Amazing Tallow

Tallow, it’s not just for cooking…

When you think of tallow, I’m sure nothing appealing comes to mind. The thought of it may  even make you a bit queasy.  I completely understand, however, once you realize the the benefits of tallow you may change your mind.  I’m not making any medical claims here, but I can say for certain that it has done away with my daughter’s eczema and diaper rash.  It has also kept my dry hands and feet moisturized during our Texas windy “winter.” Tallow is a wonderful base for healing salves, balms, face creams, and body butters.

So what is tallow?  

According to Wikipedia, Tallow is “a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.”

You see, I warned you… totally not appealing!

Tallow – a super brief history of fat…

Animal fats have been used for centuries going back to Ancient Babylonians, Native Americans, and are mentioned many times biblically.  These fats were used for medicinal salves, cosmetic purposes, and cooking. Candles were made of tallow by the Romans beginning about 500 BC. and Cleopatra herself was known to have bathed in tallow to keep her skin creamy and moisturized. If it’s good enough for Cleo, it’s good enough for me!

“Historical evidence shows that Egyptians bathed regularly and combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance for washing.” ~  The History of Soap Making.

Throughout history, tallow has been combined with medicinal plants and applied to the skin to assist in healing.  Its uses are many: burns, chapped skin and lips, rashes, wounds,  pain, and even ingrown nails.

I can vividly remember my grandmother having tallow on hand at all times.  It sat upon her worn white stove in a repurposed Folger’s can next to the bacon grease.  This smooth and creamy rendering had many uses from frying chicken and French fried potatoes to moisturizing hands.  It was not uncommon for grandmother to cut a piece of an aloe vera plant along with a handful of herbs and combine it with tallow over a low heat for hours to produce a healing concoction that could rival most pharmacy brands.  She would slather this miracle salve on our wounds (usually a result from getting into things we shouldn’t have).  This, in addition to a short prayer, kiss, and hug during application, would always do the trick and soon after our wounds would heal up seamlessly with little to no evidence of our horsing and monkeying around.  Today, I continue to keep a slow steeped tallow and herb salve on hand for cuts, abrasions, and moisturizing. What’s that saying? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Is tallow the same as lard?

Fat is fat, right?  Nope… tallow is rendered beef fat, where as “lard” is rendered pork fat. The taste is slightly different and grass fed tallow is by far more easily absorbed due to its composition being so similar to our natural  skin oils.  Due to tallow’s absorption rate into our skin, it leaves skin incredibly supple and and soft.  Lard, on the other hand, has less saturated fat which is what tones our skin or cell membranes.

I thought animal fats were bad for you…

“Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grass-fed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hard and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard.”  – Source:  Beeftallow.com

Beef fat on my skin? No way! 

Now that you know what tallow is,  you’re probably wondering why you should slather fat on your body…

Believe it or not, you’ve probably already done it hundreds of times!  A large majority of skin care companies produce creams, lotions, and other skin care products with tallow under different names to not discourage you from purchasing it.  The difference is the majority of these products come from tallow packed with antibiotics and hormones and if that’s not enough they’ve added in fragrances, phthalates, and other toxic ingredients into the mix as well.

The benefits of tallow …

20161214_210402.jpgOur grass-fed pasture raised beef tallow comes from the Ploughshare Institute  For Sustainable Culture in Waco, Texas.  We searched high and low for the highest quality tallow and this place is truly heavenly for cows.  The cattle are treated with great respect and are able to roam on hundreds of acres of beautiful lush green pastures.  I make my weekly trip to Waco and enjoy walking the fields and visiting with the wonderful community of people. If you are ever in the area, I encourage you to visit and take a class or two on: soap making, candle making, weaving, forging tools, pottery, beekeeping, organic farming, sustainable living, or just have the most fabulous farm to table lunch ever.  Make sure you have several hours to hang around to chat and learn.  It’s truly an experience!

