The power of knowledge

I was reading a blog post by Diana Rodgers recently, and she brought out some great points.

Diana focused on three foods we, as Americans, commonly eat, and the ugly reality behind their production.

They were bananas, coffee, and chocolate, all of which I really enjoy.

In this country, we enjoy laws and regulations (still have a long ways to go) that have improved the health of our environment, and simultaneously, us humans.

This phenomenon has fostered an uneven global playing field.  Large companies often exploit the people and environment of other countries, who's administrations aren't so conscientious, before importing product to the USA.  

All in the name of "lowest prices/largest profits" which is the reason your cheapest options are often a poor choice.

When you buy imported food items, do your homework.

It's super important to know where our food comes from and how it was raised, because our money ultimately supports every institution factored in producing what we're buying.

Here's why bananas, chocolate, and coffee should be carefully purchased.

Cavendish bananas (most popular variety by far) are heavily sprayed with chemicals that have been outlawed in the USA and other countries due to environmental concerns and public health and safety.  Children are often a part of the workforce and become exposed to these harsh chemicals at critical developmental stages in their lives.

Many coffee farmers these days are having a difficult time making a living and providing for their families.  In Africa, farmers are destroying coffee plants and raising Khat, an illegal drug that makes better money.

Cacao plantations in western Africa commonly use child slaves to harvest the beans up in trees.  60% of them, Diana says, are under the age 14 and working 12 hour days.

To conclude, please seriously consider what you are buying and who you are supporting.  Research name brands and willingly spend a little extra to support those companies who are doing what their best to be socially just and environmentally conscious.

This is one of the very reasons I love raising my own food, I know it's safe.  The fact that it tastes awesome is the icing on the cake.

Hey, Mr. Poultry Guy, what about turkeys this year?

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is, we will have turkeys available this year fresh for Thanksgiving dinner.

The bad news is I'm not raising them.

I decided this year that I simply can't take the time for them since I ordered another batch of chickens.

So who is raising them you ask?

Vaughn, Allison's Dad.

This is only bad news because, I'm exceptionally picky about how my animals are brought up, and I feel that my methods are superior to everybody else's.  It's the little things.

Vaughn has three hundred (more or less) conventional white turkeys right now.  He feeds them alfalfa hay and a grain ration along with grit.

The part I find most regrettable is that he doesn't have time and resources to get them out on fresh green forage.  This is made up in a small way by the alfalfa portion of their diet, but still falls short of desirable.

So here's some more good news.  This turkey will still be better than any turkey you can find at Cobourns or Wal-mart.  

Why?

Because they will be slaughtered safely and cleanly by people who care about you.  They have the opportunity to roam the outdoors, though limited.  And lastly, you will support a business that will do it properly next year.

I promise.

Please remember, I'm just getting this thing rolling. It'll take some time to iron out all the little details and get it perfect. 

Are you with me?

Then order a turkey! :-D

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Sad news with a thankful twist

Perhaps you noticed, I missed my every other week blog/email.

I got the text Thursday morning, the 7th of this month.  Grandma passed away.

Last weekend was spent with friends and family grieving our loss rather than keeping my writing schedule.

She had been diagnosed with cancer and battled for just over a year.  I'm thankful that she can rest now.  

Perhaps even slightly envious that she has won the race and received her reward.  I look forward to that day too.

We left that morning after finding out, and finished the 12.5 hour trip by 9:30 p.m.  Elias fully surpassed all my expectations, he rode nearly without complaint the entire way.  

As long as his belly was full and his diaper relatively fresh anyhow.

 

My last 5 years at home in IL were spent right next door to grandpa and grandma, I feel very connected to them.

Those old folks made my day better every time I visited them.

Once I moved away, I gave grandma a call every two or three weeks just to keep in touch.

Grandma was the second one I called, after my Mom, when Allison and I began dating.  I wanted her to know all about it directly from me.

I'm very happy that we got to visit her one last time in July, she wanted to see her little great grand baby again so badly.

 

My grandparents had been married for over 50 years.  That's an accomplishment.  

I just hope to carry on the torch of love for God and humankind that she bore so faithfully through the years.

 

I'm going to miss that lady, she was the best.

Training Pigs to Perform Community Service

Ok, ok, "training pigs" suggests that I painstakingly spent hours and hours on this little project.

In reality, it was quite easy and required little time as a "trainer" and more time as a servant/slave.  Also known as everyday livestock husbandry.

I work in the same place 5-6 days a week, almost always traveling the same exact road.  I'm a very observant pilot, much to the chagrin of my wife.

Evidently, me hitting the rumble strip multiple times while ogling bulldozers, dump trucks, and excavators is "stressful" for her.

That being said, on my way to work I noticed a front yard with 3 loaded apple trees just beginning to unload the season's bounty.

On my way home I stopped and asked the lady of the house if I could harvest her fallen apples every two-three days.

She said that was okay but the apples didn't taste all that great and had all sorts of worm holes.  I told her my pigs didn't care, and proceeded to glean her yard of every last apple.

I brought my load home, dumped it to the pigs, and was immediately rewarded with crunching apple noises and delighted grunting.

So, my apple tree owner is happy to have a clean yard, I'm happy to feed my pigs, and my pigs are happy to eat plenty of apples.  

