Monthly Archives: October 2013

Fun Ag Facts XIII

fun ag fact of the day: Pumpkins are usually orange but can sometimes be yellow, white, green or red.

fun ag fact of the day: Pomegranates will make a metallic sound when tapped when ripe

fun ag fact of the day: tart cherries contain 19 times the of beta carotene of blueberries and strawberries.

Fun ag fact of the day: The United States is the largest importer of pumpkins in the world.

Fun ag fact of the day: Italy is the world’s largest producer of artichokes, kiwi fruit, peeled tomatoes, vermouth, and wine!

fun ag fact of the day: There are over 700 varieties of peaches!

fun ag fact of the day: China is the largest producer of peaches in the world; they consider the peach as a symbol of longevity and good luck.

fun ag fact of the day: Both the Texas State Fair and Minnesota claim to have invented the first corn dog, sometime around 1940.

fun ag fact of the day: It’s nation filet mignon day! Filet Mignon comes from the tenderloin or psoas major muscle, which lays along both sides of the beef animal’s spine. It means “Dainty Filet” in French. This cut is the most tender muscle in the beef animal and it’s delicious!!

fun ag fact of the day: there is only one gene that separates peaches and nectarines – the one with the fuzz.

fun ag fact of the day: California is the nation’s number one Ice Cream producer, churning out over 131 million gallons last year.

fun ag fact of the day: 1 gallon of milk equals approximately 345 udder squirts!

fun ag fact of the day: There are more than 1,200 varieties of watermelon. CA and AZ are top producers.

fun ag fact of the day: cotton is in the same family as hibiscus, okra, and swamp mallow.

fun ag fact of the day: 99% of the commercial U.S. supply and 3/4 of the world trade of walnuts now come from California.

fun ag fact of the day: Cucumbers are believed to have originated in India 3,000 years ago.

fun  ag fact of the day: Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees, and are one of the only two nuts mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 43:11). Humans have eaten pistachio nuts for at least 9,000 years.

fun ag fact of the day: A pig’s squeal can be as loud as 115 decibels, 3 decibels higher than the sound of a supersonic airliner.

fun ag fact of the day: Spain in the second largest producer in the world of almonds, citrus juice (conc), mule meat, strawberries, tangerines & vermouth.

fun ag fact of the day: Spain in the largest producer in the world of carobs, olives & olive oil.

fun ag fact of the day: The United States is the largest producer of soybeans in the world followed by Brazil & Argentina. The United States, Brazil & Argentina produce roughly 80% of the world’s soybeans.

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Pigs: Year II

There was a time in the not so distant past where I was told I could not have pigs. They were too much work and no one had time for that. But as the years wore on, so did my whining.

Last year was a huge break through. I was told I could get three pigs, I accidentally got five.

Last year's five pigs

Last year’s five pigs

But last year’s pig project went very well. My Parents enjoyed having pigs on the ranch again, they were fun, amusing and gave us something to bond over. I tried to be a really good kid last year, so they would let me raise pigs again this year, I paid for the cutting and wrapping of my Parent’s pig, I sent a thank you note, shared my pork (I don’t care if they are my Parents, it is still important to recognize what they did for me). I worked hard and proved that I could raise pigs, even with a full-time job. My mornings, evenings and weekends were devoted to my pigs last year.

It must have worked because, guess what? I now have 11 pigs! It’s true, I do!

11 piglets. This was my truck yesterday. We stopped for a water break.

10 piglets. This was my truck yesterday. We stopped for a water break.

Well, one of those pigs is Princess Silly pig so she doesn’t really count.

Silly pig!!!  (She's a cowpig)

Silly pig!!! (She’s a cowpig)

Silly asleep in my bed. Isn't she cute?

Silly asleep in my bed. Isn’t she cute?

I used the beef cow money my Parents gave me for working for them this summer and invested back into the Ranch in the form of 8 heritage pigs and 2 commercial pigs. I plan on doing a taste test between the two different types of pork, I LOVE taste tests! I picked them up yesterday and spent pretty much all day with them today.

My non-pet pigs!

My 10 non-pet pigs!

It.was.glorious.

The piglets enjoying their new home! They are like so much rooting and eating to do!

The piglets enjoying their new home! They are like so much rooting and eating to do! Hoot dog is excited too, new friends!

I have a pig obsession. I could very easily turn into a crazy pig lady, well, wait, I think I already have. I have more pigs than cats. Oh dear. Ok, moving on…

Our bottle calves are less than pleased. Silly chases them around (she is a cowpig, remember),they think  these guys will too.

