Thursday, October 6, 2022

Juicy Turkey the Easy Way!

We all know around the holidays is a crazy time of the year, especially if you are the one hosting. There is little time to spare between setting up decorations, tidying up the house, and organizing seating and place settings. Yet, we still have to find time to peel potatoes, stuff the turkey, cut up carrots, boil the turnip, bake the pies, render the cranberry sauce, and whatever else is a staple on the dinner table for such occasions. Even once everything is prepped and the turkey is in the oven, you have to remember to go back and baste the turkey every 20 minutes to keep it from going dry! So, as you continue to organize or guests start arriving, you are constantly getting interrupted and running to the kitchen, spending precious time basting, to make sure the turkey is the star of the meal. Luckily, I have a solution for this!

I know a lot of people that will wrap the turkey with bacon while it roasts in the oven to help keep the meat moist, but I am that weirdo that really doesn't like bacon. Plus, I would rather avoid the extra fat and calories with my turkey and gobble up all the desserts. Instead, I let the turkey baste the breast constantly, all on its own! I cook my turkey upside down!

Before you go saying, "What? You really are weird!" hear me out.  The white meat
in the breasts is the first part that dries out and needs the most attention while roasting. When traditionally roasting a turkey, the breasts are the part left in the open and exposed while the thighs are sitting in the juices while it cooks. Why should the spine and the thighs get all the extra moisture? Those are not the parts that most people prefer. So flip it over and give the breasts some love, let it bathe in the juice while slowly roasting, and have the fat on the spine render down and baste itself with juices and seasonings on the way down into the bottom of the roasting pan.

When prepping my turkey I usually rinse it out and check that all the organs have been removed. Sometimes I stuff it with my grandma's recipe for sausage and bread stuffing, but for the most part, we skip the stuffing step. Then place the turkey breast side down into my big roasting pan. I add a little bit of water, throw my choice of seasonings on top, and surround the bird with some veggies before throwing it in the over at 325F.

Generally, you are supposed to cook a turkey for about 15 minutes per pound, but I would only use this as a guideline, I would never rely on timing for any kind of poultry. Some people are really good at using a thermometer to check internal temperatures, I'm not very good at this method though. If you choose to use a thermometer to make sure your turkey is cooked through, you should have an internal temperature of 180F if the turkey is stuffed or 170F if it is not. I on the other hand rely on my sense of touch, I poke the meat and can tell by the density or the amount I have to push on the meat for how done it is. This is my method for cooking almost any type of meat, and is something that requires a lot of practice to perfect, so feel free to try it, but please don't rely on this method until you have done it thousands of times. 

Once the turkey is cooked, I open the lid and leave the pan to rest for at least 10 minutes. This allows the meat to constrict slightly and hold in all the juices. This is
the same for cooking any type of meat but is most popular with cooking a really good steak. Then I transfer the bird onto my big cutting board, spine side down, to start breaking down. Don't worry if carving a turkey is not high on your talent list because usually, a knife is not even necessary. You can just take your fingers or a fork, place it on top of the breastbone and pull down slightly and the breast should fall right off. You can now choose to cut it up or just shred it for the platter. The legs and thighs will take a little bit more pressure to pull off due to the hip joint but should still only need a fork to pull the meat from the bones and place it on a platter. 

The veggies from the turkey can be added to the platter if some people want or can be set aside with the bones to make a batch of bone broth either the next day or throw in the freezer to do next time you have a few hours to simmer a pot. If you have a little one like us who loves food but is lacking teeth, you can squish or chop up the veggies for an easy meal for them. Since the veggies are cooked in the broth, the veggies may have lost some of their original nutrition but they will have managed to pick up other nutrients from the broth in the roasting pan. 

I really hope this helps make your next big turkey dinner a little more relaxed than usual and still have a tasty meal at the end!

