Seriously, what is Bob Stallman smoking?

Bob Stallman American Farm Bureau Federation

I'm not yet a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation and have never met Bob Stallman.   I sincerely doubt he smokes anything.  But....

 

What makes me nuts is extremism on any front.  What's so dangerous about special interests is the simple fact that they have to support EVERY position related to the financial benefits or their constituents, even at the expense of society as a whole.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA recently suggested a proposal regarding waterways & pollution as it relates to their authority to consider.

 

Here is what Bob had to say about the new EPA Water Rule proposal.  (read the proposal here...)

 

“Last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation carefully reviewed EPA’s March 25 release of the ‘waters of the U.S.’ proposed rule. The results of our review are dismaying.

“The EPA proposal poses a serious threat to farmers, ranchers and other landowners. Under EPA’s proposed new rule, waters – even ditches – are regulated even if they are miles from the nearest ‘navigable’ waters. Indeed, so-called ‘waters’ are regulated even if they aren’t wet most of the time. EPA says its new rule will reduce uncertainty, and that much seems to be true: there isn’t much uncertainty if most every feature where water flows or stands after a rainfall is federally regulated.

 

Bob's statement goes on, and you can read the entire statement here.  One of the first things you should also notice is that they don't include a link to the new rule...just like a nice big brother....."We'll tell you how to think".   

 

I'm a farmer,  I farm downstream from a Confined Hog Feeding Operation and I know my neighbor is a good guy and a good farmer who does the best he can given his situation.  

 

On this farm of ours that borders his, we also have several seasonal creeks.  We have lots of ditches and seasonal creeks on our property that all flow into Dilly Creek which is a major year-around creek in our county.  Dilly flows into the Big Blue River which flows to the White River and then the Wabash River and on into the Ohio and then the Mississippi and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.  

 

You can see it all here....start with Hancock County (just east of Marion county).   Keep in mind that the Wabash is recognized to have a significant pollution problem from various farm runoff sources.

 

River Map of Indiana

 

 

Here is an overview of one of our farms.   Note: this is just one farm out of hundreds in Indiana that comprise the watershed of the Wabash.   The Wabash is just one small river that comprises the watershed of the Ohio.  The Ohio is just one River that comprises the watershed of the Mississippi.

 

Tyner Pond Farm  Tyner Woods Watershed

 

 

Now let me share a slide from a presentation from Purdue University this winter.   This isn't some radical anti-ag organization, this is official Purdue research....

 

The subject was grazing and an argument to keep grass long to prevent soil and fertilizer runoff.  Note what happens with short grass.  Imagine what happens with bare ground...

 

What water runnoff looks like

 

So....my point here is expressed in the following photos I took the other day of all of the creeks & seasonal ditches on our farm.   I'll let them speak for themselves and ask a reasonable question:   Should people upstream be able to dump whatever they like into these things because they don't flow year around?   Would any reasonable person suggest that whatever was in the soil around these drainages isn't finding it's way into your drinking water?

 

Crop runoff

 

spring runnoff of crop residue

 

EPA water rule images

 

 

Water Pollution from Farms

 

 

So what do YOU think?  Since we live in a free market democracy you have the opportunity to comment on this.  Just review all the facts & data and submit your comments here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feeding Our Pigs Has Me Rethinking "You Are What You Eat"...Literally

Wow. Having pigs--or should I say, feeding pigs?--has really got me thinking about that saying "You are what you eat" because I'm realizing what they eat now, we will eat later

 

This isn't the first time we've done pasture raised meat. We've raised our own meat chickens and turkeys for a few years now. And I never thought about what we fed them, not really. Being pasture raised, they free range so a lot of what they eat is whatever bugs they find or grass they graze on. They also get apples from our orchard in the fall and any stale bread or leftover pasta...but all of that is stuff I'd feed my family anyway. The only thing they eat that I didn't ever check out or think about is the Flock Raiser poultry food they have available to them at all times. 

 

But even though they're also pasture raised meat, there's something different about the pigs, knowing that two of the three will be slaughtered to provide meat for our family and friends. I don't know if it's because it's more meat than we get from a chicken (about 160 pounds vs. 6 pounds), or because we have to feed the piglets three times a day, unlike the poultry that can fend for itself most of the time, but I see what we feed the pigs on a whole new way. 

 

And I don't want to feed them anything I wouldn't want to eat. Period. 

 

Yet feed them we must! They are outside and rooting and eating what's left of the grass they haven't dug up yet, but they need more calories than that. They're going to go from 20 pounds to about 300 pounds in a year. They're going to need some serious calories! 

 

In the two weeks we've had them, they've had barley, oats and potatoes. The potatoes are discards we got from a local farmer. I have to them up and cook them, but they're organic and the piglets eat them (as long as potatoes are the only choice, no oats or barley mixed in). More importantly, I'd eat those potatoes! 

 

I realize now that everything they're fed will need to be something  I'd eat...because I will eat what they eat a year from now when they are ham and bacon and pork tenderloin. 

 

And it's not just about what they eat but how too. After reading a frightening article on chemicals in the home this weekend, I realized just how much plastic is in our kitchen and used as food containers. 

 

I also realized the pigs are eating and drinking out of plastic bowls too. 

 

If I'm going to keep my family's food free of plastic, I'd better start shopping for metal pig feeders and waterers too! 

 

Now, my concern is obviously not shared by everyone, especially not those who raise pigs for cheap meat using industrial ag methods. No, they have no problem feeding pigs potato chips, it turns out! (That's a real article, by the way, about feeding potato chips to factory farmed hogs rather than corn because the potato chips are cheaper. At first I thought it was an April Fool's Day joke, but nope, it has a December publication date!) For me, if I don't want my family chowing down on BBQ flavored potato chips, I sure as heck don't want their future pork chops eating that junk food either! 

 

But that's why it's imperative to feed your family pasture raised meat from a sustainable small farm like Tyner Pond Farm! I'm not saying every local farmer is as concerned about a pig's diet as you are, but at least buying local means you can visit a farm and see for yourself the conditions and the feed! Plus you can look at that farmer in the eye and ask your questions outright. 

                                                           

 

With every passing day I become more and more convinced that the drastic change to our food "system" back in the 1950s and 1960s has been nothing but detrimental to our health, our environment and our farmers. Rethinking "you are what you eat" basically sums up the whole dang mess for me. 

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken Noodle Soup Using Pasture Raised Chickens

slow cooker recipe chicken noodle soup using range free chickensMaking chicken noodle soup isn't hard, and there are several ways to go about it, all easy. (Check out Chris' chicken noodle soup recipe here.) But I wanted to change things up a bit and try it in the slow cooker, because I NEED more slow cooker recipes and I have lots of meat from our range free chickens in the freezer. 

