Monday, December 28, 2009

Beach Store Cafe on Lummi Island

We decided to take a break from all our winter projects & planning to head to Lummi Island for lunch.
The Beach Store Cafe serves up some wonderful food, our most favorite being the locally-caught salmon & chips. They also have good pizzas & burgers, and a good draft beer selection. A great place to hang out in any kind of weather. Here's a view of the cafe from the ferry dock.

Mt. Baker, the Twin Sisters, and the Whatcom Chief. Lummi Island boasts 816 residents, and still has some working farms, a library, post office, grocery store, art galleries, B&B's, and the Willows Inn.

The Whatcom Chief can carry 20 cars, plus 2 cabins for foot passengers. There is currently a lot of debate between Whatcom County and the Lummi tribe regarding the location and lease of the ferry dock. As lovely as the island is, it would be hard to live in a place where both transportation and water supply are in constant crisis.
Stay tuned for news about our impending move from Blogger to Wordpress. We're in the process of designing a new blog home with more features and information about Seven Trees Farm.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Year's end...

Another artful presentation by Magnus. This cat knows how to relax! He also knows how to bring live mice inside the house via the cat door as it's been about 1/2 dozen in December alone [that we know about]. Why not bring the mouse inside where it is warm and dry to chase around the living room when the weather is bad? Or better yet the bedroom! But only when your people are sound asleep at night...

We apple tree wassailed on solstice eve this year... one of the few photos taken below. Apparently we were all too busy wassailing or hanging out by the bonfire to do much documenting this go around. Suffice it to say that judging by the empty cider-mead [cyser] bottles, the trees should grow well and bear well come spring/summer!

This is the bed of the truck filled with our steers, just back from the butchers. We hope to do some weighing as to what we got back meat wise, but Doug was 492 pounds hanging weight, Buddy 393 pounds. We sold 1/2 Buddy to family, and we'll hang on to the 1 1/2 beef for now. Our 2 chest freezers are full-up at this juncture! Tonight is sirloin tip steak for dinner... one from each steer and later we'll post our comparison.

This video might be a better display the quantity of beef... it's a lot!

For hibernation season, it has been one heck of a busy month. Not only were the steers taken care of, all of our seeds, and spuds for garden 2010 are ordered. We are also registered to attend the 2010 Country Living Expo and Cattlemen's Winter School <- click for more information.
We attended last year and it was really a terrific experience. As their website says... "the Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool is just for you. You can attend classes on a multitude of topics, network with other small farmers, enjoy a prime rib lunch and visit with local agricultural businesses offering you service..." There are a number of classes this year on business laws for small farms, incorporating, but also hands on courses like beekeeping, raising grains, butchering chickens, mud mitigation, you name it! It's an excellent program that we recommend any small or backyard farmer in the area try to attend.

We are also making arrangements to be at the 2010 Small Farmers Journal Auction in Madras, Oregon April 14-17, an auction of horse drawn equipment, carriages, harness and horses. Pony seriously needs some better harness, maybe even another cart/wagon, and we have been told this is the place to find both selection and good prices. Also should be an opportunity to network with some other people into pulling horses or ponies!

Looks like we'll be rolling into 2010 with all kinds of adventures to look forward to...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gemini's Snow Day

Since we haven't been able to get Gemini out for a cart drive recently, we took advantage of the snowy day to take him for a walk. Here he is getting a mini-lunge session while we wait for a car to go by. Gemini never passes up a chance to eat, so he could use a little exercise....

Pausing to pose with pony near the Pole Rd.

We thought it would be a good idea to take Gem to the pig farm up the road. He doesn't care for them at all, and he needs to be able to take them in stride while pulling a cart.

Look at the face on this boar! We also wanted a closer look to get used to the idea or raising and eating a critter like this.

Gemini thought the wind-spinner was rather spooky as well. He sure gets a lot of attention from traffic when he's out walking. It's fun, and a great way to get him used to different sights & sounds.

At the end of the walk, he was ready to quit hoofing it and catch a ride home. Unfortunately his bus wasn't running today, so he walked home anyway.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Meat with a name - Doug & Buddy


The following pictures are graphic, and a detailed record of how our two steers were turned from livestock into meat. If you keep reading, you will see blood and dead cows, and also learn where meat should come from (not factory farms).
Disclaimer: Anyone who prefers to eat meat 'without a name' should get to know the millions of nameless animals who are tortured and killed for the sole purpose of providing this country with abnormally cheap meat. Read this article and please go the extra mile to make sure you do eat meat with a face and a name.

Here's the processing truck from Keizer Meats in Lynden, WA. They had slaughtered 2 steers before our turn, as you can see already hanging inside. The truck is equipped with its own running water and a generator to run the meat saw.

