Produce CSA 2016

It’s never too soon to pick the farmer who will grow your fresh produce all season long. At Barefoot Farm & Flowers we grow beautiful, healthy and delicious produce just for you! Our gardens are lovingly tended to provide fruits and vegetables of the highest quality and amazing variety. Go ahead and taste right out of the crate- we never spray with dirty chemicals.

What’s in a typical crate? So much mouthwatering goodness that you won’t know where to begin. How about starting with a full salad? The first week of June usually bears two heads of Romaine lettuce, a bunch of rainbow radishes, a bundle of touchstone gold beets, garlic scapes, fresh garlic, rainbow chard or dinosaur kale, a pint or two of super sweet strawberries,
a few baby zucchinis, a bag of premium cut salad greens, snow peas, basil and a carton of pastured eggs.

Our CSA will provide your family with a dining adventure for a full 25 weeks. Each week your farmer will harvest the best produce that is grown in season, to fill your crate. Salad items will be included weekly, along with other seasonal produce as it ripens. Carrots, summer squash, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers…sweet blackberries, fresh plums, crisp apples, melon…too much to list. 

Do you want to make pickles? Can your own tomato products? We’ve got you covered there, too. You can order bulk boxes of pickling cukes and canning tomatoes. Always wanted to try making your own sauerkraut? Kim-chi? Then you’ll want to order extra heads of our cabbage.

As the summer fades into fall and the weather takes a cooler turn our produce will provide a basis for hearty soups and sides. Purple potatoes, kale, onions, winter squash, pie pumpkins- all make eating at home a cozy affair. Along with the produce you’ll also find grass fed & finished ground lamb and beef, ground sausage from our pastured pigs, and even a holiday turkey.  Your farmer knows how to feed your family right!

Want to stock your freezer with exceptional meats that were humanely raised and harvested? Our pastured pork, grass fed lamb and beef shares might be just what you need. You can purchase pork and beef by the side or half while the lamb is sold whole.

How much will it cost? $900 will get you 25 weeks of nourishing, flavor packed local food grown by your farmer just for you.

Can I make payments? Yes! A non-refundable deposit of $100 paid when you sign up will hold your share. After that, your balance due is broken down into three easy installments.

  1. February 25th $300
  2. April 25th $300
  3. May 15th $200

Of course, you can always pay in full at any time. Paying in full helps your farmer to purchase the seeds, soil amendments and equipment needed to start planting right away. You can expect your first share between the last week of May and the first week of June, depending on when the strawberries are ready.

Where do I pick up my crate? You can pick up directly off our farm in Clatskanie, Oregon or at our conveniently located Hillsboro site. We will also be offering a pick up site in Astoria this year. Days and times for 2016 to be announced soon.

I’m in- Sign me up! Welcome to the farm, you savvy eater! Soon you’ll be dishing up some delightful fare.

Print out an Order Form here

Please mail payments along with order form to Barefoot Farm & Flowers 77568 Erickson Dike Road Clatskanie OR 97016

I’ll reserve your spot as soon as I receive your deposit.

Questions? Contact Farmer Linda

Ghee, How I Love You


One of the perks of keeping dairy animals is that I get to stock up on all kinds of wondrous dairy products as often as I’m willing to put in the time and effort, and depending on my skill level.  The amount of milk and cream I have on hand ebbs and flows with the seasons and the schedules of my cows and goats. Right now I’m experiencing one of those peak moments where I have more milk flowing into my kitchen than space in the fridge to store it in its liquid form.  Enter Ghee.

Ghee- it takes my home made butter to an entirely different level. Golden and creamy, with a nutty full bodied flavor. If you’ve never made this at home, you are truly missing out. You can make it from any butter, I’m just fortunate right now to be able to make it from my own fresh butter, made almost daily.

Why ghee? For me it started as an issue of practicality. I already had an excess of butter in my freezers. Fully working your butter to remove all of the buttermilk is a chore that I don’t enjoy. It takes lots of time and if you don’t get it all out, the butter will taste rancid if you don’t eat it quick enough. Ghee is shelf stable, which means you don’t have to store it in the freezer, using up valuable space for meat. And I’ve found that when making ghee, it doesn’t seem to matter if you haven’t removed all of the buttermilk. The process of making ghee actually cooks off the milk solids. Win!

In the kitchen, ghee can be used in place of any other cooking oil. It has a higher smoke point which makes it great for stir frying. I used it to cook up my corn tortillas for enchiladas and it was wonderful. There is a difference between “clarified butter” and ghee. When making ghee, you cook it longer past the point of clarified butter. You need to wait for the milk solids to turn a medium brown and sink to the bottom of the pot.

Here’s a quick step by step to making your own ghee at home.

First, using a heavy bottomed pot, melt at least a pound of butter on low heat.

gheestep1I used my dutch oven and melted two pounds of my home made butter.

Keep the heat on low, be patient. Pretty soon the butter will begin to foam. This is what you want. Keep your eye on it, but let it foam away.

gheestep2Eventually, the foam will begin to clear and you will see bits of milk solids floating on the surface. You can use your spoon to move the foam around and see if the solids are beginning to sink. Just let it continue cook, keeping the heat on low.

gheestep3Finally there will be little to no foam on the top of the butter. Almost all of the milk solids will have sunk to the bottom. At this point you can turn off the heat. While all of this was happening, I ran several canning jars through the high temp setting on my dishwasher. I won’t actually can the ghee, but I do want very clean jars for storage.

gheestep4I filtered mine through a very fine mesh strainer into my jars. You have to be careful that you don’t contaminate the ghee with water or any kind of kitchen debris during daily use. Doing so will make the ghee turn bad. Put a lid on it and date it.


I just recently learned of a clever trick from one of my favorite forums to keep the ghee from getting a grainy texture. After you have filtered it, put it in your fridge to cool. Letting it cool at room temp is what prevents a creamy texture. I wish I had known that before I made my last batch. Truly it doesn’t matter if  the texture is grainy if you are just using it for cooking. But if you are using it as a spread on toast you will want it less grainy.

I like to keep a smaller jar of ghee for general use next to my stove. My other jars go in the back of my pantry, out of light and kept cool. Ghee should last kept this way for a year- unless you eat it first.