 

Now, the first time I did this, I was going to be home from work right when we needed to eat dinner, so I wasn't going to be able to add the pasta for only the last hour. Therefore, I added the pasta that morning to cook all day and I'm here to tell you: DON'T DO THAT! Ugh, it was a soggy MESS. My husband and I ate the soup anyway, but not Miss Picky Eater, no way, no how. 

 

So today being a day when I was supposed to be in my office all day, I tried again...but sans the pasta. (As it turns out, I never made it to the office because Miss Picky Eater is sick in bed and the new piglets were loose this morning, getting my day off to a rocky start.) I added the pasta for the last hour and turned the heat on high and that worked, but be forewarned: The pasta is unforgiving! An hour was perfect, but the extra 15 minutes that it took to set the table and gather up the family meant soggy pasta. Just take that into account.

 

Slow Cooker Recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup Using Free Range Chickens

2 c cooked chicken meat from pasture raised chickens
5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp celery seed
2 bay leaves
Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 c dried pasta like bows or macaroni

 

Put all ingredients EXCEPT pasta and salt into slow cooker, and cook on low for 8 hours. Taste for salt and add if needed (this depends on your chicken stock). Then add pasta and turn slow cooker up to high for 1 hour. The pasta is unforgiving, so eat it right away.

 

If you won't be home to add the pasta, and dinner needs to happen as soon as you walk in the door at the end of the day, meaning you don't have the hour for the pasta, maybe one of the kids or your spouse can add it? Unless you like soggy messes--in that case, add the pasta in the morning. :-)

 

And if you need some range free chickens on hand so you can make this for dinner, you know where to go: Tyner Pond Farm!! 

                                                            

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"Meet the Berkshire Pigs!" Connecting Kids With Real and Local Food

Berkshire pigs turned out on to grass for the first timeI bought our first three Berkshire pigs while our teenage daughter was gone, and when she got home late that night, she wanted to get her rubber boots on and hightail it out to the barn first thing to see the piglets, which we did. Next day I find out three separate friends have texted her asking if they can come over Friday night to see the pigs. 

 

I love it! 

 

These aren't vegetarians, these kids. They come from meat eating families, and I'm pretty sure it's not locally raised meat they're eating. And despite our living in a small rural community, I'm thinking these kids are all townies, because otherwise the baby Berkshire pigs wouldn't be a big deal. 

 

But it is a big deal and I love it because this is EXACTLY what needs to happen: People need to reconnect to their food! Americans need to know where their food comes from and how it was raised. They need to know their farmers and ranchers and dairymen and cheese makers. They need to know how to cook! And most of all, they need to value food...which can only happen when they are connected to it. 

 

I've about given up on changing grownups. Somedays I wake up and feel too tired to try and change the world, because so few people listen. It's like what Chris just asked about how Tyson can get such a crappy score on their chicken meat and their stock still goes up, while a car manufacturer can get a crappy score and watch their stock plummet. Why? Because people don't want to think about their food, how it's raised, or that it might be full of bad bacteria and strong antibiotics. 

 

But the children, the children can still learn and change their way of thinking. They can still learn to value food. They can connect with their food in a way their parents can't (and won't?). 

 

So I hope we do get a small crowd out to our small farm on Friday evening checking out our new Berkshire pigs. And every single one of those kids will walk away knowing that someday those Berkshire pigs will be Berkshire pork...very tasty Berkshire pork. And I bet you it won't phase them a bit, and they'll look at bacon and pork in a whole new light from then on. 

 

P.S. That picture shows the Berkshire pigs the day we moved them from a pen in the barn out to grass. Can you say "happy as pigs in mud"?? 

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You Are What You Eat...So Eat Pasture Raised Pork!

organic free range pork digging in the grassWe bought our brand new Berkshire piglets from a young couple that recently got into the Berkshire pig breed. They were very nice and helpful, and boy, did they get me thinking about food...pig food, that is. 

 

This couple farms 500 acres raising non-GMO oats and barley. The pigs had only eaten non-GMO barley after being weaned, and they sent me home with about 50 pounds of the stuff which we are quickly going through. 

 

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I hadn't really thought through what we'd feed these Berkshire pigs. I mean, I knew we wanted to raise organic free range pork, but I hadn't thought through what that would mean. For some reason, raising pork has me much more aware of the animal's diet than raising meat chickens and turkeys ever did. I'm not sure why. Maybe because there is more meat involved in raising pork than chickens? 

organic free range pork piglets in barn before going out to pasture

 

I think I also assumed that raising pastured pigs meant food wouldn't be much of an issue because they'd be feeding themselves, much like our range free chickens do: They have feed in the chicken coop, but they hardly eat it if they weather is nice and they can forage and scratch for themselves. (In fact, you can tell if the weather has been nice or nasty by how fast the level of feed goes down in their hanging feeder!)

 

The day after we brought the pigs home, I went to the feed store and looked around at what gets sold as "pig feed" there. I looked at it all through the filter of, "Would I eat that?" and the answer was "no." Now I get it: If I'm going to eat organic free range pork which is the reason we bought these pigs, then I only want to feed the pigs what I would be willing to eat myself. 

 

I don't think the farmers raising commodity hogs for cheap bacon have that same attitude about what they feed THEIR pigs. 

 

That's why it's so important to buy your meat from local producers you know and trust, like Tyner Pond Farm! You can visit Tyner Pond Farm any time and see EXACTLY how the animals are raised and what they eat. You can see that the pigs are free to roam around and root and live natural lives. And then you can buy some of that pasture raised pork and know that you're eating something that was not only raised in a natural, safe and humane way, but tastes damn good too!!

                                                        buy pasture raised pork from Tyner Pond Farm 

 

 

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Turn Those Berkshire Pigs Out to Pasture, and Never Eat Factory Farmed Again!

pasture raised pork--Berkshire pigs turned out to grassYesterday we moved our new Berkshire pigs from the barn (where they spent the first three days with us) to an area of the garden we want tilled up. (OK, it's not garden YET but it's intended to be garden.) 

 

They aren't exactly tame, so it's not as if they'll come running and let you pick them up. Which is fine. They're not pets, after all. But that means they squeal like crazy when you do catch them and pick them up, which is what we did to move them from barn to pasture. And I don't mean a little squeal. I'm talking an obnoxious, deafening, almost blood-curdling squeal. (I can't believe no neighbors showed up. We live in a valley in which noise travels faaaarrrr...you can hear the neighbors WAY down the road arguing when conditions are just right.) 

 

So I felt bad scaring them as we carried the first one from barn to pasture, but I didn't need to. No sooner did that little Berkshire bugger's feet touch the ground, than he was nose deep into the mud and snuffling with delight. It was like an on/off switch. As soon as we put him down on the grass, his anxiety turned off. Completely. The same happened with the runt. And then the one we are keeping to breed who unfortunately has a very disagreeable temperament, omigosh she squealed loud and long enough to break open the sky, I swear! But same thing: As soon as her little piggy feet touched ground, she stopped and went straight to work. 

