Pigs, pork and farm happiness

sam and clive

It baffles me that I have the hardest time finding the time and resolution to post.  I cook everyday and I take photos everyday.  I post what we are eating and cooking on Facebook most days.  So prehaps a push is what is needed.  I see people still swing by my blog for recipes.  That in itself is motivation.

So what’s new you ask?  A lot.  Most of it I should have shared last year all summer long.  However, I do have  a bit of an excuse there.  I raised pigs for the first time ever.  Me and two girlfriends.  Hubby helped out too when he was up.  Which also leads me to lack of time.  When I moved up here to NW MI (Oct 2011), my soon to be hubby  moved to Ann Arbor.  Then we got married but continued to live apart.  Just this last October in 2012 he was able to make the move up here 3/4 time.  So we lived apart except for a few weekends a month, for over a year.  That takes time.  Weekends gone, weekends here and that was the beauty of pig partnerets.  Everyone worked hard for a share of a pig.

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Back to the pigs.  I have wanted to raise my own pigs for a long long time.  However I knew it was going to be not possible on my own.  So my girlfriends stepped in and we raised 10 pigs from piglets of 25 pounds to hogs 350 pounds.  I loved it!  Yes it was hard, hot, wet and muddy work, but it was satisfying and now we all three have freezers full of pork.  Not just any pork, but heritage breed, pasture raised, GMO free fed pigs.  My brother built our pig shed in exchange for a pig and dragged it on skids out to his former organic cow pasture.  We put up fencing, both electric and non electric.  We learned how to install both fence types and how they worked.  I ordered feed.  We rebuilt the watering system 4 times, learning more every time.  We changed how we fed them and learned every time.  I did a lot of learning while those pigs were growing.  I had never raised livestock before in my life.  Backyard chickens do not count.  They don’t compare to a 300 pound pig running up to you because you have a bushel of apple throw outs.  You hope the pigs stops before you are thrown to the ground.  Sometimes they win, sometimes you win.

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We had a extremely hot summer and an extremely wet fall.  We would go hose the pigs down on really hot days.  They love to play in the water.  They love to play period.  Pigs have personalities and act a lot like dogs.  Which didn’t make it any easier when it was time to slaughter them, but that’s another blog post.  In the fall it rained and rained and rained and the 15 foot radius around the pig shed became a muck pool that was so slippery that it’s amazing we survived the daily feeding ritual intact. When grain gets wet it gets very slippery and pigs are messy eaters.  Jostling for best position in the food barrel leads to a lot of grain everywhere and then it gets wet.  And your boots stick in it and they nudge you while you are carrying a 50 pound grain bag.  So we learned.  We learned that we need a different feeding system next year.

 

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One of the reasons I wanted to raise pigs was to utilize the farm waste.  The cherry, apple and potato toss outs that the farm generates get composted.  We didn’t have much of a cherry crop (bad weather) and what we did have was severely damaged.  We would grade a lug of cherries and end up tossing 50% of the cherries because of splitting.  The pigs got two 5 gallon buckets of damaged cherries every day for 2 or 3 weeks.  They loved cherries.  The apple crop was light this year too.  Even the seconds were sold and the drops picked up, sold and used for juice (pasteurized).  But there were always a few left for the pigs that couldn’t be sold.  We picked the crab apples that were big and fat and sweet and tossed them to the pigs as treats.  My dad raised an acre of organic squash for the schools and the Fall got too cold to let them all fully ripen so the pigs got bushel after bushel of organic slightly under ripe squash.  They loved the seeds.  Really except for the acorn squash, they only ate the seeds.  We tossed them some tester potatoes.  That was a no go.  No interest in potatoes unless they were cooked.  I didn’t have that much time on my hands.  When we ran out of apples we went to a local winery and filled buckets with grape pressings.  They loved those for a few days and then it was back to squash. Of course we feed them bags of GMO free feed everyday.  They loved the farm treats but you do need to give them protein too.

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The chickens didn’t suffer from lack of farm treats.  They got my garden toss outs and plenty of cherries.  Their large fenced in run has a sweet cherry tree in it.  They ate the dropping cherries for weeks.  They got apple leftover too and they too had no interest in raw potatoes.  We have 28 chickens now.  Eggs galore.  For the first time ever we built a small farm stand by the side of the road to sell eggs and all the farm produce.  A small fridge kept the eggs chilled and a shade tree kept everything else cool.  After all the harvests were finished, the chicken yard gate is opened and all fall and winter they have the run of the orchards to hunt for bugs and any fallen fruit.

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The learning curve has continued with the chickens.  They all stopped laying eggs for 3 months when I added 16 chickens from a near by farm that was reducing their flock.  Pecking orders were reestablished.  Now they are almost one big happy family.  They are sick of snow.  They want to roam the orchards and yard but can’t with 3 feet of snow covering everything.  Spring will be here all too soon though.

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So all this rambling and no recipe?  Yep.  Just some awesome farm, pig and chicken pictures for now.  Maybe a sunset too.

