Saturday, February 21, 2015

Corny and beany thoughts

I'm planning on planting more corn this year, going to go for an organic seed corn and an organic fertilizer, in keeping with my effort to get the pastures certified organic.   Organic dry fertilizer is pretty darned expensive; $1000 to $1200 a ton; and organic seed corn, heck, regular seed corn is expensive.  Regular is $200+ per 50lb bag, and organic is more.  I don't have a price because they haven't figured it out, but I don't have to imagine far.

Working with the JD 7000 planter last year
Last year one of the seeders was broken, so we used it as a 3 row planter, and the others really needed some work.  Seed belts and various wear parts and covers for the bins...  and everything needed grease and elbow work.

So I've ordered new seed meters and tubes for this planter, which should give me fewer skips and doubles, and generally a more consistent stand.  The other thing that this does is is give me the ability to better plant other types of seeds -- beans or peas, anyone? -- which adds a little more to the choice of forage that I can plant.

The new parts
Beans or peas are an interesting idea because they are a high-protein option for building a ration.  I don't get very good weather for dry beans, but I do get great pea weather.  I'm thinking that this years test plots will probably be beans and peas.

Beans have doen very well in field trials at the WSU Mt. Vernon research center, and I'll use that as the basis for deciding what beans to try in my own experiements.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Their barn burned down: Fundraiser

The thoughtful food farm had their barn burn down last week; with a loss of equipment and animals and shelter space.

I follow Jeffs blog because I think more than most he's a careful, deliberate farmer who watches his pennies and makes prudent choices.  I was sorry to see his barn go.   You'll see his blog on my "blogs I follow" list.  

I've donated $250 towards his reconstruction, and I'd like to ask my readers to contribute to putting this small farm back on its feet.  This isn't charity, and they still have hard work to do to get back there, but every bit that you can contribute, even a dollar, will help.   

If you've enjoyed, or been outraged, or entertained by my blog over the years, a few dollars paid forward would be much appreciated by me.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Too much milk...cream separator

I've been quietly milking my own family milk cow for a couple of years; I don't talk about it much, but it's a daily part of the routine here.  Before the end of 2015 I'll be milking four cows; two jerseys, a jersey-holstein cross and a holstein.

Milk and cream separator operating from bruce king on Vimeo.

It's been interesting having to figure out how to deal with between 2 and 5 gallons of milk a day; and this little gadjet has helped a lot.  It's a cream separator that allows you to process the fresh milk into skim and cream immediately.

Why?  Well, what I end up valuing the most from the milk is the butter, and butter comes from cream.   So I want to have the cream, which I store until i have a gallon or so, and then make butter from that.   I was refrigerating the fresh milk overnight, letting the cream rise to the top and then skimming it, but 5 gallons of milk is a lot of refrigerator space.  This way I reduce 2.5 gallons of fresh milk into 4 cups of cream, which means that I can put 4-5 days work of cream in a gallon container in the refrigerator.

The skim milk goes to either dairy calves (I'm raising 10 heifers right now) or to piglets, both of which really like it.

To get the seperator to work for me I needed the milk to be about 99 degrees, and I need to start the milk flow before it has come completely up to speed.  that allows a little milk to come out the cream spout and lubricates the spout for the thicker cream that follows.   If the milk is too cold the cream doesn't flow out the spout.

This thing works too well.  the cream that comes out is solid when refrigerated.  The consistency of a heavy cake frosting.  So for butter making purposes after seperation I'll mix an equal amount of skim milk back into the cream.

So for a 2.5 gallon batch of milk I'll get a heaping 2 cups of extremely-heavy-cream, which I'll then cut with 2 cups of skim.  A gallon of cream this mix will produce 2-3lbs of butter, and the rest is buttermilk.

Mostly what I've been making is unsalted raw milk sweet cream butter, which is a very nice thing to have in the kitchen.  It's lovely stuff.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Butter, pigs and sugar mountain farm

Walter Jefferies has been claiming to raise pigs on forage alone for years.  And when I recently pointed out that a few bushes or some grass might get a nibble from pigs, 15 tons of cheese and tens of thousands of gallons of milk products probably do a lot better job.