 

See how the runt is nose deep in the mud? That's how they've been. You can't even get a photo of a pig face, because they are constantly rooting. 

 

On the one hand, this scene made me smile, to see their boundless joy in doing what pigs do, and knowing this is how ALL pasture raised pork gets to live. On the other hand, it made me incredibly sad, thinking about the millions of pigs raised in tiny pens, never going outdoors, never seeing the sun, never getting mud on their noses, ALL SO AMERICANS CAN HAVE CHEAP MEAT! (Sorry for yelling right there, but this does get me really riled up. No animal should have to live like the millions of commodity hogs do, period!) 

 

Humans are omnivores, no way around it. Some will choose not to eat meat (but still do dairy, which mystifies me, but whatever) and some will choose to eat meat, and to each his own. But we are the stewards of the animals raised to provide us with meat, and we have GOT to take our role more seriously. Every pig should get the chance to do what our piglets are doing right now. (OK, maybe not RIGHT now. I just looked out the window and they are napping in the sun.) Every pig should get to feel the sun on its back and the mud on its nose. Every pig should get a chance to revel in the smell of fresh wet dirt and the thrill of tossing clumps of mud into the air!

 

Cheap meat be damned!! Go find yourself some pasture raised pork and help put an end to the cruelty. Buy from your local farmer or Tyner Pond Farm if you're lucky enough to be local to them. It's better for you, better for the pigs, better for the environment. Need I say more? 

                                                       buy pasture raised pork from Tyner Pond Farm

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It's a Scientific Fact: You Can Taste the Berkshire Pork Difference

pasture raised pork--Berkshire porkWe as newbie farmers dove into the Berkshire pig breed whole hog (pardon the pun) without even learning about the quality of the meat. We only knew we wanted a heritage breed, and that Tyner Pond Farm raised Berkshire pigs. Did we need to know more?

 

Well, beyond knowing that pigs are escape artists who will repeatedly try your patience along with your fences (which we did not know but do now!!), we didn't know anything about the flavor of Berkshire pork until the piglets were safely ensconced in the barn and I got to reading up on the breed. It turns out, Berkshire pork is literally world-renowned for its flavor! 

 

I should have known. Tyner Pond Farm regularly gets emails and Facebook wall posts raving about their Berkshire pork. 

 

Berkshire pork is known to be more flavorful, and juicier, with a darker meat. It turns out, the darker the meat, the better the flavor. It's a scientific fact, in fact, as you can see in this Cook's Illustrated article that compares the taste of Berkshire pork to others

 

According to Kenneth Prusa, professor of food science at Iowa State University, that color really is an indication of quality. It reflects the meat’s pH, which Prusa pinpoints as the “overall driver of quality” in pork. In mammals, normal pH is around 7. But Prusa told us even small differences in pH can have a significant impact on pork’s flavor and texture. Berkshire pigs are a bred to have a slightly higher pH than normal, which in turn makes their meat darker, firmer, and more flavorful. In fact, a high pH can be even more important than fat in determining flavor. Conversely, pork with low pH is paler, softer, and relatively bland.

In addition to genetics, pH is influenced by husbandry conditions, along with slaughtering and processing methods. Berkshire pigs are raised in low-stress environments that keep them calm. And the calmer the animal, the more evenly blood flows through its system, distributing flavorful juices throughout. 

 

There you have it! It's not just a rumor. Berkshire pork is truly more flavorful, and for a reason. 

 

So skip the,  pale and chewy options at your supermarket. Go for some pasture raised pork: Berkshire pork from Tyner Pond Farm. And taste the difference. 

 

 

                                                     buy Berkshire pork from Tyner Pond Farm

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Protecting Heritage Breeds--Why Keeping the Berkshire Pig Breed Thriving Matters

Livestock Conservancy logoWhen we bought our ramshackle falling down (literally) farm, we knew from the very beginning that we wanted to raise heritage breed livestock. We started with chickens, and only just this weekend moved on to pigs. If I ever get that family milk cow that I have wanted forever, she will be a heritage breed too. 

 

First off, what is a heritage breed? The Livestock Conservancy exists to protect heritage livestock breeds by, "Ensuring the future of agriculture through the genetic conservation and promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry." This nonprofit group is working to protect nearly 200 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction.

 

Yes, from extinction. 

 

Since the industrial age in the 19th century and especially with the advent of industrial agriculture, livestock breeds of pigs, poultry, cows, horses, sheep and more have become extinct, even though they still had redeeming qualities (such as hardiness, flavor, etc.). 

 

Today, the Livestock Conservancy keeps tabs on the endangered remaining breeds, listing their status as critical, threatened, watch, recovering or study. Not that every heritage breed is endangered! The Berkshire pig breed that Tyner Pond Farm raises is doing really well. And most of the chickens you're used to seeing in people's backyards are heritage breeds too, like the Buff Orpington and the Rhode Island Red. (I first learned of the Berkshire through a list of pig breeds I got from the Livestock Conservancy. I'm very happy to see the Berkshire pig breed doesn't show up on the list of endangered breeds! But not surprised, based on the flavor people are discovering.) 

 

Secondly, keeping these older breeds going is important because our current factory farming system is not sustainable. Raising tens of thousands of chickens in one small and smelly building, and pumping the birds full of antibiotics in order to keep them alive in these unhealthy conditions...well, does that sound sustainable to you? We need to get back to smaller numbers of livestock being raised naturally by more farmers. And it's the heritage breeds that can live outside and tolerate changes in weather and have enough fat to live on a pasture (like the Berkshire pig breed). 

 

Each breed is uniquely adapted to a certain climate or terrain or purpose. If we were to lose every old breed and have to rely on the poor, pathetic monstrosities raised commercially by the corporations, we'd be screwed because they couldn't live outside or adapt to a natural way of life. It's the same with our vegetables and fruits, that being so focused on so few types is setting us up for failure. We need diversity in our livestock for the same reason (and in the same way) that we need diversity in our produce too. 

 

So when you go shopping for free range pork for sale, keep in mind the heritage breeds like the Berkshire pigs and try to find a farm like Tyner Pond Farm that's doing their part to preserve the breed...and all the wonderful pork flavor that goes with it! 

                                                       free range pork for sale at Tyner Pond Farm

 

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About the Berkshire Pig Breed

Tyner Pond Farm Berkshire pigs in the fall grassAt Tyner Pond Farm, they've always raised heritage pigs, starting with Old Blacks and now with Berkshire pigs. So I was pretty excited to buy Berkshire pigs for our own small farm. In case you're wondering what makes the Berkshire pig breed so special that I'd get excited by it, here are my top three reasons for thinking Berkshires are the best...

