We rely on our Livestock Guardian Dogs to protect our animals. Our dogs keep the coyotes away from the sheep, goats, and chickens, and keep the possums and raccoons out of the chicken coop. They roam the farm at night chasing away predators, and sleep most of the day with the animals. We recently had a litter of pups that are a cross between Karakachan, and Spanish Ranch Mastiff. The puppies live outside with the sheep. They’ll be ready for their new homes in mid March. Email us if your interested in taking home one of these pups!
Flooding, freezing, puppies, lamb chops. A freak warm spell and an inch of rain came out of nowhere last week that melted all of the snow in the surrounding hills around us, and for the third time in two years our farm’s low waterways were flooding. A culvert under our road for a normally dry creek bed froze up and the flooding and freezing created a 50-foot glacier of ice between the house and the car, now covered in a rushing river! We hoisted the toddler and our bags on our shoulders and waded across holding on to willows for support. Talk about nature throwing curve balls!
We also had our first batch of livestock guardian dogs in the below zero cold snap just a week before the flooding week. They are a sweet batch of seven livestock guardian puppies, a blend of Karakachan, a Bulgarian guardian dog similar to a Great Pyrenese, and a French Maremma/Spanish Ranch Mastiff cross. All breeds that are large, independent, fearless, but gentle. Since we’ve had our guardians we haven’t had a coyote set foot on our property. Coyote populations in our area have really exploded, causing trouble for a lot of farmers. Interestingly, coyote populations are so heavy because of the decline of wolves in our landscape. So we’ve introduced a couple domesticated wolves of our own to help keep our farm predator-free for our sheep and chickens. The Mama and Puppies are inside the cabin with us staying warm while the puppies are still small. Next week we’ll move them outside where they’ll imprint on the sheep and become one of the flock. We will be looking for homes for these sweet little pups at the end of February or early March, where they can go off and protect another farm or homestead.
Last summer Dan Small and the crew from the Wisconsin PBS series Outdoor Wisconsin came out and filmed a sequence at our farm. It just aired on Milwaukee PBS, but you can watch it here. The first 10 minutes of the video is at our farm. Cool!
It’s the first day of December and it’s 50 degrees outside. Whoa. This super warm November has us exhausted. Typically it gets cold and the ground freezes and we’re able to put the farm into rest mode for the winter and recover from the sun up to sun down daily physical work of the farming season.
But with the anomalously warm weather, we felt compelled to keep on trucking. We’ve been able get the posts and beams chiseled and mortised for our basement. We should be able to get the joists up and the subfloor on and get it all covered up before snow flies. We’re super excited to get that done, but now we’re even more sore, achy, and exhausted than we were last month. It’s been a long sprint since March and, needless to say, we’re awfully excited for the first snow and a chance to relax and put our feet up for maybe an hour or two.
The warm weather has been wonderful for the animals. The chickens have been out every day eating insects from the soft soil and following around behind any rooting the pigs have done. The results of their foraging are some intensely rich and orange eggs, which we are happy to offer to meat customers this month as an add-on to shares. We’ve been enjoying our eggs soft-boiled on homemade sourdough with a healthy amount of butter for a quick lunch in the middle of the day. Possibly the best way to enjoy a perfectly-raised and insanely delicious pastured egg yolk.
To soft boil an egg: bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Gently place your eggs in the boiling water. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for seven minutes. Remove eggs to a bowl of ice water. When just slightly cool, peel the eggs starting from the large end (where the air pocket is). Slice and smash onto a piece of toast, sprinkle with salt and enjoy. Soft-boiled eggs can be enjoyed warm or cold. 🙂
Since the ground hasn’t frozen yet, the pigs have been enjoying afternoon strolls through our oak savannas, digging up acorns and nabbing fallen crab apples. We’re super excited for acorn and apple fed pork chops this winter!
When the holidays roll around and we visit family for Christmas we are going to sit back and eat some serious ham. This month we’ve got some delicious smoked hams for your holiday tables. We’ll be doing a simple roast and glaze. The roasts are different sizes depending on the size of your farm share. But to roast and glaze follow these guidelines:
Our hams are cured and smoked, which means they are ready to eat! They simply need to be warmed up. We like a glaze on our ham for extra sweet, craggy edges and a little bit of spice.
1/3 cup maple syrup (the real kind!)
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Double the glaze recipe if you have an 8-pound ham.
Cut ham with cross hatch pattern. Rub all over with glaze, saving a few tablespoons for later. Optional: poke whole clove “studs” into the corners of the cross hatches.
Place ham on rack in a roasting pan and tent loosely with foil. (Don’t have a rack for your roasting pan? You can prop the ham up on metal cookie cutters!)
Bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes per pound. Remove foil for last twenty minutes of cooking and cover with the rest of the glaze. Cook until center of the meat reads 140 on a thermometer and the top is nicely browned and crusty.
Let rest for fifteen minutes loosely tented under foil. Then serve and enjoy!
With a crunchy layer of frost blanketing the ground outside our windows, we are scrambling to get ready for winter. There’s always a peak in activity this time of year as we prepare to put our farm to sleep. Many things to do…chop firewood, set posts for some new overwintering paddocks, acquire and set out more hay, bring the animals back off the pasture and into their winter homes, harvest squash, plant garlic, build some new lean-tos, can applesauce and hot sauce, make sauerkraut and many other things I can’t remember right now….
The sun is setting earlier each day and we really feel it as we hurry home in the waning light to feed pigs and put away tools before darkness falls. While we used to work until 8 or sometimes 9 pm, now we are all home together around six, which means more family time, something Tilia and Maureen greatly appreciate. Our woodstove is working away keeping us toasty and braising beef, roasting squash, nuts, and chicory, rendering lard, cooking down bones, baking acorn bread, and of course cooking up bacon and eggs in the morning. We’ve been busy harvesting and processing the last of summer’s bounty and storing away for the winter. Acorns, apples, and chicory will provide a winter’s worth of bread, fruit, and yummy warm beverages.
The animals have been enjoying their few last weeks of grazing. During the September drought we pulled the sheep and cattle off the pasture and fed some for a whole month. This gave our pasture a bit of time to recover, and with a bit of rain and late September warmth, we are fortunately back out grazing for a few more weeks before it’s full-on hay feeding season. Right now, we’re strategically feeding hay up on our hillsides, extending the length of time the animals stay in a paddock, and building and remineralizing soils that have experienced over 100 years of overgrazing previous to our arrival. We feed hay that was cut and baled down stream of us in a few floodplain fields of the Kickapoo River, way up on our steep hillsides. The cattle and sheep eat most of it, pooping and stomping some hay back into the soils. These sandy, leached, mineral-poor soils normally produce very little, mostly brown grass. Next year, however, in the spots we’re feeding hay, they will shoot up right away in the spring with lush green growth, thriving with the much needed addition of minerals and organic matter. We’re reversing the flow of gravity, returning eroded minerals and nutrients back to their home soils. We take our jobs as keystone species seriously.
We’ve been racing to get the foundation for our new house backfilled, insulated, and protected from frost before it gets too much colder. That means lots of tractor work and shoveling. Shoveling gravel for 4 hours is a great way to stay warm on a chilly day!
The chillier temperatures mean time for stews and braises. Possibly my very favorite way to eat meat is in a braise, which means cooking meat long and slow in liquid, usually wine, broth, beer or a combination. If you have one, braises and stews can easily be made in a slow cooker and make a great weekend meal for a family.
Recipe of the Month
We had some beautiful stew meat cut from our beef to make beef stews easier. We recommend you try one of our very favorite recipes, this variation of beef bourgignon. It sounds fancy but it simple to make and so, so nourishing and delicious.
Add-ons available this month
- Beef Summer Sausage
- Pastured Pork Lard
- Beef Bones
- Pastured Eggs
Enjoy some quality meals with your family this autumn!
Peter, Maureen, Tilia and the menagerie of beasts
This is a simple variation on the classic French beef stew of cooking beef long and slow in wine
2 tablespoon rendered lard or olive oil
2 pieces bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 pounds beef stew meat (1 package, or one beef roast in 1 inch cubes)
Freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons flour
1.5 cups dry red wine
2 cups low sodium beef broth or water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 or 4 fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 bay leaves
Heat lard or olive oil in a nonreactive Dutch oven or large stew pot. Fry bacon for a couple of minutes. Add beef, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, and brown until no longer pink. Remove bacon and beef from pan and set aside. Add garlic, onions and carrot and cook on medium heat for five minutes until softened. Sprinkle with flour, cook 30 seconds, then add all the remaining ingredients. Add the beef and bacon. Stir everything to incorporate, then turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
Turn heat to low and simmer, 1.5 or 2 hours until meat is tender. Or, cook in a slow cooker on low for six hours. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes or something starchy to soak up the delicious sauce.
It’s been dry dry dry. We had our wettest spring in history this year, and then the rain stopped completely. We were lucky to get a bit of rain a couple weeks ago, but besides that it’s been dry since the July. Our grass stopped growing back in August and many of the tree leaves have already turned brown and fallen to the ground. We’ve been feeding hay this month, three months before normal. We’re really hopeful for some rain this week so the grass can grow in the cooler weather and we can get another round of grazing on our pastures before winter. Do a little rain dance for us!
