Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Food Finally!

I was going to write "it's been a crazy month" when I realized that it's always a crazy month. Alas! Such is life. We just got back from visiting my sister and my sweet nephews in Houston. Also in attendance were my parents, my brother, brother-in-law and my newly-pregnant sister-in-law!! It was too short a trip, and I wish I could have spent a month with them.

The week before that Russet House Farm along with cino hosted Practicing Resurrection. It was a great conference, but as always organizing these kinds of things takes lots of time and energy. Thankfully, that energy was fed back to us by some great presenters.

The main reason I'm throwing this post up quickly is to tell you that I finally got the recipe section done on our web site. Check it out! (Also if you happen to know how to make my grass/feather picture centered on all computer screens, let me know! Arrgghh)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Memory of Hannah

In May, I was participating in the Great Diaper Hunt contest. (It's fun, and hey, I won a diaper bag, a diaper, and some other stuff in November). When I came across an entry from one of the sponsors mentioning that she just found out her son was stillborn. I went to her blog and began reading.

I was immediately struck by so many things. While the basics of our story are different, I feel like our responses are pretty much the same.

For those of you who don't know, our daughter Hannah died when she was five months old. The short version is that she was born with an annular pancreas, which means her pancreas was wrapped around the exit to her stomach. Because of this, her intestines never developed properly. In order to make sure that she received adequate nutrition, she was given TPN, an intravenous nutrition. The downside to TPN is that it can wreck your liver, which it did in Hannah's case, and she died of liver failure. (Side note: Become an organ donor. No excuses).

Shortly after her death, while we were in the heaviest part of grieving*, I began to read books on loss in order to see if I could find something to help me make sense of it all. I couldn't find anything. As a Christian, I was angry and frustrated and sad and everything else, but I didn't blame God. I knew God shared my sadness and in the new earth I wouldn't have to deal with this. (One of the cards I treasure was from a friend who wrote that God was weeping with us, and if you are ever looking for words to send to a grieving Christian parent, those are helpful. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell them that their child is better off because now they are with God. That is NOT helpful). All the books I ended up reading had nothing to do with how I felt. In fact, I have never really come across anyone who has grieved in a similar manner to me, until I began reading Heather's blog.

Here is a Christian woman who has lost a child. She is angry and sad but she knows hope too. In fact, this post was what made me finally write about her. (I should clarify. I have never contacted Heather nor do I know her in person. I just admire how she writes about her grief and loss, but I will be sending her a link to this post). I remember so many of her emotions, and I've heard so many of her comments. Her responses have been almost exactly what I've thought or said.

So, to Heather I want to say, it does get easier, but sometimes that makes it harder. Your memories are so few that you desperately want to hold onto them. It's scary when they fade a little. The unexpected holidays are the hardest. I was surprised at how hard New Years was. Hannah's whole life was lived in 2005, so how could it be 2006, a year in which she never existed. You are right to accept joy. If the future holds more children for you, they will never replace Sawyer (as you know), but their laugh provides healing that nothing else can.

On another side note, I struggled with prayer for a long time after Hannah's death. While she was in the hospital, I prayed like I never prayed before. (During our time there, I felt like we got several messages straight from God. I was in the washroom on the ICU floor and carved in to the toilet roll holder was the word "prayer"). But after she died, I stopped praying because how could such honest and open prayer be denied. This year I attended a Bible study at my church, and we spent several months on prayer. It was during Holy week** that I read this post, and I had a major revelation about prayer. God lost his son, and Jesus prayed that it wouldn't happen. How awful it must have been to know that you had to deny such a request. A request that I'm sure was not easy to deny. I've been able to see my loss in a new light.

*Shortly after Hannah died, Henry and I went on a trip to learn how to breathe again. While hiking in Maine, we had a discussion about the difference between grieving and mourning. I think that grieving is an immediate act with a timeline, and it does come to an end. Mourning is neverending. We will forever miss Hannah.

**As yet another side note, when I was pregnant with Hannah, I really related to Christmas - the joyful expectation of birth. With Moses, it was Easter - the joy that comes after loss.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Soft Tacos

Soft tacos or wraps are one of my favorite "go-to" meals. I always have the ingredients in the house, and they are super easy to make. You can use almost anything in them that you want. Some of my favorite fillings are salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream or yogurt, refried beans, and sautéed veggies. In fact, the soft tacos above have all of those in them. Here is the order of how I get everything to the table while it's still hot (or cold).

