Tomatoes are everywhere


We have hundreds of pounds of heirloom and cherry tomatoes hanging out on our tables right now. We can deliver to Houston restaurants and we will have them at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston on Saturday. You can get boxes of ready to eat now tomatoes or choose some that will ripen on the counter in a few days. Contact us for pricing and delivery options if you are buying in bulk.

Advertisements

Eating Meat, Helping the Soil. No Shipping, No Handling

Laughing Frog Farm's Freedom Ranger Chickens
Laughing Frog Farm’s Freedom Ranger Chickens

IMG_3204I eat meat. Kenan and I decided that if we were going to eat meat we needed to either raise it ourselves or get it from a farmer that we knew, one that raised the animals with care for the environment, the soils, and the animals themselves. We respect those that have chosen a different diet, but believe that moderate meat consumption is more ecological sound and sustainable. We raise chickens and lamb in a humane, responsible manner.
The industrial model of raising animals, in confined animal feed operations (CAFO), is not ethical nor sustainable. This meat accounts for almost 99% of all meat. It is cruel to the animal, produces a meat that is not healthy and is antibiotic dependent, and is an environmental travesty with the concentrated waste produced, and the chemically dependent grain used as a feed.
Pasture raised, grassfed meat is high in omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene and vitamins E and low in saturated fat. Livestock raised in an ethical environment must have access to their natural foods, clean water, shelter, protection from predators and room to move in a natural habitat. For pigs it might mean mud, for chickens they need to scratch in the soil. Sheep, cows and goats need a variety of forage eaten while roaming, usually from rotational grazing.
The earth’s ecosystem is supposed to have plant and animal impact with the soil. The animal manure feeds the microbes in the soil that develop the fertility needed for plants to grow nutrient dense food. The impact of the hooves or chicken feet aerates the soil and the grazing animals can turn grass and forbs, inedible to humans, into food. Few inputs are necessary for this type of animal husbandry. We do not have to buy and truck in fertilizer and herbicides. Many of the ethically raised animals are raised on land unsuitable for raising vegetables and many others are used in a rotation with vegetable plantings, like we do at Laughing Frog Farm. Ruminates have a unique ability, with the help of sunlight and water, to turn hundreds of different naturally growing plants into protein while monoculture crops need tractors, fuel and fertilization, to produce their nutrients.
Many vegetables and grains are raised using environmentally destructive methods. In order to grow vegetables we need to add fertility to the soil. The use of manure has traditionally been the farmers go to solution, but with the advent of chemical fertilizers, animals became unnecessary because the farmer can now purchase the fertility. Heavy use of these chemicals is causing polluted water, interrupting the soil food web, and creating dead zones in our oceans. There is evidence that these chemicals are chelating the nutrients in the soil and consequently reducing the nutrient levels in our food.
Compost can add some fertility, but it alone will not provide the nitrogen needed for healthy crops. Many organic farmers turn to cottonseed and alfalfa meals that have been produced, usually, with chemical fertilizer. Furthermore, most of them are now genetically modified, meaning large doses of chemical herbicides have been used, further robbing our soil of its nutrition. Fish emulsion is used extensively in organic farming to raise nitrogen levels. Those fish were often fed GMO corn and soy and, of course, dead fish are not a particularly good vegan option. These amendments are trucked across the country powered by fossil fuels.
Most alternatives to manure, for fertility, have limited availability and high costs in the developing world.
Nitrogen fixing cover crops, vermicastings, mulches and compost tea all are alternative fertility solutions that we use, but most require energy, and labor.
Most of the farm animals would become extinct if farmers quit raising them. These animals have been developed over centuries to provide meat, milk, wool, leather and eggs to humans. Goats, sheep, chickens and cows are not prepared to live in the wild. Pigs have proven they are prepared and have become a nuisance in many parts of the country.
Eating requires taking a life. People just choose where to draw the line. A cabbage is alive. We kill cockroaches and mice. “Vegetarians” often tell me they eat fish or shellfish. Modern vegetable agricultural methods eliminate earthworms, starve monarch butterflies and interrupt the migration of birds.
We know that plants communicate with one another through the soil and that plants have a survival instinct as they struggle to stay alive in bad soil or weather conditions.
Animals are truly an integral part of sustainable agricultural systems worldwide. Of course, we can always raise animals just for their manure and not their meat. Many aquaponics operations utilize goldfish and horse manure is an alternative, as are zoos, though not part of a sustainable agricultural system. Some farmers use animal power as an alternative to tractors but a two oxen will not fertilize a whole farm.
If all animals are to be raised in a pastured, humane way we have to eat less meat and seek out the best places to purchase it. At this point humanely raised, pastured meat is seldom available in a supermarket or a restaurant. Organic, cage free and natural do not mean responsibly raised or humane.
You are what you eat and you are what you eat eats. If your chicken was fed pesticide ridden corn or your farm raised fish was eating GMO soy it will affect the quality of the meat and the quality of the manure we use as fertilizer. Also if your soil was fed chemicals that limit a plant’s nutrient uptake it will affect your health as well.
I honor people who make moral and ethical decisions about how they eat, whether they chose vegan, vegetarian or omnivore.
Remember that the food that nourishes your body is a precious investment in your future.
Don’t eat the cheap, fast and easy American diet.
Don’t be cheap, fast and easy.
Glen Miracle

