"...dairy is a virtually perfect complement to pasture/hay and it is often freely available. Dairy provides the lysine, a key amino-acid, and calories that boosts their diet such that the pigs will grow about as fast on pasture/hay + dairy as they do on an expensive grain fed diet. The dairy gives a delicious sweet flavor to the fat and meat ..." Walter Jeffries, Sugar Mountain Farm
Max sneaking a taste
My interest in raising pastured and forage-based pork began the day I found Walter Jeffries' blog. Back then it was a lot less structured and professional than it is now. I now consider him the expert in pastured pork. I don't think I'm alone, since they are shipping their meat all over the country and have standing orders from restaurants all over VT and neighboring states.
What fascinated me was the concept that pigs can be raised like cattle - out on pasture - and still have a fantastic taste. We've all had that 'way to gamey' grass-fed beef. If you've ever had strong-tasting pork, and I have, you'll understand why this concept thrilled me.
The secret behind sweet-tasting pork, according to Jeffries, is the dairy component of the diet. The dairy balances the pasture and hay, and gives the meat the tender, sweet flavor of pork instead of that bland, no flavor option we're offered in the grocery store.
Warm whey-soaked feed
So, when I discovered piglets for sale on Craigslist I was thrilled. And of course, because I am only 7 degrees removed from Kevin Bacon, I found out that I had a connection through a fellow woman in agriculture.
Enter pigs. (Missed it? Read the blog post, Picking up Little Pigs)
Grateful for my penchant to talk to anyone, I spoke with a local cheesemaker, who was more than happy to supply me with as much whey (organic, grass-fed, thank you very much!) as I would like for the paltry sum of .03 per gallon. You read that correctly. Yes, that's super cheap. Just covers his time to fill the buckets for me, really.
lots of hay for these porkers
I am also blessed to have a mill not five miles from the house. They have a locally sourced custom feed mix that I will using to provide extra calories. Raising pigs in winter means that they need extra calories to grow, AND to stay warm. We'll be going easy on corn (a major ingredient in factory farmed and confined pork operations) and soy, focusing on whole grains (soaked in warm whey), grass hay, alfalfa hay, and of course, whey. They will be getting scraps from the kitchen as well as it's available, and any veggies I can get cheap or free.
We'll wrap up this nutrient-dense experiment with an oak-grove finishing - the pigs will be turned out into our 2 acres of oak groves in the early spring to finish out on acorns. Why acorns, you ask?
Interestingly, even though acorn-finished hogs are fattier than confinement-raised hogs, their meat is healthier. Studies of Spanish pata negra pork have found that the fat they produce is largely unsaturated, often to the point of being liquid at room temperature, and that it is extremely high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that is also known to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. In fact, the pigs are sometimes called “olive trees on four hooves” because the health benefits are similar to olive oil! (Source: Mast Tree Network)
My hope is that at the conclusion of this little 'experiment', I will have discovered a way to raise nutrient-dense pork that is economical. I'm sure I'll be learning a lot, and provide you with some laughs along the way.
I am finding myself focusing more on our local economy. There is something incredibly satisfying about feeding my family food I've either raised, grown or found locally. And who knows, maybe next year it will be YOUR family I'm feeding. Or, in a perfect world, maybe I'll be someone's 'Walter' and you'll be doing your own experiment in raising your own meat!
Stay tuned for the next blog post: Fence-training Pigs
Packing a passel of pigs
Let's just cut to the chase. I got lost. Going over a huge mountain. There was no cell service, I couldn't find the address on my GPS, and after stopping and asking four different people, I finally found someone who knew the farmers. The pigs fell off the garden tractor, and the puppy now wants to live in the shed. With the 'cool' kids. Um. I mean pigs.
Phew. There. Oh, I did NOT find a good place for coffee. Luckily for me, my passenger had made sure we were well supplied before we left her house. Best coffee for a road trip? Jennifer's house.
And, in case I forget, we had a BLAST!!! I love adventures!
When I finally found the farm, I walked into the barn and my jaw just about hit the floor - it was so clean, you almost eat off the floor! Along one side of the barn were clean, deeply bedded 10x10 pens, with happy, contented pigs.
the 'farm tractor'
The breeders are super nice folks, a young couple. After an informative conversation, we loaded up our piggies and hit the road.
