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    Chicken you can feel good about eating

    Our chickens eat feed that was never sprayed with chemicals, and they run around outside living chickenly lives and munching on clover. We rotate our chickens’ yard so they always have fresh greens, making them healthier and more delicious. You’ll be able to taste the difference. If you want a deeper relationship with your food, you can follow what’s happening at the farm on Facebook. (You don’t need a Facebook account to see it!)

    We sell mainly whole, frozen chicken but also have a limited number of frozen packaged parts. See our Orders and Prices page.

    We deliver frozen chicken to Minneapolis, and we welcome you to our farm in the Northfield area.

    NEWS FROM THE FIELDS

    Ham and ham roasts

    March 28th, 2015

    We have both smoked ham and ham roasts on sale — 10 percent off — until Easter. Our hams taste great because our hogs are raised the old fashioned way, in small groups, playing around outside and eating grain that was not sprayed with chemicals, hay, and table scraps.

    With either of these, start by thawing the ham in the fridge for a few days. If you’re cooking it on Sunday, I’d refrigerate it starting Thursday night.

    FRESH HAM ROASTS
    This is the best pot roast because, of its marbling and smooth texture. You can use it like a shoulder roast, or if you want to really play to its strengths and get absolutely awesome with it, here’s a recipe from the New York Times. They have you baking the roast and basting it often with a balsamic vinegar and maple syrup glaze, and showering it with pecans and candied ginger. Wow. Here’s the link.

    SMOKED HAMS:
    Our smoked hams are already cooked, and they taste delicious cold, but if you’re having company, you might want to do it up fancy.

    Heat it: Because your ham is already cooked, you’re trying it heat it through without drying it out. You could do it in a slow-cooker with a cup of broth, water, or your own tasty liquid concoction. 3-5 hours should do it. Or you could do it in the oven. If you have a roaster pan, put some water in the bottom of the pan, place the ham on the rack — out of the water — then cover the whole thing with aluminum foil. Leave 15-20 minutes per pound. If you don’t have a broiler pan, use whatever pan you have and follow the general guidelines of keeping the ham moist and covered while heating.

    Score it — if you want, and you have the time, and you want to be extra-festive — cut a diamond-shaped pattern all over the ham.

    Stud it — if you want –push whole cloves into the centers on the diamonds you cut.

    Glaze it — with maple syrup OR with a glaze of 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 T mustard and 1/2 t ground ginger OR with whatever glaze you want

    Bake it again — at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the glaze looks burnished.


    Growing chicks show time passing

    February 23rd, 2015

    Note: This article I wrote showed up in the Northfield News last week!

    In less than two months, our youngest batch of layers changed from adorable fluff balls to gawky little birds that are still growing their feathers, leaving bald patches here and there. They darted around their coop as I filled their feeders today, and it seemed like a whole era had passed since they were cute baby peepers.

    We had a power outage in the brooder a couple hours after the babies first arrived in December, which knocked out the heat lamps that kept them warm. To survive their first week, chicks need heat. Thankfully, we discovered the problem quickly and replaced a fuse to bring the lights back on, but we lost a few more than usual that first week.

    In a way, the chicks that didn’t make it will always be little fluff balls while the rest of their flock has moved on into a new stage of life without looking back.

    Unlike chickens, people look back. In my mind, I can see a perfectly clear picture of those cuties. Maybe because I worried about them so much after their heat lights went out. The picture of those baby chicks seems almost as real to me as the young birds that are darting around their coop with their newly grown feathers.

    My life before farming is preserved in my mind like those long-gone baby chicks. When we visit my husband’s parents in our old Minneapolis neighborhood, I see houses that I passed hundreds of times while we lived there, and feel as though we’ll be pulling up in front of our old home any minute.

    The life that I imagine stepping into is almost six years out of date. The blonde preschooler who toddled those sidewalks is on the verge of middle school. Some of the friends who kept our old house sociable and warm have faded from our lives, and people that we didn’t know six years ago have become like family. I can almost see myself walking those sidewalks, preoccupied and dreaming again about whether or not I’d ever be able to farm.

    I’m so grateful I could make those dreams reality by moving away with the family and raising some chickens. The dreams of farming were adorable and cuddly, and the reality is gawky and awkward, but I’m OK with that. It shows me that things are moving along the way they should be. Chicks that never make it past their cute phase don’t survive to run around in the clover. They’ll never squawk, or tilt their funny heads to get a better look at me, or run around proud with a worm. They’ll never give eggs or meat.