 

Reason 1: History--Berkshire pigs are a heritage breed first recognized 300 years ago in England as a pig breed. In the U.S., the American Berkshire Association was founded in 1875, the first swine registry in this country. (There's a great history of the Berkshire breed in America here, including the fact that first hog ever recorded was the boar, Ace of Spades, bred by Queen Victoria.) Heritage breeds of livestock, whether pigs or poultry or cows, tend to be hardier and tastier because they pre-date the breeds developed for factory farming. From the very beginning, the flavor of the Berkshire pork was recognized as superior, which brings us to...

 

Reason 2: Flavor--Some people call it the Kobe beef of pork. Every where you look, people are raving about the marbling and juiciness of Berkshire pork, and how the flavor is flavorful, not bland like you get with commodity hogs. The meat is darker, and Berkshire pork has a shorter muscle fiber. People are noticing the difference and choosing to buy pasture raised Berkshire pork! For a good description of the flavor compared to that of commodity hogs (i.e. cheap pork), I turn to the American Berkshire Association

 

"Today, when many in the pork industry have emphasized carcass leanness while sacrificing meat quality it is important that we re-emphasize what the founders of the American Berkshire Association knew in 1875. Berkshires produce a whole carcass that is well marbled. It is consistently sweet, tender, juicy and palatable. When consumers want pork that tastes good the Berkshire above all others is their favorite, not only in the United States but also in the foreign market." 

 

Reason 3: Pasture Raised--An animal raised in a natural environment in a natural way, eating what nature intended for it to eat, produces better meat, period. A stressed out animal like a factory farmed commodity hog can't produce the kind of juicy, flavorful meat you'll get with Berkshire pork because of the horrid, unnatural and stressful conditions it suffers its whole life. Yet that same kind of pig would have a hard time on pasture because it has been BRED to spend its whole life inside in a tiny cage. The Berkshire pig breed, on the other hand, is perfectly suited to live outside like the pigs in the picture above, roaming the pasture at Tyner Pond Farm. That means a happier, tastier pig. 

 

I'm sure I'll find other reasons to think the Berkshire is the best as we go along and raise these piglets. But for now, I think my three reasons above should convince you to try Berkshire pork for yourself, by buying some from Tyner Pond Farm! 

                                                       

 

(If you're interested in pig breeds at all, or how we eat in the U.S., check out this article for a brief but fascinating history of pigs and pig breeds in America.)

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Why We Went With Berkshire Pig Breed for Our Small Farm

When I first started researching pig breeds a couple of years ago, I knew for sure we wanted a heritage breed, but that was all I knew. I also knew Tyner Pond Farm was raising Large Blacks and Berkshires, so I knew a little about those breeds, and I had researched the Gloucester Old Spot too. (In fact, it was Tyner Pond Farm that got me thinking about heritage breed pigs in the first place. Those pigs in the picture are the pasture raised pigs at Tyner Pond Farm.)

 

We don't live in an area with a whole lot of people raising heritage breeds for sale, so this winter when we went looking, I was pretty excited to find someone selling quality Berkshire pigs! In a way, we chose the Berkshire pig breed by default. But it was on the short list. :-) 

 

Plenty of people are selling your "modern" day pig breed, for half the amount we paid for our heritage breed Berkshires. We didn't want that. We wanted a heritage breed, not the kind that has been bred for factory farming, to get big fast. Those modern day pigs are too lean for what we could work with, for one thing, and they grow too fast too. (Not that it's the pigs' fault. They are bred to grow fast and stay lean.) 

 

But if you want to raise pasture raised pork, meaning pork raised the way nature intended, then it has to be able to live outside (you know, on the pasture) and it's the heritage breeds that have the fat that enables them to live outside in less than perfect weather. 

 

Besides that, no fat means no lard, and lard is a good fat to have around! 

 

Once our pigs are trained to respect the electric fence, they'll be out on grass. We couldn't have pigs if we didn't have pasture raised ones. Our barn is too rickety, too old, and too small to keep pigs in. (We barely get by using half of it for horses and the other half for hay.) But that's okay, because raising them on pasture is simply the natural (and right) way to raise pigs. 

 

Raising and eating heritage breed pigs like the Berkshire pig breed means better tasting meat too. It's like comparing the Cornish Cross chicken that was bred for raising indoors fast for factory "farming" to a naturally raised heritage breed chicken like a stewing hen. There's simply more flavor. 

 

That's because it's simply more natural. Think about it: If you want to move away from industrial ag then you need to seek out the breeds that pre-date industrial ag, the way Tyner Pond Farm did when they chose the Berkshire pig breed. And now so have we. :-)

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Adding Berkshire Pigs to Our Small Farm: Taking a Crash Course in Pigs!

our horse Chase checking out our new Berkshire pigsGot pigs this weekend. Well, piglets. They are three-month-old Berkshire pigs, the same kind Tyner Pond Farm raises, and our first pigs ever. So, it was an educational weekend…um, day…um, first couple of hours.

 

Don’t be fooled by their small size or cute faces. These are the Berkshire pig breed. That means they’re even smarter than your average pig breed. Not only that; these suckers are sneaky and fast. I will spare myself the embarrassment of sharing any details, but let’s just say they escaped the temporary pen I’d set up when I got them home, and I never did catch them. I only got them cornered in a stall until my husband woke up in the afternoon to help me both make a pen and catch the pigs.

 

(That’s our horse Chase in the photo, looking into the stall, fascinated by the little creatures…who were pretty interested in him too!)

 

To their little pork-y credit, they were scared. They’d never left their home before, and everything was new. Now I know. Now I know they’re flighty at first. Now I know they’ll try and escape to find their way home.

 

Now I know.

 

Watching them be squirrely and sneaky and smart, and then settle into rooting around and eating and sleeping, I got a sick feeling in my stomach comparing how these Berkshire pigs will be raised compared to the poor pigs that are factory farmed in tiny pens so Americans can have their cheap pork and cheaper bacon.

 

Our Berkshire pigs are in the barn for now, in a small pen eating non-GMO barley and rooting around in the hay and pushing each other around and sleeping soundly and in general acting like, well, pigs! Once they’re a little bigger and we get them trained to an electric fence, we have a shelter outside in the area where we want a garden, and they’ll get moved out there surrounded by the electric fence, free to root and dig and eat grass and bugs to their heart’s content. They’ll be able to nap in the sun and cuddle in the shelter on the rainy days. They’ll be dirty and muddy and happy. And then when they are a year old, two will be slaughtered for pork, ham and bacon, having lived a really good life as pasture raised pork.

 

Compare that to how commodity pork is raised. Commodity pork is a politically correct way to refer to the industrial agriculture way of raising livestock using factory “farming.” I am not going to delve into that manner of raising pigs. But I do encourage you—if you’re one of those people who is all about cheap meat—to consider the very short life that kind of pig lives, never going outside, never leaving its cage so small it can't even turn around, living in a stench so bad it makes humans ill…compare that to the pasture raised pork that a farm like Tyner Pond Farm raises and sells. Sure, you’ve got your cheap meat, America. But it comes at a price. You just won’t notice that “price” in your pocketbook.