Hostage in My Kitchen

Late last night I realized what had happened. I had become a hostage in my own kitchen. And like most things around here, it all started with a cow.

For months I had been waiting for Daisy to have her calf. She had been tricky and dated our bull after our backs were turned. Which meant after her first due date passed and no calf had appeared we had to keep adding 3 weeks. That’s the typical cycle of a cow, every 19-21 days they can come into heat.

So for months we went without her milk. No extra cream, no ice cream or yogurt. We just waited and watched and wished. Then finally it happened. Almost 3 weeks ago Daisy delivered her handsome bull calf. And we had milk, too.  Gradually Daisy upped her milk production from 3 gallons, to almost 4 gallons. Then she jumped to 6.5 gallons and held steady for a few days. Until yesterday. My dainty Jersey cow outdid herself and blessed me with 8 gallons of milk. And a cup. I was floored. This was twice as much milk as she’d ever produced and twice as much milk as I was used to handling.

Never one to complain about an unexpected bounty I rolled up my sleeves and got busy. I knew there would come a time when I wouldn’t have all this fresh milk on hand. Just like preserving fruits and vegetables during the harvest season you have to preserve your milk when it’s flowing. And around here, it flows twice a day- once at morning milking and again in the evening.

What can you do with 8 gallons of fresh milk?

First I skimmed cream off of 3 gallons. That yielded a tad over 1 gallon of cream. Then I took the 3 gallons of skimmed milk,  which had now become 2 gallons and turned it into 2 pounds of ricotta. The left over whey went out to the barn cats and chickens. I froze the ricotta to use later in stuffed shells. Some people like to use whey from cheese making for other kitchen activities, but this wasn’t a sweet whey and I needed the counter and fridge space.

5 gallons of whole milk and a gallon of cream waiting for me to “Do Something”.

I took the gallon of cream, and made 2lbs of butter. But my freezers were already groaning with butter, so I turned the 2lbs of butter into (4) 8 ounce jars of Ghee, plus an extra 4 ounces. Shelf stable and will last for a year or so.

Back to the 5 gallons of milk. More ricotta, 7 quarts of Greek yogurt, more cream that will be used for ice cream and either fudge or caramel candy… At some point it was time to go back outside for evening milking. Remember, this isn’t a one time deal. It’s twice a day every day.

Did I mention I also milk Snow & Peaches?

By the end of the night I had frozen 10lbs of ricotta, made ghee, butter, greek yogurt. Fed the farm critters so much whey that they ran when they saw me coming with a pail. Well, not really “ran”. More like turned their backs and tried to roll away. And, every shelf in my milk fridge is full and waiting for me to “Do Something”.

I spent the entire day under my cows’ udders or in the milk kitchen. I had become a hostage in my own kitchen. And I loved every single minute of it!



Through the Looking Glass

Another year rolls by. It was a good year. It had ups and downs, just like each day does. Farming has a steady beat. Rhythms and routines that are followed day in and day out. I don’t need a watch to tell time. I just pause where I’m standing and I know what time it is. It’s time to feed hay, top off water, call the cows in for milking. But wait- I don’t need to call them. They are already there. They too know what time it is without looking.

cowsupformilkDays on the farm have a way of melding together. Sometimes it’s like highway fatigue. If you travel the same route over and over again you can forget where you are…did you already pass that milepost or is it coming up around the corner?

It’s the times where something is out of sync that causes you to refocus and pay attention. A ewe is missing from the flock at feeding time. One of the cows is by herself, under the tree. She’s giving birth. There is a smoky smell to the air. It’s your brooder house on fire.

Babycakes delivered Penny.

Babycakes delivered Penny.

The day the brooder burned.

The day the brooder burned.

Looking back over the past year it’s hard to remember the days as distinct events. Some days were definitely out of sync while the others were fluid and sweet. The sweet days are the ones that fill the farmer with hope to keep going, continuing on to the next milepost that waits just around the corner.

Here’s to each of you, wishing you and your families a new year filled with love, joy and all the sweetness a new year has to offer.

Honey harvested 2014

Honey harvested 2014

Getting My Goat…

It finally happened. I went to the other side. It was always just a matter of time, really. I’ve come full circle back to where I first started. I got goats. Not just one, or two so they wouldn’t be lonely. No, I got four pregnant does and two bucks. At least I showed restraint this time.

When I first started farming, over six years ago, I thought I would raise goats for meat and milk. Not being the kind of person who sticks her toe in to test the waters, I jumped right in with gusto. Kind of a belly flop, really. I bought 20 bottle baby kids and began a short lived adventure that ended with me swapping out my dream of milking goats for a Jersey cow and a big sigh of relief.

As the years went by and I grew my herd of milk cows, I never forgot about those sweet little bottle babies. There is something completely irresistible about baby goats. This time however, I wasn’t a complete novice to livestock and the unique needs of dairy animals. I started getting excited thinking about the possibility of adding a couple of adult does to our farm. I found myself scouting out unused areas that the goats would enjoy exploring. At night I was visiting goat forums, asking questions, reading up on everything goaty. I made a list of what I needed to have on hand before I brought the goats home, checked it twice and with a quick “click and drag” of the mouse they were on their way.

A couple of weekends later and the goat barn was ready and waiting. I didn’t actually think I’d end up with pregnant goats to start. But as luck would have it, a friend of mine put me in contact with a lovely lady who had been raising goats for over thirty years. She was ready to cut down her herd a bit and had two beautiful Nubian does, both pregnant, that she was willing to let me purchase. “Pia” and “Sister Midnight”. At about the same time, I stumbled across a pair of Saanen goats and their respective boyfriends. The goat barn was full.

The goats have been a comical addition to our farm. They are curious, sweet, and possibly a bit mischievous. I’ve spent a lot of time letting them get to know me. The Saanens are more laid back, they stroll over to check me out. The Nubians are a bit more high strung. The first few nights they spent just as much time standing in an upright position, peeking over the stalls as they did standing on all fours. But things are calming down now, falling into a steady rhythm of routine.

