Not my rural


rural

Over the past 30 years we’ve heard comments about how we live a rural lifestyle. Some people envy what they consider a “simpler” lifestyle, others wonder if by increasing the number of businesses will detract from the ruralness that we experience.

Mostly it depends on how a person defines rural versus what rural really means.

My comments here are based on the article “Where is ‘rural America,’ and what does it look like?” by Kenneth Johnson, Professor of Sociology and Senior Demographer, University of New Hampshire and my personal experience of living and working on our farm.

Rural means agriculture

If you think of open fields when you say rural, those fields better be planted with crops Montana Highriseor be home to cattle. We look longingly on pastoral settings as calm and almost devoid of life. But pastoral is really the life of a sheepherder who lives with and for his herd, moving them from place to place in search of food and water. And the “Amber waves of grain” that we sing about in “America the Beautiful” need to be harvested and processed if anyone is going to eat.

Cattle, sheep, pigs, hens, all need food, housing, and care. All of which mean a lot of work and machinery; none of which are cheap.

Rural mean low population

Another draw to country living is the population. There are several different ways to determine if an area is considered rural or urban. The easiest is to measure the number of people in a square mile. The Census Bureau states the urban areas have at least 1,000 people in any given square mile where highly-urban areas have less than 7 people living in a square mile. Anything between those numbers are considered rural.

But even in a rural community, there are still areas of dense population and places where you can neither hear nor see your closest neighbor. If you want a rural setting but like neighbors, you will have to look for a more developed area within that municipality.

Rural means industry

Bottling plantA rural area cannot be devoid of industry. Factories billowing smoke should never be part of a rural community but, areas where the food is processed, stored, and then shipped, would certainly be part of the community. Some rural communities remain rural (low population) because of the industry that supports that community. Coal mines come to mind as well as other ore mines.

Trees are an integral part of home construction, furniture manufacturing, flooring, and paper. It only makes sense that timber and pulp mills dot the landscape of the rural forests. The trees are harvested and milled on site, then shipped to the manufacturing companies.

Rural – a place that many urban dwellers dream of, but rarely understand all the aspects that encompass the rural lifestyle. So if you are looking for a place with open spaces, few people, and nothing else, you may be thinking of a ghost town – and that’s not my rural!

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.
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Knowing your GMOs


nutritionlabel

If you’re like me, you spend more time in the grocery store reading labels than putting groceries in the cart. We check for the amount of sugar, carbs, and fat. We check for GMO, antibiotics, and hormones. But are those labels accurate or are they sales techniques to make your think and feel that you are getting a higher quality food?

High risk GMO

Some agricultural products are high risk for GMO. This means that they are currently in production and except for yellow summer squash and zucchini, over 85% of these products are GMO. How many?

There are only nine. They are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets, yellow summer squash and zucchini. I bet you thought there were more. Nope, just these nine. And, corn, even though we think of it as a vegetable, it really is a grain.

Canola, corn, and soy are used in the production of cooking oil. The healthier oil profiles, like high-oleic or low-linoleic levels in soy oils, are a result of GMO.

Low-risk GMO

Other agricultural products are at low risk or have a monitored status. This is because they could potentially become genetically modified. The products in this group include acorn squash, beets (table), bok choy, chard, Chinese cabbage, Siberian kale, delicata squash, patty pan, and turnips.

No long GMO

Sometimes a fruit or vegetable had genetically modified varieties, but, no longer due. This would be the tomato and the potato. It turns out the genetically modified tomatoes didn’t ship well and lost flavor. And the potatoes? They were rejected by the fast-food establishments.

Animal Products

Since animals are often fed grains (corn), they are in the high risk category for GMO. But also consider how much grain that animal has consumed. Grass fed or minimal grain fed beef will not contain as much GMO as corn-fed feed lot beef. Here it pays to know your farmer and understand what the animal has been fed.

