3 Amazing Benefits of Raw Milk

As my father-in-law likes to say, “Raw milk is good and good for you!” But what makes it good for you?

We’ve talked about what raw milk is and we’ve talked about is raw milk safe.

Now I want to talk a little more about why raw milk is good for you. I’ve mentioned before that raw milk contains natural enzymes.

These enzymes are what help your stomach break down the milk and digest it and process the protein chains of milk. They also help your body to absorb the calcium present in milk. (Did you know that when milk is pasteurized and those enzymes destroyed, your body doesn’t absorb the calcium contained in milk?!) On a personal note, I have found that when my stomach feels “churn-y”, drinking a glass of raw milk will help settle it, again, due to the enzymes.

Bacteria. It gets a bad rap. But did you know that exposure to bacteria is actually what makes your immune system strong? As a mom of two on a farm, there have been PLENTY of times when BOTH of our girls have EATEN DIRT. Again, as a mom, my general reaction is to TOTALLY FREAK OUT. Then you find yourself saying things like, “It’s probably good for them…” (Just wait. If you’re a first time mom…At some point in your life, you will very likely have a similar thought) Obviously, I don’t let my children go around eating handfuls of dirt. That would just be gross. And so gritty feeling. But I do know that my kiddos, growing up on a farm and drinking raw milk do not get sick very often. When they do, they are over it in just a few days, like it didn’t even touch them. The exposure to good bacteria really IS good for them. I’m not suggesting we don’t use basic hygienic practices at all, but when we live on antibacterial soap and purell hand sanitizer, we’re not only killing the bacteria that has potential to make us sick, but also the good bacteria that will make us strong. Same goes for milk. If you pasteurize it, you’re losing all that beneficial bacteria that will strengthen your immune system and keep you healthier.

Fun fact: Did you know that children that drink raw milk are less likely to get ear infections? Neither of my children (4 yrs and 10 months) have ever had an ear infection. Ever. And our family is not the only case. I have a dear customer that drank our milk for years that told me of her 6 children, the first was prone to ear infections (which was before raw milk) and the other 5 NEVER HAD EVEN ONE. Because after the first was when they started drinking raw milk.

Seasonal allergies. To be quite honest, I am not a sufferer of these. That being said, I have witnessed first hand the pure misery of seasonal allergies in 11 years of marriage to my husband. When we were in college, every fall and spring were full of watery, red eyes and constant sneezing. (Before we drank raw milk) It was horrible. Sometimes it would get so bad, he would hardly be able to breathe between sneezing fits. And yes, this man went on to be a farmer who is constantly exposed to grass, hay, and pollen outdoors. What keeps this at bay? Raw milk. Again. For the win. Raw milk actually helps prevent your body from having a histamine reaction to seasonal allergens. Kind of levels the playing field. When my husband is regularly drinking raw milk, you would never even know he had allergies. Seriously. The difference is night and day. This is again due to good bacteria within the raw milk.

Okay. This one isn’t a health benefit. But man, it’s quite the perk of drinking raw milk. Taste. There is absolutely no comparison. Raw milk tastes so rich and so creamy and so naturally sweet! It’s like you are drinking ice cream. Seriously. It. Is. So. Good. I suppose we could call this a health benefit because the delicious flavor will make you want to drink more and more of it. ;) Which enables you to get all the other wonderful health benefits!

~JoAnna Bleasdale

Raw milk - it's NOT pasteurized?! Is that SAFE?!

I think right after what is raw milk, the most common question we get is “Is raw milk safe to drink?”

Very simply put, yes.

But here’s the why behind the yes.

When pasteurization was invented, refrigeration did not exist. People were pretty much unaware of germs and what caused sickness. Hygiene was not really a thing. Neither were hygienic practices on dairy farms. (Google swill milk scandal sometime. YUCK. Poor cows! Imagine the milk that came from that!) It’s no wonder milk wasn’t safe to drink! What Louie Pasteur discovered was, put simply, if you boil the milk, it becomes clean and safe to drink. It kills the germs that can make you sick.

What Pasteur didn’t know what what else pasteurization kills. All milk contains natural enzymes that assist the body in digestion. When you pasteurize milk, you are cooking out those amazing enzymes which makes it very difficult for the body to break down. Especially because cow milk has longer protein chains that goat milk or human breast milk. That being said, cow milk can be easily digested by most of the general population if those enzymes are left intact.

The other “goodie” in raw milk is bacteria. Yep. The kind that helps to keep your immune system active, healthy and strong! Raw milk is a great way to combat a weak immune system and also fight against seasonal allergies! Pasteurization burns out all bacteria, including the beneficial stuff that actually fights against the germs and bad bacteria.

