Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Fun

Noah and Avery on Christmas Eve, opening gifts

Christmas morning at my folks

 The kids waiting to get into their second set of stockings for the day.
Christmas Dinner, which in addition to the previously mentioned menu, included shitake mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, butter and garlic (they were fabulous!, made by Adam). We also had roasted broccoli with lemon juice and parmesan.
Finishing off the wonderful meal we had home made caramels followed by these gingerbread trifles.

After I finished the last post, I realized that I had never really gotten to the heart of the issue or made the point I was trying to make, which in essence was this: what better way to celebrate life, family and the holidays than by going above and beyond to do something special whether it is cooking, decorating or other holiday traditions. My utmost purpose in sharing our special menus is to encourage you to take the extra step, try something new or be extra nice to yourself, not only during the holdidays but on ordinary days as well. For after all, what is living if we can't do it up, right?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The flat surfaces in our house are piled high with wrapped presents.We don't have a tree this year but we are spending Christmas day at my folks. They have a lovely real tree that we helped decorate. Even if we had a tree I know that the kids would not resist the temptation to undecorate it and open any reachable presents at their leisure. The last couple nights we've stayed up late finishing last minute craft projects for gift giving. I just have to assemble items into bags now. I'll be sharing what I've made after Christmas, wouldn't want to spoil any surprise should my family be tuning in. 

We are lacking in Christmas lights and decorations, but our house feels so cluttered already I'm not sure where I'd put things. On the other hand we are still enjoying the sounds and smells of Christmas. The kids and I have been peeling and eating clementines and pomegranates daily. We've been listening to beautiful Christmas concerts on public radio along with my favorite Christmas CD; Mistle Toe and Wine by Medieval Babes. 

Today I am making a red wine reduction sauce with porcini mushrooms and a gingerbread buttermilk cake in advance for tomorrow.  The menu for tomorrow is as follows:

Breakfast or Brunch:
Homemade Apple Fritters with maple glaze
Eggs Benedict
coffee and juice

Sparkling Cranberry lime cocktail followed by wine

Iceberg wedges with homemade blue cheese dressing
Beef Filet Mignons wrapped in puff pastry with a red wine reduction sauce
Beet salad with fresh oregano, chevre and walnuts
Smashed Potatoes with watercress 

Gingerbread Trifles with carmelized apples, cranberries, ginger and whipped cream

Yum, yum! Wishing you and yours a peaceful and merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Interior Doe Shed

The does have been spending quite a bit of time indoors lately. I am standing just to the right of the entrance. Yin is standing to the left of the interior wall and sliding pocket gate. The outside walls are well insulated but the long wall on the left is currently uninsulated. By next year at this time it should be our enclosed, insulated and heated shop. Right now the structure still needs a couple sheets of plywood, a door, insulation and the wood stove hooked up, for starters. You can see the frost lines on the wall. The area that is not frosty is sixteen inches of insulated floor and twelve inches of solid wood blocking.
Here is a view from the back corner facing the door. You can see the frosty flap that they push through to go in and out. Below is a picture of their light source. So far we are just using a regular light bulb, but if we need to, we can just unscrew the bulb and replace it with a heat lamp. We have tried to put the light as out of the way as possible. It is enclosed in a metal basket and the cord is wrapped in wire so if the goats were able to get at it they wouldn't be able to chew the cord. Their is a hole drilled in the wall directly behind the cage that the cord enters through. So far I've just been plugging the light in when I feed in the morning and unplugging it at night. I'll probably put it on a timer and save myself a little effort one of these days. So far I'm pretty happy with our new goat shed. It feels snug and draft free inside. It is noticeably warmer than outside. We keep the heated waterer and feeders outside to encourage the goats to leave their shelter and get outside. I read somewhere that you don't want the barn to be much more than thirty degrees warmer than outside or it will be too drastic a change in temperature for the animals. Also, if our waterer was indoors it would add a lot of humidity to the air.  I encourage the goats to get outside as much as possible. Even on the coldest days, I still feed grain and some hay outside. On a side note, it is a balmy twenty degrees above zero today. So I'm looking forward to getting outside today, and I'm sure the goats and chickens are too.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tiled Hallway

 The kids play with boxes all the time. Noah saws and works on them with his toy tools. He also uses them as garages for his machines. Avery mostly sits inside them. Alaskan Pale Ale is my beer of choice lately.

