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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

    Wrestling with a miracle in the mud

    April 23rd, 2015

    We’ll be bringing chicken and pork up to Ian’s parents’ house in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis this Sunday (April 26) from 12:30-1:30. We’ve got all things chicken except thighs, and we have lots of pork roasts, pork steaks, chops, ham and ham steaks. E-mail us to place an order.

    We’ll also be having work -day weekends on the farm every weekend in may starting Sunday May 3. We’ll be preparing summer housing for the chickens, cleaning the brooders out when our baby chicks graduate from them and generally taking care of business. Let us know if you want to come be part of the action!

    As spring unfolds, everything has to happen at once. It’s an amazing time with so much to do and appreciate, but it’s also enough to drive us a little batty if we try to do it all by ourselves, (kind of like parenting that way).

    I am fully aware, as I do chores under the bright spring stars, that I am witnessing miracles. The smell of wet earth and growing things tells me there’s a song of praise rising up from the land and singing in me. Chicks chirp and sing, bouncing with bubbly life. Slowly, the trees’ leaves swell with buds, and the hogs celebrate beautiful days by grabbing mouthfuls of hay and shaking it around the way a playful dog might shake a toy.

    Our farming work at this time is like the land, and the trees. Everything has to change quickly to be ready for summer, and a tremendous amount of creation must be accomplished in a short time. First the chicks need the infrastructure to stay clean and warm and dry, and then they need infrastructure in the field so they can enjoy the greens when they’re old enough to feel comfortable in cooler temperatures. Our extra three acres of pasture need to be planted. The bounty of eggs coming from our newly laying spring chickens must be cared for and put to good use. We need to prepare for more hogs.

    So promise and exhaustion hold hands in spring. We stomp around in our muddy boots carrying buckets, drills, lumber and water as the limitless joy of the season presses against the limits of what we can do in a day. We wish each day could be a week long at this time of year.

    Each day we go out again to wrestle in the mud with a miracle. I get hurt and tired and cranky while all the while knowing that I am wrapped and pressed by the divine. Ideally, we might tenderly hold hands with something of breathtaking beauty and share lovely words with it. We’re not doing that, but wrestling in the mud with something glorious has its advantages. It’s a full-body experience, for one thing, and there’s nothing theoretical about it. It’s real. I like it that way.

    Let us know if you’d like to come join the wrestling match of spring preparations or if you’d like us to bring you anything on Sunday!


    “New” machinery at our place

    April 14th, 2015

    Ian's purchase at the auction

    There was big excitement around our place last week. Ian bought a new tractor at an auction. I should qualify “new.” It’s a 1959 Case tractor, but that’s a decade younger than our other tractor — a 1949 International Harvester.

    When Ian pulled into the driveway with that tractor on a trailer behind him, he was marking the victorious end of an epic quest. This spring, in pursuit of the most useful machine at the best price, he visited a wonderful elk farm, got stuck in a treacherous driveway out by Waconia, and choked on smoke in a huge machine shed in Iowa. He’d spent countless hours doing research. He had decided he wanted this tractor that would be sold at this auction, but bidding was growing close to the price he was willing to pay. Then, the other guy stopped bidding, and the tractor was ours.

    Now all we need is a machine shed to go with our tractors. In the mean time, our new machine is sitting out by the driveway, waiting for some repairs. I teased Ian that he was announcing our good news to the community by parking it there, just as certainly as if he were to mail little “new member of the family” announcements to all the neighbors and the people who drive down our busy country road. Nothing goes unnoticed, so parking something in such a prime place for viewing seemed quite forward to me.

    Ian responded that he wasn’t trying to make a statement. He was just trying to find a place for everything. Besides, he said, he had obscured the view of the tractor by parking our poorly functioning minivan between it and the road. So our modesty was being maintained.