Okay. So what do we have now that makes raw milk safe?

  1. Refrigeration. When milk is cooled rapidly (from 102 to 38 degrees F within 20 min) it prevents germs from growing that could potentially make you sick.

  2. Enzymes. These babies, as discussed, make it so your stomach can easily digest cow milk. (Seriously. I can’t tell you how many of my customers are “lactose intolerant”)

  3. Bacteria. The kind that eats bad bacteria for breakfast and makes your immune system strong! (Literally, the good bacteria actually eats the bad!)

  4. Clean practices for keeping animals and cleaning equipment and animals properly.

This is just a basic run down. If you’re interested and looking for some REALLY good info on this, watch this video: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/01/cdc-misrepresents-raw-milk-statistics.aspx

~JoAnna Bleasdale

Back to basics: What IS raw milk?

I think one of the questions we get most frequently from folks that have never tried raw milk, is simply: What IS raw milk? Most of our customers that own a herd share with our farm already know this but I know there are folks that may be just beginning their research into it.

The short answer, raw milk is milk in its most natural form. It has not had anything done to change it, besides being strained and cooled. What the heck does that do?! You might be thinking.

I usually feel it helps to also explain what pasteurized milk is. The pasteurization process was created to keep milk clean and keep people from getting sick. At the time, there was no refrigeration and thus, germs would simply multiply and make the milk really gross and cause the drinker to get ill with a variety of different diseases. Pasteurization is, essentially, boiling the milk at a very high temperature which burns out any bad germs that may be lurking in the milk. While this sounds great, you’re also losing two of the biggest benefits of the milk by boiling/pasteurizing it: good bacteria and natural enzymes.

So lets talk about these two main benefits and what they do for you. We’ll start with the good bacteria. Milk is a good environment for germs to grow. However, modern technology of bulk tanks allow us to cool milk to a temperature of 38 degrees (F) within about 20 minutes of milking the cows. Crazy! This effectively kills any germs or bad bacteria that may be lingering in the milk. The awesome part of leaving the bacteria in the milk is there’s also really good bacteria in the milk. These guys help to kill off any germs as well. The good bacteria will actually eat the bad! How cool is that?! And, bonus, when the good bacteria is taken into the body while drinking milk. it also works to strengthen your immune system which keeps you healthier. It even helps fight off seasonal allergies. Just ask my husband, Ben. He should probably never have been a farmer since he’s allergic to both certain grasses and calves…That’s kinda what cows and farming are about! That being said, when he’s regularly drinking our delicious raw milk, his allergies are virtually non-existent. Definitely don’t wanna burn that out!!

The second of the two main benefits of raw milk is probably my favorite: natural enzymes. These babies are truly amazing. I’m 32 and when I was growing up, not that many people were lactose intolerant. Of course there were some, but they were rather few and far between. Fast forward to now, and “dairy-free” is a thing and it’s everywhere. So many people are diagnosed as lactose intolerant. But did you know, this may not necessarily be true?! WHAT?! Yes. Remember how I said pasteurization burns out the natural enzymes in milk? Well those enzymes are what actually help the stomach to digest the milk. I have countless members of our herd share program that have been diagnosed as lactose intolerant and told they can’t drink milk or have dairy anymore. Personally, I would be DEPRESSED if I was told that. All that being said, my “lactose intolerant” customers can drink our milk because of the amazing natural enzymes! Their bodies don’t reject the milk because the enzymes break up those long protein chains that are sometimes harder to digest. I’ve actually found that almost nothing settles my tummy better than drinking a glass of raw milk.

So there we are! This tells you just a little about raw milk and why it’s delicious and SO good for you! Good bacteria that strengthens your immune system and natural enzymes that help even the more sensitive of stomachs to digest it! How cool is that!

~JoAnna B.

Why are your cows so skinny?!

 One of our sweet cows, a few weeks after calving. (When the mama cow’s body first produces milk is when she is the skinniest)

One of our sweet cows, a few weeks after calving. (When the mama cow’s body first produces milk is when she is the skinniest)

We often get asked “Why are your cows so skinny?! Don’t you feed them anything?!” I can promise you, our girls get the highest quality hay and pasture we can offer them. There are a few things that make dairy cows different from the beef cows you’re probably used to seeing in fields (black angus, white charolais, or the brown/white faced herefords)

  1. 1. It’s hard to keep dairy cows on a pasture based system. Grasses are mostly made up of proteins, while high quality pastures are usually super high in protein. They are also low on energy. Just like a human, it’s hard to keep a cow looking plump eating only protein and skipping pasta.

