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Food, Breeding Like Rabbits and RelentlessAsYou

March 4, 2015
Glimpses of SlowMoneyFarm - relentless!

Glimpses of SlowMoneyFarm – relentless!

Sometimes it’s easy to get focused here, and sometimes despite it I hear of things readers may enjoy or enjoy watching for. Today I’ve had both!

A little bird told me of a contest from Valent USA that recognizes growers that exemplify relentlessness in every aspect of their lives, specifically in their community and farming operations. The contest will be called “Relentless As You” and five winners will be chosen nationwide, with a $1,000 grand going to the winner’s choice of charities. It runs through, appropriately National Ag Week on March 21. I know there’s other farms who read the blog here as well as non-farmers, and this is a challenge that speaks to me.

So what does that have to do with “breeding like rabbits” in the title? Persistence. Relentless!! It might sound like an easy task – after all the term “breed like rabbits” is met with snickers of how hard can it be? Put two together and a month later there’s 40 right? That’s my turn to laugh now. That’s not how rabbit math works. Rabbit math is kind of like ag math only with an edge and, usually, smaller numbers. It’s sometimes related to sock math – you know how you put 10 pairs of socks in the laundry and 18 socks come out? It’s kind of like that!

You have two does and a buck. A month later you might have two does, a buck and 15-20 babies. Or you might have two does when the buck dies unexpectedly in his pen before breeding! This year my does are stuck on 7. New Zealand white doe in December had 7, then a New Zealand black had 5. MiniRex cross this month had 7, then another had 6 and killed 2 (which, unfortunately, sometimes happens). A MiniRex had 7, then a daughter of that miniRex had 7, then another crossbred doe had 7, then an American Chinchilla had 6, all of which she killed. A brown New Zealand cross first timer had 7, another MiniRex had – yep – 7 then a Giant Chinchilla had 5 and two are white (so have salvation in meat rabbit production).

When you start adding 7 + 7 + 6 + 7 and so forth, it adds up in a hurry! It means a push for space, and some that will be providing meals soon, while others will be sorted to go to an ag day at the end of the month in hopes of selling to others wanting to raise their own meat rabbits. It means in about 3 weeks if we don’t lose any in the 70+ degrees today to mid 20s tonight and if the remaining few due don’t add to it there’s 50+ little mouths that will be adding to the feed bill and between now and then it’s a push to make that happen.

There won’t be sales of all of them – one square little white doe I’m eyeing to pull out and mark to feed for a replacement for an older doe we lost a couple weeks ago. The black litter is growing well and the little fuzzies are looking good so far. The brown doe with 7 had them “on the wire” – although she has a nest box she didn’t know to use it, so we had to put the babies there, get some fur to give a little warm pouch, and place her in the nest a couple times per day so she learns to feed those babies and relax in the nest box.

One feeder rabbit recently “sent to freezer camp” was provided through the sponsor program to someone needing a hand up – a few meals. We’ll have some others that, with continued support, will have a similar use, while others will be sold and others retained, meaning we need to make more cage space. Add to this getting support for our community projects, plus feeding birds, planning seeds and itching to start planting and there’s still more outgo than income.

Our baby Saddlebacks will look like this by fall!

Our baby Saddlebacks will look like this by fall!

Relentless. Keep pushing, keep believing, keep juggling. In transit and arriving, we hope, tomorrow will be Saddleback Pomeranian and brown African goslings. The Pomeranians are a distinctly marked farm goose, while the Africans are common but grow to be noisy “watchdogs” that will be ‘employed’ in back, making necessary more fencing before they are grown enough to turn loose. Yes – relentless!!!

As a friend often says when I’m frustrated, “if it was easy everyone would do it.” Farmers of any size must be relentless, and that’s true whether small scale juggling markets and tasks or large scale with a few similar crops and a bigger income/outgo!

