Lambs

Our ewes have given birth. Both twinned, and each gave a ewe and a ram.

The white one gave birth during a snow storm.

The black and white one gave birth about a week later. All four were up, walking and nursing within hours of birth. And they are all doing well.

Here is the white one with her lambs nursing, one on either side. A little blurry, but you get the idea.

Eggs

Late last fall we got 30 Barred Rock chicks to add to this year’s laying flock.

These birds have matured and are now in the Taj Mahal. Here you can see some of them out in the grass and at the feeders.

At around 4 1/2 to 6 months chickens will start laying eggs. At first the eggs will be small. Then sometimes they will be really large and have double yolks, though we also see that as they get older.

The two eggs on the top come from our current layers. You can see how they are a bit bigger than the other three eggs.

The lower three eggs are from the barred rocks. They would have normal yolk and white inside, but they are smaller than what a mature hen would lay.

The one in the middle bottom – That egg doesn’t have a hard shell. Eggs have two shells – hard outer shell and the soft inner shell. When you peel hard-boiled eggs, you might notice that there is a soft lining that you need to use a nail to grab and peel away from your egg. That is the soft inner shell.

Eggs with soft shells can happen because the chicken is immature and her body just hasn’t figured out how to put a shell around the egg. It can also happen because she doesn’t have enough calcium in her diet to produce hard shells. So we give our chickens free choice oyster shells that they can peck at to add to their calcium supply.

Renovating the Winter Quarters

We are improving our winter pens. Cattle pen from left to right: locking head gates, skirting, fix roof poles. (Skirting reinforces wall where cows will rub.)

Here is a close up of roof pole showing the base rebuilt with concrete.

A second pole has been dug out, a frame built, and concrete poured.

The locking head gates will serve primarily as feeders while open, but when closed will secure cows for inspection, medical care or breeding.

Here are the cows using the unlocked head gates to eat their hay.

On the opposite end we have walled off the space for the chickens.

This involves putting netting up to keep them out of areas they should not be.

The space between the chickens and the cows (not pictured) will be where the sheep will live.

Tell Me About Your…Lamb

About two years ago we purchased two bred ewes. Like all our animals we raise sheep outdoors. In the summer our sheep are grass fed and supplemented with a mineral block. They live in the pasture they are grazing.

In the winter they live in a three sided shelter and are hay fed. The hay they don’t eat becomes part of their bedding. This bedding pack is then added to our compost and aged manure pile, which is used on our gardens.

Our sheep are a cross of Dorper and Katahdin, two varieties of hair sheep. This means they are self-shedding. We will see small pieces of wool in the field where they have left their wool behind. We don’t collect their wool or shear them.

Last year we purchased a ram. We breed the ewes sometime in the fall. A ewe’s gestation (pregnancy) is 5 months. We keep the ram separate from the ewes except when we want them bred, so that we have a better idea of when they will lamb.

Our lambs are born in March or April. We process them in October. This allows the meat to have some fat which adds to the flavor.

This year we have boneless leg roast, bone-in leg roast, bone-in stew meat, chops, and ground lamb.

Predators

Farming outdoors allows for more mammal predators than farming in barns or greenhouses. In our squash patch we have a woodchuck this year. It has gnawed on these squashes. These are useable. However, with the skin broken and the flesh bitten into, they are more vulnerable to mold and bacteria. So they will need to be used sooner or cooked and frozen. We won’t sell them or store them as squash for winter.

Sometimes the mammal predator is our own dog. We let her loose among our layers. Then one day we saw her chasing a chicken and grabbing it with her mouth. So now her area is more restricted to protect the chickens she is to be guarding. She is good at barking at what should not be around. I guess she just didn’t think to bark at herself.

Sometimes the predator is a pack of dogs. This used to be common for us. We would lose 25 meatbirds in one morning. Since getting a guard dog, this doesn’t happen as much.

However, it did with this year’s batch of turkeys. Our turkeys were not near our guard dog, and the dogs got into the turkey enclosure and damaged or killed about 10-12 turkeys. We were left with 7 turkeys.

Where do dogs like this come from? Probably someone owns them but just lets them run and fend for themselves. They didn’t have collars, and they don’t come to us if we call, so they aren’t real tame. Our turkeys looked good to them, and that was breakfast. It is annoying, disappointing, and upsetting.

With any predator, after grieving and feeling the pain, then it is time to look at what happened and why, and decide how to prevent destruction of our vegetables or livestock and also what we can do to live with the mammal predators. And so we continue to farm, growing food and working to live in balance with the natural world around us.

Turkeys for Thanksgiving – 2023

UPDATE – Turkey Preorders are closed. We had a large loss to dogs recently. The remaining turkeys are spoken for. Thanks for considering local pastured turkeys for your Thanksgiving.

We are raising turkeys for Thanksgiving. These birds are moved regularly, getting fresh grass which they love. They also receive locally grown organic grains. As they get larger, they will be allowed to free-range during the day, which they really enjoy.

We are taking preorders for these turkeys – $20 down which will be put toward the total when you pick the turkey up. Preorder price is $5.25/lb through Saturday, November 4. November 5 and following they will be $5.50/lb. They will probably be 12-16 lb. We can try to accommodate your size preference, but please be willing to take something a little smaller or larger as needed.

