Lamb Shanks with Yogurt

INGREDIENTS

Lamb

  • 6 lamb shanks – American Lamb
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh black pepper ground
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Onion water (2 grated onions squeezed using a paper towel)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 onions cut in half
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 3 whole cardamoms
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups stock

Yogurt Sauce

  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)

 Garnish

  • Fresh parsley and dill
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Cracked Black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl add the lamb shanks and flavoring ingredients (from the top until the olive oil only) and toss well.

 Spread the lamb in an oven safe baking dish. Add in the whole spices, cut up onions and garlic. Try to squeeze them in the dish and divide them evenly so the flavor spreads evenly as well. Pour the stock over the lamb dish and cover the plate with foil. 

 Roast the shanks until tender–this should take between 100-120 minutes (depending on the size of your lamb shanks).

 Once ready, remove the foil and if the lamb requires more browning, leave it in the oven for an extra 10 minutes. Note: USDA recommends cooking lamb to a minimum 145 degree internal temperature with a 3  minute rest.

 n the meantime, make the yogurt sauce. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until blended.

 On a serving plate, spread the sauce. Add the lamb shanks on top and garnish with your choice of garnishes. 

HOLISITC FARMING

Looking at your farm as an interdependent entity means evaluating how each aspect, crop or product interacts with the ecosystem of your farm.  Most farmers only think about these things when it comes to growing zones and choosing plant varieties. There is so much more to this equation if your long-term goals include stewardship, sustainability, and consistent profits.

Farming is a challenge under the best of circumstances.  Weather and rising cost of inputs being only two of the variables you must accommodate to succeed.  By examining the micro-environment of your farm, you can make informed decisions about plant and animals that will not only grow and make money for you but will continue to enhance the ecosystem of your farm.

Monocropping (planting only one type of plant or raising only one type of animal) only makes your farm subject to the whims of the market and attack by pests. This type of single mindedness will need a large amount of inputs like fertilizer and pesticides to bring your ecosystem even close to being back into balance and ready to monocrop year after year.  This type of farming is not only riskier and more costly but unsustainable.

Holistic Farming works with the environment not against it. By having diversity in your crops and animals you not only work with nature to create a sustainable farm, but you create multiple income streams. Both of these factors are important in creating a sustainable farm.

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

-JOHN BARRYMOORE

The dream of someday living on your own farm is one shared by many.  The lure of a quieter life away from the bustle of consumer driven living is a strong one.  Being able to grow your own food and know exactly what you are eating is also a big motivator in today’s world of industrial food production. Wanting to be socially responsible by taking care of our planet is also a very powerful motivator to farm.  How to begin to make this dream a reality is often overwhelming.

Buying property, what crops to grow and what animals to raise are just a few of the questions that you need to answer for yourself. Hopefully before you begin the process of spending time, effort, and money.  Are you going to farm organically, traditionally or a combination of the two? Is your goal to be self sufficient or do you want to create an income with your farm?

Often the first discouraging advice you will here is “You can’t farm unless you inherit the operation and even then, you will never make any money at it.”   My response to this kind of helpfulness is to ignore it.  After 25 years of farming I have come to realize the value and truth found in many of the old adages so often spoken by the successful Farmers who mentored me. The above quote exemplifies some of that wisdom and encouragement.

Understanding Soil Health. Understanding Life

November 2, 2021

Written by: Lydia Griffin

Soil is the basis of all life. In fact, without the diversity and functionality of soil, plant and animal (yes, that means you, too) life could not exist. But how is this possible? How is it that soil accepts back that which came from it century after century, while still serving as a host and origin to so many life forms? 

This introduces the concept of soil health, which the National Resource Conservation Service defines as the capability of soils to ceaselessly sustain the vitality of all players in a living ecosystem (NRCS, 2021). You see, with no soil, there is no life; and when you know soil, you know life. Whether you’re a soil scientist, farmer, gardener, or mailman (that’s right, walking on the grass decreases soil quality), we all have a role to play in maintaining soil quality. This section is about the basics of soil health. Understanding the definition of soil health is the first step needed toward learning how you can make an individual contribution. 

Other than knowing that soil sustains plant and animal life, you may want to know what the other benefits of maintaining a healthy soil are:

  • The soil acts as a filter for dirty materials and other pollutants that could harm you, me, or your dog (just in case you don’t care about you or me, I know you care about your dog). Rather than allowing potential pollutants to infiltrate into drinking water, there are physical, chemical, and biological processes that decompose the harmful chemicals. This is all happening right underneath your feet! The soil also acts as a reservoir to store the majority of our drinking water. Thanks soil!
  • The soil cycles nutrients (carbon, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, to name a few) which are taken up by plants, which are then eaten by you and me. Thanks soil, for our food! The cycling of nutrients for plants means that a healthy soil also plays a significant role in carbon capture, which is important for lessening the dangers impacts of climate change. Thanks soil!
  • The soil serves as an engineering medium by providing support for infrastructure and recreation (roads, housing, sport, etc.). The management of the soil in combination with its environment often determines its success as an engineering medium. For example, you would not build a skyscraper on slippery, unstable soil. Likewise, you would not build a road on overly dry soil, which could lead to cracks in the road. In other words, the soil is the home for your home. We now have food, shelter, and water covered, all thanks to soil!

