Frith Farm

Friday, June 28, 2013

Chicken Processing

Remember these guys?

You might also remember them when they looked like this. The chicks I mean, not the adorable children. 

So far, we've gotten three batches of 100 broiler meat chickens, sent to us in the mail! We start them out in the brooder hoophouse until they get big enough to be put out on pasture. 

From start to finish, these chickens live about 10 weeks. And yesterday was our first chicken processing day, which will now happen monthly until October. 

I was the only one of the apprentices who had never participated in killing a chicken and I have to admit that I wasn't avidly looking forward to Thursday. 

We started out by hauling the fully grown chickens from the pasture to our on-farm processing unit. 

Of course, there was also a lot of cleaning and sanitizing to be done beforehand, making sure all the equipment was in line with regulations. 

Daniel is a veteran at all this, so he explained the system to us and by 7am we were in the thick of things.

Although there won't be any graphic pictures shown here, I do want to explain how the chickens are processed. From the yellow crates they are put upside down in silver cones with their heads sticking out. 

Daniel cut their throats and allows the blood to drain into the black container you see on the ground. The chickens are then placed in the scalder which loosens their feathers which are then removed by the plucker. 

After Daniel's work is through, the rest of our team, plus some volunteers, set to work taking off the heads and feet and removing all the organs. We were all novices pretty much, so the going was slow at the beginning. We definitely got faster though as the day wore on and had all 95 chickens processed, bagged, and labeled by nightfall. 

It was one of the more exhausting days I've had on the farm so far, but it was also a really good experience. Meat of all sorts is so ubiquitous in our lives that often there can be a very real and sometimes damaging disconnect when we aren't aware of where our meat comes from. 

Thursday definitely taught me to be very aware of the real price of meat and to remember its true value. 

We will have fresh chicken available from this slaughter through the weekend and then frozen for the rest of the season. The price is $4.50/lb, with most birds weighing between 4 and 6 lbs. Stop by the farm or come to the Scarborough or Portland farmer's markets if you're interested!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Virtual Farm Tour

This past week I met a lot of you CSA'ers walking around the farm, a bit disoriented. 
Which I completely understand. There are a lot of things growing that don't necessarily look like what you'd expect them to yet, plus we're constantly moving the animals around to new edges of the farm.

Today I'd like to take you on a virtual farm tour; just in case you ever decide to take a stroll around the farm, you'll have a general idea of what is where. Above you see our driveway, usually packed with cars on Tuesdays and Fridays between noon and 8pm. The three apprentices live in the part of the house where the porch entrance is and Daniel lives in his own section directly below the chimney.

The Frith Farm sign is surrounded by our perennial pick-your-own herb garden. Once we get around to taming (weeding) this beast, you'll be able to find herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, oregano and sage here.

This is your view from the barn where you pick up your shares (normally not featuring Daniel digging a trench). Behind Daniel and his shovel is our pick-your-own annual herb garden. Here you'll find loads of basil, cilantro and several dill forests. The plot in the left foreground is our pick your own flower plot, which is just about ready to be plucked!

Behind the flowers you'll see two greenhouse-looking things, neither of which are actually greenhouses. The one closest to the barn is called the henhouse and it's where we raise our baby chicks who later are put on pasture and then processed here on the farm. (Our first chicken processing is this Thursday and fresh chickens will be available Friday the 28th!)

Behind the henhouse is the high tunnel where we have planted our heirloom tomatoes. We planted them inside to attempt to save them from a pest that only comes out at night.

If you decided to venture beyond the chicks and the high tunnel tomatoes, you would see our eggplant and pepper plot on your left, followed by our kales, collards, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. On your right you would see several succession plantings of lettuce, mustard greens, bok choi, turnips, kohlrabi, and rutabaga. The green bushy plot following all that is potatoes and in the far back right you'll see five beds of brussels sprouts, my personal favorites!

 After you've exhausted one side of Frith Farm, you can always head past our chicken processing trailer on the right and through the wall of blue spruce trees to the other half of the farm.

From this vantage point you see our huge bed of garlic on the left, four beds of beets on the right with carrots finishing out that plot. Past the beets on your right there is an entire plot of onions and way in the far back is our spinach, swiss chard, sugar snap pea plot. You can make out the bright red Eggmobile next to the peas as well. We move this weekly though, so chances are it's already changed positions.

Finally we have our actual greenhouse; this being the place where we start our seedlings and keep them warm in the chilly Maine spring (and summer!). Behind this we have our cucumbers, summer squash, lettuce heads and more onions.

We also happen to have these little guys back at the edge of the woods. Although they are particularly skittish when they're young, if you walk up to them slowly and quietly, you're sure to catch a glimpse. Just look for the white electrified fence next to the big blue barrels of pig feed.

As an additional reward for reading all the way to the end of this pretty word-y post, I'd like to ask for name suggestions for the grey kitten above that we've decided to keep. At the moment his name is Tim,  for lack of any better alternative. Make your suggestions fast in the comments below or in person this week, before he's doomed to be Tim forever!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Eating on the Farm

After meeting some of you this week at our first official CSA share, I got the idea that it might be of help to hear what your farmers eat on a regular basis (though I'll warn you, it's not all pretty!) 

