State of the Farm

The calves have thrived on the spring grasses for an unusually extended growth period, starting about 6 weeks earlier than usual due to the extraordinarily warm winter. It is very satisfying to watch them grow with the abundance of sweet grasses available. The pigs too, but those guys seem to grow regardless of weather, August heat being the exception. That will slow the no-sweat-glands piggy down every year.

But we are now in June and things are heating up at the same time that we are seeing the now familiar “heavy rain/no rain” cycle. Let’s review with stats from the rain book.
We were doing fine through the first 3 months of the year. Jan/Feb/March were fine, slightly above normal. Then April missed by nearly 2 inches, and early May brought one good rain then went dry again. That accumulating dryness extended into early June, accompanied by strong, low humidity winds, further sucking moisture from the soil. I began to hear the crunch of drying grass as I walked the pastures, an unhappy sound. Clay and I could see that moving the cattle to the next pasture would be a short term fix only; the pasture was not ready and grazing it would only weaken it further as we prepare for the hottest months of the year. So we brought out the hay in order to buy some time for the coming pasture and turned on the irrigation well for future pastures. Voila! Here came a good rain, ranging from 2.4 inches on the west side to 3.5 on the east side. (yes, we often find discrepancies in rainfall between our east and west side rain gauges. We have different micro-climates on our small patch of the planet Earth. Amazing) So, life is good again. We have a chance of having grass as we turn into July and August, a hope that we shoot for every year, sometimes hitting, other times missing.

Assessing the Consequences of Warm Winter

Here find the differences noted by an unusually warm winter:

  • our fruits orchards, pears and peaches, bore almost no fruit. Insufficient chill hours.
  • the wildflowers skipped the first bloom of bluebonnets and paintbrush and went straight to the second bloom of Indian blanket, Mexican hat and yellow flowers. We sure missed the bluebonnets though I must say the second bloom was beautiful and prolific. She tooketh away, but she gaveth back.
  • our purple martins are almost non-existent, apparently staying further north rather than migrating down where they help us keep the insects and grass hoppers at a manageable level. We love the martins but they don’t love us this year.
  • most disquietingly, I spotted a road runner in our east pasture. Why troubling? That’s a desert bird. Are we going back into a drought or just a dry’ish period? What are the long term implications? What is Mother Nature telling us? Time will tell.

That’s it for on the ground, folks! Here comes the kitchen...

Kielbasa Sausage Reiterated

We introduced a new sausage this year, kielbasa. It’s a German, Polish Czech kind of sausage, a perfect fit for this part of Texas, reflecting the migration of those European natives into New Braunfels, Weimar, Schulenburg, and Brenham. We started out with a South Texas addition to the recipe, jalapeno. Not this month but in July, you will find a different iteration of kielbasa – the addition of green onion. I look forward to trying that and it is what is so cool about kielbasa; it’s base recipe is receptive to all sorts of additions. So after jalas and green onion, what might come next. I’m thinking bell pepper or maybe even pimientos. We shall see. 

As Simple As It Gets

HoniAnn is spending a week in Fish Creek, Louisiana at her quilting partner, Marilyn’s, family farm. I love that name, Fish Creek. Early settlers gave their communities simple names reflective of their surroundings, much as the Indians did in naming their newborns. Fish Creek is right up there with Woman Hollering Creek, my all-time favorite. You’ll cross WHC on I-10 as you drive toward San Antonio. I would love to know what the locals must have heard to have attached that name to it. Ghostly, don’t you think?

Anyway, HoniAnn took a pork belly with her as her hostess loves our pork. Marilyn started the belly by searing it in an iron skillet on both sides then putting it in a slow cooker on low for 4 hours. Mind you, there were no seasonings added. Just the pork, please. They raved about it.

