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Posts Tagged ‘Grass Fed Meat’

logoIt sure seems like my posts are getting further and further apart. You have my humblest apology for not keeping you better informed, but my silence has been due to many changes and perceived changes around here.

First, we thought we were moving across the country, but that didn’t happen. Still, I had shut down most of the operation in preparation for selling you, so there wasn’t much to write about.

Now, we are staying put here in NW Georgia, but we’ve gone through a rethink of all of our operations, and lifestyle. These changes will dramatically affect East of Eden Farms and Our Edible Suburb.

As for the farm, we are going back to subsistence farming/homesteading, which means a big reduction in livestock and garden. Over the next few months we’ll reduce our flock of chickens to less than a dozen and our rabbit herd to around 6.  The quail are still in the testing phase, so their future is uncertain. We plan to add a pair of dairy goats back in next spring, but only a pair. The pigs will all be processed this fall. We may add a feeder calf in the Spring, or we may just barter pasture land for meat. Stay tuned.

The garden is being transitioned into a testing and education space. I’ve become passionate about helping people feed themselves and want to create different kinds of experimental soil, hydroponic and hydroponic growing systems for observation and learning. I intend to develop some gardening coursed along the way. I’m especially interested in growing methods for developing countries that require minimal inputs yet produce maximum results.  Eliminating hunger and malnutrition matters to me. And doing so using methods that enhance the environment rather than destroy it also matters. So watch for more information on these subjects, too.

Because I hope to document my experiments on video, you should look for more of my updates to be found here and on my youtube channel, “Our Simple Sustainable Life”

Thanks again for not giving up on me. I’m looking forward to getting the fall garden in place. Let’s do this!

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As regular readers know, one of our goals here at EOE and Our Edible Suburb is to make healthy, safe food available and affordable to the average family. In many ways, that goal puts us at odds with several other companions in the ‘good food movement’, including some of my favorite authors, foodies and farmers. IMO, a few of the folks I follow on FB and Twitter are beginning to sound arrogant, superior and downright snobbish. I find that unfortunate.  The simple truth is, the average American family cannot afford to go 100% organic and should not be made to feel guilty about it.

The whole food system is so messed up it needs to be burned down and restarted. It’s a very complicated and complex problem, as is the resolution. It’s much more than pricing. It’s about priorities and honesty and lifestyle and ‘The American Dream”.  It is a mess and we all have dirty hands to one degree or another. Sorting it out will take a great deal of education, patience and time. It’s a war that will be fought from house, from person to person, from meal to meal. Standing on a soap box proclaiming the evils of GMOs and Big Agra are not solutions. Defending organic with ‘we provide a premium product and premium products are worth more’ does not resonate with the average family. The person who decides to grow some of her own food and uses ‘Miracle Gro” instead of compost is not the antichrist. She has taken a baby step in the right direction.  The small farmer with a handful of acres and feeds his two cows a handful of corn now and then, is not a CAFO sending sick and abused animals into the food chain.

We need to encourage each step a consumer or producer takes towards a healthier lifestyle, food system or environment. Rome was not built in a day, remember?  As the Emperor Hadrian reminded the empire, “Brick by brick, my citizens. Brick by brick.”

Our food system is tangled in a web of many strands, made by a multitude of spiders and the solution will not come by cutting a single thread. Culpability lies with our Government, our Health Care system, Big Agra, Big Pharma, The American Dream, Wall Street, Main Street, our education system, our personal choices and priorities, Supermarket chains, farmers markets, bloggers, authors, farmers….to one degree or another we’ve all been a part of the problem. We can all be a part of the solution.

This blog began as a way to share our personal journey in gardening, farming and homesteading. We wanted to network with others on the same journey. It is my goal to return to those roots and begin again to help the average family (or individual) chart a new, healthier course.  It’s going to take us in some strange and exotic locations as we tear down our old ways of thinking and forge a new paradigm.

I’m going to challenge many of your core values. I don’t want to be the guy who stands on a pedestal and comes across as a superior being talking down to the masses. I want us to be a family, working together to make better choices, better lives, better futures for ourselves and the generations that follow us?

Lofty? Pious? Ridiculous? Holier Than Thou? I hope not.  I do hope, though,  you’ll come along for the trip. I also hope you’ll join the discussion.

Next up: How Chasing The American Dream Has Mugged Our Food System (And what we can do about it).