Triple win for community building experience initiated by swine!

Summer Grilling

When it comes to everyday cooking, I like to keep things simple.

Grilled chicken is easily one of my favorite dishes (along with almost anything grilled).

One of the biggest issues I ran into was thoroughly cooking the meat, yet still keeping it moist and succulent.  The varying thicknesses of chicken parts make it something of a challenge.

Also, since I have a charcoal grill, my temperatures and conditions are harder to control. This makes grilling even more of an art!

My Mom taught me a trick that has made juicy, awesome, amazing grilled chicken simple and easy.  Parboiling!

Once my chicken is all cut up, I get some water boiling and then throw it in for 3-5 minutes.

When my grill is hot, I simply put the chicken on until it's nicely browned and ready for eating.

This way, most of the cooking is done in a controlled environment that's easy to manage, and then I grill the chicken for a short time to get the amazing flavor!

Be sure to take small parts like wings off of the grill sooner than thicker parts like thighs, they cook through much faster.

You know you did it right when the meat right next to a leg or thigh bone, in the thickest part, is white and firm vs. pinkish and raw looking.

Lastly, if you like BBQ chicken like me, have a bowl of your favorite sauce with a brush sitting by the grill.  

When the chicken is pretty much done, paint the BBQ on each piece and let it grill for 30-45 seconds each side.  This caramelizes the sauce and concentrates the flavors.  If you leave it longer, the BBQ begins charring quickly.

I prefer grilling Forager chickens because they have longer, slimmer muscle conformation that lends itself to proper cooking.

I hope you find this little write up helpful!  If you have questions about cooking chicken in any way Email me!

Flavor Vs. Production

As you most likely know, I offer two breeds of chicken.  The Broad Breasted and the Forager.

It's been something of a test run these last two years, because I had never raised the Forager type before.

With more knowledge on how the two differ in growth and meat quality, I'm beginning to draw a few conclusions.

1) F chickens take 4-5 weeks longer to reach the same weight as the BB chickens.

That comes out to 22 extra hours of labor.  another difference is that my BB chickens have a significantly leaner carcass at the same weight.

2) F chickens taste better than BB chickens

Allison and I have noticed that there is simply more wholesome and hearty chicken flavor in F meat.

3) F Chickens are harder to butcher than BB chickens

F chickens are harder to open up, remove intestines, and de-feather.  They are put together stronger than BB chickens.  This point matters big time when there are 50+ birds to do that day.

I have one last detail to figure out, feed conversion of the F vs. BB.  I believe that the F chicken eats more to achieve the same weight as the BB, but I have yet to assemble the numbers.

Considering all the above, I may have to raise my Forager chicken prices next year.  They take longer to grow, are harder to butcher, and I think they eat more feed in the process.

My Key to Daily Stress Relief

These days, I typically work 10 hours in/around a steel building with concrete floors and fluorescent lighting.  The environment is very industrial and, in a word, artificial.

When I walk in the door at 6 in the evening, Eli has a big smile with his little hands extended to me, all ready to go outside.

Allison and I now find it necessary to spell o-u-t-s-i-d-e in front of him, otherwise he gets disappointed if I'm not actually taking him out at that point.

The first thing I have to accomplish before chicken and pig chores with my little buddy, is to slip out of my steel toe boots, remove my socks, and roll my pants up twice.

There's something very good for my soul in placing my bare soles directly on soil and plant life.

It's a grounding experience that leaves me feeling relieved of the stress and discomfort of my artificial work setting.

All the way up until I step on a sharp stalk, or a thorn, this typically increases my stress and discomfort, so I take steps cautiously.

I place Elias in his stroller, fill my buckets with water, and make the trip to my little chicks.

Once my chicks are watered and moved to fresh grass, we head over to the pig pen and fill the mud hole and watering tub too.

By this time, Allison typically has the house smelling wonderful with a home cooked meal, so we head back inside to fill our own bellies.

This life of mine has just about everything I have ever desired.  Through the blessing of the Good Lord, Allison and I have established a wonderful little home here on the South Dakota plains.

Occasional Dose of the Difference

Many people I have talked to, in an attempt to build relationships and sell chickens, find the idea that all food is created unequal is a foreign concept.

Today's modern agricultural world has selected genetics that grow the most the fastest, and they've excelled in their purpose.

As always, when taking paths we've never been down before, we discover the unintended consequences of our actions in time.  

It's impossible for us to predict the many outcomes when everything is connected in ways we're ignorant of.

Now, for my story!

Last year, we grew a heritage breed of butternut squash in our garden.  Our plants didn't produce large quantities, but the squash that we did get were admirable.

These pictures were taken in May 2017, a good 7-8 months after coming out of the garden.  They sat on a shelf in our kitchen for that period of time.

At the same time, we had a pile of 20+ conventional butternuts, from a colony nearby, that we kept in a cool room.  

By February, they were all completely rotten and good only for the chickens.

I have learned that the nutritional properties of meats, fruits, and veggies dictate how long the item stays good for consumption.

High nutritional value means that your food will stay good much longer before it rots if it even rots at all.

So, for the unintended consequence, vast quantities of production in this case means poor shelf life and lesser nutrition.

I believe the same can be found with nearly all foods that are raised with the goal of producing the most the fastest.