WARNING! Ultra-Pasturized Milk issues

Ever wonder what the difference is in the milk in the store?

 What’s the difference between the brands? and why different prices?

 It is much cheaper to move milk around if you take all the water out!

You take the water out, you take out the water-soluble components in the milk. whole-milk-powder

 

 

Many processors “reconstitute” the milk and then ship it to the store. Except for two producers here in california, all milk is pasteurized. Because the pasteurization process can damage the components of milk, much of that is added back via a chemical additive.  Not always the same thing as the “cow” put out.

Think sweetener: sugar, saccharin, stevia, glucose, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)…  all called sweeteners but all very different. So when they “add” Vitamin D to the milk, is it in the same form that the cow produced, that our bodies can absorb?

whey protein chart The “cheaper brands” take the milk apart and then try to reassemble it as inexpensively as possible, to keep that price low.

I know if you make cheese from commercial milk, you have to add calcium back into the milk!  ultra pasteurized milk can NOT even be used to make cheese.

Ultra-Pasteurized WARNING!

 I’m finding that it is almost impossible to find milk that has NOT been ultra pasteurized (even those called organic).

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

 We have another name for ultra pasteurized milk.

It’s called: 

“white water that lives on the shelf

long time!”

It is “cooked” at very, very high heat which alters the milk, and allows it to not go bad on the shelf, for weeks.

 Think of the difference between a raw egg, and an overcooked scrambled egg. They are NOT the same product, even though they had the same beginning and both can be called ‘an egg’. Heat can dramatically alter the product.

 Organic milk, that is ultra pasteurized, is stripped of the very properties that made it a good buy.  I talked with some dairy farmers who provide this organic milk and asked why this was done. They said that they had NO CONTROL despite being a farmer co-operative. The buyer’s of their milk (processor) did it to make the milk last longer.

 Clove:straussLucky, so far, some local dairy operations, CLOVER & Strauss do NOT ultra pasteurize their milk.  If you want to support local dairy operations here in Northern California, these are two great ones. In fact, Strauss (the glass bottles) does a very low heat, slow process that preserves the components in the milk.

 

Remember the adage, “you get what you pay for!”  Yes, their milk might look pricier but you are actually ending up with “more” for your money.

 (I understand that all Clover milk is organic but they can only “sell” so much at the higher price that they get for it, but much of their “non organic branded” milk can be organic. If you have to choose, this might be a less expensive milk to choose! I have been told this, but can NOT verify that this is true.)

Strauss, also, does NOT homogenized their milk. There is some thought that vigorously mixing the milk and breaking up the fat globules to “homogenize” the milk, actually damages it. Thus you will see a separation level in the milk bottles, without this “forced” mixing. Shake to mix before pouring.  Or, better yet, steal some off that top-level, for cream for your coffee!

Pasture-Butter-325A side note:  If you can buy butter, made May-September, do! 

Several companies are beginning to market it because of the higher vitamin, CLA levels from the fresh pasture. You can freeze butter up to a year. But only butter that is from pastured cows!

Some Economic Beef Background:

I don’t know if you know, but the cost of feed/hay has dramatically increased over the last 5 years.  When we started, hay was $5/bale and now is at $20+/bale.  A lot of this is due to the severe drought conditions in the midwest & south… with everyone trying to “source” hay to feed their cattle.

We’re lucky because our costs are lower since we DO NOT EVER feed grain, and we have access to some awesome pasture on the Mendocino Coast.  We have focused on compact heritage Angus beef that have the genetics to do well on forage only. Our beeves are raised mostly on fresh forage. They are only supplemented occasionally, with hay, to protect from over-grazing.

grass fed lowlines

Ranging the land

 Commercial ranchers in the mid-west and south literally dumped their herds into the slaughter houses last year, because they could not afford to feed them, or even in some cases, have enough water for them.  Herds in 2013 are the lowest size since the 1950’s.

 Initially, prices on commercial beef at the store dropped, but you will start to see a dramatic increase in price (in some places it has already started).

The Heritage Farm – Healthy Food: 

 Again, I will remind you of my “spiel” that grass-fed beef has the Omega3:Omega6 ratio that is healthy for the human body.

Because our beeves are raised on pasture, they will have high levels of CLA’s (associated with cancer fighting properties). See EatWild.com for in-depth information on the positive benefits from eating “pastured products”!

Beef from grasslands is a completely different product than that raised in  a feed lot.  So is the butter, 1/2&1/2, milk.

Anyway guys, hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too MUCH info! But I’ve wanted to share some of this and thought you might find it interesting.

The more I see of the health complications in our world the more important I realize it is to provide quality food. It’s the little things we can do, for our family and friends, to help and to protect them.

Products Available:

100% Grass-fed Angus Beef halves available:  Only have 4 half portions available.  Min  weight: 125# (up to 140#)

USDA processed, cut & wrapped  – Works out to roughly $7-8/lb for 100% grass-fed beef.

Our heritage line of Aberdeen Angus has had no hormones, no antibiotics. They are raised on pristine pasture with their mothers, on the Mendocino Coastline utilizing rotational managed grazing, which increases the health of the soil/forage.

$959/per half, whole $1800. Can be paid in 4 installments.

[Cost by the cut: $7/lb ground meat (NO added fat), stew meat

                        $10/lb roasts, ribs, misc cuts

                        $15/lb steaks        ]

 (Please check Oliver’s or Whole Foods and you will find these are EXTREMELY reasonable prices.)

