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That Time a Calf (almost) Took a Swim

Part of our Ranchidents series

 Ranchidents: noun: 1: RANCH ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS 2: All those funny, frustrating, and famous stories that develop as a result of living on a ranch.

A jersey calf (not Moses) whose Mom didn't abandon him
A jersey calf. Unlike Moses, this calf has a good mom

We found him, shivering and confused, standing on the steps of our pool. The worst part was that his mother, grazing somewhere with the other cows, didn’t even seem to notice he was missing. We pulled him out of the water, dried him off, and laid him in a big picnic blanket. He was so exhausted that he plopped right down. My parents lifted the corners of the blanket and carried it, like a drooping hammock, to the barn.

When you live on a ranch, everyday can be an adventure. The day we found a newborn calf on the first step of our pool was especially memorable. We named the little calf Moses because we drew him out of the water. He was a white Brahman calf with a crown of red fuzz on the top of his head. While most Brahman cows are known for their nurturing and mothering skills, his mother was not. We assumed that she gave birth to him and then left him to wander under the fence, all the way up the hill and to our pool.

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The hump and floppy ears are characteristic of Brahman cattle

When we called up all the cows and got Moses’s mother into the pen with him, she wouldn’t even get near him, and when he feebly tried to get to her udder, she kicked him away. We quickly got her away from her rejected calf and brought Moses back to his blanket. He lay there docilely while my brothers and I petted him and kept our three curious dogs away. As I rested his head in my lap, he suckled my knee, trying to no avail to get some food into his empty belly.

My dad brought the mother into the cow shoot and managed to milk her a little bit while my mom went to buy a calf bottle and some powder. Calves, my dad explained, need to have their mother’s milk within an hour after birth or they can die.

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Daniel bottle feeding Moses

While my brothers and I were excited to have a calf that we could pet and bottle feed, we quickly learned that raising a calf is a lot more work than fun. Every morning and every evening, we mixed up the formula in the big bottle and brought it out to Moses in his pen. He eagerly drained the whole thing, but our arms still got tired from holding the heavy bottle at the right angle. We had to put him in the barn every night to keep him safe, and every morning we had to muck out his stall. One evening, he was attacked by a wild dog. He survived, but he was never quite right in the head after that (but of course, can’t you say that about every cow?).

Unexpected episodes that lead to a lot of unplanned work are just a part of life on a ranch. While you come to accept them, you’re never quite prepared. Like when the dogs find a skunk too near the house; or when the horse decides it would be fun to chase the cows across the property until they jump the neighbor’s fence; or when the calf you raised gets a little too aggressive for his own good because he never developed a healthy fear of people. Living on a ranch teaches you a lot about hard work, a lot about unexpected losses and unexpected gains. It also teaches you that everyday can make for a great story.

Eventually, we had to let Moses go. By then, there were other animals to take care of and other unexpected mishaps to learn from.

Do you have a great farm or ranch story? Share it in the comments section or send it to us at info@countryworkforce.com for a chance to be featured on our new Ranchidents series.

~Alexa Dodd

 

Rosa’s Chili Recipe

Everyone has a favorite chili recipe. This one is ours.img_3349

Over the years, Rosa has perfected her chili recipe to create just the right balance of flavors. We call it her award-winning recipe because it almost won first place at a school chili cook-off. Every fall, it fills our home with its sweet and savory aroma as it cooks slowly to perfection. It just wouldn’t be fall without it. We love eating it topped with cheese and Fritos or with a side of cornbread.

This recipe makes a lot, so we usually freeze half of it. When it cools, just ladle it into gallon freezer bags, seal tightly, and lay flat to freeze. These chili leftovers are the perfect solution to those busy winter days when you don’t have time to cook. Just defrost the bag in warm water before pouring the chili into a microwave safe bowl and heating completely.