 

For us, it’s pastured Berkshire pigs or bust! Oh, wait. I probably shouldn’t say that, or they’ll be busting out again, those dang Berkshires… 

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Americans Throw Away 90 BILLION Pounds of Food Each Year...Here's Why

It shouldn't surprise you to know that Americans throw away food. We throw lots of stuff. We are a disposable society. But it might shock you to know how much FOOD we throw away, so much that no one has a set number but all the numbers are high! According to a quick Google search, Americans annually throw away food at the rate of:

 

  • 33 million tons 
  • 90 billion pounds 
  • $165 billion worth
  • 21% to 40% of our food (depends on the study)

 

Like I said, the numbers might vary but they are all HIGH. And those are nationally. You can also find area-specific numbers that are tragically high. For example, New York City throws away 1.2 million tons of food which amounts to 35% of what's filling up landfills. 

 

And if you've ever been in your child's classroom at lunch time, you've seen how much food those kids waste!! Pounds and pounds of it every day! It used to sicken me to see! 

 

Or consider it on a per-family basis: The average American family of four throws away almost $2,300 worth of food every single year! At our house with our current grocery budget, that is the equivalent of four months of food for our family! 

 

Now consider the other side of this coin, not having enough food: one in six Americans doesn't have a secure food supply (which is a kind of technical way to say they are "hungry," I think). One in six--that's 17% of our population. Almost one-fifth of us are going hungry while another chunk of us are throwing away billions of dollars worth of food. Isn't it ironic? 

 

In addition to landfill waste created and the people left hungry, you have the costs on the production side too. We use a lot of petroleum and water to grow food in this country, and it is essentially "thrown out" as well when we toss food. It's not just the food. It's the resources that went into making that food too. 

 

OK, one last statistic, and then I'll stop, but this one is important: Food waste has increased by 50% in the U.S. since the 1970s. 

 

If you look at the reasons why Americans throw away so much food, you'll see that the food industry gets some of the blame because of "use before" and "best before" dates are misleading. A lot of waste also occurs at the grocery stores, where produce is tossed if it's not picture perfect. Restaurants are also to blame because the huge portions they now serve are simply too much for people to eat (and for some reason no one wants to take home the leftovers). 

 

But there's a big, huge, ugly reason that no one is talking about and we as the food wasters aren't owning up to: We don't value food. 

 

See that statistic above about how we throw away 50% more food now that we did in the 1970s? Well, guess what else has happened in that time? Food has gotten cheaper. (See the graph below.) And when things are cheap and easy to come by, they lose value in our eyes: 

 

                food has gotten cheaper

 

Yes, food is cheaper and it's more plentiful, thanks to industrial agriculture, and therefore it's much easier for us to overindulge in it and to throw it away. Like with the paradox of value, where water is necessary to life but we place a higher value on (and are willing to pay more for) diamonds, cheap food means disposable food. Although there is a real cost to that supposedly cheap food.

 

We can easily start cutting back on our own food waste, following good, common-sense tips for wasting less food, like in this article. But the real change won't happen until we stop insisting on cheap food and start being willing to pay for good food. We have to change how we value food. We have to give it a higher value. That is really the only way to cut down on the criminal amounts of food we are throwing away every hour of every day in this country. 

 

One way to start giving food more value is to be willing to pay more for it.

 

Before I sat down to start writing this post, I walked across the street from my office and spent $3.29 on a tall latte (it being 3:00 in the afternoon and a caffeine fix needed). That is more than it costs me to buy one pound of hamburger at the local butcher shop. I can use that one pound of hamburger to cook a dinner that will feed my family dinner, while the latte was mine alone and gone in 15 minutes. Don't you think maybe the hamburger has more value than the latte?? 

 

We as a society need to stop insisting on cheap food. Stop buying it and stop heading to the grocery store with the cheapest price on pork chops. Be willing to INVEST IN good food. You really won't spend that much more to buy from a local farmer, whether that's a farmer selling pastured meats or one selling produce at the farmers market. It's all relative. I can buy a head of lettuce for $3 at my farmers market, which might sound like a lot of money. But it lasts for 9 days as I pick away at it taking a few leaves at a time because it is HUGE and it's organic so I feel good about my family eating it.

 

When you pay more for something, you'll value it more and be less likely to toss it out. You'll cook with it more sparingly or make sure it gets eaten as leftovers. You'll be more careful about what you buy and more mindful of using it before it goes bad when you're spending more money on it. You'll sit down to eat it rather than gobble it up while rushing out the door. 

 

And you'll enjoy your food more, I promise. :-)

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Working Our Way Through the Pantry, the Seasons, the Year...

applesauceSee that? That's the last jar of applesauce from the pantry. I opened it this morning because our teenager wasn't feeling well and all that sounded good to her for breakfast was applesauce and toast. I think she felt a little guilty knowing it was the last jar, but hey! That stuff is in the pantry to get eaten! 

 

Our pantry is kind of like a calendar. At our house, we note the seasons by the changes in the weather and the holidays, yes, but also by the contents of the pantry and freezer. This is the last jar of applesauce I canned last summer, and I know we're down to one last jar of bread and butter pickles and four jars of canned tomatoes. In the freezer, we've got about six batches of green beans left and still a lot of blueberries. (Not that I did a lot of canning and freezing last summer, because I was on my own with a major renovation while my husband was deployed...putting up food was something I had little time for.)

 

I actually like when we get to the end of something like the applesauce because I know it means the NEW seasons will soon be upon us. The local sustainable farms in our area are sharing photos on Facebook of their seedlings in their greenhouses and freshly plowed fields. Soon there will be greens and strawberries and the farmers market will open. Soon we'll be back amidst the bounty and putting up for the winter once again. 

 

And we'll eat differently too. Fare will be lighter and meats will star in our meals alongside our veggies because we won't be eating soups and stews and braises while the sun is shining the produce is profuse. :-) Summer is when the taste of a range free chicken or pasture raised pork can really shine when these meats get a simple treatment and some time on the BBQ. 

 

Our major renovation meant no garden last year and we really don't have time to go for broke yet this spring, but this near-empty jar of applesauce has me pumped for the changing season and devising ways to at least get some raised beds in and greens planted... 

 

And then we'll have another way to work our way through the year, as the spring greens give way to the summer tomatoes and then the pumpkins of fall and the kales of winter. 

 

Food. It's the best calendar ever. :-) 

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Consumer Reports on Chicken (Includes Labels Demystified)

Chicken Labels Demystified

 

This Month Consumer Reports featured on the front cover their study  titled

 

The High Cost of Cheap Chicken.  