 But the best deal is to buy a half (join up with a friend and share).

Bulk pricing gets you the best deal, which you already know!

We have already done all the work: birthed, raised up humanely, harvest, & custom cut & wrap.

 All locally done (within a 100 mile radius).

– ready April 8th.

CONTACT:

email me if you are interested in a beef half.

Also, we have just got our order of USDA heritage Berkshire hog pork in.  Again, no antibiotics, no hormones, raised in an outdoor setting.

 If you want: pork chops, ground pork, apple-sausage links, bacon,ham, or back-fat to make lard, let me know. Back-fat lard is awesome for cooking and seasoning beans, stews, etc.

I can send you a price list.

Cheers!

Amy

Pink Slime Satire… the Colbert Report

You CAN effect changes… with your dollars and your feedback to people who WANT your dollars. I don’t think ethics or health matter much to the bean counters. Last summer when we went to “farmer’s market” I took along a laminated info sheet about “pink slime”. It was quite an eye-opener to many people. You know the left-overs that are scrapped up, chopped up, and extruded into pellets that look like ground beef?…. and then hit with ammonia to kill any nasties it has embedded in it.

We sell our own home-grown grass-fed beef because of the stuff that goes on in the industrial food system. I want the choice… and better yet, I want the taste and the quality of my own meat. So we are blessed at having that choice to grow our own… and to offer it to others who want that same choice.

Here is a hilarious satire I wanted to share.  It’s your smile for the day. (I think there is a brief commercial 😦  )

(looks like link does not return you to the rest of the blog post..working on it.)

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Field Trips to The Heritage Farm

On a side note, we’ve been quite busy on the farm.  We did a couple of school field trips (3rd graders to the farm)… roughly 75 people in all.

It’s awesome to watch the kids get to scratch a pig, see a cow being milked (up close), and watch a mini-horse get trained to trust a human. To feel how warm a pristine egg is, just after it’s been laid by a hen.  To notice what wonderful smells and warmth comes from a small home built greenhouse.  I also appreciate how much the adults value the visit as well!

When I get the pictures, I’ll have to post more.

Another event where school kids got to see calves & mini horses, on the school campus

Dirty Dozen, Clean Fifteen, pt 2

I’m appalled at how much “crap” is on fruits & veggies! The stuff that is supposedly, OK.

Dirty Dozen Fruits/Veggies

The Western Farm Press, dissing of the results of the EWG (Environmental Working Group), tell farmers everywhere to discount the research done.

When we are told by “officials” that eating foods with residual chemicals on them is better than nothing…

I have to differ…. because that is NOT the choice.  We all have access! Yes,  it will cost more or we will have to narrow our food choices.

I think of it in this context:

taking a daily micro-dose of a neurotoxin WILL eventually catch up with me. Not today, not tomorrow, but certainly down the road!

But I do have a choice in this. I can vote with my fork, and make a difference.

FoodNews.org is the link.

Overview: 12 Dirty, 15 Clean

“Eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure, according to some researchers.”

How can someone say that with a straight face?

They would say, use EWG‘s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. Do I agree with this statement: Absolutely NOT!

The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.

But don’t let me, or anyone else do your thinking for you… Check it out yourself; go to the Environmental Working Group  website, EWG.org, and look at how the studies are done.

Basic Principles to work with:

Dirty Dozen  … leads to a print out of the following info… for your wallet!

Be very careful about imported fruit/veggies… they do not have the same safety standards and most of it is never tested. Also, SWEET CORN. If you have concerns about GMO foods, then you need to buy organic sweet corn, as almost all commercial corn in the USA is genetically modified.

Below the video clip is a list of the Dirty and the Clean… with some informative data about each group. See what YOU think!

Highest Pesticide Residue

The Dirty Dozen – Buy these organic

If you need to really watch your budget (and who doesn’t!), these are the ones I would be sure to purchase from a reputable organic producer.

Of the 12 most contaminated foods, 6 are fruits: apples, strawberries, peaches,  nectarines, imported grapes and blueberries. Notable findings:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, followed by apples (97.8 percent) and imported plums (97.2 percent).
  • 92 percent of apples contained 2 or more pesticide residues‚ followed by imported nectarines (90.8 percent) and peaches (85.6 percent).
  • Imported grapes had 14 pesticides detected on a single sample. Strawberries, domestic grapes both had 13 different pesticides detected on a single sample.
  • As a category. peaches have been treated with more pesticides than any other produce, registering combinations of up to 57 different chemicals. Apples were next, with 56 pesticides and raspberries with 51.

Celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, lettuce and greens (kale and collards) are the vegetables most likely to retain pesticide contamination:

  • Some 96 percent all celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by cilantro (92.9 percent) and potatoes (91.4 percent).
  • Nearly 90 percent of celery samples contained multiple pesticides, followed by cilantro (70.1 percent) and sweet bell peppers (69.4 percent).
  • A single celery sample was contaminated with 13 different chemicals, followed by a single sample of sweet bell peppers (11), and greens (10).
  • Hot peppers had been treated with as many as 97 pesticides, followed by cucumbers (68) and greens (66).
1
Apple
Apples
2
Celery
Celery
3
Strawberries
Strawberries
4
Peaches
Peaches
5
Spinach
Spinach
6
Nectarines
Nectarines
– imported
7
Grapes
Grapes – imported
8
Red Pepper
Sweet bell peppers
9
Potatoe
Potatoes
10
Blueberries
Blueberries
– domestic
11
Lettuce
Lettuce
12
Kale
Kale/collard greens

Clean 15 – Lowest in Pesticide

Here’s where you can save your grocery dollars if you need to, and buy non-organic.