Putting permaculture to work

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.
IMG_5707

Putting permaculture to work

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.IMG_5707

I did not launder the money to import sheep from China. :)

11075255_1578023152479190_2480982460460526978_o

IMG_5673
On Tuesday we were scheduled to pickup some Gulf Coast Native Sheep from Sassy Sheep in China, Tx. We are always trying to diversify our flocks and necessarily have to sell a few breeding sheep and buy a few replacements to prevent inbreeding.
I headed to the bank and picked up cash, the most trusted form of payment, on Monday afternoon.
When I got home we had an emergency. One of our ram lambs had been hurt and we had to do a daring rescue. I picked the little 40 pound boy up to take him back to his mother. He peed down my left leg. He peed a lot. That is no big deal, I have been a parent. We reunited him with his mother and I went to change clothes. I reached my hand in my left pocket and pulled out a roll of soaked paper money. We laid the bills out to dry.
On Tuesday we purchased 18 beautiful sheep and paid in the marked, but dry money. By the time we had loaded the sheep we all smelled like money–that money.
When your mother tells you to wash you hands after handling money, remember—-wash them.
The ram lamb is fine and we love the additions to our flock. Thank you Sassy Sheep and Beau-tanicals.

Sheep wool for sale

Our sheep have been sheared and we have fleeces for sale. This is unwashed wool from Gulf Coast Native Sheep. It came straight off the sheep, into the bag. There will be vegetative matter in the wool. The sheep were not coated and they browsed in the woods at times.

skein of spun wool from 2014
skein of spun wool from 2014

A fleece from a sheep named Julia Child.
A fleece from a sheep named Julia Child.

IMG_5447 The fleeces weigh between 1 pounds and 4 pounds each. Fiber lengths vary. The price is $10 per pound. I will have some with me at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston each Saturday.

Freedom Ranger Chickens available

IMG_3679
We will have pastured chicken available at the market again this weekend.
We are raising Laughing Frog Farm red broilers, aka freedom rangers. The chickens free range all day on pastures and in the woods. They are not confined in “tractors”. At night they go in the electric netting and portable huts that are periodically moved around our pasture. They eat bugs, seeds and grass, and we supplement with duckweed from our pond and farmed soldier fly larva.
Like our laying hens, they are also fed organic chicken feed from our friends at Coyote Creek Organic Feed in Elgin, Texas. We do not use the “natural” feeds, feed that is not free of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and additives. All certified organic feed is also GMO free.
The red broilers were developed for France’s famous Label Rouge organic free-range chicken program. After WW II, industrialized farming introduced the now standard cornish cross chicken, with its’ huge breast and soft flesh, a chicken that could be raised to 7 pounds in 45 days, but could not walk or graze, which made it perfect for factory farming.
The French began to demand the taste of traditional poultry. They developed, from heritage stock, a slower growing, more muscular chicken, to be harvested at about 12 weeks.
We follow most of the Label Rouge standards for raising chickens which include:
• All birds have access to the outdoors from 9:00 am until dusk. (I let mine out before sunrise and close the door at dark).
• Each bird must have at least 22 sq. ft. of outdoor grazing space. (They have a lot more grazing space than that).
• Trees and brush are available for shade and browse. (No problem here)
• Feed must contain whole grains and not be medicated. No animal products or growth stimulators are allowed. (Thank you Coyote Creek)
• No pesticide use is permitted (Never happens)
• Birds must be grown a minimum of 81 days.
• There are also regulations about the maximum size of flocks, 4000 birds, and I will only have 100 to 200 in a flock.
• We cannot follow the requirement that the birds be sold fresh, not frozen, due to local regulations and our distribution methods.
Our birds will be sold whole and frozen, with giblets sold separately
The whole birds mostly weigh between three and four pounds and cost $7.00 per pound.

