The Reality of Farm Life

It's been a trying month on the farm.

It happens. Things break and need to be replaced. Our well pumped died after a decade. No showers or laundry washing and borrowing water from the neighbors for the animals made for a stinky and stressful week.

We've said "hello" and then "goodbye" to some of our precious creatures.

And there's been a bottle lamb to feed which has had me up in the night for most of 2 weeks. Sleep deprivation really hinders brain function, now doesn't it? It also makes me miserable and unproductive.

It's also been an exciting, beautiful, and amazing month.

All of our adult ewes have lambed! A dozen in all with two of the ewes giving birth to triplets! We're still waiting on 3 of last year's ewe lambs to have their babies.

Lambs are so tiny and vulnerable when they are born yet they get up and find their way to food within minutes. It is miraculous to watch!

Sadly, we lost one lamb from the first set of triplets. To prevent the same, sad fate, we decided to pull one of the triplets from the 2nd ewe and bottle feed it. And so we have a house lamb.

Meet Chester.

  Chester the House Lamb

Chester the House Lamb

Chester wears a diaper and helps himself up onto the children's beds to nap. The children think this is "so cute". Me, not so much, particularly when the well is out and I can't wash sheets and towels!

The lambs are growing rapidly, as is the grass. The sheep have all had a good dose of Spring grasses and their lambs have had much frolicking time as well. 

Our slow season has ended.

This past week, 3 of our dairy cows gave birth to three calves. There has been the ensuing flood of milk from Nutmeg, LeLait, and Saffron. All three calves are bulls.

LeLait's calf left today for his new home. We cannot keep them all.

Nutmeg and Saffron's calves will stay here as steers for future beef. Unlike their commercial dairy counterparts, Terry (a.k.a Teryaki) and Kit (a.k.a. Brisket), will live out their lives drinking their mother's milk and eating all the grass they could ever want.

 The black calf is Kit, the red calf is Terry. LeLait's calf, the brown one, has left for his new home.

The black calf is Kit, the red calf is Terry. LeLait's calf, the brown one, has left for his new home.

So, my knitting days are over!

It's time to get the garden planted, make yogurt and cheeses, and soon, the daily pasture moves will start. Piglets for our Pork Shares arrive in early April and our family meals become more rushed and projects end up on the backburner until late Fall. 

Such is life on a small farm.

As we settle in to our seasonal routines, I'll get back to sharing more recipes, farm happenings, and some exciting new nutritional information with you.

In the meantime, enjoy the blooming Forsythia and Daffodils and pray for abundant rainfall so the grasses will be lush, the milk will flow, and the lambs will fatten well!
 

 

New VIDEO: First Lamb of the Year Is Born!

Winter is a quiet time on the farm.

Milking is at a minimum and the cows & sheep are on winter hay, leaving daily fence moves a distant memory from grass growing season. After the holidays are over, there are New Year's resolutions, garden planning, and grazing management charts to work on by the warmth of the wood stove.

Lambing Season Begins

Sometime in mid-Winter, lambing season begins with the birth of our first lamb. This is always an exciting time for all of the family. Celia and Mercy check the sheep often and try to guess who might lamb next by judging the fullness and size of the ewes' udders.

The ewes are calm and carefree in the weeks leading up to lambing, enjoying the last days of freedom before the duties of motherhood appear and keep them busy feeding and chasing their babies.

New lambs are so cute (but they don't stay this way for long!)

They are also a reminder that the seasons will soon change and the grass will grow green again.

My children received a new video camera for Christmas so I grabbed it and made a quick video of the new lamb to share with you. 

Take a look...

 

Be sure to share this video with friends & family who might enjoy it!

And there are more lambs to come! So stay tuned!

 

Last Minute Low Stress Applewood Smoked Fresh Holiday Ham

Well, it has been my intention to dazzle you with a phenomenal apple brined and smoked Christmas ham recipe.

Alas, in a fit of insanity after Thanksgiving,

I decided the entire house should be painted before all the Christmas holiday guests arrive. So much for keeping things simple and stress-free, eh?

Last Minute Christmas Ham

I want to share with you a delicious recipe for a last minute fresh ham you can cook & smoke right on your grill. This way your husband can be responsible for the main dish while you stay relaxed & cozy in front of the fireplace with your eggnog and cookies.

