Fresh Eggs available at the Petersham Country Store

Heritage breeds make different colors and sizes of eggs.

Heritage breeds make different colored eggs.

         

Our heritage breed eggs are now available at the Petersham Country Store in downtown Petersham. Our chickens are raised with “beyond Organic” practices (a term coined by farmer legend Joel Salatin) including the best organic grain we can buy, sourced as locally as we can find it. Our standards are higher than the government’s regulated standard and since we primarily sell directly to local buyers who can see our hens’ quality of life for themselves, we have not sought organic certification. Our flock has more outdoor space with constant access to forage plants and bugs, room for socializing, and they are handled with respect. You are welcome to come by to see what we do, just call ahead!  We have been told many times from larger organic farms that our eggs are the best tasting in the region. We’ve pleased the toughest critics, the farm workers. A big shout-out and Thank-you to all our customers for your patronage and enthusiasm for our eggs.

Kent

Word.

Petersham Friday Market

The historic Petersham Common will be hosting a Friday Market from June 3 to October 15, featuring all things Petersham. Food, crafts, treats, services, and other items will be for sale. If you have a local business in Petersham or a local food business in an adjoining town, please sign up to be a vendor at the market. The fee is only $5 for the year. Grace Note Farm’s Farmer D is on the coordinating committee for the market.

To register as a vendor, email your completed vendor sign-up form to fridaymarket@petershamcommon.com. You can pay the $5 fee either by mail (see instructions on the form), or with your paypal account or a credit or debit card, using the “Add to cart” button below. The shopping cart will be displayed, with a button to complete payment on Paypal.

Petersham Market Day Vendor Fee $5.00

How much pork is in a pig?

Tamworth pigs December 2009

This page is meant to answer the question: how much pork do I get if I buy a whole/half pig, and how much will it all cost? That depends, of course, on the size of the pig at slaughter time. We try to raise the pigs to around 250 pounds of live weight, although one year the slaughterhouse had some delays which resulted in our pigs being a bit larger. Our largest pig so far was 260lbs pounds of hanging weight, and the smallest was 180lbs. The table below shows the yield we got from those two pigs. If you get a half pig, you would take home 1/2 of the amount shown here (about 2 coolers of meat).

Cut Size on 260 lb pig Size on 180 lb pig
Ham 34 30
Shoulder 20 18
Bacon 29 19
Head 17 13
Trotters
If kept separate, or they can be ground
13 8
Ground Pork 15 6
Chops 34 17
Loin Roasts 8 7
Butt Roasts 24 16
Ribs 15 11
Fat 20 13
Organs: heart, liver, kidneys 3 2
Tail 1 1

For a visual of the finished cuts, I refer you to Sugar Mountain Farm’s post, with alot of helpful details:
http://flashweb.com/blog/2006/07/what-is-a-half-pig-share.html

What is ‘hanging weight’

If you buy a whole pig, your cost is determined based on the ‘hanging weight’ of the pig, which is the weight of the pig as recorded by the butcher, after the inedible parts are removed. You loose around 5 -10% from that weight to the total weight of cuts you take home, due to some trimming, bones, etc.

Learn to grow your own mushrooms

shiitake logs

Shiitake logs

Grow your own gourmet mushrooms
Workshop at Grace Note Farm
66 N Main St., Petersham, MA
Sunday, May 25 2014 1:30 – 4:30 (subject to weather)
Co-sponsored by the Petersham Local Food Group

Mushrooms are a great crop to extend the repertoire of home food production for the backyard gardener or homesteader. They are easy to produce, requiring minimal maintenance after you’ve done the initial inoculation process, and nothing beats the flavor of mushrooms grown outdoors on real wood. Do you have a spot that’s too shady for fruit or vegetables, but that you’d like to use for food production? That’s a perfect spot for growing mushrooms.

Come learn about growing culinary mushrooms from Kent Byron of Grace Note Farm. Kent has been producing culinary mushrooms on his farm in Petersham, Mass for 6 years. At this workshop, you’ll learn about mushrooms, inoculate oak logs with shiitake spawn, and tour the mushroom operation at Grace Note Farm. Each participant can take home an inoculated log to start their own shiitake farm.

Cost to participate in this workshop and take home one log is $40 per student ($55 for multiple members from the same household), or if you’d like to attend just to learn about the process and you’re not quite ready to take home a log, the cost is $30. Supplies will be provided (shiitake spawn, beeswax, power tools), but please bring your own work gloves, ear and eye protection, and wear sturdy shoes for outdoor work.

