Spring On the Farm

So many blogs to write and so little time. Spring has sort of arrived on the farm. It was almost 90 degrees last week and today was 40 degrees; go figure. The old timers, folks older than dirt, say this is our Easter cold snap. It has been so dry that we have done little in the garden except plow. Sugar snap green peas, carrots, radishes, and potatoes are in the ground and being irrigated. Tomatoes and a lot more have been started in the green house.

The new blackberry plants look weak. Most, but not all, have leafed out. This was probably not a good year to plant new berries. The blueberries are half way through bloom and look good. Irrigation is going to be the challenge this summer. Today we are checking all drip lines for leaks and broken pipes. We hope to install a new main line distribution system before the end of May with better filtration.

Baby calves are still arriving. Two heifers still to calve (if they are pregnant). We lost too many babies this year. Everyone else says the same thing. The bulls are still on three sets of breeding cows, but that ends Saturday if we have time to catch them. Then we move the cows to new pasture that is not eaten into the dirt. The lack of rain is getting serious. The 70 acres of rye grass, clover and vetch is saving us, especially after we fertilized 50 acres before the last rain three weeks ago.

The butcher steers are getting ready to harvest. We will catch two this weekend and bring them to the house before they depart. The other three are ready in a month. We are taking orders for fall beef quarters now. All the 15 month old heifers and steers will be moved to Rocky Branch where we have the best forage.

Eva is still working on her flower garden. The roses are trimmed and starting to bloom. There is always something blooming here. A garden club from Texarkana has a lunch on April 14, so all will be ship shape by then.

Our latest project is an Egg Mobile. It is almost ready to roll out. Roll out because the chicken house is on a trailer frame and we move it on a regular basis cross the pasture. This allows the chickens to free range on fresh grass, bugs and what ever they can find. We expect really deep yellow egg yokes. Two day old baby chicks arrive at our local Post Office from Missouri on April 14 and April 29. We brood them for a few weeks then move them to the old barn. They do not get to the new chicken house until they are about six weeks old or more. From birth, its five months until the first eggs.

The spring chore list is so long it’s almost impossible to sort it out. From cleaning hay feeding areas (making compost from the old hay and cattle waste), dragging the fields with a tine to break up the thousands of piles of winter cow poop (spread it out to distribute waste and mineral over the pasture) to getting the berry patch ready for late May picking.

We continue to Twitter, but no sure if anyone looks at them, and we add something to Facebook every few days.

Blueberries & Plum in Bloom

The plum and pear trees have bloomed and two variety of blueberry are now in bloom. We have had one light frost, but no harm done. With the warm temperatures this month, it could be an early fruit season. Last year it was cool until May and we had few berries until early June. I am going to circle the last weekend in May.



Strawberries, Kiwi & Asparagus on the Farm

Despite the very hard winter, snow and low temperatures most of our ever bearing strawberries made it to spring. Each year we have to hand weed them and add straw under the plants. The straw prevents the berries form getting into the dirt. The asparagus bed has been dormant since we mowed it down in the fall. For spring we mow the green cover crop and then add straw mulch. It will not be too long before the fresh asparagus spears appear. Our kiwi plants made it through the long hot summer and then the winter. We have mulched them and they are ready to start and cover the trellis.

Eva and Regina cleaning the strawberry bed


Straw mulched strawberries - Kiwi trellis in the background

Mulched asparagus bed

The kiwi vines


tux taking it easy in the green cover crop

Is Catfish Safe To Eat?

I disagree with a lot of what is going on in Austin right now, but this is a piece of legislation that I fully agree with. From now on when we eat catfish, I want to know where if came from. If the cafe can’t tell me, I will not eat it.

I have the same feeling about beef, vegetables and such. Anything food from China is automatically suspect to me and if labeled organic i really worry.

Buy your food from the USA and from a local farm family.

Is the Catfish You Eat Safe?
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Longview News Journal
By Glenn Hegar
Texans love their catfish batter-fried, blackened, or grilled. In fact, Texans eat more catfish than Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi combined. Most of it, about 70 percent, is consumed in restaurants.
Now, here’s what you probably didn’t know: Close to 80 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported. Less than 2 percent of it ever gets inspected to ensure quality and safety, and even a smaller fraction is inspected in labs for toxic chemicals.
The small volume of catfish imports that is examined, however, reveals a big potential problem. Last year alone, 47 shipments of imported catfish or catfish-like species were the subject of FDA Import Refusal actions due to contamination or fraudulent labeling. Known carcinogens, such as malachite green, crystal violet and melamine, have been found in these shipments as well as salmonella. Still others were refused by inspectors for being “filthy” and “insanitary.”
A recent NBC “Today Show” investigative report revealed that catfish in Vietnam is being raised in dirty sewage water and pumped full of antibiotics and banned drugs to keep them alive, which in turn boosts production and drives down costs. Scientists contacted by the “Today Show” said, over time, eating this fish can cause cancer, anemia and even birth defects. Unfortunately, consumers can’t smell or taste some harmful chemicals; and cooking the fish does not remove the chemicals.
Ron Sparks, then-commissioner of agriculture in Alabama (one of the few states that tests imported seafood) found between 40 percent and 50 percent of the fish they have tested showed the presence of “chemicals so toxic to humans that they’ve been banned in all food.”
Public awareness of this problem is increasing thanks to media attention. Recent surveys reveal that 86 percent of Texans would support legislation requiring restaurants to inform customers whether they are serving imported catfish. This common sense solution to a very serious problem is the least we can do to help protect the health of Texas families, which is why I have filed Senate Bill 000 during this legislative session.
Restaurants have a right to run their businesses as they see fit within the law, and they have a right to serve imported catfish. But restaurant owners’ must ensure customer safety, which is why we require restaurants to submit to regular health inspections and place warnings on their menus about the dangers of eating raw or undercooked meat, fish or eggs.
The new health threat posed by imported catfish and the federal government’s lack of adequate inspections require us to act in the best interest of Texas by requiring restaurants to disclose whether they are serving imported catfish. Texans want to make informed decisions about the food they eat. They have a right to know. Providing them the necessary information is the least we can do. Until disclosure of imported catfish is required by law, I highly suggest you ask your local restaurant whether they are serving imported or domestic catfish.
State Sen. Glenn Hegar represents Texas 18th District and is a member of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.