 

 

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aquaponics greenhouse in progress

aquaponics greenhouse in progress

Our Edible Suburb has ALWAYS been about optimizing small spaces for gardening and farming.  We’ve also been focused on being good stewards of the earth and treating God’s creation with respect.  With each passing day, I become more convinced that Aquaponics and Aquaponics related methods are the key to the future of small space, back yard,  limited acreage and urban farming.  Aquaponic methods are water wise, energy efficient (though not yet fully sustainable, but we’re working on it) and kind to the earth.

The systems we’re designing and building now, utilize a combination of floating raft systems and self watering containers and their larger cousins, wicking beds.  Wicking beds of different sizes use only a fraction of the water of traditional earth gardens or raised beds.  Because the water stays in the system there is no leaching or runoff.  By utilizing captured rainwater we can minimize city, county or well water use as well.  And by composting our donkey and rabbit manure as well as using coconut coir rather than peat, we have extremely sustainable sources for our growing media.

Plants can be much closer together because they don’t have to compete for nutrients.  There are plenty to go around.  The earth is not destroyed.  There is no tilling to erode topsoil.  There are no chemical fertilizers to damage ground water and chemical pesticides are not necessary to control pests.  Imagine for a moment, a bed full of summer squash with no squash bugs to fight.  That is entirely possible with an aquaponics system.

B and I have realized that on our 6.5 acres with our dairy goats, rabbits, pigs and aquaponics systems we can produce around a ton of pork, half a ton of goat meat, a ton of tilapia and redclaw crawfish and many thousands of pounds of vegetables and fruit.  We will even be able to keep a dairy cow and an annual feeder calf.  I can”t calculate the milk products and by-products like soap yet, because we’re just too new in that field, but the potential is very high.  I haven’t even touched on rabbit meat, chickens, eggs, turkeys, worms or compost.  The potential is mind boggling.

It will be a slow process, because we don’t do debt and we don’t have any investors, but the future is very bright.  Our goal continues to be to ‘feed the world while we heal the earth’, but we also want to teach others how to do the same.  I am convinced that the average American family can cut their food bills in half by growing some of their own food.  I believe this is possible with a space as small as the average back deck.  And again, aquaponics systems are the key to that belief.  Stay tuned for details on an upcoming e-book on that subject.

Have you tried your had at aquaponic gardening yet?  Have you considered it?  Would you consider it?  Would you buy Tilapia, crawfish and ‘fresh water lobster’ from a local provider if it was available?  I’d love to hear your experiences and your thoughts.  Please do share.

 

 

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Given the title of Jake Meader’s article on the Christianity Today website, “Did we love ‘God Made a Farmer’ Too Much?” my expectations were pretty much below ground level when I read it.  Even with the bar set so low I still feel he fouled off the pitch at best.

I realize his target was the modern ‘factory farm’ movement, consumerism and a potential misunderstanding of scripture rather than those of us who are small, diversified farmers, and that’s why I give him credit for making contact even if he didn’t quite put the ball in play.  I would encourage him, though, to watch the ‘game film’ and reconsider his conclusions.

Most Americans have no idea where their food comes from.  For them, it’s all neatly packaged at Kroger, IGA or one of a thousand other chains.  So for one fleeting moment, America’s attention was drawn to the men and women who make Kroger possible.

Yes, too much of our farming is industrial and destructive of God’s creation.  Yes, monocultures of flora and fauna are a detriment rather than a blessing to the earth we’ve been commanded to steward.  The American Industrial Farming industry needs to be outed and corrected.

The commercial, though, highlights those of us who are trying to bring balance back to an industry and a world that desperately needs balance.  America, and many other parts of the world, has multiple thousands of farmers exactly like the ones in Paul Harvey’s poem.

My wife and I are among that army of farmers, who rise early and rest late.  I remember staying on the phone with my bride as she helped pull a lamb when the mother couldn’t do it alone.  The late winter wind howled and the actual temperature hovered around freezing. By the time I raced across town from my day job, she had pulled the lamb and stripped off her own jacket and sweatshirt to dry and warm it, giving no thought to her own comfort.

I have searched pastures in the darkest nights during driving rain to find goats born in the storm.  I have buried them deep inside my shirt and wrapped my coat around us all to warm them and give them a chance at the life they were born to live.

We have labored day and night to save a hen with a gangrene leg and I have wept man sized tears over creatures I’ve had to put down to end their misery.

While our friends and neighbors slept late on their Sunday mornings, we have been up at zero dark thirty, so the goats could be milked, the animals fed and watered as well as the garden tended to so we could be ready for me to teach an 8:30 a.m. Bible class.

We have fought droughts and battled floods.  We’ve seen bumper harvests and withered fields.  We have savored the birth of countless animals and have awakened to find flocks slaughtered by predators the previous night.