The class is scheduled for Sunday, May 25, but will be rescheduled for the following Sunday if the weather is wet. We need dry weather for the logs to be inoculated and capped properly.

Space is limited to 12 students. Please email us to reserve your spot.
You can pay either in person at the class, or pay online via paypal.

Grace Note Farm is sustainably powered

As a Christmas present to ourselves, Grace Note Farm now gets 100% of our electricity from New England-based hydro and solar installations, thanks to the Greenup option from National grid. I sure hope it’s legitimate and not just greenwashing.

We make every attempt to be very strict with our electricity use, but our usage is probably still a little higher than an average household. The electric fence is necessary or the chickens would get taken by predators, and there are times when more than one freezer is placed into service to store frozen meat while it awaits a buyer. That’s one expense we hope to eliminate over time, as we build up a client base and can sell batches of chickens or pigs as soon as they are available.

Knowing what environmental devastation takes place in order to produce electricity from coal has been a burden on my heart for many years. I’m glad we’ve taken this small step to convert to more environmentally friendly inputs. Maybe some year we’ll have a solar panel of our own.

Tamworth pork pre-orders

Happy Tamworth Pigs at Grace Note Farm


In 2010, we sold out of pork by mid-summer, and had so many more requests for this delicious pork than we could fill. We are heartened by the interest expressed by potential customers who want to buy humanely-raised animals, and would like to be able to supply more customers with pork in 2011. So we are polling our readers now to gauge the interest in heritage pork for next year. If you think you might want to order a half or whole pig in 2011, please send me a note in the comments section (there’s no commitment in this option, just a ‘maybe’). If you are ready to place your order now in order to get a pre-order discount, see the instructions below. If you’re hoping to find someone to split a half-pig with, leave me a note in the comments box and I can try to play match-maker. To learn more about the pigs we raise, and why they sell out every year, please read on.

About our Tamworth Pigs

Here at Grace Note Farm, we believe that animals deserve to have a happy life, even if they are destined for your freezer at the end of that happy life. Unlike commercially raised pigs that are raised indoors in tight confinement, the pigs we raise at Grace Note Farm roam in large fenced pastures and get rotated onto fresh ground every few weeks. They eat, nap, romp, play together, and socialize as their natures direct them, outdoors in the fresh air when they want, or lying about indoors on a pile of hay if they prefer that. They also eat a varied diet of plants and animals as they forage on the land (pigs are omnivores), supplemented with free-choice certified organic grain. This is good for the animals and good for our land as well.

We raise Tamworth pigs, a heritage breed that is prized for its tasty meat and good lean-to-fat ratio. Tamworths do well on pasture and are listed as a ‘threatened’ food animal. They are social and smart and we enjoy having them on our farm. We use them as ‘brush hogs’ to clear and prepare areas for future plantings. We buy piglets from breeders who feed only certified organic grain to their breeding stock and to the piglets once weaned. Tamworths have a reputation as the tastiest breed of hog. See this testimonial to the Tamworth on Chow Hound. It is reported on the web that Bristol University carried out taste tests using both commercial and rare breed pigs in a scientifically controlled experiment, and the Tamworth was judged as having the best tasting meat.

How much meat is in a whole pig?

A pig includes: bacon, head, 4 trotters, two hams, chops, ribs, fat, two shoulders, about 9 roasts, soup bones, organs (if you want them) and ground pork. You don’t have to take home the ‘exotic’ bits if you don’t want them. Trotters will be made into ground pork if you don’t want them to be kept separate. A half pig is about 2 coolers worth of meat, and a whole pig is 3 or 4. Our pigs have averaged about 175 pounds of meat each.

There is an excellent and detailed writeup on the Sugar Mountain Farm website that shows how much meat is in a half a pig .

How much does it cost?

For orders received by January 31, 2011, we will charge the same price as our 2010 price: $6.50/lb for half pigs or $6.00/lb for whole pigs (price based on the hanging weight). The ham, shoulder, and bacon can be smoked for an additional $3.00/lb. This discount represents our appreciation for helping us with advance planning and providing up-front cash for our 2011 growing season. Orders placed after 1/31/2011 will be subject to 2011 prices, which will likely be slightly higher.

When would I receive my meat?

