Newsletter: April On The Farm

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Spring has arrived on the farm, but Mother Nature is not so sure yet.  We had 38 degrees this morning and a light frost.  Perhaps this will be the last threating night to our vegetables and berries. Eva's flower gardens are changing by the day. The azaleas are starting their spring flush and the roses, she so carefully pruned for weeks, are loaded with her first roses.  We are down to the last two heifers to have calves and the goats will soon have theri babies.  The bulls have been taken off the breeding herds so the cows can settle in and wait for fall to have calves.  The yearling steers and heifers were rounded up and moved to the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch where their pasture has abundant, lush green rye grass, vetch and clover.  The vegetable gardens are partially planted. Lack of rain has been an issue, but we did get over an inch this week that will help.  This time of the year on the farm there is much to do and never enough time.
Scarborough Fare....
If you remember the Simon and Garfunkel song Scarborough Fare, you will recall the next words in that song; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  This is the theme of Chef Eva's April cooking class:  Cooking with Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  She has her own private herb garden and has new herbs stated in the greenhouse for her raised beds. April is an excellent time to focus on fresh herbs that will soon be abundant. The menu has a lot of variety and will allow as much participation as you desire.

Scarlet Nantes Carrot Soup with Mint

Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Garlic Flan with Crispy Shallots, served with an Arugula and Radicchio Salad  
Grilled Scallops with Salsa Verde  
Herb Crusted chicken Cordon Bleu with Basil Pesto and Hazelnuts  
Mashed Potatoes with toasted Coriander and Roasted Garlic 
Lemon Verbena ice Cream

The class is $75 and starts at 11:00 am at the farm house.  It will last about 2-1/2 hrs or so.  Call today to confirm your participation

Farm Stays
March was a very busy month for those wanting to get away for a few days on the farm.  Our lakeside log cabins have been very popular. Now that the pollen season is almost over, it will be even more pleasant to sit out on the veranda or by a camp fire in the evening.  We are offering a cabin rental special during April. A three night stay, during a Sunday through Thursday period, will be 10% off.  The savings will probably cover the cost of the fuel it takes to get to the farm. Week end rentals have been brisk with a lot of future bookings, so please let us know early the dates that work best for you.  As soon as we have a few extra hours, we are installing Belizean style hammock posts near each cabin for a relaxing hammock.  As many of our guests already know, our farm is a really nice place to retreat from the world.  There are always farm animals to help feed and later in April we get over 100 baby chicks to brood. Leave the city behind and come to our the farm this year.
Berry Patch Activities
It is only about seven more weeks until the start of berry season. The bushes are in bloom and the local honey bees are hard at work pollinating them. Our new bumble bees arrive any day to reinforce this effort.  We have finished planting 600 new blackberry plants, 100 replacement plants in the old blackberry rows and have a full row of table grapes planted.  Our current major activity is to refurbish the irrigation system and make plans for a complete replacement of it either before the picking season starts or in the fall.  The figs look pretty sad after the hard winter freezes, so many will need replacing. We will use a variety that survived the cold here to solve this problem.  We will still have access to figs from friend's trees.  Sometime the old time varieties are best because they have adapted to our climate.
Beef, Chickens and Eggs
We will harvest steers this week and within a month all the others we have grass finished for our spring beef customers will be harvested.  We will not have any beef available on the farm by the package until fall.  All our beef steers were sold to individuals. We still have a limited amount of lean ground beef. The fall steers are on pasture and we taking orders for October/November delivery.  Many have asked for a simple way to compare our price to others.  All sellers base their price on the hanging or hot weight.  This is the weight of the steer after it is initially harvested and is hanging to dry age.  Our total price for the beef and the cost of processing and packaging is currently $4.21 per pound using the hanging weight.  As an example, a 1,200 pound live steer will hang at about 660 pounds more or less.  After shrink, processing and packaging a split quarter will be about 120 pounds of frozen, packaged beef. Using this example, a split quarter will cost about $695.  Lighter steers could cost $100 less.  This for beef you know how it was raised, what it was fed and how it was processed to your specific instructions.  We invite you to visit the farm any time to see our cattle on pasture. Our goal is to raise the very best beef cattle possible and we believe that our particular breed and the way we finish them produces a product surperior to our competitors.
I know the answer to the question; Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  It's the chicken.  I know because we have well over a hundred day old chicks arriving at the local Daingerfield Post Office on April 15 and April 29.  They will be whisked off to our brooder to stay warm and start to grow.  In five months we will have brown egg laying chickens.  While we will continue to have a few chickens in the old barn, most of the chickens are moving to the pasture to live in our new "egg mobile'.  This is a hen house on wheels that we just finished building. It will occupy a different place in a cow pasture every few days giving the chickens an opportunity to free range and mature on a natural diet of grass and bugs.  We will have a blog in a few days with photos of the egg mobile.  We expect our eggs to be extra special.  We also hope this method of raising egg layers will avoid our problem last winter when we lost our flock to a fox, raccoons and a possum. 
Facebook and Twitter
Not wanting to let the world pass us by, we now are regular contributors on our Facebook page and we Twitter.  There are links to both on our website homepage. Check these sites occasionally to see what is going on at the farm.
Farm Life
I just had my 62nd birthday and have been a full time farmer since the age of 49.  I can say for certain that life on the farm is a lot better than life in the corporate world.  My satisfaction used to be obtained from beating the competition; exceeding financial goals and thinking I might be more important than I really was.  I could have stayed in this world, but I was never that good at office politics and had a rebel streak the size of Kansas running through me.  My associates were not those that assumed they had arrived and wanted those around them to know it, or those that had not yet arrived but would sell their soul to get there. That part of my life is behind me and not to be pondered.  I am now part of something much more important and a life that has enduring meaning.  Now I participate daily in the wonder of nature, growing things that are good to eat and enjoying flowers that are pleasant to smell and observe.  I am surrounded by all kinds of domesticated animals and those of the forest on the farm.  I get a thrill seeing a sleek red fox dash across the fields at Rocky Branch early in the morning.  I am warmed by the touch of a new baby calf or goat and I am sad at the death of any or our farm animals.  In the evening, I watch beautiful sunsets turn the day into dusk and then to darkness when a million, million stars illuminate my night.  I am a very lucky person to have experienced so many different things in my life, but I am very content to be where I am, doing what I am doing and sharing it with those I love and the guests that visit our family farm.
From Our House To Yours
Make our farm your farm.  Come and visit us.  Participate in a cooking class, pick berries, stay in a cabin and savor life as it can be lived.  From our family to yours we thank you for your support of our family farm.  Please forward this newsletter on to anyone that may have an interest.
All the best,
Sid, Eva and all of us on the farm
Has Spring Finally Arrived?