 

In the report they tested Chicken from every major manufacturer including the Organics and discovered that 97% harbored dangerous bacteria including many strains that have evolved  antibiotic resistant traits.  If this report was about a car brand or a furnace, those products would find customers abandoning them in droves.   

Yet here is what's happening to Tyson's stock since the story came out in January 2014..

 

Food Monopoly

 

Compare this to what happened to Ford Motor Company when Consumer Reports called out their cars as some of the worst of 2014.

 

Consumer Reports on chicken compared to cars

 

Why do you think this is?  I'm kind of at a loss.  Is it because people don't have a choice?  As the Consumer Reports story points out.  In spite of many different labels, all chicken in the grocery store comes from 4 companies....Tyson being of course the largest and most influential.  

 

Check out this CNBC Interview from Donnie Smith himself....

 

 

I'll let the article do the talking,  but this isn't coming from some left-wing anti-corporate fringe website.  This is coming from the most trusted consumer advocacy organization in America.  

 

Pasture Raised Chicken 

Meantime if you look at the label definitions....Pasture Raised is the only way to know your chicken hasn't been raised in a factory.   This is all we do here at Tyner Pond Farm. You can come and see for yourself anytime!

 

And...we'll deliver it to you for free.

 

High Cost of Cheap Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Fat? Great Fat! Bake the Best Brownies With Lard From Pastured Hogs

lard from pastured hogs makes great browniesBack in my vegetarian days (or should I say decades?), I avoided refried beans when dining at Mexican restaurants so I wouldn't be eating lard. That was a result of my ignorance and lack of thinking, just like I wrongly avoided eating soups made with chicken stock

 

When I started eating meat, I started learning about food history in this country, our eating habits, and the onset of industrial agriculture too. (I guess I realized if I was going to be a responsible meat eater, I was going to have to get educated!) Out of that came my realization that it makes more sense to use the whole animal, like the carcass for chicken stock and the pig fat for lard, than to make chemically processed substitutes (like shortening and margarine). That's what got me interested in lard in the first place. 

 

I started cooking with lard from pastured hogs a couple of years ago because the farmer down the road had jars of it and gave me some to try. At first, I used it primarily as a cooking fat for savory foods, but later I used it for baked goods too, like pie crust and chocolate cake. I have substituted it in my famous old-fashioned recipe for favorite oatmeal cookies. Most recently, I used lard to make my popular brownies (recipe below) in place of the shortening the recipe called for, and no one even noticed, not even the vegetarians.

 

So, why would I start cooking with lard when I had other options to use, like shortening? Because it only made sense. Here was the totally natural (and in this case free) fat that turned out to be a really good cooking fat! I thought it would be greasy or something, or make everything taste like bacon, but cooking with lard from pastured hogs does nothing of the sort. The lard I use smells a tad savory when I open the jar, but I've learned that that's only the smell and the lard does nothing to the flavor. But when you're cooking sweet stuff, boy does it make your cakes and brownies silky in texture! 

 

I actually prefer using lard now, for both stove top cooking to brown meats, and for baking with. The only time I didn't like the result I got was when I used lard to saute up some vegetables and I used too much (not being used to it). The vegetables were oily but that was all my fault. Every other time I've cooked with lard, I've been delighted with the result. 

 

Now, one caveat here: This is lard from pastured hogs, and I suspect that helps the flavor! Don't go buying lard at the grocery store unless you know FOR SURE where that lard is from. Reach out to your local farmer or pork supplier for lard first. 

 

And now for the brownies. Buy some lard from pastured hogs. Then bake these brownies. You can eat them plain and they are delicious. Or frost them with chocolate frosting if you want, or stir in some chocolate chips before baking...or both...and you'll be in chocolate heaven and never doubt lard again! 

 

Best Brownies Recipe

1 c sugar
1/2 c lard from pastured hogs
2 free range eggs
2/3 c all purpose (but unbleached!) flour
1/2 c cocoa
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 and grease your baking pan with lard. You can use a square 8x8x2 baking pan and cut the brownies into squares after cooking, or use a cake pan and cut the brownies into thin wedges when done. Cream together the sugar and lard. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Spread the batter (it will be thick!) into the baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The brownies will be easier to cut into pieces if you wait for them to cool, but good luck with that. :)
 

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Lard Battles Modern-Day "Healthy" Fat...and Wins!

lard byproduct of hog meatForget everything you think you know about lard. It's all wrong. Well, except maybe that it's made from pig fat. That hasn't changed. But everything you were taught and told about lard, that it's fattening and gross and greasy...all lies. Lard is, in fact, a wonderful cooking fat. And science has proven it's a healthier one too! 

 

If you're not eating lard because you've been taught it's unhealthy, the shocking news is, the processed alternative you've been eating all these years is the unhealthy one. Yep, the hydrogenated oils (in the news these days as trans fats) that replaced the natural fats in our diet are the ones that turn out to be detrimental to our health. In fact, trans fat  "...increases cholesterol levels in blood and increases the risk of heart disease." And here's another scary quote from that same article to get you interested in cooking with lard rather than processed fats: "Extrapolating from estimates made by the FDA, replacing with more healthful ingredients all the trans fat that comes partially hydrogenated oils likely would save upwards of 10,000 lives a year."

 

Not to say that lard is any kind of health food. It's not. But we humans, we neeeeed our fats. We need fats for making doughnuts and pie crusts and cookies. In the savory department, fats are necessary for sauteeing and frying and deep frying. We have always loved our fats and we will continue to do so because fats and flavor and texture to our foods. The key is in choosing the natural fats and, of course, doing everything in moderation. 

 

Plus lard is a sustainable food. It is a natural byproduct of hog meat. No vegetables have to be raised only to be converted into a fat.  No hydrogen has to be injected into it to make it usable. All you do is render (i.e. cook down) the pig fat to make the lard

 

And once you try cooking with lard, you'll realize it is a wonderful cooking fat. As people rediscover lard, you'll find them waxing poetic about it, as they cook with it and realize their misconceptions were so wrong. One writer called lard "elegant" upon discovering it! You can even buy a cookbook devoted to lard, with 150 recipes! 

 

Lard... What does that word make you think? If you grew up like I did, the word might make you slightly squeamish. Sadly, it shouldn't. Lard was just one more casualty of the "industrial is better for you" mindset that has our country overweight, undernourished and diabetic. Be done with the processed fats. Buy some lard from Tyner Pond Farm. Cook with it, experiment, get to know it. Your taste buds will be glad you did...and so will your body. 

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Need a Reason to Cook With Lard? How About Your Local Farmer?

apple pie crust made with lardAlthough demand for pasture raised pork is growing, the small, sustainable farms that supply that pasture raised pork are still challenged to sell the whole hog, not just parts. Adding lard to your kitchen as a cooking fat is one way you can help your local farmer to make a little more money from that pasture raised pork, while you get the benefit of a wonderful cooking fat that will make your baked goods smooth and silky and your savory foods divine. (This picture is of the first pie crust I made using lard. This apple pie disappeared even faster than my pies usually do! Delicious!!)