For those of you that want to know how I usually season the spine/thighs of my turkey, I usually use:
- Salt
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Italian Seasoning
- Our family spice blend (paprika, chili powder, salt, coriander, garlic, sugar, curry powder, dry mustard, black pepper, basil, thyme, cumin, cayenne)

For veggies, I will usually add large chunks of:
- Carrot
- Potato
- Onion
- Garlic
- Celery

If the turkey is extremely lean, I will add broth to the roasting pan instead of water or add a small amount of chicken bouillon to the water for extra flavour.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Who Are We?

 Small Town Farms is a small family farming built on educating our friends, family, and children about where food actually comes from and how to raise it in a natural, healthy environment while striving to provide nutritious food to our community. The farm is run by Nate, Kylie, and our 4 amazing children with the help and support of our family.

Nate is the driving force, muscle, and the resident handyman of Small Town Farms. His big dreams and ideas are where the farm started. He has always had a passion for growing and raising food for his friends and family, making sure they always had healthy natural options. He truly has a knack for being resourceful. When you look around the farm, nothing is done in a conventional way; he
rebuilds and repurposes upcycled materials to meet his current needs while doing his best to prevent any waste. Nate is a wealth of farm knowledge, he spends every moment of every day thinking about farming, listening to podcasts about farming, watching other people farm on youtube, or talking about farming, even though he works full-time as a truck driver. If you ever need to put a baby to sleep, his lectures about corn tend to do the trick!

Kylie is the realist to the whole situation. It is her job to tone down Nate's dreams

to a realistic capacity while keeping track of well, everything. She keeps track of all the scheduling and numbers, manages all communications and social media, and makes sure there is fresh and healthy food available in the house while tending to the children, animals, and vegetable garden. Kylie's dreams of a farm growing up were definitely smaller than Nate's, a small hobby farm raising her own food was all she aspired to do, Nate's big dreams of providing to the community sparked an interest and they are working together to make local food more readily available to the families around them. This isn't stopping her from providing more and more of their own food each year though, processing their own meats and doing more canning and baking than ever before. 

Paige is the oldest child of the bunch and is the biggest help on the farm with the most inquisitive questions because one day she wants a little hobby farm of her own. She does everything she can to help with all different kinds of tasks. She enjoys helping her dad build the next project or going out to move and feed the animals, always stopping for a quick cuddle (with dad or the animals, she's not picky). Paige has a solid interest in raising animals all the way from breeding until helping on processing day. Her mind strives to understand the biology of each animal we raise, constantly asking questions to learn the animals' physiology so she can understand their care. Her analytical mind does well justifying when to treat an animal when to cull an animal and deciding when it's time for them to become a food resource instead.

Miss Phoebe puts the words "animal lover" to shame. If she could snuggle with every animal from now until eternity it would still not be enough for her. She is the first one to always volunteer to join her dad on the farm for early morning projects or just daily chores, we aren't sure if this is just to spend more time with the animals or because she's a proud daddy's girl. Processing days are always the hardest on her, she never wants an animal to leave the farm, but she's not about to give up her thick juicy steak either. She enjoys helping to cook dinner or bake a sweet treat whenever there is space in the kitchen.

Wyatt is a character all on his own. He enjoys helping his dad build new projects and helping Kylie in the kitchen but getting his mind to stop brainstorming is a whole different beast. Every moment he spends on the farm he is looking around and trying to come up with the best way to streamline a task. He's constantly coming up with ideas on how to modify Nate's designs and make them more efficient. Wyatt always has the brightest ideas of the next advancement needed to make farm life better and chores go quicker to give him more time to participate in other things. 

Baby Brady is the first one to grow up completely submerged in farm life. No animal, fruit, or vegetable is safe when he is around. He wants to cuddle and love all the animals while being extremely happy when they become food as well. He loves to crawl around in the garden and harvest his own treats, but don't expect him to share in his bounty, he eats it on the spot. He enjoys helping with daily chores and getting to see and pet the animals while we move tractors. Sometimes he even likes to help eat their feed if he's not being watched closely.