  2. Dairy cows (especially jerseys, like we milk) make so much milk in the first few months of their lactations, it isn’t even possible for one calf to drink all of it. A jersey cow can easily maintain 4-5 calves by herself. Producing this much milk, reduces body fat.

  3. Dairy cows are not supposed to be “fat”. It would actually be unhealthy if a dairy cow looked like a typical beef cow like a black angus. Their health would be at serious risk and their bodies in danger of going into ketosis. That may be a buzz word in today’s culture and a state to strive for in your own diet, but it’s seriously unhealthy for dairy cows!

  4. We don’t feed grain in the amounts that conventional dairy farms do. Most dairy farms feed what is called a TMR (Total Mixed Ration) this gives the cows everything they need: Minerals, hay, grain, etc. in order to properly balance their diet completely. That being said, often times, the cows eat the TMR and nothing else. No pasture, no grass, nothing. They’re kept in the barn to eat their TMR which is designed to keep their body balanced and producing the highest amount of milk possible. The result of a TMR? Often times, (depending on the ration. If it’s too high in grain) it causes the cows’ livers to burn out and puts the delicate pH balance of the cows stomachs out of balance which can cause you to lose your entire herd of cows!
    **Did you know: The bacteria/pH in the cows rumen (one of their multiple stomachs) is what actually feeds the cow! The cow eats grass and hay which feeds the bacteria and the bacteria feeds the cow!

  5. We often hear from other farmers how healthy our cows look. This is always so comforting to hear! We like to know we’re doing a good job. Our girls’ fur is slick (smooth, not rough or patchy looking), their eyes and ears are bright, and they have good, strong appetites.

We work very hard to keep our girls healthy and happy. We don’t push them to produce the highest amount of milk possible so their bodies don’t burn out after 3-5 years. (Some of our best producers are 7+ years old and going strong!) We keep their diets as natural as possible for their own health and for yours as well! Whatever they eat, goes into the milk which is why we avoid GMOs, antibiotics and other substances that could adversely effect their health or yours.

Recipe: Stromboli AKA The Big Mac, Perfected

Y’all…I can’t even. This one is just too good not to share.

Let’s start by saying, there are a few things you should know about me and our family.


1. We love Publix. We literally go almost every week. It started because Ben grew up in FL and something their family did was get subs from the deli at Publix. When he moved to TN when he was 16, he was pretty much disgusted with every other sub shop option. Now we go because I love the entire experience: employees are amazing, free samples and recipes, buy one get one free sales CONSTANTLY on anything and everything, THEIR SUBS. Yeah, it’s the best.

2. I’m not gonna lie, I grew up eating McDonald’s. And again, being completely honest, I still love the taste of a Big Mac. But I really do avoid it at all costs because I know it’s not good for me.

This is a problem because I miss that flavor. Well, guys, Publix has fixed this conundrum for me. This recipe tastes like a Big Mac…But imagine the perfect Big Mac. It doesn’t taste fake, it doesn’t taste chemically, just oh so good. If fast food went to Heaven and was perfected, it would taste like this.

Recipe can be found here. But I’ll include it below as well.

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GREAT AMERICAN BURGER STROMBOLI

source: http://www.publix.com/recipes-planning/aprons-recipes/great-american-burger-stromboli

Ingredients

Nonstick aluminum foil
1 lb lean ground beef (I used ground pork! Both are delicious!)
1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing
1 refrigerated pizza dough (14–15 oz) (I make my own pizza dough! Use this EASY recipe! You’ll never go back.)
12 dill pickle chips (I chopped up a Claussen dill pickle half. Because we’re pickle snobs…)
6 slices American cheese (eew. No. Use real cheese, please.)
**Optional ingredients
Half small onion, diced
Hand full fresh spinach, chopped

Bacon crumbles. A goodly amount.

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Preheat large, nonstick sauté pan on medium-high 1–2 minutes. Place meat in pan; brown 4–5 minutes, stirring to crumble, and until no pink remains. Drain any fat from meat, then combine meat and dressing in large bowl.

  2. Unroll dough onto lined baking sheet and stretch into a 13- x 9-inch rectangle. Place meat filling lengthwise down center of dough, spreading evenly, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with pickles and cheese. Roll one long side tightly around filling (like a cinnamon roll); press edges to seal.

  3. Bake stromboli 18–20 minutes or until brown. Let stand 5 minutes to cool. Slice and serve with additional dressing on the side, if desired.

A couple of quick notes from my version:

  1. I added diced onions because onions are probably my favorite allium in the world.

  2. I added chopped fresh spinach because our family loves spinach and I try to sneak it in wherever I can. (And not tell my 3 year old)

  3. I used some of our ground pork rather than the burger because it’s what I had on hand at the time. When I tried the sample at Publix, it was made with ground beef. Both are delicious.