Beisch Speak: A Poem

To a Young Son

by June Robertson Beisch

Today I passed your room

and you were slowly quietly

combing your hair.

It was a pleasant, calm moment.

I felt the silence of the room

and could almost hear you growing.

You combed without a mirror,

your eyes distant and pale,

your head slowly nodding

like the head of a stroked animal.

Xerxes the King sent out a spy

who returned to camp, astonished to say

that the Spartans were all stripped to the waist

their bodies gleaming in the Aegean sun

and they were all carefully combing their hair.

The king was afraid then.

The Spartans were preparing to die.

I turn slowly from your doorway

and return to the linen closet where I

will fold this memory in my heart

among everything that is clean and fresh and white.

Learn How To Generate Revenue With A Small Farm

The Bee
Daingerfield, TX
March 9, 2011

Learn how to generate revenue with a small farm


Sid Greer will be one of the speakers for Living from the Ground Up on March 25
BY Susan Taft

When you sit down to dinner tonight, with three portions of food on your plate, that food will have traveled somewhere between 1,800 and 2,000 miles to get to your dinner table.
Whether you’d like to reduce that distance to feet instead of miles or be the one to provide food to your neighbors, the Living from the Ground Up conference at Northeast Texas Community College is for you. The event will be held at the college’s Elizabeth Hoggatt Whatley Agriculture Complex March 25 and 26.
“The goal is that presenters will share their personal experiences of running small farms and sustainable agricultural operations, good and bad,” said Dr. Charlie Apter, director of agriculture at NTCC.
Pittsburg native, Howard Garrett, better known as the Dirt Doctor, will give the keynote address at 9:15 on March 25. Mr. Garrett is a leader in the natural organic marketplace and provides advice on natural organic gardening, landscaping, pet health, pest control and natural living via a nationally-syndicated radio talk show and in his column, Organic Answers in The Dallas Morning News.
Three tracks, or break-out sessions, will be presented: vegetable/plant, agrotourism/business/marketing and alternative agriculture.
“People can jump around; they don’t have to stay in a particular track,” Dr. Apter said.
Presenters will include area residents Greg Efurd, with Efurd Orchards Inc.; Ray Fulks, Repeat Ranch; Sid Greer, Greer Farms; and John Kilburn, Comeback Creek.
Mr. Efurd is a second-generation farmer in Camp County who owns and manages Efurd’s Orchards with his parents. Dr. Apter said their successful business is well known throughout the state with many long-time customers.
Mr. Fulks, a Hughes Springs resident, is a CPA and retired president of five community banks who is now a full-time rancher. He will talk about his experiences with his grass-fed beef operation.
Mr. Greer is the owner of Greer Farm in Daingerfield, a diversified sustainable agriculture enterprise with agrotourism. Mr. Greer will speak on agro-tourism.
“He has cabins for rent for overnight stay; people can come and pick blackberries and blueberries. They can come just enjoy the countryside, or they can take cooking classes,” Dr. Apter said.
Mr. Kilburn left the corporate world in 2005 and has been running Comeback Creek, a small farm in Pittsburg, which produces organically-grown vegetables and fruit, ever since.
“He started a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation with a website,” Dr. Apter said. “This is mostly a subscription where you get a vegetable delivery once or twice or three times a week. It’s locally produced food, and the emphasis is on the seasonality. He has a cooperative set-up with Texas Daily Harvest, an organic dairy in Yantis, and they deliver organic milk in Dallas every day. They piggy back vegetables with milk, eggs and cheese from the dairy, and it’s delivered right to the customers’ doors.”
Others speaking on vegetables and plants will be Joe Masabni, extension vegetable specialist from College Station whose topic will be “So you’re interested in truck farming? How-tos;” Robert Grant, Texas AgriLife Extension, Daingerfield, “Greenhousing and using plastic in vegetable production;” and Eric Lum, Moss Springs Farms in New Boston, “Blackberry production in East Texas.”
In the agrotourism/business/marketing track, you will not only hear from Mr. Greer and Mr. Efurd, but also Benny Moore of O’Farrell Country Vineyards in Atlanta.
“He has a winery in Atlanta that is muscadine grapes,” Dr. Apter said. “It is a you-pick muscadine and winery operation that is pretty unusual.”
Linda Parker, with the Texas Department of Agriculture will speak on The GoTexan program and the benefits of marketing your product to the Texas market.
Jolene Wilson, owner of Holly Hill Homestead in Hughes Springs, will join Mr. Fulks in the alternative agriculture track. She will speak on “Herbs: An alternative and niche crop.” Mr. Garrett will hold a question and answer session about organics from 3:30 until 4:20 p.m., and Robert Hutchins, owner of Rehoboth ranch in Greenville, will speak on pastured poultry and pork.
“He has about 300 acres, and it’s all organic,” Dr. Apter said. “He does organic beef, organic pork, and he slaughters about 20,000 organic chickens every year. He also has an organic dairy with goats. He is expecting to gross $400,000 this year, and basically his only outlet for marketing is four or five farmers markets in the Dallas area.”
Sources of funding will also be discussed with input from the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the United States Department of Agriculture and Small Business Development Center.
The NTCC ag department will hold a free open house celebrating the grand opening of the Elizabeth Hoggatt Whatley Ag Complex from10 a.m. until 2 p.m. March 26. The open house will include building tours and presentations on sustainable agriculture, alternative energy, backyard vegetable gardening, cooking and soap making.
Dr. Apter said the completion of the ag complex would not have been possible without a $900,000 donation from Mrs. Whatley, a former Camp County resident.
“The Elizabeth Hoggatt Whatley Ag Complex will be the only LEED platinum agriculture building in the state, to our knowledge,” Dr. Apter said. “It is even more unique in that we anticipate it being designated a zeronet energy (ZNE) building. It is not 100 percent off the grid, meaning it does not produce 100 percent of its power/electrical needs. However, on an annual basis, its energy consumption is zero because the quantity of energy purchased is approximately offset by the wind- and solar-produced energy. This means that the building’s ‘carbon footprint’ is probably zero also, unless the aerobic septic system or other non-energy elements are producing CO2.”
Vendors will be on- site both days with displays appropriate for and of interest to small farm producers and those interested in sustainable rural living.
Deadline for registration for Living from the Ground Up is 5 p.m. March 21. The cost is $50 for Camp, Morris and Titus county residents as well as for educators, and $75 for all others. To register, contact Charla Hunt, 903-434-9207, chunt@ntcc.edu. More information can be found at www.livingfromthegroundup.com.