 Sorry, I get so excited about this place.  Back to tallow…

Tallow is jam-packed with lipids that are found in our skin naturally. These lipids are what make our skin  youthful and healthy.  The fatty acids in purely grass-fed tallow are incredibly compatible and similar to the molecular structure of the oils (sebum) found in our outer layer of skin which makes it highly absorbable.  Tallow protects,  regenerates and moisturizes.  Grass fed tallow contains fat soluble vitamins A,D, E & K.   It is as pure a moisturizer as can be- no additives, no preservatives, no chemicals, and no toxins. It’s just good ol’ nature at its finest.

We hand-render and triple wash the highest quality grass-fed tallow on low heat for 15-24 hours in small batches to ensure quality and to maintain beneficial antioxidants.  To this we add organic oils such as olive, vit E., coconut, shea, medicinal herbs, and essential oils. We then triple strain and filter the infused oils to ensure a smooth salve , balm, or butter.

Our organically grown medicinal and beneficial herbs and flowers  are added to tallow to soothe and heal irritated, dry, and itchy skin.

The long laborious process of infusing oils for weeks and even months begins long before we make our salves and other tallow products.  We hand pluck and pick specific herbs and allow them to infuse into our healing oils which are added to our herb infused tallow for an extra boost of healing power and a glorious natural aroma.

Calendula, marigold, chamomile, lavender, rosemary, St. John’s wort, parsley,  comfrey, peppermint, echinacea, sage, thyme, chickweed and Mexican marigold are all great healing and soothing herbs.

Even our bees love being part of the healing and moisturizing process by sharing their beeswax and honey.  Nature is amazing!

Want to know more about  how to render your own tallow?

Now that you know a little more about tallow, you may want to try it out and experience the benefits for yourself, or maybe you just want to fry up some of the best fried chicken and French fries ever…Mmmmmm

Jill Winger with The Prairie Homestead has a wonderful site you should take a gander at.  She gives step by step instructions with photos on how to do this yourself.  Rendering tallow takes a little time, well actually what I call a “lotta” time, but it is well worth it and it stores for quite a long time in an airtight container or in the fridge.  Remember to use grass fed, pasture raised tallow from a reliable source and ensure that there are no hormones or antibiotics in it.

You can check out Jill’s blog at:

http://www.theprariehomestead.com

Not wanting to go through the hassle and time of rendering, washing, filtering, etc. ? We’ve got you covered! Shoot us an email or check out our “shop” page.

Until Next Time…

Keep it Real & Keep it Local Y’all! 

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The Texas Chick & Farmer Rob

Rub-A-Dub-Dub

Rub-A-Dub-Dub…There’s a Chicken in the Tub!

Although you could dunk your chicken in a a nice warm tub now and then, suds them up, and fluff them with a blowdryer, they would much prefer a nice dust bath.

Dust baths are absolutely necessary for a chicken’s health.  Free range or farm pastured chickens can often find some soft earth and dig themselves a nice hole to bathe in.  Other times, chickens may be confined to runs or coops and will need a way to rid themselves of pests and parasites such as mites and lice.  

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Our hens, though out and about all day pecking and foraging, love a nice man-made dust bath. They often find soft patches of dirt and  piles of dead leaves and mulch to snuggle into, but a pool, old box, rubber container, or anything that can hold a homemade dust bath mixture is their preference.  

With buckets and barrels of ash from our fire pits, organic soil, shovels, food grade diatomaceous earth, and sand we fill up all dust baths around our little farm on a monthly basis. It is such a treat to see the gals run over and dive into their freshly mixed baths. If you haven’t had the opportunity to witness a chicken take a dust bath, it is truly a sight to see. The first time I experienced this, I was under the impression my hens were convulsing and  dying as they were frantically flailing, twisting and turning in attempt to cover each and every feather.  I quickly ran inside, searched on YouTube, and found out this was very normal and enjoyable for them. The kids love filling up the tubs and pools around the property and watch in amazement.   My son is still trying to wrap his head around why chickens have to get dirty in order to get clean and will often try to use this to his advantage and in his own defense to avoid his daily shower.