Pigs will be slaughtered some time in the Fall. Typically September to November timeframe. Smoked meat takes an additional 3 to 4 weeks to process. The meat will be frozen and available for pickup on the farm, or with delivery priced at $0.85/mile ($50 minimum).

How do I order?

To reserve a 1/2 or whole pig, you should first call us to make sure there are still pigs available, then pay the $250 deposit. You can pay the deposit via check or electronically with either your paypal account or a credit or debit card (electronic payments incur a 10% surcharge).

Still have questions? Call us!

Pay deposit electronically


*Hanging weight
is the slaughter weight of the pig ‘on the hook’, before it is butchered into individual cuts. Expect to loose 10 – 20 lbs of weight per half pig between the hanging weight and finished cuts. GNF2009Summary21

Grace Note Farm wish list

If you have any of these items laying around the house, we can put them to good use any time:

  • clean egg cartons
  • white printer paper, in good enough shape to feed through the printer again, with one side printed on
  • Do you have a large glass or plastic (clear) candy jar, like you would get if you bought a gallon of Twizzlers at BJ’s? (I promise not to tell anyone). I need a couple for point-of-display bins for my homemade chapstick.
  • paper handled grocery sacks (like you get at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s)
  • a large portable cooler that we could use for meat deliveries
  • cat food for barn cats
  • Ball/Kerr/Mason canning jars (certain store-bought salsa and pasta sauces are packaged in reusable mason jars).
  • clean non-rusted wire-bail top jars
  • canvas tarps or used sails.
  • wire fencing: square grid wire mesh is constantly put to use in the barn. Even small pieces are useful. Large pieces of wire fencing that could be put up to keep chickens out of our gardens are also useful. Wire only needs to be in serviceable, but not brand new, condition.
  • plywood, any thickness: If you have a stash of reusable plywood lying around in your garage, call us. We may be able to come pick it up. Large pieces are particularly appreciated.

Larger items, just in case someone has these things laying around and wants to re-home them (hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask, right)? We would be interested in bartering meat for these items.

  • wine/beer bottle washing dohicky that goes on the kitchen faucet, and a cork-inserter for wine bottles
  • heated honey uncapping knife

Chicken tractor engineering 101

Chickens in portable pen

Chickens enjoying a sunny day

Rotating chickens onto new pasture frequently is good for several reasons. First, when chickens are confined to a specific area rather than free-roaming, they pretty quickly dig up all the grass, as they scratch for bugs and take dust baths. They like to eat fresh greens, though, so they appreciate being let out on new green areas so they can browse. With a portable chicken pen, also called a chicken tractor or chicken ark, the chickens can have new green area frequently and they can also contribute fertility to different areas of the farm. Continue reading

Shiitake time!

Yes, you have to do your hammer-time dance when the shiitakes start to flush.

We grow shiitakes on oak logs back in our woods. Getting the spawn into the logs to make mushrooms grow is an arduous process that I promise to photograph at some point. Kent planted his first set of logs in 2007 and ads to his collection each year. The oak trees have to be felled at just the right time of year, the crown and all the limbs removed and the trunk cut into 4-foot sections. Larger is better, to prevent the log from drying out before the mycelium takes hold. Then you shlep the logs over to the workbench and drill a whole bunch of holes all over the trunk, insert the mushroom-spawn-sawdust into each hole, and paint over the hole with melted beeswax to keep the moisture in. Then take the innoculated logs into the woods and set them into position and WAIT. A year. Or two. The logs Kent prepared in Spring of 2009 will fruit this autumn for the first time. It makes me tired just writing all that down.

But all that effort is worth it when the logs miraculously begin to fruit. Kent’s shiitake logs seem to be really happy in the spot he picked for them, because they have fruited several times this year. The mushrooms grow in that pith between the wood and the bark. Here’s a photo where you can see the mushrooms breaking through the bark.

shiitakes

Shiitake mushrooms emerging from log (click to enlarge)

The shiitakes are so lovely when they are growing. Our logs produce a couple of different strains.