We don't have pictures of Doug (Douglas Fir of Seven Trees) and Buddy (RdoubleD Acres Buddy) actually being shot. To get a good clean kill, the fewer distractions the better. The boys were offered one last pan of grain and an apple, and both went down immediately thanks to the skill of the guys from Keizer. Below is Doug. He was shot in the forehead from a few feet away, and in this picture already has his throat cut.

And Buddy, also with his throat cut.

Buddy was more wild in life, and also in death. I'm sure everyone knows that chickens can flap around quite a bit after having their heads cut off. Well, cattle are no different. It took Buddy rather a long time to let go of this world, and for safety's sake we gave him a lot of room until he was done.
The steers were each rolled onto their backs and chocked into place like you do with a trailer or car you want to prevent from rolling.
Here are both steers partially dressed out. We found out it would cost nearly $500 to have Doug's hide tanned, so sadly we had to skip it. The knacker is taking Buddy's insides out in this picture, and Doug is to the right.
At this point, Buddy is nearly turned into quarters of beef, ready to go into the truck.
This is Doug. You can see how well he ate by all the abdominal fat hanging inside. At the very bottom left are his intestines, and to the right his lungs.
The Keizer employees did a wonderful job, from kill to quartering two steers in only 2 hours. Here is Doug being split into halves with a saw.
They hoist the halves up high enough so that the front quarters are able to be put on hooks hanging from the inside of the truck ceiling, then cut the front from the back quarters.
And here are Doug and Buddy, ready to head to Keizer Meats for 14-day ageing, then custom cut & wrapped for us to bring home.
This has been an incredible experience, not just today, but from the very beginning with bringing Stella (Doug's mom) home as a heifer calf back in November 2006. We will definitely do this again, but probably not with a steer that we bred, birthed and raised all on Seven Trees ground.

This is a clip of Buddy (already well-dead) being dragged across the barnyard to the gambrel hoist.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding and an Arctic Express

Magnus is able to annoy Newt, even in his sleep. The kitties spend about 23/7 indoors, now that the woodstove is cooking about 23/7 as well.
We tried a new pumpkin recipe tonight (scroll down a bit for the recipe), and it's a winner. If you don't already have a pudding steamer, this recipe alone is reason to go buy one.

The howling north winds are as tough on the bees as our more common Pineapple Express. The Fraser Valley can sometimes take over our weather in the winter, giving us days of bone dry, frigid gales. At least we're lucky this one isn't bringing snow. We put some old roofing panels to use as baffles, and it seems to help. You can see downed branches from our last windstorm to the left.

Gemini has a thick, soft, woolly coat to keep him warm. The humans, on the other hand, have to dress up in some creative outfits to work more than a few minutes outside.

The hens are keeping their feet warm in the straw while they get some sunlight. There is a heated water bowl in the background, and each coop has a heater on a thermostat. They still don't look very thrilled with this weather. Once Doug & Buddy are gone, we'll be starting on their coop upgrade/move to the barn.

Even the garlic is trying to keep warm! Hopefully the wind will leave the straw in place, if not we'll have to lay some chickenwire over it.
It's garden planning time...the seed catalogs are getting dog-eared from overuse. The 2010 garden should be lots more productive, and lots less maintenance involved. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pumpkin delivery system

A new house favorite is this pumpkin coffee cake. Here's the recipe:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 15oz can of pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh pumpkin)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup walnuts
1. Grease or spray the bottom of a 9X13 pan
2. Mix together the first 8 ingredients
3. Spread 1/2 the mixture in the pan
4. Mix together the next 8 ingredients
5. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the batter
6. Dab the rest of the batter evenly as possible over the pumpkin layer
7. Sprinkle the topping on top
8. Bake at 325F for 1 hour (until toothpick comes out clean), let cool & enjoy!

We started the big bedroom makeover in March, but when summer hit it was put on hold for outdoor doings. Now that the rainy season has arrived, we worked a bit more on the drapery.

And below we have Magnus, in stealth mode under the kindling papers. He is very helpful when it comes to getting the fire lit. On a less thrilled note, the much anticipated Uncle David's Dakota Dessert Squash has proven to be rather unsuitable for long-term storage. They grew well, they taste great, but they are going bad faster than we can eat them. We're starting to plan the 2010 garden, and we'll be skipping any buttercup squash varieties this time around. We also didn't care for the Kentucky Wonder green beans. They grew like crazy, but the flavor & texture just isn't as good as the Blue Lake variety we usually grow.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Honoring the livestock

We spoke with Keizer AA Meats this week and it looks like they'll be out to butcher our steers on December 8th. We approach this day with mixed feelings, because above all we do love our animals and make every effort to ensure they are happy and healthy. Douglas Fir of Seven Trees was conceived here, born here, and will end his life here. He is the only offspring of a purebred Dexter cow, Stella who we no longer own, and it is doubtful as long as we both must work fulltime off farm that we'll have another milk cow again soon. When Douglas and Buddy are gone it will not just be the end of their lives, it ends a cycle here at the farm that will not be repeated again for a long while. It is only appropriate as we close this circle that we make the absolute most of these animals to honor their sacrifice that we may eat meat that we raised with a considerable effort on our own land.

