Author Archive for Lauren

Last call for Easter hams!

April 2014 orders are open. From our newsletter:

Last chance for Easter Ham!

OK, they can be secular hams too, but the timing is right for an Easter feast!
Our bone-in alderwood-smoked hams are from our heritage Tamworth pigs who were raised on our Certified Organic pastures. The hams are around 4-6 lbs each. They need to be fully cooked, up to 145º, and will be lovely glazed or unglazed. Our special price for Easter is $11/lb. We only have about 10 left so email us to reserve yours now!

Contact us at farmers@dropstonefarms.com as soon as possible to place an order. We’ll work directly with you to arrange hand-off. The hams are frozen and will need a couple of days to thaw, so get in touch soon!

We also have a few variety packs available for April. Our variety packs consist of ten pounds of pork in a variety of cuts. The contents vary every month. As an example, a recent ten-pound assortment included a roast, sausage, a couple of packs of chops, pork steak, bacon, and a tenderloin.

(Pint of ice cream for scale only! Our pork variety packs do not include ice cream, unfortunately.)

We’ve heard from some customers that some of the cuts have been fattier than they expected. These were not lean pigs! We think the fat is delicious to eat, but if that’s not your thing, this might not be the pork for you. Please get in touch if you have any questions about what to expect.

As usual, we also have some extra goodies that adventurous eaters can order — pork heart, liver, jowls, leaf lard, tongue, and smoked hocks; chicken liver, hearts, gizzards, and feet.

Coming up soon we’ll have ham steaks available in the variety packs, and possibly lamb by next month.

Consider yourselves invited to the farm anytime — there are lots of new babies to visit! Follow us at http://www.facebook.com/DropstoneFarms for pictures.

Thanks again! Feel free to get in touch anytime with questions, comments, or just to say hi.

Lauren Manes & Garth Daley Highsmith
Dropstone Farms
farmers@dropstonefarms.com
http://www.dropstonefarms.com
http://facebook.com/dropstonefarms
206-855-5493

Easter hams available!

We have a limited number of Easter hams available from our Tamworth pigs, who led a happy life on our Certified Organic pastures and were fed only Certified Organic feed.

Alder-wood smoked, most between 4 and 5 pounds, these beautiful bone-in hams need to be fully cooked (to 145º in the center) just like you would any other whole cut of meat, like a roast.

These would work great with your favorite glaze, or just bake it unglazed like we did.

We will deliver to a drop site in Seattle on March 23 and again sometime in April before Easter. Not in Seattle? Get in touch anyway and we’ll figure it out.

Special price for Easter, $11/lb. Get in touch at farmers@dropstonefarms.com to reserve yours today!

The Great Pig Barn Flood of 2014

(I really hope this is the only Pig Barn Flood of 2014)

We had a big list of stuff to do today — clean out the hens’ nest boxes and add new bedding; clean out the rabbit cages and maybe put one of the does in to breed; make a cow-proof area outside the barn so we can put them out and more easily spread bedding without riling them all up; install a cat flap so our new barn cats can come out of their shelter-mandated acclimatization period. But when we got out of the house to start doing the regular chores, we found — surprise!! — that the north barn, which houses our five breeder Tamworths and our ten Landrace gilts (that’s young female pigs), all on a dirt floor in a three-sided structure, was totally full of water!

20140217-191106.jpg

The Landraces (aka the pink pigs) were slogging around nearly up to their elbows in water, with barely any dry land in their pen. The Tams didn’t have it quite as badly, and their little crater-nest that they make to sleep in was still dry, but it was still pretty soggy and they were having a hard time getting to/from their water and food tubs.

So the day switched from some mundane scheduled tasks to CRISIS MANAGEMENT TIME YEAH!

The north barn is fronted by a concrete pad at least as wide as the barn itself, so we had an obvious second-best place to put the pigs. We spent a couple of hours getting fence panels into place and mounting electric fence so they don’t push on the panels, then we cut the electric fence inside their existing pens and opened up doorways for them to move out from the flooded area to the relatively dry concrete pads.

But pigs are both too smart and not smart enough for that. They learn very well about the electric fence — so well that once electric fence has been in a place, they are very reluctant to cross that line ever again, even once the fence has visibly been removed.

So, we had some time to work on setting up the feed and water tubs outside out of the puddles, and to figure out, with some friends’ help, how to get them housing in the new area, since the concrete pads have no roof. The Tamworths get to sleep in the stock trailer with plenty of hay for bedding (and a farrowing nook created for the sow whose teats are swelling, indicating that she’s getting close to giving birth!). The pink pigs get their previous shelter of an abandoned pickup truck canopy, hoisted up on a couple of bales of hay so they can all fit under it, since normally they would dig down to make room for everyone in a little nest.