Our bottle calves are less than pleased. Silly chases them around (she is a cowpig, remember),they think these guys will too.

I learned a lot from my pigs last year. I also quit my full-time office job, this year, to raise meat animals for my local food community. I am following my dream right now and it feels great. I realized last year that I loved being on the Ranch, and it’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Granted it was so very much work, but I loved it! I thrived on it. I learned and shared so much last year, that this year, I have wonderful support from friends and family that are helping me gather pumpkins, fruit and vegetable waste, to cook for my pigs.

I learned last year that if I cook the pigs their own food two things happened. The first, the pigs loved it – every meal was their favoritest thing in the whole wide world, and they gained weight accordingly, a good thing. The second was I prevented a lot of food from being thrown into our local dump, and that made me feel good. It was a positive experience all the way around.

Their first acorns. They loved them! Good things I have TONS!

Their first acorns. They loved them! Good things I have TONS!

Pig Project Year II has started. I already have loads of pumpkins waiting for me to pick them up, I have a local bakery, The Cookie Shoppe giving me their old cookies (pigs love cookies!!! And yay Cookie Shoppe for supporting a local, female rancher! I heart you guys!!!!), and a local almond ranch giving me their waste. It is a stellar year for acorns, so in addition to their cooked food, the pigs will also forage. I am confident this year’s pork will be better than last!

Stay tuned as I am going to blog this whole experience again this year.

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If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls: Turkeys

Remember when I had a dream come true and I got to not only meet, Dr. Temple Grandin, but have lunch with her AND see her speak? She is my ag idol and hero, and I will never forget that day. Dr. Grandin is continuing with her amazing work by walking us through a turkey slaughter. Just in time for the holidays! (This next thing I’m gonna say is in sarcasm font and meant to be funny, so please don’t take it personally, K?) So when your vegan/vegetarian family member (we all have one) is all snarky about your knowledge of your meat, you will actually know how a commercial turkey arrives on your table. Knowledge is power my friends.

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Olive Curing

I take my lifestyle for granted. All the time. I can’t help it. It is my normal. But now and again, something reminds me, I am not normal. Most people don’t make their own soap, cure their own olives or make jams and jellies. Thankfully this is normal to me and I have a super cool family that has passed these arts down to me. YAY!

First some fun facts about California olives:

  • Olives were brought into California in the 1700’s by Franciscan missionaries from Mexico.
  • The trees can live from, on average 300 to 600 years (the oldest is over 5,000 years old!)
  • Generally, the hotter the region where the olives were picked, the bolder the flavor of olive oil.
  • 95% of the olives grown in California are canned as black-ripe or green-ripe olives.
  • California is responsible for producing 99% of all olive oil in the United States.
  • California is the only state where olives are grown commercially.
  • One ton of California olives produces 30-42 gallons of extra virgin olive oil.

 

This is what an olive tree looks like, pretty huh?

This is what an olive tree looks like, pretty huh?

However as I talk about this stuff on my social media I am often reminded that these arts are not as normal as they once were and I should be sharing and talking about them more than I do.

Ready to pick.

Ready to pick.

I realize this because I have stories like this: we had some friends over a few years ago. They were foodies. Now these foodies made it clear to me (a simple ranch kid) that they knew way more than this simple ranch kid about where food comes from. They knew from the internet and a class they took once. So of course I told them we had olive trees on the ranch and asked if they wanted to try fresh olives, right off the tree. Being experts in all things food, they were adamant that they must have some fresh olives.

Cured olives!

Cured olives!

Normally I would have explained to these people that fresh olives are gross and bitter and gross and nasty and we do not eat them until we cure them (did I mention they are gross and nasty?). But since these people were experts, who was I to tell them differently? It was pretty funny when they tasted the un-cured olives. They didn’t think so though.

My new olive crock! The 5 gallon crocks we had were just too big for me to handle. This is a 3 gallon and I love it.

My new olive crock! The 5 gallon crocks we had were just too big for me to handle. This is an 3 gallon and I love it.

Cured Olives

You will need:
Mature green olives
Lye
Water
Salt

Cleaned olives ready for lye.

Cleaned olives ready for lye.

Use olives that are mature but still green. You can purchase lye at most hardware stores. However due to all the meth-heads cooking drugs it’s getting harder and harder to find lye. Rinse you olives and pick all debris out. Place them in a glass or porcelain jars or crocks. You will then need to determine how much lye you will use.