Feel free to adjust the seasoning to bring it to your preferred level of spiciness. For a heartier chili, add an extra pound of beef. If you prefer using fresh, homegrown tomatoes, just substitute the canned tomatoes for about 2 pounds of your own stewed tomatoes. 

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Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lbs. lean ground beef (depending on how meaty you want it) 
  • 2 lbs. kidney beans (2 16-oz cans kidney beans, with juices)
  • 1 32-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 32-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. salt (you can reduce salt for lower sodium intake)
  • 1 tbsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. cumin (plus more to taste)
  • 1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper 
  • 1 tsp. paprika 
  • 3-5 cloves garlic or 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. oregano

Preparation: 

  1. In a large, non-stick sauté pan, cook meat in a ½ tsp. oil until just browned.
  2. Add onion and sauté.
  3. Pour into a large soup pot or into a 5-qt. crockpot.
  4. Add beans with juices.
  5. Add all the other spices.
  6. Simmer on low heat for one to two hours over the stove, stirring occasionally, or for one to two hours on high heat in the crockpot. Taste the chili intermittently and adjust seasoning as desired.
  7. Ladle into large soup bowls and top with diced onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, chips or crackers. Serve with a side salad and homemade cornbread.

Why We Started

Samson & Eleanor w calfThis week, I would like to focus on why the quest for healthy food has become our passion. I was raised on a farm in Iowa where I learned to appreciate fresh food. When I moved into the city, I could easily taste the difference between our own farm grown food and industrially produced food. However, I did not question the conventional wisdom that said our industrial food supply was healthy.

I was trained as a scientist, graduating with a Ph.D. from Texas A&M in 1993 (more on my background later). My training taught me to question things as part of the “scientific method” and then seek data to answer those questions. When both my son and my wife became ill with autoimmune diseases in the early 2000’s I began to ask questions. But it wasn’t until 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer that we were finally shocked into questioning everything that we were putting into our bodies. Since then, not only have we increased the amount of food we produce for ourselves but we have also radically changed our food buying habits. We became hyper-aware of how wrong conventional wisdom can be.

Why the Farmers Market?

Selling meat at the farmers market was a natural extension of this awareness. The conversations I have had with people who have gone off the beaten path of the grocery aisle have only strengthened my quest for healthy food. Now, you could say, my family and I are disciples of a new movement in the food industry. We have a simple philosophy built on our own experiences as well as the writings of people like Dr. Mercola, Joel SalatinDr. Weston Price and others. All living creatures were created the way they were for a reason. The more naturally we can raise the animals, the healthier they are and the healthier the food they produce is. When society has altered our animal husbandry and food production for convenience, health issues have arisen. Autoimmune diseases and diabetes have become an epidemic in society. Our family aims to change that through Wholesome Farms and Gardens, one meal at a time.

“I did not question the conventional wisdom that said our industrial food supply was healthy.” 

I have been in health care for 21 years and have observed how biased and inept our medical approach to things can sometimes be. Put simply, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The approach to many health issues today falls under that analogy: we fail to see—and treat—the issues as we should.

Why I Know Our Future Depends on Healthy Eating

pregnant-ladyMy training at A&M was in reproductive science and infertility. I directed an assisted reproductive technology lab at LSU medical center-Shreveport and was responsible for all the laboratory procedures of our modern infertility medicine.

I moved my career from infertility to orthopedics in 1999 because that propensity to question everything made me see that the multi-million-dollar infertility industry and regimen was less than ideal for many young couples, physically and emotionally. Like in our food system, medical data and common sense are showing us that natural methods are better for us and more effective in helping couples conceive. In fact, much of our infertility problems can be tied back to our diet. It turns out that eating naturally raised animal protein and fats is not only healthy for us but also vital to our reproductive function. In another blog  I explain why grass fed and non-GMO fed meat should be a vital part of the pre and post conception diets.

~ Craig Turczynski, Ph.D.