  4. If you love pork and you wanna add some bacon bits, it’s probably a good idea. We did. It made it like a bacon cheese burger.

  5. Of course I didn’t use american cheese. It’s not cheese. And I hate it. I used a blend of 4 types of cheddar. But swiss would be amazing in this.

You need to try this immediately. It’s so unbelievably good and will be added to our regular menu, for sure! Your taste buds will thank you.

~JoAnna B.

Yes, you can still drink milk!

Most people are probably familiar with lactose intolerance. It means that ice cream, butter, yogurt, cheese and most any other dairy product have suddenly become the enemy and you now have to find an alternative form of milk to put on your morning cereal or in your morning cup of joe. Personally, I think if I were told I could no longer have dairy, I would probably burst into tears every time I was in the dairy section of the grocery store. Part of this is probably from being a dairy farmer, but my goodness, do I love me some dairy!

Don't despair yet though. One of the cool things that we've learned over the years of being a raw milk dairy is that raw milk can still be consumed by many folks that are diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Yup. Who knew?! When milk is pasteurized, it burns everything beneficial out of the milk.
If you think about anti-bacterial hand sanitizer for a second, it kills all bacteria. Good or bad. it's all gone. They do warn you of this on the labels "Kills 99.9% of bacteria." Great! But you kinda want some bacteria or else your immune system gets out of whack and you get sick more often because you aren't exposed to enough germs for your body to build up antibodies to protect you.

I promise I'm coming back to milk. Pasteurization is the anti-bacterial of the dairy world. It was originally invented because refrigeration didn't exist and people got sick. (That's the extremely simplified version) However, they can't really control what happens to all of the good stuff that's in milk when it's heated to kill the bad sickness causing bacteria. But those good bacteria and wonderful enzymes are what help you to digest the milk. And raw milk still contains those! Often times folks aren't lactose intolerant, their stomachs simply can't digest milk that has the very things that help the body digest that milk taken out of it.

Time after time, we've gotten calls, emails, texts and facebook posts from customers thanking us profusely for providing them with milk. They are so excited to be able to drink milk again! (Can you imagine not being able to drink milk with your cookies??)

There is more than one allergy that gets the blanket diagnosis of lactose intolerance so obviously not all folks that get this diagnosis will be able to have dairy, raw or not. But it's DEFINITELY worth a try! Life is too short to live without dairy. And besides, what else will you drink with delicious homemade cookies?

Have crockpot, will cook meat.

I recently discovered just about the simplest recipe for cooking ANY meat.

Farming is a lot of work and often times one of the things that falls to the wayside is cooking. (Among other household chores) When we decided to throw kiddos in the mix, meals kinda became more mandatory. When it was just the two of us, we'd skip a meal (or 2...) here or there if we were simply too busy to make anything. Dinner was particularly a challenge because we often wouldn't finish the evening until 7 or 8pm. Kinda late to start cooking. Sometimes we would have enough left from what we made from lunch to carry over to dinner, but generally, it would be starting from scratch. One of the conveniences that most folks probably take for granted (I know we did!) is being able to either run out to the grocery store or a restaurant and grab something quick on these late nights. Since we live a minimum of 20-30 minutes from the nearest grocery store or restaurant, that's not really an option for us. Not to mention, you don't wanna do that EVERY night!

I had to come up with a solution. Broiling is pretty quick but if I don't have the presence of mind to thaw something around lunch time, it ain't happenin'. I found a recipe for ribs that was extremely simple and delicious: beer, ribs, BBQ sauce in the crock pot. We tried it. Man oh man! That was some good eating! As I experimented more, I discovered that this simple recipe can actually be used with virtually any cut of pork OR beef! Here's what I do:

1 can or bottle of ANY kind of beer.

I tend to prefer darker beers for this because they give it a deeper, richer flavor, but seriously. Any beer. (you can also use wine! Dry wines are best.)

1 hunk of ANY kind of beef or pork

Yep. Just about anything works. Our favorites to use are:
Beef

Ribs
Stew meat
Lower quality cuts of steak (Round, loin tip, sirloin, etc)
Chuck or shoulder roast
Brisket (Holy dang. It's good on brisket, y'all.)

Pork
Ham slice
Shoulder slice
Ribs

The shoulder slice lends itself to this recipe a bit better and ham slice lends itself to broiling like pork chops or roast in the oven just a little better but they are fairly interchangeable from what we've found.