Use gloves and safety glasses when working with lye. It's no joke.

Use gloves and safety glasses when working with lye. It’s no joke.

You will need to cover your olives with this lye solution. Add a solution that has been mixed at a ratio of 1 gallon of water (at 65 to 70 degrees) to 4 tablespoons lye. Soak your olives in this for 12 hours. (If you are working with a small amount of olives 1 quart of water to 1 tablespoon of lye works).

Adding the lye to the fresh olives (I did it outside because it scared me so  bad).

Adding the lye to the fresh olives (I did it outside because it scared me so bad).

The lye solution will have turned brownish after you have soaked your olives for 12 hours. This is good!
Now do the same thing again, with the same ratio of lye solution for another 12 hours. Drain and rinse with fresh water. Cut into the biggest olive, if the lye solution has reached the pit your cure is done! You will want to rinse and drain the olives 3 to 4 times after the lye has reached the pit.

Brown olive water. This is good.

Brown olive water. This is good.

If two lye baths weren’t enough, go ahead and do one more lye solution bath for 12 more hours. Rinse your olives again and soak in cold water.

Washed olives.

Washed olives.

Soak the olives in fresh, cold water changing the water three (or more) times a day for the next 3 days to 5 days. At the end of the 3 to 5 days, taste an olive to make sure there is no lye flavor!

Water is getting clearer!

Water is getting clearer!

Finally, soak the olives for at least one day and up to 3 days in a brine solution mixed at a ratio of 6 tablespoons salt to 1 gallon of water, changing the brine solution about every 12 hours. Congratulations, you’ve cured olives.

Yum.

Yum.

We like to add a chopped jalapeno or garlic cloves to our olives at this point. Store the olives, jalapeno and/or garlic in the brine solution in the frig. Use within two months.

Right after I added the brine, before I added the lids and placed in the refrigerator.

Right after I added the brine, before I added the lids and placed in the refrigerator.

References:

http://weolive.com/about-olive-oils/fun-facts/

http://www.foodreference.com/html/folives.html

http://fruitandnuteducation.ucdavis.edu/education/fruitnutproduction/

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Pomegranate Jalapeno Jam

Pomegranate jalapeno jam. The best thing ever.

Pomegranate jalapeno jam. AKA the best thing ever.

I had a Facebook friend mention she made pomegranate jalapeno jam for Christmas gift. Since we have a few pomegranate trees and I grew a crapton of jalapenos, I felt the immediate need to make it. I scampered out to the garden and picked my special hot jalapenos and a bucket of pomegranates.

This is what a pomegranate tree looks like.

This is what a pomegranate tree looks like.

Juicing pomegranates is its own special kind of fun, the little pips will spit red juice at you and stain everything, the pith holds tight to the pips, it’s a lot of work. I have found if you put your pomegranate under water it makes it much easier to remove the pips.

Trust me, this prevents a lot of mess.

Trust me, this prevents a lot of mess.

My Mom has one of those industrial steam juicers, that makes it a whisper easier to juice them as well. If you don’t have access to pomegranates just go buy a bottle of Pom Wonderful juice and cheat, actually I highly recommend doing that, it will save you a lot of time.

Steam juicer. I love this thing.

Steam juicer. I love this thing.

3.5 cups pomegranate juice

1 cup jalapeno pulp (about 6 large)

6 Tbsp Classic Pectin (Or 1 box)

1/2 tsp butter

5 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

Puree your jalapenos with 1/2 cup pomegranate juice in your cuisinart, you  may use less or more jalapenos, just make sure you end up with 4.5 cups of liquid.

The pom/jalapeno mixture. This will singe your nose hair's, beware.

The pom/jalapeno mixture. This will singe your nose hair’s, beware.

Put the juice mixture in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Add up to 1/2 tsp butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a full boil, stirring constantly.

Pips! Before juicing.

Pips! Before juicing.

Add the sugar and lemon juice, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Leave 1/4 inch headspace in your jars.  Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Serve over pork chops, or cream cheese, or off the spoon.
Pomegranates are pretty.

Pomegranates are pretty.

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Deer Hunting: Cutting and Wrapping

WARNING! This might be considered by some to be gross, inappropriate, or tragic, but I think it is extremely important share the how’s, what’s and why’s of our food. If you have any questions about anything you see please ask – I love to share about the ranch.

When you hunt, I think the easy part is the actual hunt. After you kill your buck you then must skin it, hang it and cut and wrap it. I can safely say from experience, I could not do these things by myself, yet.