Below: (left) ash for dust baths & fresh cut herbs for nest boxes (right) farmer Rob & the kiddos collecting ash from the fire pit.

There a a few things to remember when making a dust bath for your feathered friends:

  1. Only use wood ash and eliminate large chunks of coal.
  2. You may use play sand or builder’s sand. I prefer play sand, but the pebbles and large pieces of sand are often eaten as “grit”, which is necessary for chickens to aide in the process of breaking and grinding down their food.
  3. Food grade diatomaceous earth (can be found at your local feed store)
  4. Soil that is fertilizer, chemical , vermiculite free and preferably organic.


Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder made of the tiny fossilized remains of diatoms, which is a type of algae. It is 100% natural  and safe for chickens to eat and for consumption of eggs. Often, it is recommended to add this to chicken feed to help prevent intestinal worms.  You may also use it to help prevent external mites or lice. You can  sprinkle DE in  nest boxes, coop bedding, and of course in dust baths. It can be directly  applied  beneath their wings and around their vents to help with an infestation as well.  We use DE for controlling ants, and in our vegetable garden for unwanted pests as it is safe around our bee hives.

A note for those who have asthma or respiratory issues:

Our son is a severe asthmatic and the poor little guy just can’t help but want to be out and about helping on our micro farm.  He loves digging, hoeing, gardening, cleaning coops, and making dust baths for our hens.  If you have respiratory problems, we highly recommend having someone else make the dust baths for your chickens. If this is not an option, please practice safety by wearing a respirator or dusk mask. In addition,  shower and wash any clothing used immediately after making dust baths to eliminate any dust particles from the wood ash, DE, soil, or sand on your person. dust-bath-2

 

Everyone needs a good dust bath now and then…

 

Until next time…

Keep It Real & Keep It Local Y’All

The Texas Chick

 

Preserving Figs

Preserving figs is a way to ensure there are plenty of figs to eat in the winter months when there is not access to fresh figs.  
At Boca Family Micro Farm, picking figs this time of year is a daily duty; sometimes we pick them twice a day.  We are always careful to wear protective clothing due to sap allergies and rough leathery leaves. Always be aware of your surroundings; snakes love fig trees. 
Preserving figs is pretty simple, but time consuming. It’s important to be prepared and set aside some time.

 

Here’s what you will need : (It’s good to double it up if you can and have enough figs)

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 5 cups fresh figs, stems removed- keep whole and in tact
  • 1 cup water
  • 1  1/2 cups white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon of chopped candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger or fresh grated ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons of orange zest

Directions

Before you begin, dissolve the baking soda in about 2 quarts of cool water and immerse the figs in the treated water in a large bowl. Gently stir to wash the figs, drain off the water, and rinse the figs thoroughly with fresh cool water. 

After thoroughly rinsing figs, the stems should be removed and then placed gently into a large pot.  After I took this photo, I ended up changing the pot to a larger one to avoid hot syrup splattering on me.

Add 1 cup water, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, lemon, lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

Add chopped oranges, orange zest, and chopped candied ginger.

Very gently stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar, keeping the figs intact as much as possible. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to a simmer, cook until the figs are golden brown, and coated in syrup, for about an hour. Stir gently a couple of times to keep the figs from burning on the bottom of the pot. If desired, add a pinch of salt to tame the sweetness.

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 10 full minutes. You may do this in boiling water or the dishwasher on a full cycle.

Pack the figs into the hot, sterilized jars and top off with syrup, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids and screw on rings to only a fingertip tightness. You don’t want to over tighten the lids or you will not have a good seal and it may end up a mess.

Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot, fill halfway with water, bring to a boil over high heat, and then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. If necessary, pour in more boiling water  until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10-15 minutes depending on your altitude.

IMG_6303Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface several inches apart until they cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store the jars in a cool, dark area and wait at least two days before opening.

Until next time,

Keep it Local & Keep it Real Y’All,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

See our blog for more on figs: fig jam, dehydrating figs, and how to care for and grow figs.

bocamicrofarm.com/2016/07/23/oh-fig

We be Jammin’!