    In my memory though, the chicks will always be bouncy balls of fluff. Some of those memories will stay with me for a long time, and others will slip away unnoticed, maybe when all my thoughts are busy with work and the riot of spring.


    Holiday Ham is on Sale

    December 5th, 2014

    Let us help you celebrate the holidays. Our beautiful hams are on sale through the month of December — 10 percent off. You can pick them up at our farm almost any time (just be in touch with us to be sure we’re available), and we’ll be dropping them off at Ian’s parents’ house in the Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis on Tuesday 12/9 from 6:30-7:30.

    These hams are the real thing. Our hogs were running around outside, eating greens, transitional organic feed and table scraps. The hams make a fabulous main course for a family celebration and could also be a great gift that you know will be enjoyed.

    The hams cost $6.19 a pound, before the 10 percent discount. We have a few large ones — running from $30-35 before the discount, and some that run around $20 or less before the discount. The smaller ones are from guinea hogs, an old fashioned breed that’s on the Slow Food Arc of Good Taste, which is for rare foods that are absolutely delicious.

    We also have a pretty full supply of our regular offerings — chicken parts and whole birds of both breeds we raise. We have many pork cuts left as well but are out of ground pork and pork chops. We’ll be sending more hogs to the processor in early January, and then we’ll have all the cuts again.

    We’re well here. We’ve expanded our laying flock, but they’re not laying much yet. We expect they’ll kick in during the spring when 300 of our birds are old enough to lay and when the senior hens are inspired by the longer days. We’re actually thinking of getting another bunch of chicks this month. Thanks again to our friends and customers who helped us prepare a brooder that can help keep those babies warm in the coldest of weather.

    E-mail or call us to let us know if you’d like some meat for the holidays or just for everyday good eating!


    One of the last days of the year

    November 9th, 2014

    Today feels like the ending of the year more than December 31 ever does. It may be the last day of the season that the chickens are out browsing in the greens because Monday morning we’re forecast to get as much of a foot of snow.


    November 6th, 2014

    There are a few things we’d like you all to know about: an upcoming volunteer day, the status of winter egg subscriptions, and when we’ll be at winter markets.

    – We are having a work day on Saturday Nov. 8 to help get ready for freezing weather. We’ll might be seeding some pasture and shoveling out the old bedding of chicken coops. Come on, connect with the land! Tap into that primal “inner squirrel” that knows winter is coming and yearns to busily prepare! Get a good workout in the great outdoors! See the neighbors’ huge combines crawling through cornfields! See our new laying hen set-up! We’ll have a bonfire when it gets dark if there’s interest. And you’ll have our deep appreciation. Just let us know. We might have a bonfire at night if there’s interest. It looks like it will be cool but sunny. (And if you can’t come Saturday, but want to come another day, just let us know!)

    -We’re making some changes for our egg production, so our winter egg subscriptions are still at a “wait and see” point. We’ve gotten some new hens and transitioned our flock to a new building, and our rate of lay has declined, at least for now. We hope it’s because they’re adjusting to their new neighbors. We’re so grateful for people’s interest in the subscription, and we’ll keep you all in the loop.

    - We’ll be at the Kingfield/Fulton winter markets at Bachmann’s in Minneapolis (at 60th and Lyndale) on Nov 16 (less than 2 weeks away) as well as January 24, February 28 and March 28. The hours at that market are 9-1:30. Come see us there, or give us a call and visit the farm.

    With our weekly farmers markets done for the season, I thought it would be a leisurely time around here. Instead, the deadline of a frozen ground is approaching quickly, and we’re like squirrels trying to put everything in order for winter before the season is upon us.

    Thank you again so much for your interest and support.


    Purebred Berkshire pork

    August 5th, 2014

    We have some amazing pork available for sale now. We’re selling half and whole purebred Berkshire hogs – a breed known for their deliciousness. We fed them transitional organic feed, hay, and table scraps. They‘ve been raised in a group of 5 littermates. We’ve never given them hormones or antibiotics, and they have an old-style pig pen with two shelters and a yard where they like to wallow and lie around in the shade and sometimes sleep under the stars on nice nights.

    We’ll be processing them on Aug 20, and we need to hear from you as soon as possible so we can give the processor about your “cutting order,” (what kind of cuts you’d like).

