food processor and pulse to combine until you see little balls of flour/butter.

Then I slowly drizzle in the cold Buttermilk—you won’t use all the Buttermilk—you just want the dough to be somewhat wet and just starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Like in the next picture..

Throw  a good handful of flour on to your work surface to keep the dough from sticking..

Pour the dough out onto your work surface.  With your hands just work enough to bring the dough together….Don’t work it to much, just bring the sides in and combine any loose flour.

You can start to flatten the dough out but again, don’t work to much and if the dough starts to warm up from your hands, just pop it in the frig for a minute or two.

Now I fold my dough over on itself a couple times, just to create layers of the butter within the dough.  When the butter melts and produces the steam from water evaporation it will cause the biscuits to rise and create layers in your biscuits.

Now you can roll it out and cut your biscuits.

TIP: when cutting your biscuits out, don’t twist the cutter, cut straight down.  Twisting will seal the edges and prevent rising.

I always cook my biscuits in a well-seasoned cast iron pan.  Brush them with a little butter.

Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes

The last thing is ENJOY!!

 

Farmer Amy

 

 

All About Ears

One of the questions I always get when I am either giving a farm tour or showing new customers around the pigs is “What’s wrong with their ears?”  As you can see in the above picture their ears are funny looking.  No, they were not born that way.  Let me share our system with you.

We use a universal ear-notching system.  This provides us a means to identify each pig without a lot of expense.  It gives each pig an individual identity so that we can follow the life of that pig from the time it was born until the time it goes into the freezer.  If we have a pig that gets sick or injured for some reason and we have to use medications on that pig, we can cull that pig at the sale barn and not use it for our pork production.  We have been very lucky on that front and have had to cull out only a few pigs.

Each coordinate of the ear represents a number and each ear represents the litter and the individual piglet.  Here is a picture to help explain…

We use a special tool to notch the ears and we do this when the piglets are no more than 3 days old.  At the same time we will castrate the males, remove the incisor teeth (we’ll get into that later) and check for hernias, get weights and look for any birth defects.  They receive an injection of iron to boost their immune system.

Here is a picture of the notcher….

About removing the incisor teeth on the piglets.  We do this for a few reasons.  The reason the piglets are born with such sharp incisor teeth is because sows can have litters that have more piglets in them than they do teats to nurse the babies.  In nature this allows the strong to fight for their teat to nurse on and survive.  We strive for all our piglets to survive so if we have an issue with too many piglets we will remove the piglet and bottle raise it or if we have another sow with the piglets the same age we may try to get her to adopt it.  Piglets are born highly competitive and fight for the best teats which are toward the front of the sow and give the most milk.  After about 4-5 days the piglets will establish ownership of their particular teat and the fighting will subside.

Neither procedure is harmful, stressful or painful to the piglets.  The most stress is from being held for the procedures.  We do this while the sow is eating so that we don’t stress her over taking her piglets away from her.

It’s all a process and everything has a reason and a purpose.    I enjoy picking the little piglets up and cuddling them before we get started.

As always if you have any questions or comments please let me know!!

Farmer Amy

“I do.” Comes With Rules On The Farm

I’ve been asked on many occasions about how we get along so well and work together.  First off—we were joined together by God and it does take all three of us committing to this marriage to keep it together.  However, I have over the years developed a list of “Rules”.

  1. Use the same affectionate voice to your spouse that you use for the dogs, cats, pigs, cows and the little hen with the skunt place on her head.
  2. Never ever laugh at your spouse when they get tangled in the electric fence, especially when you were suppose to have turned it off.
  3. A grunt is not an acceptable answer to a question.
  4. A black lead rope left coiled in the grass is never funny at 4:30am.
  5. When saying “I get a lot out of that old hoe.”  Take a cue from the expression on the non-farmers face and explain you are speaking of a garden tool and NOT your wife.
  6. Do not assume PMS is why you are in trouble.
  7. “You were right.” is not hard for either of you to say.
  8. Learn that the toilet seat goes up as well as goes down.
  9. He doesn’t remember dates, mark the calendars.
  10. No man has ever been killed by his wife while he was washing dishes, vacuuming or taking the trash out.