Fertilizing for Spring Grass

Yesterday we had a strong probability of rain. Our weather has been upside down and we are once again experiencing drought conditions. In the fall we planted 70 acres of rye grass, vetch and crimson clover. It survived the fall and has hung in all winter, just now starting to grown enough for the cattle to eat. Normally it would have grown a lot in the fall and stopped in mid December through mid-February, then resumes growth. This past year it was so dry it just survived.

We ordered enough fertilizer for 50 acres. The other 20 are very short with cattle on them already, so deferred for now to fertilize them. Nitrogen prices are through the roof again and headed up. The nitrogen price index is linked to the price of oil/natural gas.

When we distribute nitrogen we also want to improve the minerals on our land. This time we added
KMag which is a natural blend of minerals mined in New Mexico. The micro nutrients of sulphur, potash and magnesium will really stimulate root growth.

The blend we used distributed a total of 195 pounds of nitrogen/KMag per acre. After last nights rain, and a warmer temperature, we will immediately get a growth spurt. Our plan is to put our young steers and heifers on 30 acres, and our mature cows that have been breed on part of the other area. In a month we need to get all the cattle off our hay meadows so we can make hay for next winter.

Distributing the fertilizer

Field with short forage after cattle just removed this week

Rye grass, crimson and ball clover and vetch

The fertilizer is equally distributed. It does not take much.

Where cow manure is present it creates an area of natural fertilizer growing forage more rapidly.

On the spinning disc the nitrogen is white and KMag is brown

The rear of the distribution truck has an elaborate mechanism that distributes exacts amount of fertilizer.

This set of cows and their calves were curious about the activity that disrupted their routine.
They are unaware that in a few weeks this will give them a lot more grass to graze on.

NPR Radio Story on Greer Farm

Mary Clark is an amazing travel writer. A few years ago she wrote an article for newspapers and now it has been released on NPR as she reads it and tells the story of our family farm. We hope you enjoy this.

NPR Story on Greer Farm at this link:

Pruning Roses: Eva's Thing

Eva prunes over 100 roses before March 15 of each year. Antique roses from the 1800’s, tea roses and knock-outs all need attention. Pruning a rose is more like surgery, you have to be careful and make each cut with a thought of how it will affect the bush.


This is a row of rose bushes already trimmed and pruned.


The clipped branches are all small as you never just cut
large branches. You work your way down through the
bush taking off small amounts with each pass.

While pruning you can enjoy the spring flowers. Peppy seems to not be bothered about the roses, flowers are anything.





What's Killing Our Buzz?