Add to the ‘normal’ keeping an eye towards engaging customers both directly, as we do, and indirectly, as larger farms do, there is a relentless pursuit to live, eat, drink, breathe and sleep farming. Yes there is down time. Yes there is watching movies and listening to music and other popular culture, but we all must be relentless because there is hundreds of millions of people counting on having their food choices available and represented.

Even rabbit enchiladas or fresh eggs or hot sauce or specialty peppers. Yes, it’s all important. And it’s why we all must be relentless! If you’re a farm (or know of a farm!), check the contest out. If you’re not a farm, check the entries out and see why we push as we do. While most here are more interested in eating than how it’s produced, there are decisions and campaigns every day that seek to define just that.

Now to get ready for goslings and plan the next round of breeding next week! Seven is a good number!

It’s National CSA Day!

February 28, 2015
Lemon balm and other herbs are included in SlowMoneyFarm CSA shares.

Lemon balm and other herbs are included in SlowMoneyFarm CSA shares.

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 23, 2015): Farms from around the country are celebrating National CSA Sign-Up Day on February 28. The day encourages food consumers to buy a share of their local farm’s harvest for the 2015 season, a buying model known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.

CSA has become an important model to support local agriculture since it was introduced to the United States in the 1980s and since grown to over 6,000 farms across the country. To join a CSA, members buy a share of the harvest in the Winter and Spring and then get a box of local produce each week throughout the growing season.

“CSAs are the most authentic connection between a farmer and eater available. CSA members get the freshest, high quality, seasonal local produce, but they also get a direct connection to their farmer. This model is economically important to farmers, especially small and beginning farmers, because they can grow with confidence knowing that they have a market for their produce ahead of time.”, says Simon Huntley from Small Farm Central, a technology company that works with CSA farms across the country, and the creator of National CSA Sign-up Day.

February 28th was chosen as National CSA Sign-up Day because this day is the most popular day to sign up for CSA shares according to the 2014 CSA Farming Report. Buying a CSA share in late winter is important because farmers are making the capital investments for this year’s harvest now and the CSA model means they do not need to finance these costs with costly credit.

At SlowMoneyFarm – who runs this blog – we have produce, meat and shipped CSA options available. A flat fee up front helps with early expenses and reduces the costs of food item by limiting the marketing needed later. We also have a couple of folks who would like to get a share but cannot afford it – for those who can, sponsoring someone or a box sponsor of $50 allows these folks a hand up (not a hand out) in our community. Purchases and sponsors make it possible to devote time to heirlooms and to doing things like this blog for free.

For eaters looking to join a CSA, a searchable database of CSA farms is available at localharvest.org. Visit our website or Facebook shopping page, or give a shout-out if interested. For those booking TODAY we’re offering a special book to help you make the most of a share, free with each share purchased from us today (any type of share!).

Label EVERYTHING! Really?

February 26, 2015

SlowMoneyFarm:

Label discussions are common in headlines, media and ballot initiatives. How much information do you really want to know about your food? Are you taking steps to find out? Have you considered what it REALLY takes for full disclosure?

Originally posted on Food, Farm, Life Choices:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes I read comment sections and wonder just how much people REALLY want, and if they realize what that takes. A great example came forth recently with a question asked on Eat Local Grown, a Facebook page.

Regular readers already know how I feel about BS labels. And food choices. And transparency. So it was with a tinge of excitement the page posed a question “Q: What should food companies be required to add to labels?” I admit the responses made my jaw drop. I expected GMOs, which was in several. Others wanted books. Among them:

Wilson JA GMOs, country of origin, all ingredients including how the plant was grown, ie toxins

Mike Panicc Listed by name any pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, chemicals natural or other, instead of flavoring it should list the chemical process done to flavor it including a list of every chemical in that…

View original 1,219 more words

You’ll Take It And Like It!

February 24, 2015

800px-Roast-Duck-Crispy-Pork-Rice-2009Remember those battles with kids? Maybe you were the kid or the parent, and something wasn’t being received well. “I don’t LIKE that.” “But it’s good for you…here just try it…” “But I DON’T WANT THAT!” Tears followed. Maybe wailing. “You’ll eat it and like it!”

