Archive | June 2013

CSA Week 1

This was the first week of our first season offering CSA shares! If you are not familiar, CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Each CSA is different, some require a certain amount of time to be spent working on the farm. Others, like ours, are basically buying a subscription to what is available during the season. We had anticipated having a good amount of produce available to start shares 2 weeks ago. The wet and late spring weather changed those plans. So this week brought an abbreviated share and we expect that next week will be much the same.  We are hopeful though! The tomatoes and peppers have had flowers for quite some time and our peas are just starting to flower. The greens had a slow start, but they seem to be coming along well. Things are growing and we expect that shares will really start to fill out soon. Thanks to our members for bearing with us!

CSA WEEK 1

The pint of tomato sauce was made with last years produce. We have found it to be equally good on pasta or as a pizza sauce. We used a variety of heirloom tomatoes, they varied in color from green, yellow, orange, purple and red.

This photo shows spinach but some members received kale and others got broccoli. We mixed it up a bit to be able to add something fresh to each share. If it would cool down just a bit, we’d have some great greens.

The beans are a beautiful variety called ‘calypso’ I have also seen them called ‘orca.’ They would be a great addition to any soup or stew. If you are not familiar with how to cook beans from dry, here’s a great link: http://www.simplebites.net/a-simple-guide-to-cooking-dried-beans/

The bread is sourdough made with wild yeast. About 3 years ago, I started a sourdough starter, just water and flour set on my countertop. It was colonized with wild yeast and the mixture started to bubble. When I make bread I use about half of my starter then add sugar, salt flour and water. Then I add more flour and water to the starter container and it keeps on growing and lives in the refrigerator between baking days. This is the way bread was made long before you could buy yeast at the store.

 

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A Whole New World

Our second batch of chicks is now just over 3 weeks old. That means they are old enough to get out of the brooder and onto some lush green grass! There are 100 chicks in this batch, so we decided to separate them into 2 flocks to make them easier to work with.

Chicken Tractors on grass3 week old chicks moving into their outdoor moveable shelter.

Dave moved them about 20 at a time, loading them into a dog crate and wheeling them over to the portable shelters that were awaiting them. Usually we try to start the chicks as close to the brooder as possible, just to make this move easier on us. We had to start them on the opposite side of the yard this time, because the laying hens had already been on the grass closest to the coop when they moved out earlier this spring.

If we ever need to put chickens where chickens have already been, we prefer to let the ground rest as long as possible. Chicken manure is very ‘hot,’ or heavy in Nitrogen, and can burn the soil if too much is deposited. This practice will also wreak havoc on any kind of parasite or pathogen that could be left behind when the birds move. We haven’t had to deal with any parasite or pathogen problem and we do our best to keep it that way. Our model has the chicken shelter move at least once a day to give the birds fresh grass and bugs to eat and to get them away from their own manure.

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First Harvest of the Year

Saturday was our very first harvest of the season!  Just over 8 weeks ago we received the peeps and in that short time they grew so that each carcass weighed 5 to 7.75 lbs when it was dressed out!  The day was relatively uneventful, but took a bit longer than we had thought it should have. We are attributing that to the learning curve with the new vacuum sealer.  It also takes a little while to get into a groove during a first butchering of the year.  We almost always have help on butchering day, our friend Laura has been helping out for 3 seasons now and took all the following photos. Troy, one of Dave’s coworkers, also got in on the excitement.

Dave is always up early on a harvest morning.  He moves the birds near our work area if they aren’t already close enough, starts heating water for the scalder and makes a round to do morning chores for the rest of the animals on the farm (right now that’s baby chickens, turkeys, laying hens and pigs.) When the rest of the crew is ready to go, Dave kills the first bird and we all get busy!  When dead, the chicken gets dunked into hot water, this is called scalding. The temperature Dave likes is about 150 degrees.  The water has to be just right.  Too cold and it won’t loosen the feathers enough, too hot and it will actually start to cook the meat. When it’s just right, dunking the bird into the hot water will open the pores in the skin so that a firm tug will easily pull the feathers off.  After scalding, the chicken goes into the plucker, a plastic tub with a rotating bottom and rubber fingers that grab the feathers as the bird spins.

Dave is in charge of the killing, scalding and plucking process.

Dave is in charge of the killing, scalding and plucking process.

The Plucker

Once the bird is featherless and squeaky clean, it heads to my department.  When I get the bird it’s naked, but still has a head and feet. Most of our customers prefer that these are gone when they pick up their chickens, but you can buy them just like that in the right Asian market. So I take off the head and feet and get rid of all the innards.  This is the station Laura generally helps with. When we are done with them, they look just how you’d buy a whole chicken at the store. We put them into cold water to start cooling off, then comes packaging.

It's great to have a canopy incase of rain or sunshine!

It’s great to have a canopy incase of rain or sunshine!

Troy helped us out with packaging and weighing the birds before they went into the fridge to finish cooling. It was a bit of a challenge to find out the optimum way position everything for a good, quick seal. When Troy had to leave, Laura took over this job and made a short list of all the tips and tricks that she learned. Hopefully, this will save us time for the next harvest.

Troy vacuum sealing and weighing a dressed chicken.

Troy vacuum sealing and weighing a dressed chicken.

One thing we’ve learned in our time processing chickens is that they need some time to ‘rest’ before they are cooked or frozen. In the same way that any large animal, like a cow or deer, is hung to cure for several days, the meat needs time for all the enzymes to do their business.  A whole chicken needs somewhere between 12 and 24 hours to rest, failure to let the meat rest will result in tough meat, NOT good eats!

We processed just under 50 birds in this session and we’ll do 100 more at the beginning of July.  Some of the July batch are still available, just drop us a line if you’d like to get on the list.

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