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News from the Farm: Deep Freeze

January 10, 2018

Dear friends and customers of North Mountain Pastures,

How are you all doing through this COLD weather? The 40 degree highs of yesterday and today have felt absolutely warm and balmy compared to last week. We hope you are staying warm and well.

Last week it got REALLY COLD. 
It was supposed to be -5 degrees F over the weekend, pre windchill. We don't think it got down quite that low, maybe hovered around 0. 
It was hard (for me, not for Brooks, he is so cold hardy thanks to northern European genes and Wim Hof Method) to be outside for more than a few minutes to do a necessary chore.

We are nice and toasty, at least by the fire, in our 1850s log home, heating with wood and well insulated.

However, our personal well to the house did freeze at the pump for the first time ever since living here. Brooks was quickly able to thaw it out with a heat gun and insulate the space (who knew this would be necessary, 6 feet down in the ground?)

It caused some inconvenience for us to be without water for the morning, and then even more as the pump churned up some sediment when it kicked back on, which proceeded to clog the washer inlet, the kitchen sink, and the water heater. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is fun to "rough" it sometimes. When I walked to the other farm well pump to get water, about 50 feet from our front door in the frigid cold, I thought of all the people in the world who don't have clean drinking water or running water at all; people who walk so much further, in maybe even harsher conditions to get their water. 

I've learned to deal with these type of setbacks and expect it as part of a rural DIY life. But more than that, I actually love when stuff goes (mildly) wrong and breaks, leaving us without some modern convenience because it reminds me not to take these things for granted. The sense of relief and gratitude when the water then functions again is a humbling and valuable learning experience.

And how are the animals doing? 

 I found these pigs away from their shelter full of dry bedding, out for a stroll. 

Despite snow and cold, they still like to snoop around the woods and root around for who knows what. I think maybe they get bored too.
 

 Brooks says:
I have a lot of people ask about pigs in this weather. Finishing fat hogs and sows are still on pasture [in pictures above] (with nice woolly sweaters they grew just for this weather and lots of water, shelter, and organic hay for bedding).

This [below] is the weaning/grower shelter where young pigs off the mama can grow to a size that allows them to run with the big'ns. Access to outside with plenty of bedding for warmth inside.

 

 

The base of this house is charcoal, then logs, then a special inoculant of a microbial/fungal culture we grew in our own woods. I have been adding bedding to it for over 4 years now and the microbes are so active it never accumulates. Imagine if just this one practice were adopted by confinement hog operations. Total elimination of liquid manure waste and significant reduction in odor and flies. Turns out, nature knows what microbes do the job right. The active composting process of the bedding also generates a lot of heat. 

Warming Comfort Food: Instant Pot Chili 
Do you have an Instant Pot? I love a slow cooked stew or bean dish in the winter, and enjoy letting it simmer on the stove all day. I resisted the Instant Pot craze for a while, thinking it was too high tech for me. 

But I got one for Christmas. 

And I love it.

I've done beans a few times now, and last week made a super successful chili in the instant pot. Brooks and the kids loved it, even if it was a bit too spicy for them.

I basically followed this recipe: 
https://redandhoney.com/instant-pot-chili-recipe/


(yes, I used the secret ingredient: a Tablespoon of cocoa powder!)

However, I just had to tweak it to what I had on hand, cause that's what I do. So I followed the method of sauteing the meat first and then pressure cooking. I also used the spices in that recipe. My ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 package chorizo (split and removed casings)
1 quart jar canned tomatoes
3 cups soaked pinto beans
1 diced onion
1 head of garlic
1.5 cups diced frozen sweet peppers from the summer

 

 The meats were browned slightly using the "saute" setting first (though I'm wondering if i in a pinch you could even skip this step and put them in raw... I will be sure to try it and let you know).

 

 I then added the rest of the ingredients, and mixed it all together with a big jar of crushed tomatoes. 
 

 This photo is too steamy to see clearly, but the truth is it came out great in about an hour and a half total, with one pot. Not instant, but pretty awesome.

Stay well and enjoy some warming nutritious comfort food to stay warm!

Join the Meat CSA for 2018 here.  Depending on your site location, you could still receive a share in January.

Thanks as always for supporting local foods!

~Brooks & Anna

What is The Meat CSA?