Peaceful Valley Farm is moving!

Yup! In a few days we close escrow on 5 1/2 acres in Aptos Hills. Plenty of room to raise more food and animals and 12 minutes from Aptos Village. We could NOT be more excited! But, this means a huge, epic move is in store for us. As a result, we are closing the farm indefinitely. I hope to be able to open in time for Spring or Summer camp.  Follow us on Facebook for updates.

Thanks for your continued support!

 

| Leave a comment

The Best Kale Salad!

One day last Fall, my buddy, Tabitha, mentioned that she was whipping up a kale salad. She rattled off the ingredients and I scribbled them into my big book of food. After making it a few times, and tweaking it based on what I have in stock, I made the keeper version yesterday. Here ’tis. (Thanks to Tabitha, at Friend In Cheeses for the constant inspiration!)

BEST KALE SALAD, EVER!

1 bunch Kale-I like the curly kind, but any will do-chopped

1 head broccoli chopped (stems, too, peel them if they’re too tough)

6 baby carrots-chopped (or equal amount of big carrots, grated)

1/2 red onion-sliced thin

1 large black radish (bigger than a golf ball)- grated

1/4 cup seaweed (packaged as strips or strings)

1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds (LOVE this with the tamari seasoned ones!)

garlic salt, pepper, red chili pepper seeds/flakes

balsamic vinegar, toasted sesame seed oil

Mix the sesame oil and vinegar as you would to dress any salad (about 1/2 cup worth) in a lidded jar.  Add salt, pepper and 1/4-1/2 tsp pepper flakes. Shake and add seaweed. Let sit until the seaweed is softened enough to eat.

Mix all other ingredients together, giving the kale some massaging if it’s super tough.  Add sunflower seeds last. Pour dressing over and stir it all up. (I like to use a storage container with lid, and shake it all up) Ready to go, but it is better the next day and keeps for many days after!

Posted in cooking | 2 Comments

Chard Lasagne Recipe

Chard. The gift that just keeps on giving! I planted just 6 plants last Spring…Maybe in March? They’re still producing and I have one plant that’s 5 feet tall. DSCN0185Gorgeous colors, and I feel grateful for the bounty, but what to do with all that chard??

DSCN0260

CHARD LASAGNE

Adapted from this recipe.

6 no boil lasagne noodles

olive oil

2-3 bunches of chard, chopped, stems chopped separately

6 cloves garlic, chopped

6 mushrooms, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 med-large carrot, grated

1 cup ricotta cheese (cottage cheese also works well)

1/4 cup milk

1 large egg

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

4 oz mozzarella cheeseDSCN0243

Soak the noodles in warm water until they start to soften, then remove.  Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the chard stems, onion and garlic until golden. Add in mushrooms and carrots, cook until mushrooms have released the majority of their liquid. Add chard leaves, cover and steam until wilted, stirring often to combine.DSCN0246

In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, milk, egg (add 2 tbsp of chopped basil, if in season), salt and pepper to taste.DSCN0248

Oil a square baking dish and lay 3 noodles in the bottom. Layer in 1/2 of the cheese mixture, then 1/2 of the chard mixture. DSCN0253Lay down 3 more noodles, then the other half of the cheese and remaining chard mixture. Cut mozzarella into slices and lay on top of the chard layer. DSCN0254Cover with foil and cook at 350 until the cheese melts (about 20 minutes), then remove foil and cook until lasagne is bubbling (5-10 minutes more).DSCN0258

So good, not too cheesy or saucy as some lasagnes, and oh-so many vegetables in there!  When it’s in season, the basil gives amazing depth! I also like to break up walnuts and add them to the chard layer.  Note* in the photo above I only used 1 bunch of chard, which the original recipe called for. 2 would be a minimum, 3 is ideal. Even my non-vegetable loving kid eats this up! Shown served, above, with a salad of Summer 2012 pickled vegetables with added olives and kidney bans.

Posted in cooking | 2 Comments

From Scratch-Home Made chicken food- an easy, healthy alternative to commercial feed

Since moving to the farm three years ago, I’ve completely changed the way my family eats.  Gone are packaged, processed foods, chips, and anything junk like.  We eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, whole foods, only local and in season, raise our own eggs, chickens, turkeys and pig for meat.   So why is it that it was only a few months ago that I noticed the long list of ingredients on the bag of processed chicken food that I’ve been using?? Lots of recognizable ingredients, and many not, all crunched up and magically glued together into pellet form. I started wondering if that was really the best I could do for my poultry, and decided it probably wasn’t.  I set about researching poultry dietary needs, looking for recipes and trying to find information on home made vs. commercial feed. I only found bits and pieces, not solid pros or cons, and many recipes, each one different from the next, and none of them very clear or easy to follow.  Feeling overwhelmed and unsure, I spent months reading everything I could find.  When I was down to my last bag of commercial feed, I set my self doubt aside and just jumped right into choosing ingredients, measuring and mixing, watching what the chickens liked and how they reacted (quality of poop, egg production, general appearance, signs of hunger or health issues).  We’ve been using this new whole feed for 5 weeks now and I am finally confident enough to share the results and the recipe with you!

