Just for fun: Big Baby

Our little Blueberry has been asking for a little brother or sister for about a year now.  I keep explaining to her that we have closed that factory, laid off the workers, and burnt the buildings to the ground, but she will not listen.

Ok, so I will show her.  Enter in Big Baby.

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Big baby is was a 5 lb zucchini that got away from us while we took a few days off away from home.  Before shredding this monster, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to draw a little face on it and call her out from her bedroom to look at her new sibling.  She came running out excited to meet this little human only to end up both disappointed and thrilled.  She gave it a few caresses, a kiss, and then threw me a mad look and told me that wasn’t nice.  She was probably right, but I am pretty sure that it’s my parental right to poke fun from time to time.  Bon voyage Big Baby.  Thanks for the laughs!

And now for something completely different: fun family activities

Blueberry goes back to school within the next week and both Sheldon and I find ourselves scratching our heads wondering where this shortened summer went.  As relatively new farmers, we haven’t been able to take a vacation since the great vacation of 2012 (because visiting family does NOT count as we all know!!), but we do try to do little day trips here and there.  In the last week, we have tried to visit a few places that were within driving distance from the homestead including:

Fantastic Caverns

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As you all know, Wilbur crossed the “rainbow bridge” last weekend.  Blueberry and I were in charge of taking care of his remains in a humane and legal way.  On the way back, she talked me into a last minute side trip to Fantastic Caverns.  I’m glad she did!  If you are ever near this part of the country and want to take a very easy tour through a lovely cavern originally explored by a group of twelve brave ladies in the 1800’s, I recommend it!

Woolaroc

Woolaroc is a pretty cool little (ha!  3700 acres little) historical site that includes a wildlife preserve, old buildings, lots of art (including quite a bit of Native American art), and some fun stuff for the little humans like a great play area and a small petting zoo.  Woolaroc isn’t quite as great as say Promised Land Zoo in terms of getting close and personal with the animals, but it’s pretty interesting all the same!  And since you are going to be in the area, you might as well check out…

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Bartlesville

Bartlesville is an interesting town much like any small city with a large corporate presence.  Interesting mix of people, some good restaurants, and lots and lots of artfully decorated Bison statues including this one.

disco bison

Blueberry couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with his undercarriage, but we had a laugh about his “disco balls.”  Well played Bartlesville!

So, that is the extent of this year’s summer vacation.  It’s not quite as exciting as going to Europe or visiting the House of Mouse (depending on your perspective), but for budding homesteaders, it’s enough.  Now, on to our next adventure…first grade!

Happy homesteading!

 

The reality of farm life: it ain’t all sunshine and roses

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that we are still relatively new at this farming/homesteading thing-only a couple of years.  Most of the time, we are blessed with happy and healthy animals.  But, as with everything else in life, it’s not always that way.

Enter in Wilbur, one of our barrows.  Wilbur was one of the piglets we brought home late last year and raised to full weight.  He was a happy and healthy pig…until he wasn’t.  When we fed the animals on Sunday morning, he wouldn’t get up to eat.  By the time we came home from church on Sunday, he seemed worse and died within minutes of us arriving home.  Maybe he was waiting until we got there to say bye?  Yeah, I’m not quite that sentimental, but it did all happen really fast.  My immediate fear was the PEDv going around, but he didn’t display any clinical symptoms..and frankly, the way we farm and the few people who are invited onto our land mean that we have pretty strict biosecurity procedures naturally.  Upon further research, I found that it’s not terribly uncommon for pigs to die without obvious physical symptoms and the only way to confirm cause of death is with an autopsy.  Seems a little too CSI for us, but I’m sure that makes perfect sense to a “monoculture” farmer with thousands of pigs to protect.  We immediately moved him from their yard and took him a good distance away from all livestock for disposal.  Some have asked why we didn’t just butcher him and sell/eat the meat.  There are so many reasons why we wouldn’t do that.  One is that for a pig to be butchered commercially (ya know-not by your uncle Fred behind the garage), the butcher or his/her agent has to witness the killing.  Two is because we didn’t know or even suspect what killed him, we did not feel good about selling (or even giving) that meat to anyone.  We may not know everything there is to know about raising pigs, but we know our own values and we will never sell meat we wouldn’t feed to our own Blueberry girl, so with his death, it’s a total loss.

