For Sale: Used SunshineUsed sunshine, huh? What the heck am I talking about?
Our farm philosophy is fairly simple: Use plants to capture solar energy. Use livestock to turn human-inedible plants into tasty, nutrient dense, dairy & meat products. Really, the stars of this system are the microbes that exist both in the soil and produce nitrogen, and in the cows' rumens (stomachs) that turn plant fibers into protein.
Beyond this basic philosophy are a million logistical details that influence how the process is completed. Our management focuses on minimizing inputs onto the farm as much as possible. For the cows, that's only salt and minerals including selenium, which our soil in the Northeast is deficient in. We do need to harvest a good portion of our acres for winter feeding because of the layout of our farm, so there are inputs required to do that.
Pigs are not ruminants; they have a simple stomach that functions the same as yours and mine. They don't have the benefit of rumen bacteria and therefore need more essential amino acids supplied in their diet. Their diet includes grain which is an input to our farm; we include excess milk & whey from our dairy which reduces the amount of grain required.
Time on the tractor gives me a chance to catch up on podcasts, and lately I've been binge listening to "Working Cows", a podcast focused on all things related to regenerative farming & ranching with livestock. I believe it was Steve Kenyon in episode 95 that said farmers and ranchers are one of two things: used sunshine salesmen, or earth miners.
If you're not taking full advantage of soil and rumen biology, you're either depleting soil nutrient reserves or need to add nutrients in the form of fertilizers, most of which are petroleum derived. We'd prefer to manage our soils, grass, and livestock in ways that allow us to focus on being used sunshine salesmen! We think you can taste the difference, as well as reaping the health benefits of nutrient dense foods!
This year, online ordering & shipment has become commonplace for nearly everyone. You can order just about anything and have it delivered to your doorstep within a few days.
This week, a highly anticipated delivery arrived, but not in an Amazon box. You know you’re a farmer when the most exciting delivery in months arrives in a container like this:
This is a special shipping container charged with liquid nitrogen and used to ship frozen bull semen. It keeps the semen safely frozen at -320⁰ F. UPS drops it in our driveway, we transfer the semen to our liquid nitrogen storage tank, and then the shipper is returned & reused.
We’ve worked hard to reduce purchased inputs in our business, but semen is one of the necessities. Every cow needs to deliver a calf in order to start producing milk. Ideally, they have a calf once a year. And each of these pregnancies requires a semen source. We choose to not keep any bulls on the farm, mostly due to the safety risk, but also because we want to choose the best genetics available to improve our herd.
There are not a lot of other Brown Swiss herds, at least not compared to Holsteins or Jerseys (the two most popular breeds). By purchasing frozen semen, we can utilize bulls from the best herds in the US and Europe, from which we could not feasibly purchase a live bull.
So, about three times a year, this farmer spends a lot of time pouring over catalogs and selecting the best matches for our ladies, just like a fantasy football team. Yep, bulls have stats just like pro athletes. Some are all around all-stars, while others excel in certain traits that we might want to focus on improving.
Most of our semen is ordered from one Wisconsin-based distributer specializing in Brown Swiss, who has been shipping directly to our farm for years. If you’re curious, check them out at brownswiss.com!
This week’s delivery included bulls with names like Spark, Kade, Powerball, Juke & Kingsman. Within a year we will have their calves running around, and in about 3 years their daughters will be producing the milk in your cheese. One small delivery will have a longterm impact on our farm!
There really is no limit to what can be delivered to your door!
This week was Charlie’s birthday. Birthdays, when you farm, are like most every other anniversary, holiday or special occasion – not much different than any other day. He spent an enjoyable day (his words!) making a big dent in our manure spreading project.
Lyle & my mission was to make Dad his favorite treat – rhubarb pie. We also needed to load a semi-trailer with hay that we’d sold.
The truck appeared just as the pie was ready to go into the oven – perfect timing. You can load a tractor trailer with 44 round bales in less than 50 minutes, right?
Turns out you can, but when the phone alarm went off I didn’t rush inside. Our oven always seems to cook a bit slower than the recipe requires, so I figured a few extra minutes would be a safe bet.
Got the load strapped & headed out the driveway, then went in with Lyle to check the pie. Of course the oven picked today to work super efficiently & the pie was definitely overdone. Not totally ruined, but the crust edges were on the verge of black.
Charlie was a good sport & pronounced it “not that bad”. Lesson learned…pay attention to the alarm!
Pie crust is a big deal in both Charlie & my families…today I’m sharing my mom’s recipe. You can fill it with rhubarb if you have it in the freezer – or since we’re at the peak of apple season, go for Maple Apple!
If you ever want feedback on your pie, our household will gladly sample!
Sarah, Charlie, Lyle & Hannah
DONNA'S PIE CRUST
5 C flour
2 1/2 C shortening
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 egg, beaten plus enough ice water to total 3/4 C
Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with pastry blender. Moisten with egg & water. Mixture will be sticky so use lots of flour to roll out dough. Makes approximately six 9" pieces. Roll out on plastic sheet or between 2 pieces of waxed paper.
MAPLE APPLE PIE
~5 C apple slices
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 C Morning Glory Maple cheese
Pastry for double 9" pie crust
Bring cheese to room temperature. Line 9" pie pan with bottom crust. Combine dry ingredients & sprinkle 2 Tbsp over bottom of crust. Add rest of mixture to apples & cheese, stir. Turn into crust & cover with lattice top (cut top pastry into 1" strips and weave into lattice). Bake at 425 for 15 min, then reduce temp to 325 and bake 45 min longer or until nicely browned.
Ground beef is a staple in our freezer, pulled out for quick & tasty family meals all year long. Here are 3 of our favorite recipes - give them a try when you're looking to change it up from the usual burgers or meatloaf! Our 100% grass-fed ground beef is lean but flavorful, making it an economical protein source boasting heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and CLA. We have plenty available - let us know if you'd like to place an order for your family's freezer!
SWEDISH MEATBALLS Servings: 4-6
3 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C seasoned dry bread crumbs
½ c fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley (or 1 Tbsp dried parsley)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
GRAVY: 4 Tbsp flour
2 ½ C beef consommé or broth
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 C milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
12 oz medium egg noodles, cooked
¼ C butter
3Tbsp fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley (or1/2 Tbsp dried parsley)
BEEF & POTATO MOUSSAKA Servings: 6-8
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ C water
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dried mint (optional)
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp pepper
¼ C butter
¼ C flour
2 C milk
4 eggs, beaten
½ C Parmesan cheese, grated
½ tsp salt
5 medium potatoes, peeled & sliced
GROUND BEEF & CAULIFLOWER HASH Servings: 4
2 ½ + C frozen cauliflower (defrosted & drained) OR fresh cauliflower OR summer squash, chopped
½ C bell pepper, chopped
¼ C onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef or sausage
2 C shredded cheese (Goblin, sharp cheddar, mozzarella – or a mixture)
¾ tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
I'm half of the Crosswinds farmer duo bringing you farm fresh cheeses, beef, and pork from the heart of the Finger Lakes! Stay tuned for our daily adventures growing a family & a farm, and food for your table. We welcome your questions & comments, but please keep them respectful! For the latest updates, please follow Crosswinds Farm & Creamery on Facebook or Instagram!