Just to be fair, when I stock 10 pigs an acre, that acre goes to bare dirt pretty darned quick.  and that land is lush, fertile river-bottom land covered in 3' of good grass to start.

Walter apparently didn't appreciate my posting a picture of his lovely wife juggling cheese and filed a takedown notice so that my blog entry was removed from the internet.  That's pretty rude, but I will do my best to protray his wife jugging cheese.  Here's my artists rendition here.

Holly actually draws people for a living.  I'd cheerfully accept her self portrait here.  I suck as an artist.  Sorry Holly.
See the original image of Holly jugging cheese here

For those folks who don't know the history, a few years ago I got tired of Walter Jefferies claiming to raise pigs on grass and forage alone, stocking at a rate of 10 pigs an acre, and offered him $10,000 to raise pigs per his repeated claims.

He declined my challenge, and sure is sore about my bringing it up, but how about you talk about what you're actually doing, and not a fantasy, Walter?

Feels like spring - chicks

Sorry to everyone being deep-frozen on the east coast, but it's 60 degrees and sunny  here. :)  

 years ago I decided that I'd eat only meat that I raised myself; and for efficiency sake, this is the crop of meat chickens that will be on my table for the  next year.  I looked at the long-term forecasts and decided that I'd trust them, and sure enough, we've got warmer-than-usual weather and the grass is growing and even the frogs think its spring.
 So a batch of 50 chickens in the brooder, with a heat lamp, and I'll watch the conditions outside.  I like a little bigger chicken, so I'll raise these until they're about 5.5lbs live weight, and then process them all in a batch, shrink-wrap bag them, and freeze them.

I don't freeze them with the hearts and livers and gizzards in them.  They go into a seperate bag; the livers in particular are my favorite.  I'll roast them on a pan with lemon juice and sliced green peppers; the hearts go to my brother Bryan, who loves them, and I h aven't figured out if I like gizzards or not -- but they're a staple down at the local truck stop, deep-fried and golden.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

What food cost in 1913

Food costs are a big deal for most of the world; we're in a place where we spend less on our food than most every other country in the world as a percentage of our income, which is actually pretty nice.  Means you have more money for other stuff, but how we got there bothers me sometimes.  

The BLS has tracked food prices since 1913, and it's interesting to go through what they track and see how the prices change.    

1 cent in 1913 is worth $.24 cents in 2013 and so I've converted all prices to 2013 dollars.  if you'd like to see the original 1913 prices, you'll find them here.   The difference between 2013 and 2015 collars is about 4% (average 2% inflation * 2 years) 

In no particular order:  

Bread in 1913 cost $1.34/loaf.  In 2013 a loaf will cost you $1.42.  So bread is actually more expensive now than then -- despite our huge investment in automated everything to do with wheat harvests.  that's surprising

Flour in 1913 was $0.79/.  In 2013,  it's $0.52 - flour is cheaper now, but bread is more expensive.  Interesting.  

Cheese was $5.33 in 1913 -- now it's $5.83  - a little more expensive, but within 10% of the 1913 price.  

Butter was $9.82 in 1913, and is now about 1/3rd the price, at $3.501 -- that's a huge decrease!

Coffee was $7.18 in 1913, and is $5.90 today; 20% off.  this is surprising because I don't think that coffee harvests are mechanized nearly to the extent that other crops are.  Low labor costs?

Potatoes at in 1913 were $0.38/lb - they're closing in a double now.  $0.63

Rice at $2.06/lb in 1913 compares to rice at $0.71 now... about 1/3rd the price.  

Sirloin steak at $5.7 actually compares pretty well to current prices.  Identical price

Pork chops at 4.48 are much more expensive than modern, at $3.46

bacon was more expensive then, at $6.09 vs $4.40 now

Eggs are a bargain in the modern age.  1913 at $8.95/dozen then vs $1.93 today.  

Sugar  is $1.39/lb in 1913 and .68 cents a pound now.