My wife can decorate a table as fine as the fanciest establishment in New York City and she can build a stall in a barn as well as any carpenter.  Her dairy goats follow her like she fell from Heaven and they may just be right.

We know no greater joy than when our friends and customers (those are synonyms by the way) tell us that our eggs, milk, yogurt, chickens, beef, pork, vegetables or fruit are the best they’ve ever had.

We go to bed at night knowing that our farming methods are helping feed the world while we heal the land.  We are stewards of God’s creation and we take our responsibility seriously.  We are not alone.  We know many more like us, most of whom are far more skilled than we.

Last week I had serious neck surgery.  The nurses stuck me in 5 different places before they found a vein into which they could place my IV port.  The head nurse said, “I’m so sorry to do this to you.  I don’t mean to hurt you.  Your skin is very thick. You use your hands.”  I beamed.

During the Super Bowl, in an attempt to sell trucks, Dodge drew the world’s attention to a subculture often overlooked and under-appreciated.  My email inbox was full the next day from people saying, “I thought of you.”

Our lives are not romantic, they are real. Did we like “God Made a Farmer” too much? Maybe Mr. Meader surmises we did, but I’m thinking, that thousands of others thought a Super Bowl ad finally hit the right note. Y’all decide.  I’ve got chores to do.  I’m a farmer. And I thank God every day for the privilege.

 

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sausagesOne of the words in every farmer’s vocabulary is, ‘flexible’.  We don’t always like the word, we sometimes wish we didn’t have to embrace it, but if we are anything, it is, flexible.

Even this blog post was originally going to be about my surgery and how Brittan has become even more of a superwoman than ever, but that post now has to wait.  I need to be flexible.

We made all these plans about butchering beef and pork in November.  Keep them on grass and hay all summer, then butcher in the autumn. Everything about the plan was solid.  We had a processor.  We had customers, including deposits. We had the animals. What could possibly go wrong?  Let’s go with….everything.

First, my neck went out.  Five bulging discs and pinched nerves put a real hamper in my ability to wrangle animals.  Heck, it messed with my ability to do pretty much anything except hurt.

As the weeks passed and my insurance company delayed approval for surgery, the processing time slipped to December, then January then February.  Besides frustrated customers and empty freezers, the delay meant extra feed bills.  Oh, well, we’re flexible.

I eventually gave up on surgery ever happening and booked a date in February to get the cows and pigs to the processor.  Then, out of the blue, my insurance company relented and my much needed surgery was scheduled.  You guessed it, 5 days before the animals were to go in.

Fortunately for us, the processor was able to move the date one more month into March.  It’s inconvenient because we had to feed animals all winter which is expensive. Life happens.

Wait, we’re not through yet. Speaking of life happening; three days ago, as I’m resting under the influence of my post op medications, with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head,  my text message alert goes off, waking me reluctantly from my slumber.  The text is from Brittan saying, “We have baby pigs.”

As fate would have it, our runaway potbelly boar, managed to impregnate at least one of our Large Black Hogs before his demise.  For all we know, we may have more in a few days.  At any rate, we have 4 little half breed girl piggies and one little boy.  The bad news is, mamma won’t be going to become ham anytime soon.  It also means a pig pen needs to be built at our new farm.  And since I’m laid up for several more weeks, guess who all the work falls on?

The good news is, we know where our 2013 feeder pigs are coming from.  That will save us a few bucks.  If the other sow is drops young uns in the next month, we will have other issues to consider.  But….we’re flexible.

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It’s been 6 weeks since I last updated this space. Had you given up on me? I hope not, but I certainly wouldn’t blame you. We have been buried in work; farm work, house work, work work. So I’m stealing a moment for a quick update. 

First thing I notice is some changes in wordpress.  I guess I have to figure out how to use this site all over again.  Lovely.

Since I last wrote, we’ve moved house, more or less.  We still own our other place and there is still stuff in it, but we’re not there.  We have downsized house to upsize land.  We’ve gone from 4000 square feet of living space to something like 1200 square feet. It’s….cozy!  Actually, we like it. The utility bills alone have been cut in half.  Somebody give me a witness! Amen.

The goats, donkeys, mules and turkeys are all at the new place.  We have about 4 acres of goat pastures in our front yard, divided into 4 paddocks. We have some more out the back.  We can sit on our front deck and watch the goaties graze and enjoy the autumn evenings.  It’s rather peaceful.

Speaking of the goats, fall is breeding season.  Normally the 4 paddocks would be used for rotational grazing, but this time of year, each of our three bucks is assigned to a paddock and the does we want him to breed are in with him.  The 4th pasture is for wethers and girls we don’t want bred.

