Layers, Porter Valley Farms, Uncategorized

I’m Back

It’s hard to believe, but my last post was July 22 of last year! Needless to say, a lot has happened. Where do I even start? Let’s update on the chickens first.

We are kicking off our farm business with the incredible, edible egg.  Remember that commercial?  Careful now, you will be telling your age!  Anyhow, we are going to be offering two kinds of eggs;  large brown eggs and multi-colored eggs.  Our colored egg layers are still in the brooder, but they have feathered out and with the warm weather we will be transitioning them to the hen house.  They will not go on pasture until they grow large enough so that they cannot slip through the poultry netting we use to protect them from predators.  Below are pictures of our brooder.  It’s 3 levels with doors in the middle and on each end.  The middle section is a breezeway that allows the baby chicks to get fresh air and sunshine.  This is also the area where we put the feeders.  One end contains the water tank.  The other end contains the heat lamp and roosts.  We put shavings in this end and the chicks huddle here, beneath the heat lamp, when it is cold.  We bought this brooder from a local farm and it has been quite handy.  Our first flock of birds were kept in the hen house when they were babies and we lost the majority of the flock to weasels.  I’ve since put wire mesh down across the outdoor area of the hen house and it is now weasel-proof.  

Okay, so let’s talk about the brown egg layers. Everyone wants big brown eggs to make a big country breakfast and the bird we selected for our brown egg layers is none other than the Rhode Island Red.

The Rhode Island Red is an American breed of domestic chicken. It’s the state bird of Rhode Island and was developed there (and in Massachusetts) in the late nineteenth century, by crossbreeding birds of Oriental origin such as the Malay with brown Leghorn birds from Italy. They are a prolific layer of large to extra large brown eggs and they are as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. We have a few that survived the weasel Armageddon but we had to purchase a new flock and they will not be laying until May or June.

Another thing that everyone wants is free-range eggs. What are free-range eggs and why does everyone want them? Well, let’s talk about why everyone wants them first and then we will talk about what free-range actually means.

There are two main reasons for the free-range craze. First, the eggs taste better. They have a darker yolk and a richer flavor. Second, the eggs are healthier.

Look at the picture below. The egg on the bottom is an egg purchased from a well-known national retailer. Usually, when you buy eggs from a supermarket, they are not fresh. They could be two months old (or older). Now, look at the egg on top. See how dark the yolk is compared to the supermarket egg? This is a free-range egg and the difference in taste is quite remarkable.

Supermarket Egg vs Free-Range Eggs

In addition to tasting better, free-range eggs are healthier. They have…

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2x more omega-3
  • 3x more vitamin E
  • 7x more beta carotene

Now that you know why people want free-range eggs, what exactly makes an egg a free-range egg?

Consider this. In the United States, USDA free range regulations currently apply only to poultry and indicate that the hens have been allowed access to the outside. The USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range, nor the duration of time the hens must have access. The USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) requires that chickens raised for meat have access to the outside in order to receive the free-range certification. There is no requirement for access to pasture and there may be access to only dirt or gravel. Free-range chicken eggs, however, have no legal definition in the United States. Likewise, free-range egg producers have no common standard on what the term means.

What does all of this mean? It means, when you buy “free-range” eggs at a supermarket, you may be purchasing eggs from a producer that has thousands of chickens crammed into a building that has one tiny little door giving the chickens access to a small patch of dirt, gravel, or even concrete. That’s why I believe in buying local. Buy your eggs from farmers who will let you come out and visit their operations. See for yourself where your eggs are coming from!

Now, back to our Rhode Island Reds. The last flock we purchased (22 birds) is on pasture now and should be laying eggs by May or June. Out where we live, we cannot let our birds roam totally free. We have too many predators such as coyotes, foxes, weasels, raccoons, hawks, and owls. To remedy this, we keep our flock contained on the pasture with electric poultry netting. We also have a mobile hen house to give them a place to roost at night and a place for shade during the day. Every two to three days we move this mobile pen to a new location where the chickens can forage on fresh grass and insects. It is the natural forage that gives these eggs their rich flavor and healthy attributes and access to this natural forage designates these eggs as free-range.

Below is a picture of our Rhode Island Reds enjoying a sunny day on the farm. You can see the electric poultry netting in the background. The mobile hen house has 4 nesting boxes in the rear and the roof opens up to allow access to the inside.