Everything else

As I read the list, I see that our favorite vegetables – carrots and broccoli are not mentioned. Neither are peas or cauliflower. So as I read the labels in the store, unless the food falls into the first two categories, telling me it’s a non-GMO is a marketing ploy. So, don’t charge me more to keep me as a customer.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

Wine Waste and the Environment


chicken food

You just can’t make wine without crushing some fruit or veggies. And the pulp waste that is left after the first fermentation was a concern of ours. The fruit of choice would be bagged, crushed, and covered with water to form the wine must. At the end of the first fermentation period, usually five to seven days, we would remove the pulp and have to dispose of it. For one gallon of wine, the amount of waste is negligible. But if we considered that, on average, one gallon of wine produces about a half pound of solid waste, when we start making 25 gallons of wine at a time, we are looking at over 10 pounds of waste. Yes, we could dispose of it into the garbage, but, we needed to see if there was a better way.

We realized that most grape wines are made from pressed grapes, so, why not press the fruit, extract the juice, and use the juice for the wine. We borrowed a juicer from a friend and discovered that although it added a step before making the wine, there was no messy bag of pulp, and when we tasted the wine several months later, it had a cleaner and crisper taste than the wine that was made the traditional “home wine” way,

Our next step was to purchase a fruit press. The volume of juice that we got when we pressed the fruit was about the same as when we juiced the fruit. The must of the wine was clearer so we don’t need to rack the wine as many times before bottling it.

But, what about the pulp? We still have to dispose of the pulp somehow. Putting it into the garbage was not the way we wanted to go. So, we decided to treat our hens with the fruit pulp. This is a win-win for us. We can eliminate tossing the pulp into the garbage and the hens enjoy the change of pace with the fruit pulp.

The only thing we need to consider now is the liquid waste during the racking process. The amount of alcohol in the waste is minute and it is diluted by the water used to clean the carboys. Again, the waste and water disposed of from one carboy is negligible but we needed to think about the amount we will have when we are doing hundreds of gallons of wine. The liquid waste can be caught in a reservoir and further diluted and spread on our fields. Although this may not fertilize the ground or be of great benefit to the plants, it is environmentally safe for the fields and will keep this waste out of the water ways, septic fields, and ground waters.

All in all, we feel that this process is an environmentally sound practice for our future winery.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

Is it Really Diet Wine?


wine-clipart-xigLMayiA

Keith called me into the living room this morning because the news was going to report on a new diet wine that would be out for Thanksgiving.

Diet wine? Okay diet, to me, means less calories, and often, less flavor. Interesting. I like my wine, so I’ve never been overly concerned about how many calories I’ve been consuming so I thought I’d look up how many calories are in a glass of wine.

Calories in alcohol

It turns out that 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. It doesn’t matter if it is alcohol in wine, alcohol in beer, or alcohol in vodka. Drink 1 gram and you’ve consumed 7 calories.

On the other hand, 1 gram of sugar contains only 4 calories.

Wine is the product of fermenting the sugars in the fruits. Additional sugar may be added to the process if the fruit does not contain enough sugar.

Amount of alcohol

Given that 1 gram of alcohol is 7 calories, we need to know the amount of alcohol in our bottle of wine.

If you look at the label, it typically shows a number as a percent ABV – ABV in the alcohol based on volume – so a wine that is labeled at 11.5% ABV has that percentage of alcohol in the wine. If the wine is labeled “table wine” it contains between 10% and 14% alcohol. Dessert wines are between 14% and 24%.

Since the caloric value of the wine is based on the amount of alcohol in it, the higher the alcohol, the higher the calories. On average, a glass of wine can contain 100 to 300 calories.

Size of glass

This is critical to the amount of calories being consumed. The bigger the glass, the more the calories. Wine glasses, like any other glasses, come in an assortment of shapes and sizes. Most establishment pour a 6 oz. serving, some may pour a 5 oz. glass, but, hey, in my living room, I may pour 8 oz. in my glass.

Math time

Let’s see how this all adds up. The formula for determining the amount of calories in a glass of wine is:

(glass size in grams x alcohol % x 7) + (glass size in liters x sugar level x 4)

To keep it simple, we will say that there is no residual sugar and no added sugar to our glass of wine.

We are using a 6 oz. serving which is 170.097 grams. We also have two bottles of wine – the diet wine at 9.5% ABV and our favorite wine at 11% ABV.