If you've never ridden in a closed vehicle with a passel of pigs, you don't know what stinky is! "You must really love me!" I said to Jennifer.
Coming home, mom helped me load our crate into the garden tractor wagon. It promptly slid off the wagon on the way up the hill. Poor mom! She tried to hold it on the wagon, but they were just too heavy. A little bit of team work and they were back on the wagon.
We finally got them up to the shed. Enjoy the pictures! The little pigs, three little girls (sows), immediately began exploring, eating hay and rooting through the deep bedding. Tonight I turned on the heat lamp, gave them a nice dinner of whole grains and some kitchen scraps. Tomorrow, I'll head over to our local dairy farmer for some milk.
Milk? That's another post. Of course they won't be eating traditional pig food, their diet will get a Rosalyn-style makeover - stay tuned for Pig Nutrition 101: the next blog post, and a field trip to our local cheese maker!
Empty shed, all ready for little pigs
Exit horse, enter pigs!
This past summer, my long-time equine companion Rory went to live on a retirement farm in New York. Left with an empty shed, I tried a goat. Whom I loved. Unfortunately, he attacked everyone else, including my son Trey, so he too moved to another farm. Again, the shed was empty. Then I saw the little pigs for sale on craigslist.
Flash forward a month or so and the adventure is unfolding! When I found this exceptional deal on little pigs (called feeders) I called friends who had gone in with me on my last pastured pig experience and they were as excited as I was to purchase little pigs and raise them out. (If you recall, we found a GREAT deal on finished pastured hogs earlier this year.)
So, we spent Sunday getting ready for our little pigs. I was scheduled to take the road trip on Monday, but, as you see, the shed is still empty.
The breeders are incredibly conscientious folks, and as we talked about their new living quarters it was decided that the little pigs could use one more week in the breeders' barn, so I will be going later this week. Stay tuned for pictures of our adventure - Trey will be coming along to meet the farmers and see the set up.
I'm curious to see how this experience unfolds. I will be trying a co-op type relationship, where we each purchase our own pigs and supplies, but I do the daily care. I'll be keeping a journal of this experience on the blog, so you'll want to 'like' and keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates to the website.
After all the summer butchering is completed, I have bags of gold in my freezer - namely, the pastured livers and offal from my duck, chicken and rabbit.
Pastured liver is an excellent source of nutrition, loaded in Vitamins A and B (complex) as well as lots of good minerals. My own recipe is a bit of a 'kitchen sink' approach -
3 1/2 cups raw liver and hearts (rabbit, chicken, duck or mixture)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 elephant garlic bulb (about 5 large cloves), chopped
1 tsp realsalt or sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp fat (chicken, duck, olive oil, lard)
Soak livers/hearts in salted water (1/4 cup per gallon water) for an hour. Discard salted water, and rinse the liver and hearts under cold water. Allow to drain while you do the following:
Chop onions and garlic, and add to large sauce pan with the fat. Carmelize on medium low, for about 20 to 30 minutes. Check frequently to be sure they stay soft and don't get crunchy.
Add livers and hearts, and bring heat to medium. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until well done.
Add contents of pan to food processor and pulse until smooth. If too dry, add more melted fat until it's a smooth consistency.
That's my version. If you'd like more information and another version of a pate recipe, I really like this article by the The Grass Fed Girl: 8 Reasons to Eat Liver.
Pate is wonderful with fall fruits - I love it with sliced pears or apples!
"ONE dollar?!" I stood in the aisle of the scratch and dent grocery, my eyes bugging out of my head.
Stacked on the floor were large ten pound bags of pinto beans, with the bright green sticker announcing the incredibly low price of $1.00
Still wondering what I was going to DO with all those beans, I took two bags, talking myself out of three. I may go back and get it. I mean, when was the last time YOU bought dried beans for .10 a pound?
I read an article last week that stated "cheap food is a thing of the past". I have noticed, even at my super thrifty Amish grocery store, that prices are rising. So I am planning ahead, getting ready for our 'meatless Monday meals'. Beans are a great way to accomplish this.
As an aside, keep in mind that if you combine beans and rice (brown rice, preferably organic) that you have a complete protein. Just sayin'.
Back to the beans. Ten pounds of dried beans will come out to 28 pints of canned beans. You heard me right - comes out to 2.8 cents PER JAR! Lids are about .12 cents each. Still at under .15 cents per jar! Wow.