The vegetables least likely to test positive for pesticides are onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant, cabbage, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.

  • Asparagus, sweet corn and onions had no detectable pesticide residues on 90 percent or more of samples.
  • More than four-fifths of cabbage samples (81.8 percent)  had no detectible pesticides, followed by sweet peas (77.1 percent) and eggplant (75.4 percent).
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on vegetables low in overall contamination. No samples of onions and corn had more than one pesticide. Less than 6 percent of sweet potato samples had multiple pesticides.
  • Of the low-pesticide vegetables, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals.

The fruits least likely to test positive for pesticide residues are pineapples, avocados, mangoes, domestic cantaloupe, kiwi, watermelon and grapefruit.

  • Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples showed detectable pesticides, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue.
  • Nearly 55 percent of grapefruit had detectable pesticides but only 17.5 percent of samples contained more than one residue. Watermelon had residues on 28.1 percent of samples, and 9.6 percent had multiple pesticide residues.
1
Onions
Onions
2
Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn
3
Pineapple
Pineapples
4
Avocado
Avocado
5
Asparagus
Asparagus
6
Peas
Sweet peas
7
Mango
Mangoes
8
Eggplant
Eggplant
9
Cantelope
Cantaloupe
– domestic
10
Kiwi
Kiwi
11
Cabbage
Cabbage
12
Watermelon
Watermelon
13
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes
14
Grapefruit
Grapefruit
15
Mushrooms
Mushrooms
Because you want to enjoy what you eat, not worry about what you eat!

Throw some mud in the water: Boiling Mad, pt 1

OK, NOW my blood is boiling! The name of the game: Confuse the Consumer.

Erggg… it’s so hard to keep my mouth shut when “data” gets slanted or manipulated… here is my response, in two parts.

When the Western Farm Press (goes out to farmers all over the USA) says to ignore the results of EWG studies done, I have to ask what their interest is. I mean I could say something like:

New mom, New babe

“Hey, pregnant mom, don’t take that medication ’cause it might hurt your baby, but here, have some wonderful strawberries.

Oh, by-the-way, they were grown in Chile and are loaded with neurotoxins which are systemically absorbed and can’t be washed off!”

Only, guess what! That is not slanted or manipulated data. It’s well know and the EWG (Environment Working Group) has highlighted those issues in their annual Dirty Dozen report.

Many of you know that I am coming from a background in High Risk Labor & Delivery. From working in the newborn intensive care units, to working with high risk moms (heart problems, diabetics, premature labor, mutilples…twins, triplets, etc), working in family centered units with midwives; in the home, in the clinic, and in the hospital. A fairly broad exposure to the field of Maternal-Child nursing.

Systemically Contaminated Foods

Pieces of the Puzzle - Autism

After 30 years in high risk obstetrical nursing… I have some big concerns about the accumulations of “small” amounts of toxins (pesticides, herbicides, neurotoxins) in our bodies, and in the growing fetus.

I’m concerned about the sky-rocketing rates of autism; from 1/10,000 to 1/100! Yes, one out every 100 babies is diagnosed with autism. And guess what, it’s the middle class and affluent who are experiencing the highest increases.

Do I know that contaminants are directly related? NO, but I worry that it does.

It’s been demonstrated that the “placenta” is NOT a barrier, and what mom takes in, the developing fetus is exposed to, during very critical stages of development.

Toxic effects, know only over time

Most medicine/research advances are made when data is collected RETRO-ACTIVELY, meaning… we look back over time to see what happens. We look at that data, and alter our views.  Short term studies are only good for acute issues (drink a poison, you get an immediate response).

Long-term studies are needed to parse out the real effects.

And I have no desire for my children/grandchildren to be the “test subjects”. “Whoops, we thought it was safe… I think we might have made a slight error”…. Right!

OF course we need to eat fruits and vegetables. It’s the “additives” that I want to stay away from. We do have a choice about the “additives” that find their way into our foods… we can talk with our dollars because that’s the only thing Industrial Ag listens to.

Repeatedly, in medicine and in the industrial corporate world, we are told something is OK, only to find over time, that it was absolutely Incorrect. Because it takes time to get to the real answers… and it’s not the sellers who pay the price, it’s the consumer. You pay both short-term and long-term.

Research & Documenting

We need information, without a vested money interest in the results

I would encourage you to look at the Environmental Working Group website.  I find it balanced, thoughtful, and educational.  Look at how their studies are done.  It is in a very friendly format that is easy to understand (not like those usual dense research reports that I have a hard time wading through).

Look at the FAQ’s: frequently asked questions…. the concerns that other people have had… and the group’s response.  Are their answers dogmatic or rational thinking responses.

I think you can tell pretty quick what a site’s bias is and whether it is based in emotional appeals and/or trying to manipulate you. Or if they are explaining their concerns and giving you the data to make your own decisions.

Good & the Bad Guys

Anything you want, it will get served up… somewhere

I agree… you can find anybody on the web to support any side of any argument, theory, conspiracy, etc. The challenge is to educate ourselves intelligently.

We discuss with our interns, working on the farm, how do you tell when something is true? I mean, you can find info to back up anything you believe… and the tendency is to only look for info that will back up what you WANT to believe.