Our friend Tyson, who tiled our bathroom last spring, came out and tiled our hallway and around our hearth. We are going to wait until the wood stove is not in such high demand to tile the hearth. We have a baby gate wall that divides the living room from the woodstove area and hallway. Noah has his own play area across the gate so that he can play with his train track or legos without his sister's help. The slate around the hearth warms up and now is so much easier to keep clean, making for a more comfortable and attractive play area and hallway.

Winter Wonderland

This morning is our coldest morning of the winter yet, about eighteen degrees below zero. We did have an earlier cold snap but with the thermal inversion the low lying areas got down to thirty below but we never got colder than ten below, big difference. Sometimes it takes a couple days for the thermal inversion to catch up with us as is the case now, but I hear that by tomorrow the hills should be significantly warmer. For now, I am really noticing the differences between our triple pane vs. double pane windows. Last night I heard the radio announcer say "It is going to be a bit chilly tomorrow, highs twenty to thirty below zero." Yes she really did say a bit chilly. And the weather report also said highs twenty to thirty below zero. It has been ten below the last couple days and as I was doing chores last night I could tell it was colder because my nose hairs and eye lashes were icing up, which doesn't seem to happen at ten below or warmer. We replaced the regular bulb in the coop last night with a heat lamp. It felt pretty cold and we've lost several eggs to freezing solid and cracking the last couple days. In the picture above the goats are tied up to their spots as they eat their daily grain. If you look closely you can see the sun hitting the far hillside which faces south. I took these pictures yesterday at about one p.m. This is about as much sun as we'll see in a day.

The above picture shows the path we take up to the chicken coop. The picture below is our driveway.



 Huge ice crystals are built up on the west side of all the trees and shelters as with this birch tree. During our last warm spell I noticed that once the temperature reached the teens the frost disappeared from the trees, leaving behind a barren dismal woods. So, at least the cooler temperatures make for a lovely winter wonderland.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cold weather and Chicken coops

I just came in from night time chores. It is about ten degrees below zero and snowing. It was one of the few nights that I paused and contemplated whether I really needed to go outside. Tempting me, was not only the cold weather and lack of motivation to pile on all my layers, but the time of night and the knowledge that all the animals were probably sleeping. It is almost midnight and these days we usually give everyone dinner and close chicken doors earlier in the evening. When the weather gets this cold we toss extra hay at each feeding, so no one was going to go hungry. I went out mostly to check on everyone and make sure they were warm enough, and toss some more hay (for my conciouncse)  Rarely do I toss fresh hay into the goat stalls, but I did tonight. It can be a waste of hay. On the plus side, it adds a fresh layer of bedding and the goats don't have to stand out in the cold and blowing snow. The chickens and ducks had wanted outside this morning despite the cold. We had closed their doors earlier in the evening so their coops could start building up heat for the night. As of yet we have still not used any heat lamps this year, just regular light bulbs.

In related news, I mixed a hundred and fifty pounds of chicken feed outside today. I managed to stay warm by moving quickly. Noah even helped. Tomorrow we are having hay delivered to an area close to our driveway. We are getting three nine hundred pound bales of brome hay, second cutting. I have never used this source before but I was clear that my goats are very picky. They prefer green leafy hay. The price is less than we've paid for hay yet this year even with the delivery fee, so we'll see. I hope it doesn't snow more than the one inch forcasted, otherwise it is going to be a chore getting the truck all the way up to the bucks pen.

I took some pictures of our chicken coops a few days ago, so here they are:

This is a view of the entire structure from the north side. Before we had dug out the hillside this was a hovel for my quarter horse. After she moved we built a smaller insulated structure within her stall which became the buck stall. We built another well insulated room on the top making it a two story structure. Outside there is a pen within a pen of woven wire fencing with two strands of electric on the inside. It was designed to keep the bucks in and off the fence. They have since moved to the doe's old stall and pen. Now both structures are poultry housing. The lower coop houses three ducks, four pullets and three roosters. We are about to eat a couple of the roosters. 
The space is underused, we had four more pullets in the lower coop but they wanted to be in the upper coop and kept escaping. We moved the birds into this area in late fall and didn't have time to build a roof or taller fence so these birds are rather vulnerable. If the top coop wasn't at max capacity I would probably consolidate all the birds into the top coop. We are thinking of just housing ducks in the lower coop next year. In the picture you can see the gate on the right and some random containers I put water in for the ducks. Below is inside the coop. Perch, nesting boxes above, light, heated waterer, duck jug and feeder.