All you need is 24 hours!

You can pull the ham from the freezer on Christmas Eve morning and leave it out to thaw (yes, on the counter!!) until Christmas morning then rub it with the seasonings and get it on the grill.

This recipe uses the Amazen Smoke Tube I recommended in my recent Holiday Real Food Gift Guide. No, it is not necessary to smoke this ham, just cooking it on the grill (or in your oven at the same temperature) will produce a lovely and delicious fresh ham.

Fresh Holiday Ham Post.jpg

Applewood Smoked Maple Sage Fresh Ham

Total Prep Time: 24 hours (for thawing) plus 30 minute prep   Cook Time: 3-½ to 4 hours

Ingredients

  • 7-9 lb Foggy Knob Farm Half Ham
  • 1 T dried sage or 2 T fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 T olive oil, melted butter or lard
  • ½ cup maple syrup

Equipment

  • Amazen Smoke Tube
  • Applewood smoke pellets
  • Foil pan
  • Charcoal or propane grill

Instructions

  1. Score fat on ham with a sharp knife, making a diamond pattern.
  2. Brush the ham with the olive oil, butter, or lard, and rub with the sage, salt, and pepper. Rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes while you start the grill.
  3. Place a large, disposable foil pan underneath the grill grate to catch drippings. Start a fire on one end of the grill. You will be cooking the ham on the other side of the grill for indirect cooking, 250-350 degrees.
  4. Fill your Amazen Smoke Tube with applewood pellets and light, per manufacturer’s instructions. Once smoking, place your tube over the flame end of the grill, opposite where the ham will be placed.
  5. Place ham on grill grates over the foil pan and close the lid on the grill. Cook ham on low heat, keeping the grill as close to 325 degrees as possible. Alternately, place the ham in a roasting pan and in your oven at 325 degrees for the same amount of time. Just skip the smoke tube, unless you want to set off the smoke alarm.
  6. After 3 hours, brush the ham with a ¼ cup of maple syrup. Cook for another 30 minutes.
  7. Baste ham with the remaining maple syrup and continue to cook until the temperature of the ham at its thickest point reads 145-150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes more.
  8. When ham is at the proper temperature, transfer it to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Slice ham and serve with your favorite side dishes!

Now that’s pretty easy, isn’t it? So be don’t be like me and decide to paint your house and renovate your bathroom between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep your holiday simple and low key!

I’ll be back in the New Year! In the meantime, Merry Christmas and enjoy this time with your family and friends!

God bless!

-Kristin

*Adapted from Weber's Smoke and The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbooks.

 

The Ultimate Real Food Holiday Gift Guide

The Ultimate Real Food Holiday Gift Guide (FB).png

Do you struggle to find useful, meaningful gifts?

Not just something that will sit on a shelf and never be use but a gift that will make life easier and more enjoyable?

To help you out this year (and so I don't forget my own gift ideas),  I’ve come up with a guide to help you find your REAL FOODie friends and family (or maybe yourself!) that perfect holiday gift.

(Why don't you forward this post to someone to help them find Real Food gifts too!)

I have all these in my own kitchen and they make cooking real food so much faster, easier, and much more enjoyable.

The Ultimate Real Food Holiday Gift Guide


Kitchen Tools


A Quality Knife Set.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been visiting a friend or teaching someone in their home and cannot find a decent, sharp knife! A GOOD set of knives makes preparing real foods a pleasure.

A good, easily sharpened knife set does not have to be expensive. Some of my favorite knives (and I have a lot of knives!) are U.S. made Ontario Knife Company carbon steel Old Hickory brand knives. An Old Hickory Paring Knife, a Slicing Knife, a Cook Knife, and a Cleaver can all be had for less than $100. This assortment will do just about everything needed for cooking real food!

A Knife Block.

Don’t waste money on good knives only to have your Real Foodie friend or relative toss them into a jumbled drawer to get knocked around and dull. A wooden or bamboo knife block can be found for less than $30. Don’t want one on the counter? Get a drawer knife block instead!

A Honer & Sharpener.

I learned many years ago that having good knives was not helpful if I could not keep them SHARP! So two more essential tools that go hand in hand are a usable knife sharpener and a honer.

I inherited a rolling knife sharpener from my in-laws. It has been the best tool for keeping my knives sharpened. Look for vintage Robo and Robo Junior Rolling Knife Sharpeners on Etsy or eBay.