Star crinkles on shiitake

Shiitakes with smooth top

Some have star-shaped grooves on the top Some are smooth on the top with more pronounced white lacy markings around the bottom

Cooking with fresh mushrooms is such a treat. Just like anything else, freshly picked mushrooms have a terrific flavor that cannot be matched by store-bought mushrooms that were harvested god knows how long ago. So far, my favorite mushroom-enhanced culinary creations have been:

  • scrambled eggs with mushrooms and fresh peppers
  • American style cream of mushroom soup
  • French style mushroom / leek / potato soup (more butter, less flour than the recipe above)
  • Mushroom ravioli
  • Mushroom cream vol-au-vents

a teenie shiitake

Gourmet Mushrooms

winecap mushrooms growing by a blueberry bush

One of the techniques we’ve learned from studying permaculture is to try to find ways to make our farm resources serve two purposes. Here is one example. Fruit trees need lots of mulching or they do not produce much fruit. Our fruit orchard contains 30 or so different kinds of fruit trees that we mulch with a very thick apron of hardwood chips. Hardwood chips make great mulch because they break down slowly, providing good moisture retention and slow nutrient release to the fruit trees, and they are sustainably harvested from tree-pruning activities in our woods and the surrounding area.

Wood chips can also serve double duty by providing habitat for certain kinds of culinary mushrooms. Last spring we planted winecap mushrooms (sourced from Field & Forest) in a dozen or so of the woodchip aprons. I typically think mushrooms want to grow in the woods, but I guess these mulch aprons provided a similar habitat: moist and shaded. Mushrooms are fickle and you really don’t know when you plant them if you will get any harvest at all. So we were really thrilled to see winecaps emerging in mid-August. They seem to fruit whenever the weather changes (a sudden rain storm or especially cold night will bring up mushrooms). Now we will see if the presence of the mushrooms helps the fruit trees themselves get stronger.

Our wood-cultured mushrooms grow at their own pace outdoors, and we do not do anything strange or un-natural to encourage them to fruit faster. Since we provide them with a mineral-rich growing medium, they have a terrific, intense flavor. Some store-brand dried shiitake (so I hear) are grown indoors on paper, so they do not have any way to develop their flavor. I suppose they look like a mushroom but taste like paper.

Winecaps have their pros and cons. They emerge all of a sudden and grow quickly, so it’s easy to miss them. They can be past the stage where you’d want to eat them before you even notice they’re there. For this reason, I’m glad ours are planted in the orchard, which is right by the house and we walk through it every day. Other mushrooms, like shiitake, grow a little more slowly, so we can grow them back in the woods and only check on the logs a couple of times a week. Compared to shiitake, one downside of winecaps is that they do not keep well once you pick them. They need to be cooked the same day or the day after picking at the latest. Shiitake, on the other hand, will keep in the refrigerator a few days longer. Also, fewer people are familiar with winecaps, unlike shiitakes, which practically sell themselves. But the taste of the winecaps is really exquisite. Having never eaten them before this harvest, we are so pleased with the taste. And the smell of the house when mushrooms are dehydrating is like heaven.

Chicken tractors

Feeding chickens in chicken tractor

Feeding chickens in chicken tractor


Chickens like to be outdoors on pasture, eating bugs and fresh grass. They quickly pick over what they can reach, however, and need to be rotated onto fresh grass frequently so that the pasture can rejuvinate itself. The portable chicken coop is a great solution to this problem. Chickens are moved onto a fresh grazing area each day, and they apply their manure to different areas of the farm without any need for human or machine labor to spread it.

Our broiler chickens are raised in these portable pens. Each morning we move them onto a fresh plot of ground and they get very excited about having new green forage to eat. As these photos show, they come forward when the pen starts to move, as soon as they can see the yummy new grass to eat.

Moving chicken tractor Kent feeding chickens Kent feeding chickens

Our pens are built for fewer chickens and are smaller than the chicken tractors made famous by Joel Salatin. His 10×12 portable pens are typically moved by a tractor or other vehicle and house 100 birds in each tractor. Ours can be moved by one person, and have a narrower footprint so that we can move them around our orchard, where the paths are planted in clover (one of the chickens favorite treats).

Why is it called a chicken tractor?

The chickens scratch up the surface of the ground looking for bugs, and take down any plants growing there, so having the chickens on a plot of ground for the day is a little like running the tiller. In this photo,

Chicken scratch

One day of chicken damage

you can see the difference between the perimeter area that is still green grass, and the ‘tracturd’ left by chickens from the day before. The grass is effectively mowed, but will grow back.

Autumn 2010 Pork

Here at Grace Note Farm, we believe that animals deserve to have a happy life, even if they are destined for your freezer at the end of that happy life. Unlike commercially raised pigs that are raised indoors in tight confinement, the pigs we raise at Grace Note Farm roam in large fenced pastures and get rotated onto fresh ground every few weeks. They eat, nap, romp, play, and socialize as their natures direct them, outdoors in the fresh air when they want, or lying about indoors on a pile of hay if they prefer that. They also eat a varied diet of plants and animals as they forage on the land (pigs are omnivores), supplemented with free-choice organic grain. This is good for the animals and good for our land as well.