Once upon a time we had several bee trees on the farm. Every spring the bees became active and the trees home for thousands of bees that pollinated our flowers, berries and vegetables. Now they are gone. There is a lot of speculation about the decline of bees worldwide, but no answers. Most theories point to the widespread use of pesticides, GMO crops, and changes in nature . SLOW Food USA is trying to get the attention of the EPA on this issue. Whatever is causing this needs be identified and stopped if we are to continue to have abundant food. Rather than building “bridges to no where in Alaska”, the government should make every effort to determine if artificial GMO/pesticides as the cause of this decline.

SLOW Food promotes the opposite of “fast food’. They encourage you to eat local, eat healthy and support those that support this; farmers or vendors. There is a local chapter in
Dallas and Houston. I encourage you to check out the city site close to you to see if it may be something you may be interested in. They both offer a lot of fun gatherings of a wide cross spectrum of folks interested in food.

The article below is from SLOW Food USA and is asking for support of a petition drive to get the EPA to perform research on the decline of bees and links to pesticides. I dislike prepared petitions and would suggest if you are inclined to be involved write your own letter to the EPA; and copy your local Congressperson, Senator and the White House.

In the meantime we have ordered our own hives of bumble bees so we can ensure our berry crop will be pollinated. They are to arrive the first week of April.

Something is killing off almost 40% of North American honeybees each year, and it's threatening our entire food chain. Mounting scientific evidence suggests agricultural pesticides are one of the culprits.
The Environmental Protection Agency has the power to
investigate and ban the pesticides thought to be responsible but, despite their own scientists' advice and under pressure from pesticides companies, they're dragging their feet.
Much of the plant-life we depend on for food exists thanks to honeybees.
Now the bees are depending on us to return the favor. Click here to sign our petition calling on the EPA to solve the mystery that's killing our buzz:


Bees don't just make honey: from apples to lemons,
much of the food we eat may disappear with the bees. Even milk and beef production could be threatened: guess what makes the plants that feed the cows? Our friend the honeybee.
What's more, bees add $15 billion to the annual US economy, and
their loss will have a devastating impact on food production and food prices. But the EPA is under pressure to do nothing about it from pesticide companies and the pesticide 'scientists' those companies bankroll. 
The EPA has already acknowledged it should look into the causes of "Colony Collapse Disorder". We need to counter the pesticide lobby's pressure and hold the EPA to that commitment,
by sending them a message they can't ignore:
Everyone stands to lose with the threat to our food chain known as CCD. That's why everyone needs to stand together to counter the pressure the EPA is under not to do it's job: protect the things we rely on to survive.
Many Slow Food chapters are also hosting screenings of a new CCD documentary,
Vanishing of the Bees. It's a great way to get together in your community and learn more about what you can do to help solve this problem.
Time and again Slow Food members get together to celebrate the importance of food. It's now the
time to take action to protect that which binds us together, and stand up for the bees that make it all possible.
Spring's going to be a lot quieter this year.

Our Chickens: Here One Day Gone the Next

Last spring we obtained a variety of chickens (baby chicks a few days old) and with great care raised them into laying hens. All was happy in the hen house until fall late when suddenly we started to lose hens every night. We had noticed a fox near the chicken yard and there was a hole dug under the fence. We set out a live trap in the creek below the old barn and in rapid order caught a few large raccoons and huge possum. By that time, our flock of sixty hens had been reduced to four. Amazingly, in the past few months we have had no more losses. The four hens are so lax about their security they seldom stay in the protected chicken yard and roam freely near the house during the day.

We will shortly be ordering a new set of baby chicks. Before they are ready to go into the free range world, we shall make some changes. We are going to build a new chicken house, and depending on cost may make it mobile so we can move it around in the pastures.

Maybe we will have better luck this year.

These are photos of the flock we lost.




We had great eggs. See the contrast in the large egg below versus a standard egg.



Chef Eva's Recipe in the Dallas Morning News

Chef Eva had the opportunity to contribute to an article in the Dallas Morning News recently on Kale. Her recipe is below.

 It’s Time to Give Kale a Try

Photo: /Evans Caglage/Staff Photographer

Kale comes in a number of varieties, including (from left) red, purple, green (top right), and lacinato (bottom right).