A honer or “knife steel” is used to give your knives a quick sharpen just before use and can be had from places like Amazon for under $20.

Wood Cutting Board.

Yes, wood. Yes, for everything. EVERYTHING! These are so much better than those plastic cutting boards. And because they are real wood, they are naturally able to combat pathogens that otherwise like to hang out on plastic cutting boards.

I purchased a beautiful edge cut maple cutting board, approximately 11” x 17” from a small U.S. producer a few years ago, after my cheap wood cutting board fell apart. It is more than an inch thick! I just rinse it off in hot water with a squirt of soap and scrub it a bit with a green scrubby between uses.

Coupled with the knives above, prepping real food is so easy! Check out eBay for some beautiful (and budget-friendly) options or send me an email and ask about my local craftsman friend. Expect to pay anywhere from $30-100.

A Cast Iron Fry Pan (or two!!).

I came across Lodge brand cast iron cookware when we first arrived in Tennessee 20 years ago. I have a number of pieces I use regularly, but none are as heavily used as my cast iron fry pan. A bonus: Lodge Cast Iron cookware is made right here in East Tennessee.

You can cook everything from pastured fried eggs & frittatas to lamb or pork chops in one these. Get a 12” pan with the ergonomic handle on the end opposite the regular handle. And check your local hardware store as many carry Lodge products. About $30.

A Stove Top & Oven Proof Dutch Oven.

A Dutch Oven should be stainless steel or enameled cast iron. Personally, I prefer the latter and purchased a couple of vintage Descoware Dutch Ovens from eBay. Le Creuset & Lodge both carry good quality enameled cast iron.

Slow oven cooked roasts and stews are out of this world when cooked in a low oven for 6 or 8 hours. A crockpot will do but the flavor is not the same! These can be a bit pricey. But they will last forever. I use mine for soups, pot roasts, and curries. Be sure and use wood or bamboo utensils so you don’t chip the enamel (ask me how I know!)

The Amazen Smoke Tube.

The Smoke Tube was a recent discovery for me and it is a game changer! Suddenly, hot or cold smoking on a grill can be done anywhere, by anyone with this simple stainless steel tube and some all wood smoke pellets.

Want a smoked ham for the holidays? Yup. This will do it! Or maybe a bit of smoke on those pork chops? Uh huh.

I recommend the 12” model. But if you have a small grill, the 6” model will work just fine. And don’t forget a variety of wood smoke pellets. Applewood, cherry, hickory, or mesquite. All for under $40.

An Instant Read Thermometer.

An Instant Read Thermometer is really the best way to know if your Grass-fed Lamb leg, Forest Raised Pork ham roast, or pastured chicken is done. It will give you or your Real Foodie confidence when cooking those pricier cuts.

These digital thermometers can be had for a little as $10 and make a great stocking stuffer for the Real Foodie in your life.

Tongs.

Good ones. Not the cheap ones that break after a year or two of use. I bought a set of tongs over 20 years ago and they are still going strong. Tongs are perfect for flipping chops, browning roasts, or grabbing hot stuff off the grill or from the oven.

The brand I bought years ago was Edlund and lo and behold, they are still just as durable & well made! I now have a longer pair for grilling. About $12 on Amazon and great for as a Real Foodie’s stocking stuffer.


Ingredients


Salt.

Your Real Foodie would LOVE a variety of gourmet salts. I have purchased from Saltworks for many years. They offer an incredible variety of salts from around the world. I love both the Sel Gris and Pink Himalayan for daily use.

They also offer various smoked and flavored salts. So if you don’t think the Amazen Smoker Tube will fly or you don't have a place to grill, try some smoked salts. They have Applewood, Alderwood, Oak, Mesquite, and Hickory smoked salts, to name a few! Purchase them in the refillable grinder so they can add a bit of smoke any dish quickly.

These smoked salts make great stocking stuffers or get a bunch (along with a few of the Fusion flavored salts like Curry, Chipotle, or Lime) and you’ll be someone’s favorite gift giver! Individual salts start around $10 and they have lovely salt collections and free shipping all the time!

Olive Oil.

Real, quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is so hard to find. But a good bottle, when used unheated for drizzling & dipping, is well worth the cost. It adds a great flavor to salads topped with Raw Feta or a Caprese Salad made with Fresh Mozzarella.