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After that photo was taken we put down another bale of loose hay underneath the canopy so they have some coziness to snuggle down into.

But as of the evening dog walk a couple of hours ago, all the Tams were out but only one of the pink pigs had figured out how to cross the former electric fence line and get out to the food and the shelter. I do hope they figured it out and aren’t sleeping in a puddle.

It’s not a great solution — would rather have them completely under cover, and also on the concrete there’s no way to gather their manure to reuse the nutrients and prevent runoff — but it’s what we could get together today, and it should last while we figure out how to improve drainage in the barn.

Frozen farm

Given that this is our second several-day cold snap this winter, we should’ve prepared a bit better this time. Since we don’t have crops in the ground, though, really the big issue is keeping the livestock watered and warm.

The pigs, goats/sheep, poultry, and rabbits are all in three-sided barns with dirt floors. Normally we like this: fresh air is good for the critters, and having them on dirt is better for their bodies than concrete; plus the pigs really like to be able to root around. But the pigs sleep directly on the ground, so our first step in preparing for freezing weather is to bring each group of pigs a bale or two of hay to nest in. They all sleep in a warm pile anyway, but they like the added insulation from the cold ground.

The sheep and goats have their winter coats on and don’t seem to mind the cold, though we do give them some extra calories in the form of alfalfa pellets when it’s very cold. (We did lose a lamb in the last cold snap, but she was already very sick with worms.)

The chickens and turkeys also seem more or less indifferent to the cold. They go out and stand in the snow on one foot, alternating feet every few minutes. The geese are pretty mad that their bathing puddles are all frozen over, but then the geese are pretty mad about everything, so we don’t worry about them too much.

The cows are also in the barn, though theirs is not the same three-sided arrangement, but a large open barn with really just one wall, and the rest is open-air. They are somewhat protected by the large haystack, and they also have their winter coats on and the ability to huddle up, so they don’t seem to care about the cold either.

Watering everybody is another story. We try to keep the hoses drained, but don’t always succeed, so we often have to haul water in 5-gallon buckets from one end of the farm to the other. We use a super-handy garden cart that can hold seven buckets. But this cold snap, even our spigots froze, so we had no running water anywhere on the farm (including in the trailer we live in). Thankfully our neighbors at Tahoma Farm had running water, and they let us come and fill up our big white coolers that we use for making meat deliveries, so we were able to water everyone from those. They are insulated enough that water left in them overnight doesn’t freeze, which is convenient.

The rabbits’ waterers freeze solid overnight, so we bring them in and immerse them (waterers, not rabbits) in a big stockpot on the stove until they thaw. Then we fill them up with warm water and put them back out until they start to get slushy again. Next time we’ll plan to have twice as many waterers as cages, so we can have one set of waterers inside thawing while another set with warm water is outside.

Today we got the hoses and the spigots thawed enough for us to fill up our coolers ourselves, plus a few backup containers which we stored in the shop. And we made a checklist that includes all this prep, so we’ll do better next time.

Why it matters where you get your meat

Making the rounds on our Facebook timeline this morning is this NPR article about reform (or the lack thereof) in the commercial meat industry.

In short: In 2008 the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released a report (PDF) on commercial meat production and a roadmap on how the system could improve on environmental, animal health, and human health criteria. This year, a different group’s report (also PDF) indicates that the industry has actually gotten worse on all fronts.

This is really sad, and scary, and reinforces our conviction to do better.

There are a few things customers can always trust about our methods and our products:

  • We do not medicate animals unless they need it, but we make sure to do so if they do need it because to do otherwise would not be in keeping with our animal welfare standards. (This policy of treating when needed is also in keeping with Organic standards — animals that need antibiotics must be medicated even if it means you then have to withdraw them from the Organic program.)
  • If we have to medicate animals, we will always tell you, so you can make an informed decision about your meat.
  • In our pasture-based system of raising animals, the industrial concerns about manure collection and pollution are basically nonexistent. Our animals are on pasture during as much of the year as possible, distributing their manure themselves, thus fertilizing and enriching the soil as they go. We then bring them into the barn in the winter when the soil is not able to absorb the nutrients they are distributing — this has to do with soil temperature and precipitation, and will be a different date every year. This process protects the soil from compaction when wet, and also protects our waterways from runoff.
    Manure collected while animals are in the barn for the winter will be composted thoroughly before being returned to the fields and the garden as fertilizer. In this way, no nutrients are wasted; our grass-based animals are part of a closed loop system on the farm. (Chickens and pigs need grain, which for the time being we are purchasing.)
  • We want our animals to be truly free-ranging as much as possible. We will always do our best to make decisions that take into account the maximal health and happiness of our animals, the integrity and health of the soil, and other environmental concerns. This will be a balancing act, because sometimes those things might be in conflict. We won’t always get it right, but we’ll always try to back our decisions with rationale and reasoning, and we will always be flexible, seek ways to improve, and welcome your ideas on how to do so.
HI, WE'RE CHICKENS, HOW ARE YOU TODAY?