We don’t have exact due dates on the goat gals. So I spend an inordinate amount of time checking out the back end, looking for changes in the udders, hoping to see some clue that will tell me kidding is going to happen soon. I scrolled through the pictures I’d been taking because I wanted to find some that captured the different personalities. Thirty pictures, and every single one of them was a snapshot of udders….
As I stand there in the goat barn, taking in the sweet smell of hay and watching them watch me I can’t help but think of all the adventures ahead of us. And I can’t help but grin as I look at those growing bellies, imagining the sweet little kids that will soon be jumping around the barn. I’ve come full circle and I finally got my goats.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

This coffee cake has a delicate crumb texture and a crunchy topping crumbled over its layer of fresh blueberries.

It’s one of our families go to recipes. I love it because I always have the ingredients on hand and it’s a great way to use up the blueberries I froze from the previous summer. My son rates it an “11” on a scale of “1-10”

Makes one 8 inch square pan


1/3 cup all purpose flour, unbleached

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup of one of the following (rolled oats, chopped pecans or chopped walnuts)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

4 TB (1/2 stick, or 2 ounces) of softened, unsalted butter


1 cup all purpose flour, unbleached

1 tsp baking powder, alum free

1/4 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

4 TB (1/2 stick, or 2 ounces) of softened, unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp pure vanilla or rum

1/2 cup sour cream, or greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or previously frozen, thawed and drained)

What to do

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8 ” square pan. I like to use coconut oil.

2. Prepare the topping. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and cut in the butter to make a crumbly texture.

3. Prepare the batter. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients, stir to mix.

4. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Beat until blended. I use my kitchen aid. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.Then beat in the sour cream. With a spoon, stir in the flour mixture to make a thick batter. Spread evenly over the greased and floured pan. Scatter the  blueberries over the batter and then crumble the topping over the berries. Bake 50-60 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool on rack and serve warm.

Crazy May Challenge: Eating from the Pantry/Freezer

Our family is trying something new for May. Eating the food that we have on hand. I took an inventory the other day and felt a little sheepish. My freezer was full of meats from our farm, produce that we had grown and put up, my shelves were full of jars that I had filled last summer and into the fall…and we had take out pizza for dinner. Again.  So I had another one of my “great ideas!” and after running it by my husband who was trying to stay awake(best time to pass new and off the wall ideas) it’s on.

What are my rules? Eat from what we already have in our kitchen. No take out meals, drive through coffees, running out to get “ingredients” at the last minute. Instead we’ll focus on using up what we have already bought or grown ourselves. Cool concept, huh?

But, being the fair minded person that I am, we have a couple of exceptions to those rules.

Sandwich bread.- yes, I know. I could make the bread myself. But honestly, my sandwich bread is pretty pathetic. I make a killer loaf bread, baguette bread, sour dough…but not a basic sandwich loaf. And since my son packs a lunch for school everyday, and since we are jumping in to something out of our normal realm, I ok’d the bread.

Fresh fruit for my son’s sack lunch. This one is probably cheating. I have all kinds of fruit that I canned into gorgeous pints and quarts. I’ll be using those up, just not in his school lunches.

The other exception- drive through coffee for my husband on his work nights. I will be giving up my habit of an Americano with cream because I can make a better one at home, and with actual real cream from my own cows. But my husband has a crazy work schedule, and if a drive through coffee keeps him awake and alive then that’s ok by me.

I’m hoping that this challenge will get our family into the routine of cooking home made meals, from scratch. I don’t want it to be an activity that makes everyone so miserable that it fails before we even launch. It will also help me clear out space for all of the food that we will be growing and harvesting this season.

It’s crazy that I have access to so much wonderful food simply because I am a farmer, but that I still eat out more meals than I make at home each month. I think I fell into a pattern of being so “busy” farming, that I didn’t leave enough time to prepare all of that wonderful food and actually eat it every day.  And, I actually love cooking. A shift in priorities is needed.

Challenges that we are going to face:

We love to celebrate milestones by going out to eat. This month we have several of those that are going to take some special planning. Our oldest daughter is graduating after four long years studying to become an RN. Normally we would let her choose a restaurant to celebrate. This time she gets to choose a special meal that we make from scratch, at home. Our other daughter is coming back home after her first year away at college. She missed her birthday with us and again, we would normally let her choose a restaurant to celebrate. Even trickier, this daughter is a vegetarian…that is going to take some extra special planning to pull together a special meal that falls under our May challenge, without running out to buy ingredients.  And finally, we have an uncle coming to visit for a week all the way from the East Coast. Poor guy. He had no idea.

So that’s it. My crazy May Challenge. Care to join me?



Six Weeks and Counting Down

The calendar doesn’t lie. Six more weeks until our first CSA delivery for 2014. Looking out the window all I see is grey skies and pouring rain. It’s hard to imagine that in less than two months we’ll be on the cusp of summer and jumping back into the frenzy of early morning  harvesting, crate filling, delivering, early evening picking, weeding…but the calendar doesn’t lie. It’s waiting just around the corner.

And this farmer is ready to embrace it with open arms. On days like this one, where you just can’t get warm or stay dry I’m even more thankful for my seed room. It’s a little oasis waiting just for me. As soon as I step in the door the warm air wraps around me like a friendly hug. It smells like dark dirt and green life. It smells like hope and promises of good things to come.

By now all the benches are groaning under the weight of seed trays and pots. Some are freshly planted, not a sprout in site. The tiny seeds tucked under a blanket of soil. I pull back the covers and take a peak, looking carefully and longing to see a tip of green. Other trays are bursting with green fingers raised towards the light. I check the soil, and give just enough water so they don’t dry out. Rotating the trays so the plants grow strong and straight. And then there are the red solo cups. Hundreds and hundreds of red solo cups. Filled with tomato and pepper starts, each labeled carefully with the plant variety. It’s Tuesday, and that means each plant gets a drink of half strength fish fertilizer.

I check the board on the wall. Today more carrots will get seeded outside, another flat of kholrabi needs to be started, two more trays of romaine lettuce, I’d better get more snow peas in the ground…I look out the window to see if the rain has stopped. The sun is trying to shine and the rain is just a fine mist. I throw on a jacket, grab a bucket of peas and head out.