Diet wine computes at 170.097 x 9.5% X 7 = 113 calories

Favorite wine computes at 170.097 x 11% x 7 = 131 calories

Oh, but wait! The bottle of the diet wine says it is only 85 calories. Is our math wrong? No. Our math is correct. Let’s look at the bottle again and check out the serving size. Their caloric value was based on a 5 oz. serving.

Which wine?

Diet is a great advertising ploy. The taste and flavor that the drinker likes and wants should determine the wine that is chosen.

There are low-alcohol wines available – German Kabinett Riesling at 8% ABV and Italian Moscato d’Asti at 5.5% ABV are two example. And these wines, even though they are not labeled “diet” are lower in calories as well.

Enjoy your wine because you like the flavor not because of the calories.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

Demystifying Wine


glass of wine_rec

Since we’ve started this new venture in making our own wine, we are often asked – isn’t this hard to do? Don’t you need a lot of special stuff? Doesn’t it take a lot of time?

Our best way to answer those questions is to use a process that everyone understands – making apple cider. Most of us have visited a cider mill and watched as the presses squeezed every drop of juice from the apples, sent the juice through a maze of tubes, and the finished product was bottled by the gallon, quart or pint.

So, how does this relate to wine?

The product

Dandelion field

The cider mill picks or purchases bushels of apples to make the cider.

As a wine maker, I have a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers that I can pick for my wine in addition to the traditional grapes. Unlike the cider mill, that can only produce cider with apples are in season, a winery, such as ours, can start a batch of wine selecting from the produce that is in season.

Both are so similar – they rely on produce that is in season.

The juice

pulp

The apples in the cider mill are pressed, usually in a cloth sandwiched between wood that exerts a tremendous force on the apples. The result is the juice.

The wine process is similar. Grapes, apples, and other fruit can be pressed in order to obtain the juice for the wine. Vegetables are often cooked to release their juices, and flowers are steeped like tea. More delicate fruits, like strawberries, can be run through a juicer.

In any case, both the cider mill and the winery rely on a method of juicing the produce.

Processing

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Here is one area where there is a difference in the process. At the cider mill, once the juice is flowing, it goes right to bottling.

A winery needs to add sugar, other optional ingredients, and yeast to the juice of the selected produce. This is the step that transforms ordinary juice into an alcoholic beverage. The amount of sugar determines the level of alcohol in the finished product. This process typically takes four to six months to complete.

Packaging

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The standard containers for apple cider are plastic jugs in gallon, quart, or pint sizes.

Wine can be bottled in the standard 750 ml bottles or the one-serving 187 ml bottles. The bottles can be clear or tinted and labeled accordingly.

The products are now ready for purchase.

The wine making process is not extremely difficult and it doesn’t need a lot of “special” equipment. Yes, it does take time to process, but, we guarantee you, it’s worth the wait.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

 

Natural or Organic


organic-labels

Advertising agencies know that how a food is marketed and the perception the public has about certain words can command a bigger profit in the grocery store. Both “natural” and “organic” grab the public’s attention. But the real question is, do either of these words mean that the food is any more nutritious than the foods that do not have either of these labels.

Natural

The term natural can be confusing. Most of us feel that natural means not artificial. But what, exactly, does it mean for our food?

According to USDA, natural can be used on foods that do not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, or chemical preservative AND minimal processing was used to make the food edible or safe for human consumption.

Natural methods of preparing foods include freezing, drying, smoking, roasting, pressing fruits for juices, grinding meat, and separating eggs. Canning could be a natural method only if no chemical preservatives is used in the process. The use of solvent extraction, acid hydrolysis, and chemical bleaching is not considered a natural method.

Prepared foods can be labelled “natural” if an ingredient used is does not significantly change the character of the product. In this case, the label must identify that ingredient. For example, “All natural ingredients except dextrose and modified food starch.

Organic

The government has identified substances that can and cannot be used when raising foods that are organic. Most of us would like to think that organic means natural or non-synthetic, but, it does not. This is how it is stated on the Nation List web page.

“In general, synthetic substances are prohibited for crop and livestock production unless specifically allowed and non-synthetic substances are allowed for crop and livestock production unless specifically prohibited.”

So, exactly what is allowed and what is prohibited? For the complete list, you need to look at the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

And, to increase confusion, the list is reviewed every five years so some substances that were not prohibited could end up on the prohibited list and, of course, some substances that we thought should not be used, can now be used.

