Gulf Coast Rams available

This post was updated May 7, 2019

 

 

 

 

We have Gulf Coast rams for sale. One is a one year+ old black ram and we have three 4  month old rams and two not yet weaned.  Some are horned, some polled.  For more info on Gulf Coast Sheep click here.

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Super Deluxe

40 years ago tomorrow this happened.

The night before the wedding we gathered with friends for a dinner at Ballatori Italian Restaurant on the east side of Houston. The restaurant was new, had great food at reasonable prices, and the dishes and the staff were all genuine Italian.
But what to serve? Sergio, the proprietor, and Kenan went through the choices for aperitivo, antipasto, primi, secondi, cortorni, insalata, formaggi, (I never imagined so many plates of food) and he then asked if we wanted the deluxe or the super deluxe dinner. What makes one super deluxe? The answer, of course, was “two desserts”.
Well we opted for the super deluxe.
The days preceding the dinner we had friends change plans and others were added to the guest list and Kenan would call Sergio and ask to change the number of chairs. His answer was “don’t a go nervous, don’t a go nervous”. Great advice for a wedding or pretty much anything else.
We had a fantastic three hour meal and a fun wedding day.
Four decades happened.
Tomorrow we will celebrate, keeping it as simple as possible.
But then we will go somewhere special and have two desserts. And an expresso.
Super deluxe.

Forty years after “Ladderman”

Forty years ago on Tuesday, Sept. 20 my company, Houston Stage Equipment, loaded the Houston Ballet’s “Swan Lake” scenery into a trailer headed for Jones Hall.
The entire crew then got together at Larry, my business partner’s house, for some refreshments and fajitas catered by this little local Mexican restaurant named Ninfas. About 2:00 a.m. I got on my bike and motored home. I pulled into the garage and headed to my second floor home in the little fourplex.
The phone rang. I don’t think my phone had ever rung before. When I picked up the receiver I heard my landlady, who lived in the apartment below me, alarmed that the light in the garage had just gone out. I assured Ms. Brown that I would check on it, and halfway down the outdoor staircase I saw a young man on a ladder climbing toward the window of the apartment over the garage. I yelled. He ran. All the neighbors came out, and down from the garage apartment came a women, barefoot and in a red nightshirt. I had never met her.
Ms. Brown had called the police, so we had to wait. Everyone went inside but the young woman and me. We sat on the steps and talked. It took two hours for the police to arrive but it didn’t seem long. We relayed our stories to the police and sat back down on the steps and talked. And then, suddenly, the sun came up. “I’ve gotta go to work”, so I quickly changed from my clean jeans and shirt to my work jeans and shirt and headed to the shop.
We had lots of change orders and additions to do, so I worked long hours for the next three days, but took Saturday off, ostensibly to sleep, but I also thought I might try and get the attention of the woman I had met.
Early, before I felt comfortable knocking on her door, Ms. Brown called me with another emergency. Her cat had died and she wanted to know if I would bury it for her. So, as my grandmother would have said, “I braved up” and knocked on the garage apartment’s door and asked if she would like to go for a walk.
Our first date was a walk down the railroad tracks in Houston’s east end to bury a cat.
The next date was more romantic.
And that is how I met Kenan.
Happy 40th Kenan!

Restarting Local Business Begins With Us

The Sunday morning after hurricane Ike struck the gulf coast in 2008, there was minimal flooding here in Hempstead, and no electricity, so I went into town to see if I could find the source of the electrical outage. We had a full freezer and I needed to know if I should crank up the generator. It was about 5:00 am when I drove by the Snowflake Donuts shop operated by an immigrant family, and a young man was standing out front, in the dark, with a sign that said “Open Today, Cash Only”. They were not going to let a little hurricane and no power stop them from cranking up the propane in order to pay the bills. I didn’t stop and feel guilty about that.
Houston has a young population, a large energetic immigrant community and hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs. Often those assets are all rolled into one person.
If you want to jumpstart this recovery, continue to donate what you can, time and/or money, but the thing that really makes the economy come back is supporting local business. If you buy lunch from a food truck or a mattress from Gallery Furniture, you know that much of that money will be recirculated into the local economy.
It will take government money to get the roads and schools back and rebuilding the homes is a long term project, but each of us has the power to help the local hardware store, the small restaurant, and, of course, the local farms. We can help rebuild lives purchasing the things we need to rebuild our own.
So before you head off to the big box store, or click “add to cart” at Amazon, look around our home turf for it. That money just might come back to you and your friends.

After the storm

The last four days were unbelievable, but we fared well. We had over 40” of rain and finished with no dead livestock and practically no dead plants.
We had just planted a few hundred seedlings of pac choy and broccoli raab and they seem to be happy. We have extremely healthy soils, very permeable, due to years of not tilling and not exposing the microbes to the elements. That, combined with rotational livestock use, means we can absorb more water and hold it for drier days. We also have the advantage of being 270’ above sea level, meaning the water has somewhere to go, but we would rather keep it in the soil.
All our beds are built high with swales on the sides holding the excess water. None of the newer beds are straight, but are curving to maneuver the water and hold it until it can be absorbed.
Straight beds up and down the elevation lead to runoff. Straight beds across the elevation lead to flooding those very same plots.
Also, we leave grass between the beds. Most times you will see soil or mulch in these areas that would become mud under these circumstances. The grass keeps roots in the ground. Those roots stimulate the growth of fungi, bacteria and the rest of the soil microbes as well as prevent erosion. You can walk in the gardens at any time, no matter how wet.
The healthier soils and better root systems also provide more nutrients to the plants.
So a combination of location, lots of luck, reconsidered farming practices, and planning have helped us survive this catastrophe.
We hope our customers will come out and support farmers at the markets and patronize the restaurants that support us. We will not miss a beat and will be back at the market this week and ready to supply our CSA starting Sept. 6. Please consider joining our CSA.