    We’ll be selling them for $3.25 a pound hanging weight (which is different from the amount of meat you bring home in packages) plus processing cost, which is estimated at $170. Here’s an estimate of how that breaks down:
    Live weight: 300 lbs
    Hanging weight: 204 lbs (also called carcass weight or hook weight)
    Packaged weight: 145 lbs
    So, a whole hog might cost approximately $833 ($3.25 x 204 lbs plus $175 processing cost). This comes out to about $5.78/lb for the packages. A half hog might be approximately half that: $417.

    This cost is a very rough estimate. The price per pound could be less, depending on what you ask the processor to do with your meat. For example, if you don’t want prepared sausage or smoked bacon and ham, you could save about $50 on the cost of processing the hog. If you wanted more than the average amount of sausage and smoked cuts, you could pay more. Another variable in the total price will be the size of the hog. Live weight, hanging weight and packaged weight can vary from hog to hog.

    Customers would pick up the meat themselves at Dennison Meats. This is a very well-respected small processor that will help you keep your cost down, and we are especially grateful that they can work with customers who need to avoid gluten, msg and/or nitrates, but who still want delicious things like sausage, ham and bacon. If you’re avoiding those ingredients, we’ll want you talking to the processor ahead of time so they can be sure they’re getting you what you need.

    To reserve a hog or half hog, send a non-refundable $150 deposit (check is fine) to our farm: Auntie Annie’s Fields, 12456 Bagley Ave. Dundas, MN 55019. Deposit are due by 8/12 — or when we sell out.


    A spring of building

    May 29th, 2014

    It has been a busy spring!

    With the help of some dedicated customers, we remodeled an old hen coop to make it an insulated brooder — a place for the baby birds that have to stay warm. We also had two “barn-raisings,” which were really chicken coops that each went up over the course of a day. Still, they felt like barn raisings because at one point, we had to push the frames from lying flat on the ground to an arch shape that stands more than 6 feet tall. It took several people working together and was a rewarding piece of work to do.

    Right now we have almost 1000 birds at our place — 2 separate flocks of meat birds, and 2 separate flocks of layers. Like last year, we’re raising both the standard meat chicken, and a slower growing breed.

    With very mixed feelings, we drove our steer to the processor’s in April. He was an especially gentle and graceful black angus that we boarded at the home of our dear friends and neighbors because they have a better set-up for cattle in terms of fencing and a water systems. This summer, we hope to be developing the fencing to keep cattle right here at home.

    We also brought 3 hogs into the processor this week. They’re a mixed breed that includes some Berkshire heritage for good flavor. We had no idea how much we would enjoy having hogs around. They’ve found a special place in both of our hearts. It has been a humbling, joyful privilege to raise them, and it will be a humbling, joyful privilege to eat their delicious pork.

    We’re at Fulton Farmers Market every Saturday now, and we’ll start up at Midtown Farmers Market June 2 — right around the bend.

    Summer is really here! See you at the markets, or at our farm.


    New baby chicks

    April 20th, 2014

    Our first meat birds of the season are here, in a brand new “hover brooder” that should help them stay warm. We have 2 breeds again. The Cornish Cross are a light yellow, and they’ll grow more quickly. They’re the standard meat breed. The Freedom Rangers will grow more slowly and have more flavor and a slightly firmer texture. It’s a more old-fashioned tasting chicken.


    The baby chicks are growing!

    March 19th, 2014

    The chicks that we picked up at the post office in December have grown from adorable little fluff balls into regular hens. They’re much smaller than our grown layers and aren’t producing eggs yet, but they have all their feathers and one of them is trying to crow.

    This week, a few have been venturing outside for the first time. It clearly takes some courage for them to step out into a new world, and most aren’t interested. A few are willing to take the risk though, especially some Delawares, which are cream-colored with pretty black accent feathers.

    Working near their coop this morning, I saw three bright young Delawares outside their door. They drew themselves up to their full height in their curiosity and looked thin and graceful as a chicken could ever hope to look. Every curve of them was made more alive with wonder, and I smiled to see them.

    A cat, which was accompanying me, trotted ahead toward the coop, and when the chickens saw her, the magic of the moment was done. They shrunk a couple of inches and turned their heads back and forth, fluttering their wings nervously. All at once, it occurred to them that the cat was coming straight towards them and was not changing its course. Struck with the enormity of the situation, they flapped their wings wildly and retreated back into the safety of their coop.

