Speck and Parma… Unna and Jr and a gobbler in between

speck going for a jog

yum apples and parma, our pig

It’s long overdue that I post about our piggie venture for the year.  Warning, there will be a lot of photos of meat or butchering in this post.

thirsty piggie

speck and parma, our pigs eating the garden veggies we brought them

I have mentioned our pig share in the past.  Last year’s pig’s name was Pancetta.  She was tasty but we ran out of our pork supplies in the spring, so this time we thought we would go whole hog – literally.  Last year we split one.  Now we have not just the whole hog, but 1.5 hogs and our freezers are full.  Add to the freezers 20 free range organic chickens raised by my brother (Leelanau Farm and Game) and you see I mean really full.  Oh and we still have part of the 1/4 of grass fed steer in there too and now a local leg of lamb.  Sounds like we are carnivores.  Yep, we are, esp Eby.  But to show you our versatilty we also eat tofu and have a pantry full of canned tomatoes from our garden.    By now you should have time to leave the blog before we get to the photos, I have given you ample warning.

thirsty piggie

parma and speck getting a shower

Those were all pictures of our pigs in July and about one month before we butchered them.  As you can see, they are happy.  They have treats, mud to wallow in and lots of water to play in or drink.

Ginger with her sides of pork

Here’s our co butcher Julius with the ban saw behind him. Note the honey boxes, yes we were in the honey house as it is full of stainless steel and easy to bleach after wards.

butching our pigs in the honey shack

making ground pork in the honey shack

We have about 45 pounds of ground pork now.  A lot you may think, but many cuisines use ground pork and we cook a lot of Asian and Mexican food.

For a little variety, below is a shot of my brother butchering our Thanksgiving Turkey (it was a small one) by hand (not his favorite thing to do) as we needed our a bit early to bring home with us. I watched the process from start (catching the turkey and killing it) to finish (de-feathering, gutting and putting it in a bag for transport home). I am glad I did as it makes me appreciate even more what it takes to put healthy, sustainably raised food on the table.
Our turkey is the black and white one on the right:

heritage turkeys

our thanksgiving turkey

Next up: Dexter cow and half Dexter/jersey steer. Stay tuned for the adventures of Unna and Jr.  Unna will be kept and bred, Jr will be many dinners of grass fed beef.
the new kids on the farm, Dexter cow and steer Unna's hut

This will be their winter home as soon as it is fixed up (it is structurally sound, but needs some minor adjustments):

old shed, changed landscape - no trees

i’m out

Organics continued

I felt as if I short shifted organics a bit yesterday and was writing a reply to one of my comments so long, that I figured I should add it to the blog instead.

In Michigan our seasons are shorter, so I of course have to rely on non local groceries, but I do make an effort to can, dry (although I have learned that drying zucchini is not worth it) and freeze veggies from the garden to last me throughout the year. I did pretty well with tomatoes, green beans, broc and green chiles and froze more swiss chard and collard greens than I will ever use. I have learned that there are some things I won’t eat except when they are in season, like squash. Most people love squash, not me, but I grew a bunch and then saved them all winter for some big unknown squash event (I am a hoarder, I think I have a gene from someone who lived through the depression) and eventually, they were inedible.

I love CSA’s and farmer’s markets as you know who produced your food. I wish we could all buy from them year round. I have a guilty pleasure of buying cheeses from Europe and that is certainly not environmentally friendly. If I could find local cheeses I would buy those. There are a few around here. I certainly don’t mean to poo poo organic foods (and I buy plenty of them, I just don’t single them out) as it is more natural and less invasive. I was just surprised that so many of our products are owned by multinational corporations. I just don’t think of organic production that way. I always wonder how there can be fields and fields of organic lettuces growing with out losing a crop to some pest. Maybe the large organic farms rotate their crops enough that the bugs can’t find the veggies as easily. I need to tour a large organic farm next time I am in California.

I am actually going on a farm market tour tomorrow that our local extension is putting on. I think the intention is to get more markets (and agri tourism) going and show people that there is a need and that there are many things not at the markets that could be. I am will be sure to blog about it. Eventually my goal is to have spun wool (will need some sheep for this part), goat and cow cheese (I recently had a goat milk brie from Trader Joe’s – crazy good!), shitake and oyster mushrooms and whatever else I can grow in a hoop house for sale at local markets. Some day I will get there. Oh and a hard cidery – like a brewery, but with cider. It’s good to have goals.

I will post some new pics of our pig Pancetta soon. Wow, has she gotten big. Bacon on the way baby!