In addition, some of the prohibited substances could be used on certain crops or up to a certain amount.

Even if a product is labeled “organic” it may not be certified as organic. Organic farmers whose sales are less than $5,000 are exempt from certification.

But the bottom line is – is organic food better for you? Yes, if you are concerned about GMOs. But, if your organic fruits and vegetables need to be shipped in, you may be better off by purchasing fresh, natural foods from your local farmer.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses

Wow! A Double Yolk!


doubleYolk_ours

It’s happening again – we are finding double yolks in our eggs. My mother always thought it meant good luck, but does it?

Myths

With the odds of cracking open a double and triple (yikes!) yolk eggs are about one in one thousand, it’s understandable that there would be myths and superstitions surrounding this event.

Wiccans believe that the double yolk is a sign of good fortune, but the Norse thought it was a sign of doom – death was imminent for someone in the family. The most common myth is that someone in the family will get pregnant and have twins, or someone in the family will be getting married soon because of a pregnancy.

None of these occurrences have a time limit on them, and all could happen in a reasonable amount of time. But to attribute it to a double yolk egg, well, seems like a bit of a stretch.

Facts

Double yolks are caused the same way twins happen. The ovary releases two eggs too close together. In mammals, the result would be twins. For hens, the closeness of the release allows one shell to form around the two eggs forming a double yolk egg.

This typically happens in young hens whose system is not synced up properly or in older hens that are nearing the end of their egg laying days. In either case, it is the metabolism of the hen that causes this occurrence.

If the egg were fertilized, the result would probably be two dead chicks instead of twins since the egg shell itself could not expand to meet the growing demands of the chicks. The hens, themselves, could become egg bound or suffer from a vent prolapse.

There are some hens that have a hereditary trait to lay double yolkers. This would be more common in heavy breeds such as the Buff Orpington.

Safe and healthy?

If you get a double yolk egg consider it a protein bonus and scramble it up, but, if it happens when you are baking, it would not count as two eggs because the amount of egg white is less and could alter the taste of whatever you were baking.

In any case, enjoy your eggs and don’t be overly concerned about the superstitions surrounding double yolks.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

Milkweed and Your Hay


milkweed

Without milkweed, the monarch butterfly would become extinct as this is the only plant that the monarch caterpillars eat. But, what about other animals, birds or insects? Is this a plant we want in our pastures or hay fields?

Toxicity

Milkweed is toxic to poultry and some livestock including sheep, goats, cattle, and horses with cattle, sheep and horses being the most susceptible. Milkweed contains two toxins: cardiac glycosides and an unidentified neurotoxin. Both of these can cause death. While the neurotoxin is the most lethal, the cardiac glycosides can produce digitalis-like signs that can contribute to death.

The amount of milkweed that your horse would have to eat to become ill or die is uncertain. A lot is dependent on the horse but, it could be as little as 0.0005% of your horse’s weight to as much as 2.0%. For a 1,000 pound horse, the amount could vary from ½ pound to 20 pounds.

Dry milkweed that has been baled in the hay DOES NOT lose its toxicity! While the green plant is more toxic, the dry plant can still make a horse sick or even die!

Symptoms

The symptoms of cardiac glycosides include depression and reluctance to stand, irregular heartbeat, colic, dilated pupils, muscular weakness or tremors and uncoordinated gait, and labored breathing. Death typically occurs within 24 hours.

Neurotoxins affect the nervous system. The symptoms include severe colic, dilated pupils, muscle tremors and falling down, incoordination, violent convulsions, and respiratory failure. Death occurs within 24 hours of ingesting the toxin.

Prevention

For the most part, milkweed is not a vegetation that a horse would eat unless there is no other grasses around. If your horse is on pasture, be sure to monitor how much grass is available to your horse. Check to see if there is any milkweed growing in the pasture and eradicate it immediately.

The greater threat is in baled hay. The whorled-leaf milkweed has a finer stem and leaves that make it harder for horses to separate the weeds from the hay. Always inspect baled hay for the presence of weeks, especially the toxic weeds.

