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Farming for Fun and Profit: a farmer’s winter thoughts

Mangalitsa pigs in the winter

It’s been a while since we’ve posted, but the farm continues to be busy.  The winter is quieter, more of a maintenance time, a reflective time.  So, is farming worth it?  Is it for fun, or for profit?  Hopefully the answer is “both.” Mark talks in this video about what we’ve learned about marketing and what it takes to raise Mangalitsas for both fun and profit.

Mark’s been making videos and you can check them out on our Baker’s Green Acres YouTube channel.

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Fall pigs: why now is the time to get your hog!

Pasture raised heritage breed Mangalitsa pigs: sow and piglets

Way back when, long ago, in the mists of time, the folks who homesteaded the land had hogs.  Fat hogs.  Hardy hogs.  Hogs that didn’t need a lot of pampering and could live off the land.  Even in the fall, going into winter, there were no worries about taking care of the pigs.  Once it froze and the grasses finished curing and the flies disappeared, it was time to process the fat pigs and wean the little pigs for next year.

Welcome to the world of the Mangalitsa.  These guys are heritage pigs that thrive on heritage living.  They don’t fear the cold of winter.  They can thrive on a variety of feeds.  The sows take care of their young well.  In fact, the whole herd watches out for the young.  The other day two sows, one with piglets, gave me a  hard time when I went into look at them.  Then I realized the puppy had followed me in.  They didn’t appreciate her presence!  The Mangalitsa is the ultimate homestead hog for our farm.

You can get your own piece of heritage today! Fall is a fine time to start your Mangalitsa for next year.

  • For one thing, there’s not as much competition, so prices are lower.
  • Also, they grow fine on the extra veggies and other feeds you can scrounge. We feed hay, meat scraps, household scraps (the old “slop bucket”), apples, and root crops.
  • Due to their heritage genetics, they don’t need you to break the ice in the waterer.  If there’s snow, they are set.  (That flies in the face of common thought, but we’ve proven it.  Nature rarely provides running water in the winter and these guys are still adapted to survive.)
  • They do need shelter and bedding, but a hut and a bale of straw will suffice.  They don’t need a heaeted barn.
  • In the spring they’ll grow exponentially and be ready to butcher before you know it!  The yield of rich red meat and creamy lard will be worth the wait.

Check out these posts to see how the Mangalitsas have performed at Baker’s Green Acres:

Pigs and Cute

Fill Your Freezer

Pig Breed Comparison

Now’s the time to get your Baker’s Green Acres heritage hog for next year!  Check with us for fall specials on weaner pigs, half grown feeder pigs, and breeding stock.

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Learn to take your hog from field to freezer -Harvest time!

Homestead Hog Harvest: Anyone Can Farm

Learn to take your hog from field to freezer -Harvest time!

We are busy making plans for the two hog harvest classes, possibly three, we have on the schedule so far this year.

October 20-22: Come help us harvest Shady Grove Farm’s hogs in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Penninsula.  We’ll start Friday afternoon with scalding and scraping the pigs, sampling some of the quickest and most nutrient dense gifts the animal has to offer: the internal organs.  On Saturday and Sunday we’ll break the pigs down so that by Sunday afternoon we have all the pork on salt, ground into sausage, or wrapped and in the freezer.  You’ll get to do it all HANDS ON, so you take this knowledge home in a deeper way than if you just watched.  To get more information, and to sign up, contact Randy Buchler and Shady Grove Farm.

November 3-5: Baker’s Green Acres will host the Anyone Can Farm class.  We’ll start in the pasture and end up with meat for you to take home (included in the class as a bonus).  You will get to do the work, guided by Mark, Sam, and Jill, to turn the pigs into bacon, ham, sausage, pork chops, and all the other good things the pig has to offer.  If proscuitto and coppa is your interest, we’ll get those started with you as well.  Read more about the class here: Homestead Hog Harvest.

As an added bonus, at both classes you get to spend the weekend on a sustainable, regenerative permaculture minded farm and get to pick the brains of some thoughtful farmers while touring their farm and sitting around a dinner table sampling world class pork.  For free!

Here’s an old video of Sam teaching a class how to start working on a carcass:

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Integrity Matters: know or learn to be your farmer

Keith moving beyond organic whole chickens on grass in chicken tractors on pasture.

“Trust is the combination of intelligence and integrity.”

“Husbandry, which is not replaceable by science, nevertheless uses science, and corrects it too. It is the more comprehensive discipline. To reduce husbandry to science, in practice, is to transform agricultural “wastes” into pollutants, and to subtract perennials and grazing animals from the rotation of crops. Without husbandry, the agriculture of science and industry has served too well the purpose of the industrial economy in reducing the number of landowners and the self-employed. It has transformed the United States from a country of many owners to a country of many employees.” ~Wendell Berry

This summer has been a new venture in food for us.  We are redesigning our business model.  We are assessing what’s important and what we can do without or outsource.  We are seeking to keep our business and life in integrity with our personal values and choices.  We increasingly find that there are aspects of where we live in the midst of big agriculture country are out of integrity with how we want to live.  The land, it’s soil, grasses, trees, and waters, are part of our lives.  They are a collective to be collaborated with, not brought into submission.  That’s been our approach to how we raise our food, be it squash or chicken, apples or pigs.  #IntegrityMatters.