1 lb. ground beef - Of course, I want you to use organic or naturally-raised beef.
1 1/2 T. chili powder
1/4 - 1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1 c. shredded cheese - cheddar or pepperjack are my favorites
1 c. salsa - I use our homemade salsa.
1 onion, sliced
1-2 bell peppers, sliced
1 c. guacamole
1 c. sour cream or yogurt
1 c. refried beans
2-4 tortillas, any size
  1. Wrap the tortillas in a dish towel and put in a very low (250 degree) oven. Alternatively, you can microwave them for 30 seconds.
  2. Brown the ground beef on medium-high heat.
  3. While the beef is browning, throw the onion and peppers into a skillet and sauté over medium-high heat just until they soften.
  4. Add the seasonings and turn to low. Let simmer while you prepare everything else.
  5. If you don't have prepared guacamole, take a ripe avocado and mash it with garlic salt and lime juice. Yum!
  6. When your meat and veggies are done, put everything in bowls on the table.
  7. Turn off the oven and take out the tortillas that you will be using immediately. Leave the rest in the oven to keep warm.
  8. Put a tortilla on your plate and load up! (Henry likes to use two tortillas because he always has too much filling).
Again with this dish, you can modify EVERYTHING. Don't like some of the spices? Take them out. If you like cilantro, add it! (I, personally, think it tastes like armpits). Use what's in season and adjust to your heart's content.

This dish is part of this month's Grow Your Own event launched by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes. This monthly food blogging event celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Well, it's been over a month since I last posted.


That doesn't mean I haven't been obsessively composing posts in my head during that time. I have been. It's just the distance from my brain to the computer is rather large it seems. Anyway, there are a few things I thought I'd update you on.

1. We've been selling our beef at the Sorauren Park Farmer's Market. It runs Mondays from 3-7. If you're in the neighborhood, come visit us. It's been so great meeting and getting to know people. Everyone has been really supportive and excited about what we're doing.

2. Here's a link to the Slow Food event I mentioned earlier.

3. We had a surprise calf! It turns out that one of the cows we bought was pregnant. Henry went to do chores one day, and there he was. The cow was really too young to get knocked up and wasn't able to take care of the calf. We've been bottlefeeding him. Henry named him Knuckles because it took him a few days to stop walking on the knuckle of his foreleg.

Knuckles and Moses

Don't worry, Knuckles won't be dinner. Instead, he will become a lead steer, which means we'll use him to help us lead the cattle wherever we want them to go. Because we bottlefeed him, he pretty much comes running whenever he sees us. Cows are herd animals - and greedy - so if one of them goes toward something, the rest have to make sure they get their share.

Since we didn't want Knuckles to be lonely, we bought a heifer which we named Niko. We're bottlefeeding her too. I'll get a picture of her up as soon as I get a chance.

So, let's see - right now, I'm bottlefeeding two calves and still nursing my son. Hmm.... Any bets on who gets weaned first?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Not to Wear: The Farm Edition

I've always said that you don't have to dress badly just because you live on a farm. I've tried to avoid wearing mud (or worse) encrusted boots to the grocery store. If I go out for lunch with some friends and then have to do chores afterwards, I bring clothes to change into.

Sometimes, I think I take it too far though.*

You don't want to know what's on my shoe.

*In my defense, Henry said that the paths were fine, and we were planning on going out to dinner afterwards.

Monday, March 31, 2008


Tonight I ate pizza sitting on my bathroom floor while Moses splashed in the bathtub.

In my defense, I've been trying to clean out the fridge before we leave in a couple of days, and since Moses is teething and up a lot at night, my brain was too tired to come up with a concoction using pineapple, refried beans, and yogurt. To my credit, I didn't feed any pizza to Moses, and I did add frozen green peppers from my garden to it before I cooked it.

Since he started on solids at about six months, I've been very conscience of how and what we eat. Particularly the "how." When I feed Moses, I try to not do anything else. No checking email, reading, etc. I want to set in motion good habits now. I must admit that as cute as he is, sometimes it's really hard not to do anything else. When Henry has night class, the conversation is somewhat lacking. Tonight, Moses was ready for bed at the same time as the pizza. Since he hasn't been sleeping very well, I wanted to get him in bed as soon as I could. I also didn't want to eat cold pizza. And so, I sat on the bathroom floor.