HI, WE’RE CHICKENS, HOW ARE YOU TODAY?

Related posts focusing on antibiotic use in industrial meat production:
On chickens and antibiotics (you can see how our understanding of the Organic standards has grown in the past year!)
Oh look, the same story, but about pigs.

Fall 2013 pork and chicken available!

Hooray! We have a new website and we are taking orders for pork and chicken, both available very soon. Take a look at our new site at http://www.dropstonefarms.com/, place an order if you want some super yummy local pastured Organic-fed chicken and pork, and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Oh yeah, and in all the work on the site we did today, it looks like a couple of old blog posts got re-published or something — sorry about that, subscribers.

Catching up

I want to start posting regular updates about our activities as we grow, but in order to do that I need to first catch everyone up on what’s happened so far. Here’s a brief illustrated timeline.

On May 17th, we signed paperwork to lease the whole new farm property.

On June 2nd, we took down the “For Sale” sign.
Taking down the for sale sign

On June 26th, (I think) the cows arrived: 13 cows and a calf, delivered by Tom Clark in Sequim, who’s awesome. Various breeds, mostly Angus crosses.

On July 1st, we signed all the paperwork and bought the farm. !!!

On July 2nd, the WSDA Organic inspector came to the farm for the initial visit to certify our hay. We don’t yet have our certificate but we don’t anticipate any issues — we’re just waiting for the physical paper to arrive.

On July 5th, we brought 17 Tamworth pigs home from Oregon, all in the back of the pickup truck.

Tams in truck

It is surprisingly difficult to take a decent picture of a pickup truck full of pigs.

We put them out on pasture, which they love.

On July 17th, neighbor Spike started cutting the hay in the main pasture.

free range bales

On July 18th, we bought six Katahdin sheep: two rams, two ewes (a 2-yr-old and a 6-month-old) and two week-old ewe lambs belonging to the older ewe. One of the rams will go to freezer camp later this year but the four girls and one ram will stay as our breeder herd.

Lauren and lambs

On July 21st, we expanded the cows’ area for the first time, which resulted in spending 3 hours chasing the calf and her mom all around the fields, trying to get them back inside the electric fence. Say what you will about chasing cows around — and I said many things about it at the time — at least you can get a decent close-up picture while you stand in the field at an impasse with a cow who has apparently not read the chapter in the cow book about how to herd them.

On July 24th, all the hay was in the barn, and the turkeys, chickens, and duck had all made the move from Bainbridge to the new farm, where they disdained the roost Garth built for them and chose instead to squeeze onto a ledge. A barn full of hay and a pile of chickens in the dark both turn out not to be good photography subjects.

Yesterday, August 3rd, I picked up three Pilgrim goslings, who at 3.5 months old are actually pretty much fully grown.

Any number of things are in the works still — finding a tractor; getting ready to slaughter; actually starting to market our products; possibly holding an open house and/or a barnwarming party; finding some more lamb and goats so we can have a rounded-out product list in the fall; preparing for broiler chicks to arrive in a couple of weeks; and oh yeah, actually finishing packing and getting our Bainbridge house sold.

Given all that, we’re both tired and somewhat overwhelmed, but happy to have everything underway!

Oh — don’t forget to check us out on Facebook for more timely updates and cute pictures.

Big news

We’ve been trying to figure out how to phrase it and when to announce it, but I guess now is as good a time as any, because PCC Farmland Trust‘s donor newsletter today mentions us by name (and includes pictures!).

We’re super excited to announce that we are moving to a 95-acre farm in Pierce County, outside of Puyallup, where we will have the needed infrastructure and acreage to raise grass-fed beef and lamb, as well as pastured pork, all for sale directly to consumers at farmers’ markets and probably via a CSA/bulk box model, as well as to restaurants and butcher shops in the greater Puget Sound region.

We’re also totally sad because this means that we will be leaving Bainbridge Island, our friends and loyal customers, and the wonderful community of which we have become part, and which has helped us grow to be ready for this next phase.