Now these may not be for you, but I kinda like them for us.

Let’s Cutlet

Berkshire Pork—-the best of the pork world and that’s not just me talking….The Food Network Chef’s kinda like it too.  Berkshire pork was one of the basket ingredients on the show Chopped.  You can see it featured on some of the top restaurant menu’s.

One of my favorite cuts is the Pork Cutlet—-it is cut from the loin muscle like the pork chops.  It is sliced thin and can be used in a variety of recipes from the basic fried cutlet to Wienerschnitzel.  Here is my favorite way to serve our Pork Cutlets.

Recipe

Tools:

  • 2 dishes, one for the flour mixture and one for the egg/milk mixture
  • tongs
  • skillet
  • plate to transfer cooked cutlets
  • paper towels to line the plate

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of Thames Farm Pork Cutlets
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Thames Farm egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Onion Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lard (if you want gravy)  otherwise Peanut Oil or Canola

To get started you want to assemble your flouring station.  In one of your dishes add the flour and season with the salt, pepper and onion powder (about 1/2 teaspoon each.  In the other dish crack your egg and add milk and stir to combine and season the egg mixture with salt and pepper..

After your station is assembled you can start the cutlets.  Season them with salt and pepper.  Dip into the flour mixture, then into the egg mixture then back into the flour mixture—make sure you shake between each step to get off excess.

Heat your skillet to medium high and add in enough lard or oil to cover the bottom of the skillet.  Fry each cutlet 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Tip–don’t crowd the pan, you don’t want the cutlets touching each other.

Transfer as they are cooked to a paper towel covered platter and keep warm.

I served our with mashed potatoes, gravy I made from the drippings and butter peas.

Leftovers were turned into egg and cutlets on  English muffins.

Hope you will try them!!  Nothing better.

Farmer Amy

A Hundred Years!!!

A lot has changed in the last one hundred years—the Industrial Revolution the boom of Technology—Fashion and even our language—If you could travel back in time and ask a farmer about Blogging on their webpage about their farm, you would probably be sent for a lobotomy back then.

Tractors haven’t changed all that much, they’re still one of the hardest working tools on the farm from cutting, racking and gathering hay to plowing and bush-hogging.

Heritage breed hogs like our Berkshires have changed very little.  They have retained much of their original characteristics, see you can’t improve on perfection!! (insert wink).our pigs

1917 President Woodrow Wilson (and I hate giving him credit for anything) but he did have a herd of sheep that kept the White House lawn mowed.Now our sheep are much different than what was in the United States back in 1917.  The meat breeds that we have Dorper and Katahdin are cross bred sheep from South Africa and have been bred specifically for their meat quality and not for their wool.our sheep.

Some things I’m glad have changed!!! Washing clothes this way would not be to my liking.  I cherish my Maytag Washer and Dryer.  I’m posting some more pictures of our farm.  Come on out and see what I’m talking about.  Give us a visit!!  Buy some great Sausage from our heritage Berkshire hogs!!

Love Ya

Farmer Amy

 

 

Chlorophyll!! I love you!!

Chicken…..fried, baked, broiled, grilled,hot, cold or just about anyway you can think of….we love chicken!!  We especially love our chicken.  Mainly due to a little thing called Chlorophyll….What’s that? You ask?  It is, in a nutshell,  95% pure sunbeams.  Chlorophyll  makes plants green and gives them their energy to grow and turn carbon dioxide into clean oxygen…..and, it is a natural detoxifier.   It cleans out all of the impurities from our chickens making them taste extraordinary!!

  Here’s a group after moving them, enjoying some fresh grass and the occasional unlucky grasshopper that dares to cross their path.  Hey! It’s protein.Katherine and Griffin are seen here taking the 2 week old chicks to the chicken tractors.  We wait until all the chicks have their feathers in before we move them to the pastures.  We move the tractors once or twice daily.  It all depends on how much grass and how much litter the chickens have deposited.