This will be my third planting of peas. The first planting was slow to start, even in the raised beds. Raised beds tend to warm up quicker and allow for an earlier planting. But the first planting was spotty so I went back through and planted again, just in case. Now the peas are making a dense green row and I’m thankful that I filled in the blanks. I plant what’s left in my pea bucket, taking time to pull any weeds that are sprouting along with the peas. I can work at a leisurely pace right now, but soon it will be more frenzied and it’s  always best to get the weeds when they first rear their heads.

As I pass by the rabbit hutches I take a minute to give the rabbits the contents of my weed bucket. They gobble the weeds down, turning the weeds into fertilizer that will eventually go back into our soil. We’ve staged rabbit hutches within all of our garden areas. The rabbits help clean up weeds and vegetables that don’t make it to the table. Their fertilizer provides a rich planting humus that encourages earth worms and provides us with a beautiful tilth for growing our fruits and vegetables. Eventually the rabbits provide meat for our farm and our patrons. Life on the farm is a circle of sorts. Nothing is wasted and everything has its place.

But now the sun is out and the rain has stopped. I quicken my pace- there is so much still left to do with six weeks to go and counting down. The calendar doesn’t lie and the clock doesn’t stop.


Today I don’t love my cow…

……and she doesn’t love me!
Everyone has been there- things are going great, the sun is shining, the mud is drying up, the cows are all polite and grateful…then there is the ONE. The ONE cow who has to bungle things up for everyone. It starts of pretty innocuous- she tilts her head at you when you call her in to milk. She hesitates just fleetingly before she comes in to the stall.

Then she sniffs at the bucket of treats…starts to back out of the stall. Then next thing you know, you’re presenting her with a tilted bucket before she crosses the threshold of the stall. Like a waiter at a fine restaurant.. “Would the lady like some dessert?” and “Does the grain please the lady today?”

But because the lady is a complete pig and throws grain all around the farm while she eats, you have to snatch the bucket away at the very last minute, capture her head in the head gate and hold off on treats until milking is over. And because the lady eats like a rabid dog she has to be the last one in the stand for milking.

But the lady isn’t just a glutton. No, she’s also clever. And after months and months of being tricked at the last minute she finally begins to put it together. She isn’t getting that bucket of treats when her owner tilts it her way. So she balks. She isn’t going to come in the stall no matter what. No offering is good enough. No sweet words can cajole her. She just chews and looks at you.

And she is a strategist. She knows that you can never cross that “pond” that separates the two of you. You will sink to your neck if you even try. So she sashays around and around and around the edge. And she chews and looks at you.

So you throw your hands up, clean up and lock up. You’re done. Until two hours later when you head out with your head lamp. And start all over again. “Does the lady care for some dessert? Does the grain please the lady?”

And again, a few hours later when you should be tucked into bed dreaming about the olden days when life was good and the cows were all polite and grateful. But instead you’re squaring off with the ONE.

So today, I don’t love my cow and I don’t think she loves me either. But, I did win. This time.

Snow Days & Stocking Up


This past week of snow & ice has been a rough one. We’ve had to deal with frozen water lines, hauling five gallon buckets of warm water to all the livestock. Moving hay ahead of time to feed the dairy cows. Our hay barn is on the opposite side of the property from where we milk and feed the girls. Usually it’s not a problem, but with all of the snow in the forecast we needed to move a week’s worth all at once just in case. And we barely made it. By the time my husband got out here with his truck we had already accumulated a good 5″ of wet snow. It made maneuvering around the fruit trees and bee boxes a white knuckle experience. Farming is strenuous work on a good day. But add a half foot of wet snow and your regular farm chores take on a boot camp work out intensity.

A week like we just experienced is a real eye opener. You can see where your weak areas exist and once things go back to normal it gives you an opportunity to fine tune. We know a hay barn right next to the dairy girls is a must. If my husband hadn’t been able to get that hay moved for me, I would have been in a world of hurt. As it turned out, he went sledding with our son later that night and hurt his back. It’s a good thing he added in a few extra bales to that last load.

This is where stocking up and planning ahead really come in handy. Keeping your pantry full for humans and animals alike is more than just a good idea. It makes the difference between a full belly and hunger. While we were “stuck” at the farm we didn’t need to worry about trying to make a dangerous drive in to town to pick up bags of livestock feed (or human groceries). We had already stocked all the barrels and topped them off before the first snowflake fell. Having been through a week like this not too long ago, I had an idea of what to expect. I’d gathered a long watering hose and adapter so I could attach it to the hot water heater in my milk shed. By doing that I was able to provide warm water directly into a spare water trough that I’d situated just outside of the shed. While the other water lines were frozen and no water was making its way into the regular troughs, the girls were still able to come up for water twice a day. And I was able to use that water to fill those 5 gallon buckets that I had to haul across the farm to water all the other animals. It was an intense amount of work, but no one went thirsty. We’ll be installing a second hot water heater in the pig barn later this Spring. That will cut the distance I need to travel in half next winter when things freeze up again.

Today I’d planned on making a trip out to town. I’d been farm bound for the past five days and was looking forward to a change of scenery. Well, my little car just couldn’t make it up the steep hill in my driveway. I wasn’t going anywhere. Except back inside. Because I keep a well stocked pantry, I didn’t really need anything from town. I’d been working my way through an old fashioned baking book, one recipe at a time. I was pretty thrilled to see that no matter which recipe I picked I had all the ingredients stored on hand. Peaches? No problem- I canned 30 quarts back in July. Blueberries? Yup- 15 gallon bags still in the freezer from August. Pears? Apple Sauce? Got them too. Canning and preserving food is highly addictive and well worth the effort to learn. It’s great to pop open a can of summer when you’re in the middle of a snow storm.


Back in the “old days” it wasn’t uncommon for several families to gather together and have an all day canning party. Everyone brought their produce and jars and working together by the end of the day everyone went home with a good haul of preserved food. Many hands making light work. I think it would be fun to start a “canning circle” of friends to share the harvest and make the time go faster while we canned.