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i’m out

Sourdough Boule with Parmesan and Fresh Rosemary

I am excited to share this boule with you!  I have been working on gluten free sourdough bread as I still miss that nice crusty hearty tangy loaf.  Thanks to Jeanne Sauvage of Art of Gluten-Free Baking for making my search for great sourdough easier.

slices

I sometimes like to wing it.  Just plain make something totally from scratch no recipe no measurements no rules.  I usually fail but I get really excited during the process, so maybe it’s worth it.  I decided to do that with some sourdough.  I made a starter by throwing together a combo of flours I don’t even remember and then added a dash of yeast.  I let it sit on the counter for days, feeding it occasionally.  Once I thought it was properly sour, I added some more flours and maybe some xanthan gum and probably a dash of olive oil   Then defying all the gluten free rules, I decided to knead the dough. So I did, then I let it rise.  It didn’t rise much but I baked it anyway.  It was a nice sour lump of rock.  I added far too much gf flour in the attempt to make it kneadable.  Gluten free breads almost always start out as a stiff batter, but I was in baking denial.  However, the attempt did get me baking again and it’s been quite a while.

So I searched for recipes.  I felt like I had cheated using yeast to begin with even though it did sour over time.  I found this great starter/poolish recipe also from Jeanne.  So I started another starter to compare.

Of course I didn’t have any cabbage on hand so I just started it on the counter hoping that the yeast gods would be kind to me.  Three days later after showing some sign of bubbling but no sour smell, I did add some cabbage leaves to a small portion of the starter, left it for a day and then added it to the rest of the batch.  It was nice and sour tasting.

sourdough with parmesan and rosemary

Here is what I did for my starter:

Ingredients:

1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup navy bean flour ( i did try a batch with garbanzo/besan/chickpea flour but for me the bitterness came through in a non appealing way)

1.5 cups of water

a couple of red cabbage leaves torn into large pieces – mine were not organic

You want a mixture of a higher protein flour to better replicate wheat flour, thus the navy bean flour which is full of protein.

Directions:

Mix the flours and water together, this will be pretty liquidy batter like.  Pour into your fermenting container of choice.  I used a 2 quart glass mason jar as then I can see the action.  Stir in your cabbage leaves.  I left mine open and stirred it ever so often.  If this were summer time, I would probably cover it, but no flies are out and about in Michigan right now.  I was hoping for some wild yeast to help the process.

Jeanne recommends adding more flour and water every 12 hours, I forgot and added it each morning.  Then mix it up.  Once you see the bubbling your yeast has arrived, so give it another day or two to fully develop.  Then remove the cabbage leaves.  They do leave a bit of a purple tinge, but that will get diluted once you add more ingredients to your starter.

From there I strictly follow Jeanne’s recipe so I won’t post it since you should go to her page and read all her research on the project.  I did use King Arthur’s Gluten Free flour mix for my flour mixture.  I really like it although it is expensive.  It seems to be a well thought out combination of flours and starches. By strictly I mean I follow her proportions and directions.  Of course I add things to it but we will get to that in a minute. Once the dough is in the parchment paper and rising bowl, I sprinkle a bit of rice flour on top and smooth it over. After the dough has risen and just before plopping it into the heated dutch oven, I slash a pattern into the dough.  Adding the rice flour makes the pattern much more distinctive and easier to slice without pulling the dough.

bread in a dutch oven

Since I don’t eat a lot of bread and my hubby is only here every third weekend, I choose to make a half batch.  One small boule using my 2 quart Staub dutch oven. That is what is pictured above.

Things I have added to my loaves of bread:

Parmesan chunks, rosemary, garlic powder and black pepper, sometimes slices of green olive too

Caraway seed, dehydrated onion and a dash of cocoa powder to make a “rye” style.

Gluten free rye style sourdough

If you are experimenting with sourdough too, please let me know your success and tips!

i’m out

it’s time for a little change, well perhaps a lot of change

Greetings from NW Michigan!  I finally made it back to the farm and ironically have more time on my hands to cook and blog.  Aside from the move, I also switched jobs, got married and lived in our house while it was being completely remodeled, all in the same two months.  No wonder it seems like I have free time now.

I live on the cherry apple potato farm I grew up on and now have 16 chickens.  I have a small view of Lake Michigan from the North windows of my house and can see the light house between South Manitou Island ( which is a national park) and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes (which is a national lake shore)when I drive over the hill to go or return from anywhere.  Yep, I’m pretty happy!

Here’s a pic our our new backyard after the first snow :

And a wedding day photo or two:

 

i’m out

Ahhh it’s fall

Things are slowing down and speeding up here at Ranch Ebyhagen. The garden is winding down, the chickens are gone but the CSA’s were going strong until 2 weeks ago and now we have CSA withdrawal.  We have been planning our new business and making test batches of cider.  The tomatoes are all canned and the pig is in the freezer.

Cooking with our CSA veggies has been great and we managed to use most everything, which was a challenge since one of us doesn’t eat eggplant or zucchini.

We have had fully grown laying hens since May, but finally had to farm them out up North when Sassy started a new screaming habit, all day long.  Since we have neighbors on three sides of us 40-75 feet away, that wasn’t going to work.  They are happily living in the former goat shed up at the Bardenhagen Berries farm in Lake Leelanau.

As usual we have been working towards sourcing out as much local food as possible, trying to support Michigan growers, producers and businesses.  Now everyone is catching on!  We are all doing our part to help feed the local economy.

It’s nice and chilly outside, our Indian Summer is coming to an end.  But we have a cord of wood and a fire burning in the woodstove.  The winter’s first knitting project is underway and now it’s time to plan this week’s menu.

A hot cup of tea was just handed to me, so, back to the warm fire I go.

i’m out