Free-Range Rhode Island Reds on Pasture

Here’s a couple of pictures of the eggs we sell.

One Dozen Large Brown Free-Range Rhode Island Red Chicken Eggs
The Finished Product

One last thing before I close this post. We just started selling our eggs on the CAFE (Clemson Area Food Exchange). I posted 8 dozen eggs for sale Friday night. Half of them sold that night. The other half sold the next morning. To the people who purchased those eggs, I want to thank you and express my humble gratitude. I hope you thoroughly enjoy them and I hope you will continue to buy from us, because when you buy eggs from Porter Valley Farms you can rest assured your eggs are coming from happy, healthy hens that are thriving on clean water, green grass, fresh air, and sunshine, but don’t take our word for it. Give us a call and arrange a visit.

[If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. If broken by an inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside.]

dale339, Food, Porter Valley Farms

Keto Coffee Mug Brownies

Today I’m going to share a recipe that is really quite delicious and will satisfy that chocolate craving without crashing your diet or knocking you out of ketosis.  Here’s the ingredient list.

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Missing from the above picture are the Hershey’s Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips and the Stevia confectioner’s sweetener.  Both are optional, but I would definitely include the chocolate chips for a richer flavor.

  • 2 TBSP Almond Flour
  • 2 TBSP Coconut Flour
  • 2 TBSP Hershey’s Cocoa
  • 2 TBSP Melted Butter
  • 2 TBSP Hershey’s Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Stevia Granular Sweetener
  • 1/2 TSP Baking Powder
  • 1/4 TSP Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg

I’ve included pictures of each step and each ingredient, just in case you want to use the exact same product. We’ll mix all the dry ingredients first.

In a small bowl, add 2 TBSP of almond flour.

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Add 1 1/2 TBSP of the granulated Stevia sweetener.  Stevia is one of the few sweeteners that does not affect your insulin levels or cholesterol.

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Add 1/2 TSP of baking powder.

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Add 2 TBSP of Hershey’s Cocoa.

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Add 2 TBSP of coconut flour.

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Use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.

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Now it’s time to add the wet ingredients.  Add 1/4 TSP of vanilla extract.

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Add 2 TBSP of melted butter.  Melt the butter in the microwave on “defrost”.  Otherwise, it may explode all over the inside of your microwave and make a mess (yeah, I did that).

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Add 1 large egg.  We use our own eggs, which are free-range and have a much richer flavor.  I haven’t tried a duck egg with this recipe, but supposedly duck eggs are favored over chicken eggs for cakes.

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Use a spoon to stir in the wet ingredients.  They will just gum up the whisk (yeah, I did that too.)

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Now, stir in 2 TBSP Hershey’s Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips.  This ingredient, in my opinion, is a MUST for this recipe.  Trust me.

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Spoon the ingredients into a coffee mug and microwave on high for about a minute and 10 seconds.

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When you take it out of the microwave, sprinkle a little bit of the Stevia confectioner’s sweetener on top for a little extra bang.  Here’s the finished product.  Enjoy!

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[They say laughter is the best medicine.  They lie.  It’s brownies.]

 

dale339, Food, Porter Valley Farms

Keto Bread

First, I apologize for being away for so long, but we have had a string of problems with our network and email over the past month.  I think everything is in working order now and so much has happened since our last post that I decided to get back into this with a delicious recipe for low-carb bread.  My wife and I are doing the Keto diet and this bread is awesome.

Here’s the ingredient list.  This makes one waffle.

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp sweetener (organic Stevia blend)
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla flavoring
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

First, put 1/2 cup of almond flour in a small mixing bowl.

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Next, add in 1/4 tsp of baking soda (not baking powder).

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Put in a pinch of salt.

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Add 3 tbsp of sweetener.  We use an organic Stevia extract.  It is one of the few artificial sweeteners that truly does not impact blood sugar and cholesterol levels.  Be sure to get the granular form, not the confectioner’s form.

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Add 1/4 tsp of oregano.

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Add 1/4 tsp of poppy seeds.

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Mix the dry ingredients with a whisk (this bowl is chipped and worn, but it’s a favorite).

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Add 1/2 tsp of vanilla flavoring.  We use imitation, only because it’s cheaper.

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Melt a heaping tbsp of coconut oil in the microwave for 10 seconds, then add to the mixture (it’s solid at room temperature and will mix better in a liquid state).