 

And ironically, those commodity hogs that are raised in the tiny pens, never able to turn around or lie down, they have been bred to be too lean to make lard. See, a pig running around in a pasture needs some fat to stay warm because it's outside. And that fat is what makes lard. Commodity hogs have been bred to be ultra lean because Americans say they want leaner meats with less fat (rather than simply eating in moderation). Those poor pigs that turn up in grocery stores as really cheap pork, well, they never go outside so they don't need any fat. 

 

Michael Pollan in his book "Cooked" tells the story of going to a traditional BBQ in the south that ended up being not that traditional because they were using commodity hogs for their BBQ rather than pasture raised ones. (And yes, you can taste the difference.) That meant in order to make the cornbread they serve alongside their famous BBQ, they have to buy lard from elsewhere!! If they simply used pasture raised hogs like a real traditionalist does, they'd have plenty of lard to work with (and better tasting BBQ), but they've fallen victim to the cheaper-is-better mentality. Nor does their decision to go for the cheap, factory farmed hogs do anything to support the farmers in their local area. 

 

But you can! You can find a local farm like Tyner Pond Farm, one that's got pasture raised pork for sale, and ask about lard. Buy it. Cook with it. Love it. Lard rocks in the kitchen. Now let's get pigs rocking in the pastures, instead of those tiny pens. We'll all win: the pigs, the farmers and our tummies. :-) 

 

 

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Done With Dead Bread? Join Me in the Search for Every Day Bread With This "Recipe" :-)

I am on loaf #8 in my attempt to master a healthy bread for my family, one that uses a live sourdough starter, and I still have yet to master it. Every week, I bake a new loaf, keeping notes on what I do (or don't do) and add (or don't add). It's still a bit of a crap shoot although I am getting closer to consistent. 

 

When I pulled loaf #6 out of the oven and it was bee-ooo-tee-ful, I of course posted a picture of it on Facebook so I could share it with my growing number of bread geek friends (this picture here...it's so pretty!!). Doing that prompted requests for the recipe. Hmmmm.... can one provide a recipe for something one can't quite master?? 

 

Because I want to get other people aware of the "dead bread" we've become so accustomed to and thinking about making (or at least buying) nutritious bread, I offer up what I have learned. If you want to give this a try, please do! Just know that it is as much art as science and you are working with live organisms and--like teenagers--they can be quite persnickety and unpredictable, and they can also be quite agreeable and helpful. Roll the dice on that one! 

 

Here's what I find to be trickiest about making bread this way: the water. Sometimes it wants more and sometimes it doesn't. And when you're making bread this way, you're working with what's called a wet dough. If you're a bread baker already (like I thought I was), you'll be used to manhandling your dough, kneading it for 10 to 15 minutes to get it all silky and smooth. Yeah....when I did that with this dough, I baked bricks. This dough does the rising on its own. We don't have to manhandle the gluten and stretch out the fibers as with yeasted bread. When you give this a try, just know that the water is a guess. I will try to provide guidance but you'll be the judge of how much when. 

 

If you're going to try this, first, you'll need a starter. I'm simply going to refer you to this how to make a sourdough starter recipe at the King Arthur Flour website because for me the starter was the easy part. So, make your starter. That will take a couple of days or more.

 

This is my starter when I pulled it out of the fridge where it happily lives when not needed: 

 

sourdough starter

 

Once you have your starter, then you'll need a day to do this because it can take up to 24 hours. Not that you have to be working on it that whole time. In fact, making bread this way takes a lot less time than making yeasted bread that has to be kneaded because there's no kneading required. But you won't start this 3 p.m. and serve it for dinner at 7 p.m. You can, however, do Phase 1 before bed then move it along when you get up in the morning. Or do Phase 1 in the morning and pick up where you left off when you get home from work. The last time I made it, I started at 8 pm one night, then didn't touch it again until 4 pm the next day. I pulled the loaf about of the oven 24 hours after I started the process. But I was ignoring the bread for 23 of those 24 hours. 

 

Sharon's Work-In-Progress Sourdough Wheat Bread 

Phase 1

1/2 c starter
1 c unbleached white flour
1 c WHITE whole wheat flour (not red whole wheat)
1 1/4 to 2 c warm water

 

To make Phase 1, mix the flours with the starter and add 1 1/4 c warm water. This is where the water gets tricky. The last time I made this, I used 2 c of warm water because the dough was too dry when I got to Phase 2 and I couldn't get the other flour mixed in. What you want is something still kind of sticky at this stage. As it ferments, it will get more wet, so it can start out a little dry. But too dry and you'll be adding water later at Phase 2. Once that's mixed, cover with a kitchen towel and let the microbes in your starter do their thing for 8 to 12 hours. I have found that being a little warm helps it along but it has fermented just fine in a cool kitchen too. 

 

This is what you should end up with. This is the starter with the flour and water added, after many hours have gone by. It's bubbly and yeasty and I think at this point, it is called the leaven: 

 

the leaven after the sourdough starter did its job

 

Phase 2

1 c unbleached white flour
1 c WHITE whole wheat flour (not red whole wheat)
1 t salt
warm water ONLY IF NEEDED

 

As your dough sits and ferments, the yeasty smell and bubbles of your starter will show up in your dough too. Yay! That's what you want. At the end of Phase 1, you should have something that looks like your starter, only a lot more of it. It should be pretty wet too, not something you could pick up and shape into a loaf. Add the white flour, wheat flour and salt to this and mix well. Here's the second time the water gets tricky: Sometimes I have to add a little water here and sometimes not. It doesn't matter if your dough is sticky and wet. This isn't like the bread dough you're used to. You don't have to shape it or knead it. If your dough is wet enough without adding water, don't. And by wet enough, I mean you can stir the additional flour and salt into the dough, and not have a dry blob. If you have to add a little water, do it judiciously because the dough will get "wet" while it ferments again. This new blog you'll want to put into a big bowl well oiled with olive oil. You don't need to knead it, but you might fold it on top of itself just a few times to kind of get it to hold together. Every time I make this, I mess with it less. This is going to sit and ferment for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (although I let it go 3 hours last time because my kitchen was so cool). It should do what it has been doing, get yeasty smelling and a little bubbly. And it should expand. 

