Rockgate Farm

  (Conway, Missouri)
A Small Slice of Heaven!
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Urban Gardening

Well, it's almost that time again.

 I'm turning my dining room into a mini greenhouse complete with mood lighting. The cat keeps eating my baby herbs, so I've retaliated by feeding him dog food. That makes the dog mad and he retaliates by trying to eat the cat. What a circus.

 In my spare time between two and three o'clock in the morning, I am writing a manual on container planting. My take on "urban gardening". I've grown so tired of hearing "I don't have a back yard", and "I don't have room". If you have a bucket, a corner and a forty watt bulb, you can grow stuff. If nothing else, a nice patch of lettuce. I'm still growing peppers in my dining room from last year.

 So, if you have any creative ideas, share...I'll give you credit in print. In the mean time, Happy Planting Everyone!

 
 

It's Market Time Again!

It's the most wonderful time of the year......I've been singing that song for days.  It's Market time again!!!

The Marshfield Farmers' Market will celebrate its opening day on May 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm until 7:00 pm.  All the usual offenders will be present.  A Master Gardener will be available to answer questions.  All the goodies that you expect, will be available in abundance.

The Strafford Route 66 Market will celebrate its opening day on May 19, 2012 at 8:30 am until 12:00 pm.  Still lining up vendors, but we will have a bunch of goodies, and a Master Gardener will be available to answer questions.

Anyone interested in participating in either Market, give me a holler.  I'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Cheers!!

 
 

As the 2011 County Fair Draws to a Close.....

Well,   I WON! I WON! I WON!!!

  Another County Fair has drawn to a close.  The day to pick up my entries, ribbons and premiums....if I have any, and lick my wounds and mutter a few chosen words under my breath if I haven't.

  I wasn't going to enter this year.  It was/is so hot, and I was so tired.  I just didn't want to exert the effort for just a few winks and nods.  Not a whole lot of money in the county fairs, just braggin rights.  But, at the last minute, I had a change of heart.  If I don't enter, people will think that I really am dead...That rumor circulated a few years back.  Surprised a few people when they found out that I was alive and well.....Just looked kinda sick at the time.

  So, I boxed up a few pickles and jellies (20 to be exact), picked some green beans, banana peppers and zucchini to enter into the crop section...and headed down to the fair grounds.  That was Wednesday last.   Didn't give it another thought until just a couple of hours ago.  My mother reminded me that I needed to pick up my entries between 1:00 and 4:00.  So off I went.

  Needless to say, I was VERY surprised.  I'm pretty used to winning with my jams and jellies, but with my crops?!  Took best in show with my banana peppers.  First place with my green beans, and second with my zucchini.  I am so floored!!  I guess those Master Gardener classes paid off after all. 

  My winnings this year:  12 first places, 7 second places, 2 third places, and (1) Best in Show.  $57.00 in show premiums.  That's a nice dinner out to celebrate!  The irony:  The local Farmer's Market Sponsored the premium for Best in Show in the Crops division.  I'm a member of that market.  Do you think people will think that it was rigged?

 
 

The Truth About Eggs... Part 2

Part 2:

  Are free range, pastured eggs higher in certain Vitamins and Omega 3 Fatty Acids? Welllllll, before I answer that question, clarification of terms is required. 

The general public is actively being mis-led by the terminology used by the egg industry.  Let me break it down for you.

1.  Organic:  natural feed with no hormones, antibiotics, or synthetic particals such as preservatives.

2.  Antibiotic free:  Could be anything without antibiotics.  Does not stipulate organic status.  Be very careful here, as almost all "chick" feed contains some type of antibiotics.  It is the industry standard.

3.  Hormone free:  see number 2, but substitute "hormone" for "antibiotics".  All commecial  meat bird/butcher bird feed will contain growth hormones, as will game bird food.

4.  Cage free:  Bird is not confined to a cage, but is most likely on a brooder house floor, with several thousand other birds.  Very unhealthy, and VERY misleading.  A breeding ground for diseases. 