Below is a view from the south. The top coop is larger, about ten by twelve (I think). It also has a much nicer roofed outer fortress. This summer we felt safe at night leaving the chicken door to the coop open as long as they couldn't get out of their outer pen. We have two doors one on the left and one on the right. We are planning on extending their fenced area with a mesh net roofing out to give them more room to roam. The only big regret I have in this structure is that the stairs into the coop are inside their pen.

The top coop currently houses fifteen hens and two roosters. In the milder months we could put more birds in here but when they are cooped up for days at a time it gets crowded and the less dominant pullets get picked on. Starting in March or April the left side will house chicks and all the adults will be confined to the right side for a couple months.

This is the view from the door, of the left side of the coop. Heated waterer, broody box and perch. The woven wire door is to my right.

The door is obnoxious. We've been meaning to take it off as we leave it open all the time except in the spring when we have chicks on the left side. You can see the big feeder in the back, and a little feeder in the front which is for all the less dominant birds that hide on the left side of the coop. To the left of the feeder are laying boxes, You can't quite see them but they are on the back wall.


And here I am standing with my back to the nesting boxes and facing the chicken door and window. The chicken door is too big. We've been meaning to make it smaller so not as much warm air escapes or cold air enters. But we make do.

Monday, December 14, 2009

December Does

Nia is in heat and Zuri ( tail tucked on the right) is not.
I took these photos a couple days ago about midday. This is about how light and bright it is getting daily. The sun will not shine on our land for another month. The day light hours are so few that I look forward to day break, I get out, visit and watch the animals. I look out the windows and enjoy seeing the snow, the trees covered in frost and chickadees at the feeders. It is almost like I forget what I am missing until I have it again. By mid February I will be ecstatic about the sun hitting the house and coming in the french doors. The kids and I will take advantage of every ray coming in the windows, migrating as the sun moves through the house, shining on floor, blankets and the couch.
Nia is mounting Zuri while the girls try to enjoy their breakfast. Rose is the white doe. Nia is her daughter. They are both completely obnoxious and vocal when they are in heat. I am not breeding either doeling as they were born late in the season. They are about eight months old and are far to small for breeding. They were born in April and May. Last year we didn't breed our doeling either and now she is almost bigger than anyone, and looks so robust and healthy. Unfortunately she completely hides her heat cycles and I can barely get her to stand still to look under her tail.
This is Xanadu. I am excited about our coming kidding and milking season together. I miss milking Xanadu. I try to give her attention but I deffinitely don't handle her as much as the does I am milking. Last winter we thought she was bred but come time to kid her udder never filled, nor did she kid. Fortunately we didn't really need the extra milk. This year Xan has filled out and is looking good, she moved from bottom of the pack to leader. I bred her in September and was looking forward to some early kids but she came back into heat on Thanksgiving. So we bred her again but now we probably won't have kids until April. I was looking forward to February for once. Early kids would be nice for several reasons. We'll try again next year. Both Rose and Xoe are also bred to kid in April. Yin is the only doe I've yet to breed, and I think she might be going into heat tonight. If Xan has a doeling we will definitely be keeping her!
This is a nice picture of Xan and the doe's covered area. The feeder on the left has since been lowered. You can see their door on the left has a flap in addition to a plywood flap that is latched in the upright position- but I can lower and close it to keep them in if I need to. Last winter we had a wolf scare and for a couple weeks I screwed plywood over the flap every night and then took it off in the morning. On the far right there is a plywood gate into a future pen so we can move does easily. The mineral and baking soda feeder is on the back wall. Notice how much hay covers the ground. Magic was my horse of eleven years and she ate every speck of hay every feeding her entire life. I am so not use to such hay wastage especially at the price we pay for hay, which I cannot bear to go into at the moment (future post). Someday we will build a more efficient covered hay feeder which will help. We use hay for bedding. Straw is a better insulator so makes for a warmer bedding. Straw is almost as expensive as hay so we just use the old hay that they don't eat. I toss the leftovers in their stalls daily and it builds up becoming quite warm and soft by mid winter.

Egg News

This is not the best quality picture but you can see the deformed egg. If I didn't know better I might think that it was starting to develop or something, but we collect the eggs daily, so this is just a dud. Dustin was frying up eggs for breakfast. Needless to say after I took the picture we dumped this egg into the compost bucket.
As Noah would say, "This is a honker!" Well, big for us anyways and no it is not a duck egg. Most of the eggs we've been getting are out of our sexlinked pullets. I think the large one is out of our older layers, who have been molting and are just starting to lay again. Considering that this egg was so big that the carton wouldn't close, I guess it was pretty big. Below is a picture of it next to a quarter and a normal size egg. The far bottom photo was a picture of it in the pan, a double yolker.