We’ve gotten some good responses, and two of the best:

  1. when the data is confirmed coming from multiple fields.  From math, from history, from biology…
  2. when you use the information/theory/belief and predict outcomes that are consistently true over time
I would enjoy hearing your opinion on this issue. I’d like to know if others share the same concerns.
  • are you aware of the residual chemicals that can not be removed by washing, on your food?
  • do you ever think it’s important, for safety reasons, to choose american vrs imported?
  • did you know about the dramatic rise in autism rates?
  • have you changed your buying patterns once you  became more aware?
  • does your pediatrician ever say anything about organic foods?
Please use the comment section to respond… it would be great to hear everyone’s experiences or thoughts!

Back to the Basics
Eat Healthy, Eat Local, Eat Quality

Pastures… never enough!

We are on the look-out for pasture…. always. We drive by fields that have lush growth and nothing happening on the land… and salivate.

Pasture for livestock

And I’m a city girl turned “farmer’s wife” in my older years… We’ve just been doing this for about 5 years, but my world view has changed dramatically.

Someone said one time to Jim & I, that once you start working with livestock, you will never look at land / grasses/ weeds the same way again.

By God, they hit the nail on the head with that statement. We don’t see weeds: we see succession growth, nutrients, and value the diversity of plants and what it brings to the soil and animals!

Those black dots you see in the picture, to the right of the brush pile… are our rather short Lowline Angus! They are taking advantage of some really rich diverse pasture. We use simple electric net to fence to manage where they graze.

We’re always looking for land that we can trade for grass/forage management… with the use of our mini Lowline Angus. Our cows add back fertilizer & bacteria that enrich the soil, leaving it healthier.

Sequenced growth

sequenced growth pattern

Did you know that there is a certain sequence to growth on land… if a field is burned there is a whole sequence of plants that grow. From those that can deal with the dead top (burned), and send down deep roots to pull up nutrients hidden in the depths of the soil.

Those plants bring up the “goodies” and then other plants take hold, using those nutrients. The soil is enriched and the new growth will eventually shade/kill out the original plants.  There is a progression of various grasses, shrubs, plants, and then eventually trees.

If you are VERY knowledgeable about the land, you can tell what nutrients are missing by what kind of plants/weeds are growing!

It’s actually all about the soil and its microbial base

An underground world of activity!

It’s the microbes in the soil that do ALL the real work… breaking down, releasing nutrients, and aerating the soil.

Plants can’t get to the nutrients locked up in the SOM (soil organic matter) until the microorganisms break it down into simple compounds so that it can be absorbed by the root hairs.

Turns out that if you transplant certain trees/shrubs, etc., and bring some of the soil where they were grown, you get a higher/quicker success rate.  It’s because the plant has a symbiotic relationship with the microbes in the soil where it has grown.  It decreases the stress on the plant to bring some of it’s “micro-buddies” along to help it reestablish itself in a new area.

Questions for Interns…

We ask our students two questions in particular:

1) WHAT is a weed? and 2) What value do weeds bring to our garden?

The usual response is… ugh, anything that is ugly, doesn’t produce something we can use, etc.

For me, a weed is simply something that is growing where you don’t want it, at that time.  My weed may be your delicacy! Did you know nettles are highly prized for great food value, and cattails have a myriad of food and health properties? Not to mention providing a habitat for beneficial insects that will actually protect your plants.  And sometimes the weeds attract the “pests” to them, taking them away from the plants we want to produce (aphids for example).

2) What value do they bring?

Depending on the timing… they preserve the top soil, they prevent erosion, bring up nutrients into the soil, help dry out the soil after the rains, or conserve moisture by shading the bare soil, when they die, their roots die and aerate the soil as well as release nutrients back.

A garden totally lacking in “extra plants” can be very sterile.  When I go out and pull weeds I remind myself of all the value they have brought.That way I don’t resent the “extra” work I have to do.  Instead of thinking I’m a poor gardener or lacking in focus by keeping my garden pristine… I have come to have a certain appreciation for weeds. It’s just part of the process.

And WHEN is it time for them to go? When they compete too strongly with the plants I’m growing for food.  When they are  shading out others, taking too much moisture, or choking them to death (good ol’ bindweed… wraps around the stem and climbs up reaching for the sun… but can choke the plant to death!!!).

At that point a weed must go; and often replaced with a good mulch which works wonders, and as it degrades, IT returns good stuff to the soil, as well.

Sunny California…

Darn those lovely little yellow blossoms

70-80 degrees F…in Febuary, no less! It’s the end of the month; we’ve had very little of our “winter rains” and lots of sunshine.

My little season extension greenhouse, that was meant to provide us with winter crops and an early start for cool season crops… has been a bit too warm.

Darn it, my cool weather broccoli is flowering instead of producing heads for my dinner table!

tolerant of the warm winter weather!

Lucky for me, the spinach, green onions, and strawberry plants are more forgiving of all this warm weather. They are humming along just fine.

But our simple little greenhouse, we actually have to open the door to cool it down… and block the entrance so my chickens don’t have themselves a feast in my “special greens”!

They just LOVE to sneak into the greenhouse.


How’s YOUR grocery bill these days?

“It must be wonderful to not have a huge grocery store bill!” I’m told many a time, by people who know we have a full-cycle farm (i.e. milk, meat, chickens, gardens, etc). I laugh and tell them that at this point, I don’t pay the grocery store, I pay the feed store!  WE won’t REALLY have it together until we can feed our livestock.