Why We’ve Joined the Bone Broth “Trend”

You’ve probably read about it on food blogs or heard health enthusiasts raving about its benefits. But what exactly is it?

img_1004-1Put simply, bone broth is stock that has been cooked for a very long time. While it’s becoming more popular, we wouldn’t exactly call it a fad. The idea of eating broth to stay healthy has been around for a very long time. Just think about mom’s chicken soup recipe.

For bone broth, bones are typically blanched and roasted and then boiled in water with minimal spicing (onions, garlic, black pepper). A true bone broth should be simmered between 12 and 48 hours, depending on the type of bone. Why so long? The bones need to be cooked long enough to release all of their healthy minerals. After you refrigerate your broth, you will also notice a Jell-O like layer on top. Don’t worry—that’s a good sign, as it means the bones were broken down enough to release their collagen and produce gelatin.

Bone broth can be used in soups, stews, and gravies. It can also be eaten—or sipped—by itself at any time of the day.We drink a few cups of broth every day and are firm believers in its health benefits. 

But what exactly are the health benefits of bone broth? Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Supports immune health: Bone marrow is an essential part of img_0999immune health. Its full of healthy cells that support the immune system and promote bone growth. Simmering the bones allows all of that healthy marrow to escape into the broth, making bone broth an essential part of a healthy diet.
  • Prevents or heals “leaky gut:” According to Dr. Josh Axe, leaky gut is a disorder in which the permeable membrane of the small intestine breaks down, allowing bad bacteria, gluten, and other harmful undigested foods into the blood stream. As you might imagine, over time this can be very unhealthy, causing inflammation and even autoimmune disorders. Bone broth is full of the minerals and amino acids—proline, glycine, potassium—that can prevent leaky gut and even heal it. Remember that gelatin at the top of your bone broth? That’s the stuff that helps “seal” your gut.
  • Supports bone and joint health: Bone broth is full of an amino acid called glucosamine that is known to help protect joints against osteoarthritis. It also makes sense that bones are full of the minerals that keep bones healthy—phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium. Unlike most animals, we can’t get at all that healthy stuff without boiling the bones down.
  • Slows the aging process: Remember that collagen we mentioned? It’s the same stuff they put into anti-aging creams. Lots of people claim that bone broth helps their skin and hair look shinier and healthier.
  • Improves sleep and gives you more energy: There isn’t too much scientific evidence yet proving that bone broth improves your sleep and energy, but many accounts have claimed that it does. It’s certainly something we’ve noticed in our family.

Bone broth can be stored in the fridge for up to one week or put in the freezer for up to six months. We offer broth bones for just $4 a pound, including chicken feet, thought to be one of the best sources of all those healthy minerals.

Bone broth is also a favorite ingredient on the Paleo Diet. Read more about that here, or take a look at some tips for making the best broth. Here is one of our favorite bone broth recipes. 

What is a Porterhouse Steak?

What’s the difference between a porterhouse steak and a T-bone steak? Not much, by img_1001the looks of it. Both steaks have that characteristic T-shaped bone dividing two cuts of meat: a New York strip steak and a tenderloin steak (or filet mignon). But there’s one major difference. A porterhouse has a bigger tenderloin section.

So it’s like a T-bone steak but better? Exactly. Porterhouse steaks have to have a tenderloin section that is at least 1.25 inches across at its widest part (the qualifications are set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). A T-bone need only have a tenderloin section that is at least 0.5 inches across.

ThinkstockPhotos-477796601Both steaks are cut from the short loin section of the steer (the area toward the upper back, close to the rear). A T-bone is cut from the middle-rib section of the loin while a porterhouse is cut at the section closer to the rear of the animal.

Whichever cut you choose, it’s the quality of the meat that determines the quality of the cut. We prefer our meat grass-fed, non-GMO raised, and 100% local.

Our porterhouse is currently selling at $18.00/lb.

What We Mean When We Say “Free-Range”

ChickensWe’re expanding our supply of free-range, egg laying chickens to bring you more cage-free eggs. We’ve also partnered with two neighboring ranches to increase our supply while our chicken operation grows.

