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...

“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.

Sustainable

Sustainable is a term used frequently to describe farming techniques implemented to assure that farming will enhance or at least not damage the immediate as well as the larger environment, be that soil, air or water. But as we plumb more deeply into sustainability, we find it has application to many techniques utilized by the modern food system that dominates our dietary lives.

Let's jump to chicken and how we eat it today, contrasting that with the presentation less than 60 years ago. I am old enough to remember grocery shopping with my mother and seeing nothing but whole chickens, with the giblets stuffed in the cavity, as the only way to buy chicken. Mom was expert at dissembling the chicken into pieces if she was going to fry it, or leaving it whole if she would roast it. The giblets would make a wonderful gravy using the neck, gizzard and heart, and the liver would be eaten either fried or as a pate' on bread. The only part of the chicken not consumed, I suppose, were the feet and head. My supposition is that those parts were sent to the pet food factory. Feathers? Who knows? Pillows and mattresses perhaps. My recollection of price was in the neighborhood of 29 cents a pound. So a three pound fryer cost less than a dollar. And nothing was wasted. The sustenance gained by eating that whole chicken was far superior to today's most popular choice, the skinless, boneless breast. You all know what kind of price that cut commands - because the producer has to sell the rest of the chicken at a discounted price somewhere else in an effort to recoup his costs of production. Legs, thighs, wings, neck, skin, liver, gizzard, heart. In other words, the bulk of the remaining chicken.

So where does it go? I understand that much of it goes to the Asian countries and other cultures that understand that the superior sustenance in a chicken is found in those lesser parts. We should refer to that as the sustainable sustenance of a chicken. So we Americans spend ship or jet fuel in huge quantities trying to get rid of the parts that Americans won't eat based on the misguided belief that the chicken breast will sustain us.

Does that strike you as sustainable sustenance?

Sustainable Sustenance...

is what we offer. Sustenance to maintain the body and soul, grown for humans but in a humane and sustainable model. Sustainable sustenance really says it all when speaking of cutting edge farming, so the English professionals among us will have to excuse the redundancy of the term (both words derive from the single Latin term, sustenir, to sustain). Our mission is to feed the human population in a naturally holistic and harmonious adventure at the edge of the farming community. Everything else cascades from that mission. Richer and erosion-proof soil. Cleaner air. Purer water. Shrinkage of the dead spot in our beautiful Gulf of Mexico. Healthy, happy people. Children growing up as healthy adults. Carbon-trapping grasses. Flourishing microorganisms. Fewer drugs and supplements in our bodies. A net financial gain for our members finishes the long list of elements bringing you Value every day that you are with us in this adventure into the new world of eating (see the footnoted summary below of my earlier blog hit concerning financial value if you missed it).

 

Homegrown Foods

From the Houston Chronicle:

A more robust infrastructure of support for family farms will have other positive ripple effects. Profitable family farms will ensure that some of the remaining beautiful, lush farmlands in our area are preserved, rather than carved up into shopping centers and subdivisions. Keeping land as farmland benefits this generation and generations to come.
In addition, buying local is better for our environment. A high percentage of the fossil fuels used in the global food system goes to packaging, transporting and marketing. Buying local reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. Moreover local foods need less processing since products don't need to be shipped so far.
The drought in California is starting to have an impact on the availability of fresh produce, and expanding local production would enhance food security. In addition, our country remains a net importer of fresh vegetables, according to the USDA. Mexico and Canada are the largest suppliers and fresh vegetable imports from both countries increased in 2014. There's nothing more secure than homegrown.
When consumers buy directly from a local farm, the farmer receives a larger portion of the food dollar. By buying food grown in Texas, we keep our money in Texas and help provide good-paying jobs for Texans. This public/private partnership is a delicious and nutritious win/win.

Here's Honi's letter to the editor:

Dear Editor,
Buying from local farms has even more benefits than stated in Saturday's editorial.  Locally grown animals, eggs and plants use the same air and water that we do and are seasonal,  promoting the strength of their Omega 3's, vitamins, and mineral content, also discouraging allergic reactions.  Most local farmers are chemical free keeping our air and water safer.  Plus, the products haven't been stored for weeks or months, which increases food safety.  Best of all, many farmers home deliver. Do you know where your food comes from?  Who's your farmer?

Salad Bar Beef

 Jolie Vue Farms – A salad bar of weeds.

Jolie Vue Farms – A salad bar of weeds.

Joel Salatin invented the description “Salad Bar Beef” to describe the menu of the wide diversity of grasses and flora found in native pastures and upon which our cattle make “grass-fat” beef. We have now raised our count to 16 of those native grasses at JVF. But you must understand that the salad bar that Salatin refers to includes more than grass. It includes what many of us would generically call “weeds”. But here’s the story on weeds – our soil protectors.

Weeds have a number of beneficial functions. This year has been alternating between very wet and cool to very hot and dry. The latter cycle causes weed-pop. Why is that? Weeds shade the soil to keep the surface from getting too hot; grass will not grow at surface temperatures of 95 and above. Drop the air temperature from 95 to 85 and it encourages grass, and that’s one beneficial function. Grass grows under the shade of the weed canopy. The second benefit relates to the “how” of weed-pop. Weeds in dry weather have an ability to reach deeper for moisture in the sub-soil than grass does. In the deeper soil the weeds also intersect more minerals and when they do, they bring those minerals up to the grass roots level, enriching the soil and adding fresh stores of minerals to the grasses. Third benefit? Weeds can be palatable to cattle and pigs, high in protein and minerals. Not all, but many. So weeds are forage despite the effort of conventional farmers to spray them to death. When you spray them with herbicides, you are killing a friend and poisoning your soil.

Long live the weeds in the salad bar of a native pasture! 

Little Bluestem to the Rescue

The Bluestem grass family – Little, Big, Silver, KR, and others – are our native grass cousins that provide forage when all of the other grasses are wilting. At JVF, Little Bluestem is most prominent and is doing its duty once again as the above-described heat descends upon us. We count on these guys every year at this time and they have never failed us. Bring it on, LB!