5.  Free Range:  The worst term.  Means NOTHING.  If the bird has access to a run, outside, for at least a half hour a week, the flock owner can claim "free range".  The rest of the time, they're in a brooder house, or factory in cages.

6.  Pasture Raised:  This term means EVERYTHING to me.  At least the bird is allowed access to nature, at some time or another.  But, know your farmer.  Ask for proof and an explanation of what this means to them.  Pasture raising birds is very costly.  Loss to predators and poachers can be staggering.

After my last blog, a reader (Gary_twist@hotmail.com) requested that I prove or disprove claims that farm fresh eggs were higher in vitamins and Omega 3 fatty acids.  Well, here is my response:

Maybe.  It depends on how the flock is managed.

Pasture Raised, yes.  On pasture, they are foraging for natural foods.  Deriving consideral proteins from grubs and insects, vitamins and minerals occuring naturally in the soil and foliage.  What a bird eats, directly determines the quality of it's eggs.  Birds raised on pasture, suplimented with feeds high in polyunsaturated fats and kelp meal, will produce eggs with yolks measurably higher in vitamin A, E, D, Beta caretin (sp), and Omega 3 fatty acids.  The are also lower in cholesterol and fats.

This I will attest to....but nothing else.  Please be aware that a study in 2010 by the FDA/USDA determined that there was NO distinguishable difference in protein and crude fat levels in pasture raised vs commercial egg production.

So, the studies and debates continue.  Would I buy pastured eggs before commercial eggs, certainly.  I like to hedge my bets.  Even if the benefits are over-stated somewhat, what do you have to lose?

Hope this has been helpful.

 
 

The Truth About Eggs.....

It's time to set the record straight.  Please feel free to research my facts and comments for verification.  I'm not just selling you a bill of goods to promote my products, but hoping to provide some useful information to aid in debunking some of the myths surrounding farm fresh eggs.

1.  The color of the shell has NO effect on the nutritional value, quality, or flavor of the egg.  Simply put, different poultry breeds lay different colored eggs.  So, NO, maran(dark brown) or ameraucana (blue/green) eggs are no better or flavorful then any other chicken egg. 

2.  What the chicken is fed DOES have a bearing on the flavor and color of the eggs.  Free range birds (chickens allowed access to greens and other forage) tend to have darker yolks, whereas factory birds that are fed standard egg rations, tend to have paler yolks. 

3.  One large egg provides approximately 6 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of total fat, 213 milligrams of cholesterol, and is a good source of Lutein which promotes eye health.  About 75 calories.

4.  Eggs are one of the few natural resources of vitamin D.

Again, do the research!  Don't take for granted that what you hear, or what you read is true.  Check your facts.

 

 

 

 
 

The Wonders of Nature Never Cease to Amaze!!

Who would have thunk it?!

   After going missing for quite a long time, the prodigal duck has returned.....with (13) ducklings in tow.  AMAZING!!

  I told the family that she had most likely succumbed to the marauding pack of coyotes hitting my farm daily.  There was always the chance that she had a nest somewhere, but it was more likely she had been lunch for some furry predator.  The coyotes have become so brash as to raid the farm in broad daylight.  Lost a teenage bantam at 8:15 this morning.  I startled the coyotes, but not before they could snatch a mouthfull on the way out.

  Anyways, about the time I was tripping through the underbrush, I noticed something tiny out of the corner of my eye.  Low and behold...there were thirteen little tiny things, with a very loud and demanding mother.  Guess she thought it was time to introduce the babes to all of their Aunts, Uncles, and Daddy.  What a sight to behold.

  Now I know that I'm going to spend quite a few hours this evening, rounding them all up....but that's the only way to keep them safe.  A chicken tractor awaits.  I just don't now what I'm going to do with the current tenants.

  Isn't nature amazing?

 

 
 

Better Late than Never!

Got your plants out a little late?  So What.... No biggee!