Farming with the season is part of that integrity.  As we transition from summer to fall, we move out of chicken season and into pig season.  Chicken is a “cooling meat.”  It’s light and doesn’t tax a digestive system that is getting plenty of nourishment from the abundent veggies of summer. Grass fed poultry is full of the  nutrients of grass and contain a balance of Omega-3’s and 6’s as well as lots of vitamins A and E.  They aren’t so high in the vitamins so plentiful in the rich, dark veggies summer provides us.  As the grasses get frosted and the natural grains ripen, the grazing animals come ready for harvest.  The nutrition in the grasses goes to the roots, the animals harvest the grains, and the cold drives the animals’ fat into the muscles in preparation for winter.  The dry grasses help to dry out the fat, making it more storable and dense, Rrich with the stored nutrients of summer.  Fall and early winter are the time for harvesting these animals.  Historically, the flies were gone and the pastures done for the season at animal harvest time.  The crisp chill of fall would cool the carcasses of the pigs and cows so they could be processed.  This would be winter meat.  The rich red meat would help provide the iron and other vitamins and minerals lacking in the veggies of winter.  The seasons worked together and the farmer collaborated to make the most of what nature offered.

Now is the time to get your whole or half hog spoken for.  We are planning for our fall harvest as we look at the frost on the fields in the mornings and break out the sweatshirts and vests in the mornings and evenings.  We don’t have to worry about flies so much thanks to the wonders of refrigeration and fly spray, but it’s time to start thinking of hog harvest.

The Homestead Hog Harvest class is coming up in November.  There is still room for you!  This is a great weekend to experience the magic that happens when hogs are harvested with integrity and care–and you can take that skill set home with you!  From field to freezer, you can harvest a hog, or at least have the experience of doing it.  PLUS, you get to take some fabulous Mangalitsa pork home with you.

Integrity matters.  Know your farmer.  Anyone can farm!

Check out these articles for more farm philosophy:

Hay and Philosophy

Pasture (Grass) plus Chickens: goodness to share

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Bone broth healthy breakfast: broth and egg in a cup

clear chicken bone broth

Everyone keeps talking about “bone broth!”  So, we’ve been asked

“What is bone broth?”

Bone broth is the product of animal bones simmered in water for a length of time.  The simmering over time pulls the nutrients out of the bones and cartilage.  Once strained, the liquid should be a nice tan (chicken and turkey) or brown (beef and pork) color and fairly opaque.  No pieces of meat or other material in it, just liquid.  It should also be jelly like in the fridge if well made.

Is bone broth healthy for me? Why is it nutritious?

Well made bone broth is full of the nutrients in the bones.  Like feeds like, so the calcium, magnesium, and other minerals are extremely helpful to your bones.  In fact, the calcium in broth build bones better than the calcium in milk.  Plus, your body doesn’t have to deal with the lactose in milk and any mucus caused by it.  Because the broth is easy to digest, it’s a superior way to get nutrients into your body without stressing out your immune system.  This is why chicken broth is so helpful for sick folks.

Is “bone broth” different from stock or other broth?

Yes.  Here are the basic definitions:

Broth: meat, vegetables, and “aromatics” (spices, onion, etc.), simmered for a short time (1-2 hours) and used for flavoring as it has more complexities in the pot.

Stock: primarily bones simmered for a longer time (4-6 hours) with the goal of extracting the collagen into the stock.  A liquid that gels when cooled is the goal and the primary use for the unseasoned stock is cooking.

Chicken bones simmering for broth. The feet add extra collagen and nutrients, and another layer of flavor.
Chicken bones simmering for broth. The feet add extra collagen and nutrients, and another layer of flavor.

Bone Broth: a hybrid of the two and more close to a stock than a broth as it’s made of bones simmered for a long time (24 to 72 hours depending on the animal source).  The goal is to extract all the collagen and minerals from the bones.  It ends up very gelatinous and is used on its own or for cooking.  The quality of the bones makes a huge difference here.  If you start with bones from animals fed diets that include grass and forages and have variety (as is the case with all pasture raised animals) you’ll end up with a much more flavorful, rich, and nutrious broth.  You get what you start with.

You can read more about this here.

Here’s a recipe for making bone broth and more video on using bone broth.

How can I use bone broth?

  • liquid for cooking rice
  • in place of water for poaching eggs (add a little salt and some basil, parsley, garlic, onion and it’s great to drink with the egg)
  • as the liquid to steam vegetables
  • for stock to make soup or stew

Here’s a video of a quick protein meal for paleo and ketogenic diet folks, as well as for you when you need a quick, nourishing meal for on the go:

We’d love to hear your creative uses for bone broth!  E-mail us and we’ll expand the list to help each other work this super food into our diets.