Saturday, April 23, 2011

Baby calf

On our farm this week we've been bottle feeding a baby calf who was rejected by her mother. She's a sweet little girl, but all bones. When my husband found her, she was curled up in the field the herd had just left. She stayed behind because she was too weak to go to the new field, poor thing. It's become my job to take her a (giant) bottle of milk-replacement formula twice a day. She's very sweet, and I think she's bonded to me. I take my two-year old Zeke out to the barn with me to feed her, and she's curious about him. She likes to smell his face, and he giggles in return. Anyway, I'm hoping she'll make it, she's doing much better than when we found her.

We've got a litter of 7 baby rabbits right now, and another rabbit who's due to kindle (give birth) tonight. There's not much as cute as baby rabbits! Our cat also had 4 kittens a few weeks ago, and they're starting to climb out of their box to explore. Add all the calves, and we've got quite a bit of new life blooming on the farm. Spring is wonderful!

My sister-in-law and I helped our husbands move the cows across the road this evening, it was a lot of fun! Our job was to stop any cars coming, so that they don't try to drive through the herd or bluff fence. It's quite invigorating to watch a 400-head herd stampede across the road! The boys (my son and nephew) loved watching.

I would love to post pictures, but due to some computer difficulties I won't be doing so today, sorry!

What's new on your farm (or garden, or backyard) this week? I'd love to hear!

Friday, April 22, 2011

First Things First (Marketing Grassfed Products Profitably)

Carolyn Nation and Sheri Salatin at the Stockman Marketing School in MS
A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to speak at the Marketing School with Allan and Carolyn Nation and Joel Salatin. While there, I got a copy of Carolyn's new book, Marketing Grassfed Products Profitably.
So far it has been proving to be a great read.  Here's some thoughts from the first section of the book to wet your appetite.
What makes a good marketer?
What makes a good business?
Allan and Carolyn says that women make better marketers than men. Do you agree?
Personally, I have to agree with this statement, just for the sheer reason that we (women) talk more than guys.  We talk to our girlfriends about different recipes, new shampoo or laundry soap we just tried out or a book we just read. These are all forms of marketing.  We may give negative or positive reviews on these products, but still we TALK about them.

"Experts say it takes eight 'touches' before someone commits to buy."

As a farmer, this means that each time someone talks to you or visits your farm booth or farm store, doesn't mean that they will buy something. And even if they don't buy anything from you that day, you are still marketing. You are making a connection.  The more that they see your name, talk to you and make a connection, the more likely they will be to come back and try your products.

She has a great list in this book about how to tell if you are a marketer or not:
  1. Do you enjoy talking to people?
  2. Are you a good listener?
  3. Are you gifted with a memory for recalling others' names?
  4. Do you make To Do list so that you can cross off accomplishments?
  5. Do you feel happy knowing you've helped someone?
  6. Are you good at doing several things at once?
  7. Do you pay attention to details?
  8. Do people often seek your opinion or advice?
  9. Are you a connector - keeping in touch with friends or acquaintances by writing or calling?
  10. Do you believe in the products you have to sell
You're a born marketer.

One of the best business training a woman can have is motherhood.  Question number six is a resounding "yes" to all of us who have kids and many of us who don't. Think - it's 5 o'clock, dinner is on the stove, 2 year old is crying, dog is whining at the door and the phone is ringing. All in a day's work.

She goes on to talk about setting goals for yourself and your business with great suggestions on how to do so. I won't go into all that now, since I would highly recommend that you read the book yourself.

The last thing that stuck out to me from the first section of this book was this statement:

"If you don't have the support of your spouse and shared goals, the journey to success will be harder than it needs to be."

One of the first questions that we ask to aspiring farmers who come to Polyface for advice is, "What does your spouse have to say about it?"
Farming is more than a job, it's a lifestyle. If you read business books, you see many times they talk about leaving your work at the office, separating it out from your personal life. You cannot do this with farming. You live, eat, and breathe it. Your whole family is involved or trying to be involved.
Without the support of your spouse, every farm is destined to fail. Guaranteed. Some of you gals reading this know what I'm talking about. How many times do you have the kids all dressed up and ready to walk out the door to church or another big event and in walks your hubby?
"Cows are out of water, I need to go fix the pump."
So much for arriving on time. Minutes turn to hours and before long, you've stripped the kids out of their Sunday best and back into p.j.'s and tucked them into bed.
Dinners get cold. Your entire salary is based on whether or not you've made that sale, cleaned that egg properly or moved the animals to higher ground before the flood came.

