Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Newsletter

Hello all,
I am squeezing in a February newsletter by the skin of my teeth. In early February I couldn't think of any exciting projects to tell you about. Then mid-February came along and we have been too busy since to tell you about all the goings-ons at Bluebird Farm.
We took our pigs to the butcher on February 15th with the generous help of two fellow farmers (one lent the livestock trailer and another drove). We don't have a stock trailer, and even if we did our truck is not big enough to pull one. So we are on the lookout for stock trailers and trucks to rent or trade for. We will need to work out animal transportation a handful of times each year. The farmer who lent us the trailer is raising beef without the use of antibiotics or hormones right here in Burke County. The cattle are not entirely grass finished, but they do live on pasture and are grass fed with grain supplements. If you are interested in this beef let us know and we can pass along contact information.
But, I digress. The pigs returned to Bluebird Farm three days later as delicious pork. We are slowly sampling all the cuts. Italian Sausage received high marks, we enjoyed a melt in your mouth fresh ham roast, and Marie cooked some amazing short ribs. I won't even try to describe the fresh thick sliced bacon. All of our pork products (except the sold-out ham and shoulder roasts) are available on farm right now. If you haven’t tried our pork, please come out to the farm to purchase some! We do have one extra special cut available. Try a beautiful, succulent boneless loin roast. Boneless loin is regularly $9/pound, but we will offer these large roasts at $6.00/pound. They are about 6 inches wide, almost cylindrical and weigh 10 pounds each. What a wonderful roast for an Easter gathering or for a large family dinner with perfect pork sandwich slices as leftovers!

On the vegetable front we started cabbage, kale, lettuce, and spinach last week. We now have trays of baby vegetables in our greenhouse. The bright green baby plants are so fresh looking against the dark, moist potting soil. After a frozen winter of white snow and brown mud seeing the little green leaves reaching up for the light is an amazing sight. The cabbages we started are one of the vegetables I am really excited about. We are growing three varieties, a green cabbage, a red cabbage, and a savoyed type. The Savoy cabbage is green in color, and savoyed type refers to the wonderful crinkly, wavy texture of all the tightly packed sweet cabbage leaves.
More garden projects are on the horizon. If the rain will hold off for the next few days we will begin breaking ground on more new vegetable beds. We will also begin piling the hay/manure bedding pack from the previous pigs into windrows. This wonderful mixture (although I will admit same less than pleasant odors in its primitive state) will turn into a black, earthy smelling compost mixture with the help of millions of soil microbes. The compost windrows are built right where the pigs were, which is also a new vegetable garden plot. So we will avoid unnecessarily lifting and moving the compost several times (a good rule of thumb around here is to fight gravity as little as possible). So the winter pigs (with some help from us) will have prepared a new garden area from scratch.

Does anyone have any good ideas for the name of the new garden? Give us your ideas!We plan on growing winter and summer squash there, along with sweet potatoes, and many different types of flowers.

No sooner had we started delivering the pork than we purchased a new round of pigs from Warren Wilson College. These pigs spent several days in a corral allowing them adjust to their new surroundings. Meanwhile we worked like crazy partially clearing an area in the woods to create a woodland pig paddock. On Friday we moved the pigs along a 1/8 mile pathway to their new paddock. After a few unplanned detours into the woods and one jailbreak from the new corral they happily settled down to the task of turning the forest into pasture for us.
So that’s the news from Bluebird Farm for February. Despite the weather we all expect Spring to be just around the corner, and with it the excitement of a fresh season of growing and sharing. We look forward to building our community with you this year and bringing fresh healthy foods from Bluebird Farm into your lives. As always, call or email with any questions or to share any thoughts about farming and food.
Happy Eating,
William and Marie

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blue eggs!

Our rainbow of eggs-fresh from the nest.

Today we received our first blue egg. No, its not a robin's egg, its a blue egg fro ma chicken. We have about ten ameraucana hens. They are a unique breed derived from the Chilean breed the araucana. The hens have a very distinct look, featuring elaborate patterns and cheek feathers. Below is one of the ladies.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pastured Pork Available!

Our delicious pastured pork is now available.

Our pigs are raised without the use of antibiotics. They spend their entire lives outdoors. Outside on pasture they can express their natural behaviors; rooting and enjoying fresh grain, roots, grass, and hay. They are a mixture of Berkshire and Tamworth, two heritage breeds that have hardy characteristics that allow them to flourish outdoors. Heritage breeds have also been selected for the outstanding flavor of their meat.

We have already sold out of roasts. But we have plenty of mouth watering sausage, tender pork chops and a variety of other cuts.

A few nights ago we added our Italian Sausage to tomato sauce for a simple spaghetti dinner. We weren't too hungry, but there wasn't one serving of sauce left over! Tonight Marie cooked some of the bacon for a "breakfast for dinner." The meal turned into two courses because the bacon never made it onto our plates with the rest of the food.

But you don't have to take our word for it. Here is what one of our customers said:

"When I fix dinners I playfully give them a star rating--one star for each
person in the family who likes it. With that rating, the pork gets a
rousing 6 star rating" (A family of five with a guest for dinner.