The lesson here? Start with good product and keep it simple. Let the meat speak for itself. Here’s what it looked like:

Jolie Vue Farms - Pot Roast

Skipping Notices

Every month, we have one or more deliveries scheduled that “fail”. In other words, we did not get a timely notice that the customer wishes to skip that month. Sometimes we learn that on Thursday evening, Friday or even Saturday. Several times we have learned that while standing at the door with a cooler full of food and eggs, only to be told that the customer “intended” to skip.
Recall that we send notices of delivery weekend on the Monday preceding the delivery weekend so that you have 3 and 1⁄2 days to notify of your desire to skip that delivery. Please understand that we commit to costs promptly at noon on Thursday preceding your weekend delivery. This is the latest that we can notify Jolly Farms and Coyote Creek of our chicken and eggs order. As an example, we almost always have $150-200 in direct, incurred costs as a result of skip notices that come in too late.

Thursday is also the day we plan the delivery route, trying to make the drive from the farm to all of the homes as short as possible. We hope you can understand the difficulty of planning the most efficient route of making 50 or so home deliveries each day only to learn after doing so that 2, 3, or 4 customers have given us a late notice to take them off the route. So late notices of desire to skip have many costs and planning consequences to us.

We urge you to advise us as early as you can if it is your intention to skip the month’s delivery, but not later than noon on Thursday preceding the weekend of delivery. Any notices that arrive later than noon on Thursdays will incur a charge of $25 and if it comes in at a time when we have already packed your cooler, be that Saturday or Sunday morning, we will charge you the full cost of the delivery plus $25. However, in that last described situation, there will be no charge for your next delivery.

Fair enough? We hope so because we have always strived to be as easy and as flexible with our valued customers as is possible.

State of the Farm

Well, here I go again…is spring better than fall, or vice versa? I usually choose the season I’m living in because it feels so good at the time. So I cannot get enough of the prolonged spring we have had this year, starting well into the winter period. The weather is fine, the flowers are beautiful, and the summer grasses are breaking ground. The calves and pigs are frolicking and getting fat and happy. Our world seems perfect. Life is good. It can’t get any better than this, right?

That being said, you’ll catch me talking out of the other side of my mouth when the first cooling front caresses us in early October. The cool, dry breezes will reappear, having been erased by the sultry dog days of August. As the grasses turn yellow, the fall breezes turn the pastures into a rolling sea of grass. Fall whispers to us to slow down; the hard part of the year is over. Life is good again.

So what’s the answer, spring or fall? I guess it’s this: dance with who brung ya. They’re both enchanting ladies (or gentlemen).

“Organic”

What does organic mean today? We at JVF don’t want to sound like whiners, but we do want you to know the facts. And the fact is, it’s not what it used to be. But to be fair, it is better than before the organic movement got legs. That’s also the fact. There are fewer chemicals sold and put down on the ground today than there were before the movement. That’s progress and we should recognize it. And support it when we can’t find it from a local farmer. Our family does. You should too. But you also need to know that when it comes to meat, you have to ask more than whether it is “new organic”. Are the creatures raised in cages or feedlots? Are they fed antibiotics and hormones? Are they sprayed with pesticides to keep the flies off of them. Where are the waste materials dumped? Are the waterways, air and soils being improved? How far away were the creatures raised and how did the government know if the standards were really followed? In how many different plants were the meats processed?

Or you can keep it simple – buy locally from farmers you know. As a subset to that suggestion, true grass-fed and pastured meats are also less expensive than Big Food charges.

Sustainable, affordable sustenance. That’s what it’s all about at Jolie Vue Farms.

Burgers for Many

As we enter the grilling season, lets assume you’re having the neighbors over for burgers. There will be twelve mouths to feed. Unless you’re cooking to order, your first patty is going to dry out before it gets to the bun. What to do?

Here’s my solution. Have a pot of beef broth on a warm spot. Add some butter to it. Make your burgers and hold them in the broth. If you want to add some bbq sauce to the broth, do that too. When you’re ready to eat, pull them out one at a time, dripping in juices. And have a great spring/summer, living large.