We will be at the Urban Harvest Eastside Farmers Market.

The Lamb That Fell From the Sky

IMG_4699

Last Friday I went out to talk with my sheep and spread some hay when I noticed the smallest lamb I have ever seen. She was standing alone, in a helpless hunched over position, still wet from birth. I have seen many sheep born the last few years but this was the first not being protected by its’ mother.
All our sheep have been born on pasture, cleaned by their mothers and they started nursing within minutes. That is one of the reasons we chose Gulf Coast Native Sheep. The main reason is the taste.
We did have an incident a few weeks ago when an older ewe could not let her milk down for a few hours and we decided to give a bottle to to a lamb, but she never an abandoned her baby and the baby kept trying to nurse.
Ringo, the donkey noticed the tiny, lonely lamb and went over to comfort it. I looked around and he had it in his mouth so I decided I needed to take it with me. It weighed in at 4.5 pounds, not half of what the last few lambs weighed, but walked fine, tried to nurse Mojo, the dog, much to his chagrin, and was real happy to get a bottle of milk.
Our friends at Blue Heron Farm said they might take it in because they were set up to bottle feed and we are not. A very kind gesture indeed, but something happened that afternoon that made it impossible to take them up on the offer. I got back from market on Saturday and started on chores, and everywhere I went that lamb was sure to follow. She tagged along, heeling like my dogs do not, lying down when I stop, and heading out again when I move on.
We have seven ewes who were too young to be bred in the fall and obviously one snuck out in the middle of the night (and we now know who you were) for a midnight rendezvous with a rambunctious ram. We never saw any blood nor a placenta, so I guess it was an easy delivery of a tiny lamb. Often the moms eat the placenta, but I doubt that a ewe that didn’t even have the instinct to stay with her baby would know that predator protection technique.
So now I have another chore for a few weeks. Lambs need to eat three of four times a day and one this small cannot miss a meal. I have to go to Houston today, so guess who is going to be in the dog crate in the truck.
So maybe she is an alien and we need to name as such or maybe she is just a miracle. We have been known to have those around here.
IMG_4677
IMG_4679

Gulf Coast Winter Farming

IMG_4540It is late January and this is the busiest time of the year for this farmer. I am starting to plant spring broccoli and pak choi, 1500 tomato plants need to be bumped up to 3″ pots and the hoop house they are going in needs some repairs. I am potting basil, separating lemongrass and grafting persimmons. In a couple of weeks I will begin grafting citrus.
Right now is the time to prune all the dormant fruit trees and grapes.
I have to keep my baby chicks at 95˚, which is sooo easy in the summer, but today it requires some extra monitoring.
It is lambing season and though the Gulf Coast Native ewes do all the work, giving birth on pasture, cleaning them up and nursing them, we spend some time weighing the babies, recording info, tagging ears and monitoring the mamas’ health. And heck–just looking. That’s what the blue chairs are for. I consider that work.
Nursing ewes are always requesting some alfalfa pellets and they drink a lot of water. Yesterday morning the hoses were frozen, making me truck water from the house. It was only 29˚ and they were thawed by 9:00. The weather has been glorious this winter.
Fruit trees are selling out, we are running low on lamb meat and the broiler chickens will be sold out before the new ones are ready.
Add to that the fact that the sun is only up about 10 hours a day. Ten beautiful hours.
In the north winter is a time to sit inside as much as possible and plan. For me that would be August.
This is a great job.

Pastured Lamb and Chicken at the Farmers Market

IMG_3204
I will have a limited amount of lamb meat available this Saturday at the Eastside Farmers Market. We raise Gulf Coast Native sheep, noted in the Slow Foods Ark of Taste. “Meat of the Gulf Coast sheep is extremely tender, moist and balanced with a mild, clean earth flavor.”
Chef John Besh in his “My New Orleans” cookbook, calls the meat “leaner, richer, and more flavorful…”
The Gulf Coast sheep are also listed as critical by the Livestock Conservancy
http://www.livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/gulf-coast
https://thelaughingfrogfarm.com/2015/02/06/pastured-lamb-for-sale-this-saturday-at-the-eastside-farmers-market-feb-7/

IMG_3679
I will also have whole, pastured, organically fed, freedom ranger chickens, raised by the “Label Rouge” production standards, a grassroots, chef and farmer driven program the French introduced in response to the factory chicken.
https://thelaughingfrogfarm.com/2015/07/04/local-pastured-organically-fed-chicken/