The first thing I considered is that back in the day, there weren’t feed stores all over town for people to buy their “complete” feed.  These were people who depended on their chickens for food, not just as backyard pets, so clearly there are alternatives to feed pellets, that have been around forever.  I was really disappointed in the scholarly literature that I read. Almost always, they cautioned against experimenting with feed and just sticking to the “complete and tested” commercial feeds.

My best, first break came in Carla Emery’s The Encyclopedia Of Country Living.  She encouraged readers to grow their own animal feed and poo pooed the idea that commercial feed is the only way to go!  She didn’t provide a recipe, so much as a blue print of what chickens need. For proper growth and egg production, a chicken’s diet needs to be 17-20% protein. Traditional feed contains corn and soy, which have their own issues (GMO) and corn is high fat and low protein. So why feed it to the chickens at all? I decided to eliminate both corn and soy from the mix. This way, I can buy conventionally grown ingredients and not have to worry about Franken foods. (I choose not to go organic because it’s cost prohibitive for my operation. I don’t want to sell $8 a dozen eggs, I want to offer affordable, fresh and healthy eggs.)

Protein comes in SO many forms and ideally you can offer the chickens a variety of sources. Wheat, Oats, Barley, rye, sunflower seeds, milk products (expired milk or yogurt), eggs, meat, worms and bugs all offer good protein.  Another source is fish meal. Hard to come by and very expensive, I decided against this. I really wanted the fish meal used for gardening to be the same thing, and from what I learned, it is, except that the way they process it isn’t fit for chickens AND they risk exposure to heavy metals. If you know a fisherman, getting their cuttings would be a score!  I’ve read that chickens need animal protein and that they don’t. I know how mine love to go after little mice and frogs, which leads me to believe that they’re into it, but I think they can be healthy without adding animal protein to their feed. (ps- bugs and worms count as meat) Because my chickens don’t get out into fresh pasture, often, I do think they would benefit from more bugs, so I’ll soon be breeding Black Soldier Fly larvae as a supplement for them. Yup, maggot farming. Mmmm.  We also give the chickens everything left over when we eat crab, as well as the entire chicken carcass after we make stock. THEY EAT THE ENTIRE THING!  Legumes, if you can find them in bulk, are a great source of protein. It’s not cost effective for me with 50 chickens, but if you have just a few in your backyard, it’s totally worthwhile to feed them dried lentils or peas (fresh peas, and their leaves and pods, too). You can cook them first, but it isn’t needed.

Greens need to be a part of the chickens daily diet. This is a hard one to mix into the dry formula, but if they are ranging around, or you give them plenty of weeds or kitchen scraps, they should be ok. I also put a flake of alfalfa into their coops every few days.

Vitamins and supplements. A really important thing to remember is that chickens don’t have teeth. They have a hard gizzard, against which they grind their food to digest it. For this to work, they need to be eating little pebbles, sand, or other grit.  If you’re feeding whole grains, you should assume that they can’t get enough grit in their foraging, and should give them some. Because they also need selenium and minerals, I chose a grit with minerals that’s readily available at the feed store. I started out mixing it into the feed, but it was heavy and didn’t mix in well. Now I just throw handfuls of it into the run every other day or so. Same goes for Oyster Shells, which act as grit and also give them the calcium that they need to produce hard egg shells. I put some in the feed, too. You can mix these 2 together and have a dish always available for them, but my chickens always spill it, so I just avoid the middle man.  I also use Flax seed. It has lots of Omega 3 and makes their feathers gloriously shiny!  Kelp is another one. Super expensive ($84 for a 50# bag) but used sparingly, so it’s ok. Kelp is full of minerals. I use just a little to top dress their food. They go nuts for it! Oh, and don’t forget vitamin D (which is added to feed!). Chickens need a little sun every day.

Here’s the recipe that I came up with. Note that it changes and flexibility is good. If, for example, one grain price suddenly goes sky high, just drop it until it comes down. Variety is the spice of life, anyway, right? All ingredients should be purchased whole, not cracked, crimped  or rolled. Once the shell is broken, they start to go rancid and lose nutritional value.

-3 pounds Rye (this is grass seed to normal folks-but get it at the feed store, for quality assurance)

9 pound Barley

9 pounds Oats

9 pounds Wheat (winter red is best, if available)

4 pounds black oiled sunflower seeds (sold as bird seed)

3 pounds Flax

2 pounds Oyster Shell

mix everything together in a plastic bin or feed sack, until well distributed.