  With the weather being so eratic this year, unless you have a hoop house, you most likely got your planting done late.  That's alright.  As long as your starts are not heat sensitive, and you have three months or so before the first frost in your area, you'll be fine.

  My farm is in the mid west.  As a rule of thumb, I plant my garden on Mother's Day.  I used to think that was late, and did try on several occasions to plant earlier, but this always proved to be a mistake.  Either the ground wasn't warm enough, or the spring rains rotted my plants.....for some reason or another....my garden would fail.  Didn't take to long for me to start searching for explanations.   I should have known that "It's not nice to (try to) fool Mother Nature". 

  This year, the garden went in late.  With the storms and tornados, the ground has been to wet to work.  Most of my early starts died on me, and I had to start them again...but the garden finally in.  Although not growing at the speed of sound, at least it's growing.  Need more sun then we've been getting.  But the weather forcasts are promising.  I'm so optimistic, I planted more seeds today.

  So, don't be skeered to plant late.  Just keep in mind the projected date of your first frost.  That will tell you if it's to late to plant or not.  A couple of weeks will not hurt, as a matter of fact, it may prove to be a blessing.  I always seem to have "stuff" at the market long after other vendors have harvested.  Looks like that'll be the case again this year!

 
 

Be Sure of Your Sources

Ok, I just have to say it.....Not everyone who thinks that they are an expert.....is an expert.

I read these blogs....a lot.  There is a great deal of valuable information here.  There are people who have been farming for generations, doing things that have become second nature to them.  Tryed and true.  People who have forgotten more information about certain topics, then the novice will ever know.  True experts in their fields.  It's amazing how much knowledge and experience is available via the internet.

But, be cautious.  There are others who have been around a year or two, gotten a little dirty, and now think that they are experts.  They may know a thing or two, but there is no substitute for experience.  And experience takes time. 

Always check your sources before you take any advice as gospel truth, because, there is a bit of bad information also.  Ask questions, ask for examples and verification.  Ask how long they've been "doing it" and what their experiences have been.  Farming is hard.  Raising livestock is hard.  Mistakes are costly. It's a learning experience.  Do the home work and research.

 

 
 

What was I thinking!!?

What was I thinking!!

So, it looked like Spring was on the way.  I loaded up the incubators, and planted the seeds.  What happened?  Who turned off the heat?

It's 32 degrees with a light spattering of snow.  I've got 40 or so chicks under a heat lamp on my dining room floor, and six flats of various seedlings on my dining room table.  Not to mention the 100 or so eggs still to hatch.  HMMMMMMM

Somehow, this is not working out as planned. 

HELP!!!!

 
 

From Down on the Farm......

Just an up-date for all of my loyal customers.....

  I know that you guys have been wondering what's up.  All my goodies are out of stock, and I seem to have dropped off the face of the earth....Well, fear not.....I'll be back.

  I'm just taking a few weeks to prepare for the Spring rush.  It's been a harsh winter so far, and my flock needs tending to, as does the farm.  I'm putting the cooking on the back burner for a few weeks, to allow myself the opportunity to make repairs, tend to the critters, clean out the barns, and all the other things that I've been putting off.  Heck, I just fixed the toilet in the spare bathroom.....I AM WOMAN!! HEAR ME ROAR!!! :)

  I'll open the store back up the first of March.  Should there be something that you just HAVE TO HAVE, just e-mail me at the farm.  I won't mind, and I'm sure that I can fix you up. 

  I want to thank you all for your patience.  Being a one man (woman) show, can be hard some times....especially when things start to go wrong.  Sometimes, I'm not the most "handy" person.   But with a little time, and the grace of God, I should be able to get things back in order soon enough.

  See ya in a few weeks!!

Angela Stanley

 
 

Tonight is The Night!

  It's Christmas Eve again.  One of the most blessed, miraculous times.  Since I was a child, I've believed that the animals speak, by the Grace of God, on Christmas Eve.  They celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ..... If I can only stay up long enough to hear them.....I'm still trying, after 50 years. 