The "what" we eat is a bit better. (Granted, we were at a Slow Food Toronto event this weekend promoting our beef, and I probably would have been beaten over the head with an outdoor-oven baked baguette if they knew I ate frozen pizza). My freezer and my slow cooker are probably my two favorite appliances these days. I love that I have green peppers, tomatoes, and swiss chard from my garden stashed in the freezer. (I've eaten all the frozen strawberries). Now that I have a freezer full of beef, I am a lot more experimental in my cooking. I'll pull out a roast, look up recipe ideas on the internet, and try it out. It's much easier to decide on dinner when there is a lot of good food in the house, but sometimes a greasy pizza just hits the spot, even if it does come with a hefty dose of guilt and heartburn.

Now it's your turn; we just launched our freezer beef web site:, and I want to post some good beef recipes on there for our customers. What is your favorite recipe? Post it here, and I'll try them out and post them (with credit to you) on our web site!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


As I was doing chores last night, I noticed that the bulls had gotten through a gate and into a paddock with some heifers and steers. Now for obvious reasons, we don't want the bulls with the heifers. I stood there debating what to do. Henry was 45 minutes away and in class. I could have left them until he got home and hoped for the best, and I was tempted to do this. BUT, I decided to try and use some grain to lure the bulls back to their paddock, and what do you know - it worked!

As I was telling Henry this, and I mentioned that I had to keep checking to see which ones were the bulls. His response - "They're the ones with the bigger heads." Umm... that's not where I was looking.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Justifying Violence Part 2 (*fixed*)

Henry received this today in an email newsletter from Cow Calf Weekly. (Read Henry's article).

Our Perspective: The Biggest Beef Recall Ever

There was a lot of media hype this week surrounding USDA's announced recall of 143 million lbs. of raw and frozen beef products produced from February 2006 to February 2008 by Westland/Hallmark Meat in Chino, CA. The video from an undercover Humane Society operative was extremely damaging.

The recall itself was based on the fact the plant wasn't handling downer animals properly; the media hype was about animal abuse and the federal school lunch program. The various industry organizations responded quickly by both assuring the public that essentially all animals are treated humanely, and by condemning the abuse that occurred.

The disturbing part of this incident isn't that it triggered the largest recall in history, or that it provided plenty of justifiable ammunition for the groups working to eliminate beef production. It isn't even the images and negative publicity that are likely to affect beef demand for some time.

The most disturbing part is that despite the fact that 99.99% of the people involved this industry do things right, our industry's credibility was harmed. The result is that when distorted or non-factual claims about our industry are made in the future, they will resonate more with the public than they otherwise would have.

As an industry we have to embrace the fact that we can't afford to have any more of these types of mistakes. One or two rogue employees can cause irreparable damage to this industry, and because we are a low-margin industry that in part depends upon low wage-earning employees, the responsibility to train and create the proper cultures for those employees is critical.

-- Troy Marshall

A Winter's Tale (Tail?)

I'm no Pioneer Woman, but I think these shots turned out decently (despite my lack of Photoshop. Sigh).

The view from the hay loft.

Secret Agent 005 and her bodyguard.

Dreaming of spring.

The blue door of the barn.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Starting Up

I'm back (and so, thank heavens, is my computer. I've missed it. In fact, I was tempted to write an Ode to an Apple, but I thought I would spare you all).

I've been feeling overwhelmed the last couple of weeks as we start this new business venture. Our to-do-list doesn't seem to be getting any shorter.

So far we've:
  • acquired business number
  • picked up loan forms
  • started a business plan
  • drafted a budget
  • met with feed co-op salesman*
  • opened business bank account
*He was really great. He's local, organic, and very honest about the products he has.

We still need to do these:
  • apply for a farm number
  • finish customer database
  • start tracking expenses (in an organized way)
  • mail out brochures
  • design/write web site content
  • take a deep breath!!!

Eating Violence

My computer is out of commission for a few days, so I can't post as much as I want. I had to link to this essay Henry wrote for *catapult magazine. It's a good exploration of why we're starting this beef business.

Eating Violence

Monday, February 4, 2008


On Saturday, we came home from meeting with the butcher and looking at our new cows to find our driveway plowed. We know which neighbor did it, so I just finished baking some zucchini bread to take over to him. We have another neighbor who lets us borrow her riding tractor during the summer to cut our lawn.

Now maybe these people just feel sorry for us and want to make sure their property values stay high, but I don't think so. It's a cliche that in the country you wave to everyone you pass on the road, but it's one of those cliches with truth behind it. In the country, you need your neighbors. They come over and help you fix your tractor; you go over and help with their hay. It just happens. No one expects payment, maybe a cold beer and a thank you, but no money.

I think Henry and I have been really blessed by the neighbors that we have. Besides the ones mentioned above, we trade work during hay season with one set. A family down the road dropped by this summer with some asparagus they found growing nearby. Another neighbor called to check if we had bought the cows or not and to talk about feeding options for them. (We had pumped him for advice before we made an offer).