By KIM PIERCE, Special Contributor
Published 15 February 2011
Kale shows up on almost every list of super-nutritious foods. So why aren’t people madly devouring it?
“Fear,” says Robin Plotkin, a Dallas registered dietitian who happens to love kale. “It boils down to fear of the unknown. We have to remember it’s a long way for some people to go, from head lettuce to romaine to field greens or spinach, much less arugula or kale.”
Cookbook author Deborah Madison has also seen the kale fear factor. “What people tend to fear, or so they tell me, about cabbages and kale is that they’ll be strong-tasting,” she wrote in
Local Flavors (Broadway Books, 2002). “… It’s certainly not true of kale, although it always looks as if it will be tough, overly hearty and hard to tame.”
“The ‘how do you cook it?’ is actually what I hear most,” Plotkin says.
Roger, that. Until now, I had never cooked kale. Eaten it? Yes, especially Whole Foods Market’s delicate emerald-sesame kale and those wonderful Rhythm-brand kale chips the store carries. (They’re also sold at Green Spot Market & Fuels and Natural Grocers.) But, like so many others, I was never quite sure what to do with a fresh bunch at home.
Now I know, and I’m so glad I got over myself. Kale is a fabulous green, whether prepared in a salad, such as Eva Greer’s from Greer Farm near Daingerfield, in a soup or as DIY kale chips.
Parents across the Internet rave that the baked, homemade chips are how they get their kids to happily eat kale. And although Plotkin’s 18-month-old son, Ben, doesn’t eat her homemade ones yet, he loves the Kool Ranch flavor made by Rhythm Chips.
Kale is a snap! As easy as spinach or arugula, and it doesn’t take as long to wash. It’s also delicious: Think “cabbage light.” Read on for everything you need to know to get started with this friendly, if misunderstood, vegetable.
Kim Pierce is a Dallas freelance writer.
Open a seed catalog and, as with tomatoes, you’ll find dozens of kinds of kale. You may see a variety of names in stores, but these are the broad categories:
Green kale: Dusky green with frilly, lacy leaves
Red kale: Green-tinged, pinkish-purple to purple lacy leaves
Dinosaur kale: Bright, dark green, a relative newcomer with long, slender leaves that look a little like reptile skin; hence, the name. Also known as cavolo nero, dragon tongue, black kale, black cabbage, Tuscan kale and lacinato.
Ornamental kale: Developed by plant breeders from edible kale, also edible if not treated with pesticides.
“Kale and collards are … in effect, primitive cabbages. … These leafy non-heading cabbages bear the Latin name
Brassica oleracea variety acephala, the last term meaning ‘without a head’ … “
Source: Aggie Horticulture Archives
It tastes a little like cabbage, but milder. If you’re going to eat it raw: Plotkin says the curly-leaf green variety is milder. I find the dinosaur kale milder, so you’ll just have to taste for yourself.
The stems are tough, but not the leaves. Just strip them from the stems before you start chopping or cooking.
Kale is a nutrition powerhouse. One cup raw has about 35 calories, but provides 210 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, 130 percent DV for vitamin C, 25 percent DV for manganese and 10 percent DV for calcium (making it one of the best plant sources of calcium). It’s also one of the top sources for vitamin K and has substantial amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, folic acid and copper, as well as the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, it contains a boatload of beneficial phytonutrients. “Why wouldn’t you eat it,” Plotkin says, “when you can get all that in a single ingredient?”
Source: Holley Grainger, R.D.
Like other greens, kale’s volume is greatly reduced when it’s cooked. Allow at least half a bunch per person.
•Make delicate, crunchy kale chips.
•Add it to soups or stews near the end of the cooking process. Lentil soup and bean soups are especially kale-friendly.
•Add it to the pasta pot while pasta cooks, as in Orecchiette With Kale and Tomatoes. (Kale becomes tender in five to 10 minutes.)
•Saute like spinach, then add your favorite seasonings, such as roasted sesame oil, sesame seeds and rice vinegar for an Asian touch; or garlic, toasted pine nuts and olive oil to go Italian.
•Make it part of a salad, as in Eva Greer’s Tuscan Kale Salad With Toasted Walnuts, Dried Cherries and Parmesan Shavings. If you’re trying it in a salad for the first time, Plotkin suggests mixing it with other greens, such as spinach or butter lettuce.
Try the blog
www.365daysofkale.com, where Michigan cancer survivor and registered dietitian Diana Dyer rhapsodizes about growing and eating kale.
Kale Chips
Published 15 February 2011
1 bunch of kale
1 tablespoon olive oil Sea salt
Preheat the oven to 300 F. Remove the stems and cut or tear leaves into large pieces. Toss with the olive oil, using your fingers so that every leaf is well coated. Sprinkle with the sea salt and toss again to blend.
Spread the prepared kale leaves in a single layer on 1 or 2 cookie sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp. Eat them out of hand or use them as a garnish on soups and salads. The chips will stay crisp for several days. Makes 2 servings. Variations •Substitute flavored popcorn toppings, such as cheddar cheese, for the salt. Toppings with a powdery texture adhere well to the chips. Dust before baking, then add more afterward to taste, if needed. •Toss the raw kale in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar before baking. (Yes, you really need that much vinegar.) •Toss in finely grated parmesan or asiago cheese after baking. The finer the consistency, the better it will adhere.
Nutritional Facts Per Serving
Calories: 146, Total fat: 8g, Calories from Fat: 44%, Sodium: 218mg, Cholesterol: 0mg, Fiber: 3mg, Carbohydrate: 17mg, Protein: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g
Source: DMN
Published in The Dallas Morning News on
Tuscan Kale Salad With Toasted Walnuts, Dried Cherries and Parmesan Shavings
Published 15 February 2011
Eva Greer/The Greer Farm
2 bunches Tuscan (or other) kale, washed, and ribs and stems removed
1/3 cup dried cherries 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (see Note) 1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced 3 tablespoons dark balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 3 tablespoons agave syrup 1 teaspoon fresh thyme 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon kosher salt Freshly cracked black pepper parmesan cheese shavings
Chiffonade the kale: Stack the washed kale leaves (stems removed), rolling them into a tight roll, and then cut across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife. This produces fine ribbons of kale. Place the kale in a salad bowl. Add the cherries, walnuts and red onion.
In a separate small bowl, stir together the vinegars, agave nectar and thyme. Continue to mix while adding the olive oil. Season the vinaigrette with salt and black pepper. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette, add the parmesan shavings and serve. Because kale is in the cabbage family, this can be made in advance and refrigerated; it will not wilt. Makes 3 to 4 servings. Note: To toast the walnuts, preheat the oven to 400 F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Or place in a single layer in a skillet over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, shaking the pan frequently, until golden.