As to the future, our remaining gilts/barrows seem to be doing just fine.  They do not love the high heat, but do love the baths I’m giving them every day.  We have made some tentative plans around what we want our future to be with raising pigs and I think it’s the right decision.  We have been thoroughly (and I mean thoroughly!!!) enjoying the hand cured/smoked bacon, amazing chops, delicious steaks, and incredible sausage from these Berkshire piggies, and for that, we are grateful.  If it’s up to us, we will never, ever go back to what we now recognize as inferior quality pork from the local mega mart.

Until next time, happy homesteading Blueberry Acres Fans!

Quickie: Garden is coming up roses…

….and strawberries!  We had a late start on our gardening season this year at Blueberry Acres, but we’re so excited to report that we have sprung seedlings in all kinds of beans, beets, broccoli, swiss chard, pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon, spices and more.  The slugs have found our strawberries, but that just means I can treat them all to a beer.  Careful use of organic Neem oil is going to be our good friend as well as organic food grade DE, if we can just get the garden to dry off a little bit from all of these rains.  We also moved plants around in an effort to stave off some of the effects of our arch nemesis, the squash bug.  We also worked to eliminate all of our raised beds (except for the strawberries) and have taken everything to a row configuration in an effort to better control weeds.  I’ve heard lots of gardeners extol the virtues of raised beds, but it was a beating for us and we’re excited about this new set up.

What do you have in your garden this year?

Berkshire pork is here!

Well, we are happy to report that our order of Berkshire pork has been picked up and is now resting comfortably under guard, lock and key.  And I’m not kidding!  After having one of those pork chops, both Sheldon and I declared it to be the best pork chop that we have ever had, despite me over cooking it!

Now, think I’m praising the quality of our pork just to get you to buy it?  Nope..not even a little.  I’m praising the quality of our pork because it is so incredibly rewarding to find out that all of this hard work and literal blood, sweat and tears have produced a cut of meat our family can be proud of.  Pigs are HARD work..much harder than I would have guessed.  They are incredibly smart animals.  Couple that with them being incredibly powerful animals and you have the potential for trouble!  Our cattle are obviously bigger, but when they manage to escape the pasture, it’s a matter of leading them calmly back in with a little bucket of snacks.  Pigs on the other hand, you have to sit down and create a master strategy just to approximate getting a pig to do something your way.  On more than one occassion, our pigs told us to shove our little buckets of snacks.  Now, perhaps this is because we keep all of our animals well-fed and well-cared for, so the desperation born of hunger which can drive some stock animals never comes into play for our animals….but that means we have to constantly stay one step ahead of these canny omnivores.

So, next time you hit the local mega mart, think about what you buy.  We’re not saying that you need to or even should spend a zillion dollars shopping the highest quality meat..unfortunately, we know the food industry has made that really tough in some cases.  However, if you can spend some of your money with a local provider and get food at prices comparable to your grocery store, well, doesn’t it make sense to support a farmer whose blood, sweat and tears you can trust?  Just my two cents!

Berkshire bacon is on the way!!

Well, several of our registered Berkshire pigs are going to the happy hunting ground later this week.  We will be offering some of this pork for sale to friends, family and other foodies like us.  We’re excited to see the results of what has been absolute hours and hours of work on these crafty, smart and enormous animals.  If you follow our blog (as infrequent as it may be), you already know a few things about how we raise our livestock, but if not, here’s a quick overview:

Organic…to be or not to be!