If you’ve thought about preserving food but haven’t done it yet, here is a list of my favorite books:

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving- this is the go to book for water bath or pressure canning

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving:400 delicious and creative recipes for today-Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying, and Pickling Fruits & Vegetables- Carol W. Costenbader

Completely Revised & Updated: Stocking Up-The 3rd Edition of The Classic Preserving Guide-Carol Hupping & the Staff of the Rodale Food Center (this gem also has a section on dairy)

Snow All Around

Image(Snow on the Far Barn)

It’s no secret that I don’t like the snow. I grew up in the mid-west and always knew I’d move to greener pastures. Literally. So here we are on Day 2 of Oregon’s Snow Storm 2014. It certainly doesn’t compare to the snow I had growing up. But I am still just as disenchanted with snow now as I was back then.


(Snow on the Garlic & Herb Beds)

It seems most of the people I know are pretty excited about the last couple of snow days. I think your outlook is different if you work outside with animals every day. But, I’m trying to find some beauty in the snowy landscape so I don’t ruin the fun for everyone else.


(The Dike Water)


(Cottage Garden Gate)

I just have to remember that there is green somewhere under all that white. And before we know it the snow will have given away to mud and that will give away to green shoots of spring. I may not find beauty in the snow itself, but there is certainly beauty in the cycle of life.

Butterflies & Rainbows- or The Down & Dirty of Farm Life

ImageOften people think living on the farm is a kind of enchanted life. You get to go out, commune with the animals,  pick flowers and vegetables and…go about the happy life of a farmer. A lot of this is because having chosen to be a farmer at this stage in my life, I’m pretty much in love with what I do. I’m not carrying on any family tradition of farming and I didn’t marry a farmer. My husband and I both had “normal” careers before this stage of our lives. And in fact, my husband still straddles both worlds- working in the high tech industry and working on the farm. Both are full time pursuits. So, when people ask me about farming I have lots of great stories to tell- and they are generally the feel good, life has never been better, don’t you wish you were a farmer- kind of stories.

Except when they aren’t. There is a down and dirty side to farming and it’s not just the mud and manure. Raising livestock on a farm takes on a whole new meaning of responsibility. The animals under our care rely on us for food, shelter, safety and our promise to keep them from suffering. Generally the food, shelter and safety are easy goals to reach.  As farmers, we are constantly surveying the pastures, making sure there isn’t anything left behind that they might swallow leading to hardware disease and possibly death. We make sure we pick up the twine that goes around the hay bales, pick up nails as they drop, keep fences secure and the list goes on and on. But, being animals they do tend to get themselves into tricky situations from time to time.

Just this morning as I was milking cows, my biggest girl- Snow, decided to lift her leg backwards and loop it over the side chain that keeps her on her side of the stall. She’s never performed this trick before, and neither have any of the other cows. It was something I never expected to see. The weight of her leg on the chain made it too tight for me to unhook. She was getting spooked and was starting to thrash around. I had to get some slack in the chain before she slipped and broke her leg. Thinking quickly, I dumped another scoop of pellets into her bucket. This made her lunge forward and I had just enough time to un-clip the chain. She was free and I was relieved. I don’t like to think about what I could have found had I walked away to tend to a quick chore while she was still in the stall. These are the kinds of things that can come up out of nowhere and take you completely by surprise.

Yesterday I was in the back field, tossing hay to calves and sheep. I usually take a quick count while I’m doing this to make sure that all of the critters are present and it gives me a chance to do a visual wellness check. I was missing one ewe. Hmm. It was too soon for her to be lambing. I scanned the field and still didn’t see her. This wasn’t good. The sheep stick together and when it’s haying time they all come running over in a group. I finished up and headed out to find her.

My fears were confirmed. She wasn’t in good shape. I found her laying on her side by a gate. It looked as though she had been there since the night. A quick assessment and I knew she wasn’t going to make it. This is where the part about keeping your livestock from needlessly suffering comes in. It fell on me to put her down. I could have left her there- nature would have taken its course eventually. But the ewe and I had an agreement. She would graze and fertilize my fields and provide me with lambs. I would feed her, shelter her, keep her healthy and- when the time came, I would prevent her from suffering. It was that time.

(Warning: Some may find the following picture graphic)


(The injury on her head is how I found her. I still don’t know the source of that injury)

Animals get into all kinds of situations. I have no idea what caused the injury to her head- it’s how I found her that morning. It almost looked like she had been grazed by a bullet. The sheep pasture is in the middle of our farm, not a place where I would expect to have wayward bullets flying. In the end, it didn’t matter. I had to reach down deep into my farmer guts and end her suffering with my own bullet.

Farming, it isn’t always butterflies and rainbows. There is a down and dirty side to it too. But like anything in life, you can either focus on the hard times and lose site of the good, or you can take the hard times in stride and know that there is a rainbow right around the corner.


 (Target practice. A good aim is another skill for the responsible farmer)

Burning down the (Chicken) House

It’s that time of year for me again. Time to start raising chicks so that we’ll be rolling in eggs come June. The last few months have had a lot of ups and downs with my laying hens. I usually start a new batch of chicks towards the end of the summer. If I start in early August then I’ve got a good chance of having eggs by February. And the late summer start is really beneficial to the fragile little chicks that need the warmth so they don’t become stressed. We start our chicks off in large brooder boxes that my husband built. Very sturdy, heavy lids so I don’t need to worry about wind flipping them open, or a marauding raccoon coming in for a late night snack. Starting chicks in the summertime, a few heat lamps suspended above is all I need for warmth. As the chicks grow and begin to feather out, the lights only come on in the evening. And the boxes are plumbed with automatic watering bowls to make that chore even easier. Then, as they grow I’m able to move them out to a larger area adjacent to the older hens. Eventually the older hens which have slowed down in egg laying will be culled for the stew pot and the young pullets will take their place. Easy peasy.

Settling in. 150 mixed chicks.

Settling in. 150 mixed chicks.