Nutritional Facts Per Serving
Calories: 438, Total fat: 25g, Calories from Fat: 48%, Sodium: 668mg, Cholesterol: 3mg, Fiber: 8mg, Carbohydrate: 50mg, Protein: 10g, Saturated Fat: 3g
Source: Eva Greer/Greer Farm

Orecchiette With Kale and Tomatoes
Published 15 February 2011
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley 1 (28-ounce) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, if desired 2 tablespoons salt 1 pound orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) 6 bunches kale, washed, stemmed and torn into pieces 2/3 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for passing at the table
Heat the olive oil in a 1-quart pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Fold in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Season with the pepper, and keep the tomato sauce warm, covered, over the lowest possible heat.
Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt, orecchiette and kale; cook according to orecchiette package directions. (Do not overcook. Pasta will continue cooking after it’s taken off the heat; al dente is the ideal.) Drain the pasta and greens well and return to the pot. Fold in the cheese and tomato sauce, and serve hot. Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional Facts Per Serving
Calories: 1013, Total fat: 35g, Calories from Fat: 30%, Sodium: 1201mg, Cholesterol: 7mg, Fiber: 17mg, Carbohydrate: 150mg, Protein: 39g, Saturated Fat: 6g
Source: DMN
Sesame Kale and Sausage
Published 15 February 2011
5 teaspoons olive oil (divided use)
2 large links lean chicken sausage 1 bunch of kale, rinsed and stemmed 1 minced clove garlic 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved Toasted sesame seeds
Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook the sausage until nearly done. Remove the sausage and set aside.
Add the remaining 3 teaspoons olive oil to the pan. Add the kale and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and stir. Once the kale is nearly wilted, return the sausage to the pan and stir until everything is warmed through. Top with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve with brown rice or quinoa. Makes 2 to 3 servings.
Nutritional Facts Per Serving
Calories: 307, Total fat: 20g, Calories from Fat: 56%, Sodium: 641mg, Cholesterol: 64mg, Fiber: 4mg, Carbohydrate: 19mg, Protein: 17g, Saturated Fat: 4g
Source: DMN

Agriculture Subsidies Need Attention

This is a very good view of what needs to be done about the federal agriculture subsidy program. Congress has made it a catch all of hand outs for all sorts of deals that do nothing for the farmer or consumer. I am not saying all the writer says is what I would do, but he makes some very good points to consider. Write your Senator or Congressman your view. Odds are they will totally disregard what any of us write, but at least let your voice be heard.