Even though milkweed may not be a “favorite” feed for horses, the potential for death is high. Always take measures to make sure that milkweed is not growing in your pastures or baled in your horse’s hay.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

Vineyard, Winery, Vintner


The English language is confusing enough without variations of words that seem to mean the same thing but don’t.

wineglasses

As we are embarking on our journey to become a licensed Small Wine Maker on our farm, we hear different comments. The most frequent is – “Where are your grapes?” Wine without grapes was covered a few blog posts ago – Wine Gone Country. Today, we’ll attempt to clear up the confusion between some of these other wine terms.

Vineyard

A vineyard is an expanse of land that grows grapes. These grapes may be used for wine, but vineyards can also grow grapes for grapes for raisins, non-alcoholic grape juice, or plain old eating. It’s the type of grapes that determines what it is grown for.

Wine grapes

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Many of the wines that we enjoy are named after the grapes that are used to make them – Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape used to make white wine; Riesling is a white grape that can be used to make white and sparkling white wines.

Chablis is made from chardonnay grapes in the Chablis region of in France; champagne also uses the chardonnay grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Each variation has a different taste based on the soil is was grown in as well as the method of fermentation.

Yield per acre

Because of the picture that we see of vineyards, we have been led to believe that a vineyard must have a lot of good, land to make it worthwhile. This is not true.

The saying “the worst the soil, the better the wine” is true. Many vineyards are in areas that are unsuitable for other agricultural products. But, this doesn’t mean that there is no or low yield. Vineyards, on average, produce 2 to 10 tons of grapes per acre! Here’s the math – one ton of grapes can produce 60 cases or 720 bottles of wine. So even in the poorest soil, an acre of grape vines can produce about 1,440 bottles of wine!

Winery

winery

A winery is a building or business that produces wine. A winery may be associated and/or be part of a vineyard, but that is not always true. Many wineries want to focus on the production of the wine and not have to worry about growing the grapes.

Wine making locations

In addition to the well-known European winemaking regions, Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley in California, New York’s Finger Lakes, and certain areas in the northern part of Michigan, like Traverse City, are known for their grapes, vineyards, and wineries.

But, a winery doesn’t have to be adjacent to or even near a vineyard. The grapes can be shipped anywhere and some wineries use different fruits and plants to make their wines. Wine can be made out of almost any fruit, select vegetables, and some flowers – like dandelions and lilac blossoms.

Farm, Micro, and Urban wineries

Wineries can be located almost anywhere. Farm wineries use the produce from their farm or other local farmers, micro-wineries are similar to micro-breweries where the amount of wine produced is limited, but often varied. Urban wineries have been sprouting out like micro-breweries in major cities around the country. The ability to make wine anywhere give the public the opportunity to try new and different flavors without having to travel far.

Vintner

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A vintner is a winemaker. Being a winemaker can be an occupation for a person, or it can pertain to a winery that produces custom wines for others. There are some “wineries” that do not actually make their own wine, but hire another winery (vintner) to make a select number of flavors and put a label on the wine for that particular winery.

No matter where the fruit is grown, where it’s produced, or where it is consumed, wines have become a very popular drink over the past few years.

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.

Waiting!!!


Calf watch is officially on!

Part of our farm dream is to establish a quality herd of cattle. We are well on our way. Our two heifers were impregnated in November and are due at the end of this month. Similar to humans, the gestation period for cattle is about nine months. Like any pregnancy, the due date depends on a lot of factors and first births can be as early as two weeks before the due date.

Pregnant heifers re

Today, both heifers look very pregnant. Callie seems a bit bigger than Cherry. We hope both births go smoothly and the calves are a good weight for a first birth.

The bull, Pedro, is a calm, laid-back Black Angus. Our heifers are Red Angus. Cherry is a Maine-Anjou cross and Callie is part Shorthorn. Based on their genetics and their dispositions, we should have some very nice calves soon.

Just like women who are pregnant, we’ve been watching their feed. Plenty of good hay is always available. They are on pasture, so they can graze if they want. And they get supplemental feed to make sure they don’t lose weight, but not so much that they get fat.

Once the calves are born, we will have a whole, new routine here. But mostly watching the young calves being introduced to their world and just having fun!

KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.