If you are interested in purchasing pork please call or email to arrange a time yo ucan come out to the farm. For the patient types you can find us at the Downtown Morganton Farmer's Market beginning May 8th 8-noon. We will also be attending the Conover Farmers market and Hickory Farmers Market.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Greenhouse update

Yesterday we planted out first seeds! three kinds of Cabbage, two. types of broccoli and kale, and three varieties of lettuce. Oh, I almost forgot the spinach. Its amazing what a little change in the weather can do. A week ago I was in the greenhouse in my winter gear building shelves.

Yesterday I was wearing a t-shirt and the possibility of vegetables growing seemed more likely than it has in months.

This year we are growing our vegetables in soil blocks instead of trays. It is a technique that uses a little hand operated press to extrude blocks of potting soil. It takes a little practice to figure out how to get consistent blocks. But once we worked it our filling a tray with blocks doesn't take much longer than filler a regular cell tray with soil. Then benefit for the vegetable seedling is that the blocks allow more soil volume to fit in the same area. More soil volume means more root volume which mean stronger and more vigorous transplants.

Soil blocks also allow us to use less plastic. When we transplant we simply lift the plant and its soil block out of the tray and plant. There is no fighting the cell to release the root bound plant. We look forward to learning more about soil blocks this season as we go through the cycle of seed, grow, and transplant.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Antibiotics in Meat- Part II

The meat industry in America takes so many shortcuts in raising animals. These are shortcuts that affect human health, animal health, animal welfare, and the environment. Feeding antibiotics to healthy livestock is just one of the many shortcuts that are being taken to create an illusion of inexpensive meat in the United States. Is this a shortcut that the meat industry should take? The spread of antibiotic resistant infections like methicillin resistant staph or MRSA is a human health issue that should not be ignored. The meat that seems inexpensive at the grocery store also has a price tag that we should examine: the health of Americans.

NEW YORK, Feb. 10, 2010
Denmark's Case for Antibiotic-Free Animals
Katie Couric Reports on Denmark's Ban on Antibiotics in Livestock

By Katie Couric
(CBS) "They call it the "Danish Experiment" - a source of pride for the country's 17,000 farmers. CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric reports how unlike industrial farms in the U.S., which use antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease, farmers in Denmark use antibiotics sparingly, only when animals are sick. "

Read the full story on the CBS website

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Preparing for shoots, roots, and cheeps

After days of dreaming about warm, leafy green weather during these chilly rainy days, over 100 varieties of wonderful vegetables have finally materialized in our lives. We don't actually have plants yet, but several small boxes, of the shoe box size, have arrived in the mail! The thousands of seeds that we will plant throughout the next 9 months really don't take up much space right now. That is soon to change, as soon as we finish the baby plant room a.k.a. "The Greenhouse." This nursery will be the focus of our attention as the rest of the winter into early spring.

While we were preparing the greenhouse for vegetable seeding, I realized that we were about to forget the photo opt moment.

But seriously, the greenhouse needed a little TLC. We are improvising this year by stapling up 2 mil clear plastic over the windows and roof to create an air pocket around the room. The idea is that the we will reduce the amount of heat leakage and keep everything toasty, while shop lights with special grow lights provide adequate light on the seedling shelves. This way we can pack in hundreds of healthy baby plants on 10 x 3 foot shelving that William is building for the greenhouse. Next week, our 120 tiny chicks will help keep the greenhouse nice and warm. Their brooder heat lights will give a cheerful glow to the room, while the two radiators will knock the chill off. The real heat source for the greenhouse is pure design. The room is a projection of the Southeastern side of the house, and the heat of the sun is trapped very quickly. During cloudy weather, the house's heat mass helps moderate the temperature of the greenhouse.

In the meantime, the excessive chilly rainy weather has created a great time for indoor planning. I have been researching organic methods of preventing and treating fungus problems in tomatoes. I dream in tomato-color. Stripes of orange/yellow, deep burnished purple, brilliant red all swirl through my mind during my dreams. And the eggplant...ahh tender Asian fingerlings, sweet and mild and beautifully colored. So since these two vegetables have a distinctive deep summer feel, I tend to think about Mediterranean food and grilling. Bright and lemony Tomato Harissa, a Mediterranean salsa, and Grilled Asian Eggplants with Sesame Oil are two of the recipes I have compiled for the CSA summer newsletters.

I know summer is a ways off, so when it comes down to it, I think spring!

Antibiotics in Meat- Katie Couric investigates

Here's Katie Couric's report on antibiotic use in animals

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Also... read the story
NEW YORK, Feb. 9, 2010

Overuse of Antibiotics in Livestock?
Katie Couric Investigates Feeding Healthy Farm Animals Antibiotics. Is it Creating New Drug-Resistant Bacteria?
By Katie Couric

....."But the bottom line on antibiotic use in factory farming is this: no one is really monitoring it.
Joshua Sharfstein, is the deputy director of the FDA.
"We want to put in place measures to reduce inappropriate use and we want to see that those are working - in order to do that we have to have a good surveillance system," Sharfstein said. "It's very important we make progress on that. There's no question that needs to be improved."

This is a great site I just found:
Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming
Superbugs vs. antibiotics
Misuse of antibiotics breeds drug-resistant diseases