Do you still dislike it? Does it leave bad memories in your mind? Apples do that to me…I dislike them. (Fed it to the horse.)I don’t like apple flavored things either. We all have food memories, some good and some not so good. Sometimes even years later we know it’s “good for us” but aren’t willing to get past that negativity.

Does it change for other food topics? I think in many cases it doesn’t, it breeds resistance and it’s increasing.

Hundreds of millions of people rely on the food supply every day. We’re moms, working parents, community members, public service folks, farmers. We’re busy but not too busy to do the best we can for meals. Or at least most meals!

Engage your mind before putting money down on ad claims. I'm pretty sure this FISH was not 100% grass fed!

Engage your mind before putting money down on ad claims. I’m pretty sure this FISH was not 100% grass fed!

With the internet, it’s easier than ever for those consumers far from farms to connect with farmers trying to connect with them. It’s also easier than ever to find many food sites against something rather than promoting what they believe in. Sometimes even what appears to be, isn’t. Relationships are fragile on social media, and when a business, a relationship, an organization exists due to social media it’s sometimes easy to misunderstand. Food conversations are important. Accurate food conversations.

Be afraid. Get mad. Research, thoroughly, and talk to those in the food system. Some people, and forums, are more about convincing you to believe what they believe. Some are about convincing you to dislike something and spending time posting against something or someone, so much time that supporting what you really want is, it seems, lost. Don’t get stuck in that fear or anger – get answers. If we hear about a car accident do we park the car and start biking to work? Or does it make sense to find out how not to be in an accident and plan accordingly?

There are many outlets for organic, small farm and non-GMO food. There are many more outlets for larger volume produced food, from websites by Kraft or Pillsbury, for example, to sites specific to popcorn growing and eating! “Oh I can’t use THAT SITE!” So you want a recipe and there’s a good one using chicken leg quarters in chili on Kraft’s site – use it and improvise! If you just want the recipe surely you can substitute whole ingredients from scratch for the cans?

I know many farmers, large and small, who take part on both large farm topic sites and smaller forums. Oh yes, there are nasty names folks call me when challenged to think and they don’t want to. It upsets their little boat. Does it get to truth to sit in the little boat screaming then say “la-la-la-la” when someone engages your statement? I wonder sometimes if some want a platform to shout from rather than a means to engage people.

Heirloom tomatoes at SlowMoneyFarm

Heirloom tomatoes at SlowMoneyFarm

For example, one I have participated on for some time is the Eat Local Grown page – small, local farm support, small processors, leaning towards organic and nonGMO – perfect fit for me to share what I know about agriculture, both what we do and those things that aren’t exactly true that “everyone knows” (but is wrong). I was surprised, then, last week to go to the page and find I can share (broadcast) their posts but not ‘like’ or reply to anything. A mistake, right? Surely of all participants, a small nonGMO, organic practice  farm is the ideal participant to reach others? I tried to message them. No luck. It lists a phone number. I’ve called multiple times, left messages, sent a message on Twitter…no response. So, although it’s good enough to help with their crowdsourcing they are not interested in helping “their farmers” with their crowdsourcing attempts? Is that engagement or a platform to dictate from? I don’t know – I haven’t gotten an answer. Life happens. But for several days now, it’s clear that there won’t be an answer, unfortunately. What is the point in sharing things that aren’t entirely true? It gives that “You’ll take it and like it” message – only most adults don’t. We’ve learned that we can have a conversation not an ultimatum.

Social media is an awesome way to explore food. Growing it. Processing it. Cooking it. Eating it. Local is awesome, but may not be possible in some areas right now where not much produce has grown since last September! It will soon be spring, planting gardens, farmer’s markets and other options start up again. We can be thankful for other options that have held us over the winter, whether we prepared it or someone else did.

In your interactions online, I hope you will engage, not broadcast. There’s a big difference between a conversation and a lecture – and many have negative memories, or will have, from those nasty sessions being SCREAMED AT rather than talked to. Please don’t let the nasty attacks, or lack of responses, deter you from food choices, whatever they might be.

