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Monday, January 16, 2012

raise. shop. eat?

I like when winter slows me down enough that I can catch up on the world around me. Sometimes during the growing season, my hands are in the dirt, eyes are to the ground, and I'm tripping over a million things to do. It's good to refocus and figure out what's going on in the broad view of the world so I can remember why I put so much work into what I do.

Here are a few of my focuses right now:

Meat - To Raise or Not To Raise
The question haunts me after the dizzying whirlwind of getting the animals to the butcher and matching orders up with how much meat I end up with in the end and getting schedules all coordinated and making sure that my cost doesn't outweigh the price but that my price is still inkeeping with market prices, which are artificially deflated and don't match the actual cost. Will I do this again? Winter is the perfect time to work through this.
Here's what I know: I don't eat that much meat. When I do eat meat, I eat chicken. I failed miserably at raising chickens last year. I didn't eat any of them, except the one I found at the bottom of my freezer that wasn't marked, but I think it was a chicken? I finally got my chicken plucker. It works wonderfully, if I can actually get chickens to that size. Chicken feed prices went up as did baby chicken prices. Chicken mortality rates also went up. I need to charge more than $10 / whole chicken, but grocery stores sell rotisserie chickens for $5. That kinda grosses me out a bit.  So I'm probably not going to raise meat chickens this year.
I love to eat my pork. Pigs scare me though. One bad pig really can ruin the whole bunch and Jason and I both are still terrified of pigs, including that cute pig on the Geiko commercials. Babe is now ahorror movie. But out of everything that was in my freezer, I enjoyed my pork the most and I miss it the most. So I'm not going to rule out pigs, I might just throw the offer for pork out there and see how many people want it and we'll go from there.
My beef is amazing. I had beef ribs slow roasted to the most meatie bliss I've ever experienced. My ground beef makes the perfect hamburgers, not too greasy but with a delicious flavor that just says 'I'm grass fed!' I'm quite proud of my beef. I also learned a very valuable lesson after picking up my beef sides from the processor - cows aren't as big as you think they are. I now know why farmer's price their beef based on hanging weight. Appropriately noted and now pressing on. I have 10 calves on pasture now. They won't be ready this year, but maybe the year after that. I'm working on getting some steers to put on pasture this year that will be ready in the fall. Mmm, beef.
I will raise lambs again. I don't eat lamb that often, but there is something inherently therapeutic about raising sheep and for that reason, I'll continue to do it. I'm excited for lambing season this year and I'm passing the tie making wool pillows... but that's another thought entirely.
Turkeys are for sure. Delicious. Easy... except when they decide to roam across Fulton Drive. But worth it.

So that's my plan for meats as of right now. I also should put in an order for more egg laying chickens and put my old hens in the soup pot... but I'm kinda a sentimental farmer, so I'll probably only go through with the first half of that statement.

What to buy - When did grocery shopping get so difficult?
I have a new routine when I go grocery shopping. I pick up a food and read it. Constantly. I no longer just grab whatever is on my shopping list. I pick up everything and look at it.
I'm not a proponent of eating pesticides. If it's meant to kill an insect or fungus, I don't really want to eat it. The US does have testing to make sure that our chemical pesticides aren't too terrible and yes, they do degrade over time or can be washed off. Organic pesticides aren't always the best option either as a neurotoxin made from a plant is still a neurotoxin. In general though, I purchase domestic grown foods as often as possible.
Health and safety issues arising in trade are not always easily resolved at either the domestic or international levels. Domestic regulations that prohibit the sale of, for example, a toxic pesticide, do not apply internationally. “Goods that are restricted in domestic markets, on the grounds that they present a danger to human, animal or plant life or health, or to the environment, may often be legally exported. This may cause a problem for the importing country, where information is lacking on whether and why the product is banned: exporters may make false declarations, customs authorities (particularly in developing countries) may lack adequate product testing facilities.”  from
I also am amazed at concentrated juice in the frozen food aisle. Look at them some time - contains juice from at least three contries. Wow. Our food web is so oddly interconnected.

I try not to purchase processed foods. I'm not sure how I feel about 'chemically separated' or 'modified' anything. And I'm alright with eating lard over crisco. It feels like a whole animal fat is way better than

The more I look into food additives, the less I really want those oreos. I am even having trouble finding a soup base that doesn't have MSG or some chemically modified something. and bouillon cubes no longer appeal to me.

Cooking Soup
So right now I've got a pork bone in the stew pot with the onions I've been saving from last growing season and some dried beans. I know the ingredients so far: pork bone, dried beans, onions, bay leaf, garlic, salt & pepper. I guess I'm not going to get those short cuts of bouillon cubes anymore, but the from scratch smell that's emanating from my kitchen is satisfaction enough and will keep me and my family fed for quite a few days.
I'm finishing off my delicious beans and broth by adding frozen spinach towards the end of the boil and then sauteing up more onions along with a ham steak cut into spoon sized cubes along with some french filet cut frozen green beans saute'ed in butter. Non-homogenized, of course. :)