We recently roasted a whole pig in our hotbox cooker and it was a blast! We invited 60 or so of our closest friends and family and enjoyed some good ole fresh-from-the-farm smoked pork and fellowship around the new feed barn.
Many years ago, we wrote down our ‘Farm Plan’ and one of the first items on that list was a feed barn. A place primarily for feeding animals; cows in the winter, a brooder for chickens, goats when they are kidding, pigs when they’re farrowing, etc. However, we also wanted a place to host large groups and entertain here on the farm. We also wanted a place to educate young students that visit on field trips, a place to orientate new employees for the Fall Corn Maze. The feed barn will be a multi-purpose building that will be worth its weight in gold!
The feed barn is 24×36 with an eave height of 12-1/2 feet. It contains a hay loft, fans with misters and electricity and its on dedicated water supply and a storage area for field supplies. The feed barn will allow us to move our composting operation under-a-roof, which is a big deal for us since our farm is located in the Blue Springs Basin of Jackson Blue. Jackson Blue is a First Magnitude Spring and creates the head waters for Merritt’s Mill Pond and Spring Creek. Jackson Blue produces over 40-million gallons of crystal clear water each day; every day! The goal of the Blue Springs Basin is to keep that water pristine for all to enjoy and one way that is accomplish is by controlling nutrient run-off. Nitrogen in our area is a particular issue. By moving our composting area under a roof, we’re doing a small part toward keeping the spring healthy. I believe that if everyone does a little, a LOT ends up getting done!
We picked a gilt, a young female pig that has never had a litter of piglets, and carried her to Jone’s Country Meats, a USDA inspected butcher facility in Climax, GA. Jones is one of the only facilities near us that will scald a pig. Scalding a pig is necessary for cooking the entire pig all at once because the skin is left on. The hair and entrails are removed. We also had the feet removed so the pig would fit into our cooker, however, we left the head on! If the skin is removed, the fat will cook away leaving the meat dry and rubbery. Our pig ended up weighing 112-lbs., a little big for our hotbox cooker, but we made it work. We used Redd’s Apple Ale for our injection and rubbed the pig down with salt, a little black pepper, a chipotle blend and brown sugar. We placed sliced apples into the body cavity to add moisture while cooking. We cooked the pig in the hotbox for six-hours. The end result was a juicy, succulent main dish that was a hit with the crowd.
A HUGE Thank You to Kate Smith Elementary School’s 5th Grade for joining us on May 24th for a time of fun and learning about agriculture and homestead farming. Special Thanks to Casey, Benjamin, Reagan, Samuel & Carlton Roach, Stacey Warden, Jerry And Krin Smith, Dalton & Samuel Godwin, Daniel Chicas, Danny Melvin, David & June Horton, Garrett, Dylan & Nathan Ziglar for your incredible help and support for our family and farm. We couldn’t have hosted nearly 200-people without you! It was a great morning on the farm.
Part of our goal here on the farm is to promote an understanding of where food comes from and how it is produced. On this recent field trip, we divided the students into seven groups and these groups traversed the farm learning about cows, goats, honey bees, compost & soil, pigs, chickens and fishing! It was a cool experience for us and we hope it was equally as cool for the soon-to-be middle schoolers as they learned why we do what we do here at The Lazy Acres Family Farm.
Willie Nelson has been credited with saying, “Take your kids to a farm so they don’t think food comes from a box!” In our society today, a nearly unlimited selection and variety of food is so readily available that if we aren’t careful we may get to a point where we take food for granted. Food is critical to life; Good Food, like the food we produce here on the Farm, makes life a little sweeter. Producing good food is work, takes patience and persistence but is very rewarding.
We encourage you, even challenge you – find a local farmer and buy some of your food directly from their farm. Give the farmer a chance to explain how this food was produced.
February 11, 2018. At 4:00 a.m. all of the phones and iPads in the house start blaring a loud and startling alarm!
The message: ‘TORNADO WARNING: Take shelter now…’
We didn’t have a tornado where we live and we didn’t get much sleep the rest of the night. What we did get, and lots of it, was rain. Some reports have said seven inches. Some reports measured three inches. My rain gauge broke during the last hard freeze and so I’m not sure…let’s just say a lot of rain. Inches of rain. Hard rain. Big fat drops of rain. You get the idea.
We live in the Northwest Panhandle of Florida. Our climate is considered subtropical. Hot and humid in the summer; mild in the winter. Even though, it has snowed twice this winter, comparatively speaking we have very mild winters. Last winter we only ‘dripped our pipes’ on two occasions. That’s what our northern neighbors would consider mild.
For several years now, I’ve taken pictures of the rain that we get throughout the year and each February, we have BIG rain events. Inches and inches of rain. This is the result, in part, of living in a subtropical climate. The seasons are beginning to change and the moisture pushing up out of the Gulf of Mexico collides at high altitude with cool air from the north. The end result is rain and sometimes thunderstorms and tornados.
One of the challenges we face is what to do with all this water. If we could bottle it up and use it in July or August when it’s extremely dry that would be great, but that would require an enormous bottle. One method that I’ve been spending a lot of time researching is addressing our ‘resource need’ of water infiltration. Can we improve our soil to the point that it can absorb and retain greater amounts of water? Researchers like Ray Archuleta believe that it’s not only possible, but can also be replicated. Soil health can be improved by planting diverse crop species, i.e. hairy vetch, clovers, rye grass, blue lupin and radishes and then grazing those crops on a schedule with diverse animal species such as cows, goats, pigs and chickens. These are all management practices that we adhere to on our farm.
As a result, we have begun planting winter crops that help with water infiltration. Crops like radishes. Lunch Radish has a long narrow root that tunnels deep into soil opening up cracks and crevices for water to flow. Rye grass is another winter crop that has deep tap roots and lots of root mass that breaks down slowly over time, improving the soils water handling capability. We’ve also discovered Hairy Vetch. Vetch is an amazing legume that fixes large amounts of nitrogen into the soil. That nitrogen is readily available to Bahia grass in April and May – research from several universities have shown that Vetch can fix 100 pounds or more of nitrogen per acre. If plants can supply other plants with nitrogen, do we need to purchase nitrogen? Planting diverse crop species and then grazing those crops with livestock saves on feed cost and fertilization cost. This process helps save time, money and improves the overall soil ecology.
We’ve got a long way to go on our mission to improve our soil, but we’re taking it step-by-step. Perhaps one day we’ll remember back and say, ‘do you remember when that pasture used to flood?’