    This tiny gray cat, which has a policy of ignoring all poultry, continued past the coop with dignity. I think she was perfectly aware of the disturbance she caused, but she just played it cool because she has learned how to manage chickens. Last year, some rather feisty hens chased that cat’s great big son all around the yard, but they left her alone even though she was half his size.

    All these characters remind me of my children. My two year old, like those little chicks, has grown from being an adorable ball of softness to being a fountain of wonder as he daily tries to make his world a little bigger. I watch my bigger kids try to master the art of standing their ground with grace, just like the cats, and I cringe when they confront the human equivalent of feisty, pecking hens.

    As a mother, I’m probably doing exactly the same thing too, but with more exhaustion and less zeal. Along with the extra helping of exhaustion, I bring something else that I don’t see in my animals or my children. I bring an awareness that this will all come to an end. The young ones will all grow up. I’ll probably be around long after these particular chickens and cats are gone. The things I love today will be replaced by something different, and maybe by something beautiful. But this day, with these people, these animals, and this particular kind of wonder, will never come again.


    Two kinds of pigs

    February 25th, 2014

    We picked up five mixed-breed pigs earlier this winter to join the guinea hogs that have been with us since August.

    These pigs are a mix of Berkshire and Chester White, so they’ll be larger and leaner than the guineas we sold last year. (We’ll still be raising guineas as well!) Berkshire heritage should give the meat an especially good flavor.

    These hogs are pink with black spots, and after growing for a while at our place now, they already they dwarf the solid looking, furry black guineas.

    We’re very happy with how they were raised before we bought them — free-range with outdoor pens, hand-fed, and without hormones. The farmers at Pig in the Patch, who bred these pigs, have raised hogs for a very long time and are a wonderful resource.

    Picking up those new pigs was a mellow experience that involved driving to the next county, visiting with a friendly farmer and then pulling home a trailer full of pigs nestled in straw. Although they were cautious about exiting the trailer, a little corn convinced them, and they were soon settled in their new abode.

    Buying guinea hogs is not so easy, and realistically, we’re going to need to start breeding them if we want to keep offering them, (which I really want to do).

    To bring home our current batch of guinea hogs,(the rare black breed) I drove a minivan home from Iowa filled with five pigs, three kids and a generous heap of luggage.

    We picked up pigs in Iowa because it is hard to find the rare guinea hog. They are absolutely lovely pigs – notoriously gentle, easy on the feed budget and especially delicious.

    Late last summer we found some for sale near an Iowa town we planned to visit anyway, so we arranged to pick them up on our way home.

    We met the pigs just south of Des Moines. They were black, furry and about the size of cats except instead of being lithe, they were heavy and solid as logs. We settled them into our straw-lined dog crates, repacked our luggage around the crates and we were on our way.

    It was a hot day and the air-conditioning was running. Soon cries of protest rose up from the back seat. I want my kids to take these things in stride, so I encouraged them to be philosophical about the smell. Pigs themselves don’t smell. Pig manure smells, of course, but they’re not unique in that.

    Then the odor reached the driver’s seat. Mercifully, I found a way to keep fresh air sweeping from the front of the vehicle to the back and then out. It didn’t smell like potpourri, but the smell diminished to the degree we could all cope with it by being philosophical.

    We stopped a couple of times to give water to the pigs, leaving the back of the minivan open so it would not get too hot. As I was buckling my toddler into his car seat at a rest stop, an elderly woman pulled behind us and shouted questions at my daughter.

    “What are those?” the lady hollered.

    “They’re just little babies!” my daughter gushed.

    “They’re little baby WHATS?”

    “Pigs!”

    “Where are you taking them?”

    “Home to our farm!” my girl answered. Apparently satisfied that nothing awful was happening, the lady pulled away.

    At our next stop, my fourth-grader carried a half-gallon Mason jar into a gas station to fill with water for the pigs. We were in the entryway when the jar slipped from his hands and shattered with an explosion that sounded like a gun shot.

    For what seemed like forever, I stood immobile, as did the large line of people at the cash register.

    When I glanced up, I saw a dozen faces staring at us in silent horror. I tried to look normal and reassuring, telling my stricken son that it was OK, and then explaining loudly to the cashier that we dropped a jar.

    Mercifully, we were on the last leg of our journey at that point and did not take any more breaks.

    Those pigs arrived safely and are doing well. I think they are marvelous, and I am delighted that four of the five are females, which means we may be able to breed them and keep them with us longer. Really, I think I’d better breed them. I don’t want to drive more pigs home from Iowa if I can avoid it.