Good quality olive oils are now available (almost!) locally. Look for quality Georgia and Texas grown olive oils available online. A 1/2 liter bottle is available for under $35. You'll have your Real Foodie drooling.


Books


The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook.

The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook is my most used cookbook! Delicious, easy recipes and guides to all things grass-fed & pastured. This book was a lifesaver when I was learning to cook our grass-fed lamb and forest raised pork.

The book covers beef, bison, venison, lamb, goat (chevon), pork, turkey, chicken, duck, goose, eggs, & dairy. My husband loves the food I make him from recipes in this book! The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook will turn your Real Food Skeptic into a Real Foodie, too!

Nourishing Traditions.

Nourishing Traditions is the book that got me started on my Real Food journey more than a decade ago! It’s more than a cookbook. Nourishing Traditions has detailed information on food nutrients, good fats, cooking methods, grain preparations, broths and fermented foods, to name a few.

Nourishing Traditions is so full of informative nutrition information, I even use this as part of my children's’ High School Health course!

Charcuterie.

You're looking for Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. This is an excellent starter book to get you going on salting, brining, smoking, and otherwise making your own fabulous cured meats & fish.

I use many of Ruhlman’s basic salting & brining recipes to make Bacons, Hams, and Sausages from our Forest Raised Pork. I've also made Lamb Pancetta & Lamb Proscuitto (from our Grass-fed Lamb) with the techniques learned from Charcuterie. These foods really are simple and rewarding to make at home. And once they are made, you can eat them for many months. What could be more convenient?

Wild Fermentation

Wild Fermentation is the original book that kicked off the Fermentation Frenzy. Sandor Katz, a native New Yorker turned Tennessean, like me, covers veggies, sourdough, kefir, and kombucha. I found my first kefir grains and kombucha SCOBY with the references in this book. It’s a great way to give your Real Foodie an inspirational fermentation boost! They (and you!) will have healthier guts too. 


That's it for my 2017 Ultimate Real Food Holiday Gift Guide!

Do you know someone who could use some Holiday Gift Inspiration?

Why don't you send them a link to this article?


 

Sneak Peak: The New Farm Kitchen

If you have been to the farm and sat with me at the long folding tables in the dark back room, you’ll have heard tales of a new farm kitchen.

We’ve been operating with a tiny 8’ x 10’ kitchen that was never really meant to be used for cooking 3 meals a day for 8 people, let alone processing 15-20 gallons of milk, making 8 lb wheels of cheese, and 3-4 gallons of yogurt every week.

After a dozen years, that old kitchen is literally falling apart! It has become difficult for me to do any serious cooking with all the milk processing and dish washing going on. Not to mention, there is almost no cabinet space!

But something very exciting is happening.

We are working hard to get the new farm kitchen completed by Spring 2018, just in time to introduce our new Flexible Raw Milk Herd Share.

This new farm kitchen will be at least 3 times the size of our current kitchen PLUS it will room for an 8-foot farm table (remember the current table sitting right in front of the wood stove?) with room to spare.

We were able to find an 8-foot commercial sink with drainboards. This will really help with containing all the wash water from the milking equipment. There will be dedicated milk processing space at the end of a 4 x 10’ island. This island will have a second stovetop dedicated to cheesemaking, broth making, and canning. Currently, it is difficult to make cheese and prep meals on the one stove we have.


Left to right & top to bottom: Our old, tiny, crumbling kitchen; The dark dingy new kitchen before tiling. This is where the folding tables were located;  The new dining area after tiling. This table is now 2 feet longer than it was; The new freezer & pantry area after tiling; The main kitchen area with new sink. The island will be in the foreground; The wood stove area where the dining table and all my pantry items were stored! We can sit in front of the fire.

The island will also be large enough for me to hold cheese making, fermenting, meat curing, cooking, herb, and general farm classes again!

I know some of you have been here for classes in years past. And I am sure you remember the limited space. Well, you should be able to bring friends when this new kitchen is complete! And I hope you will!

So stay tuned! In a few month, I’ll be hosting cheese tastings, classes, and inviting you over all the time as I will have room to teach and entertain! I hope you are as excited as I am!

I look forward to hosting you here in my new farm kitchen soon!