    We also bought a mixer mill and placed by the driveway as modestly as possible, obscured from the road by one of the big metal gravity wagons we use to hold chicken feed. Our mill is also covered by a large blue tarp to keep the rain from dripping inside it and rusting out the mechanisms. The enormous, billowing blue tarp gives a sense of mystery to the thing, which is a full story high. Our friend John, who helped wrap it in the tarp, said it looked like a prize on a game show. A game show host could clap a smiling winner on the back and bellow, “For your fabulous prize, you can choose to open Door 1, open Door 2, or take whatever is under this enormous tarp!”

    I would willingly choose the thing under the tarp. At the peak last summer, I sometimes was carrying 700 pounds of feed in a single day. As much as I love exercise, we decided our operation had reached the size when we should consider using machines to move that feed. The mixer mill, together with our “new” tractor, will help us do that.

    It wasn’t easy to find the mill because our small scale of farming is so old-fashioned. Our good friend Chuck knew an elderly gentleman who owned a mill though, and the guy was willing to sell if Chuck came down to see him. So Ian, Chuck, and a friend with a bigger pickup than ours met up in southern Minnesota to eat pie, drink coffee, and buy the mill. Then, they drove home at about 30 miles an hour because they were hauling such large, awkward equipment. I don’t think the slow pace bothered Ian because he was chatting the whole way home.

    Who needs to invite friends over for a party when you could take a road trip and buy a feed mill instead?

    The feed mill will eventually need more protection from the elements than our tarp can provide. We will eventually need a machine shed, and we’ll be working toward it too, a little bit at a time, just like we worked toward the purchase of all this equipment.

    In the meantime, we’ll manage with what we have, knowing that our machinery is not just there to make our farm run more efficiently. It might also be a source of entertainment for the whole community. And most importantly, it can occasionally be used as a reason to eat pie with friends.


    New Year on the farm

    April 7th, 2015

    Here’s a video of our Baby chicks, early April 2015

    For us, the New Year started Thursday April 2 this year, with an early morning call from the post office. The post office clerk didn’t need to say a word because in the background, we could hear 600 baby birds peeping. We retrieved the birds, brought them home to their warm brooder and dipped each little chick’s beak in water in case any needed help figuring out how to get a drink. They’re already growing fast and our new season is literally off and running!

    We’ll be raising chicken, pork and eggs this year. We thought hard about adding beef. I picked up our friend Chuck last month and toured a pasture where we could have grazed cattle. It was an absolutely beautiful pasture, lush and shaded by wonderful walnut and chestnut trees, but Chuck reminded me how many irons we already have in the fire. We decided that the timing isn’t right yet. Chuck grew up in farming on an old-fashioned diversified farm, and we’re constantly asking him for advice.

    Always before, when I’ve talked to Chuck about our farm, he’s been talking directly to me. When we went to see the pasture, though, Chuck mentioned our farm to the man who was showing him around. Chuck squared his shoulders very slightly and his voice grew just a tiny bit deeper. I’m sure I was the only one who noticed, and I was silently delighted. Of course he should feel proud of the farm he has been helping to build. I don’t know what kind of farm we would have without him.

    Just like we wouldn’t have much of a farm without Chuck, we wouldn’t have much of a farm without our customers. My relationship with my farm fills part of my heart that nothing else fills, and that’s a feeling that I would love to share widely.

    So with a new year upon us, we want to keep in better touch with people. I’m planning to send out an e-mail every other week, update our blog weekly and update our Facebook page a couple times a week. Be in touch with us if you have any questions or comments or need to take a break from our e-mail list.

    On a practical note, if you want to see us in person, we’ll be doing a drop-off at Ian’s parents’ house in the Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis on Sunday, 4-26. E-mail us to let us know if we should bring something for you. We’ll have a pretty full selection of chicken and pork.

    For farmers markets, this season, we’ll be at Fulton every Saturday morning starting May 16; at Midtown every other week starting May 9 (the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Saturdays of the month); and at Nokomis one Wednesday a month during the summer. If you want to visit the farm, let us know!


    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.