In other news, our one female duck has not started laying that we know of. She is about eight months old and the males have been mating her for a couple months. The ducks are in with some chickens. The chickens lay their eggs in the nesting boxes. If the duck is laying her eggs they would be on the ground so I'm starting to wonder if she or the chickens are eating her eggs. Might be time for a special box on the ground for her.

The Ameraucanas are just starting to lay. I have four pullets and I'm just getting a blue green egg every other day, so I think maybe the most mature pullet is just starting. I can't wait until they are all laying as blue eggs are just lovely, so far the eggs from this batch of Ameraucanas are more narrow. Last year we bought Ameraucanas from a different breeder, the eggs were round and the shell quality and color were excellent. The birds themselves were rather flighty and small. We've got a few roosters this year, and I'm happy to say that they actually have enough meat on their frames to make them worth harvesting, unlike last year. I had received an odd ball Delaware pullet in with the Ameraucanas and I was looking forward to seeing how she laid as she was a very nice bird. Unfortunately she up and died last week. After feeding a bird for seven months, it is a bummer when they die and you can't eat them, and never got any eggs from them either.

Our Welsummer pullets have not started laying yet. There are three of them and they are about eight months old. We should get our first egg any day, I hope. The only chickens that are laying right now are our sexlinked pullets and the older layers must be starting up again, as we are getting about eight eggs a day, as few as six and up to a dozen. I am looking forward to the diversity in egg color the Ameraucana and Welsummers provide, but I am surprised at how much slower they are to mature as they are about the same age as the Sexlinks who have been laying consistently since September. So tallying up the numbers we have at least seven chickens and a duck that haven't started laying yet, so I think will fair well in eggs this year. I think now is the slowest time of year and we will only get more eggs from here on out. As much as I like raising heritage breeds and having a diverse flock, I sure appreciate the sexlinked hybrid layers on these cold dark winter days.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Here is a picture of my brand new nephew; Aidan Riley Bates, born to Adam and Tricia. Tricia had a natural water birth at the birth center in town. Aidan was a week early, weighed seven pounds twelve ounces. They returned home the same day they had him. I visited two days later. When I met him he was wide awake and looking around. He squeaks like a little mouse and whimpers like a new baby. I'll bet he has already changed a bunch in the last three days since I saw him. He is a very handsome little guy.

Aidan is my first nephew. I am so fortunate to live in the same town as my parents and brother. I am looking forward to watching our children grow up together. We've got Noah and Avery who are three and a half and one. Now there is Aidan who will be just over a year younger than Avery. A pack of three so far, and possibly more to come.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Posting comments and dairy regulations

I've been having trouble posting my own comments lately. If anyone has any suggestions or solutions let me know. I would also like the comments to show up below the post, without having to click on them. I've selected all the options to show comments but they still have to be opened up.

So, one of the comments that I have been trying to reply to was Margie's. She and her husband are in the final stages of starting a Grade A Certified Dairy in Palmer. For those of you who want to read the comments just scroll down to the previous post and click on comments.

Margie, thank you your input. I appreciate your clear perspective after having gone through the whole process yourselves. I readily admit that I am much less familiar than you in regards to the laws and processes for starting a certified dairy. My information has come directly from reading and interpreting the proposal itself. So I'm not entirely surprised if I misunderstood some aspects of the proposal. The public water supply and sewage aspect seemed rather straightforward so I'm not sure how that could be otherwise interpreted, but I'm glad that it was not a requirement for your dairy. You mentioned selling goat shares. That is certainly an idea we have been considering for the last couple years. I am beginning to feel organized and knowledgeable enough to venture into the world of goat milk shares this coming year. Although it does seem like quite a roundabout way to go about selling milk. Well, I look forward to keeping in touch with you both. I would absolutely love to stop in for a visit the next time we are down south. Thank you again.