Nate's family is extremely supportive and doing what they can to help us make our dreams a reality. If we need an extra hand on a project, his dad is always there to help and his mom will watch the kids. If we have to leave a family event to do chores, his nieces and nephews always volunteer to lend a hand. When we have an event to attend, we can always depend on his sisters to get chores done for us. His brother-in-law is great, helping us build the website and providing his photography skills. We are also extremely lucky to have help on freezer camp day to process the animals. Our friends who volunteer to learn something new or lend a hand are definitely a bonus. If it was not for the support of these people, we would never have been able to make the progress we have with building the farm.

As the saying goes, "it takes a village to raise a child," it also takes a village to build a successful business and help to feed that village. 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Evolution of Small Town Farms

Small Town Farms was started back in 2010 by Nate. He focused on filling freezers for friends and family and selling bulk to others in the community. At this time he had stints with goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows. Doing his best to grow the farm and try to reach out more to the community, life happens and he was required to shut the doors. He continued to do his best to facilitate finding local sources for those customers who were needing to fill the freezer but was no longer raising his own. 

In May 2017, Nate and I met and we started talking about the life we wanted together, day dreaming of building our own farm, bigger and better than what Small Town Farms had already been. Discussing the types of food we wanted to offer, the garden we wanted to grow, the animals we eventually would like to raise, the marketing channels we wanted to follow, and deciding on the main ways we wanted to help support our community and better the environment.

Fall 2018, we decided we were done just talking and dreaming about the farm we wanted to have, we were ready to start putting our dreams in motion. With space being limited on the property attached to the house, we agreed our first step to reaching our farming dreams would be starting a market garden. With months of planning, gathering and ordering supplies and, building our first "grow room" in the basement, we were ready to start making this a reality.

By March we had our little grow room full of seedlings, from peppers to tomatoes to sweet potatoes, the latter which we later found out does not thrive in clay soils. We had registered for our first local farmers market and started our social media journey. Each day I shared a quick picture, video or update on the seedlings or outdoor garden prep that we had been working on, either through a post or stories. We started gathering followers and had people messaging us to encourage us on a journey that they knew would be a struggle, but we believed we were ready to handle it. We started new seedlings as others were ready to move outside into the cold frame to start acclimating to the weather outside. 

The long weekend of May 2019 meant it was go time. We had a planting party, invited our family to help get all our little seedlings in the ground. Plus, we still had other crops that we needed to direct seed into the ground. We were optimistic as seedlings began to thrive and other seeds began to germinate. We were on the right path, this was going to be our window into life as a farmer, this was going to get us the farm and livestock we desired so much. Keep in mind, we both work full time. I would get up with the sun in the morning and go to the field, weeding, planting, harvesting anything that needed to be done before I left for my day job. We would both get home from work, grab a quick snack and a drink before heading straight back to the field and working until the sun went down, which, in the middle of summer was almost 10pm. As the sun would finally set we would sit down for dinner and discuss what needed to be done the next day, before falling asleep and starting all over again.

I'm going to pause here for a moment for the few people that think we are so lucky and privileged to have a farm and grow food for our family. Or that we are even more privileged to have the opportunity to share our story and the food we grow with the community but I assure you, this is not an easy path. Most days we are exhausted, but that is usually a sign that we have ONLY a few more hours of work left to complete that day. Its a struggle to keep a balance between the farm and our lives. It is a life of sacrifice when it comes to visiting with friends, taking vacations, or having anything that is actually "in style." We have to scrimp and save for all our infrastructure, to maintain our vehicles, even for that single weekend we get away to camp in the summer. It is a long, hard path to reach our goals, but each day we get closer and we know, years down the road we will look back and say it was all worth it.

The 2019 season went off pretty well, we were ready to grow more and reach out to bigger opportunities. We found a local market store that was looking for a produce vendor, and we wanted to be it. We built a larger "grow room" and a new greenhouse to replace our cold frame. We spent months working together, planning new products specifically around their needs, all while prepping for the farmers' market, but of course, Covid. Farmers' markets were no longer operating the same way, the market store went all online and did not want to have to maintain our inventory along with theirs, so we were back to square one. This was our time to move online like everyone else, even though this was never an avenue we had planned on taking. We enjoyed talking to our customers about our products, having them come back week after week with rave reviews, and we knew moving online would severely limit this interaction but, we had to do something to remain in business through Covid. Our website went up but of course our sales went down. We did everything we could to scrape by, praying that 2021 would be better, and in some ways, it was.