  On the farm, I am surrounded by God's gifts.  Sometimes I forget how truly wondrous they all are.....but I am reminded on cold wintry nights, when all is still and quiet.  You can see your breath in the air, and a light dusting of snow lays on the ground.  There are sweet, low sounds of the animals as they nestle down to rest.  The occasional coyote sounds, to remind me that not all beings are at peace....But tonight will be different......It's Christmas Eve.

  Soon, I will bundle up in my winter gear, and make my way down to the barns.  I'll feed and water everything, and make sure that there is a warm spot for all.  I'll leave the lights on tonight, and sneak out a few times to check, in hopes that I catch a snitch of "joyful sound".  I know that tonight is the night of miracles, and  I pray that those who need them, receive them.  Maybe I'll be one of them, and finally get to hear the animals speak :)

  Tommorow, I will be blessed to be surrounded by my family.  My sister and her boys are on their way up from Houston, TX now.  My mother and I are mixing up the traditional cherry cobbler...don't know how that tradition got started....but it works for us.  We'll all meet a Mom and Dad's house this evening for a little cheer and lots of gifts.  I thank God for allowing us one more year together.

  I hope that everyone shares in God's Grace and Love this holiday Season.  Share your joy over the birth of his Son!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

 
 

Oh no! Please not that!!!

Heaven Help Me!  I just can't seem to catch a break.

All I want for Christmas, is a good night's sleep.  Sounds like a song, doesn't it?  Well, not funny!  

So, here I am, minding my own business....running around trying to get water on the flock....throwing a bit of feed to boost their metabolisms and keep them warm....and I hear this sound.  NAH, it couldn't be....yet, like some sort of bad dream, I hear the faint cheeping of a chick.  Come on, it's nearly Christmas, and I've long since broken up any potential nests.  No one wants chicks in the dead of winter, can't keep em warm....But, there it is again....

So I start poking around, and startle a couple of hens in a dog house (of all places).  Sure enough, amidst quite a few eggs, is a single, solitary, tiny little chick.  Chirping quite loudly.

Well, I know the odds of that chick surviving in below freezing temps, so I snatch him up and make my way to the house.  I grab a box, a little bit of paper for bedding, a couple of jar lids to put food and water in, and a clamp lite with a 40 watt bulb.  I drop my foundling into his new, warm abode and stand back to admire my handiwork.  Quite pleased with myself, I head on back outside to finish my chores.

 About 9:00, I've had my shower, said goodnight to all the critters (dog, cats and guinea pigs), checked on my new little charge to make sure that he was warm, and headed off to bed.  You know, early to bed, early to rise...... Anyways, about 1:30 or so, a shrill noise penetrates my peaceful slumber.  I drag out of bed, wander down the hall to find my new "BABY" chirping his head off.  I guess he had a bad dream or something....So I talk to him a bit...he quiets down....I stagger back to bed.  I repeated  that performance several times that night.

 That was three nights ago. 

  I now understand what they mean by "sleep deprivation".  I also find myself fighting the urge to choke the chicken.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!



 
 

What's the Deal With the Eggs?

I just don't get it!

  With all the money and regulations and this and that, big business still can't produce a simple edible egg.  You know, that thing that we small farmers take for granted.

   I find it absolutely hysterical, that after drowning us small producers in regulations, permits, procedures....etc, that I can still walk out into my barnyard, pick up an egg, walk into my house, fry it up, and eat it for breakfast/lunch/dinner, without worrying about salmonella.  "Big Money" can't do that.  Even with all their advantages.  Hey FDA, what's up with that?

  Yes, my birds run around and eat what they like.  No, my hen house isn't always the cleanest.  Yes, I run ducks and chickens and geese...all together.  (Doesn't bother them, so why should it bother anyone else?)  I probably do a lot of things not exactly correct by the book standards, but I've got a certified healthy flock, that produce a healthy product.  I don't see why this has become such a problem for some organizations...LOL

  I guess that I shouldn't be so "snarky" about this, but I've listened to the tripe for years about eggs.  Looks like the biggest danger in eating eggs, is buying them from the grocery store. 