Prices vary from area to area, so I’m not including very detailed costs here. 50 pound grain bags are about $15-20 here, 20 pounds of Flax is $22, 50# rye is $36, 30# sunflower seeds are $25, oyster shell is $10 for 50#, grits about the same.  I believe I’m paying slightly more than I was for the commercial pellets, plus I get to eliminate corn and soy, and all the other ingredients I don’t want. My egg production DOUBLED in these 5 weeks, even during a bitter cold snap that lasted a week. Before some hens were missing feathers and looking ragged. Now they have full, bright and shiny coats! Also, I’m using less feed than I used to. Consider the difference in humans, between eating processed food, and whole food that our bodies have to work on for a while…same goes for chickens. Where I was going through three 50 pound bags a week, I now use about 5o pounds of whole food per week. I’m using this food for the chickens, turkeys and geese, all with great results!

As I mentioned, I’m going to be farming BSF larvae to supplement their diets. I’ve also started making fodder, which is a genius way to increase their nutrition and reduce your feed bill. All you do is sprout some of the grains (takes about a week for them to become a solid mass of roots, seed and grass), then feed them.  The conversion is crazy, something like 2 pounds of grain becomes 13 pounds of fodder. This method is literally saving some cow farms in the midwest!  I’ll have more info and pictures on this soon… For more information on alternative, natural chicken keeping, I highly recommend THIS BOOK.

Posted in Chickens | 20 Comments

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
Fred Rogers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Fred Rogers

December 14th, 2012.

In the week since that day, there has been so much talk, so much sadness, so much pain and empathy.

As a parent, I can’t even begin to imagine how I’d go on if I lost one of my children. If you have more than one you have to keep it together, stand up tall and be strong for the others. If you lose your one and only, there can’t be enough condolences, distractions, time or self medicating to ease the pain. No gesture, no matter how big, could possibly help.

As a parent, I do everything in my power to keep my kids safe. There are curfews and places they just aren’t allowed to go. They are never able to walk alone.  The more bad things happen; stabbing at a Jr High bonfire, drive by in a friend’s neighborhood, fight at the movie theater after dark, a girl in another zip code disappearing on the way to her morning bus… the more things go on my girl’s “no can do” list.  They think I’m paranoid. Maybe I am.  I prefer to think I’m cautious and practical.

This past week has brought up discussions about gun control, mental health, school security.  Everyone seems to have a side and is sure that these things wouldn’t happen if we just had better access to mental health care, more gun control, gates around the school. I’ve heard attempts to find an answer- Asperger’s, “broken home”, “troubled”, “losing control”.

Why? We all want to know why anyone would do something so vicious to so many, so innocent, someones.  So we watch the news coverage until our minds are blurred and we can’t cry anymore. The news is relentless.  And we still don’t know why. And, you know what? We never will.  That boy is gone. (yes, I know he’s a man, but I have a 20 year old, so to me, they’re still boys) His mother is gone. There will be no acceptable answers, only obsessing.  I am willing to accept that sometimes really bad things happen. Often to really good, people, for no reason at all. I’m moving on from the why, letting it go, and hope you’ll do the same.

Let’s focus, instead, on how to prevent things like this from happening in the future.

Shall we work to make sure that people, in need of mental health care, get it. Absolutely. Will that solve the problem? No. Some people just won’t seek help, don’t want interference. Some parents will pull their kids out of school and try to handle it themselves. In over their heads and scared for their safety, but not wanting to go public with an issue that carries such social stigma.

Have stricter gun control? Yup. I believe in our right to bear arms, but the average citizen has neither the reason, nor the wherewithal, to have a gun in their home. NO ONE, in this country, has a reason to own an assault rifle. So, by all means, control that mess, will you?

Shall we put big fences with barbed wire and armed guards in every school across America. Sure. In California we can barely afford to educate our kids anymore, so let’s get them used to being surrounded by bars, fear and despair.

Shall we allow teachers, principals and school nurses to pack concealed weapons on campus. Oh, yeah. And let’s include the bus drivers, janitors and administrative staff, while we’re at it. To be fair.  Because what would be really helpful, in these situations, is for everyone to be armed, because more bullets flying means better protection. Or, as my friend put it, “Stopping school shootings by putting more guns in schools is like trying to stop the spread of STDs by having more unprotected sex”.

In Sandy Hook and Columbine I heard people describing the aggressors as shy, strange, uncomfortable, reclusive. I heard them saying, “he was weird and carried a briefcase when we all had backpacks”, “he was smart and always raised his hand to answer”.  I read that a mother pulled her son out of school because it was so difficult for him to be there. And that the boys, feeling picked on and ridiculed by their classmates, were angry and hurt.