We don't share fences with too many of these people, so I don't know if Robert Frost was right but sharing good advice, tractors and some homemade zucchini bread does make for good neighbors.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Smells good

I love baking, but when I was working full time, I never got the chance to do a lot of it. Now that I'm home, I'm trying to do more. Recently, I was visiting a mom in my moms' group, and she pulled fresh bread out of the oven. It smelled wonderful. She no longer buys bread at the store, and after tasting her bread, I didn't blame her. I got the recipe, and this is my second batch.

I'm going to try to avoid store-bought bread from now on too.

I found the recipe for the Dark Chocolate muffins on Baking Bites - one of my new favorite blogs. There are tons of recipes I want to try from there! It's really too bad you can't tell how heavenly my house smells right now.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cows, cows, cows

That is the creative way Henry calls the cows when he feeds them. We are now the proud owners (once we make a downpayment) of 30 Black Angus stocker cows. We'll raise them through the summer and then have them butchered and sell the meat straight to customers, a food coop, and possibly, a local butcher.

This farm to table system is not as popular as it should be. I'm sure many people have heard about how the family farm is dying. It used to be that farmers would raise their cattle and then sell them to the processor who would butcher the cows and wrap them in plastic for the grocery store. With the advent of factory farming, a lot of small family farmers can't make money finishing cows in the traditional system. (Obviously, this is more complex than I make it sound here.)

Recently, we've been meeting farmers who are marketing directly to the customer. This does several things: a) cuts out the middle man, putting more money straight into the farmer's pocket b) allows customers "to know" their meat. (I haven't done a lot of reading on this yet, but apparently, meat that is raised organically is higher in Omega-3s than traditional meat.) This is ideal for smaller farmers, although we know people who have started a coop and are selling their meat together on a larger scale.

We're excited to get involved in this. This fall, we butchered five of our own beeves (an animal raised and slaughtered for beef), kept half a cow for meat (yummy, yummy), and sold the rest. It was exciting to finally get a taste (haha) of what farming could look like for us.

Check out Eat Wild if you want to find a farmer near you!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Review: Big Red Barn

Wow. I have readers - plural, which means more people than just my husband are reading this.

Hello to all five of you!

I was going to post about how we came to be farming in the first place, but that's a much longer story than I have brainpower for tonight. Instead, I thought it might be fun to do a mini book review.

Big Red Barn

by Margaret Wise Brown

I love this book. It's by the same woman who wrote Good Night Moon, but it's far less popular. (We only have one copy of Big Red Barn versus the three we were given of Good Night Moon). Almost all the animals mentioned including the bats and mice live on our farm.

Moses loves animals, and I can't wait until he really gets into reading. I think he'll love this book. (Right now, he just wants to turn the pages of his board books, but that's better than chewing them which he used to do).

This would make a great baby gift for any country dweller or city dweller who misses the sight of a corn field. (The one thing this book is missing is the manure that is ever-present on a farm, which depending on your point of view could be good or bad).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dropping fast

So this morning which started out with such promise - a new blog, sunshine, etc. - has gone downhill alarmingly quickly. So downhill that I am now sitting with a spoon, peanut butter (the ground up peanut stuff) and certified organic fair trade chocolate chips.

I pay my bills online and did so today. Unfortunately, I sent the payment for my credit card to an old credit card that is no longer active. That means I now get to spend several hours phoning back and forth between my bank and the credit card company while my money floats along in outer space. ARGH! I hate it when I'm stupid

In farming news, my husband is perusing the Gencor catalogue and comparing Angus bulls' rates to a bull we're interested in buying. We're also trying to think of a name for our personal farm enterprise, but I haven't really had anything click. H is partial to bird names. Suggestions?

Hi! My name is... Sarah

So, I've decided to join everyone else residing in North America and start a blog. This will hopefully encourage me to write more. I plan on exploring my life as a mom and farmer. I love to bake, so I'm sure we'll be talking about that too.

Currently, I'm a 1/4 owner of Russet House Farm, an (uncertified) organic farm in Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada. We raise rare breed Kerry cattle, Muscovy ducks, and chickens, in addition to having a large garden. We also run a lot of educational programming, which you can read about on the web site.

I have an 8 month old son who is currently awake and talking to himself in his bed, so I should probably go get him.

There are a ton of bloggers who I love to read and who have inspired me to start blogging, so as I get time, I'll try and post links to them in the sidebar.