Your favorite seasonings

We use Montreal Steak. (It's just salt, pepper, dried garlic and dried onion)

BBQ Sauce

Make it or buy it. Whatever you do normally. I do probably a cup or so of this. Depends on the size of the hunk of meat I'm cooking that day. Just eyeball what looks good. (**Note: if substituting wine for beer, you may want to leave BBQ sauce off.)

And then what? You may be asking. Then turn your crock pot on. (That's an important step...Ask me how I know.........) I usually shoot for 4hrs on high or 8hrs on low.


When you pull that delicious hunk of meat out of the crock pot, you're gonna be pretty happy. We either serve over rice with veggies as a side or put it on sandwiches like a pulled pork (or beef). Either way is delicious. You can dress it up, or dress it down. Add veggies, switch up your sides, whatever works for you and your family. But let me tell you, you will not be disappointed if you try this. You'll probably just wish there was more.

Ground what?!

As some of you may know, we used a new processor this last time with our piggies. We wanted to have the option of getting sausage links. Yes, of course, for our customers but also because we love brats in our family and couldn't wait to try some from our own pork!

In my excitement (and general confusion of using a new processor) I got a bit confused while filling out the cut sheet. I get a little flustered sometimes and forget to do simple things like, you know, ask questions. *sigh* Anyway, somehow I understood that we would be getting the flavors I chose in the sausage links only and then the ground sausage would be traditional breakfast sausage. To my surprise, we picked up our pork last week and I discovered that this was not the case. Apparently, whatever flavors I chose (in this case, bratwurst, polish sausage, italian sweet and italian sweet (hot) ) also were used on the ground pork. I was rather disappointed with myself for my oversight and felt pretty ridiculous having NOT clarified this when I was filling out the cut sheet. I had terrible images of no one wanting to buy our pork simply because I had messed this up and the flavors I selected being completely unbearable. (Have I mentioned I'm a worrier?)

Time to end all my worry. I grabbed a package of ground bratwurst (To me, this seems incredibly strange) and some potatoes and made a breakfast casserole. Well...Let me tell you, that stuff was delicious. Seriously one of the best casseroles I've made! Usually this recipe calls for chicken but I substituted the sausage instead because how can you possibly go wrong with sausage, potatoes and cheese? (Topped with green onions and bacon crumbles). The answer is, you can't. Nope. Can't go wrong.

The ground bratwurst, to me, simply tasted like any other mild ground sausage. I was pleasantly surprised to taste something familiar rather than something unusual. Just goes to show you, sometimes you "screw up" but it works out for the best. I haven't tried it yet, but I am guessing that italian sweet and hot would be ever so yummy as meatballs or in a meat marinara sauce. Oh my. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

-JoAnna

Cows of a different color

 All four of these ladies are jerseys!

All four of these ladies are jerseys!

Yep, that's right: all 4 of these cows are jerseys. Meet Cupcake, (back left), Peanut Butter (Back right), Betty (Center, black cow) and Cookie (front, black and white). Jerseys can be all different colors. This is one of the reasons I love the breed. Betty is 1/8th holstein. Just enough to keep her a lovely black and make her one heck of a milker! Cookie is 1/4th New Zealand Frisian. New Zealand genetics are AWESOME and highly sought after for grass based dairies. In NZ, they breed their herds specifically to grow on grass only. Our current bull is also NZ Frisian (Half jersey, have NZ Frisian).

Cupcake, Peanut Butter and Cookie are all first year milkers. They all calved about a month ago. One of the reasons why we supplement the girls with alfalfa and our non-GMO cracked corn is to help maintain body condition, especially after calving. The first year of milking is one of the most difficult for cows. Cows grow until they are 3 years old. Dairy cows are bred to calve when they turn 2 years old. So the first year they're making milk, they are also still growing! AND growing another baby! It's a lot of work. This is one of many reasons why we don't feed for production or try to push them to produce as much as possible. Our goal is to keep our cows healthy and strong so they can produce consistently and longer. We love our girls and try to do what's best for them which works out for the best for us too.

The Unfamiliar Cuts: Pork backbone or Country Style Ribs

As our chest freezer gets lower and lower, I have to start getting creative with the cuts that remain. I had a whole pile of pork backbone and wondered what the heck that even meant. Once again, I turned to google to tell me. One of the most frustrating things I've found about getting meat in bulk is processors don't all use the same words for their cuts. No cut seems to have one set name...It's super annoying to try to find exactly what you're looking for and thus, it took me about an hour to figure out what the heck backbone even is. But here's my simple (and perhaps incorrect) description.