You can’t find chicken that tastes better, juicier or tender than a pasture raised chicken.  Sunshine provides a host of vitamins like Vitamin D, the chlorophyll helps to keep the chickens healthy, the insects give them protein.  They can socialize, sun bathe, dust bathe and grow into a delicious and healthy product you can feel good about eating.  They taste like “Grandmaw’s Sunday chicken”.  Below is one of my favorite recipe’s!

Thames Farm’s Herbed Butter Leg Quarters

Tools Needed:

  • Roasting Dish
  • Paper Towels

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack Thames Farm Leg Quarters (2)
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/2 tsp each Rosemary, Dill, Ground Sage, Marjoram, Salt, Pepper( you can use other herbs you have on hand substituting any above except the salt and pepper)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Take 2 tbsp of the softened butter and smear in the bottom of the roasting dish.  The rest of the butter place in a dish and add in all the herbs, salt and pepper.  Using a spoon combine until mixed thoroughly.  Pat the leg quarters dry with a couple paper towels.  Take the back of the spoon and smear on the butter mixture all over the leg quarters.

Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees then lower the temperature to 365 degrees and continue baking for 30-35 minutes longer.  You want the internal temperature to be 165, make sure you test temp in the thickest part of the leg taking care not to touch the bone.

I served with mashed potatoes, pan gravy and Ginger/Honey Carrots.

To make the carrots

Take 3 large carrots and peel and slice into medallions.  Place in a saute pan on medium high heat with 2 tbsp butter.  Stir to coat in the melted butter.  When carrots are coated and start to cook, pour in half of a 12 oz bottle of your favorite Ginger Ale, (I use Canada Dry).  You may need more ginger ale you just want to cover the carrots.  Cook on medium high heat until liquid is reduced and carrots are tender.  Add in 1 tbsp of good local honey and cook 3 minutes longer.  

These are the best carrots!!!

Hope you will try these recipes!!  Come by the farm and pick up your leg quarters.  If you leave me a comment—you’ll get a discount on the leg quarters!!!

Love Ya!

Farmer Amy

 

The Way To A Man’s Heart

The old saying “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  Well, I agree especially if you twist the knife a little to the right and lift up…..JUST JOKING!!!  I do think preparing and serving good food is one key to a good relationship.  Regardless of which one of you prepare it or better yet prepare it together.

One of the first meals I cooked for Kent after we were married was a pork Pot Roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese and green beans.  I remember it because the roast was dry, the macaroni and cheese (“wasn’t like his Mama made it.”) and I put too much salt in the green beans.  Needless to say I was devastated!!  I so wanted to impress him with my food.  The mistakes I made then and still make now always teach me something and help me grow as a cook for my family.  I LOVE good food, but I hate complicated recipes and recipes with 50 Bazillion steps.  I need recipes that I can whip up quickly, that taste delicious, are satisfying and easy to clean-up.  How about you?

That Pot Roast was not going to defeat me, so I called my Dad and asked him his secret.  He always seemed to make the best roasts whether pork or beef and the gravy Mama would make was always so delicious.  He gave me his secret ingredient and I have used it ever since.  I’m going to share with you the easiest and best Pot Roast  recipe!!!  Simple, simple, simple.

Above are pictures of what I’m talking about!!  Berkshire Pork Shoulder Roast   (no, the shoulder butts are not just for BBQ’ing)  they are for roasts also and absolutely scrumptious!  My secret ingredient—-GOOD COFFEE

TOOLS NEEDED:

  • Crock Pot
  • Thames Farm Pork Shoulder Roast
  • 1 large Sweet Onion
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup of coffee (preferably a White Blossom Coffee Co brew)

RECIPE:

Peel and cut the large onion in half and place both halves cut side down in the bottom of your Crock Pot.  Salt and Pepper all sides of the roast and set it on top of the onion halves.  Pour the coffee down the side of the Crock Pot.  Pop on the lid and set to low for 8 – 10 hours.  There you have it!!  Easy easy!!