But, things haven’t been so easy peasy getting this latest batch settled in. First, the original batch of replacement layers that I had ordered back in August were picked up at my post office by a different farmer. It’s a long, sordid story and ended with me waiting for a replacement  batch to arrive at the end of September. The Barred Rocks were on back order with my favorite hatchery and I wasn’t willing to take a different breed. Part of my chicken management involves switching between breeds with every new batch. That’s the easiest way for me to know on sight the age of my hens. An important piece of information to have when you are determining which chickens have another season on the farm and which ones are due for harvesting.

By starting the last batch of Barred Rocks at the end of September, I had completely thrown off my schedule. By the time the chicks were fully feathered out and ready to move to their next location, we were on the verge of experiencing a weather extreme at the farm. Freezing temperatures, cold wind, frozen and subsequently broken water lines etc. Unfortunately their new home was not set up to handle those conditions. Remember, we were running almost two months behind schedule. That’s a lot of time in chick development. So I did the best I could to keep them comfy during that time period. In the end we had 3 surviving pullets out of the original 100. Things were pretty dismal.

I was faced with cutting my losses and having no eggs of our own for the coming season. But that just wasn’t going to work. I’ve been spoiled with my own eggs for the past five years or so and in my opinion, nothing compares to an egg fresh from the “backyard”. And we sell eggs to a loyal customer base that has been suffering withdrawal right along with us. So it was time to jump back in to the chicks again.

Fast forward to the end of January. It pushes my egg start out to mid-June,  but at least we’d have our own eggs. My husband had to make some modifications to our brooder boxes to keep the heat in for the chicks. He stapled plastic and a type of insulation around the outside of the boxes and across the lids. This would work to keep heat from the lamps inside the boxes instead of seeping out. The chicks arrived and I got them all settled in. But I wasn’t happy with the temperature in the boxes, still a bit cool. I added 3 bags of bedding to keep the heat trapped inside. Almost there. Then I lowered the heat lamps off the hooks and just twisted the wire around the top of the frame so that the lamps were closer to the chicks. Perfect. The chicks settled in, spread out and quieted down. A sure sign that things were well in chick-ville. Noisy, bunched up chicks are an indication of too cold temps.

I went out to milk the cows and daydreamed of cracking open my first egg later this summer.

About an hour later I became aware of smoke in the air. Not at all unpleasant, kind of like a campfire. Around here lots of people are burning wood stoves for heat, or just burning “stuff” outside. More daydreaming about summer, camping…then as I headed up towards the house I saw some pretty thick smoke that was too close to my house…maybe I’d better go check on those chicks.

The chick house was on fire. Or at least smoldering heavily. I threw open the lid and inhaled entirely too much toxic smoke. The chicks were going berserk. I dumped out their water jugs to put out the “fire”, unplugging the heat lamps at the same time. Then waited for the smoke to clear. The chicks appeared to be fine. I guess being so low to the ground they weren’t as affected by the smoke as I was reaching down into it.


Apparently one of the heat lamps that I had “rigged” up to provide a closer source of heat had slipped out of the loop that I made and was nestled on the bedding. The heat from the bulb caused the bedding to ignite. No one has to tell me just how lucky I (and the chicks) am that I caught it when I did. Surely it would have killed every chick and no doubt spread to my house. The brooder boxes were recently moved to within feet of my house, under a window so I could keep an eye on the boxes during the night.

We always hear about barn fires from overturned heaters or even from heat lamps like I was using. If you use a source of heat like this- and all of us who raise livestock do at one time or another- please, please be careful. I never should have hung those lamps the way that I did. No matter that I’ve been doing it like that for many, many years.  My chicks are rehoused, bedding swapped out and heat lamps are appropriately secured.

I’ll tell you what- that first egg when it finally gets here is going to be the  best egg ever. The most expensive, anxiety inducing,stress producing egg I will ever have eaten- but totally worth it.


Egg Shortage

Eggs. I have such a love hate relationship with eggs. I love having them on hand to use whenever I want, however many I need. Never having to think about running out. The only running involved is running out to the nest boxes when my counter top bowl gets low. Until the hens stop laying and suddenly I’m out. How did that happen? I ask myself. It seems that it was just last week I was complaining about so many darn eggs. I was dreading the daily or twice daily gathering of the eggs.

I keep a flock of over 100 layers. Most of those eggs go to our customers who love having a source of healthy and humanely created eggs. People rave about the thick whites, the dark orange yolks. The freshness of the egg. Honestly, people go on and on about the virtue of our eggs. I could write an “Ode to the Egg” using comments from our customers. For the past 6 years, I haven’t had to buy a single egg from a grocery store or even from a fellow farmer. Until just now.

So many eggs!

So many eggs!

I finally used up the very last egg that I had stockpiled to get me through the seasonal egg shortage. Somehow I didn’t set aside enough eggs this time around. Starting in September, when I supplement daylight for the layers, I begin setting aside an extra carton or two each week.  I don’t wash those eggs. Just tuck them away in a carton and keep in a cool, dark spot. Each week when I go out to add another carton, I take a minute to flip the older cartons upside down. Rotating them in this manner keeps the yolks centered in the shells. It’s not necessary, unless you are making boiled eggs and want a centered yolk. But I do it anyway, one of those traditions that just keeps going until you forget how it started.

So there I was- staring at that empty egg bowl. It was time to face the ugly truth. For the first time since I’d started farming I was out of eggs for good. Earlier, when my egg supply was dwindling and I saw that my layers were molting and it was costing so much more money to feed chickens that weren’t ever going to earn back the cost of their keep I had confidently announced, “That’s it. I’m done. We’re culling these chickens for the stew pot.”  I ordered up a batch of new chicks that would be laying eggs by early Spring and added “Stew Hen Harvest Day” to my calendar. I’m sure I smiled and gave a huge sigh of relief because managing a flock of laying hens in the winter is at the top of my least my favorite farm chores. I was feeling good. Until faced with that empty egg bowl.

It wasn’t supposed to work out quite this way. But those hens stopped laying eggs before I had time to stock up on the extras. I knew that I would have to find a source of eggs. I figured I’d buy some at the store. I’d buy the organic, no soy, no corn, GMO Free, cage free, certified humane, NON vegetarian fed, free ranging…happy healthy version offered at my local store. Only there weren’t any. Not at the local store in my farm’s town. And not at two or three of the other stores I checked out. Sure, there were versions of the egg I was searching to find. But not a single carton that matched all of the descriptions I needed to see on an egg carton in order for me to feel slightly less guilty about feeding them to my family. Things were looking bad.

