…Come Grow With Us!

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Farm Chores- Water

Life on the farm is hard work! Obviously John Denver never lived or worked on a farm when he wrote that song Thank God I’m a Country Boy. He refers to life on the farm as “kinda laid back”, not around here. Each day starts with a number of important chores. This summer we divided our daily chores into 3 parts  so we can  divide(our labor) and conquer (the chores) quickly in the morning so as to get on with the other hard work.

Water is one of the most important elements on a farm. Life doesn’t exist without it . You will notice it is part of every daily chore we do. Today’s feature presentation is John doing the morning garden watering chores.

Take it from here JOHN:


The Birds Go out to Pasture 

chicken tractor 2013Our little birds are growing up so fast! We have moved our chirping friends to their tractor in the pasture. They seem to be appreciating their new home, having more space to roam and varied terrain. When we open the door, they prefer to stay inside, which we take as a sign that they are enjoying their life in the tractor. On a similar note, pigs Tammy and Roxanne got our of their pen last week! When we came across them in the neighbor’s yard, they ran to us and followed us back home. They must be happy living with us!
Now, back to the birds with a word on Cornish game hens. Our pastured birds are destined for the dinner table. Most of them are Cornish game hens, which are known for their fast growth, particularly in the breast area. Cornish game hens are neither game (being bred and raised by man) or hens (including both boy and girl chickens), but they are reputedly mighty tasty and packed with lean white meat. We can expect these fellows to be ready to eat in another three – five weeks, meaning they have nearly spent half of their lives with us! Time flies.DSC06611

Kohlrabi on the Scene

Kohlrabi belongs to the brassicus family of vegetables. It looks like a root crop but actually grows above the ground. Kohlrabi is a great substitute for cabbage in recipes especially cole slaws. Just grate it and use it to replace the cabbage. Peel it and slice or dice it to add to any fresh vegetable tray or throw it in a fresh greens salad. Make sure to peel it first, the skin can be quite tough. Our pigs love to munch on the kohlrabi leaves after a good harvest.image

This Week’s Harvest is In!


We are busily harvesting summer fruits, vegetables, herbs, and eggs.  This is one of the very best parts of organic farming!  

This week’s organic harvest includes

  • beautiful Romaine lettuceeasy to juice and perfect for adding greens into smoothies
  • scrumptious Strawberriessee Strawberry recipe ideas
  • Sweet Peas new this week and just perfect raw, in salad, stir-fry, and in sandwich wraps
  • Bright Beetsready to eat raw or cooked, an incredible superfood
  • Fresh Onionsjust one sniff will make you an onion lover
  • Irresistible Cherries– you really can’t have just one
  • Farm Fresh Eggs from the best hens around, these eggs will brighten your breakfast plate
  • BasilAdds bright flavor to any dish
  • Arugulaamazing on it’s own, but enhanced by our addition of some companion planted Carrot Greens, a knockout ready-to-go mixed salad
  • Tangy Scapes- use them like garlic or green onions, raw or cooked
  • Rich Swiss Chardbursting with flavor and nutrients
  • Crisp and tender ZucchinisJust starting… if you don’t get some this week, get your recipes ready because next week you will!

Not sure how to use any of these or want to try a new recipe with a few of these together?  Check out Yummly.  Just type in what you want to use, then when it brings results back check out all the options on the left.

A note on washing: We rinse some of the greens, most notably the arugula mix and romaine lettuce.  Other things we don’t rinse because they will stay fresher longer that way.  A great way to know it’s already washed and ready to eat is if the greens are in a paper bag or a plastic bag with a paper towel.

If you’d rather wash the remaining greens (like the spinach) when you get home so they are stored clean in the fridge, we’d like to recommend using a salad spinner and gently putting them in a bag or container with a paper towel.  This helpful video does a great job explaining how to store different greens and veggies for best results.