The five rules of the soil

1. Armor the soil. Never expose the soil directly to the elements. Soil should be covered with plants, mulch or even weeds to enhance the microbial action.
2. Living roots in the ground as much as possible. We leave the roots of plants that we have harvested because michorrizal fungi only grows on roots. Removing the roots would destroy that fungi and the relationships that exist in the soil. Luckily we can have plants growing all year here in the gulf coast.
3. Do not disturb the soil. The relationships in the soil are complex and we want to allow them to grow without destroying them with plowing. We move the soil as little as possible with a hoe.
4. Provide plant diversity. Different root structures and leaf shapes attract a diverse group of microbes and beneficial insects.
5. Integrate livestock. We raise chickens and rotate sheep into the gardens to provide fertility and aerate the soil. After animals and their fresh manure leave, we will not eat vegetables from that garden for 90 days.

Fruit and Vegetable Prescriptions – Just What the Doctor Ordered

In 2010 Wholesome Wave.org launched FVRx, a prescription fruit and vegetable pilot program to make fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables affordable and available to communities, helping patients who are at risk of diet-related illness and cannot afford, or access, healthy food.
The program is now available in Houston and Laughing Frog Farm, along with other local farms at the Eastside Farmers Market and the East End Street Market, are now participating in the program.
We are your “farmacy”.
If you are someone who might qualify for the program, see your doctor or clinic and find out. And pass the information on to someone who needs it. Everyone deserves nutrient dense food.
http://www.wholesomewave.org/how-we-work/produce-prescriptions

Our Diversity is What We Have in Common

Last month two men, who did not speak English, came to my booth at the market. One pointed to the picture of my free range chickens, so I showed him a dozen eggs and a vacuum packed chicken. He pointed to the chicken and then held up 2 fingers. I got another one out and he put his hands close together, so I got a bigger one. I showed him the price, he gave me a credit card, and the transaction was complete.

When I go to work off the farm, I interact with people of different ages, races, countries of origin, religions, politics, sexual orientation, income, and culinary skills. In Houston, one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in America, I sell at the vibrant and diverse Eastside Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Everyone is welcome to shop and join in the civil discourse about life, farming, and food policy. A conversation about the herb rau ram, with a woman from Vietnam, leads to a new recipe to try at home. A Romanian customer and I share sauerkraut recipes. The Indian couple and I discuss the difference between tulsi and African blue basil. Later a young woman tells me she has never cooked a chicken and asks for a simple recipe. I am learning the Spanish words for cuts of lamb but am not so adventurous as to learn any of the other 145 languages that are spoken in Houston.

The vendors at the farmers markets, and all small farmers, are independent beacons of capitalism. While industrial, corporate giants control most of the food chain, we are entrepreneurs running family businesses. The organic product that you so love at the supermarket is probably owned by a corporation whose web site will tell you that their mission is to “maximize shareholder value”. Most of the farmers I work around would agree that our mission is to provide the best, freshest food we can deliver and hope to make a living doing so. We represent the closest thing to free market capitalism in America.

As small independent businesses, including farms, close year after year, we need the support of everyone, and we will, in return, support the community. Much of our money (that was your money before you bought from us) stays in the community supporting local processing facilities, butchers, and restaurants. We owe our farm’s existence to the loyal, single family customers.

While the number of butchers, bakeries, fishermen and cheese makers dwindle, and most Americans cannot tell the difference between the taste of chicken or armadillo, because salt, flavoring, and sweeteners cover the fact that there is no flavor in much of the industrial foods, our customers go out of their way to get the perfect chicken, egg, chèvre, kale, or bread, because they can tell the difference.

We are stewards of the environment, we preserve heritage breeds and seeds, we risk our own capital to do these businesses, and we seldom get the subsidies that support our wealthy and politically influential competitors. Of course, they are not really competitors because they make something completely different. There is a reason our products are called food, and theirs are called commodities.

The greater Houston area eats, or wastes, about a million pounds of food an hour. We local farmers will provide only the prime part of that to anyone who wants to visit a farmers market or a farm and support real food and real farmers.

We are a diverse group of farmers. We love our diverse group of customers and welcome the refugees and immigrants.

P.S. I was told a story about a man that was buying trapped armadillos and selling the meat as chicken with no complaints.

Hugelkultur at the farm

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In the past few years we have had flooded gardens dozens of times. The most recent rain totaled 13″ over two and a half days, making for the third double digit rain event this year. But we have also had a few 3″ to 6″ rains that can do their share of damage as well. We have lots of dead wood dating back to the drought of 2011 and we are using that to build hugelkultur mounds in the garden. Combining these mounds with more swales to hold and move the water, will help us work better with our little ecosystem.
This combination of sticks, soil, hay and yes even dirty paper egg cartons, will turn into rich organic matter. Then we can raise a few chickens on and around the mounds, continue to add compost and soon we will be selling produce from our new and improved gardens.
So do not throw away your leaves, dead wood, grass clippings and newspapers–put them to use building a permaculture garden, rich in organic matter. Or you can drop them off at the farm.

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