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Add two eggs to the mixture.  These are the last of the wet ingredients.

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Use the whisk and mix the dry and wet ingredients together until they are uniformly combined.  The resulting dough will be liquid enough to pour.

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Plug up the waffle iron and spray the top and bottom surface with a non-stick cooking spray.

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While the waffle iron is heating, slice up a tomato and grab the Duke’s mayonnaise out of the fridge!  I used a Cherokee Purple tomato for this sandwich.  They do not have the bright red coloring of other tomatoes, but they are delicious.

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When the waffle iron is ready, pour the mixture into the center and use a spoon to spread it evenly around the bottom plate of the waffle iron.

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Close the lid and let it cook until done.  It only takes a couple of minutes.  We have a Black and Decker waffle iron and there is a light indicator on top that tells you when it’s hot enough to pour in the mixture and it also tells you when the waffle is done.

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When the waffle is done, I pull the four quarters apart an use each quarter as a slice of bread for my sandwich.  In other words, one waffle will make me two sandwiches.

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Here’s the finished product.  The little square pockets in the waffle are perfect for evenly distributing and holding condiments in place.  I put mayonnaise on one side and mustard on the other.  I salted and peppered the tomato slices and added deli-sliced ham.  It was delicious.

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The cool thing about this recipe is a few minor adjustments yield totally different and very tasty results.  Here are a few other things we have done with it…

  • Leave out the oregano and poppy seeds for a true waffle.  Use sugar-free syrup.
  • Leave out the oregano and poppy seeds.  Add 1/4 tsp of pumpkin spice, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.  This will produce some yummy pumpkin bread.  You can also use the confectioner’s form of the Stevia extract to sprinkle on top.
  • Leave out the oregano and poppy seeds.  Add 1 heaping tbsp of cocoa.  When you pour the mixture into the waffle iron, sprinkle Hershey’s sugar-free chocolate chips all over before closing the lid.  This is pretty darn close to chocolate cake.  I have a recipe for sugar-free chocolate icing I’ll share one day.  Imagine 3 of these chocolate waffles stacked up with chocolate icing packed into every little square pocket!

There you have it.  Try it and shoot me an email to let me know how you liked it.  If you come up with any other tasty modifications, please share them with me.  Next time I post a recipe, I’ll post one for a keto brownie in a coffee mug.  These really taste like brownies too.  No kidding.

[What you eat in private is, eventually, what you wear in public.  Eat clean, look lean.]

dale339, Porter Valley Farms

Hay Making Time

Although we were running a couple of weeks behind, we finally got a break in the weather and were blessed with several days of sunshine.  EVERYONE in Pickens County has been baling hay this week.  With round balers and loaders, getting hay out of the field is now a one-man job, but when I was a kid (before anyone around here had ever seen a round baler) we used to bale the stuff with a square baler.  These square bales, before they dried, could weigh anywhere from 40 to 70 pounds.  We would drive through the fields in an old truck, stack the hay on the back of the truck (about 35 bales per load), drive to the barn, and move the hay from the truck to the barn.  Inside the barn, it was always blistering hot and we had to stack the hay all the way up to the rafters.  Some of the barns had lofts and we would have to pitch these heavy bales over our heads to get them into the barn.  This work often lasted into the night and as hard as this was, I look back on it as one of my fondest memories.

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S4Vx3vu

[You don’t know the meaning of hard work until you spend a summer baling hay. ~Rachel Denton]

Cows, dale339, Porter Valley Farms

Newborn Calf

One of the greatest joys of living on a farm is witnessing the miracle and constant renewal of life everywhere around you.  Pastures and hayfields, browned by the cold winter, turn green with spring.  Fuzzy baby chicks peep out from under their mother’s wings.  Little yellow ducklings swim in single file behind mama duck.  Calves kick up their heels, running and playing together like puppies.

This little fellow here was just a few hours old when this picture was taken.  He had no fear of humans.  Why should he?  It’s a bright, exciting world and every sight, every scent, every sound is a new experience to be savored with wonder and awe.

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[Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.  ~ Laura Ingles Wilder]

 

dale339, Food, Porter Valley Farms

A Sweet Treat

Here’s a recipe for a low-carb peanut butter cup and I swear these taste better than Reese’s Cups.  We used to buy the Russel Stover peanut butter cups, but after tasting these, the Russel Stover candy just doesn’t cut it anymore.

First, here are the ingredients.

  • Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter (Creamy).  I had to empty the entire jar into a bowl and stir it because the oil tends to separate in the natural peanut butter.
  • Swerve Confectioners Sugar Replacement.
  • Butter (The real stuff).
  • Organic Coconut Oil (It’s solid at room temperature).
  • Hershey’s Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips.

First, put a cup of the sugar substitute, a cup of the peanut butter, and 3 tablespoons of the butter (softened) into a mixing bowl to make the peanut butter filler.

Stir the ingredients until you get a good consistent dough.

Spoon the dough and press it into a silicone mini muffin pan.  Once the dough is in the pan, stick the pan in the freezer until the dough freezes.

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When the peanut butter filling is frozen, begin preparing the chocolate.  Melt half a bag of the sugar-free chips with one tablespoon of the coconut oil.

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Finally, dip the peanut butter cups in the melted chocolate until they are well covered and then stick them back into the freezer until the chocolate sets up.  We keep them in the freezer all the time because the sugar-free chocolate tends to melt quickly.  Try these.  You won’t be disappointed!  We calculated 1.8 carbs per cup.  These are pretty big too!

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[Chocolate is the answer.  Who cares what the question is!]

Broilers, dale339, Layers, Porter Valley Farms

Poultry Building

We used to heat our home and water with a Hardy boiler furnace.  This is essentially a giant outdoor wood burning stove surrounded by a tank of water and it kept our house and water toasty in cold weather.  We usually fired it up the first of November and kept it burning until the first of April. Keeping it burning meant stuffing it with firewood twice a day.  When the weather was cold, I’d burn a full-sized truckload of wood every week.  I can’t tell you how happy I was to finally get a heat pump.  And the money I saved burning firewood all those years?  It MIGHT pay for the surgery I am going to need one day to replace the saddle joints in my thumbs where I wore the cartilage out picking up large sticks of firewood.  Anyhow, I built a large shed over the stove to keep the wood supply dry (and me when it was raining).  This shed is 16′ x 20′ and we are thinking of repurposing it for our poultry operations.  It has electricity and water, and it is located conveniently close to the house.  In the picture below, you can see it on the left side and slightly behind our house.

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Below are a couple of pics of the inside, looking up at the ceiling.  I think I will take the old metal roofing off and put down boards all the way across the tops of the rafters, from the ridge down to the bottom.  I’ll cover the top of the boards with tar paper, then add slats to screw the new metal roof onto, and I’ll put foam insulation between the slats.  This will insulate the roof and keep it from sweating and it will also let me keep the inside ceiling area open (which will just look nicer).  All of the interior beams and boards will be painted white and all of the metal brackets will be painted a glossy black.

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I want to build a covered patio off the back of this building and add a door leading out onto the patio.  This will be the area we will use when we process our own broilers.  This will be where we have the kill cones, the scalder, the plucker, a table for gutting the birds, a hose to wash them, a vat of cold water with vinegar to soak them for about 10 minutes, and a vat of ice water to cool them down before taking them inside to part up and package.  Inside the main building, we will have several freezers and refrigerators.  We’ll probably start out with two freezers (for broilers) and one refrigerator (for eggs).  This building will be air-conditioned too.  There will be a stainless steel table for cutting the birds, a sink for washing them, and an electric burner to boil water so that we can heat-shrink the poultry bags onto the birds before putting them into the freezers.  Off the side of the main building, I’d like to have a small storage room.  This will be where we keep the poultry transport cages, the scalder, the plucker, tables, hoses and any other outdoor processing equipment.  Below is the layout of how I envision this.

Poultry Barn

I plan to put black metal roofing on the top of the building and board and batten siding on the sides.  I will paint the siding white and paint a picture of our logo in black on the long side facing the drive coming up to the house.

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I’d also like to paint this on the gable over the door.

eggsign

And have an old farm lamp hanging over it to illuminate the sign (and the entrance) at night time.

lamp

Here’s what the white board and batten siding will look like.  Actually, the front of this building is very much what I envision the front of my poultry building to look like, except where there is a window in the gable of this particular building, mine would have the fresh egg sign and the farm lamp would be mounted higher, over the sign.

siding

This project is not on the list for this year, but definitely on the to-do-list next spring.  Once we complete this project, our poultry operations (layers, broilers, stew hens) should be in full swing.

[Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching around for what it gets.  ~Henry Ford]