But really, 28 pints of plan beans? B.O.R.I.N.G.....
Ah, in comes my trusty Amish cookbook. How about canning beans with molasses sauce? Or with tomato sauce? Add some cut up hot dogs and process according to meat times and voila - you have dinner!
Check out some links with recipes for canning dried beans:
'Baked' Beans with Pork - Note - When I make this, I will skip the actual 'baking' and layer the jars - beans (1/2 jar full), meat, sauce.
Beans with Molasses or Tomato Sauce
My under-the-stairs pantry. Almost full...
The first year I learned to can, I started out with pickles.
They were terrible.
The second year, I followed my mother-in-law's instructions and made V8 juice.
It was a hit.
Now, five years later, I've graduated to flipping through 70 year old cookbooks and online blogs to discover ideas to use in my own pantry.
This year's sure-to-be-a-hit recipe is the fruit canned in a vanilla, cinnamon, clove sugar syrup. I started with plums, and will be moving on to a half bushel of peaches.
I received my inspiration from Mostly Foodstuffs recipe for canned plums. To make the recipe my own, I did the following:
Simple Syrup -
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
2 tbsp vanilla
Bring to a boil.
Poke a few holes in each plum (gently now). In each pint jar, squish as many plums as you can fit, it's okay if they start to get a little mushed. Using the tip of your paring knife, add a pinch of powered cinnamon and cloves to each jar. Add 2 tablespoons of brandy to each jar. Pour the boiling syrup over the jars, wipe the rims, then cap and screw on your band.
Put in a canner of boiling water to cover the jars and process for 20 minutes. Any jar that doesn't seal in 24 hours goes into the fridge, use it within 2 weeks.
I'd love to hear YOUR summer real food stories. Jump onto the facebook page and share a picture or an anecdote!
The fresh start I began two weeks ago tomorrow is coming to a close. My purpose was to flush out some of the nastiness I had been experiencing and to also give my liver a rest and see if it changed my outlook in life.
My very important conclusions:
1. Sugar does not agree with me. At ALL. When I eat sugar, even just a little, I become short tempered, emotional, impatient and exhausted. Almost immediately.
2. Wheat or grains give me a bloated, tired feeling. Again, almost immediately.
3. Green juices taste nasty going down, but have long-lasting energy and feel-good effects. They also seem to help alleviate my desire for sugar.
4. I don't want coffee. This makes me sad. But I've discovered a new love of lemon/ginger iced tea. But I miss iced coffee.
5. I sleep MUCH better when I eat a raw, meat-free meal at night. Tested this the other night by having a large green salad and pork chop. Felt like I'd swallowed a bowling ball.
Conclusion: I'm going to continue a modified version of the fresh start. I want to feel better longer.
A few life changers that came as a result of this: I discovered that what I eat CAN make my exhausted. If I want to lose weight and actually enjoy my life, I have to focus on eating fresh, live foods and cutting back on the meat, grains and sugar. (PS - Dairy, even raw, has LOTS of sugar. Cream, not so much. I will be sticking to little bits of cream from pastured cows. )
This is a 'for now' thing, as I will keep monitoring myself to see when it's time to bring back certain foods again. I am going to cut back to meat 2-3 times a week, always at mid-day.
Because this gave me more energy, I have been waking up early which has enabled me to begin to exercise before Trey wakes up. This is huge. 20 minutes of intervals up and down the small hills in front of the house (within earshot, so if he wakes up I can hear him) are helping me lose inches and have more energy.
In short, I see a new lifestyle coming out of the fog. It's a bit inconvenient, as I now have to make two different meals for me and for the rest of the gang, but it's worth it to feel like I have been.
Thank you so much for following me on this 'real food' journey! Hope you have been encouraged to try your own 'fresh start'!
Here is a last recipe for you. This is a no-grain breakfast or snack food. Yum!
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 pastured egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp sunflower oil, olive oil or melted butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp realsalt
1/2 cup milk (fresh or sour)
pumpkin seeds (optional)
sunflower seeds (optional)
cashew nuts (optional)
Blend together everything but the seeds/nuts. Best if allowed to rest for 30 minutes, but I don't usually have time. Add seeds and nuts, and a bit of water to make it a batter consistency. Heat a cast iron skillet with 2 tsp of olive oil or coconut oil. Fry in small rounds. Use as to-go snacks or add maple syrup for breakfast. I like these smeared with homemade no sugar jam as a snack.