  So, hug your local farmer, and be thankful that a few of us still know how to raise a flock and produce good eggs!

 
 

Fall Arrives on the Farm

Well, it's here!

  I swear, I live for this kinda weather.  Cool, crisp mornings with a light mist floating above the pond.  The summer sounds of the "peeper" frogs are gone........just a lazy quietness.  Occasionally, I'll hear the low ball of one of the calves, or the quack of a restless duck...but mostly, it's like the farm is taking a deep breath and winding down for a long winter's rest.

  The leaves are starting to turn, and the nuts are falling from the trees.  The apples are all picked and the garden is tilled up.  I've noticed quite a few "free-range" lettuce, cucumber and dill plants coming up where I had let it go to seed.  But, that's alright, fresh lettuce is always welcome.

  I'm busy in the kitchen now, putting up the last of the harvested fruit and veggies.  I've a few late hatched birds to integrate into the flock...but mostly, I'm winding down also.  Soon the time will change, and the daylight will be gone.  I'll go to ground, just like the critters.  I'll spend my evenings with the remote control and a cup of tea....yeah, right!:)...Fat chance of that...LOL

  Time to break out the flannels and the mud boots.  The persimmons are predicting a snowy winter...again.  Ask your old folks to explain that one :)  Need to lay down gravel on the drive before it sets in.  I'm already in trouble for slipping the dually off the drive in the rain.  Makes ugly ruts.  Time to muck out the barn and the hen house and lay down new bedding before the cold sets in for good.  It's winter prep time.

  Lots of work ahead...But, I always do one thing first.....

Take a minute, about dark.....Walk outside.  Take a deep breath.  Stand perfectly still.  Listen.  Tilt your head back, and look up at the sky.  Take in all of the smells, sounds and sights.  Look at the stars.  Remember how blessed you are to be able to do that, and how wonderful these things can be.....on the farm!

Enjoy!!



 


 
 

So, let the games begin!

So, it finally happened.....The Government drew a line in the sand  that I just wouldn't/couldn't cross.   Just one more hit to the small farmer/producer. 

In my misguided attempt to "do it right", I made it past the county and the state requirements.  I attended their Process Control School.  I got myself certified every which way....I cooked in a commercially inspected kitchen, but it just wasn't enough.

NOW, I need to be registered with Homeland Security....I could actually be a potential bio terrrorist.  Lord knows how many people I could do in with my Salsa and pickles...eh?  I realize that I could be considered a Serial Pickler, but this is down right ridiculous. 

Once I break down and register with Homeland Security...we begin the actual process control.  Each one of my products, in each size jar is considered a process.  Each process must be submitted to an independant Process Authority to be tested and approved.  That cost can range anywhere from $250-$500 per process.  I estimated that it would cost me somewhere in the $40,000.00 range to get all my processes approved.....That's a lot of pickles!!

And, should any of my ingredients change....such as the variety of tomatoes in my Salsa, it's a new process.  Sweet, huh?

So, bottom line.....it is no longer legal for me to SELL salsa, pickles or relish.  Can't afford the process costs.  So, I've closed my listings. 

Now, you dairy people out there who complain because you can only sell raw milk from the farm...take notice...I don't even have that option.  I cannot sell acidified foods at all.  I am completely shut down.  FEDERAL.  My Grandmothers would be mortified.

Home processing is now becoming a thing of the past.  Unless your name is Libby, Del Monte, or Vlassic....you are  most likely not producing legally.  Anything promoted as  Amish made....is actually produced in a factory.  Where I come from, Amish don't work in factories.  Home made pickles are only for personnal consumption.  Those Hot Pickled Eggs that I've made so popular...are no longer available....unless you have something to trade:)

Hey, let's bring barter back on a large scale!!

But then again, they would probably figure out a way to regulate that also :(

 
 
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