Turkeys will be ready on Saturday, November 18 after 3 p.m. They will be fresh and can be refrigerated for up to one week. Let us know what you would like – how many, what weight range, if you want the giblets (heart & liver) – and how you would like to pay $20 down (in person or by invoice). Email us at sales@tojfarm.com , call/text 315.200.2341, or use our order form.

Fall and Winter Meats – Chicken Broth

When we cut up chickens to sell recently, we ended up with the chicken carcass, which consists of the neck and the back, the breastbone and rib cage, a skin-fat portion from the lower back, and some meat and skin. We packaged these, two in a package and are selling them as chicken carcasses for broth. (My daughter-in-law doesn’t like the word carcass, but the synonyms are remains, skeleton, and body, so I think carcass it is.)

I thawed these carcasses and then covered them with about 6 quarts of water. As with all my broths, I covered the pot, brought it to a boil, turned it to low and let it simmer for 2-3 hours. This pic is of the broth with the carcasses still in the pot.

I then made 2 batches of soup with the broth.

The first one had the leftover meat, probably about 4 cups, some greens, celery, summer squash, cauliflower, and carrots. I had rice on the side for those who wanted that.

The second one was broth with vegetables. The broth had cooled in the refrigerator. It had a layer of yellow fat on the top. Very tasty! I used the vegetables that I had, in this case, carrots, celery, yellow beans, summer squash, and Swiss chard, and made enough for however many I was feeding that day.

As I thought, the chicken carcasses make a really nice broth. More meals for our fall and winter meats!

Fall and Winter Meats – Meaty Shank Soupbones or Short Ribs

Meaty Shank Soupbones and Short Ribs are beef cuts that do well with moist slow cooking. They both have a bone, some fat (marrow in the shank bone), and some meat. I tend to saute the meat, saute companion vegetables, almost cover with broth or water, and let it simmer on the stove top for 2-4 hours. (After the sauteing, this could also be cooked on low in a crockpot for 6-10 hours.)

The flavor will change depending on the vegetables used. Winter squash, like butternut squash, or sweet potatoes will thicken the mixture. Diced or crushed tomatoes will give it a tomato flavor. Consistency will be more stew like if less water or broth is used. And if more water or broth is used, the consistency will be more soup-like.

Slow-cooked Beef and Vegetables

The meaty shank soup bone or short ribs (or other beef cut) is browned, then vegetables are sauteed, and all of it is simmered for several hours. Depending on the amount of broth or water, this makes a good stew or soup.

Equipment

  • 1 gal Dutch oven or 4-8 qt. stock pot

Ingredients
  

  • 2-6 tbsp oil butter, or fat in divided amounts, added as needed
  • 1-2 meaty shank soup bones OR 4-5 beef short ribs
  • 1 cup celery thinly sliced
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 2-4 cups vegetables, include what you have – broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, zucchini, green/yellow beans, winter squash, pod peas, sweet potatoes, greens, kale chopped
  • 16-28 oz. diced or crushed tomatoes, opt.
  • 2-6 cups broth or water chicken or beef, use enough to bring liquid to the level of the vegetables and meat
  • 1/2 carrot per person, cleaned

Instructions
 

  • Brown meaty shank soup bones or short ribs in oil for 3-4 minutes on each side in dutch oven. Remove from pot.
  • Saute the fresh vegetables. Add oil as needed.
  • Put the meat back in the pot under the vegetables. You do this by pushing the vegetables to the side and putting the meat down, then covering the meat with the vegetables.
  • If using tomatoes, cover with diced tomatoes. Add broth to the level of the vegetables.
  • Put whole cleaned carrots on the top of the vegetables. Drizzle lightly with oil.
  • Cover pot. Bring to a boil, turn to low, and simmer for 2-3 hours.
  • Slice cooked carrots. As they are on the top, they are easy to reach. You don't need to take them out of the pot; just slice them where they are.
  • Take meat out, cut into fine pieces or shred. Cut marrow or fat into small pieces. Add all meat and fat back to pot and stir it all together.
  • Serve as is, or over rice or cooked potatoes.

Notes

The carrots tend to be sweeter when left to cook as a whole carrot. And they slice up really easily after 2-3 hours.
This is an -ish recipe. Lots of meats and vegetables can be used giving it different flavors each time.

Here are some links to similar dishes – Osso Buco , Meaty Shank Soup Bone, or Beef Barley Broth – many ways to enjoy meat shank soupbones or short ribs.

Fall and Winter Meats – Pork Roasts

Pork roasts include shoulder roast, butt roast, and boneless loin roast. All of these have some fat that adds to the flavor. This fat should also be used to flavor other parts of the meal. So if I am cooking a roast in the oven, I will put sliced or chunked up potatoes with a little bit of water underneath the roast. As the meat cooks, the fat will melt and mix with the potatoes. (I do cover the meat and potatoes with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in. And I typically cook everything at 400F – I think that my stove runs cold and I have found this temp to work well for our kitchen.)

Roasts like these also do well in the crockpot. I put my veggies in the crockpot first. This could include potatoes, winter squash, beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, or cauliflower (or whatever I have). Then I put the roast in the middle. If it is too high, I make a well in the veggies, so that the meat fits in it and the lid can seal on the top. I put a small amount of water in the bottom to give something to add steam. A lot of these roasts do well with moist heat, and the crockpot lets us provide this.

I don’t have an insta-pot, but it would work in a similar fashion. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Order your roast today!