On a totally different note, I got up at 6:30 am to see the lunar eclipse (it was supposed to be mid eclipse at that time) and couldn’t even find our moon in the sky. I guess I should have thought about being at the end of the Eastern Standard Time zone and gotten up earlier. Did anyone see it? How spectacular was it?

i’m out

Organic ramblings

Organic food is a really interesting topic. Let me say right now that I don’t seek out organic produce. Especially when the organic produce comes from California and I live in Michigan and I can buy locally produced goods or veggies. I seek out sustainably grown and raised food as much as possible and as much as the checking account allows. I am all for using less pesticides and taking less trips across the farm field (less fuel), but I work with agriculture daily and understand the reality of feeding the masses too. For that, I support IPM, integrated pest managment. This means that you would only use pesticides if a certain pest reaches a known threshold and over that threshold crop damage will be done. Then you spray. Our society as a whole demands perfect looking food.

For example, in the cherry industry, there is a zero tolerance for a pest called the cherry fruit fly. Zero means zero. You can take a semi load of cherries in (and yes, that is a lot of cherries, about one long afternoon’s harvest) and they test every load before processing them into cherry pie filling. If there is one, yes one, cherry fruit fly larvae in the load, the load is rejected. How is that for an incentive to use more pesticides? You lose a crop because no one wants to bite into a cherry and have a worm in there. I say, eat the cherries whole and you will never know – just kidding.

Every state has what is called a “spray calendar” printed by their cooperative extension office (from where ever your state agricultural university is, ours is Michigan State University). This is a calendar of when to spray what pest. Typically it is known that during the first week of say June, in certain areas of the state “pressure” builds up of a certain kind of pest, meaning it reaches that spraying threshold. This could be a bacteria or a bug, and it is typically weather driven, a certain amount of warm days, a certain amount of damp, or rainy days. So this calendar tells people when to spray. If you use this calendar, you would be spraying by the book so to speak and spraying regardless of knowing whether the problem is really out there, it might be a preventative spray, or it could be unnecessary. Pesticides are not cheap. An 80 acre fruit farm will spend probably $20,000 over a summer in pesticides. So, if you don’t need to spray, most farmers do not want to spray. Add to that, that it must be pretty still out so nothing drifts off site and guess when it is really still out in summer? At night, in the middle of the night. Whenever I am at the farm up North on a summer night, you can always hear the hum of a sprayer in the distance all night long. I actually like the sound as it is the sound of food in the making, of a tractor and of a lively hood.

I am perfectly happy eating a slightly damaged apple or a scarred cucumber, but lots of folks aren’t. I don’t think they understand what this means in the end, that more pesticides will be used to give them pest free veggies. It will take a lot of education to get there nationwide. Yes, those of you reading this blog are mostly foodies and understand these things already. Most of you already shop at farmer’s markets or grow things in your garden, but you know you are not the norm.

What started this discussion today? This org chart. I like the idea of organic food, but did you know that most every organic item you find in the store is now owned by big nationalized corporations? To me, shipping deletes any positive effects of less pesticides. It all affects the environment in one way or another. Organic production can still uses some types of pesticides, but they are not the same ones as typically used for mainsteam production, they use natural ones.

So what am I trying to say? Know where your food comes from if you can and support local and sustainable agriculture if you can. My garden is organic and I try to buy products that I know are produced in Michigan whenever possible. I am certainly not an extremist of any sort, but just like to help with awareness. Consider supporting farms that use IPM, especially local ones, just as you would organic ones. All farmers have it in their own interest to treat the land they use wisely, because if they don’t, the land won’t be there for them.

one more reason to love home

i’m out

Overwhelmed and in disbelief, but very happy!

I can eat spelt. I held on to my disbelief until a few moments ago. Actually I am still there. I don’t know what to think. When one door closes (gluten) and another one opens (gluten free and feeling healthy again) and then opens further (spelt) is it a bit flabbergasting. I had my biopsy on Monday and at that time they took a tissue transglutaminase blood sample and said those results would be back in 3 days. At the time of the scope ( and this time was not nearly as fun as last time – the drugs put me in a fog for hours) he said “looks good” and he saw no damage.

The blood test is back and for this tissue transglutaminase test normal is 0-3. I was a two. At the end of June I had one and normal was below 20 and I was 9.4 (different labs, different reporting).

This has been a rollercoaster week between spelt testing and all the emotions that come with that and house selling and all the fun stuff that goes with showing your house on a moments notice. I must keep my eye on the prize – a 7 acre farmstead with three outbuildings (perfect for some sheep for wool and some chickens) and a hundred year old farmhouse. For that, I go through the humiliation of letting complete strangers come into my house and criticize it.

So…wow…now I need to take it all in. Spelt is gluten free for me.

i’m out