After all, food choices are for everyone.

How About These Apples

February 16, 2015
Arizona cider apples

Arizona cider apples

It’s lit up the internet world with more misinformation since Cinderella was handed a safe apple. Recently the Arctic apple was introduced as the first truly non-browning apple. There are some other apples slow to turn brown but this one is different – it’s also different in that it is a GMO, and with that comes fear. Suspicion. Misinformation.

While crossbreeding slowed it, a study of genetics showed four genes that were responsible for browning of apples. Scary science words ahead folks so buckle up…it’s not so scary!

When you bruise, bite, slice or dice an apple, rupturing the apple cells’ walls, a chemical reaction is triggered between the apple’s polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and phenolics that turns the apple flesh brown. And unfortunately, that reaction burns up the apple’s health-promoting phenolics in the process. Read more here. A family of four genes controls the majority of PPO production.

While it’s true that you can spritz lemon juice or other things on sliced apples, there is no one spritzing apples as they leave the orchard or along the shipping and storing route! Remember, as discussed recently, when apples are harvested they are stored somewhere to insure that you have apples in the store. The big flush for harvest is in the fall – so those apples eaten in spring have been stored for a while. Direct from the source:

To scientifically breed Arctic apples, Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ science team turns down the expression of the apple PPO genes in a process called gene silencing, which utilizes low-PPO genes from other apples. Gene silencing is a natural process that all plants (and animals too) use to control expression of their genes. This apple-to-apple transformation is aided by time-proven biotechnology tools. In the end, Arctic apples produce too little PPO to brown. (For an even more detailed description of Arctic apple science, visit the OSF website.)

This doesn’t put other genes in the apple. It’s all apple. It has nothing to do with pesticides, RoundUp, glyphosate, poisons or population control. Five agencies have reviewed and regulated and tested the apple in development. They are not from Monsanto – Monsanto had nothing to do with this one. A small place, in comparison, called Okanogan Specialty Fruits, were the developers. It came about due to public demand, from wasted food to shipping to convenience…the same things that sell many food items.

Speaking of apples, and fruit, here’s an interesting recipe for an Apple Berry Jam – a soft spreading jam that is good with little leftovers after canning and preserving! It’s from The Best of Bridge Home Preserving.

Apple Berry Jam

2 large apples, peeled and grated or finely chopped

2 cups crushed strawberries

2 cups raspberries

2 cups red currents or gooseberries, beards removed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

5 cups sugar

In a large, deep, heavy bottomed pot combine apples, straberries, raspberries, red currants and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until softened. add sugar in a steady stream, stirring constantly, increase the heat to high and bring to full boil, stirring constantly, to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium high and boil hard, stirring often and reducing heat further as mixture thickens, for 12-15 minutes or until thickened. Test for setting point. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Ladle into sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of rim; wipe rims. Apply prepared lids and rings; tighten rings just until fingertip tight. Process jars in boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Transfer jars to towel lined surface and let rest at room temperature until set. Check seals; refrigerate any unsealed jars for up to 3 weeks. Makes about six 8 ounce jars.

Celebrating Single Awareness Day

February 12, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK I know I might have a little bit of a jaded view of the whole weekend expectations. Romance is in the air, people spend obscene amounts of money for imported flowers that don’t grow this time of year in the US, and make financial gestures in chocolate, meals and other things they don’t do any other time. It’s couple bliss, or not if it’s not mentioned or nothing is on sale.

Take heart fellow single folks – there’s advantages to being single in the middle of February. We can watch what we want and the only one to notice the movie choice is the dog or cat. They usually don’t object. We can get our own chocolate, or not. Or we can stay in and create a meal that we want, without objection. Maybe like Eric Neznik’s stuffed French toast (OK couples can do this for each other too!).