The coffee will give the roast a deep flavor without any coffee taste.  The gravy that you make with the drippings will be the best!!  Below is the recipe for great gravy!!

TIP:         –A roast is done when a long handled fork can be inserted into the thickest part of the roast, if it falls apart it is actually overcooked and can be stringy.

GRAVY RECIPE:

TOOLS NEEDED:

  • Drippings from roast (I keep the little bits in it, but you can strain if desired)
  • Pepper ( there’s enough salt in the drippings so don’t add much if any until you taste).
  • All-Purpose flour (self-rising works fine if that’s what you have on hand)
  • Spatula
  • 1 tbsp of good Lard–(you can use our Leaf Fat to render some, it’s great)
  • Good size Cast Iron Skillet cause you’re going to want leftovers.

RECIPE:

In the cast iron skillet melt your Lard on medium heat.  Add in 1 tbsp of the flour( if making a large amount just remember you want equal parts of fat to flour so you could go up to 2 tbsp each of lard and flour) and stir it around to coat in the fat and start to cook.  Keep stirring.  You want the color of the flour to turn to a brown color about like a cardboard box.  It will take on a slightly nutty smell.  Then you can add in some of the drippings—take care not to add to much—the gravy will be liquidy, but the more you cook it the more it will thicken.   Keep stirring at this point and scrap the bottom of the skillet to get all the bits from the bottom and to make the gravy smooth.   Never add in flour to thicken—you can add in some cornstarch mixed with drippings, cream or water to thicken if needed, but only if needed.  Evaporation will help with thickening so you can lower the heat slightly and cook off some of the liquid.

Your first attempt at gravy will be a learning experience, but no matter even a bad gravy is just good.  A good tip for gravy is to keep it warm until right before serving or it will form a skin on the top.

Good Luck and anytime you have a question please let me know.

I have come along way since that first roast and now they are one of Kent’s requested meals.  Serve it along side some mashed potatoes and a nice green vegetable.  That will make a visually pretty plate and we do eat with our eyes first!

Talk to you later!!

Amy

In The Beginning

I guess for my first ever BLOG post I should start by answering a question I get a lot….”How did you get started in farming?”  To answer that I need to go back to the beginning…..”In the beginning was a Veterinarian and the Veterinarian was without a wife.  God said “Let him have a wife.”…..well, maybe it wasn’t quite like that….But, close!

My Aunt Diane had come home from New York City where she had worked for a Veterinary Clinic there.  She was hooked on heroine and was on the road to a death sentence when a friend drove her straight from NYC to my parents house, ultimately saving her life.  She was able with our families love and support and giving her life over to Christ walk away from heroine never to return.  She was clean for 6 months when in the paper there was an ad for a Veterinary Technician position with a new Veterinary Clinic opening.  The young Dr. was in need of an assistant.  Little did he know…… Anyway, she called him and I drove her to meet him for the interview.  He looked liked John Denver from afar and we giggled at that.  She was hired on the spot even though she was very upfront about what she had recently been through.

It was a week or so later that I went to pick her up from work and met him for the first time…..And to make a long story short, it wasn’t long until I was hired as the front receptionist.  I had zero experience but apparently the red hair was enough.

A few months passed before the first date—-then the second and so on and so on.  We were married in December 1988.

From an early age all  I wanted was a farm.  All I prayed for was a farm.  I could listen to my Dad tell about growing up on the farm over and over.  I would sit in the floor with paper and pencil and draw the layout of all the barns, house and pastures.  All the animals were named and we all lived happily ever after.  Back then the thought of eating MY animals was not in my little head.  Kent’s Grandfather was a big influence in his love of farming also.

So here we are.  Raising healthy and happy animals for our community.   Our pasture raise meats are second to none.  We love farming and hope to share this adventure with you.  It’s a hard, long, hot/cold, sun-up to sun-down job and we are loving it together.

I hope you join me in the Blog adventure.  I plan on posting tricks, tools, reviews, stories, recipes, short cuts and many more.  Please join me.

And come by the farm!!