Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Roast duck!

So since we've gotten our ducks back from the processor, I've been researching duck recipes, and last night we roasted a duck. I used a method where I melted pork fat and basted it over the seasoned duck periodically while it roasted. Otherwise, I did it exactly as I do chickens- in my cast iron dutch oven in the oven.

Fool proof Roast Duck

1 duck, about 3-4 lbs
fresh herbs, chopped (I used cilantro, oregano and basil)
salt, coarse sea salt or Redmond salt preferred
Pork fat, or olive oil, about 1 cup

Let sit in the refrigerator overnight or for 4 hours.

Lay duck in a dutch oven (I have a cast iron one with enamel coating) breast down. Set oven temp at 325 degrees. Put cover on. Bake for about 1 hour. Baste with fat (use the duck fat in the pan or melted lard if there isn't enough) Depending on the weight of the duck, you'll bake it for about 2-3 hours. For the last 45 minutes, remove cover and turn duck breast side up to crisp the skin. I decided our duck was done when the leg pulled away easily from the body and the skin looked brown and lacquered.



Sunday, May 8, 2016

Regenerative Grazing

Time to share some crop growth and grazing photos.

Below is a pic of a grazing field section that has very poor soil. We concentrated all of last years hay feeding onto this area, leaving a thick layer of mulch to rot over winter. Last May, after grazing, it was mostly star thistle and medusa grass (both invasive plants that cattle only eat when young). This year, after grazing, there are very few star thistle shoots, and medusa heading has been reduced by well over 50%. We also have better regrowth of the native ryes & bromes, as well as the oats & barley that were introduced by the feeding hay on the ground. Our hope is to graze this area a third time (thanks, extra 2016 rain!) with our sheep, who generally eat star thistle while green but before it heads out.

Grazed regrowth of hay mulched area


Next is a 3 acre section of wheat/barley nurse crop for alfalfa that was cut to windrows. Although our cows did a great job cleaning up the rest of the field, they could not finish off this section before we had to start irrigating. At first we were very worried that we'd lose the alfalfa that we had planted as an under story crop where each windrow was left. However, what we are finding is that's not the case. Well established alfalfa will regrow though a windrow mulch, but this is new alfalfa. It hasn't been cut yet, ever.


Whole 3 acre section, with windrows






Alfalfa with no windrow mulch cover

Alfalfa under windrow, mulch pulled aside

It's Alive!







Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ducklings

Some big happenings this spring!


Ducks

We're raising 400 pekin ducks on pasture. Our latest poultry housing is similar to a hog hoophouse, but in California, we have no need for shelter from the rain, only the sun. The panels are covered with a layer of shadecloth which doubles as predator barrier.

Pekin ducks are ready for processing in about 4 months on pasture. Expect to see whole frozen ducks at market and at retail outlets by June. We're enjoying a break from broiler chickens, but we're getting back to those from August to October. 
Duck Schooner #3

We're having an open farm day! 


Come learn about rotational grazing, double cropping (orchards and animals) see our 100% solar irrigated hay field in action, and learn about sustainable meat production, while enjoying a bbq, baby animals for the kids, and the beautiful Capay Valley.

Date: April 30th. Contact us for more information and to register.
Steers grazing

We're starting a Thursday farmer's market in San Francisco!


Come see us in SF Mission District at the Mission Community Market on 22nd and Bartlett, Thursdays from 3-8 pm.

This is a fun community market with a lot of great vendors such as Blue House Farm, Happy Boy, Yerena Farms and more. We'll be selling all our products: beef, lamb, pork, eggs, olive oils, olive oil body care products, herbs, jams and more.

Check out the market at: www.missioncommunitymarket.com, or on instagram at @missioncommunitymarket or on facebook.

 As a special introductory offer, we are giving 50% off every bottle of olive oil purchased at our first market. Come make us feel welcome!



Monday, December 14, 2015

Bacon





With an oink oink here and an oink oink there, here we grow!


Pastured pork is our newest foray, and unlike broiler chickens, or geese, this one is here to stay.

We've just picked up 2015's pork- 10 delicious hogs are now in the freezers, partitioned out into ham, bacon, pork chops and sausage.

We've got our three Berkshire/GOC/Hampshire sows: JLo, Houdina, and Lucy, and our upstanding Berkshire boar, Quasimodo established in their farrowing kingdom, and a new set of 20 feeder piglets ready to go out on pasture this spring.

