Last Call: 2016 Lamb


The best and worst thing about living on a small farm is eating what you produce. It’s the best thing because the things you produce are so delicious there’s no comparison to their grocery store counterparts. You cannot buy meat, fruits and veggies like this in the store. But it’s also the worst thing, because you get spoiled so you don’t even want to eat anything else. And the problem there is that it means you either have to raise a wide variety of foods or bore yourself of the same old meals pretty quick.

For us, being bored was never an option. When we became bored of chicken, we added turkey. When we became tired of chicken and turkey, we added pork. When we became bored of chicken and turkey and pork, we added beef. When we became bored of chicken and turkey and pork and beef, we added lamb.

Now, in our second year with lamb we’re relishing the experimentation a new-to-us meat brings to our kitchen and the kitchens of our customers. Of course, as with all things, lamb is seasonal and so we’re putting out our last call to join us in this fun new farm-to-fork adventure until next fall. If you’d like to try out our second ever crop of Pure Michigan, pastured lamb, get in touch by phone or email. We have a limited number of whole and half lamb shares available. Wholes are $1.50 per pound liveweight, plus processing. Halves are $1.75 per pound liveweight, plus processing.

These won’t last, all will be gone before the first of February.

A Few Favorite Things: December 13

Not a creature was stirring...
Not a creature was stirring…

Read: I bought Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson years ago, read half of it and then stuck it up on my shelf. That’s to no fault of the book itself; I have a bad habit of half-reading books. I get bored quickly. The silverlining to this tendency is that I have shelves full of reading material to go back to when I’m feeling intellectually peckish. This week it was exactly that feeling that had me pulling Consider the Fork out and flipping back through its pages. If you’re interested in the history of how we prepare and eat food, this one is a must-read. Even if you do it in bits, years apart.

Watch: There are at least two staples you shouldn’t miss out on when traveling in East Africa: Stoney — a crisp, fresh ginger soda — and Tusker, a pale lager made in Kenya, but you don’t have to leave your chair to watch Tusker’s new ad.

Eat: I made the NY Times’ version of green bean casserole for Thanksgiving this year and the kids have requested it every single day since. The other night, I told them I would work it into our regular dinner rotation and they quickly and hopefully replied, “three times per week?” They’re optimistic, I’ll give them that. This dish is too heavy for even once-per-week rotation, but once per month in the winter probably wouldn’t hurt them, and when you taste it you’ll understand why they would love to eat it even more frequently.

Listen: Raja Kumari is hands down my favorite new artist of the year. We’ve had her songs on loop for weeks. If you like her sound, you’ll probably love her personality in this interview for Uproxx even more. She’s lovely.

2016 Farm-to-Fork Gift Guide: Kid Edition


Know a preschooler who can’t get enough of building, constructing and creating new things out of simple pieces? Block Mates Farm Animals turn basic wooden blocks into imaginative livestock toys. If you don’t already have some, the blocks can be picked up separately for under $20.


No farm toys gift guide could ever be complete without Schleich, and I am in love with the new Cow on Pasture set this year. Look at that little milker! Of course, if you’re buying for a kid who is already a Schleich aficionado, you can always add on to their set with feed accessories or a farm pets set complete with mini-donkey and wheelbarrow. And if you’re just introducing a child to the world of miniature farm figures, you can’t go wrong with the Farm Starter Set either.

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Soft, stuffed toys seem to go in and out of style over the years. Sure, most kids grow up with at least one or two special stuffed animals, but not every generation of kids grows up with a collection of cuddly playthings. Luckily for kids right now, the trend seems to be on the upswing. From giant teddy bears to soft versions of trucks, planes and food, stuffed animals are back in. Ikea is probably not the least of the reasons for this. Their bins full of pigs is one of my favorite places in the warehouse. Bonus: their stuffed toy options are super affordable! The 9-piece fruit basket, 14-piece vegetable set and pig are all under $8, and the chicken is under $4!