March 1, 2011
The New York Times
Don’t End Agricultural Subsidies, Fix Them
Agricultural subsidies have helped bring us high-fructose corn syrup, factory farming, fast food, a two-soda-a-day habit and it’s accompanying obesity, the near-demise of family farms, monoculture and a host of other ills.
Yet — like so many government programs — what subsidies need is not the ax, but reform that moves them forward. Imagine support designed to encourage a resurgence of small- and medium-size farms producing not corn syrup and animal-feed but food we can touch, see, buy and eat — like apples and carrots — while diminishing handouts to agribusiness and its political cronies.
Farm subsidies were created in an attempt to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression, which makes it ironic that in an era when more Americans are suffering financially than at any time since, these subsidies are mostly going to those who need them least.
That wasn’t the plan, of course. In the 1930s, prices were fixed on a variety of commodities, and some farmers were paid to reduce their crop yields. The program was supported by a tax on processors of food — now there’s a precedent! — and was intended to be temporary. It worked, sort of: prices rose and more farmers survived. But land became concentrated in the hands of fewer farmers, and agribusiness was born, and along with it the sad joke that the government paid farmers for not growing crops.
The farm bill, up for renewal in 2012, includes an agricultural subsidy portion worth up to $30 billion, $5 billion of which is what you might call handouts, direct payments to farmers.
The subsidy-suckers don’t grow the fresh fruits and vegetables that should be dominating our diet. Indeed, if all Americans decided to actually eat the five servings a day of fruits and vegetables that are recommended, they would discover that American agriculture isn’t set up to meet that need. They grow what they’re paid to grow: corn, soy, wheat, cotton and rice.
The first two of these are the pillars for the typical American diet — featuring an unnaturally large consumption of meat, never-before-seen junk food and a bizarre avoidance of plants — as well as the fortunes of Pepsi, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC and the others that have relied on cheap corn and soy to build their empires of unhealthful food. Over the years, prices of fresh produce have risen, while those of meat, poultry, sweets, fats and oils, and especially soda, have fallen. (Tom Philpott, writing in the environment and food Web site Grist and citing a Tufts University study, reckons that between 1997 and 2005 subsidies saved chicken, pork, beef and HFCS producers roughly $26.5 billion. In the short term, that saved consumers money too — prices for these foods are unjustifiably low — but at what cost to the environment, our food choices and our health?)
Eliminating the $5 billion in direct agricultural payments would level the playing field for farmers who grow non-subsidized crops, but just a bit — perhaps not even noticeably. There would probably be a decrease in the amount of HFCS in the market, in the 10 billion animals we “process” annually, in the ethanol used to fill gas-guzzlers and in the soy from which we chemically extract oil for frying potatoes and chicken. Those are all benefits, which we could compound by taking those billions and using them for things like high-speed rail, fulfilling our promises to public workers, maintaining Pell grants for low-income college students or any other number of worthy, forward-thinking causes.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Although the rage for across-the-board spending cuts doesn’t extend to the public — according to a recent Pew poll, most people want no cuts or even increased spending in major areas — once the $5 billion is gone, it’s not coming back.
That the current system is a joke is barely arguable: wealthy growers are paid even in good years, and may receive drought aid when there’s no drought. It’s become so bizarre that some homeowners lucky enough to have bought land that once grew rice now have subsidized lawns. Fortunes have been paid to Fortune 500 companies and even gentlemen farmers like David Rockefeller.
Thus even House Speaker Boehner calls the bill a “slush fund”; the powerful Iowa Farm Bureau suggests that direct payments end; and Glenn Beck is on the bandwagon. (This last should make you suspicious.) Not surprisingly, many Tea Partiers happily accept subsidies, including Vicky Hartzler (R-MO, $775,000), Stephen Fincher (R-TN, $2.5 million) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN $250,000). No hypocrisy there.
Left and right can perhaps agree that these are payments we don’t need to make. But suppose we use this money to steer our agriculture — and our health — in the right direction. A Gallup poll indicates that most Americans oppose cutting aid to farmers, and presumably they’re not including David Rockefeller or Michele Bachmann in that protected group; we still think of farmers as stewards of the land, and the closer that sentiment is to reality the better off we’ll be.
By making the program more sensible the money could benefit us all. For example, it could:
• Fund research and innovation in sustainable agriculture, so that in the long run we can get the system on track.
• Provide necessary incentives to attract the 100,000 new farmers Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack claims we need.
• Save more farmland from development.
• Provide support for farmers who grow currently unsubsidized fruits, vegetables and beans, while providing incentives for monoculture commodity farmers to convert some of their operations to these more desirable foods.
• Level the playing field so that medium-sized farms — big enough to supply local supermarkets but small enough to care what and how they grow — can become more competitive with agribusiness.
The point is that this money, which is already in the budget, could encourage the development of the kind of agriculture we need, one that prioritizes caring for the land, the people who work it and the people who need the real food that’s grown on it.
We could, of course, finance or even augment the program with new monies, by taking a clue from the ‘30s, when the farm subsidy program began: Let the food giants that have profited so mightily and long from cheap corn and soy — that have not so far been asked to share the pain — pay for it.

A Poem: A Wife Explains Why She Likes Country

A Wife Explains Why She Likes Country
Because those cows in the bottomland are black and white, colors
anyone can understand, even against the green
of the grass, where they glide like yes and no, nothing in between,
because in the country, heartache has nowhere to hide,
it's the Church of Abundant Life, the Alamo,
the hubbub of the hoi polloi, the parallel lines of rail fences,
because I like rodeos more than I like golf,
because there's something about the sound of mealworms and
leeches and the dream of a double-wide
that reminds me this is America, because of the simple pleasure
of a last chance, because sometimes whiskey
tastes better than wine, because hauling hogs on the road
is as good as it gets when the big bodies are layered like pigs in a cake,
not one layer but two,
because only country has a gun with a full choke and a slide guitar
that melts playing it cool into sweaty surrender in one note,
because in country you can smoke forever and it'll never kill you,
because roadbeds, flatbeds, your bed or mine,
because the package store is right across from the chicken plant
and it sells boiled peanuts, because I'm fixin' to wear boots to the dance
and make my hair bigger, because no smarty-pants, just easy rhymes,
perfect love, because I'm lost deep within myself and the sad songs call me out,
because even you with your superior aesthetic cried
when Tammy Wynette died,
because my people
come from dirt.

By Barbara Ras
© Penguin Poets

Water System for the Rocky Branch Grass Ranch

In November, we finally had the time and resources to install a water distribution system at our Rocky Branch Grass Ranch. List has been on our list of major projects for several years. Over 6,000 feet of water pipe will distribute well water to all areas of this ranch allowing us to use small paddock grazing separating larger pastures with electric fence. This will better utilize our forage resources and the cattle will always have fresh grass and water available.

We started to trench on a Monday morning and finished seven days later. The system was tested and pipe covered. This winter we had a lot of ground settling and a few washouts, so we will recover the trenches as soon as it is practicable.

We started at the well. this p;ump delivers 50+ gallons/minute at 60 psi

A trencher was the only machine we used
except a track hole for the creek crossing.
All else was hand labor by five of us.
75 percent of the project is 2 inch PVC pipe.

Sidney came out to check out the trench
in the background.

Max was here for the weekend and got
a taste of had work.

The trench was not always dead on straight,
but it worked. Pile is laid 18-24 inches deep.
This is 1-1/2 inch pipe.

We ran into a rock bed where we had to cross
Rocky Branch creek. bolder the size of a 4x4
had to be dug out with a track hole.

Crossing the creek was a major effort. It was muddy,
spring water flows and boulders to dig out.The track hole saved us here.