We are keeping Douglas's hide and will be quickly transporting it to Quil Ceda Leather Company in Marysville, Washington where it will be tanned with hair on. We are also thinking of the other products of home butchered animals to make that most people these days never consider, let alone eat or make any more.
One of these is blood sausage or black pudding as it is known in the UK, Blutwurst [Germany], or Boudin Noir [France]. Essentially it is a sausage made with blood cooked with regional fillers like barley, heavy cream, onion, potato, bread, fat, suet or some variation of these items, and then placed in casings to be grilled or boiled in skin and eaten. We'll collect a gallon or two of blood from one of the steers at butcher in a sterile stainless milk pail so we can try making this sausage.

1# Leaf Lard
10# Onions, diced
1 quart heavy cream
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Pate spice
1/2 gallon beef blood
Pork casings

Nordic cultures, Swedes, Finns, etc. aso make something that is known in Swedish as Blodplattar or blood pancakes - click the link for recipe. These are a savory pancake with fresh blood as one of the main ingredients, and are traditionally eaten with lingonberry jam.

We will also keep the tongues, liver, heart, bones for soup, and whatever else we can for either our consumption or to stew up as homemade dog food, which we pressure can and the dogs adore.
While it is rather unsusual for most people to have a hand in the slaughter of the meat they consume these days, it is something we felt it was very important to do. There was no factory in the raising of our meat. Our cattle have lived good lives, they frolicked in the sun, slept in our pastures of green grass, ate until their bellies were full, had shade and shelter from wind/rain/snow, and were treated each day with care and dignity. We will honor all they gave us in sustenance and the pleasure of knowing the food we eat.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Garlic planting day 2009

We took advantage of the one nice day this week to get our garlic in the ground. In the PNW, mid-Oct to mid-Nov is the time to plant.
The ground is still soft and lush, and we added quite a lot of nearly finished compost to it. Garlic likes to set down roots before the weather really turns, and it's ready to start growing as soon as the days get longer in the spring.
By next July, the 329 cloves we planted will be ready for harvest. This year we're planting Chesnok Red, German Porcelain, and some generic white variety from California.
Stewart must have learned from Gemini! He's got the drive-thru window figured out.
These Sweet Dumpling delicata squash are cute AND tasty! What's not to like?

Even better with teriyaki-grilled London broil and nettle-wild mushroom brown rice. The shroom is our own Prince that we dried last year. He didn't show up this year, but hopefully he'll return soon.

This kettle of cow parts doesn't look too tasty as is, but chopped, sauteed, mixed with carrots, kale and some odds & ends from the freezer..... makes dog food! And look at our spiffy new pressure canner! An All American #921 cast aluminum and ready for battle....

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Still harvesting!

First off we need to establish a November benchmark for relaxing. Magnus demonstrates his usual style....
Dinner was this wonderful broccoli, cheddar, potato, ham soup, with fresh-baked bread. A great way to enjoy the flavors of our fall harvests. The recipe is here, in case you'd like to try it yourself - Yummy soup recipe
Here's one view of the garden right now. Pretty grim. All the dead squash, tomato & bean vines will make way for our garlic planting later this week. We'll also be tilling in tons (literally) of compost and manure, so next year's garden should be even better.
Another view of the garden, showing how much is still going gangbusters. Broccoli, carrots, chard, lettuce, kohlrabi, soup celery, parsley, green onions, spinach....It's so nice to be eating fresh at this time of year!
The last of the carrots are out of the ground, except for the experimental late planting I did. The apples are from next door, saved from the cider press to be lunch treats. There was one last delicata squash hiding in the garden. I think we've finally gotten them all.
The busy tiny kitchen at Seven Trees. Who knew such a small space would end up being the stage for so much good food. Here are eggs getting dozened-up for customers, canned cider, dried broccoli, and other evidence of harvest activities....
We'll be busy the rest of November, getting ready for Doug & Buddy to go to freezer camp. Lots of goodies to process out of the freezer....blackberries to turn into jam, beef offal (liver & hearts) to turn into dog food, and we'll be buying a 2nd small freezer as well.
P.S. Does anyone have any tips for what kind of stuff we can collect when they come to slaughter the cattle? I know people make sausage out of pig blood, but does cow blood work? And how do we process it? We want to make use of anything we can, but I really have no clue what the knackers will leave that is useable. We are planning to have Doug's hide tanned, but haven't found a local tannery yet.....