You now know soil better, but how do we keep it, and thus ourselves, alive? Here’s how:

  • Less soil disturbance contributes to the longevity of a healthy soil. Disturbance includes tillage, compacting the soil (with vehicles or foot traffic), or using pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides that detrimentally affect soil biota. Less disturbance also allows the soil to maintain its high water-holding capacity for plants and us. 
  • Plant a diverse array of plants. Like humans, microbes need a diverse diet. Covering the soil with varying plant types, or rotating crops each year, encourages the microbes in the soil to maintain a high and consistent population. This allows soils to function at their highest efficiency.
  • Keep the soil covered. If soil is left bare, it can erode into waterways and sidewalks and become hazardous. Additionally, if soil erodes away, it is not in place to feed plants, and therefore people. Keeping the soil bare also hinders its role and ability to mitigate the effects of climate change, as there are no plants to capture carbon. You can cover the soil in ornamental plants and grasses, mulches, or tall trees that provide a canopy for the ground. 
  • Feed the soil! In other words, feed the microbes. Soil microbes contribute to many aspects of soil health. Adding organic matter like manure, old grass clippings, leaves, etc., allows for the microbes to break down the material into more soil. Over time, any soil that was or is ever lost by natural or human process can be added back this way. It takes 100-1000 years to make 1 inch of topsoil, though it takes way less time to lose it, so add amendments regularly. 

Now you have the fundamental knowledge, and hopefully care, to learn more about how to upkeep our soil. Soil is the common denominator between you and I, and has the ability to connect people, plants, microorganisms, etc., from all over the world! The soil was here long before we were. The likelihood of it sticking around for the benefit of future generations is dependent on us. When you save the soil, you save life. Check out the resources below on how to further dive into the realm of soil health. 

References:
Natural Resources Conservation Service. Soil Health | NRCS Soils. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2021, from https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/health

Stewardship

Farming is more than a business; it is a lifestyle choice. It is a 365 day a year job requiring long hours filled with ever changing tasks and challenges. Successful farmers will tell you that it also takes a great deal of stubborn determination, resilience, and optimism to face the challenges and losses that are a part of the agricultural life. They will also boast that no other career will be as rewarding as taking care of the land and animals, building a life, and providing food for their community.

Farmers are stewards, they cannot succeed if they neglect the constant care of their land, crops, and animals. Many lifelong farmers will tell you “The secret is to take care of the land”.  You will often hear the word “balance” when talking to these wise people who have managed to not only endure but succeed through the hard times.

In 21st century terms they are talking about conservation, sustainability, and environmentally sound practices. 

Interesting Tidbit on Winter Feeding…

Feeding methods cost:

A three year wintering investigation was conducted at Dickinson Research Extension Center in North Dakota to determine the effect of hay feeding methods on cow wintering cost. The average amount of hay wasted needs to be calculated when determining how much hay to provide to cows every day or when making forage purchases. A conventional method of rolling round bales out on the grounds was compared to either shredding rounds hay bales on the ground with a bale processor or feeding hay in a tapered-cone round bale feeder. The cows used in the study were in the third trimester of pregnancy and were fed for an average of 59 days during the test period. This study compared cow wintering performance, hay consumption necessary to maintain cow body condition, labor inputs, wintering cost, and hay waste, when hay was either rolled out on the ground, shredded with a bale processor on the ground, or fed in a tapered-cone round bale feeder.

Cow growth, body condition, hay intake, fat depth, and waste data were collected for three years. Cows were weighed, visually condition scored, and measured for rib fat depth using real-time ultrasound at the beginning, middle, and end of the 59-day study between the 12th and 13th rib. Hay waste was estimated manually and with GPS special mapping. Cows were fed to maintain or improve their starting body condition prior to calving.

Cows fed using the conventional method in which bales are rolled out on the ground gained less than when cows were fed with either the bale processor or tapered-cone feeder. Starting, ending and condition score change differed between years, but there were no differences due to method of feeding hay. During the first two years of the study, cows fed using the tapered-cone feeder had greater rib fat depth increase than either the roll out or bale processor methods. There was no difference among feeding methods in the third year. Hay intake to maintain body condition was greatest for the cows fed with the bale processor and lowest for the tapered-cone bale feeder. On average, when compared to the tapered-cone feeder, 5.0 and 15.3% more hay was fed per cow using the roll out and bale processor methods, respectively.

Waste contributed to the increased amount of hay required among the roll out and bale processor cow groups to maintain body condition and subsequent production. This study indicates that if you are feeding hay on the ground, add at least 15 percent to the total amount fed or purchased to compensate for waste. For example, if you normally feed 28-30 lbs per head per day, increase that amount to 33-35 pounds of hay to ensure that adequate nutrition is provided to the cow on a daily basis. If you are feeding on mud, then doubling the amount will help compensate for waste. When calculating the amount of hay needed to feed the cow herd during the winter, remember to compensate for waste.