Finally I decided I just needed to buy the best ones available so I could move on with my life. I had chores to do, and brownies to bake. I was at an impasse and just needed to  break through. There I stood, staring at the egg choices. Reading labels. Ah-ha! I’ll take that one. It was organic, certified humane and raised cage free. I wasn’t going to let myself debate over the truth in those labels. I was just going to buy it. All of them. I was going to buy every last carton of that brand of egg so I could stock my fridge with enough eggs to get me through until my chicks were laying in the Spring.

Except the spot on the shelf was empty. They were gone. Some other savvy shopper had beat me to it. Hmm. There must be more in the back. I asked the employee who was stocking next to me.  “Do you have any more certified humane eggs in the back?” I get a blank look. “You want eggs?” “Yes, the certified humane eggs.” I stare back. This was getting personal. I needed those eggs. “Ok, let me go check”. Please, let there be a pallet of eggs. Of good eggs. Happy, healthy eggs.

I see the employee on the phone. I’m wondering if I look crazed and she’s calling in for help. I move closer so I can listen in..”do we have any inhuman eggs?”  she glances at me. “No- the non-humane, I mean human eggs…” She looks at me again. I’m motioning to her through the little window in the door. Clearly I’m making her uncomfortable. “No- the certified humane raised eggs!” I call out, trying to smile and look like a normal shopper.

“Sorry. No eggs. It’s a national egg shortage.”

What? I feel my smile crumple. I’m defeated. No good eggs? A national egg shortage? How can this be happening. Does no one else understand the beauty of the perfect egg? Sure, there were still lots of eggs on the shelf. But none of them were as near as good as the eggs my hens had been laying all year long until they stopped.

Next year will be different, I vow. I will plan better. I will appreciate all of those runs to the nest boxes. In the meantime I’m ordering up a second batch of laying chicks. And I might even write an “Ode to the Egg Shortage.”

pastured chickens

pastured chickens

A Brief Moment of Sanity

Most days I love being a farmer. I get to work outside, usually by myself or with a faithful dog or two tagging along. I keep my own pace and follow my own schedule, within reason. I understand my cows who like to keep to the same routine, day in and day out. Things go smoothly that way. And life is peaceful.

And then, some days I think it would be better if I weren’t a farmer. Those days when the morning starts off iffy and heads downhill picking up speed before you realize you should have gotten off when you first had the chance.

It started as soon as my car cleared the top of the driveway before the sun was even up. I could see the light was on in the milk shed. It should have been off, because I turn it off each night after haying the cows. That meant one of the cows, probably Violet,  had pushed her way through the stall, snapping the chain and forcing her enormously pregnant body into the stall. When I didn’t show up to give her a treat she used her tongue to flick on the light. Signalling me that I’d better hurry up and feed her. Sometimes she will use her tongue to flick on the switch that turns on the pump. Kind of like Pavlov- treats happen when the pump is on. If I turn on the pump I’ll get treats. Cows are clever that way.

So I parked the car and jogged out to the shed. Sure enough, the chain was snapped and she had left me a huge calling card in the stall. Luckily I keep extra hooks on hand for just such an occasion and I was able to quickly fix the chain. Score one for the farmer.

But wait- what is that snapping sound I’m hearing? Electric wire. Electric wire that is now wrapped around and under the giant metal hay feeding ring. The cows had pushed the feeder to the very far corner and then flipped it partially up, just enough to get it tangled in the electric perimeter fencing, before dropping it back down. Hmm. This one is tricky. I look down at my shoes. I look over to where I need to unplug the wire. A lot of mud between here and there. And a lot of grumpy cows who now can’t eat their hay. I’ll be back.

A few hours later I glance over to my raised beds. The garlic is coming up nicely. I spent hours planting it over the last few weeks. Already there are lots of green spikes poking out of the dark soil.  I look again, is that a calf? Two calves? Are the stinking calves really in my raised beds? How did they get over there…the hot wire is supposed to keep them out.

Jubee ate the Bok Choi

Jubee ate the Bok Choi

Now I’m stomping mad, because the calves just look so darn happy running all over the place. I arm myself with a section of PVC pipe so I can shoo them back across. Only it’s not that easy. When they broke through the hot wire on their way over they got a good shock. It wasn’t enough to keep them on the right side but it was enough to make them hesitant to go through again. So there we were. Two calves with no sense to stay on the paths and out of my beds. And the farmer who had had just about enough cow antics and nowhere near enough coffee.

Around and around we went. Me chasing, them dancing, the dogs barking. Me praying no one would drive by and see me completely losing my cool, jumping up and down, waving my arms and yelling at the two cute little calves. I couldn’t get them out of that area for anything.

That was it. I’d had it. I was long past questioning why I had decided to keep the pair. My husband had told me they were awful. But I thought I was the calf whisperer. They just needed training. They needed more time to get used to me. They needed to get out of my garden.

I finally called my husband needing him to tell me how to load the gun so I could put them down. At some point on my way back to the house to fetch the gun, after I lost my cell phone, I had a brief moment of sanity and realized the last thing I needed in my hand was a gun.

So I took a few deep breaths, punctuated with a few well-chosen words and stopped. I stopped torturing myself thinking about the damage they were causing. It really wasn’t all that bad and I was making it worse by chasing them. I stopped shouting because it was really starting to worry my dog. I just stopped everything. And instead of a gun, I put a steaming cup of hot coffee in my hand and welcomed a brief moment of sanity.

trouble 2012

Trouble, faithful companion.

Poop Happens

Dairy cows are funny creatures. They like their routines. Same time for milking twice a day. Same order to file in to the stalls. Same person milking them. You get the picture.

But every now and then one of the cows gets to feeling a little impish and decides to throw off the routine for their herd mates.

Today it was Bessie. Bessie is a Jersey and the low cow on the totem pole. She is the last one to come in for milking, the first one to get pushed out around the hay feeder. Usually she doesn’t seem to mind. She will wait patiently for everyone else to eat their fill. Bessie hangs back and watches. Once the coast is clear she makes a mad break for it, just in case another cow decides to go back for seconds before Bessie takes her place.