There are plenty of things I’ve spent money on for my kids that I ultimately end up regretting, or at least acknowledging that it wasn’t the best use of that five, ten or many more dollars. For instance, just a couple weeks ago one of my kids convinced me to drop five dollars and some change on an elf costume for her guinea pig. Books however, no matter the cost, have never been one of those things. Even when they are long since outgrown and passed along to some other kid, I have never and will never regret spending on books. Every year, every member of our family has at least one new thing to read under the tree. These are a few of our farm and food themed favorites for kids.

Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle
The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen by yours truly
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola


For the endlessly curious kids on your list, those who have veterinarian goals, or those who just love seeing the inner workings of things, TEDCO’s 4-D Anatomy puzzles are a blast. And they double as display models when they’re not in use. There’s a cow, pig, chicken, horse, dog and several non-farm models such as dolphins too.


An aquatic herb garden atop a Betta fish aquarium, brings two of the greatest benefits of a farm-upbringing inside: responsibility for another living thing and peak-fresh food.

The Best People Love Food: A Survey


“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

Harriet Van Horne was a wise woman.

I have always been a supporter of American farmers broadly speaking; not just of our farm or of farms like ours, but of farms in general. It takes all types of types, as they say, and that is no more true when it comes to raising the food that keeps our shared humanity alive. Of course, there are also reasons we do things the way we do and food quality is not the least of them. “We believe in good food,” is our motto by design, not accident. I don’t trust people who don’t have developed taste buds and diverse tastes. I don’t trust people who don’t love food of all kinds; who aren’t consistently excited to try something new, to find something delicious. Which isn’t to say I don’t trust anyone who dislikes certain foods, but I am certainly distrustful of people who dislike many foods or who don’t see food as something that begs to be explored.

And I am definitely skeptical of people who do not enjoy the act of cooking. Not the harried kind of cooking so many of us are forced into on weekday evenings, the type tucked between workdays and nights raising a family, but the kind that you can embark on when you’re not in a hurry. The kind of cooking that happens with a glass of wine or a cold bottle of beer in hand and a towel slung over the shoulder. I am skeptical of people who never enjoy that kind of cooking, who never take for themselves the sort of satisfaction that only comes from a dish made of fresh, whole food and fussed over a little at the stovetop.

Recently, I have been giving even more thought than usual to food quality; it’s role in all of this and much more. I have my opinions about food quality, but I wonder how representative they are of the wider world. Do you feel food quality is improving? Declining? Staying about the same? Over what period?

So I put together a short survey and am welcoming feedback. When I did this a few years ago with the “What Makes a Good Farmer?” survey it opened up a lot of interesting avenues of thought that I had not previously considered, and I hope this time accomplishes the same thing. So far, the responses I’ve gotten after just sending out the link on social media yesterday are definitely challenging my expectations and providing insight that, while not surprising, is definitely worth exploring.

I plan to write up an article on the results in the next few weeks, probably here. Until that goes up I’ll leave the survey open to responses and check in regularly. If you have a few moments to spare please click here to give your thoughts, and be sure to share the link with your friends and family as well. The more the merrier — and better representative of the greater population, I hope.

Related Post

On Generational Farming


People farm for many reasons. For the pride in producing food. For the lifestyle connected to the land. To make a living. To provide for a family. To build a legacy.

I’ve contemplated every single one of them over the years, perhaps none more than the last, but it wasn’t until my own kid made her first investment in a longterm agriculture venture that I really paused to think about what it means to pass agriculture down through the generations.

I remember talking with a friend about their own experience making sense of generational transfer as an adult farm “kid,” their desire to have something to look forward to, and the work involved in getting their parents on board, and I have to be honest: it was a perplexing conversation for me. I didn’t — still to some extent don’t — understand a lack of desire to pass a farm off to your children. Farming, after all, has always been one of this nation’s most familial of business ventures. If the farm is doing anything other than going under it’s virtually always simply expected that at least one of the farm kids will take over once they become an adult — even when it’s difficult for the older generation to let go.

