State of the Farm

This is the time of year when we know whether everything got into sync with Mother Nature. Are the winter pastures up and growing, providing a salad bar of oats, rye, clover and standing hay for our grateful and very much appreciated momma cows and their offspring, piggies, chickens at Jolly Farms and egg hens at Coyote Creek? If so — and it is so this year — then we ease into Christmas with family and friends, nearly overwhelmed by a grateful heart. This will be a splendid Christmas, so good that it is almost eery. Dancing with Mother Nature can be grand when fickleness abates and her stars align over our little patch of Earth.

Best wishes for a grateful Christmas in your home too, but let us remember those for whom life after Harvey, a lost job, or the loss of a loved one finds them less than grateful. Reach out wherever you find them. ‘tis the season of giving back as well.
 

The Lamb Project

Our effort to introduce seasonal lamb to our members is off to a wonderful start. Lamb packages sold out between 9:45 pm and 7:06 a.m. the following morning. Twenty-four of our households will be receiving lamb as the major portion of their coolers this month. However, we badly underestimated the demand with nearly as many not making the cut as did. We covered 24 but were unable to supply 21. Sorry about that but we had no idea based upon our test surveys that so many would be interested. We are working with our lamb farmer to see if he can supply more lamb for the coming Easter season and, if so, we and he will do our combined best to double the lamb we have for Easter. No promises yet, but we are working on it.

Along the same line, we are in discussions with quail and rabbit farmers to see if it makes sense to offer these meats as occasional extras in your coolers. Variety is the spice of life, yes?

GO ‘STROS!

We can hardly wait for Astros spring training which will be upon us sooner rather than later. What a wonderful journey they carried us on as they defeated the three most storied franchises in the history of our national pastime. First the Red Sox, then the Yanks, and finally the Dodgers in 7. Thank you, Astros. You lifted us.

State of the Farm

Jolie Vue Farms - Wild Texas grass

The pleasures of farming easily outweigh the pains and that’s what keeps us going. One of the tenets of our beginnings was this - let’s make it pretty. And it is, especially in those years when we get particularly lucky and everything goes just as it is hoped and planned.

Humankind has created great works of art but from my point of view, we have never reached the sheer beauty of nature at her best. Her splendor touches our soul.
 
That’s art in its highest form, folks!  We’re living large here, folks!

Fall’s Work Is Done

The many hours, days and weeks spent on the tractor preparing and planting our winter pasture is now behind us and we plus the beeves and pigs wait for our chance to enjoy it. Planting is a tedious, labor-intensive business done in three stages and it is more expensive than the easy way out — buy a bunch of hay and put it out as needed. And our good streak continued when we registered 1.6 inches of rain in less than a week after planting. The rye and oats are jumping out of the ground and reaching for the sun.

The livestock will be rewarded by having fresh green forage all through the fall and winter and we are rewarded by watching the smiles on their faces as they grow grass-fat. Plus, it’s the pretty factor again. When the bright green contrasts with the yellows and browns as the sun goes down, we admire the scene from the porch and say, yes, it was worth the effort. Life is good on the farm.

My Quarterly Price Survey

I was surprised 3 months ago when I found $9/lb grass-fed ground beef. This quarter, it just went higher, $10.49/lb at Whole Foods. Their top steak, a NY Strip, was priced at $22.99/lb. Mind you, Ribeye and Tenderloin go higher when they have it. And the beef is not quite “local” - all coming in from New Zealand. Other cuts such as cutlets, flank steak and roasts fall in the middle of those prices. So on average, getting all of the cuts found in your cooler would cost $16.74/lb for New Zealand beef or approximately $335. JVF cost: 13.45/lb, delivered to your door.

Lamb

We have gotten our experimental lamb back - it was delicious and we think our lamb customers will be very pleased with the packages we will be offering. BUT, we have run into an unexpected obstacle . Our processing house and all of the processing houses are extremely busy this time of year. There is a bottleneck caused by the confluence of county fairs increasing the livestock coming in from the 4H auctions, deer season is in swing, and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations increasing demand for the processors’ facility. We think we will work through this, but it may require us to push our lamb offering to Easter rather than the end of year holidays. We will keep you up to date as we work through the issue.

That caution being expressed, In the belief that we will have lamb packages to offer for our coming December/January holy days, I have begun trying some approaches to the cooking of lamb. I started with lamb chops and found this recipe at the allrecipes.com site. It is called brown sugar chops. The brown sugar label attracted me, knowing that it would put a nice and delicious crust on the meat whether grilled or in a skillet.

First make your dry rub marinade, consisting of:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

(a confession: I cut ginger down from 2 t. to 1 because I have had bad experiences with ginger being so dominant it tastes like soap. Add it back if that is not your concern.)

Mix the ingredients together. Place all sides of each chop in the rub so that it is covered. It helps if the chops have been brought near to room temperature so that moisture has started to form, allowing the seasonings to attach to the meat.

When all chops are dredged in the seasonings, place in refrigerator and cover for an hour, allowing the seasonings to penetrate. 

Ready to cook? Warm your grill or skillet up to medium-high heat. Brush the grill or skillet with oil to avoid sticking, give the chops 5 minutes on each side for medium rare, more if you prefer them medium or well. But it must be a hot grill or skillet in order to get the crustiness you need for the brown sugar.

Enjoy! Really delicious.

A note to those who prefer less of the gamey taste of lamb: the more done the meat is, the less gamey it is. Medium-well chops are still tasty, but with less and less gaminess as they cook further. I like gamey, Honi doesn’t so much. But I’ve been eating wild duck and venison all my life so my palate developed a receptiveness to it. So, experiment to suit your taste.
 

The Big Fat Hen

I have nothing less than extravagant praise for the chicken raised by Jill and her boys at Jolly Farms in Santa Fe (Texas, that is). They have solved all of the many problems confronting those who have tried to raise free range chickens year round. They do it better than our several tried and failed chicken partners - and not by just a little bit. The product is just delicious while avoiding ALL of the negatives that come with industrial chicken.

After consuming the breasts, wings, legs and thighs, you will end up with a carcass that has some meat clinging to it. What signal does that give you? It’s bone broth time! Third child John Henry has come up with additions to our broth recipe (see the recipe section on our website) that adds zestiness to the result. Here goes.

For a gallon and a half of water, add the carcass plus the ingredients listed in our recipe section, and these additions á la John Henry:

  • 2 inches of whole ginger cut into 3 equal chunks, and
  • 2 whole lemons, cut in half with the skin on

Follow the rules for broth making - always a long, slow simmer to produce a pretty, clear broth. I like 24 hours but it doesn’t have to be so long. 6 hours will do and in a pinch, 3 hours will produce enjoyable results.

How to eat it: strip the remaining meat from the carcass and add it back along with your choice of vegs and a starch if you like; drink it straight from the pot; use it to make rice or pasta; or any combination of the above.

HoniAnn and I make 4 dinners from the one 4 lb. hen grown by Jolly. That’s not only great eating but also a wasteless and therefore frugal use of your package.