 

This is adding the flour and salt to the leaven: 

 

adding flour and salt to the leaven

 

After mixing in the flour and salt, it was too dry: 

 

after adding flour and salt to the leaven

 

So I added warm water to make a wet ish dough. This is where you'll have to go by feel, sorry! This is after getting water added and ever so gently kneading it to incorporate the water...although I wouldn't even call it kneading: 

 

adding warm water to dough

 

Next I put it into a different bowl so I can wash out this big one, then use a generous amount of olive oil to grease the bowl: 

 

sourdough going into oiled bowl to rise

 

This is what it looked like 4 hours later. I didn't mean to leave it that long (and it didn't need to sit that long) but I ran errands after church and I was gone longer than planned. So this is a little dry on the top, but you can see how the texture has changed dramatically! You once again have a wet dough full of bubbles and smelly yeasty: 

 

sourdough after fermenting and rising

 

Phase 3

Now you want to mess with it just a little because you're going to put it into your well-oiled loaf pan. Punch your dough down and put it into the loaf pan without messing with it too much. One time when I did this, I "shaped" my loaf like I would with yeasted bread and I rolled it and I ended up with rolled bread that fell apart when sliced, sigh... So don't do that. Get into your loaf pan and tuck it down into the corners. Then let it rise again. This has taken anywhere from a half hour to an hour. It will still rise once it goes in the oven, so find the happy medium between letting it rise now but not so much that it will rise in the oven and topple over the sides as a result. Oh!!! Score it!! I keep forgetting to do this: Slice slits into the bread dough before you let it rise. Trust me on this one. 

 

Here's the dough after getting punched down and "shaped" into a loaf, then placed into a well-oiled loaf pan (but can you see that I forgot to score it??? You'll see why that matters in another picture): 

 

sourdough in loaf pan ready to rise

 

And an hour or so later, it has risen. You don't want it to get too high because it will rise more in the oven (dang, I didn't score it, argh!): 

 

sourdough loaf ready for oven

 

To bake, I preheat the oven to 400 but turn it down to 350 as soon as the bread goes in. Then bake it for about 25-30 minutes. 

 

This is today's loaf. I started it at 3:30 in the afternoon yesterday and pulled it out of the oven about that same time today. And I forgot to score it which means it has a big "broken" side along one edge because the gases have to go SOMEwhere! Remember to score your bread dough!! This is loaf #9, and I can't believe I forgot at this stage, sigh... 

 

wheat sourdough bread

 

Wow!! Lots of directions, I know!! But really, not much of your time. It does take a long time, however! If you want to bake bread but not go to all of this work, try this really easy dinner bread recipe instead. But come back to the sourdough some other day! It will be worth the effort, I promise! 

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Old Fashioned Recipes Work Because They Rely on Natural Ingredients

Old-Time Farmhouse Cooking by Barbara SwellOn a whim, I ordered this cookbook from Amazon, "Old-Time Farmhouse Cooking," just to see what it included. It's a little paperback, only 73 pages long, and a mix of recipes and snippets of cooking wisdom and farming humor from old magazines. 

 

This is my fourth historic cookbook. I have one from WWII that was my grandmother's, one from the Depression era that my daughter got me, and one from 1920 that was compiled to help immigrants in work houses to know how to cook. I'm drawn to these old cookbooks because of the simplicity of the recipes. 

 

Although it didn't show up on the list of reasons why we don't cook, I wonder if intimidation is one of those reasons. With our new global world and our familiarity with foods from all over that world--combined with the age of the celebrity chef and primetime cooking shows--I wonder if some of us avoid the kitchen because we think they expectations are too high? 

 

Pre-1960 and industrial ag and factory farmed chickens and pork, cooking in America would have been in season and based on food local in origin. And they would have been basic dishes, because cooking would happen most nights in most homes. You didn't have drive through or takeout or pizza delivery. Nor did you have a freezer full of "meal" options. Dinner had to happen every day by means of a cook in the kitchen, and so dinner was some pretty basic fare: beef stew, fried fish, baked beans, soups, pies, breads...that kind of stick-to-your-ribs and definitely non-gourmet fare. 

 

Did that kind of food satisfy in part because the food tasted better? When you compare farm fresh eggs from range free chickens to the watery ones in the grocery store, you can taste the difference. Same goes for the kind of pastured meats you'll get from a farm like Tyner Pond Farm. When you have a naturally, sustainably raised piece of beef, pork or chicken, and you can combine that with in-season, fresh and local produce, you don't need to dress it up all up with all kinds of spices and exotic ingredients. Because good food is good food. 

 

I'm excited to use some pastured meats and free range chickens to tackle recipes in this cookbook. I already saw some from around 1890. Since I live in a house built in 1890, I am particularly drawn to dishes the woman of the house would have made 134 years ago when our place was a homestead way out in the middle of nowhere. And you can bet she was cooking with pastured meats raised in a sustainable way! Good news is, now we can too. :-)

 

buy pastured meats from Tyner Pond Farm

 

 

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Old Fashioned Recipes: Simple Beef Stroganoff Using Tyner Pond Farm Grass Fed Beef

Tyner Pond Farm Grass Fed Beef HamburgerMy family is funny. Some things they can eat week after week without complaint, like this pot roast or the big pan of lasagna I made on Sunday or a roasted chicken. But other than those few things, that family of mine wants VARIETY at dinner time! Admittedly, it can be a challenge to come up with every week's menus because I just can't think of things to cook, and inspiration can come from strange places.

 

Like last night's dinner which was added to the week's menu simply because I saw sliced mushrooms at the grocery store and I knew I had some grass fed beef in the freezer at home. Putting the two together meant Beef Stroganoff, some comfort food at its finest! (Yes, I bought pre-sliced mushrooms. It's particularly busy at our house these days!) I hadn't made Beef Stroganoff in ages (maybe not ever?? Not a beef version anyway...plenty of vegetarian versions though!) so I lacked a recipe. Looking online every recipe called for cream of mushroom soup. OK, I might stoop low enough to get my mushrooms pre-sliced on occasion, but I really don't want to feed my family canned cream of mushroom soup. And I knew I'd made a vegetarian stroganoff recipe enough times to wing a beef version, so here's an old-fashioned recipe for Beef Stroganoff (that's particularly old fashioned since it doesn't include a processed soup!): 

 

Old Fashioned Beef Stroganoff Recipe

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 lb hamburger (preferably locally raised grass fed beef)
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 c beef stock (the more flavorful, the better!)
  • 1 c sour cream
  • To serve: buttered noodles

 

Melt 1 T butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the grass fed beef and brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a bowl to set aside. Add the remaining 1 T butter to the pan then add the onions and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms start to brown, stirring frequently, about 10-15 minutes. Add the flour and stir well. Cook about 1 minute. Then slowly stir in the stock. Once thickened, which might happen right away or might take a minute or 2, add the sour cream and beef and stir well. Turn heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Serve over buttered noodles. (We had braised kale with garlic on the side which worked well as a side dish.) 

 

Because the ingredients are few, the quality of the ingredients really matters, especially that of the beef. So make sure you're using good quality, sustainably raised grass fed beef like Tyner Pond Farm sells: 

                                                    

 

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