Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Kids!

Fleur, a pure bred Dwarf Nigerian doe, gave birth to twins this morning, one of each. Doe and kids are doing very well. We all think they are incredibly cute. Paris, our best CVM ewe mostly cleans off her new lambs, but when we got to the barn this morning Fleur had not just cleaned off her kids she had groomed them!

New lambs

Paris our favorite CVM safely delivered twins yesterday. Twins are typical for Paris and she rarely needs any help. The boy is considerably bigger than the girl and is garnering most of the attention from the ewe in fact he already looks like he is a week old he has filled out that fast. We gave the girl a bottle of colostrum right a bed time as she hasn't fully got the hang of nursing yet. The lambs were born in the common area of our barn, then as soon as they are cleaned up by the ewe (sometimes we have to help but not with Paris) we move them into a 4 foot square nursing pen (lambing jug) where they can bond with their mother and we can feed the ewe without competition from the rest of the flock. Paris' fleece is looking especially good this year with great luster and clean!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Abenaki Corn

At the farm we have trialled dry field corn over the past two years. This is corn that is grown like sweet corn but then is left to dry in the field normally for a couple of frosts before it is picked, however in our area with the typically very wet falls I prefer to pick just before the wet season starts. Last year we grew Nothstine Dent corn from Johnny's Selected Seeds, it was not high yielding with single stalk 7' high plants. A late summer last year ensured that the corn dried well on the plants and no further drying was necessary. We shucked and shelled the corn by hand and stored it in half gallon jars in the pantry. Shelling by hand is quite laborious and hard on the hands too. To grind the corn I first tried our Juniper Family Grain mill. We mostly use this mill for rolling oats but it also has a grain attachment that we use for grinding wheat berries. I found that the grain mill attachment clogged frequently so I turned to the coffee grinder which worked really well for a short while but then the hard kernels started destroying the plastic cover. A coffer grinder with a metal lid probably would have worked well. But back to the grain mill, this time I used to two passes, a coarse grind to crack the corn and a second pass with the mill set to a fine grind (this tip is actually in the instructions as I found out afterwards). Dent corn is a cross between flint corn and flour corn with a signature 'dent' in the top of the kernel. Nothstine Dent makes great yellow cornmeal, we used it in pancakes using a recipe that I found online that called for 1/2 wheat flour and 1/2 corn meal. Grinding the cornmeal fresh for each batch of pancakes filled the house with a delightful smell and the pancakes were really good too. I tried the cornmeal in corn bread too using Carol Deppe's method, however the intense flavor of the cornmeal was a bit overpowering and the bread didn't hold together too well. This year we tried Abenaki flint corn from Adapative Seeds. The growing conditions were less than optimal as we had a wet May and then a very wet end of August and beginning of September. October was drier than normal though. Fortunately the corn still dried fairly well in the field with a couple of weeks in the greenhouse to finish it off. This year we also purchased a new manual corn sheller, a heavy cast iron knockoff of an ages old design. It works really well, the kids loved trying it out! I built a box to mount the sheller on and to contain the kernels (some of which still flew out of the top). For this year's pancakes we have been using all corn flour, no wheat. The pancakes have been outrageously good. The Abenaki variety is multicolored with a mix of red, orange and yellow kernels, we have found that the red kernels have the most flavor while the yellow kernels are the most sweet and creamy. Interestingly the Abenaki corn doesn't have the intense aroma of the Nothstine Dent corn. We've also tried the Abenaki corn in corn bread which was really good too, but our families favorite has been the pancakes (they are also quicker to prepare). I have also tried substituting 1/4 Abenaki corn flour for wheat in traditional bread recipes. This loaf reminded us of a traditional stone burr bread. Here is the pancake recipe. 3 cups of Abenaki flint corn flour. 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons baking powder 4 tablespoons sugar Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. 2 large eggs 2 1/4 cups whole milk Mix eggs and milk in a separate bowl. Pour into the dry ingredients, stirring gently. Start pre-heating a cast iron skillet with a little butter on medium heat. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a separate pan. Stir melted butter into batter. Drop 1/4 cup batter per pancake. Cook until golden brown both sides.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Organic or Conventional?

We are frequently asked if we are an Organic farm, well, Nuts About Berries is not a certified Organic farm since the term Organic is legally restricted! The US requires farmers to obtain special certification from a government designated regulatory authority (e.g. Oregon Tilth, Oregon Dept. of Ag) to claim that they are an Organic farm. Organic certification requires a substantial fee (annual and percent of sales), time and record keeping to prove that you are following the set of regulations laid down to meet the certification requirements. Organic requires avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. for fertilizer, pesticides) according to a list of National List of Prohibited and Allowed Substances. Frequently there is a misconception that sprays are not applied to Organic produce, that is not necessarily true, there are Organic sprays that can be used in place of conventional sprays, though from what I have heard they are frequently less effective than synthetic sprays and therefore have to applied more often and sometimes the withdrawal (spray application to harvest) time is less than the time for which they are effective. Nuts About Berries uses methods to avoid using conventional or organic sprays, however we can't say that we are a No Spray farm because many farmers market organizations (such as Hillsboro Farmers Markets) prohibit using terms such as "No Spray". Some other terms are problematic too because they have been purchased (trademarked) by an association or corporation. It seems to be all about protecting your turf!

At Nuts About Berries we grow almost all of our own plant starts in soil blocks (no plastic) using either our own soil block mix or a commercial organic mix. For soil fertility we primarily use green manures which are winter and summer cover crops grown and turned into the earth. For some plantings (such as lettuce beds) we further amend the soil with commercial organic compost. While we direct seed some crops, whenever possible, we use plant starts to get a jump on weeds and to allow more time for the cover crops to grow. We purchase our seeds from Johnnys Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed, Seed Savers Exchange and Adaptive Seed, we choose organic seed where possible and avoid treated seed. We use row covers on many crops both for season extension and also to provide a physical barrier to certain pests such as flea beetles and aphids. Some pests such as slugs are picked off and disposed of and other pests we just live with. We are not certified anything, however our farm is always open to farm visits and that is the best way to determine farm practices, visit the farm, talk to the farmer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kids

Last year our daughter bought a dwarf nigerian diary goat, Fleur, with money she earned pulling weeds. Fleur joined Tiki and Daisy, 3 year old dwarf nigerian crosses and Voila, a 1 year old 3/4 dwarf nigerian and 1/4 la mancha cross with the characteristic small ears and excellent temperament. We also have a buck Checkers and a wether Otis. Otis is a darling and loves going for walks on leash. Voila had twins in January, two bucklings Homer and Plato, photo top left and Homer top right. In March Fleur had triplets, bottom left and Tiki had twins, bottom right.