Fresh from the home garden

We bought some apples (a health food right?) at a small market, rather than buying junk food .  Took one bite and had to spit it out… you could taste the chemical coating on the apple.  I don’t know if I’m getting more sensitive or if it’s getting utilized in heavier doses.

I know that I’m reading you can no longer wash the stuff off… it’s absorbed systemically.

Producing your own food, overall it is NOT cheaper;  just a lot, and I mean, a lot better quality.

Quality in value and in taste... and probably even more importantly… not exposed to so much “crud” that is used to produce industrial food (neurotoxins, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, etc). Upfront it’s not cheaper but we won’t have the same health issues, and as those costs are sky-rocketing, we are saving tons of dollars long-term. Not to mention, just the additional quality of life in not being sick.

Because it's the better choice!

Buy Fresh, Buy Local

OK here’s my spiel: find an organic farmer/market/CSA.  Not because they need it, but because YOU need it, especially your children! Most of this “toxic crappola” did not come on the scene until the 1980’s and has escalated since then. An occasion hit of “crap” our systems can generally detoxify and cope with.

It’s the day in, day out constant onslaught that is creating the epidemic of chronic diseases.

We are working toward becoming a “sustainable” farm, meaning that the farm will provide for our needs in general.  Not everything.  Traditionally one would trade for other services/products. But all the same, farms were not mono-crops.

“Doing” just one thing would exhaust your soil over time, whether crop or a particular livestock.  Just raising corn, just raising pigs would overload you: you would pull out too much of one thing, and dump to much as waste, of one thing, to be healthy.  Farms that did that would eventually exhaust the soil (or contaminate it), people would move on to new territory. The “westward movement” was a significant part of that process with all the “new world” land available.

Think of just eating french fries, or just broccoli, or just chicken. UGGH. That would get old real fast. I think it’s a built in safety mechanism. Your body won’t let you eat just one thing, on purpose. It’s the satiation factor. You know how the first chocolate chip cookie, out of the oven, is heavenly… but by the 4th one you’re starting to feel FULL (OK, so for some of us it’s the 10th cookie)!

home produced

Typically, in the 1800’s, there was the family garden (food raised to be utilized by the family) and then the main crop that would be used for selling (cash trade) and then food raised to be utilized by the livestock.

People often ask why we focus so much on miniature/compact livestock. Mini-horses, mini-cows, & mini-milk cows, in particular. Historically at least one third of a farms products went to feed the livestock.  That means if you had a 3 acre farm (which we basically do), one acre would be in full production just to feed the animals that would provide your power labor such as transportation, pulling a plow, hauling things, or provide meat, milk, butter, cheese, etc. The other two acres are what supported the farm.

Stored hay, for the off season

The problem in the USA is that bigger is better, except when you have to feed it!

Then the food bill goes through the roof, either in terms of producing it (maybe half the acreage would have to feed the livestock instead of one third), or purchasing it.

By downsizing our larger livestock we feel like it is more cost effective in general plus the supporting costs are less. Less fencing, housing, trailer size, pasture damage due to weight, etc.

How much is an acre of land valued in California (an hour north of San Francisco)? An easy $100,000 acre. If we try and feed our livestock from our land… can you imagine covering the cost of $100,000/an acre to produce feed.

Smaller livestock mean lower food needs! We manage much of the cost by importing feed grown on much “cheaper valued” land.  But it used to cost us $5/bale of good feed and now it’s up to $15-20/bale.  In FIVE years.

We americans have been so spoiled in the last 50 years… typically one third of a family’s income in OUR country, went for food.  That dropped to less than 10 percent ! Those “extra” dollars went into buying other things (house, clothes, toys – childrens’ and electronic)! It provided a huge growth factor in our economy… but it was “bought” at great long term personal cost. The economic value of land near a city went through the roof. The farming land itself was turned into strip malls and housing developments.
Be glad you are an american though, as many other countries have reached the point where more than 50% of their income goes to food… if it is to be had.
A full load... 120 bales

Moving the Hay

We reached a turning point, as the cost of oil escalates.  Currently we spend about 10 calories (energy, fertilizers, fuel, transportation) to produce ONE calorie of industrial food.

The REAL questions is NOT, “Why is organic food so expensive”,  but “WHY is industrial food so cheap?”  But I don’t think industrial food is going to be “cheap” much longer…

And that “grocery bill” is going to get a heck of a lot more expensive. Cultivate your local farmer… he may be the best value to be had, in the near future!

Sex on the Farm

It can be difficult to warn people that ours is an “X-rated” farm.  Our farm animals do the “wild thing” at the drop of the hat!  Sex is so prevalent on a farm… and an important topic to be able to discuss.

six piglets getting the colostrum, after birth

Piglets delivered and nursing well

We’ve had many an intern turn red and start stuttering when we have to discuss the topic of breeding and mating.  As if it were magic! Our interns are generally, bright, well-educated young people who want to learn organic farming.  We are one of the few farms that offer livestock management as well as the organic gardening aspect. And yet, SEX, is still a forbidden topic.  But the mating management is critical to the success of any farm.

We try to get over that barrier pretty quickly.  We are involved in utilizing high-tech methods to improve livestock for the small, low-tech farm. We want livestock that can survive WITHOUT vets, medicine, special diets, or extraordinary support.  To do this we sometimes use artificial insemination (A.I.) & embryo transfers (E.T.) to get where we want to go.  Thus it is important to monitor their reproductive cycles.