And to me this has always made sense. Until my oldest daughter invested her own money into a cow-calf pair. Suddenly, premature as it may be, the magnitude of this legacy, this family pastime, this profession-obsession-identity, this whatever-you-want-to-call it, hit me. And I have to be honest: suddenly I wasn’t so sure. I found myself understanding my friends’ parents more than my friend. My mind kept replaying the same question over and over: do I want this for her? And not just to farm, but to be in agriculture as an industry. And I couldn’t be sure. I have since come to the conclusion that of course I do. Of course I want this for her. But I wouldn’t say that conclusion came easily, or even quickly. The cow has been here for just about two months now and I’m just getting around to writing this down, after all.

It’s not about the legacy though, nor about the continuation of a tradition, or a tie to their roots. I want this for them, because the continuation is a representation of from whence they came. Because as much as I might be able to imagine an easier — or maybe even a quote-unquote better — future for them, I cannot imagine a better past. I cannot fathom having raised them anywhere else, with any other values or experiences. Are there other things I wish I’d had an opportunity to add to their upbringing? Absolutely. But I can’t think of anything about it that I would want to take away; there’s nothing I would subtract from the sum total of their lives so far.

And so, if the natural progression of the upbringing I’m absolutely honored to have been able to give them is a future even as a struggling member of this industry, I certainly can’t complain.

Living The Last Meal


The thing about marriage in that stage of your lives where you’re both busy in the familial sense of having kids who are of a certain age and involved in every extracurricular under the sun, and the professional sense where you’re both able to chase that thing that fulfills you, is that you have to carve out time for one another wherever you can. For The Man and me, many times, that means Sunday afternoons. What once were date nights have long since morphed into date days. Lunch and browsing a favorite store or catching a movie, or some combination thereof — if we’re really feeling ourselves maybe even all of the above.

Such was a date day a few weekends ago when, over complimentary chips and salsa and a couple not-so-complimentary midday drinks, we got to talking about an article I’d seen earlier in the week. The author had compiled a list of last meal requests made by death row inmates. And the food was one thing, but at least one of the inmates had, apparently, also requested an experience: to eat their last meal while watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And so we got to thinking, not only what food we’d want for a last meal but what kind of experience we’d want if nothing at all was off limits.

For the record, The Man would want steak and bacon and mashed potatoes, plus cake and a cold beer and, probably, he said, to go sky diving. Because why not? Later, he added that if he had more than just a couple hours, perhaps we could shoot a little together and go off-roading with the kids.

And I would go for injera with spiced yellow peas and pickled cabbage, samosas and curry, pumpkin pie and an iced tea. And I would want to spend every last second exploring far-flung places by day and evenings here on the farm, watching the livestock and drinking a cold cocktail beside The Man, kids and dogs.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about that conversation; about how, when we set out to dream up our ultimate hedonist heaven-on-earth, what we came up with wasn’t so far off from how we spend our lives now. But even more than that how, if we really set our minds to it, we could live that last meal — both literal and figurative — more often than not. I think we will.

The All-Black Wooly Bear and Other Signs of Winter


Every year I watch the wooly bears. They say the more black on their bodies the harsher the winter to come. There’s no proof they know what they’re doing. There’s even evidence that they probably do not. I watch anyway. I watch to see how fat and wooly they are, what colors dominate their coats, when we start seeing them in the fall and when they disappear again for another year.

I also watch the squirrels. (Extra chubby and in a big hurry.) Scrutinize the hickory nuts. (Thick shells, plenty of them.) And the acorns. (Ditto.) I note the foliage. (Deeper color than usual, dropping quick.) And read the Farmer’s Almanac (Cold, stormy.) All looking for predictions of the impending season.

Sometimes the old wives’ tales match up with scientific models, sometimes they don’t. This year, for the most part, they do. The caterpillars agree with the squirrels who agree with the Hickory and Oak trees, which agree with the traditional forecasters at the Almanac who just so happen to be on the same page as the meteorologists at the Climate Prediction Center: it’s going to be a long, wet and snowy winter in our little corner of the midwest.

