A surprise visit and ‘soupy’ back in stock

lady farmer

Surprise visit from Lady Farmer

Here at BOTL Farm, our farming mentor is also referred to as ‘Lady Farmer,’ for reasons we don’t totally remember. We volunteered on her livestock farm in New Jersey before we knew we ever wanted to farm. She patiently put up with our questions, opinions, requests, and attempts to help with a graciousness that I still don’t understand. Eventually we learned enough to be valuable to her (our words, not hers) and function as her farm-sitters so she could occasionally leave her farm. We knew and worked for/with her in different capacities for five years and the amount of information we absorbed about management of pasture-raised animals, nutrition, medicine, farm life, farming with an off-farm spouse, mineral supplementation, relationships with slaughterhouses and butchers, dealing with farm neighbors, the color patterns of Icelandic sheep (ha, okay, we never learned that), fencing, water infrastructure, shelter, barns, and on and on. Reflecting on the experience now, when we finally bought land and established our own farm we were, literally, years ahead of where we would have been if we had not worked with her. She measurably changed our lives for the better. Ironically, she got out of farming and moved to a tiny island across the world shortly after we got into farming.

She surprised us with a holiday visit to our farm this year. Although we always love to see her, having her see our farm and the details of our operation always feels a bit like the equivalent of our Final Farming Exam in hypothetical Farm College (or something).

pig with piglet in shelter

Another story that is definitely not just about the weather

As we head into another winter, it’s a good time to reflect on this year, past years, and, oh yeah, the weather (farmers love talking about the weather). In years past, by this point in the winter, snow has usually fallen and the animals’ water heaters are running continuously. But it seems that times have changed. The winters are warmer, muddier, and the heaters have barely been used. The difference is big enough that the USDA published a new plant hardiness zone map this year. This is a map of average cold temps and what plants will thrive in each area. The zones have moved so much that our farm in northern Connecticut is now in the same hardiness zone as mid-New Jersey was 30 years ago when Nick was growing up there.

Now that a few winters in a row have been warm, we need to reevaluate how we overwinter our animals. Previously, we could use the winter as a pasture improvement tool. The ground was frozen, we’d put the pigs into a really rough area, they would eat it all down through the winter, and deposit their nutrient-rich “waste” behind them. By springtime the landscape would have changed, but because the ground was frozen we did not have compaction and long-term damage. We could plant new grass and in a few months, have beautiful new silvopasture. But when the ground is not frozen the animals do more long-term damage. There will be mud, there will be compaction, there will be lasting root damage.  For the past two years, the areas we overwinter animals are considered a sacrifice area and need more rehabilitation come springtime. Cheers to our new USDA hardiness zone!

nick with GMGF

As the locals say, ‘soupy’

There is a special place in our hearts for fermented meat. Back before we were farming and did lots of fun non-farming projects, we tinkered with home-cured and home-fermented sausages, bacons, coppa, and prosciutto. Now that we’re serious farmers, it’s not at all legal (not even close) for us to sell anything home-fermented like this. Because we still want fermented meats in our lives and as part of our farm products, now we work with professionals to be able to offer these products. 

Our first professional foray into fermented meat was with an Italian-style hard salami: soppressata. We deliver many pounds of our pork and pork fat to the fermentation professionals and then a few months later, voila, we have fermented sausage. We were pleasantly puzzled when our local customers explained to us that there is quite a tradition in Italian-New England families to make, buy, or generally be really excited about soppressata, which goes by the nickname ‘soupy’. Who knew it’d have such a following!

We had run out of soppressata a few months ago and have been anxiously awaiting the next batch to finish. It’s happened! We’re back in stock with soppressata and it’s as yummy as ever.

chicken in grass

Yet another misleading food label

Have you ever noticed at grocery stores that some of the chicken and eggs are labelled “vegetarian fed”? Chickens who have any say in the matter are absolutely, definitely, not vegetarians. We once saw one of our chickens successfully hunt, catch, and somehow manage to swallow a one foot long, wriggling, live snake — in one gulp. It was amazing. Our chickens regularly catch crawly bugs, flying insects, mice, spiders, and ticks. These non-vegetarian findings seem to be their favorite and they compete to get a piece of the prize. Because chickens are naturally omnivorous, the only way to stop them from eating non-vegetarian bits is to ensure that they have no access to them. That means that if a product is labelled “vegetarian fed,” the chickens who produced it must be kept locked indoors and fed a relatively poor quality feed (many organic chicken feeds, including ours, feature fish meal). 

For those of you who proudly raise non-vegetarian-fed chickens, we are now stocking New Country Organics Flock Perfect Chicken Dance Grubs. These are 1.5 lb bags of dried black soldier fly larvae grown in the US, ready to serve as non-vegetarian treats for your feathered friends.

pig with food bowl

Find us this month

On farm storeTuesdays noon – 2pm, Saturdays 1 – 3pm.  Pre-order

On farm self pickupEveryday 8:30am – 8pmPre-order only

Ashford winter farmers market: December through March, 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month from 10am – 1pm. We’ll be there each 3rd Sunday. Days we’ll be there in January: January 21. Pre-order

Sturbridge monthly drop off: pre-order only Saturday January 13 from 11am – 1pm at Sturbridge Coffee House. Pre-order

Lunenburg monthly drop off: pre-order only Sunday January 14 from noon – 3pm at Stillman’s Farm Stand. Pre-order

It’s too many numbers! Save me!

Get these updates as a Newsletter once a month. Sign up here!

Page Last Updated on 2024-02-28

Scroll to Top