The same goals and visions are imperative to have a successful farm or any business.
We at Polyface do this during the winter time. Usually at the end of Dec-Jan is our "meetings". We discuss our goals for that year.
We now have a list for each person who works here on the farm identifying their job description.  It helps us to all know who is in charge of what so that we are doubling the work. We are more productive this way.
Carolyn talks about how she is in charge of their publishing business. It's her baby. No one else (aka Allan) second-guesses her decisions. It part of the same business, but it's hers.
This is very important, especially when you have multi-generations on the same farm. 

One of the biggest questions we get from families trying to pass their farm onto their kids is how to do it properly. What do you do with their spouses? Perhaps, I'll go into that more next week. What do you think? Is this something that you would be interested in discussing?

What are your thoughts on everything I have shared today?

For further reading, visit:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Just For Fun...

Here at Polyface, many hands are needed to make the farm successful. From the Salatin family to apprentices & interns to sub-contractors & employees, every member plays a specific and unique role. We all work hard together and the spirit of teamwork and community is strong. The community here is special, and we all have something to share with the others.

We enjoy the work that we do, and it requires time, involvement and commitment - yet we still find time for recreation and relaxation. Here are some activities that we do just for fun!

- throw a football in the yard after evening chores - watch the long version of Pride & Prejudice - lay upside down on a hillside & gaze at the stars - play basketball - cook & share a meal together - sing & make music - go out for ice cream - swim in the mountain ponds - build a bonfire - go bowling in town - cookout on top of the mountain - play at an open-mic night in town - go see a rodeo -

What do you and your family, co-workers, or friends do for fun?

The Polyface Farm chicks at a mountain cookout, fall 2010.

International Porridge

Homestead in California

Last week I introduced Daphne and Vinay and promised to post some of the delicious recipes Vinay has been preparing for us. It's terrible satisfying to come in from early morning chores and have this porridge waiting for us. Of course we add a few of our pastured raised eggs,homemade sourdough bread with local honey and butter and local raw milk which  comes from BriarPatch Farm.

  Here's a simple but nurturing delight!The spices make all the difference in the world. Enjoy!

International Breakfast Porridge

- Soak the 1/2lb quinoa overnight.
- Cook the quinoa with 1 portion of quinoa to 2 portions of water (or as liquid you want to make it). 
- Add 4 pods of Cardamom, 4 Cloves and 1/2 inch of Cinnamon (it is better to use the real Cinnamon, not Cassia). 
- Bring it to boil and then slow cook until it becomes quite mushy.
- If desired, you can add raisins and chopped walnuts and cook for a few minutes.
- Add milk just before serving
- Before serving, add a tablespoon of butter and honey/brown sugar or maple syrup.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Natural Dyes for Easter Eggs

Thanks to our local health food store, Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery (, I recently picked up a fun and informative brochure put out by Frontier Natural Products Co-op on using herbs to dye Easter eggs. I found it fascinating and thought you might too!
For a…
…reddish blue/lavender hue, use hibiscus flowers
…deep gold, use tumeric root powder
…pale orange, use curry powder
…reddish brown, use chili powder
…orange, use paprika
…soft brown, use dill seed
…tannish-yellow, use yarrow
You can also experiment with beet juice or powder, berries, coffee, juice, lemon & orange peels, red cabbage leaves, tea, and onion skins.
For directions on how to prepare each dye, visit
Are you dyeing eggs this year? Any suggestions for how to create natural dyes?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Discussions for The Dirty Life (Question #1 and 2)

I just received my copy of his book in the mail yesterday. Can't wait to dig in!
I noticed that there are some discussion questions at the end of the book. I'm going to post one of them here.

I will post 2 questions every week (starting on Sunday) through the end of the month.

Question #1
Kristin was a freelance writer in New York City, which gave her the opportunity to travel around the world.  When she first met Mark on his farm, she felt like a foreigner.
In what ways do you think this feeling comforted her?  

Were you surprised when the situation flipped and Kristin felt foreign to the life she used to lead in the city?

Question #2
In what ways did Kimball's yearning for a home sway her decision to leave the city and start a new life with Mark? 
If you were put in a similar situation, do you think you would have made the same decision? 
Why or why not? 
What is your own personal definition of "home"?

Missed a discussion? Look here:

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