Our decision to raise pork comes from our desire to be as well rounded a farm eco-system as possible, and there is so many things on a small farm a pig can eat that go to waste otherwise. They are also quick to finish- taking about 1/3 of the time of a grass finished beef and 3 months less than a grass finished lamb. Throughout the summer and fall, our first batch of 10 pigs were rotated through a series of pastures within the orchards and also through pastures where the sheep had been overwintered, and they plowed up and ate tons of grubs and bugs, weeds, roots and even... grass. They love clover and alfalfa and will dig the whole plant up and eat it. I also fed them dropped fruit of all kinds from our orchard- apricots, pears, plums, crab apples (which even the chickens don't like) persimmons, quince. They also did a great job taking care of any overripe melons in my summer melon experiment. And when I was done with the melons, I fenced it in with electric net and turned the hogs out to root out all the remaining melon plants, melons, sunflowers, amaranth and sorghum I had inter-planted. They dug up the sunflower stalks and ate the roots. They even made some inroads on the bindweed and bermuda grass rhizomes, but I would have had to irrigate the field fairly well before turning them in for it to have had a lasting effect. Right before slaughter, they were eating acorns and pecans and black walnuts along with pomegranates and olive pomace from our olive oil milling. 
For supplemental feed and to keep the meat sweet, we fed only certified non-GM feed from Bar Ale in Williams, CA, as well as our alfalfa hay, and sprouted organic wheat and peas. We truly believe this is some of the tastiest pork you will eat as well as being full of healthy omega-3 fats.

Pigs are fun to have on the farm! They are playful and enjoy getting their bellies scratched.

In other news, our 100% solar irrigated field is finally taking off. The frost has knocked back some of the alfalfa germination, but the wheat nurse crop is coming up well with the rains. In our other field where no irrigation is available, we have seeded the last of our dryland pasture mix, as well as our traditional oat/wheat/barley/vetch hay planted on our parent's rented ground. It was a bit nerve wracking there for a while with too little rain to actually support the crop, but enough moisture to germinate, then wilt it. With last weekend's storm, we should now be in good shape, until mid January 2016. Hopeful (with lots of fencing work) we can have all the animals out on pasture this year for the majority of the growing season.

Even with the drought, more regulations and less irrigation water available than ever before for farming in California, we continue to grow our business. 2015 has been a year where we look back and recognize that we have been direct selling quality grass fed meats since 2010 and have been farming together as a family for 7 years. We hired our first employees this year and continue to welcome the occasional HelpX and WWWOOF visitor to our farm.  We also continue to perfect the products we produce and pride ourselves on our innovative use of a carcass to give modern urban customers the cuts and portions they are looking for. Our partnerships with Manas Meats here in the Capay Valley and Roundman's Smokehouse in Ft. Bragg ensure that our quality pasture raised and grass fed meat is enhanced by artisan smoking and sausage making, with a strong emphasis on traditional recipes and natural curing methods without the use of added nitrates. If you haven't tried our pork bacon, sausage, summer sausage, sliced ham, pastrami or our innovative beef bacon, please do.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Spring is out, Summer is in




SWEET AND HOT


We are fully into summer now. Yesterday, it was 104 at 5:00 pm. The bull decided to go for a walk-about. The pigs hid in the mud. The farmers ran around making sure everybody had water. One good thing about the heat is the apricots and plums are ripening fast (and go on sale this week) and the figs are not far behind. Check out Good Eggs SF to get door to door delivery on Blenheim apricots and lots of other goodies, including our grass fed meats.

The chicks have metamorphosed into ugly adolescents whose entire existence revolves around getting outside the coop to be eaten by predators. Our new piglets are in the orchard, rooting and eating dropped fruit, as well as bermuda grass, plantain and water grass. Yes! Something that finally eats all the delicious weeds that come up in a drip irrigated orchard, but doesn't climb up to eat your trees or strip the bark from them.

Our hay is stacked and being devoured by our pregnant cows and our sheep are starting to lamb. (We did a late breeding this year, trying to avoid an issue we had last year with with a biting mosquito-like insect that caused several lamb deaths). We hope to avoid that this year, but we will have much more demand on our hay supply to feed our nursing ewes than if we had lambed earlier in the spring.
The girls and their big pregnant bellies are spending most of their days lounging under the oaks. They go out to nibble on the star thistle at night when it's cool. The cows, on the other hand, won't go near the star thistle and prefer the dry standing grass that we left in this field to try to stretch out the season a l-i-i-tle longer. We will probably irrigate less pasture this year and feed more hay, as we can grow more hay with less strain on our aquifer than if we irrigated an equivalent amount of pasture.

Something new this year: we are growing melons! Anthony and I always intended to grow heirloom cantaloupe on our old farm but we never got to it before we had to move. This year we've planted about 1/4 acre of several different varieties as well as personal size sugar baby watermelons, yellow watermelons, sweet corn, tomatoes, sunflowers and other flowers. Look for some sweet melons from us later this summer at Jack London Farmer's Market.

LOADING UP

Now we hunker down under the sycamore and wait out the heat and pray we get through fire season without loss of life and homes. It's almost hopeful now, summer is here, there is no more rain. No more prayers and staring at rain gauges. It's too late. Now we look forward to fall. That's when this drought is going to break. Yes, I'm saying it. It's going to break. But until then...

Please don't light any fires when you go camping this summer.

Seriously, you don't need those s'mores anyway. Eat some locally grown stone fruit instead.
See you at the market.