The Chicks Keep on Cruising

Remember the arrival of our chicks 2 weeks ago? Well, they’re twice as big now as they were then! They’ve been nibbling away on their lawn pasture, insects and organic feed, sleeping in piles, forming cliques, and exercising their newly discovered wings. Charles, the farm cat, who helps us keep a mouse-free barn and house, now has her eyes (and sometimes, paws through the chicken wire) on the chicks. Their tractor has done a great job of keeping them safe and cozy. We’re moving it every day to give them a fresh patch of lawn, and soon they’ll be out in the back fields exploring a  diverse swath of pasture.
On the topic of the pasture, we mowed it last week, let the cuttings dry, and collected 80 bales of good hay! The chicks will enjoy the food web among the trimmed plants, the animals are assured food for the next winter (or two!), and we saved a buck while having a great time loading the bales up onto the wagon (allergies aside). It doesn’t get much better than that.
Stay tuned!chickens week 2


strawberriesIt’s strawberry time!

The strawberries are turning red and plumping up nicely.  Just the name of the berry is enough to make many of us smile.  You’re doing it right now, aren’t you?  Well, hopefully!

Our strawberries are completely organic, we don’t put anything on them but sunshine and water.  With all the rain expected in we might need to put a light, organic mix of fungicide on the outer leaves to keep down the fungus.  Fortunately, this doesn’t harm the plant, the land, or the people or animals eating the fruit.  Did you know birds love to eat strawberries?  We use our scarecrows, pinwheels to keep the strawberries  safe.

But you’re still thinking of strawberry pie, strawberry preserves, strawberry milk shakes, and of course strawberry shortcake, right?  Yep, me too.  While all of these are good, some of us at the farm are left wondering, “how can we incorporate strawberries into every meal?”  Here are some ideas with links to awesome recipes:

Strawberry Bruschetta

Strawberry Salsa

Strawberry Gazpacho

Quinoa Springtime Salad

an easier Balsamic Berry Quinoa Salad

non-vegan alternatives
Strawberry BBQ Chicken Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Avocado and Goat Cheese

Strawberry Pizza


We also like to add strawberries:

to oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, and waffles,

to our farm fresh salads (I love them with spinach,  thinly sliced radishes, and fresh dill),

and blended into smoothies!

Remember strawberries are on the top 10 list for  pesticide/herbicide holding produce- Eat organic strawberries for your health and for better earth stewardship and don’t throw away the greens, please! The greens are more nutritious than the fruit so eat the greens or blend them in your smoothies for maximum nutrition.



New Intern- Colleen

on tractor

Dear farmies, foodies, and great people of the world:

I am new to the farm!  I am so eager to start telling you about what I see and do and learn, so this blog won’t be too long so I can go see, do, and learn.

I will tell you that in just the past two-and-a-half days I have seen more plants, vegetables, insects, and animals than I ever would have thought possible in such a short time span.  Reading about organic farming and the diverse ecosystems they create simply did not prepare me for how beautiful it all would be.  I’m an avid reader, my Masters is in Library Science, after all, but I have to say books cannot compare to the farm experience!   Which is exactly why I am here.   I have spent the last eight years as a high school English teacher and school librarian.  I am here at Bertrand Farm to learn both organic farming methods and to discover how agriculture and education can be combined in an experience-based setting.

Also, fyi, since I am a vegan I will blog about the vegan delights the farm is growing.  Look forward to those blogs, please!  Overall, I am really excited to be here and will post updates soon.

With gratitude,


p.s. I drove a tractor for the first time on Monday!

More on Eating Like A Pig(or human)

Pigs are very similar to humans in a lot of ways, especially in their digestive processes. Pigs are omnivores, meaning they can eat meats, vegetables and grains. Any healthy omnivore needs access to balanced amounts of all three. My last post focused on how our pigs are housed in a healthy pasture composed of root and leaf vegetables. Today I will focus on the grain portion of their diet.

The main  ingredient of animal feed in this country is corn. While corn is a balanced food, composed of starch for energy, protein for growth, and fiber for digestive health, it lacks some of the more important nutrients that omnivores need to be  happy and healthy. Small grains like wheat, rye and oats are higher in proteins(as are greens) than the corn mixes used for conventional feeding. The higher fiber content of small grains supports digestive health. Small grains have lower starch content than corn, they mature faster and grow in less favorable conditions making them a healthy alternative or addition to the livestock diet.

