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Four Fields Blog
Posted 7/18/2015 5:59pm by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

Hi All-

As things heat up outside, think about firing up the grill instead of sweating over the stove inside.  

We'll be at Crewe Hill tomorrow, from 10AM-1PM, and bringing lots of grillables- pork chops, cubed pork for kabobs, pork ribs, and roasts.  Our whole chickens are also great on the grill since we raise a very rich and flavorful breed of chicken that lends well to the high heat cooking on a grill.  We'll also bring some fresh garlic, which is fantastic roasted whole and spread on some bread.

Keep cool and carry on!

Ryan & Liz                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 7/14/2015 4:48pm by Ryan Lacz.

Remember all that hard work you did last October?  Well, it's about to pay off because it's time to harvest the garlic!

Last October, I planted around 700 cloves of 3 different types of garlic- 2 kinds of hardneck, and 1 type of softneck.  I personally prefer growing hardneck garlic because they typically produce larger, easier to peel cloves, and are usually better when roasted than a the softneck varieties; not to mention the garlic scapes they produce!  The downside to hardnecks is that they only store for 5 or so months, whereas the softneck types can last up to 9 months if stored properly.

How did I know when to harvest?  Timing is important because if you haverst too soon, the bulbs won't be fully grown and won't store or plant well, and if you wait to long, you run the risk of the bulbs flaking off in the soil.

Each type has its indications to look for.  The softnecks are simple- wait until the plant flops over.  Pretty obvious that it's done growing!

The hardnecks are a little more subtle- you have to look at how many of the lower leaves have turned brown and died.  I typically pick when 3-5 of those leaves are shriveled up.  You can always pick a random few and see what you've got.

Once you dig up the plants- be sure to handle them gently- tie them in bunches and hang them in an open & airy spot to cure.  Curing garlic takes 3-4 weeks, and is important to develop the full flavor and it will store longer than uncured.  Once fully cured, brush off the dirt, trim the roots to 1/4" long, and snip the tops off.

Slice off the top 1/4, brush with olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast in the oven or grill until golden brown- spread on bread and dig in!

Posted 7/11/2015 7:41am by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

Just a quick reminder that we'll be at Crewe Hill riding center from 10AM to 1PM today, Saturday July 11th.

You don't have to be a member to purchase, so anybody can pick up some of our pork, pastured chicken, eggs and fresh picked veggies.

Hope to see you there!

Ryan & Liz                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 7/7/2015 11:57am by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

The time would be helpful, wouldn't it!?  Sorry, it's very hot in the greenhouse...

We'll be at Crewe Hill from 10AM-1PM on Saturday, July 11th.


Ryan & Liz                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 7/7/2015 11:26am by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

Hi Everybody-

Just a quick note to let you know that we will now be at Crewe Hill Riding Center twice a month!  We had such a warm reception at our first CSA drop off, and folks were asking when we'll be back next so often that we decided to add some dates for your convenience.  Between the monthly CSA drop off and new market dates, we will be at Crewe Hill roughly every other week.

The extra dates we will be at Crewe Hill are on Saturdays: July 11th, August 8th, and September 5th.  You don't have to be CSA member to purchase at any of our markets, so it's a great way to try our products out before committing to a whole season (becoming a CSA member will save you money).  

The CSA drop off dates will remain the same Sundays (July 19th & August 16th), and we will be bringing extra chicken, pork, eggs and veggies for purchase as usual for both members and non-members alike.

Hope to see you out there and happy Summer!

Ryan & Liz                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 6/18/2015 7:03am by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

Good morning everyone, 

Just a quick note to remind you that we will be at Crewe Hill stables this Sunday, just south  of Morristown, June 21st from 10AM to 1PM.

This is a great chance to stop by and see what we have to offer and ask any questions you might have about the farm our products.  

We will be bringing whole chickens, pork chops, country and sweet Italian sausages, and pasture raised eggs.  There will also be some fresh collards, kale, and basil from the greenhouse.

You don't have to be a member to purchase!  We know that CSA purchasing is new to most of you, so feel free to buy some of our products and see what you think before signing up for a monthly delivery.

Ryan & Liz                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 6/5/2015 9:25am by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

Hi Everyone!

Sorry to have dropped off the radar for the past few weeks- we've been quite busy!  Between getting married, buying a 120 acre farm down the road, getting ready for our first CSA delivery, chores, and getting a wickedly bad head cold we're lucky we know which way is up right now!

Some exciting things happened around the farm as well.  We've moved the lambs to graze around their first Christmas trees, and we haven't seen any nibbling yet.  We are very pleased with these results because it means that we don't have to spray herbicides to kill the weeds that will choke out a young Christmas tree sapling.  While a more common practice in Europe, using sheep to mow around trees is rarely used in the States but can be very effective so long as there is plenty of food for the sheep to eat- you can't simply leave them in one area, or they will start nibbling trees once they have grazed the good grasses.  That's what the white net in the background is for- to be able to move them around to different areas that need mowing.

