Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Day of Planting

People ask the farmer a lot when planting season starts...he always says "middle of April." So I have it in my head that we start on April 15th. He told me last night, April 13th, that he was starting today (the 14th)...I said, "Hey, that's a day early!" To which he replied, "I wanted to start 2 weeks ago!" Whatever, dude.

Planting season is inevitable, but it is always a rough transition around here. The kids are so used to Daddy's flexible winter schedule that they become quite concerned when they have to go to bed without him here. It's rough on Momma too, because I get really accustomed to going to the grocery alone and being free to make my own schedule at night, specifically going to exercise! But all that ends when planting begins. I become a single parent (sorta) and Daddy becomes an expert on current events (from listening to talk radio all day) and stays up past midnight looking up how to fix his planter or his GPS.

It is just what happens once April 15 rolls around...

Florida Food Freedom Act

Once upon a time, Super Wal-Mart did not exist. Large chain grocery stores were a foreign concept. Where did people get their food, you ask? Well, they either grew it themselves, or they purchased it directly from a farmer. Now days, it is quite rare to find people who grow and produce their own food. And unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to purchase any food products directly from the farmer. While food safety is of utmost importance, the current laws in place prevent farmers from selling directly to consumers without a food handler’s license and all the necessary other licensure for packaging/bottling/selling. Because these licenses, specialized equipment, and additional location renovations can cost a grower between $30 and $50 THOUSAND dollars, most opt to not sell directly to consumers. And I think we can all understand that dilemma.

However, there is a growing movement of Floridians who desire to purchase food and food products locally and are currently unable to do so. There are also a growing number of small and large scale farmers who would like to sell their products directly to consumers. State Senator Carey Baker-R is currently trying to alleviate the excessive state food permits that are keeping all of this from happening. It is called the Florida Food Freedom Act, Florida State Bill 1900, and it would allow family farms to develop a relationship with consumers who want to buy directly from the grower themselves. The bill does not do away with all permitting involved as the growers would still be required to use proper federal labeling and also complete some food safety training benchmarks. The bill does not include the legal sale of raw (non-pasturized) milk.

The benefits to such a bill passing are numerous. For starters, more local money would stay in the community as a result of the ability to buy from local growers. Also, it would allow for young people who are interested in agriculture to begin growing and selling their products without the usual start up costs of an agriculture enterprise. Imagine a viable local farmer’s market made up of the farmer’s themselves (young and old, small operations and large) who are growing and making a diverse combination of fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, jams, baked goods, etc…the list could go on and on. There would once again be the opportunity for the consumer to know the farmer who has grown their food and to make educated decisions on who to buy from. From my vantage point, it is a win-win situation for all involved.

If you’d like to read more about the bill and find out how to support it, you can visit here

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rich, Creamery, Bud-dah!

When I brought home farmer-hubby to meet my family when we were dating, he commented to me that he thought it was funny that we had butter on the table during dinner...uh...YEAH! Doesn't everyone? Well, apparently not. I love butter--what's not to love? And let me tell you...fresh butter straight from the fresh cream straight from the fresh milk straight from girlfriend herself....wowsers.

Nothing like it.

So here is the process:

Scoop the cream off the top of the chilled milk.

keep scooping! (forgive the color discrepancy...I am not the greatest is in real life, the yellow color of the first photo!)

It is SO THICK it is almost butter already!

Pour it into the food processor. Add salt.

Turn her on full blast.

A few minutes in, I check to see how things are all shaking out.

Lookin' mighty good in there!

Pouring off the 'sweet cream buttermilk'...(this is not cultured buttermilk like you buy at the store...that is a different product that undergoes a culturing process)

Getting all the buttermilk out to extend the shelf life of the butter (I use the sweet cream buttermilk in pancakes or biscuits)

The finished product...bright yellow rich creamery butter...on the table...where it belongs!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

4-2-10 Monticello News Article

Question: How many udders does a cow have? If you answered four, I promise I won’t laugh at you. That would have been my answer a few years ago too! Because of the fact that over the last 3 weeks I have been thoroughly acquainted with bovine anatomy, I will gently correct you…the answer is one. One udder, four teats. Aren’t you glad we cleared that up?

Now I have a confession to make: I am not the primary milker of Sweetums. I am the assistant milker. I realized early on in the milking process that I was not going to be able to go out in the morning by myself and milk the cow. This is the case for several reasons. First of all, I have a five month old baby that needs tending to early in the morning (plus 2 other youngens, but they aren’t nearly as dependent on me as the babe). Second of all, I have a healthy fear of my 800-lb animal with horns. In other words, as much as I love Sweetums, I don’t feel comfortable coaxing her into the milking stall by myself. And last but not least, milking a cow requires strength, stamina, and speed. Early on in the learning curve of milking Sweetums, the farmer and I would take turns milking her because of how tiring it was. I just wasn’t as fast as the farmer, and when Sweetums is done eating the scoop of sweet feed, she is done with milking-whether your bucket is full of milk or not! So my very gracious farmer-hubby has taken on the role of primary milker, and I stand by for moral support and back-seat milking advice. He is able to get about a gallon of milk in 15 minutes now!

I then carry in the bucket of milk and proceed with my duties. The assistant milker has several very important jobs and I take my responsibilities quite seriously. I strain the milk into glass jars and put it in the fridge. A few hours later, I scoop off the cream that has risen to the top to make butter, half & half, and ice cream. I then make yogurt from the extra milk. It is a good thing none of us have a dairy allergy or are counting calories! The past 3 weeks of enjoying fresh milk have been some of the most delicious weeks of our lives. I’m not trying to make you jealous, but this milk and the by-products of it is honestly the best in the world!

Many of my readers have told me about their experiences as children, growing up with a family milk cow. At first, it is a novelty but quickly it becomes a chore. Not a chore that is bothersome, but a chore none the less. It has a reward at the end. For us, this reward has been 3 years in the making and has come along with many ups and downs, joys and sorrows. It has all been worth it and it has taught me many things along the way. For some reason, I don’t think I’m done learning all that farm life has to teach me…