Much of the public is oblivious to current milk laws and what it takes to sell milk and cheese legally. Folks are constantly surprised that I just can't sell or even give away milk or cheese. Often the misunderstanding is due to a small amount of individuals who are selling raw milk and cheese outside the law and because it is so commonplace people think it must be legal. Well, for those of you who have missed this in previous posts, it is illegal for milk to leave my property unless it is headed to a certified dairy, or in jars labeled "for animal use only, not for human consumption" The milk also has to be denatured with green food coloring and charcoal! So to be clear, I can't legally take milk or cheese to my parents when we go over for dinner. So, last I checked the local health food store does sell raw cows milk, with green dye and charcoal, for animal consumption of course.

In closing, I'm with you Bob, I do not believe that the government has a right to say what we can and can't consume. Unfortunately, there are fewer free thinkers and a much larger number of conformers and followers in our country who believe whatever current food pyramid and food guidelines the FDA is currently supporting. It is ironic that raw milk is considered a danger to public safety, but a McDonalds cheeseburger is the norm.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My thoughts on milk regulations

I have received a couple emails in response to my brief post about the DEC cheese making proposal 18AAC32. I would like to share an excerpt of one of those emails here, as I am sure that many of you have had similar questions or thoughts:

What changes would help out and still assure a safe product? The regulations are intended to assure that the processing facility is sanitary. I am willing to write DEC in favor of smaller operators, but I would like to hear specifically what you want. Mark Andrews

Well first, I'd like to genuinely thank you for taking the time to comment Mark, otherwise I would not be writing this post. I've been wanting to write more about milk, milk laws, and the controversy that surrounds the raw milk movement. I've been wanting to do more research as I want to be as informative as possible. I will state here that I am a skeptic. I do not believe much of what I read, hear or am told by A. my government, B. FDA, C. mass media D. any other large corporations or businesses. With that in mind...

The short answer is that I think there should be an exemption in proposal 18AAC32, that acknowledges that there are families milking a few animals and wanting to sell their extra milk and cheese, who are not capable nor interested in meeting the requirements of a Grade A Dairy.

Just acknowledging that ordinary people can milk animals, process milk and make cheese in their own kitchens in a safe manner and end up with safe product would be a tremendous event for the DEC or the FDA. I doubt this will happen. However, I would hope that if there is enough public interest and demand that DEC could be compelled to write up a separate list of regulations for small scale home dairies. I'm talking about making a daily batch of cheese from two to ten gallons of milk, it really isn't feasible to do more than that without the big equipment.

Before I go on discussing what I find are reasonable requirements for a home dairy, let me first enlighten you with just a small portion of the current proposal:

Construction Standards:

There must be separate rooms for each of the following operations:
1. receiving, weighing milk, washing and sterilizing containers in which milk has been received.
2. pasteurization, processing, cooling, manufacturing
3. bacteriological and chemical analysis
4. storage or aging of products
5. boiler, compressor and other machinery
6. storing of cleaning supplies or other potentially hazardous materials
seven. (my seven key is broken) toilets, lavatories, lockers
8. business offices

There are many more requirements including the structure(s) be built out of concrete. Water lines must be supplied by a public water system. Discharge must exit into a public sewer.

Obviously these regulations have been written with a large dairy in mind. In Fairbanks about half of the population lives in the city and has access to public water and sewer. The other half lives in the surrounding hills and valleys. These homes have wells or in many cases water holding tanks and private septic tanks. The reason for the water holding tanks is that it is too deep and expensive to drill for wells which often result in poor water quality. People either have water delivered by businesses or they haul their own water in jugs or water tanks. My point would be that anyone with dairy animals would be already living outside the city limits and therefore would not be able to meet these requirements just by location, unless they purchased another piece of land just for the purpose of processing milk, cheese-making and distributing etc. Furthermore, thinking of the rest of the state, most farms are located out of main population centers, which means that they are not on public water / sewer systems. This proposal is making it almost impossible to keep animals on the same premise as turning milk into cheese.

I recently visited a small goat farm in Maine. The lady had a certified dairy Maine dairy and it was legal for her to sell pasteurized cheese. I don't remember if she sold raw or pasteurized milk or not (I'll ask). Her dairy was located in the basement of her house and was no larger than a ten by twelve room. She had concrete floors, three small sinks and a refrigerator. She was required to send samples of milk ( I'm not sure about cheese) in to have it evaluated for bacteria count. She also receives surprise visits from some sort of inspector who makes sure that her cheese making and milk processing room are sanitary. Her fridge has to be at a certain temperature and her screen door has to be closed. I think that those are fair requirements. If that is what it took for me to legally be able to sell fresh chevre at the local Farmers market I would do it in a heartbeat. Maybe more importantly, if another cheesemaker met those requirements, I would feel safe buying cheese from them. I don't think that making cheese on a small scale should require much more than making baked goods or jam. Other than possibly sending milk in for testing or having surprise inspectors stop to inspect the facility.