Javier welded 4 inch steel pipes together
so we could cross the creek. the water line
was insulated and placed inside the pipe.

After we had the line in the trench, we covered
it with dirt.

Ranching Challenges

A rancher’s life is never easy and some days it is worse than others.

This cow lived. She was in pasture last week when we had a strong storm. Some way she managed to hit the barb wire fence or some sheet metal on the barn and sliced open the top of her head. The storm came at dusk. Not long after i kept hearing all the cows moo loudly so went to investigate. In the light of the torch I carried I saw blood squirting 4-5 inches out of the top of the cows head. Alone and in the dark I managed to eventually get her into a corral and a chute so i could see what had happened. By that time a lot of blood had escaped.

It was obvious that I could not do much myself, so I took some clean cloth and stopped the bleeding by using finger pressure and with my clean hand called the vet. He is a wonderful fellow and come right out to the farm making a night call. We washed off the cut\,he pulled out the vessel that was causing all the bleeding and stapled the skin back on the 5 inch open cut. She got some antibiotics and a Tetnus shot.

The trauma of all this caused her to go into labor the next day. We lost the calf. It had one foot around the umbilical cord and twisted it and tore it off, thus it died in the womb. The calf had to be pulled out, again a vet call but this time at his office.


New Blackberries are Coming

Work in progress is always fun to report. We made a decision to expand our blackberry patch with 2,000 row feet of two different varieties of blackberries; both are thornless.

Navaho and Ouachita will be nice additions to the Apache and Chickasaw we already have. In addition to planting the new berries, we are infilling both Apache and Chickasaw where we had cane die off last summer. The University of Arkansas research team that came and evaluated our die off determined it may be an internal can fungus that might be controlled by organic sprays. A set was applied last fall and one will be applied in the next few weeks. The problem was common in all hybrid blackberry plants from Georgia west into our area.

Last spring and early summer we had the best vines we have ever had and a huge young berry crop. As the berries started to mature, they also started to dry up and the vines started to die back. We had half the coop we expected and berry picking ended sooner. We will probably have a reduced crop this year due to the limited number of canes that grew last summer versus other years.

The photos below are prior to planting (we have 300 plants in the ground now and 400 to go). After planting we will update this with other photos.

The field we will be planting the new blackberries in before work started.

Rows were laid out 250 feet long and 12 feet between rows.

We used a deep drill to break the sod and then
came back with many passes of a tiller.

The finished bed on left is ready to plant. Yes, there is a lot of grass
roots still in the rows, but over time this summer we will work on that.

Breeding Cattle Without the Bull

Most of the time we breed our cattle to bulls naturally, but occasionally we want to introduce blood lines from bulls that are not available to us. These are some of the best bulls of our breed that had their semen collected when they were alive. We have a semen tank that is filled with liquid nitrogen freezing our semen collection in straws or amps. Some of this semen is over 40 years old.

The use of artificial insemination will ensure that our cow herd had quality blood lines without in-breeding.

The artificial insemination process is illustrated in this entertaining video.

We used semen this time collected from bulls back in 1971 through 1996.

The process starts by inserting a Cidr into the vagina of the cow. This will release a small amount of progesteron and cause the cow to be synchronized and come into heat at a certain time. We also give them a Cystorelin shot to treat any ovarian follicula the cow may have in her ovary. This video cover the entire process of inserting the Cidr and how the progesteron works (a college type lecture and demonstration).

We remove the Cidr a week from the time it was inserted and at that time give the cow a Lutalyse shot. This will stimulate esturs and within 24-72 hrs the cow will go into heat. When heat is detected the cow is inseminated with semen. We detect the heat by placing a tape on the cow’s tail head when we remove the Cidr. When she goes into a standing heat, other cows will mount her (breeding stance) and rub off the gray on the tape and expose bright orange. You inseminated the cow within 6-10 hours or so of this event.

Cows waiting for their turn in the chute.

The Cidr in the white tube. The blue tool is used to insert it.

The process if very quick.

The gray heat tape is before use and the orange is when the cow has gone into a standing heat.

The straws contained semen produced in the last 25 year or so. The glass amp semen date back almost 40 years.

Each straw or amp has the name of the bull, date collected and registration number of the bull.

We had our game plan down to start our cows that we would use artificial insemination on January 24 breeding them Starting February 2. Well, that worked for cows in heat February 2 and 3rd, but then we had a snow and ice storm and could not get to the cows that came into heat later.

The roads were covered in ice and snow.

We waited until February 15, re-inserted the Cidr’s and started over. February 28 we completed our process and we were successful on 12 of 13 target cows. The cows were put back in pasture with bulls to “clean up” in case the AI did not work. If they cycle it will be in 21 days give or take a few days. We shall be watching them. In any case, around December 1, 2011 we should have baby calves on the ground from these cows.

Bruno checking out a lady.

Riddler waiting for a cow

Next year, we plan doing something different. We will cycle our best cows and flush out their eggs. We will use semen form some very good bulls to fertilize the eggs in a dish, We hope to have other cows cycled and ready to accept the eggs and breed up to eight cows with that one cows eggs and bull semen. Some of the embryo will be frozen in nitrogen to be introduced into cows at a later date.