Or for a healthier – and hotter – alternative to sugar and chocolate, make this Caper Studded Caponata and snack with crackers, flatbred, celery sticks and thinly sliced cucumbers. From The Healthy Slowcooker book, this is a vegan friendly recipe. Treat yourself to the book instead of the expensive flowers and make a change for you!

Caper Studded Caponata

1 medium eggplant, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and drained of excess moisture

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coconut sugar

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup reconstituted sun dried tomatoes (soak dried tomatoes in 1 1/2 cup boiling water for 15 minutes)

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 tablespoon drained capers

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves.

1. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, Set aside.

2. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat. Add eggplant, in batches, if necessary, and cook, stirring and tossing, until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes per batch, adding more oil, if necessary. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add garlic, peppercorns and salt to pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add sun-dried tomatoes and vinegar mixture and stir to combine. Stir into stoneware.

3. Place a large piece of parchment over the eggplant mixture, pressing it down to brush the food and extending up the sides of the stoneware so it overlaps the rim. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours, until mixture is hot and bubbly. Lift out parchment and discard, being careful not to spill the accumulated liquid into the mixture. Stir in bell pepper and capers. Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes, until bell pepper is soft and flavors blend. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Reality Eating

February 11, 2015

716px-Central_Kitchen_SF_(7185366285)There’s reality tv – how about reality eating? A recent conversation on a Facebook board brought up what seems to be a Grand Canyon sized chasm of missing link information that shouldn’t be. Agriculture, food processors and the “big food” companies people love to hate yet don’t want to do without all exist to provide you, the consumer, with food that you want, usually when, where and how you want it.

Billions of dollars are spent to fill the grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands and CSAs with a variety of produce, meats, grains, candy, cookies, dairy products and more that is demanded by the modern American consumer. Sometimes the requests are impossible, and sometimes research finds a way. Many have an interest in reducing food waste – consumers don’t like paying food money for food that goes bad.

Discussion was underway about a Simplot potato – it resists bruising (those black spots potatoes get) and turning brown. It is a genetically engineered variety being tested and comes about due to shipping and food waste. Someone commented “just don’t buy so much that it goes bad. Use it up before it goes bad.”

While that is certainly a noted comment, something else came to mind. Seasonal eating. Crops, generally, are planted and harvested at one time of year. Now there may be strawberries that are early varieties, mid season and late season. There are various fruit trees that bear at different times, but this time of year in most of the USA there is not anything growing – certainly not enough to feed a city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone has to store them – if you don’t, commodity companies do in order to have them to sell to you long after harvest. Alternately, they are imported from another country, which usually in the store I shop at is noted where the produce comes from.

The canned goods, jars, frozen items – all fruits and vegetables that someone else processed so that you don’t have to and yet still have food available long after sweet corn is not in the fields! Walnuts and pecans are available year round, not because they grow year round but because someone insures it’s available.

If we truly ate seasonally, there would be many hungry people this time of year! Those not prepared and not stored up wouldn’t have food!

In the fear of GMO, someone else chimed in about an apple they were sure was GMO – it sat in the kitchen for weeks and didn’t ripen to red! It’s not GMO – it’s probably a variety of apple that…doesn’t turn red! Some apples are ripe at green. Like some peppers will mature as red or orange or chocolate, some just stay green!

There are thousands of varieties for each thing that we grow for the food supply. Over 3,000 varieties of hot peppers, and over 3,000 varieties of sweet peppers. Most see 2-3 at the grocery store but that doesn’t mean the rest aren’t being grown! Maybe there’s not enough demand, or it’s a variety that doesn’t ship well or you have to seek out small growers that are maintaining them.

Many folks don’t know a duck is more than white, or chickens come in a rainbow of colors. There are thousands of varieties of corn. Does it matter? Of course it does! It’s your food supply too and we’re trying to stock it! Don’t underestimate consumer demand – what people buy is what you’ll see more of, whether direct or at the mega-superstore.

More than ever, farmers seek to share what we do with consumers. Are you ready to share and listen? Are you ready to learn and teach us what you really want to buy? Awesome! Let’s connect!

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