Lowline Bull, Herd Sire

Lowline Angus Beef, full-bodied, grass-based genetics

We are working on returning to the “grass genetics” that allow livestock to thrive on their historically natural forage.  We use DNA testing to identify markers for food efficiency, as well as observation.  You can have two cows, eating from the same pasture.  One will be fat and the other will look scrawny.  The fat one is better at converting her food to meet her needs AND build a reserve. She is a survivor, and it will cost less to support her.  Her’s are the genes we want in our pool.  As long as she has a good temperament. Temperament trumps… be nice or you are off to freezer camp!

In nature, it make take years for those poor survival genes to be weeded out.  In our herd, we cull those animals and don’t allow them in our gene pool.  We have very mellow animals that are generally easy to work with.

Jim tells the interns, “Cows are really a lot like women! They cycle every 21 days, they get bitchy and they get lovey-dovey.” And it is actually true.  One cow will start licking another, and nuzzling, comforting her. You know she is getting ready to ovulate.  Another cow may bawl and bellow all day.. she is really ready to ovulate. Interns have to learn to watch for standing mount. When a cow allows another cow to mount her, without moving away, we know she is ready to breed! (i.e. she will ovulate within 12 hours).

If you know your cows you can figure out what is going on.  We have to identify when they ovulate so that we can do our intervention (A.I. or embryo transfer), or just mark down on the calendar so we know when to expect a calf if she has been exposed to a bull.  Our goal is to get a bull  & cows, who carry the DNA markers we want to encourage, and then eliminate the need for AI or ET. But at this point the numbers are still small.

The current success rate in embryo transfers, in the industrial cattle industry, is 30-40 %.

Our success rate is close to 90%!

We do NOT use hormone injections or patches to bring on a cow’s cycle. Instead we watch for her natural cycle and work with her.   Of course it helps to have a top-notch vet versed in the skills needed. And we pay close attention to the cows diet.  We add kelp meal, selenium, and diatomaceous earth for the micro-nutrients she may need.

We follow our beef cows, our dairy cows, pigs, and poultry.  The goal is to understand the natural behaviors and work with them to breed stock that can survive in the real world.

Such show-off, our tom turkeys

Heritage Bronze Turkey Toms strutting

I was shocked to hear that the turkey one buys in the store… are so large breasted that they can NO LONGER reproduce on their own.  They must be AI’ed to reproduce.  That, to me, is a very precarious situation.  We use A.I. but our goal is to NOT need it. Our heritage turkeys are quite capable of doing their “job”!

I’m reminded of the story of the special dairy cows in Cuba.  There was a line of dairy cows that were so productive that all the dairies used them.  The problem was… when they no longer had access to the special diet that was needed to produce those prodigious amounts of milk, they were in big trouble.  Besides no longer producing volumes of milk, they could NOT even survive. Not on pasture alone.  That line died out.

We were asked to provide vacation backup for some friends; to milk their daughter’s blue ribbon milking goats.  What struck me as terribly funny (funny sad)… when we milked the goats, we had to pasteurize the milk before we could give it by bottle, to the kids the mother goat had given birth to.  The line was so inbred that an organism was in the milk which could damage the babies if they drank milk straight from the mother.

Our farm is focused on the sustainable. It’s a pretty precarious situation to get into if you make yourself dependent on livestock that can’t survive in the real world

When the price for oil shoots up, the agriculture prices supported by oil must increase.  What happens to the price of food?  We’re working to unhook from that price lock.

Beef has gone up 17% in the last two years, and looks to go higher in the coming years.  The beef herds are the smallest they have been since the 1950’s. Between the price of feed and the lack of water, cattlemen have been unable to support their herds and have reduced their stock.  Our Lowlines don’t need feed (grain), they flourish on forage/grass.

So interns come to our farm and learn about the economics of livestock management… at least on a small family farm. Included in that is learning about the sex life of cows… and most importantly, how to talk about it!

another Lowline Bull

Another Herd Sire

Fresh Eggs, European style

In La Jolla, San Diego (yuppie-ville to the MAX), at the hugely popular farmer’s market, I made the mistake of asking the gentleman who was selling farm eggs, if they had been refrigerated.

Several Hens use the same nest

He lit into me,“You crazy americans, why do you want to refrigerate your eggs! We NEVER do.”

After a minute or so of this tirade he wound down, and I said to him, “I just wanted to make sure they had NOT been chilled”.  His feathers no longer ruffled, we exchanged dollars for eggs and I went on my way… amused that he was so fanatical about the issue, but understanding totally where he was coming from.

It’s amazing that all of Europe is not dead or dying considering they consume raw milk and eat eggs that have NOT been refrigerated. And eat fresh veggies and meat that don’t have a USDA approved stamp on them. OMG, don’t they understand how dangerous they are living.. .

uh, wait… I think,.. yes, didn’t I just hear… now… they live longer… and healthier than us americans. With much lower obesity rates, heart disease, or diabetes. What are they doing different? How can that possibly be?

But back to the eggs…

Obviously 100 years ago they did not put eggs in the fridge.  What changed? Why were eggs suddenly going “bad” if they were not retrieved twice a day and immediately washed and put in the fridge?

A little biology… eggs stay fresh enough kept at room temperature (warmer and cooler than that actually) for a minimum of two weeks and probably longer than that.  At least fresh enough for a broody hen to collect her eggs (i.e. lay them) over a two-week period, and THEN start to “set” on them.

Chicks hatching over two days

They are fresh enough to develop into quite healthy little chicks. I’ve actually seen them do that! Just amazing.