I’m very lucky that I have a wonderful group of people that are there to teach me and support me. This year I felt like I learned more than ever before. I’m ready to do it again!

The first step after you kill a buck is to skin it and remove the organs. My Dad and Uncle lectured us for days about this process, they feel like you can really screw up good buck meat if you do this process wrong.

You start skinning on the back leg.

You start skinning on the back leg being careful to avoid the scent glad at the knee.

The scent glad on a deer is on the back inside leg, the bucks will pee on themselves there, and it stinks. My Dad and Uncle explain to us every time we kill a buck to remove those, very carefully.

You work down from the legs until you can hang the deer on a gamble  and continue skinning.

You work down from the back legs until you can hang the deer on a gamble and continue skinning.

Deer on the gamble.

Deer on the gamble. Your goal here is to keep the deer as clean as you can as you dress him.

Once the deer is on the gamble you can start skinning. My Dad uses the "punch" method - where you kinda use your fist to remove the hide.

Once the deer is on the gamble you can start skinning. My Dad uses the “punch” method – where you kinda use your fist to remove the hide.

The exit wound from my shot. I basically shot his heart, so his death was very fast.

The exit wound from my shot. I basically shot his heart, so his death was very fast.

See how the hide came off nicely? No hunks of meat attached? That is some expert skinning work right there, I have a lot to learn.

See how the hide came off nicely? No hunks of meat attached? That is some expert skinning work right there, I have a lot to learn.

Once he is skinned, it's time to remove the organs.

Once he is skinned, it’s time to remove the organs.

Removing the bladder can be a scary job. If you puncture it, buck pee will get on your meat, and trust me, you don't want that.

Removing the bladder can be a scary job. If you puncture it, buck pee will get on your meat, and trust me, you don’t want that.

After you remove the bladder you can safely remove the rest of the organs. My Dad is holding the heart here.

After you remove the bladder you can safely remove the rest of the organs. My Dad is holding the heart here.

After the deer is skinned and gutted he is placed in a “buck bag” and transported to our neighbor Pete’s walk-in box to hang for a few days. Pete was kind enough to offer to cut my buck up for me. I was really excited because that meant I could watch, learn and help! Pete has a great space to cut and wrap meat and he is amazing at it. This whole process probably took less than 30 minutes.

Pete started with the backstrap. Arguably the best cut.

Pete started with the backstrap. Arguably the best cut.

Pretty.

Pretty.

He made steaks, roasts and stew meat for me.

He made steaks, roasts and stew meat for me.

I wrapped.

I wrapped.

Daniel labeled. I told him this was a special package for our harvest party, he labeled it as such.

Daniel labeled. I told him this was a special package for our harvest party, he labeled it as such.

Before and after.

Before and after.

I didn’t kill the biggest of bucks this year, but as they say ‘you can’t eat the horns’. I find that these little bucks taste much better than the old bucks anyway. I was thrilled with myself and had an amazing time learning and doing. Next year I plan on being almost able to do this all myself. This is a skill that is important to me and I feel like it is becoming more rare, not ok!

Dad, Uncle Steven and Pete thank you so much for included me and letting me have this incredible experience.  It means a lot to me that you made a big deal over this for me. I can’t wait to eat this guy and share him with my urban friends that don’t get to eat yummy venison ever.

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Deer Hunting 2013

As most of you know I drew a deer tag this year. It’s been a long time since I have had the urge to hunt, around 6 years. After years and years of having the local dear population gorge themselves on my garden, I’ve had enough. I figured, it’s time they fed me for a change!

For the record hunting isn’t a huge passion of mine. It’s generally early, cold, I have to pee outside and there is no where to wash my hands, a little too much like camping. This year was different, I had a really, really good time. It was cold and stuff, but it was worth it!

I wanted to share some pictures from the few days I spent hunting. When I thought about it, many people in the general population never gets to see this. So, I’m sharing.

Opening day it raining, it was freezing because I did not dress for that, but I powered through and took some neat pictures.

Opening day and it’s raining, I’m freezing because I did not dress for that, but I powered through and took some neat pictures.

My Dad (pictured), loves to hunt. It's his happy place. I started to hunt because it was a way for me to bond with him.

My Dad (pictured), loves to hunt. It’s his happy place. I started to hunt because it was a way for me to bond with him.

Watching dawn break over the hills above Chico was stunning. And cold.

Watching dawn break over the hills above Chico was stunning. And cold.

Clouds over a canyon. panoramic

Clouds over a canyon. panoramic

My Uncle had to sit in between my cousin and I because apparently "we were talking too much".