The pigs are growing incredibly fast- we knew that growing to 250 pounds in 7 months was an impressive feat, but it's truly something you have to see to believe!  We have rotated them through a few different paddocks we've set up int he woods, and they are very happy piggies, especially now that the forest is lush with Spring growth.  We have been keeping them in a paddock for 2-3 weeks, then moving them out to give that section of forest a chance to regrow and recuperate from all the pigs' rooting, chewing, and tree trunk rubbing.  Pigs love a good scratching!

We hope you're well and enjoying the spring, and there will be more to follow about the new farm after we close on the property in a few weeks!

Ryan & Liz                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 5/5/2015 4:22pm by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

As you guessed it, the advent of warm weather means there is a LOT going on at the farm!  

The pastures are growing like crazy- which is a good thing, because we have 6 hungry lambs to feed.  We found a great local person who raises Katahdin hair sheep, and picked them up 2 weeks ago.  "Hair sheep?" you say.  The hair sheep breeds, of which there a dozen or so, do not have the traditional wooly coat which requires shearing each year.  Rather, they have a hairy coat, much like a dog's, which they shed twice a year- a thick one for winter, and thin for summer.  Hair sheep tend to have a stronger resistance to parasites, and perform better on pasture (don't require grain feeding)- plus we don't have to wrestle them for shearing.

We also have been putting our meat chickens out on pasture in their protective, mobile pens when they turn three weeks old.  We wait until the birds get their first set of feathers, which means they can regulate their own body temperature and no longer need to be under a heated brooder.  We actually processed our first batch of chickens this morning, and the birds are looking great and ready for your next BBQ!

Our turkey poults (poult is a baby turkey) are also on the farm, and the personality difference between them and the chickens is striking.  The poults are very curious and bold little things- they come running when we add food and water to the brooder, whereas the chicks scatter and hide.  Turkeys are much slower growing than the chickens, and won't be ready for life outside the brooder on pasture for about 7 weeks.  We opted for two heritage breeds- The Bourbon Red, and the Midget White.

Our first CSA delivery is just a month away, so be sure to signup soon if you haven't already.  As always, contact us if you have any questions at all or want to stop by for a farm visit!

Ryan & Liz                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 4/21/2015 7:38am by Ryan Lacz.

With the recent arrival of spring, we were able to put the finishing touches on our woodland pig fencing.  We spent quite a while clearing brush, wild rose bushes, and fallen trees to get straight fence lines, dug in and built the corner braces, pounded in smaller support posts and stretched 3 stands of electrified high tensile wire.  You can see the fence just next to the trailer.

Since pigs can't jump very high, the fence doesn't need to be tall, only 24 inches, but it does need to be strong.  The high tensile wire we used has a breaking strength of 1600 pounds, and is stretched to 250 pounds of tension.  Run 6,000 volts through that, and you have a very secure fence!  We use a portable electric twine to section off smaller areas of the pig yard, allowing ample time for previously used areas to recover from the pigs' rooting.

The pigs were very excited indeed with their new digs, and went straight to rooting and exploring.    Agador was also very eager to jump the fence and get some play time in!


Posted 4/11/2015 7:36am by Ryan Lacz.

It's not just a mushroom anymore!  If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here...

As you know, we raise our laying hens on pasture, rotating them through different parts of the farm as needed.  We move the eggmobile, their portable coop, every few days in order to ensure their manure and scratching get spread out evenly over the fields.

We keep them safe from predators by using portable electrified fencing- keeps the chickens in, and the foxes out!  The coop door gets closed every night for two reasons- more predator protection, and so that they are contained in the coop should we need to move it the next morning.  Chickens do get up at sunrise after all...

The contraption you see hanging off the back of the coop is an access door to their nest boxes- the whole reason of putting so much effort into the eggmobile is to collect eggs!

Conventional eggs, which account for the vast majority of eggs laid in the US, 225 MILLION eggs every day, are not produced under these conditions.  There are numerous articles highlighting the abhorrent conditions the conventional egg laying hen is subject to her whole life in a factory farm- I'll leave it to you to look further into that if you wish.

The difference between a conventional egg and farm fresh, pasture raised egg is plain to see.

Conventional, store bought egg on the left, one of our pastured eggs on the right.  The conventional egg had very little flavor, soft rubbery texture, and an extremely watery white (an sign of staleness).  Our egg was flavorful, firm whites, and a yolk that was richer and creamier.  Numerous studies have shown that pastured eggs have better nutrition than conventional ones:

Pastured Vs Conventional Eggs

Happier hens make better eggs!

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