The cows got out! For the first time since we’ve been here, the cows escaped our farm. Usually we have better grass than the surrounding area, so the cows don’t want to leave. But because it’s been so dry, our grass isn’t that great, so when the cows sound a spot where a storm had taken down a tree and a section of fence, they ventured out through the woods and into our neighbor’s corn field. It was a day or two before I found them with big fat corn bellies. Good thing they’re all well trained because they were over a mile away from the farm. I called out “Hey Cooooows!” and they all got up and followed me, single file, back to the farm. They enjoyed their cheat day and were a bit disappointed when I fixed the fence, but now they’re back to their 100% grass-fed diet, and doing just fine.
We got our first batch of yarn back from the new Ewetopia fiber mill down the road in La Farge. It’s beautiful soft wool, and Maureen is excited to make us all sweaters that will match our sheep!
Recipe of the Month
We’ve be loving grilled pork chops lately. With the abundance of delicious apples ripe across the midwest this month, we’ve been loving this recipe for Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apples
You can use this recipe to pan sear any pork chops, that have been seasoned however you wish. Or follow this recipe with the addition of a pan sauce and apples, which makes a delicious and nourishing fall dinner.
2 pork chops
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken, beef, or pork broth, or water
1.5 cups apples cored and thinly sliced
Salt and Pepper
Pat pork chops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat for a minute or two. Then add a tablespoon of lard or olive oil. When hot, add the pork chops. Brown on all sides, 1-2 minutes per side. Don’t forget to stand the pork chop on its edge with tongs to brown the fat cap (the strip of fat on the edge) as well. When browned, turn the heat to low. Listen to make sure the pork chops are still sizzling. You don’t want the heat too low so that the pork chops sweat out their juices, but you do want to hear a little sizzle. Cover, and cook until the pork chops are at least 150 degrees or cooked to your liking, turning once. They should be firm to the touch but not hard. When you first cut into them they should be a little rosy but then turn pale. This might take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how long the chops were seared for and how thick they are.
Remove the pork chops from the pan and let them rest.
You can stop there and serve the pork chops however you want, or go a step further and make a pan sauce. Turn heat to medium. Adjust the fat so that there is a tablespoon or so in the pan, adding more if it seems too dry. When hot, add the garlic. Cook for thirty seconds, then add the wine. Cook for another thirty seconds, scraping the pan as you go to get up all the brown bits. Then add broth and the apples. Turn the heat to high. Cook to reduce the sauce, another few minutes. When it is almost syrupy and the apples are soft, turn off the heat.
Put the pork chops on plates and serve with the sauce and apples spooned over the top.
Serve with something starchy to soak up extra sauce such as winter squash puree or mashed potatoes and spicy salad greens. Enjoy!
Pulled pork is easy to make in your slow cooker and super versatile. We often cook up a pork roast and have it in the fridge to shred and eat for several meals. It makes great sandwiches, tacos, stir fry meat, filling for tamales, meat to add to a soup or to a breakfast hash in the morning. Here are some general guidelines and ideas.
- Thaw and season your pork roast on all sides with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Don’t be shy with the salt!
2. Place in your slow cooker, with the fattiest side facing up.
3. Add onions. One chopped big onion is good. You can also add garlic if you want, or dried chilis and/or a couple bay leaves. For a Mexican version, we’ll add a Chipotle pepper. Whatever sounds good to you…
4. Add 1 cup of liquid. We like half and half beer and orange juice. You could also due a barbecue version with apple cider vinegar, ketchup and Coca-Cola. Or half broth, half wine. My grandma makes pulled pork in a base that’s half Pepsi, half cream of mushroom soup.
5. Slow cook it in your slow cooker on low. You be the judge of when it’s ready: ideally when it is falling apart when pulled with a fork. It helps to turn the meat from time to time during the day, but it isn’t necessary. This could take all day, so be ready to cook your pork overnight or start it in the morning.
6. Remove the meat from the liquid and place on a baking sheet to cool. Then shred the meat with a fork and a knife, discarding any gristle or parts that don’t look like what you want in your dish.
7. Pour the drippings from the slow cooker into a pot. If you can, remove any fat. Then reduce the liquids down to make a thick sauce. This is a good base for a barbecue sauce.
8. Add the meat back to the sauce (if that’s what you want to do) to reheat and get your shredded pork all glistening.
9. Serve and enjoy or place in the fridge for later.
Don’t have a slow cooker? Place all ingredients in a non-reactive dutch oven or heavy pan, cover, and cook in your oven at 250 degrees.