After two whole weeks, without being washed or put in the fridge!

When an egg is laid it has a coating called “the bloom” which is anti-bacterial in nature, and helps protect the future embryo.

When we collect the egg and wash it, we actually remove that protective layer.

Eggs are then placed, in the industrial industry, in a fridge because now the egg DOES need to be protected…  and chilling it prevents bacterial growth.

Eggs are an excellent media for bacterial growth… they use them to grow vaccines, etc., in the medical world.  If eggs are washed they are at risk of being infected with bacteria. Hot water, opens the pores the of egg… and each egg has 3-6,000 pores that enable a chick to exchange O2 & CO2 while it is developing. Those pores now become “freeway systems”.

And what does putting the eggs in the fridge do, washed or not washed? The egg is chilled and when taken out of the fridge moisture condenses on the shell (basic physics here). That moisture can conduct bacteria.

Salmonella bacteria endemic in the commercial populations

Commercial eggs, even so-called free-range, cage-free, pastured (those descriptions have been

Cage-Free Hens, commercial style

pretty much co-opted by the egg industry) are raised in huge numbers (up to 20,000 hens in a laying house). They are collected, washed, packed, and chilled to go to market. Commercial eggs are fighting an ongoing battle with Salmonella while getting their eggs to market.  Markets that can be hundreds of miles away… and if the trucks were NOT refrigerated, the temps in the summer could get very, very high. High enough, long enough, to trigger the deterioration of the egg itself, or incubate bacterial growth.

I can’t imagine the industrial costs to do all this… a refrigerated truck? But they MUST do it, because the risks are so high.

Farms that have 50,000 thousand laying hens (yes, 50,000 or MORE) must follow specific rules to decrease the risk of Salmonella bacteria, in their eggs. Some 600 hundred farms were to be inspected in 2010-11 . Salmonella is endemic in the commercial egg production population. Egg products (yolk, white, etc), with the shell removed, must be pasteurized. Some large  egg producers are fighting the salmonella problem by pasteurizing ALL their eggs (shell & all).

You should NEVER eat commercial eggs unless they have been well cooked, to protect your family. My mother would get sick even if the eggs were cooked… G.I. upset every time.  We finally figured out she could eat real farm eggs without any problems.  Every time she came to my house, she could eat the eggs, without later running to the ladies’ room.

Down on the Farm

What do I do if I get an egg with “stuff on the shell”? I wipe it off gently.

If it’s totally yucky I wipe if off with a damp room temperature dishcloth, and use it ASAP. If I’m really short on eggs (think winter)… those eggs I might put in the fridge and use them immediately, when I take them out.  I would NOT take a whole carton of eggs out, put them on the counter for a while, and then put them BACK into the fridge. Not if that protective bloom has been removed.

Actually, in my setup for the most part, the eggs would go into the pig bucket because they are extremely high in nutrition and are prized for the food value they give our pigs.

 At our house, we keep things pretty basic.  Eggs are collected, kept at room temp, dusted off but generally NOT washed. Any suspect eggs (very dirty or cracked) go to our pigs. NO WASTE, I just love it!

Teaching the chicks, finding food!

Our hens also get their real diet…. i.e. NOT vegetarian.  They run around freely, for the most part (to the dismay of a neighbor occasionally) and eat bugs, worms, etc. as well as a layer feed. They choose. We do protect garden areas, or a neighbor, by putting up an electric net that encourages them to go elsewhere.  They could jump the fence if they wanted to, but for the most part choose to meander where it’s easy to go.

Backyard Chickens are the way to go!

I encourage everyone, raise your own hens! They are great waste disposals; eat just about everything, give you fertilizer and eggs. You don’t have to have a rooster (hens still lay, just the eggs won’t hatch!). Put down a bed of straw to absorb any odors. It makes a great garden amendment when it breaks down, along with the fertilizer  mixed in, from the hens.

If a hen goes broody, let her set on her infertile eggs and after a couple of weeks trade them out. At night, slip some chicks from the local feed store, under her and let her raise them up. GREAT entertainment and fun for kids, dads, moms, & neighbors.

It’s incredible how good fresh eggs are… commercial eggs are  a bland watery substitute for real food. Can’t raise your own… seek out a local farmer who is and support them.  You will get much more for your food dollars, I assure you!

Update: Turkey & the Hen, pt 2

I’ll be dang.  That turkey Hen, after a full week, is still sitting on her eggs*. I say her (almost) eggs because we actually put her eggs under the hen, and gave her fresh chicken eggs to sit on.  If she was gonna run off and visit the “guys” I wanted to be able to save her chicks.  Chicken chicks are pretty easy for us to get, but not turkey chicks, so if we lost  her “chicken eggs” it was not quite a disaster for us.

But, she is finally hanging in there.  I peek in every day (sometimes twice) just to make sure… and she just looks at me. Doesn’t get flustered at all.  The hen gets pretty grouchy at me if I try to check her eggs. She rustles up her neck feathers and tries to peck me if I get to close.  She’s definitely into protecting her (turkey) eggs. Her eggs were actually moved to the incubator, along with some turkey eggs as there were too many eggs for her to sit on.

The Alternate Surrogate – an incubator!

A couple of days ago we had a surprise in the incubator, the hen’s eggs are starting to hatch!  A constant churp-churp-churp alerted us to a hatching chick.