Being certified Organic is an incredibly expensive and time-consuming process that a lot of small family farms don’t undertake.  While we could certify once we have been on our land for 3 years (we’re not quite there), we don’t feel like it’s worth the thousands (upon thousands) of dollars to invest in this governmental certification, so instead we try to be transparent with how we raise our animals.  For our pigs, they are raised in a large pen with access to some forage.  We supplement their feed with commercial feed that is antibiotic free when we can get it.  Yep-that’s a big problem-that feed is not always available, but we do our best to avoid the antibiotic feed that many commercial pig operations feed exclusively.  In addition, our pigs receive zero additional medications during their life here with us.  So, I feel honest in saying that our pigs are sorta organic.

Registered?  Papers?  I don’t need no stinking papers!

But, really you do!  Our stock is registered and more importantly they are from registered blood lines found at a well established, well-respected family farm.  We can trace the lineage of our pigs and are happy to report that there are no “Uncle Daddys” among our boys or girls.  As we move forward with our breeding program, we will continue to ensure this clean genetic line by introducing stock from other family farms thereby keeping everyone pure Berkshire and not genetically compromised.

Butchering…learned it on youtube?

As a small family farm, we do a lot of things ourselves.  However, there are a few things that we absolutely will not do and one of the things at the very top of that list is butcher our own large animals.  We do not have the facility, training or equipment for it and we prefer to turn that over to trained professionals in established facilities whose cleanliness is inspected and maintained.  Do you really want me butchering your pork chops next to my coffee pot while running my dishwasher?  Yeah, I didn’t think so!

I’m your mother’s cousin’s sister’s friend twice removed…..you can cut me a deal on the price, right?

We love our friends, family and mother’s cousin’s sister’s friends and would be happy to give anyone who wants a large volume of meat a volume specific price.  However, please remember that these are Registered Berkshire pigs.  Do a quick Bing search for Berkshire pork and you will see that prices range from $15-$40 per pound from commercial producers who make no effort to raise organic.  In Japan, apparently the prices can go even higher!  But…we’re not in Japan and we’re not looking to extort money out of other pork loving foodies.  As we take this batch to butcher, we will sit down and calculate a fair price based on our cost that is reasonable. You will know the price per pound of the cut you want before you have to commit.  But, I’m just going to say this…if you want grocery store prices, ya gotta go buy grocery store pork…capice?

You don’t have to be a local yokel to enjoy these piggies

If you aren’t near us, we can ship to you!  Just contact us through our site and we can work out shipping, etc for you to get your little piggie products.  We may be country but we do have FedEx/UPS!

Speak now or forever hold your peace..

This is hopefully not a one time deal.  We will have other pigs available for purchase later this spring/early summer.  From there, our focus will be on our breeding program so that we always have a supply of yummy, delicious berkshire pork available.  If now is not the time for you to buy humanely raised, sorta organic, deliiiiicious berkshire pork, you will have other chances!

 

Thanks to everyone who helped, supported and educated us as we started this process of learning about pigs.  Now let’s go make some bacon!

Gave it up for Lent..and so glad

I haven’t been a frequent poster here on our little farm blog in the last several months, but that has been primarily since life has become even more hectic than before.  Our little Blueberry is finishing up her first year of public school.  Sheldon seems to take on more work every day in an unending bid to see if a man can actually work himself to death.  Our farm has plugged along with everyone doing their part.  We’re coming up on butchering day for both our meat chickens as well as many of our pigs.  Our garden is still lying untending, but that will thankfully change later today.  And as for me, I have had feast and famine with consulting work, paid work and what I affectionately refer to as slave labor work (aka volunteering at Blueberry’s school)…so taking some time as a family to stop, slow down and ultimately eschew some incredibly first world treats as an homage to the sacrifice that Christ made for us when He died for our sins seemed like a good idea.

It began on Ash Wednesday.  We gave up TV of all sorts.  This meant not even watching clips on You Tube or watching the videos that are so often embedded in online news stories.  Absolutely no TV.  Day one didn’t go so well.  We were snowed in and The Blueberry was pretty high energy.  Couple that with my need to do work calls and Sheldon’s need to do work calls, and we needed a babysitter.  Enter in TV as Nanny.  Not our finest moment, but we like to keep it real here!   Other than that one time, our TVs have been dark.