The other night I heard a priest say, “Don’t be overcome by evil, but by good. Don’t look to God, look to yourselves”.  I instantly connected it with the way I feel.

When I was in Kindergarten there was a girl named Tina in our class. She looked different and dressed different. No one wanted to be friends with her and they called her weird. She ate lunch alone. When I came home from my first day of school, my Mom asked me about my day. I told her about Tina; how she was weird and no one wanted to be friends with her. My Mom told me that I was to go to school the next day, be her friend and eat lunch with her. I hated my Mom. She was making me a social outcast, just like Tina.  The next day I went to school, ate lunch with Tina ( I still remember what she was wearing!) and found out that she wasn’t weird. We became friends and I learned a valuable lesson that I have been passing down ever since…Be nice.

One idea, much too simple to legislate, but we do what we can, where we can…Be good to one another. Even the weird kid. The one with the bad haircut and old clothes. The one who, annoyingly, always raises his hand in class.  That homeless guy with the dog, who begs for money on the corner every day. That jerk that cut you off at the grocery store, the gas station, on the freeway. The family in front of you, paying for their groceries with food stamps.

Be nice. Smile. Wave. When that homeless guy throws you the peace sign, throw it right back. Volunteer. Donate. Offer help where you can. But don’t make them feel bad.  We all have our troubles. Some more obvious then others, and you never know what the breaking point might be for someone. So, please, just be nice. It probably won’t prevent bad things from happening, but you never know, and, at least, you will have done your part.

And, really, what else is there?

Posted in ideas-big & small | Leave a comment

Cold Weather Comfort- Moroccan Lamb Stew

I made a delicious stew last night and wanted to share…This is adapted from the Nourishing Traditions book (page 349, if you have it) because, as usual, I didn’t have all the ingredients their recipe called for.

We had a nice lamb roast over the weekend, so I needed to use up the rest of it.  I also used homemade turkey stock (used our T-day carcass for this) and I don’t skim the fat off because it makes everything so much richer! Also, leftover were some roasted root vegetables from another dinner. (I’m a freak about not wasting food!)  This recipe will make dinner for 4 hungry people and enough for a second round.

lamb roast or chops-leftover or pre-cooked (I used about 1.5 pounds) cut into chunks

Carrots, Potatoes, Turnips, Parsnips…go crazy with the roots!

6 cloves of garlic, peel and chop

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

4 tsp ground Cumin

1 TBSP freshly grated Ginger

1 Tsp sea salt

1 Tsp ground Turmeric

1 Tsp Paprika

1 Tsp ground Cinnamon

2 Tsp black pepper

juice of 1 small lemon OR a big squirt from the plastic lemon

2 quarts stock

1 cup coconut milk (I use the kind in the can because it’s thicker)

Put olive oil, all spices, onion and garlic in a soup pot. Cook and stir until the kitchen smells like heaven and the onions are getting clear (add some water if this mixture starts to get too sticky. You want a sludgy consistency).

Add lamb and stir to coat well.  Add all vegetables and stock. Simmer on medium until the vegetables have softened, then add coconut milk and stir in well.

I served this without garnish, but the original recipe suggests Cilantro.  My girl says this stew smells like Christmas!  If you make some, I’d love to hear any variations you made or how it turned out!

Posted in cooking | 2 Comments

A New Life for Carrot Juice Pulp?

Do you juice? Have you ever looked at all of that pulp left behind and thought about what a waste it is? I have.  Of course, I have chickens and turkeys that are happy to eat that beautiful rainbow confetti, but even then… Juicing takes a long time with a small return on investment, so I started looking for other ways to use that good stuff in the kitchen.

carrots

The day I decided to find a new use for my pulp, I happened to have a pint of carrot to work with. I looked for some ideas online (what DID we do before the internet??) and realized that it can be used in recipes like carrot cake/bread, the same as you would use grated carrots. Except, YOU DON’T HAVE TO GRATE!! Ahhh. the ideas started flowing.

I made a super fast chili, using leftover Lamb roast and misc fridge stuff. I included a pint of my canned tomatoes, pint of the strong garlic soup I made last week when we were starting to get sick, and some of the carrot pulp.  In 30 minutes the mixture thickened up and the end result tasted like it had been in the crock pot all day! WIN!

Next, my smoothie! Frozen mango, spinach leaves, carrot pulp, flax seeds and protein powder. YUM!

Now, I’m having a hot mug of organic carrot ginger soup (prepacked) to which I added more of the carrot pulp. It thickened it up AND adds more fiber and nutrition.

Tonight I’ll use the last of it, in place of chopped carrots, for our Portuguese Stew.

Who knew three cups of “garbage” could go so much farther than chicken feed?  Think I’ll try beets next.

Posted in cooking, Recycle-Reuse-Reinvent | 1 Comment