Both Almanacs predict snow by the end of this month. Normally we don’t see it until the end of next. Of course only time will tell what kind of winter we’ll really have, but it seems that for now everyone agrees it might just be the most wintery of winters we’ve had in several years. Between mild years and brutally cold ones with next to nothing in terms of snow, I almost think I might welcome a typical Michigan cold season, with all its blustering and blowing and blizzard-like darkness. If it’s going to be cold at least, perhaps, we can have a clean white blanket over the brown and dead. Yes, I almost think I wouldn’t mind it that way. Almost.

Miscellany: Dispatches from Early Fall


There’s a feeling of finality in early fall in rural America; a lull between the heat of the summer and the hustle and bustle of the grain harvest season. I am one of those insufferable people who Love, with a capital ‘L’, the holidays and the first whispers of colder weather are always a welcome invitation to begin preparing for them.

This year though, there were no whispers. We went from eighties and nighties and high humidity to sixties at, what seemed like, the flip of a switch. We are surrounded by Black Walnut trees here; they’re always quick to shed their leaves, and they’re wasting no time in the task this season. Walking outside to a hail of gold fluttering through the air is always enough to put me in the autumn mood.


You might think that after so many years of the same thing, I wouldn’t be caught by surprise when it’s time to winterize the farm, but you would be wrong. It’s not that I don’t see it coming at all, it’s that — especially during years like this one — the time left always feels longer until we’re mere steps from the finish line.

A few weeks ago we had to send the ATV we normally use daily for basic chores into the shop to get some work done, and they’ve yet to make a final diagnosis. Now, as I make lists — both mental and physical — of all the things I need to get done around here before snow flies I am missing it fiercely. We have ways of doing everything without it, but not without added complications; which also means added time and effort.


The farm kids’ pleading for “a lamb for fair,” this summer means we’ve had Ferdinand the Ram with the ewes for several weeks now already. We have, thus far, only lambed in the spring and I have liked it that way. It’s warm outside, there’s plenty of lush grass for both lactating Mamas and quickly growing babies; it almost makes for a fool proof lambing season. But spring lambs aren’t old enough for summer fairs; only winter lambs have enough time to grow big and strong, and finish out. So we’ll try it. The principles of winter birth and newborns are the same across the species and we’re not entirely green even with sheep, but any farmer will tell you that theory and practice are not listed as synonyms for one another for good reason.


Miscellany + Pictures That Have Been Languishing in my Camera for Months


All of the pictures in this post are months old. Taken this spring when everything was fresh and green. Before it was ninety-five degrees and we hadn’t seen anything that could pass for rain in weeks. I had forgotten about them and normally wouldn’t bother with old photos in a new blog post, but then I thought, “why not?” In the story of this farm inconsistent blogging and forgotten photos have been a staple for the past year. They belong here as much as anything I snapped today.


I don’t remember the last time we mowed grass and I don’t foresee us needing to do so anytime soon. I forgot about the blueberry bushes I planted flanking the gate that leads from the back yard into the paddock that lies between it and the barnyard and only one of them has survived the heat and abuse. There is a fifty-fifty chance of a storm tomorrow, but if it behaves anything like all the other storms that have come our way it’ll break up just as it gets here, maybe spitting a little extra humidity into the air but never producing so much as a drop that reaches the ground.


Today the first lambs of our 2016 crop are fifty days old. Which means when the sun starts to set and the temperature abates by a couple dozen degrees we’ll be rounding them up and running them across the scale to see how they’ve done thus far, on nothing but pasture and their ewe’s milk. They look good; thick and stout and robust.


This guy will happily help despite the heat, and dunk himself in a stock tank of water straight from the hose afterward.


Of all the stock on the farm the heat is hardest on the pigs. Little ones don’t mind it so much, but the big sows and the growing feeders would prefer moderate weather and little humidity; something we can’t often provide in Michigan at the height of the season. Instead we make sure they’re misted down with cool water a few times per day, provided lots of fresh water. And, at least in the case of the growing pigs — for show or sale or breeding alike — hope they continue to eat, because no one likes a big meal when it’s hot.