Bessie (1)

Every day, twice a day, Bessie has to wait for Snow White to finish in the milking stall before she can go in. Snow White is a Brown Swiss and an amazon woman in the dairy cow world. She is simply a giant. And she is always the first cow. Always.

So early this morning, when Bessie was feeling a bit puckish and decided to race Snow for first place, Snow did what any self respecting dairy cow would do in the same situation. She backed up and pooped all over Bessie’s side.

Poop, it’s a language the cows use to express their feelings. Waiting too long for a treat? Stamp the foot and poop. Getting nudged too much by an eager herd mate? Lift your tail and poop. Another cow challenging you for first place? Yup. Poop.


Poop happens. A lot.

Chicken Feet Stock…It’s What’s for Dinner

Fresh Chicken Stock right off the feet

Fresh Chicken Stock right off the feet

I finally did it. By “it” I mean I finally made chicken stock from feet. After five years of hemming and hawing, researching and hesitating and staring at bags of chicken feet in the fridge it was time. The husband was butchering fifty Cornish cross chickens and it was now or never.

If you have always wanted to make home-made stock from chicken feet read on:
First you have to source your chicken feet. For me that meant telling the husband to save the feet. No tossing them out to the livestock dogs. So get yourself some feet. I ended up with twenty-four pairs of feet or 4.5lbs. Rinse them under cool water. Our chickens are raised on pasture so they walk around on dirt, grass and even chicken poop. You might be able to skip this step depending on where you source your feet. Being the farmer I get to work with the real deal.


Next fill a pot with water and get it simmering. You’re going to swish the feet in the water a couple at a time. Don’t let it boil, you don’t want to cook the feet.

Now is the fun part. Pull the foot out and either rub or pull the skin down all the way to the toes. It should peel right off like a glove. If it doesn’t peel easily just dip it back in the simmering water and swish it around again. Once it’s peeled you need to decide about the toenails. You can leave them on or pop them off. To pop them off just give a little squeeze. Pop! Kind of like popping bubble wrap…I told you this was fun.

After all of the feet are peeled you’re going to dump them into a stock pot. You do have a stock pot, right? Add enough water to cover the feet. I used five quarts. Add two TB of vinegar for every four quarts of water. I used white vinegar but cider vinegar will work fine too. The vinegar will help pull the nutrients out of the bones. Let it rest for about thirty minutes.

Chop up an onion, a few ribs of celery, a handful of garlic cloves- we eat a lot of garlic so plan accordingly, toss it all into the pot with the chicken feet. Throw in about ten peppercorns. Bring the pot to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for at least twelve hours. Every now and then stir it around. Towards the end of the twelve hours you will see the feet have pulled apart, releasing lots of fat.

New Image

Remove from the heat and strain off the solids. I worked in batches using a slotted spoon and mesh strainer over a bowl. Once the liquid has been separated you have to decide if you are going to keep the fat or skim it off. I kept the fat. To skim it off, put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning you will be able to skim off the top layer of fat. For storage, you can freeze it or pressure can it. I opted to pressure can because I love to hear the lids ping.

I ended up with four and a half quarts of the most amazingly rich, and dark stock ever. It looked nothing like the pale stock that you buy at the store. And even better- no sodium, no preservatives, no garbage. Just succulent stock from pastured chickens. I like using my stock to boil potatoes or as a base for soups. It’s nice to be able to season my stock for individual recipes.

So there you have it. Chicken feet stock- it’s what’s for dinner.

Muscovies or Satan’s Henchmen

Muscovy ducks are often promoted as well mannered and lovable, the perfect dual purpose breed for small farms and homesteads alike. They are supposed to breed like feathered rabbits while maintaining a friendly charm, if not quite warm and cuddly. So when the opportunity arose to trade some of my hens’ eggs for 6 young Muscovy ducks I jumped right on it with my usual enthusiasm. These guys and gals were great. They followed me everywhere, ate out of my hands, posed for pictures…I was smitten.

Until puberty hit. It hit hard and drew blood. My blood. I found myself perusing the internet at night, guiltily looking up recipes for duck. That came after I was bent over in the goat barn, tossing fresh hay to the ladies. Suddenly something heavy dropped off the top of the haystack and landed on the top of my head. I thought a bale had fallen until I realized whatever it was on my head was also using claws to pull out my hair. Oh- a Muscovy. Of course. It had climbed up the stack when I wasn’t looking and ambushed me. Sounds about right.

Making my rounds for last minute hay and water checks by the light of my head lamp suddenly I would hear it. The wet plodding of webbed feet coming at me- then the strike! One of the drakes would grab hold of my pant leg, using its claws it would try to climb my leg, beating its wings…some kind of weird duck mating ritual. Then plod!plod!plod! More of them would come out of the shadows, determined to get my other leg. Or one of the other drakes. It didn’t matter. I took to arming myself with a long pvc pipe to ward them off. But they were steadfast and held on.

Why didn’t I re-home them? Or eat them? Because I had a plan.  I was going to collect the eggs for eating. I was going to figure out which ones were the females…but guess what? You can’t tell the difference between males and females when it comes to Muscovies. Because they aren’t true ducks. No, they are really henchmen from satan. I’m sure of that. And I didn’t have a place to put them on lock down while keeping them separate from my well behaved poultry. So I let them roam. Like a gang of thugs.

I found myself telling visitors- “Just kind of shake him off.”  “Give him a little kick. A big kick” ” A bigger kick” then I’d go over and expertly pin his neck down to the ground with my boot, ignoring the bewildered look on my guest’s face while we chatted and he squirmed. Eventually it became evident that none of the ducks were female. They were all drakes. Except maybe that one that chased the truck in the road until the truck slowed and it attacked the tire…we’ll never know now. Definitely not the one that jumped on one of my rogue chickens and snapped its neck before I could save it.

Well mannered? Lovable? Perfect homestead duck? If you’re satan, perhaps.

thugs Satan’s Henchmen. More commonly known as Muscovy drakes.