I think it should be legal to sell raw milk and raw milk cheeses. That being said, I'm not going to go into the issues surrounding them yet. I will say that raw milk is consumed world wide on a daily basis with very few related illnesses. We drink raw milk and have been making raw milk cheeses for two years. My children are thriving. How can one even begin to compare a couple gallons of milk being turned into cheese in a home kitchen to milk in a cheesemaking factory. Personally I can see why the standards are so strict for the factory. In a home kitchen quality control is much easier enforced.

The state of Alaska and those of us who live here are going to be in big trouble if for any reason our chain of supply is cut off. Almost all of our food including milk is shipped in to the state. A very very small amount is actually grown and produced here (seriously scary). Our state should be doing all it can to foster the growth of small farms and dairies. Really all I want is for myself and others is to be able to sell milk and cheese from our own land, without having to go into debt building a factory. This is not an unreasonable request. I think that there is growing interest among the public for local food, raw and unprocessed foods, organic and natural foods. It is time to be heard, we just need the higher-ups to listen and the only way that is going to happen is if enough of us yell.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cost of a Dinner

We rarely eat out and the main reason is expense. Eating out is expensive and generally I find the quality lacking. As I make and serve dinner I often think about the costs of the meal and how expensive the same meal would be at a restaurant. Last night was one of those dinners. It was a great meal, mostly local and it cost less than twelve dollars to feed the four of us:

Top Sirloin Steak seasoned with garlic, sea salt and black pepper
meat from beef box from Tanana Valley meats $2.50 1b
1 1/2 lb. steak = 3.75

Potatoes fried in duck fat
potatoes from the garden
duck fat leftover from our last duck meal

Sweet and sour red cabbage with bacon
cabbages from the garden
one yellow onion (.50) organic sliced bacon $6.00

Direct cost 10.25

I am not sure about how to put a price on our own potatoes, duck fat or cabbage, but I could tack on a few more dollars for the labor, fertilizer and garden space it took to grow these items and still have a reasonably priced meal. Not to mention that we have enough leftovers for a second meal. Dustin and I enjoyed an eleven dollar bottle of wine so if we add that on, we spent about twenty dollars on food and drink for the night. That is less than a family of four spends for dinner at McDonalds (at least here in Fairbanks). This meal had both high (bacon) and low (cabbage and potatoes) dollar items. The steak was quite a deal as it came in a large box with an assortment of steaks, roasts, ribs and burger and we just divided the pounds by the cost and ended up paying $2.50 a pound.

Currently we have about a quarter of a pig in our freezer (we bought a half a pig last spring from Delta Meats), a hundred pounds of beef (combination of our beef box and meat from a cow my folks bought), several whole chickens, (from our cornish cross this summer) some Copper River Red Salmon fillets (from my brother), and a few packages of moose meat (from friends). When friends stop by we often send them away with eggs, extra produce (in the summer), and other farm products, ahem. In return we are often given food gifts in return, usually moose or fish. We had a friend stop the other day asking how we were doing on meat, he said he'd bring some wild sheep meat the next time he stops by.

We don't buy much meat at the store. We do buy hot dogs on a regular basis and they are the spendy kind, organic, nitrate free etc. We occasionally buy sliced lunch meat and I've been craving some quality salame. We usually buy our bacon from Tanana meats, along with getting some when we buy half a pig, but when we run out we buy it at the store. I don't know of any nitrate, dye free ham available. So while the Prairie Farm bacon is expensive and not local, it is organic and nitrate free (We generally try to consume as few cancer causing ingredients as possible). This next year I would like to raise more ducks, turkeys and maybe some geese. We hope to fill the freezer with salmon next summer.

When it comes to meat, I don't want cheap. I would rather eat a small amount of quality meat than a large amount of crappy meat. How animals are raised, slaughtered and processed is important to us. We recently watched the documentary Food Inc. We didn't learn anything new. I was already aware of the conditions of factory farms in this country. I'm not sure if any other industrialized nation has such low standards for how our food is raised and slaughtered. So once again, I'm voting with my dollar. Putting our money towards local and self grown meat as much as possible. It doesn't have to be more expensive but it does take some forethought.