It’s a perfect plan….except someone forgot to tell the goats.  It seems that doe goats have preferences.  We woke up earlier this week do discover a fruit basket upset.  Several of the girls managed to get gates open and make their way into another pasture to cavort with a buck other than the one with whom they were assigned.  The boys have all stayed put, happy to welcome the new visitors.

We will have to keep pretty close records this year.  I know we will have one Kiko/Alpine cross. We had planned for our Alpine buck to cover three of the 4 Alpines while our Kiko/Boer buck would cover the 4th.  One of the Alpine girls, however, apparently has an eye for Achilles, our big Kiko boy.  This is not a bad cross and should provide some nice meaty offspring to take to market or put in our own freezer. We had hoped, though, to have Alpines to register. Oh well.

We will have a few other surprises, but fortunately, our Kiko girls stayed put and our Nubians have remained safely we left them.  They probably won’t come into season until December or January, anyway.

I must admit, having three rutting billy goats in the front yard is a smelly proposition. They reek, and will continue to do so until the last of the girls has been bred. 

One other quick update regarding our aquaponics systems.  I had a heart stopping experience with them this week.  The fish, you see, are still at the old house.  The veggies are done for the year, but the systems are still operating as filtration units.  I check on them daily and feed the fish morning and evening.

Earlier this week, I skipped a night because of heavy rains.  I didn’t make it back until lunch time the next day.  When I arrived, I noticed there had been a power outage.  It didn’t seem to be a big deal because the big system in the garage was working fine and all the freezers were operational, as well. 

When I opened the basement door to check on my three tanks down there, though, I was greeted by darkness and silence. A breaker had blown, due to a bad plug (caused by the storm? Maybe lightening?) and there was no power to the fish tanks.  Danger. Danger. Danger.

I switched the breaker to a new one, but still no luck. That’s when I realized there was a bad outlet in the circuit, but it’s trapped behind the wall of fish tanks.  The fish were in obvious distress due to lack of oxygen and filtration.  All I could do was drain the tanks, remove the fish and add them to the garage unit.  It’s been 4 days and so far there have been no deaths from ammonia poisoning or shock from being plopped in a new environment.  And they all seem to be eating.  The tank is a bit over crowded, but not badly and about a third of the fish are small.  Still, I need to get one of my IBC totes operational and get them moved into it.

Once upon a time, I had two tanks of Tilapia, one of bluegill and one of bluegill and Catfish.  Now I have one tank with all of the above.  All I need are some largemouth bass, and I will have replicated a Florida fishing lake.

That, dear reader, is the latest on the life, loves and drama that make up our regular routine here in the ‘burb’. Your life feels calmer already, now doesn’t it?  Glad I could help.

 

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I’ve done some work on the East of Eden Website text this week in preparation for the switch to our new site.  After three years it was time for some renovations and that work is in progress.  As a part of our upgrade, we’re also making some changes in this blog page.

The biggest change, apart from everything… is in the nature of this space.  When we began publishing Our Edible Suburb, the primary purpose was to share our adventures and misadventures as we learned to be suburban homesteaders.

Never in a million years did we imagine how popular this blog would become.  I just never dreamed there would be so many people interested in our efforts.  Thank you for being such faithful readers and for being such an amazing source of encouragement.

As we have grown, we’ve discovered that our readership falls into three primary categories:  A. People who just want to follow the fun of hearing about our lives and our farming activities; B. Visitors who find us while searching for specific information on homesteading, Aquaponics, raised bed gardening, grass fed meat, pastured poultry, etc. and C. customers and potential customers who want to know about product availability.

In order to make the archives more understandable, we’re going to make the categories more tightly organized and attempt to make our article tags more specific.  We’re also going to change the way we communicate with the readers in category C.

Since your interests are local and specific, and not very interesting at all to our readers in, say, North Dakota, we are going to create a Farm Newsletter with the working title of ‘Eden’s Table’.

If you are interested being on the Newsletter Mailing List, simply send us an email (you can use the CONTACT US form on our website. Use the word ‘subscribe’ in the body of the message and include your mailing address.  No need to send a phone number; we have no intent in calling you. You already get enough phone calls; you don’t need one from me.

We think you’re really going to enjoy our new look, but I’m not offering any spoilers at this time.  And, if you’re looking for more information on creating your own edible suburb you’re going to really love some of the upcoming content in this blog.

If you’re a regular reader, please share with us some of your favorite posts.  Were they informational? Were they amusing?  Were they controversial?  Join the conversation, we enjoy hearing from you.

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