“Free-range” is becoming a more popular word in the food industry, as it describes a form of meat production that is healthy and humane, for both the animal and the consumer. But what exactly do the terms “free-range” or “cage-free” mean at Wholesome Farms and Gardens?

Our chickens do not have full access to our 30 acres of ranch land, 24/7. Such a IMG_1007lifestyle just wouldn’t be safe because of predators. Instead, our laying chickens are provided with mobile pens or a wide, grassy pasture with perimeters. Some of the area even has netting on the top to protect them from flying predators. At night, we enclose our chickens in a hen house to protect them from coyotes, raccoons, and other predators. Not only does enclosing them protect them, but it also allows us to monitor their wellbeing at least twice a day, ensuring that each chicken is getting the nourishment it needs. The hen house also offers a roosting area and nests. We gather the eggs every day and keep track of their harvest dates to make sure you get the freshest eggs possible.

Free-range chickens are not piled into a cage, day-in and day-out, without access to fresh air. On our ranch, cage-free farming helps prevent diseases, eliminating the use of antibiotics. It also helps decrease the frequency and severity of animal pecking. Finally, the diet of our free-range hens is significantly healthier than that of caged chickens. Our chickens have grass to graze on and are supplemented with a vegetarian non-GMO feed. Eggs from free-ranged chickens usually have more yellow looking yolks and are higher in “healthy” fatty acids.

Learn more about our chicken operation progress in this video.

 

Why Pork Belly Instead of Bacon?

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If you’ve visited us at your local farmers market, you may have noticed that we offer pork belly, or fresh bacon, instead of regular bacon. Pork belly is the same cut as bacon, as both options come from the fatty, belly area of the pig. However, unlike regular bacon, pork belly is not cured using salt and smoking. Regular bacon is cured through a process of brining (soaking it in a salt mixture) and smoking. The result is the salty, smoky flavor we all know and love.

Pork belly still has the same texture as regular bacon, but since it has not been cured, it tastes best when you season it while cooking. But why do we sell pork belly when it requires that extra step? Our family enjoys it for a couple of reasons:

1) We don’t have to worry about potentially harmful nitrites:
Most bacon is cured using a particular type of salt known as sodium nitrite, which scientific studies have linked to an increased risk of cancer. The World Health Organization has cited that there is convincing evidence that processed meats are carcinogenic to humans. While this does NOT mean that bacon is guaranteed to cause cancer, it probably means that we should be careful not to consume too much processed (brined and smoked) red meat. Pork belly offers the same delicious cut of meat without the potentially harmful chemicals.

2) We like to spice up our breakfast:
We know it may seem like extra work to have to season your bacon in the morning, but our family loves the variety seasoning offers. Season it simply with salt, pepper and garlic, or get exciting with Cajun spices or herby flavors. No matter what seasoning we choose, our family is always arguing over that last piece of bacon. Here’s a seasoning combination we enjoy:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. (16-20 full slices) fresh pork belly
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • ½ tbsp. pepper
  • ½ tbsp. garlic
  • 1 tbsp. Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning*

Preparation:

  1. Place a medium-sized skillet over high heat.
  2. Combine all seasonings in a small bowl (you can taste and adjust seasoning as desired).
  3. Separate pork belly pieces and slice in half, horizontally, to allow for easier flipping. Arrange pork belly slices in the skillet so that each slice is touching the hot surface without overlapping.
  4. Season each slice with prepared spices, using a spoon to sprinkle over the whole slice.
  5. Flip bacon and season the other side.
  6. Continue cooking, flipping every so often, until bacon reaches desired crispness.
  7. Remove from the pan and place on a plate with a paper towel to soak up the excess grease. Cook remaining pork belly.

If you would like to order pork belly or any of our other products for delivery, see our Meat Menu. 

*This post was not endorsed or sponsored by Tony Chachere’s.