Pork backbone is what is left after the ribs are cut. There isn't a whole lot of meat on these suckers but man, oh man, the meat that is there can be ever sooooo tasty. I believe some folks call these bad boys Country Style Ribs. Once again, I may have TOTALLY misunderstood what I was reading because, as I said, no one calls anything the same thing in the world of meat, it seems.

So what do you do with these things?! I think most folks use them for soups and stews or perhaps similar to ribs. I decided to try using them like ribs. We aren't grill people. I'll be totally honest. It isn't that I don't like grilled food. I do. It's delicious. But I hate the process of grilling. Frankly, I'm impatient and I don't like to wait around for the grill to cook my food. Ironic given what I'm about to say...I fired up my crockpot. (See the irony here?) I cook most of my ribs in the crockpot because you can get a great, fall off the bone dish from it and not have to worry about it making things soggy.

I threw in some beer, barbecue sauce and a healthy amount of our favorite seasonings (usually montreal steak, with a few other variations.) I like to use the crockpot for dinners that I can prep and then cook while we're at the barn milking the cows for the evening. I set it to high (because I never think of this stuff far enough in advance to go low and slow) and left to milk my cows. 

When milking chores were done, we got home and were greeted with an aroma you might expect when you throw meat, beer and barbecue sauce together: pure delicious goodness. I didn't even wait to cook my sides. I pulled off the lid and popped a piece on a plate to test it. It was a little more time consuming to get the meat off the bone than it is when you're just eating ribs, but man oh man, was it ever rich and delicious. Holy moly. Tender and absolute melt in your mouth perfection.

I'm sure there are plenty of other things you can do with backbone but this option is probably my favorite. We like hardy, rich foods with deep, complex flavor. I'm so glad I don't have to be afraid of this cut in my freezer anymore. I love to have so many different options for meals. This one was a great one to add to our recipe book!

~JoAnna

The unfamiliar cuts: what to do with uncured bacon and jowl

When we took our first piggies to the slaughter house, the first thing I thought of was how absolutely delicious the bacon would be. I am a complete sucker for bacon. I could easily eat a pound of the stuff in one sitting. Just ask my mother in law about when she made BLTs for me when Ben and I were dating. ;) 

Imagine my dismay and disappointment the very first time I tried to cook my very own bacon straight from the processor. Oh the sadness in seeing the beautiful pink and white strips turn to a sad grayish brown and flop out of the pan onto my plate. Further sadness followed when I tasted these sad hunks of meat and they had virtually no flavor. The little flavor they did have tasted pretty much like a pork chop. I was so let down that it would be 4 years before I had the courage to try again. 

But today was that day. The day I said, “Dangit! I WILL make those slabs of raw pork taste good!” I believe I have discovered several important keys because holy cow (or pig) did I get a surprise this afternoon.  

I have been googling my heart out trying to figure out what the heck I’m missing. I keep hearing from folks that uncured bacon is the bestest. Whatever, dude.  

After about an hour of reading various posts on cooking blogs and forums, I found someone that suggested adding smoked paprika. Okay y’all. Confession time. It’s probably only been in the last year that I actually started regularly using paprika or even considering it an actual spice instead of just a topping for deviled eggs. But seriously, the paprika is the key. That and a healthy (...maybe not so healthy...) amount of salt. and of course pepper. The other tiny thing I did that was a little different was to increase the temperature and cook time. I have a plain ol’ electric stove, nothing fancy, that we got for literally $5 dollars at an auction. Anyway, usually I set the temp to 5 (or medium) but with the uncured bacon, it seemed to cook and actually get crispy at a higher temp. It also seemed to take a little longer than “normal” bacon. Really, it’s okay by me because it. tastes. so. good. I shamelessly ate the entire package. Granted it was small, but I’d say it was close to a half a pound or so. IT WAS ONLY 7 STRIPS! DON’T JUDGE ME! 

The next day, I wanted to make more because I wanted Ben to try this wonder I had found. So we made chicken, bacon and ranch subs for lunch with caramelized red onions. Well that tasted like I’d died and gone to heaven.  

Propelled by my success the previous week, I bravely decided to attempt cooking up some jowl. Jowl looks pretty much just like bacon. The strips are shorter and wider. Bacon comes from the belly of the pig and if you tell your processor to leave your bacon as a full pork belly cut, you can make an unreal delicious roast from it. The jowls are the cheeks of the pig.

The jowl meat looks quite like the bacon. I decided to give it a go and make up a package for myself. I cooked the jowl the same way I did the bacon: slightly higher heat, salt, pepper, paprika. I was nervous because several customers had said that the jowl is different and the lady that runs our processor said that the jowl is more suitable IN things than by itself.

well it tastes just like bacon to me. And it’s in the perfect sandwich sized slices. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! (That could be a side effect of the intermittent fasting we’re trying...)