We’ve been struggling a bit with the incubator, at the start, to make sure we had the temp in the right range… 99-100 degrees F, so I was SURE we had killed off the developing chicks. Nope, tough little guys.  It turns out they can tolerate short periods of temps down to 90 degrees for hours. It may slow the hatch but high temps (103  F) for even 30 min, will kill the embryo.

Temp & Humidity Levels

We bought an instant read digital thermometer with a probe that went into the incubator.  It would give us the internal temp and the humidity level.  Things you need to know… and difficult to actually find out WITHOUT opening the top of our little incubator. Every time you remove the top you alter the very things you are trying to keep stable.

The little funnel you see in the top of the lid gives us access to putting water inside to increase the humidity level WITHOUT opening up the unit. The humidity inside the unit needs to be in the 55-65% range or else the growing embryo’s get too dry and stick to the membrane inside the egg.

We use an automatic turner in our forced air incubator. The mother hen normally turns the eggs multiple times a day, to keep the embryo from “sticking” to the internal membrane. If the eggs are NOT turned consistently you end up with a very poor hatch rate. Years ago we started out turning them manually but as soon as we could afford to add the “turner” we did. You are supposed to stop turning the eggs for the last three days, but out little hatchling did just fine.

Automatic Turner w/eggs

You can see the chicken and turkey eggs (light speckled eggs). They are placed in the slot with the large rounded end up.

There is an air pocket inside the egg as well as the yolk, the clear ‘white”, and the embryo surrounded by a white layer. Did you know that the yolk is NOT the chick? It is the food the chick will use while it is developing. Just before it actually hatches, it draws the rest of the yolk sack into its gut, and uses it for food, for the first couple of days, after it is hatched.

Chicks do not need food or water the first two days, which allows them to be shipped all over the country, from hatcheries. They draw on the yolk reserves for their energy needs.  Now, of course nature did not design this process for OUR use… so why does it work that way?

People are often astounded when I tell them that Hen’s do NOT sit on their eggs right away. But instead, lay eggs for up to 1-2 weeks before sitting.

Think about it.  A hen, at most, lays one egg a day. If it takes 21 days to hatch a chick, and she was sitting on 10 eggs, starting from the day she laid the egg, she would have chicks born over 1-2 weeks.  How could she keep her unborn chicks warm AND take care of her new chicks.

Momma Hen with her new chicks

Actually, she lays a clutch of eggs over a couple of weeks, and THEN she sets.  That way all the eggs are “warmed up” beginning at the same time.

They generally hatch over a two-day period (maybe some were at the outer edge and weren’t quite as warm so the hatch is slightly delayed).

As the chicks begin to hatch they stay under mom to keep warm.  After two full days she will then leave the nest. Any eggs that have not hatched, are left.  It’s time for mom to take care of her new hatchlings. The oldest chicks have two days food supply on reserve but after that mom needs to show them how to scratch and eat/drink.

So, contrary to public opinion, eggs do NOT have to be kept refrigerated to be fresh. If an egg can sit in a nest for two weeks and still be “fresh” enough for mom to set … and hatch out a clutch, I bet they are still good eggs.

In Europe, it is unheard of to put eggs in the refrigerator… you must WARN people, by law, if you do that.

What’s the deal?  I’ll address those issues in my NEXT post!

‘Nipped’ Sweet Potato Crop!

Here is an excellent post from another blog: The Dirt Doctor!

Please do share the info.

The Dangers of Bud Nip in a Compact Sweet Potato Project

by Emylisa Warrick 

The dangers of bud nip, a chemical herbicide also known as Chlorpropham, become clear in a simple yet illuminating message from a young lady named Elise. In the video, Elise is nervous and sweet as she tries to remember her lines and looks down at her cue cards to explain her “Potato Project.” 

With the help of her grandma, Elise buys a sweet potato from three different sources: one from the grocery store, one “organically” labeled from the same grocery store, and one from Roots, a certified organic food market. Each sweet potato is placed in a glass of water in order to track its cultivation of vine sprouts and growth.

The first sweet potato, the one from the grocery store, does not sprout any vines after three weeks. The second one sprouts a “wimpy, little vine” after over a month. The third sweet potato, the one bought from Roots, flourishes with cascading, healthy green sweet potato vines after just one week.

What seems like an innocent fourth-grade science project is actually an informative and effective account of the effects of a commonly used chemical herbicide called “bud nip.” The produce man at the grocery store informs Elise that the first potato won’t sprout any sweet potato vines because it has been sprayed with bud nip.

According to the Pesticide Action Network, the dangers of bud nip include toxicity to amphibians and honeybees, important pollinators of crops we eat every day. Bud nip can be found on potatoes, kale, peaches, broccoli and other common fruits and vegetables.

Find out what other foods have chlorpropham here.

Elise’s sweet potato project is a subtle, but insistent reminder that bud nip and other chemical herbicides harm us as well as the world around us. In her words, “Which potato would you rather eat?”

 If you have any questions on this newsletter or any other topic, tune in Sunday 8am -11am CST to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. The phone number for the show is 1-866-444-3478. Listen on the internet or find a station in your area.

Shop in the Green Living Store for all of the products I recommend in the Organic Program. Products are also available in the Dirt Doctor’s Corner of your favorite Garden Center.

Please share this newsletter with everyone in your address book and all your friends on Facebook and Twitter to help me spread the word on organics.

Naturally yours, Howard Garrett

P.S. Start 2012 with the resolution of healthy eating and living with a membership to the Organic Club of America! Memberships are also great gifts.

Members can log in on Sunday mornings to see the Dirt Doctor’s Live Broadcast.

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