I was really proud on Tuesday of all the hard work that the four of us have put in so far this season to provide such an excellent first CSA share. This week we offered lettuce heads, kale, collards, bok choi, swiss chard, radishes, kohlrabi and turnips and all of these things have been in our own personal cooking repertoires lately. 

First I should probably say a word about how meat eating is viewed here at the farm and for me personally. I have to come clean and say that before moving here in March I had been a vegetarian for somewhere around six years. That said, I was ready to start eating meat again as long as it was responsibly and humanely raised and sparingly eaten. 

At Frith we eat meat rarely, mostly because we are aware of the expense of it, not just in monetary terms, but in the time and care we put in to raising our animals. As a result we usually eat some form of meat once a week. (Although as a side note and so this post doesn't get that "high and mighty" sounding, we were all raised eating meat at least once a day, and none of that was local or responsibly raised!)

Also just to bring us down to reality, there are days (usually at least twice a week) when all I eat for supper is a massive bowl of cereal and usually it makes me immensely happy! 

But that said, we do have access to this awesome supply of vegetable goodness and there are a lot of fun things we do with them. 

One thing I've been enjoying recently are different variations of veggie tacos. I stir fry some garlic with turnips, turnip greens and some spinach, heat some (corn!) tortillas in the broiler and then mix it all together with some garlic hummus I made last weekend. More often than not I'll throw a fried egg on top for extra protein too. 

Josh does a lot of legumes and grains in his rice cooker, quinoa, rice, lentils and black beans are frequently found in his diet. Thrown over some bread with cheese and some sautéed greens. Josh also takes some kitchen risks that I really respect, like trying out homemade mayonnaise and kale chicken salad. 

Will is probably the most adventurous of the three of us (he's the one who dashes out to the herb garden in the evening to get fresh chamomile for his tea) and is also the one who uses the most produce I would say. He stir fries a lot of vegetables, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes, kale and collards, then stirs some eggs into the mix. (He also rendered lard earlier this season and has been using it as his stir-fry lipid of choice.)

Daniel will be the first to admit that he eats a lot of cheesy bread, peanut butter apples and his homemade granola. But he also has mastered some pretty tasty dishes, including quesadillas with stir-fried veggies. He is also the recognized authority in the house on meat cooking; his nights at the head of our Monday night communal meals have featured pork, lamb and chicken! 

And speaking of those communal meals we share each week, I wanted to put up some links that might help some of you in using up your farm produce, eggs and meat shares. 

These are both excellent vegetarian suppers that just beg to feature our eggs:

(add caramelized onions to the following for a sure winner)

For one of the best chicken dinners in recent memory (use turnips instead of sweet potatoes):

Coconut milk-braised collards and your Frith Farm bacon:

And this is on my "to-cook" list for next week, good to use with our eggs and some greens from your share:

And for those of you wondering what to do with kohlrabi....Will eats it raw right out of the fields and yes, it is reminiscent of a really juicy apple. But you can roast it, puree it, sauté it, or just read the following blog post for other ideas:

Enjoy your first week of produce everyone and please let us know if you find a particularly successful recipe. Hope to see you all at the Frith CSA Brunch on Saturday morning!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

CSA Begins + Baby Animals

I'm not sure if the boys here at Frith would agree, but it's been a doozy of a week for me at the farm. 

The days have gotten much longer, which means now work starts at 6am for us, yikes! That sounds a lot earlier when I write it than it actually does when we wake up though. The sun rises around 5:10 now, and our animals, especially the layers, want their breakfast on time! 

This week was special though because it was our first CSA share pick-up! We were glad to be able to give a smaller share one week earlier than planned, consisting of kale, collards, bok choy or swiss chard, and spinach. 

It was good for us apprentices to see how the CSA works and the preparation needed to harvest what we offer every Tuesday and Friday. 

We were all really excited to get to meet and talk to so many of you as well. Most of our days on the farm are just the four of us and having 70 new people come every week just might turn in to the highlight of our week! Above you'll see two of our Tuesday CSA-ers who agreed to let me photograph them with their fresh produce. Thanks ladies!

Also this week Daniel came home with some new piglets for the farm! They are now tucked in to their new home at the edge of the forest behind our fields, foraging through the leaf layer and dirt for tasty treats to supplement their feed. 

Also I thought it might be a good idea to give a kitten update and to let any potential kitten-seekers that we have one little one available!

They're basically the cutest things ever and brighten our day whenever we walk by them. 

Make sure to stop by and pick one up if you need some TLC this coming week!

I know I do on a regular basis!

Last but not least, I wanted to give a big thank you to the friends and family of Frith Farm and the four of us who live and work here. We have been the recipients of a lot of love so far this season, in the form of baked goods usually, but this week we were also given some pints of Ben & Jerry's by Daniel's father Stuart and it definitely made our week! We really do appreciate all of you who get your produce, eggs or meat from us and we hope you enjoy the weeks and months to come of this season!

P.S. Each week starting now, I'm going to attempt to throw out some links/a link to recipes related to our CSA share produce. This week we gave you some collards and this link here is the recipe I was dreaming up to try this weekend, we'll see if I actually get to making it or not!