I hope this helps someone else not fear uncured meats. Because dang. I may never go back!  

Just to make your mouth water a little, a photo of our chicken, bacon, ranch sub:

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~JoAnna

Twice a day, every day, until the day we die

When we first started milking six years ago, a harsh reality hit me and my wife, this is a big commitment I've undertaken. In some ways, she has felt it is a bigger commitment than our marriage. She doesn't have to see me twice a day, but she does have to see our milkers twice a day.
For the first month that we were milking, my wife would cry during every milking. The sheer weight of the responsibility was that enormous. Eventually, milking just became a part of our life, and we accepted the responsibility, and it just became our routine, like breakfast.
That was six years ago, and for the first three years, we would occasionally have family members take over milking on some days to give us a break. For the last three years we have milked every day, twice a day, every day. Okay that's not exactly true. JoAnna got a few days off after giving birth to our first daughter. And I actually got a day off from milking when I had to have major surgery on my hand last year.
Of late, the tie to the farm has been wearing us down. We want to make great, delicious milk for our customers, we want to serve our customers, we want to make a living, but we don't want to sell our life to the farm. Maybe we'd like to take our kids to the beach, maybe disneyworld, maybe visit family, maybe go snowboarding.
The simple solution would be to get a replacement worker or farm hand. That sounds easy, but it doesn't seem so easy. First affording a full time farm hand won't be easy, training a farm hand isn't as easy as it sounds, and it's tough to get someone to get to the barn at five in the morning, and leave at seven in the evening. We will be working towards a farm worker, and if you'd like to learn dairy farming, and how to make a livelihood on a farm, contact us, we'd love to talk. But in the meantime, we need a solution, and we think we've found it.
The solution we believe is once a day milking. I had been contemplating how to find someone for evening milking and then I just asked the question, why do we need it? Well a million questions immediately popped up: Will the cows lose production, will the cows get sick, what would happen? Where does anyone go when there are questions on anything? the internet of course.
A deep in depth internet search showed that not only does once a day(OAD for short) milking work, but it also appears to work really well with Jersey cows, and rotational grazing. Most of the OAD milking information comes from New Zealand, or Middle Earth as its known to all of us nerds in the world. The Shire, I mean, Middle Earth, is leading the way in grass based dairy farming with improved genetics, and Regenerative farming techniques.
So once we discovered OAD milking was viable, we realized all the implications and opportunities potentially available. With the afternoon milking, we will often not work as hard during the day to "steel" ourselves for the evening milking, so hopefully we can actually be more productive during the middle of the day
We're crazy excited about what this could mean for us, and maybe opportunities which we have foregone. We might be able to go to church, go to hang out with people or activities later than 4 PM, we might even be able to go on a dinner date. Who knows, maybe we'd get to see you at the farmer's market.
We'll keep you updated as we start this progress. Still many more changes to be made, but we're very excited.

Fall and the changing seasons

We often get asked, is this your busy season? Our answer is usually, its always the busy season. We do try and stay busy, but the different seasons do always mean different things for us to do, different weather, and a different feel to the farm.

 

    The last fall, was, well frankly, horrible. It never rained. Our farm felt like a desert. The dust, combined with the smoke from fires everywhere, ruined my lungs and made me feel absolutely miserable. 

    This fall so far has been lovely, rain occasionally, grass growing like gang busters, hay is plentiful. And the sky, maybe it's cause I've never bothered to look up from my job before, but the sky has been incredible, clear, and beautiful clouds and the most beautiful sunsets.

 

    The summer and the fall are pretty different too, summer keeping the cows cool is paramount, with it usually being too hot for the grass to grow well. Summer was also mega project time. We received a grant for a beautiful hay barn, which the deadline was September 1st. This time we made it with a whole week to spare! We're getting super responsible. After all, we only had a year to build it.

    The hay barn is amazing, super tall and nearly 2,000 square feet. Uncovered hay can lose 35% of it material if it gets rained on over the winter, and the quality getting worse. And our princess cows only want the best hay.

    With fall here, it's time to start filling our lovely hay barn up with hay, always a challenge because our cow turns their nose up at hay unless we spend a premium.