My Uncle had to sit in between my cousin and I because apparently “we were talking too much”. Also: notice the RAIN?

The first day ended with no luck. Mainly just doe's and a few fawns. Can you see them?

The first day ended with no luck. Mainly just doe’s and a few fawns. Can you see them?

The second day I went was just my Dad and I. My Dad and I haven’t had a Daddy/Daughter hunt in years. I think I can only remember once, actually. So it was a lot of fun, to spend a day together on the ranch. Now this particular ranch I don’t know that well. I didn’t grow up on it, I didn’t spend much time on it because of my Dad’s insane interesting family. Things have calmed down so I now feel safe to be there. The day quickly turned into sight seeing and story telling, as we realized the deer population was just not there. My Dad mentioned several times to “put that in the blog”, referring to some picture or story.

My Dad told me a story about how he missed a week of high school to build this fence (it's in pure rock and very steep). His PE teacher was gonna flunk him - my dad's shop teacher saved his butt. My Dad pointed out to the PE teacher that he was being physical by building this fence. The PE teacher is wasn't just about being physical, it was about "getting along with your fellow man". The shop teacher reminded the PE teacher about my Dad's infamous older brothers. Dad passed.

My Dad told me a story about how he missed a week of high school to build this fence (it’s in pure rock and very steep). His PE teacher was gonna flunk him – my Dad’s shop teacher saved his butt. My Dad pointed out to the PE teacher that he was being physical by building this fence. The PE teacher said it wasn’t just about being physical, it was about “getting along with your fellow man”. The shop teacher reminded the PE teacher about my Dad’s infamous older brothers. Dad passed.

It's like a cairn, but natural! Isn't it neat!?

It’s like a cairn, but natural! Isn’t it neat!?

One of my favorite places on the ranch is here. It's Indian grinding bowls built into the creek bed.

One of my favorite places on the ranch is here. It’s Indian grinding bowls built into the creek bed.

My Dad and Uncle (the one that is featured in this blog) took all of my cousins and I here when we were little. It was a glorious day of my childhood I remember well.

My Dad and Uncle (the one that is featured in this blog) took all of my cousins and I here when we were little. It was a glorious day of my childhood I remember well.

Part of the ranch has these beautiful rock walls built on it. They are impressive. I cannot imagine how hard and heavy it would have been to build.

Part of the ranch has these beautiful rock walls built on it. They are impressive. I cannot imagine how hard and heavy it would have been to build.

This was my favorite part of the rock walls, it's a little tunnel for a creek!

This was my favorite part of the rock walls, it’s a little tunnel for a creek!

Seriously, you guys, look at this!

Seriously, you guys, look at this!

A super neat tree. My Dad happens to mention it would be a great place for bridal pictures. Subtle, Dad, subtle.

A super neat tree. My Dad happened to mention it would be a great place for bridal pictures. Subtle, Dad, subtle.

Again, we saw no legal bucks. Just doe's, see?

Again, we saw no legal bucks. Just doe’s, see?

This is a spring where the Native American's carved  a drinking basin (sorry for the crappy picture).

This is a spring where the Native American’s carved a drinking basin (sorry for the crappy picture).

The Sutter Butte from the ranch.

The Sutter Butte from the ranch.

The other side of the fence is Upper Bidwell Park and directly ahead, the City of Chico.

The other side of the fence is Upper Bidwell Park and directly ahead, the City of Chico.

Finally at 7:00 AM on Saturday morning (the THIRD morning), I spotted a little buck, and by 7:01, I had shot him through the chest. My Dad and Uncle said I almost missed. I say I planned it like that so I wouldn’t waste any meat because I never would have heard the end of it. I maintain that a childhood filled with duck hunter on Nintendo prepared me to be a very, very good shot. Plus part of hunting is stick poking. If you screw up, or miss you hear about it FOR YEARS. I make an effort to screw up as little as possible.

YAY! After years of supplying the local deer population with tomatoes and other fresh veggies, they are supply me with meat! Plus it was a lot of fun to spend time with my family, learn about the ranch and take some neat pictures share.

YAY! After years of supplying the local deer population with tomatoes and other fresh veggies, they are supplying me with meat! Plus it was a lot of fun to spend time with my family, learn about the ranch and take some neat pictures to share.

I’m going to up to cut and wrap by buck tomorrow. I plan on showing that and the field dressing of my buck in the next blog. Stayed tuned and leave me questions if there is anything you want to know. Thank you for looking!

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