Egg Harvest: Saved
We used to sell eggs, but we ran into a problem several months ago of chickens eating their own eggs, which can be a challenging problem to deal with. Fortunately, we found a fix! By placing fake chicken eggs in their nesting boxes, chickens can't eat them like before, and the eggs they lay are mixed with unbreakable fake eggs. The pecking is reduced, as the fake eggs break the association of eggs with food, and the pecking that does occur is often on the fake eggs, reducing the likelihood that a chicken will break a real egg. We are finally getting back to the point of being able to offer eggs to our customers, but this month, half a dozen are free for our customers!
7 Baby Chicks Hatched by Mama Hen
Early in our time building the farm, we used an incubator to hatch out eggs, fed the chicks a special diet, and released them once they were old enough to forage on their own. Now, our chicks are all natural, incubated, fed, and taught by their mothers. Chickens are naturally "hard workers" that spend all day hunting insects and foraging grasses and forbs. But mother hens go above and beyond, working tirelessly to protect their hatchlings, feed them naturally from the land (the mother picks up edible bits, and tosses them in front of the chicks to eat), and teaching them the layout of the farm. The chicks will be with their mother for about 2 months, at which point they form a "click" with each other (independent of their mother), and eventually they separate into pairs or trios that socialize with each other permanently.
Summer Goat Snack
Summer and fall are the most challenging times on the farm, as the long dry summer and fall mean the pastures dry up, and care must be taken to avoid damaging the pasture for the long term. We are always innovating on the farm, dialing in a system that supports our livestock, but also builds soil over time. One way we do this is by growing food for the animals on the non-pasture garden and living areas. Sunflowers are a great fit for this strategy, since they grow vertically, and help us get as much productivity from a small space as we can. Plus, they're basically a full meal! Just like humans, goats and sheep need fat, protein, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc., and sunflowers are a self-contained diet! They provide fiber and carbohydrates from the stalks and leaves, and protein and oils from the seeds. In addition, they support the local bee population, and their roots become valuable organic matter in the soil (the plants are cut at the base when fed to the animals, leaving the roots intact).
"Functionally Extinct" American Chestnut, Planted at Turning Leaf Ranch
A hundred years ago, there were approximately 4 billion American Chestnuts in the U.S. They were almost all wiped out by an exotic fungus called chestnut blight, except for a few stands in Washington state, Wisconsin, and Ohio. The American Chestnut was a keystone species in Appalachia, where the forest floor would be covered in chestnuts during the fall. The American Chestnut fed all manner of wild and domesticated animals, including farm animals brought into the woods to fatten up on the bounty of the chestnut drop each year. Entire trainloads of chestnuts would be brought into major cities, and street vendors would sell chestnuts at stands, in the same way that we buy hot dogs and tacos today. Ten American Chestnut seedlings were recently planted at Turning Leaf Ranch in Salinas, Ca., to help expand the genetic diversity of the species, and help preserve this American treasure. A blight resistant, genetically modified strain of American Chestnut is being developed by the American Chestnut Foundation, but the trees planted at Turning Leaf Ranch are non-GMO, bred from genuine American Chestnuts. Luckily, the low humidity in California reduces the viability of chestnut blight, so our ranch could serve as a refuge and genetic repository for this invaluable species.
Lambing and Kidding Nearly Complete for 2020
Turning Leaf Ranch is currently bounding with new baby goats and sheep, jumping and playing in the beautiful spring weather. The new babies can stand at birth, and spend the first few days of life wobbily walking and learning how to use their legs. Once they figure this out, it's off to the races, and the lambs and goats bounce, climb, run, jump, and play, seemingly marveling at this thing called life! Sheep and goats generally give birth in the spring, when there is a flush of new, healthy grass and other forage. Lambing and kidding starts in late January, and runs through mid April. We welcomed our last two new lambs on Friday, May 1st, and are expecting one or two more baby goats (called "kids") within a few weeks. We had a very successful kidding year, with over 20 new animals born on the farm.
Lamb Shoulder Chops - An Overlooked Cut
The shoulder cuts on lamb and goat are from heavily used areas of the animal, and can be tough for this reason. But while they require careful preparation, they are also well worth the effort, and shoulder chops are prized by those who know how to get the most out of this fully-flavored cut. Because our processor (Creston Valley Meats) allows for extended dry-aging, our shoulder chops are more tender than most.
Marinated Lamb Shoulder Chops
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Seasonings to taste
Four 8- to 12-ounce lamb shoulder chops
Start with the marinade, and whisk the lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, garlic, and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil and add in additional seasonings to taste.
Place the meat into the marinade, and marinate at room temperature for at least an hour, or longer in the refrigerator.
Once the marinade is complete, dump out the marinade (do not use it for anything else), and scrape off the remaining marinade, until the cut is mostly clean. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat to produce grill-marks if desired. Return the first set of chops to the pan to cook them on the other side. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook the chops to at least medium-rare. Let the chops rest for about 5 minutes and serve.