    With JoAnna pregnant, we have been prepping for a new baby on the way, which means that eventually the day will come when I, Ben, has to do all the work on the farm. When that day comes I'd like to preemptively apologize for all the mistakes that will probably happen to your milk orders

    We are looking forward to the leaves changing, and looking to steeling ourselves towards winter, which we've discovered we no longer like. But even though we now severely dislike the cold of winter, we are looking forward to welcoming our daughter in December, the holidays, and enjoying the wonder and newness that another season brings

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A girl mom on a farm

Some of you may know, we have a 2.5 year old daughter. I'm also 5 months pregnant with another daughter! We are thankful for our children regardless of gender. (Although, I do hope one day to have a boy!) Sometimes I just feel like having girls is "wasted" on me. We live on a farm and I'm about the least girly girl I know. I was always a tomboy growing up and hated dresses, the color pink and generally preferred to do "boy" things like climb trees, play in the creek and play army.

Erica and Ossie

It feels a little odd that the Lord would choose me to be the mother of two girls. Me, who always wanted ALL BOYS! I imagined myself raising boys my whole life. I don't have a clue how to french braid hair (Or do much else besides ponytails, basically), I think bows are fussy and annoying, skirts and dresses get in the way when pants are much more practical. I'm not afraid of bugs, worms, blood, poop, spiders or mud. (I do have a thing with frogs...the just give me the willies. Something about the hopping...) I have a stomach of iron and am generally very down to earth. Really, I think the Lord specially designed me to live and work on a farm...

As odd as it sounds after all that, I feel like the Lord has been preparing me my whole life to be the mother of girls. My whole life, most every big life experience I have had has been all girls. Dance, Sonic Drive-In, human ecology, fibers, I was always surrounded by almost all girls (with a few pretty cool dudes mixed in there).

I feel like all of those experiences have pointed and prepared me for raising girls of my own. I saw the actions of girls I admired and actions of other girls that I didn't. And I wonder if the Lord chose me to be a girl mom so that I would raise more girls like me. I'm not saying that I'm perfect. (Definitely not!) but I think the world needs women that are willing to work as hard or harder than any man and aren't afraid of getting a little muddy along the way. Women who aren't superficial and care only about their looks. (I rarely wear make up, don't really keep up with fashion and get my hair cut like every 2 years...Those things aren't bad, they just aren't as important me as good character)  Women who love life, God's beautiful Creation and love to be in nature as much as possible. THAT'S what I want my girls to be.

I'll probably never be the mom that gets matching outfits for my girls. Or messes with bows (let's get real: how often do they leave them in longer than 5 minutes anyway?!) or has the perfect Christmas/Easter dresses planned out months in advance. My girls will probably have a bit of a wild side (maybe feral would be a more accurate description...) but I can tell you that at two and a half, my oldest loves fiercely. And she would rather be outside playing in the water of our local creek or on the river in a kayak with her mom or dad than just about anywhere else. I pray that both our girls will learn that hard work is (as their "Poppy" says) "good and good for you!" I may not have a clue what to do with girls, but I pray that the Lord would continue to guide me as their mother and help me to teach them how to be truly awesome women that are inspiring, love the Lord with all their hearts and who are deep, sincere and real people. I think that's what every mother wants for any of their kids.

-JoAnna

The goats are out, now what?

So the goats were out, roaming about the island. How do you capture goats? We have no idea, this was very out of our wheelhouse. And the goats weren't in a nice area. Right next to a lake crawling with huge 12-16' alligators. Swarming mosquitoes, no see ums, scorpions Also very grumpy water moccasins, rattlesnakes, and generally an area you don't want to go to. Did we mention the giant alligators? We spent the next two days trudging through the island, trying to find them. The goats were very distrustful of us, having never met us(their mommy must have told them to never talk to strangers). It was at this point we learned a valuable lesson, goats are quick, and crafty. As soon as they saw us, they would bolt back into the woods. The neighbors saw the goats, and would call us with a location. No sooner would we get there, they'd be gone, and a call from the opposite side of the island. Quick little buggers.

Somehow, miraculously we got them back, and put the fear of God into anyone who left the gate open .

How we got started

Ben Bleasdale

How did we get started milking? Well it all happened over 20 years for me. We sure didn't know what we were getting ourself into. Before thanksgiving, my parents had found a farm near us that had retired dairy goats. We picked out two, but decided to pick them up after thanksgiving. Thanksgivings were spent at my grandparents dairy farm in Pennsylvania. Playing in the dairy barn, playing outside in the snow, eating too much pumpkin pie.

We returned from Pennsylvania to bring our dairy goats home. Our life was a little different then. We lived in a large fancy house in a nice island subdivision in central Florida right next to the St. John's river.  We put the goats in there area, feeling quite happy with our new purchase.

  Later on, grandpa(who had raised goats years before) stopped over to check out the goats. As soon as the gate was open...... ZOOM. The goats pushed past him and ran away into the huge woods/forest/swamp.  And thus began our ordeal to find them