Small grains can easily be grown organically in a crop rotation or in an unused pasture. Growing small grain has multiple benefits to the small sustainable farmer. In addition to feed, grain shafts are harvested for straw for livestock and mulch for the gardens. British researchers are  working on breeding a new type of wheat that produces more grain per acre and is more resilient to drought.

The  grain mix we are supplementing our pasture  pigs with here at Bertrand Farm is produced organically in a local Amish community. They mix together corn, soybean meal, molasses and alfalfa(a small grain and green) along with plant based, organic nutrient supplements for a balanced mix of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and fiber.


So far this mix is keeping Tammy and Roxanne happy and active without dulling their taste for greens and grubs. I am sure they know what they should be eating, and they’re getting exactly that.  I mentioned earlier that the pigs were compacting some of the orchard soil around their feed and water. We have since started moving their water to a new spot each day and it seems to be encouraging them to root more evenly in the pasture. They are doing an admirable job at being pigs. Amazing right?

That’s all for now!

– Richie

The Natural Step at Bertrand Farm

Hello, Chris here. I am happy to announce that Bertrand Farm is adopting the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD). As part of my internship at Bertrand Farm (BFI) I am walking BFI through the FSSD framework and I would like to share it in my blogs as well. I have been studying sustainability as my minor at IUSB over the last few semesters. In learning about sustainability, I have also learned about the non-profit organization called The Natural Step (TNS). The framework was created by TNS for businesses, organizations and families including people like you and me. The framework that we are adopting is going to help us become more sustainable by defining sustainability, while also providing a strategic approach to becoming more sustainable in our practices of farming. Perhaps you would like to join us in becoming more sustainable by adopting the framework for your home or business. The FSSD framework defines sustainability as: Meeting our current needs, without compromising the ability for future people to meet their own needs as well. Our goal continues to be, working toward creating a sustainable society.

Here is a short video that explains the FSSD framework, The Natural Step and sustainability.

pig pic

Reducing our dependence on resources that are taken from the Earth is one of our guiding objectives of TNS.  Petroleum oil is a resource that we are trying to eliminate or greatly reduce  at Bertrand Farm. The work of pigs and chickens can help us naturally.

 Our pigs and the chickens forage for different food, which is an advantage to us. The pigs like to forage on the lettuce, radish, beets and turnips that we planted for them. In foraging, they tear up the ground and spread the compost around, which is beneficial to us as farmers. We then move the pasturing area and let the chickens take over. The chickens will forage in the area that the pigs were working in. The chickens work by eating unwanted insects and new shoots of grass that come up from the compost and ground. Without the chickens, we would normally have to till the soil because of the grass shoots that could take over the soon to be planting area. With the cooperative foraging and soil mixing between the pigs and the chickens, we do not need to use the tractor to till, mix the compost pile and spread the compost in the areas that we  pastured the pigs and chickens. Ultimately, our cooperative pasturing techniques are lessening our dependence on petroleum.


Here come the pigs!

The pigs arrive –

We have been welcoming our new family of pigs gradually over the last month. Our first arrivals included Tammy and Roxanne which you have met in previous blogs. Soon the last two Tamworth’s will join us. We have staggered their arrival so that they will mature at different times as well. Making it possible to provide pork from late Summer through the holidays.

In a months’ time we have learned a great deal about raising pigs. We’ve had some ups and downs. A couple of our first pigs arrived with a slight cough. We kept a close watch over them . The weather had been cold and wet for several weeks before we got them and was continuing to be up and down in temperature and rain. We knew from our research these were perfect conditions for pneumonia, the number one concern in young pigs. We made sure to keep lots of dry straw bedding in their shelter to keep them warm.. Pigs should always have a shelter to go into that is dry and protects them from the sun. Did you know pigs get sunburned? The coughs continued to get worse during their first week here and we became increasingly concerned. A visit from the vet confirmed our prognosis of pneumonia. The breeder was very agreeable to take these pigs back and treat and raise them himself.

Our crew is healthy and strong now and growing quite nicely.

Pigs are smart animals and social too. They know us now and are not so afraid to have us visiting daily. It’s important that we socialize with them so they trust us and let us near which is important if they get sick or need some special help from us. We spend some time each day just socializing with them. They are quite funny and oh the personality!


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