For a while we’ve been ready to take the next (huge!) step to start raising beef (which requires more space than we can easily get in Kitsap); to grow enough to have product available year-round; and to make it economically viable to have our meat USDA-processed, which allows us to sell to restaurants, butchers, at farmers’ markets, as well as letting us freeze cuts of meat to sell throughout the year.

This move presents an amazing opportunity for us to do all of the above: because the PCC Farmland Trust purchases the conservation easement on the property, not only is it preserved as farmland forever, but we pay just the agricultural value of the physical land, rather than the appraised market develop-able value. This type of deal is really the only way that we, as new start-up farmers, can afford the amount of land that we need to be able to make this business venture work.

We are super thankful to PCC Farmland Trust and so we’d also like to boost the signal on their campaign to raise money to cover the cost of the purchase of the conservation easement. If you’re inclined and able, we encourage you to donate to PCC Farmland Trust to help with their farmland preservation efforts in general, and with this farm in particular.

We also encourage you to stay in touch with us via this blog, email list, Facebook, or Twitter. We definitely intend to come back to Bainbridge/Kitsap frequently, whether we’re doing farmers’ markets, CSA drops, restaurant deliveries, or simply, happily spending time with our friends.

Spring things!

We have had a week or so of totally gorgeous weather. Everything on the farm (including me) is really happy about it!

Strawberries are coming!
Strawberries are coming!
And radishes!
And radishes!
And peas!
And peas!

We had two hens go broody this year so we have two batches of little peepers running around being raised by mamas, with no work required on our parts. Hooray for mama hens.

One mama hen taught her babies how to sleep on the roost today
One mama hen taught her babies how to sleep on the roost today
The other mama hen knows that her babies still need to be under a warm lamp
The other mama hen knows that her babies still need to be under a warm lamp

Last week we scored some free baby turkeys on Craigslist. Several were ill and a few had died, and their owner was sad and stressed about it, and just wanted to hand them off to someone else to take care of them. Two of ‘em didn’t make it after we brought them home, but the other nine have recovered and seem healthy. We moved them out to the coop this week.

Turkeys have also learned how to roost
Turkeys have also learned how to roost

And here is a video so you can enjoy their sweet little turkey sounds.

Boring

No pictures today because we spent the weekend — which turned out to be the nicest weekend of the year so far — holed up inside working on business plans and spreadsheets and other similarly boring things.

But I did go visit the goats, which I don’t do daily anymore since I stopped milking, and give them lots of skritches. So that was fun. They are feeling spring too, running and playing and headbutting and rubbing against trees to get their winter undercoat off.

Overcast Sunday: still awesome

We got out into the yard for several hours today. Here’s what we’ve been up to this week — minus the tiny and adorable Pacific Tree Frog who hopped away before I could get a picture.

Cut back the mint so the new shoots can grow
Cut back the mint so the new shoots can grow
Added some compost to the rhubarb
Added some compost to the rhubarb
Rhubarb again
Rhubarb again
This purple broccoli is 2 years old. I neglected to pull it out last fall but it turns out to be good because it's got awesome side-shoot production. I'm going to save seed.
This purple broccoli is 2 years old. I neglected to pull it out last fall but it turns out to be good because it's got awesome side-shoot production. I'm going to save seed.
Artichoke coming back from the root
Artichoke coming back from the root
New peepers!
New peepers!
Maple bacon in the smoker
Maple bacon in the smoker
Working on clearing out the strawberry patch ... it's a gradual process.
Working on clearing out the strawberry patch ... it's a gradual process.


Edited to add: Also, we inherited a cat a while back, and since Fry puppy has gotten used to him, Max cat is out in the house in the daytime. Today we had the doors wide open and so Max had his first day going in and out at our place.

Oh also, we have a cat.
Oh also, we have a cat.

He’s in for the night again now, but I wanted to illustrate how cute he is. Yay! Kitty!

Sunny March Sunday afternoon

Peas say it's spring
Peas say it's spring
Bees doing their own thing
Bees doing their own thing

This is a swarm I captured, and I didn’t have frames for the box that I threw together for them. Before I could get frames, they took over the empty space and built their Gaudí-Gehry thing.

I didn’t expect them to survive, so I figured I’d just clean it up in spring before installing a new hive, but this is my strongest colony.

Last week I looked for the rhubarb and couldn't find it. Today, here it is!
Last week I looked for the rhubarb and couldn't find it. Today, here it is!
Overwintered carrots, for the corned beef tonight.
Overwintered carrots, for the corned beef tonight.