That winter we decided that we really wanted to start raising a meat source, even if it was only going to be for our own consumption, so we went back to discussions. We decided it was time to start raising rabbits. They were small, easy to keep, could be raised in the backyard and would never be able to seriously injure one of the kids while we taught them how to raise their own animals. We worked that spring on breeding and raising rabbits while maintaining the market garden. We had a few veggies that were selling online and meat that was growing for our freezer. Processing day for grow-outs was met with a variety of emotions, sad to lose our fluffy little friends but excitement to learn the skills of butchering your own meat and enjoying a tasty meal. This was definitely an animal the kids wanted to continue raising, so we kept a few extra does to start the process over again.

The produce side of the farm was not getting the attention we needed while only being online, but we were doing the best we could with that situation when we found it! We found the pasture that we needed to branch out into raising more livestock. We had the opportunity to grow our farming passions and go back to the roots of Small Town Farms. So we jumped on it! 

Within months we had built tractors ordered our chicks and turkey poults. We had laying hens on pasture and our teenage bunnies had been upgraded to a tractor of their own. We built our little make-shift brooder and picked up our baby birds. We found a local feed mill that could provide us with local non-gmo grains for our animals. It really wasn't much in the way of livestock for this property but it needed as much love as it could get. The pasture had been a hay field for as long as we could remember. It was cut and baled then left until the next cut was ready. The pasture needed some love, the soil needed to be amended and brought back to its former glory. The dirt was lacking the nutrients, organisms and micro-organisms that it needed to be the soil we wanted our cover crops to feed on. 

The tractors did lap after lap around the field. Each line behind the tractor left lush, nutritious grasses in its wake. We moved the tractors every day to fresh pasture, the animals ate their fill and left fertiliser in its place. Plus spilled a little bit of seed from their feed on the ground, some of which started to germinate to fortify the grasses and clover that was already in the pasture. We were building the soils in the way nature intended, followed mimicking the migration patterns of wild animals and establishing our rotational grazing methodology.

Eventually fall brought extreme amounts of rain. The fields got too saturated to be used. We weren't able to complete our potato harvest, the wet clay and mud was just too heavy to turn over to gather all the potatoes. The ground was just too wet and sticky to pull more onions. It also meant, the pasture was too slippery and soft to continue to move the tractors daily. It was time to park them for winter and switch to a deep bedding method. The deep bedding was able to keep the animals dry and while the bottom layer was already composting, the heat that it produced, stopped the ground of the tractors from freezing and kept the chickens, rabbits and turkeys warm. 

The tractors were a success. We were starting to rebuild the soil. They kept all our animals safe from predators in the summer and protected them through the winter. This was something we wanted to continue and expand on. So we ordered more chicks and turkey poults, we found and booked slots in at a local-ish butcher and got to work on building more tractors. Of course, we knew this still was not enough livestock to maintain this property and we wanted to branch out passed the poultry. So, we got to work on building a fence and looking for cows. Enter Charlie, followed by Pepp and Chip. As fun and tasty as they are, cows eat grass but they weren't the right tool that we needed to keep rebuilding the soil and clean up the property. So we reached out to a friend that had some pigs that required, a little extra love let's say, and brought them to the farm. Well, 2 pigs was not enough when you enjoy watching them play and clean up the scrub on the edge of the forest, so we came back with 6 more.

Now, here we are. Cows eating grass and growing for our family freezer. Chickens, turkeys and rabbits roaming the grounds eating and fertilizing the pasture while they grow. Pigs working up the ground in a more natural way than a modern plow while eating all the extra scrub so the sun can reach the ground on the edge of the bush to start encouraging fresh growth. All while growing and getting ready to move into a freezer in our community. We are trying to share our journey and continue to answer questions and educate on our practices as the farm grows and we learn more from our experiences each day.

Juicy Turkey the Easy Way!

We all know around the holidays is a crazy time of the year, especially if you are the one hosting. There is little time to spare between se...