It's been a rather crazy week already - I can't believe it's already Wednesday!
I've continued making choices to eat cleansing, nourishing foods. I have however, eaten a few meals with the family. And enjoyed them, because even for them, I kept the meals real and nutrient dense.
I am noticing a difference in how my taste buds are reacting.
Yesterday I bought a small cup of coffee and two chocolate chip cookies.
I couldn't finish either. They just didn't taste good to me. I'm grateful for the change in the taste buds. I was encouraged to wait and eat my lunch at home - a spinach, grated carrot, green onion and smoked tempeh wrap. Super tasty.
As I begin to wind down these two weeks of my liver cleanse, I am encouraged that the whole package approach seems to have really paid off.
By beginning first with getting enough rest, I was able to approach my food choices with clear thinking. By adding in exercise every day, I've found new energy and encouragement to make choices that don't undo the work I'm doing. And the new tastebuds make up for those moments when the 'old' way calls my name!
I don't have a recipe for you today, just an encouragement to get one large dark green salad with vegetarian-based protein into you today. Your body will say thank you!
Last night's snack, which I wouldn't have needed if I had gone to bed early, was simply a few prunes and some walnuts. We had a very busy, rewarding day, and I was craving some 'me' time before bed.
I'm learning that this 'me' time I crave generally includes me sitting on the couch, watching some sort of Netflix television and eating.
Really, I just need to go to bed.
This experience has been about reminders - the reminder that eating too close to bed means that I won't wake up rested. The reminder that feeling a little hungry won't kill me. (Still working on that one.) The reminder that the food I'm trying to step away from isn't necessary to my life, and indeed, is making me feel nasty.
But what am I going to do with these reminders?
This weekend I had more than one 'slip up' - except they really weren't. I made conscious decisions to suspend my 'fresh start' in favor of ________ - fill in the blank.
Another reminder - there will ALWAYS be a 'fill in the blank' occasion.
I will say that while these dark green salads aren't my favorite food in the world, and I wish I could wrap them in nice whole wheat tortilla, they are filling and satisfying, and I don't feel like I need a nap ten minutes after I eat.
And I've also figured out that not only do I not need an iced coffee, they don't make me feel great. Just jittery. *gasp*
And my 'wheat belly' is slowly going away, I have tons more energy to actually do what I want to do, and I have more patience.
Today's breakfast will be a fruit salad designed to keep you full until a mid-morning smoothie!
Fruit Salad with a Boost!
Raw nuts - almonds, walnuts, cashews
Mix up enough for a hefty three cup serving, save one cup for your snack later on this afternoon. (You may want to hold off on adding the nuts to the snack so they don't get too soggy.)
Lots of good healthy fats and protein in this.
What about you? What 'I love me' changes will you be making today?
The carnival is in town.
They have fried dough.
So last night we took Trey to the carnival. He had a blast. I had an hour to talk myself out of why I didn't want to eat the pizza, the hot dogs, the hot sausages, fried dough... Yada yada yada.
I caved. I bought some fresh cut french fries. They were terrible.
When we finally got home, hours later than we are used to, and no made-ahead dinner, I threw a pizza in the oven. Then I ate a piece. It tasted...okay. Then I went for another slice and realized that:
a. it didn't taste THAT good
b. I was going to have to 'fess up to YOU today
c. I wasn't even hungry anymore.
Interestingly enough, I slept well (thanks to the sugar crash from the white flour) but woke up exhausted. This flour/sugar stuff is just plain ole' BAD, folks. Seriously bad.
So today I've done better. Not without struggle. This morning I really wanted that bacon and eggs I cooked for Trey. And toast. But I powered through and instead made homemade V8 juice with my juicer. I snacked on strawberries, almonds and walnuts. For lunch, I made a light version of Portuguese kale soup - no sausage. For snack I made some avocado chocolate pudding - and didn't want more than a bite or two.
My point? Temptation can work in your favor. It's not always bad to be reminded that our choices are working - even if it takes a 'fail' to remind us. And, as I keep telling myself, this is only for 2 weeks.
Except... I really don't want to go back to feeling so tired and sluggish.
How about you? Are you feeling better? Do you notice a difference?