Source: Landblom, D.G., G.P. Lardy, R. Fast, D.J. Wachenheim, and T.A. Petry. 2006. Effect of hay feeding methods on cow performance, hay waste and wintering cost. Dickinson Research Extension Center North Dakota State University 2006 Annual Report.

Barbacoa

Servings: 8 Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 3-4 Hours


INSTRUCTIONS

2 guajillo chiles

2 ancho chiles

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

1-1/2 teaspoons piloncillo or brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water, or more as necessary

2-3 pounds boneless leg of American Lamb, trimmed of most fat visible

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Rip open the chiles and remove the seeds, veins and stems. Heat a large skillet over medium-low, add the chiles and toast them in the dry pan, turning them over until they are fragrant, about one minute. Transfer chiles to a saucepan with enough water to cover chiles and bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and let rest for 10 minutes or until the chiles are soft. Drain the chiles and discard the water.

Combine the drained chiles, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, honey, apple cider and water in a blender and puree until the mixture is thick but smooth.

Pour some of the chile sauce into a large Dutch oven or ovenproof casserole with a lid and top with the meat. Rub the lamb with enough chile sauce to generously coat it. Close the lid and transfer to the oven immediately. Bake the lamb for 3-4 hours or until the meat is very tender. Alternatively, you can marinate overnight in the refrigerator and back the next day.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let the meat cool. Coarsely shred the meat with forks, discarding any visible fat. Serve with corn tortillas, avocado and salsa, or any remaining chile sauce.

When Is It Safe To Graze Alfalfa Fields?

Grazing alfalfa in the late fall can be a great economical feed source. However, with these warmer fall temperatures (or lack of hard frosts) and high cattle and lamb prices can create a situation where bloat could be very costly. There are no “for sure” rules to determine when alfalfa is “safe” to graze, however below are some things produces should consider when turning out on alfalfa fields: 

1. Use caution when alfalfa plants are just beginning to show frost damage, this is when alfalfa grazing can be the most dangerous for bloats. Hard frost/freeze ruptures alfalfa cell wells, resulting in more soluble protein being immediately available for consumption by the animal. The increase in the soluble protein increases the rate of rumen fermentation, thus increasing the risk of bloat. Alfalfa generally becomes “safer” to graze after several consecutive frost in the 20’s that cause visible plant damage and drydown. 

2. Fill calves or lambs up with good quality hay prior to moving onto alfalfa fields. Not only will this help reduce animals from gorging themselves, but is also important to allow the ruminal microbial population to adapt to higher quality feeds. This is especially important if animals are coming off low quality forage (corn stalks, dry grass/range pastures). Animals should be turned out in the late morning or early afternoon, rather than early morning.  

3. Provide bloat blocks or bloat preventing additives in the water for several days before and after the start of grazing alfalfa fields. Monitor cattle several times per day when animals are turned into a new pasture.

Submitted by Sarah M. Smith

Cheese Adventures

The Aged Cheese Journey …

What do you do when you have a lovely Jersey Milk Cow who gives you 3 gallons of creamy milk every time she is milked?  When we were younger and had 4 growing children I was lucky to have extra milk to make ice cream. As the years passed we added Nubian Milk goats to the farm so I could make soft cheeses (which in this house is a staple) like Feta and Paneer.  Now that we have we have grandchildren (not yet teenagers) I am finally getting to experiment with making Aged Cheese.

The process is pretty straight forward as long as you are precise in following a recipe. The hardest part for me is having the patience to age the cheese. My favorite beginner cheese making book is “A Cheese Maker’s Journey” by Mary Jane Toth.

The difficult part for me has been accumulating the equipment including a Cheese Press and weights. As you can see in the pictures I am using the grain weights from my antique grain scale. I have since found and ordered a nice 10 lb weight from www. Sausage Maker.com but until it arrives these old iron weights are working just fine.

Any advice from you more experienced cheese makers is much appreciated.

Now the adventure begins as we move up from Cheddar to Stilton….I will keep you advised on the journey. 

  • Jersey Cow
  • Cheddar pre waxed
  • Cheese WAX
  • Cheese Press

Mindful Living on the Farm

I bought John Seymour’s “Self Sufficient Life and how to live it”. I have been wanting it for years and finally bought it for our Farm Library. I have only gotten to page 23 and already have learned much. Seymour states “There should be no need for a garbage man on the self-sufficient farm.” I have for years fed or composted everything I could but this simple statement made me evaluate what else I could recycle to benefit my farm (without becoming a Hoarder of Junk). We only make “dump runs” once every eight weeks but I think fully 20% of that load would easily be burnable in my stove in the garage or compostable as well. I have lamented that I never have enough ash for the garden….yet I have been happily paying to let the county burn it. Do you ever have those “Duh” moments? Living simply really means Living Mindfully. Sometimes I just go into auto pilot until something triggers the ‘change your perspective’ button.

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