We are currently taking orders for 1/2 or whole pigs. 1/2 pigs are $6.50/lb hanging weight*, and whole pigs are $6.00/lb hanging weight. There is an excellent and detailed writeup on the Sugar Mountain Farm website that shows how much meat is in a half a pig . The meat will be frozen and available for pickup on the farm in late October, 2010. We can also get the ham, shoulder, and bacon smoked for an additional $3.00/lb.

If you’ve been asking yourself “Where can I get organic pastured meat in Massachusetts?”, look no further. Our batch of Tamworth pigs will be available for sale in early Autumn. We raise Tamworths because they are good foragers, which allows them to obtain a portion of their food from the pasture (and therefore raising them creates less dependence on trucked-in grain). We also chose to raise heritage animals like the Tamworth hog because it helps maintain genetic diversity among food animals. Tamworths are also prized by chefs and restaurants because they are mighty tasty. But you don’t have to take my word for it: see this testimonial to the Tamworth on Chow Hound. It is reported on the web that Bristol University carried out taste tests using both commercial and rare breed pigs in a scientifically controlled experiment, and the Tamworth was judged as having the best tasting meat.

If you would like to reserve a 1/2 or whole pig, please email or call us to make payment arrangements. We will require a $250 deposit to hold your order, which you can pay via check, cash, or payPal. Order soon, as we expect to sell out.

If you’d like to sample the product before making such a large commitment (and who could blame ya’), some individual cuts from the previous batch are still available.


*Hanging weight is the slaughter weight of the pig ‘on the hook’, before it is butchered into individual cuts. Expect to loose 10 – 20 lbs of weight per half pig between the hanging weight and finished cuts. GNF2009Summary21

Organic pastured chicken pre-order

We are raising Kosher King broilers this summer. Kosher Kings are a robust cross that does well on pasture, without growing quite as fast as the commercial crosses (which have a variety of health problems due to their fast growth). We raise chickens on pasture in movable pens, allowing them to get a healthy balanced diet of fresh greens and bugs, supplemented by certified organic grain grown right next door in New York State. Our chickens are processed at a USDA-inspected facility in Vermont.

Birds will weigh somewhere in the 5 – 6 lb range, and the first batch will be available in September. You can pick up refrigerated birds within one or two days of slaughter, otherwise birds will be frozen and ready for you to pick up at your convenience. We’re working on a delivery option to Boston, so if you’d like to get some birds but don’t think you can make the drive out to the farm for pickup, please contact us or watch this space for more details.

If you’d like to reserve some birds, click on the ‘Add to Cart’ button to pay the deposit with Paypal, or alternately you can send a check for your deposit to the farm.

Price: $5.95/lb.

To reserve your chickens, use the button below to pay the $10 deposit via Paypal.


The baby chicks are here!

2010Chicklets2

What could be cuter than 50 day-old chicks? I can’t think of anything. Every couple of years, we need to replace the chickens we lose to attrition and old age. The previous batch were hatched right here on the farm from our own flock of Black Australorps in October 2008. Although that was fun, hatching chicks ourselves has a variety of pros and cons which I will post about separately. This year, we ordered a new set from Mt Healthy hatchery in Ohio. They arrived in really good shape and are healthy and happy so far.

We like to stick with endangered, heritage breed chickens because they have more of the old-fashioned behaviors that allow them to thrive on pasture, and also because we like to support genetic diversity among livestock. This year’s chicks are half New Hampshire Reds (the yellow ones) and half Speckled Sussex (the brown striped). Both breeds are supposed to be good cold-weather layers, and have pleasant personalities.

For the first couple of weeks, they will live in the brooder, a large enclosed cage that keeps them warm and protects them from harm. They have to be kept at 95 degrees at first, which always seems really hot to me and surprising that they can be comfortable at that temperature. We give them food, water, and a big clump of dirt and grass every day, so they can start developing their immune system. In several weeks, we’ll move them into the ‘good neighbors’ pen, where they can see but not be attacked by the older hens. When they are full-grown and can defend themselves, we will integrate them with the flock.

2010Chicklets7 These little cuties should start laying around mid-August.

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