In addition to giving up TV, we also gave up absolutely all sweets…cookies, cake, candy, pie, sweet breads, ice cream, etc.  That part we haven’t wavered on at all as a family. There have been times here or there where Blueberry has asked for a treat while we were out, but upon being reminded that we had given it up for Lent, she immediately withdrew her request.

It’s been about 46 days now as I write this and we are in the process of thinking about our Easter activities as Lent will end.  And let’s face it-when I think about Easter Brunch, I basically have this mental picture of the three of us eating some token food and then falling on the candy Lord of the Flies style.  I may be exaggerating, but probably not by much!

It’s been an interesting journey, and I’m not sorry one whit that we did this as a family.  However, we have learned some things that we didn’t anticipate like:

1) It wasn’t hard to give up the sweets.  Sure, there were days where emotions made us want to sit down with a bag of twizzlers (and by us, I mean me)…but we didn’t.  Instead, we sat down with hot tea, a good book (and often The Good Book), and just relaxed, prayed or talked.

2) TV wasn’t all that missed.  We were a bit worried about this..we’re actually not couch potatoes on the weekends, but after crazy, hectic days, Sheldon and I did like to veg out in front of the TV after Blueberry goes to bed.  Instead, we read, play cards, listen to music or sermons-it’s been nice.  In addition, by eliminating the morning news on TV, our mornings haven’t been any less hectic, but they have been a bit more quiet without anyone (read Sheldon) complaining that he can’t hear the news or other little people asking to sit and watch the news.  Instead, we just talk.

3) It’s kind of hard to find just a radio anymore!  We have a sound system in our “play room” but it’s downstairs and we wanted a little inexpensive radio/cd player for upstairs that we could also play things off a jump drive on.  That actually was hard to find!  We finally settled for a little system from Walmart and it’s been fine.  The Blueberry has fallen back in love with classical music often dancing around to Chopin.  I’ll take that over the earbleed of Taylor Lovato Bieber anyday!

4) The Blueberry has not struggled with this nearly as bad as I had anticipated.  Now, let’s be fair.  Unfortunately, her school does use the TV as “entertainment” during snack and when the teacher needs a break.  This doesn’t make me happy, but it’s a rant for another day.  In addition, we’re all required to provide snack one day a month.  Many of the other parents don’t define snacks the way we do, so she has gotten sweet treats at school.  Sure, we could have provided alternate snacks and heck, probably even requested that she went to the library during TV time…but..we’re not looking to punish or exclude her-quite the opposite, so we just let the school stuff ride.  However, beyond this, the kiddo has been incredibly grown up, curious and understanding about this journey without whining a single, solitary time about wanting sweets or TV.  Just a good reminder that often times as parents, we should remember that our kids can be capable of much more than we think.

And the one I didn’t really expect…

4) This has not been that hard.  I had originally suggested no sweets and then Sheldon upped the ante with no TV and to be honest, I thought he was smoking crack, banana peels or both.  I remember thinking there is NO WAY this is going to happen.  But then..it did.  And it did without drama, without difficulty, without regret.  Other parents told me we were crazy to even attempt this, but we didn’t listen.  When you begin to put perspective on all of these unnecessary things that we have put into our lives, and then take them away as a tiny first step towards honoring the HUGE sacrifice that was made for our unworthy selves…well, then, it becomes pretty ridiculous to gripe about giving up Justified when comparing that to the death of someone righteous.

Where do we go from here?  Well, I’m not entirely sure.  I had written a long conclusion about all of the things we are going to try and do, but I would rather sum it up this way instead.  We began this journey as a shared family experience to try and better understand Christ’s sacrifice for us.  Where we take it from here is really not up to us…but I look forward to being along for the ride.

From our family to yours, we wish you love, joy and excitement as we enter into the Three Days ending on Easter.  He is risen!