Friday night jammin’ has a whole new meaning for me these days.  Fig jam is one of my favorite things to make and eat! It’s super easy to make and you don’t have to fuss with pectin or use a lot of sugar due to the high sugar content of figs.  In this recipe, I combine oranges with my figs to give it a little citrus kick.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 10 cups fresh figs, stems removed and chopped in quarters
  • 3  oranges, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped candied ginger
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger or fresh grated ginger
  • 2  teaspoons of orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions

Before you begin, dissolve the baking soda in about 2 quarts of cool water and immerse the figs in the treated water in a large bowl. Gently stir to wash the figs and then drain off the water and rinse the figs thoroughly with fresh cool water. 

After thoroughly rinsing figs, remove stems, chop and place gently into a large pot.  

Add all ingredients (spices, butter, sugar, oranges, zest, lemon juice, butter and vanilla) to your pot and place on stove.

Bring to a boil, stir frequently, and let simmer for an hour or until liquid begins to thicken nicely. Remember to keep your eye on it because it can scorch and burn. How do you know if it’s ready after an hour? You can always spoon some out on a plate, let it cool in the fridge, and see if the thickness is to your liking.

I love this little chopping/masher tool I bought at a Pampered Chef home party at my friend Amy’s house.  We use it for ground beef, mashed potatoes, beans, and anything that need some mashin’; it’s great for chopping!

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 10 full minutes. You may do this in boiling water or the dishwasher on a full cycle.

Once the jam is to your desired thickness and has simmered for about an hour, you may begin to fill your hot sterilized jars. Make sure you clean your rims with a wet towel or cloth before placing your lids on to ensure a good seal.  Only tighten the rings to finger tip tightness. You don’t want to over tighten the lids or you will not have a good seal that it could end up a mess. 

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Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10-15 minutes depending on your altitude.

Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store in a cool, dark area, and wait at least 2 days before opening.

Enjoy on toast, muffins, biscuits and just about anything your heart desires.

Until next time,

Keep it Local & Keep it Real Y’All,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

See our blog for more on figs: dehydrating figs, preserving figs, and how to care for and grow figs.

Want to grow figs?  Check out bocamicrofarm.com/2016/07/23/oh-fig

Like us on Facebook:www.facebook.com/bocafamilymicrofarm

bocamicrofarm@gmail.com

Dehydrating Figs

What do we do with all these figs?

It seems our ripening faster than we can preserve them.

Here is an example of what we picked off one tree in just a few minutes.  Hundreds were left on the tree.

My friend Dana ,  a fellow micro-farmer, suggested dehydrating them.

Hmmmmm….Why had I not thought of this before?

It was a genius idea on how to preserve our figs and not let them go to waste.

I immediately logged on to Amazon and ordered a dehydrator.

Like magic, two days later, it arrived.  Who doesn’t absolutely love Amazon?  They save you time, gas,  and money!

I ripped the box open and immediately got to work.

It’s as simple as 1,2,3.

  1. Wash figs
  2. halve or quarter them
  3. place them flesh side up on the trays and dry!

So simple a three year old can do it…and she did!

What can you do with dried figs? Oh, the possibilities! 

Add to: oatmeal, yogurt, breads, cookies, salads, stews, sauces, pies, pizza, ricotta, stuffing, granola, and the list goes on…..

Need some more dried fig recipe ideas? Check out epicurious.com/tools/searchresults

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Until next time…

Keep it Local & Keep it Real Y’All,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

 

bocamicrofarm.com/2016/07/23/oh-fig

 

Oh Fig!

 

There is something for me that is nostalgic about figs. They take me back in time when screen  doors and windows were left unlocked and opened and when catching fireflies in the fields trumped anything else that was going on that night.

I am always amazed at how many people have never eaten a fig.   Their flavor is a delicate combination of peaches and strawberries and can be eaten alone, or added to many recipes. Though dried figs are available throughout the year, there is nothing like the unique taste of a fresh fig. Growing and caring for fig trees is extremely simple and the maintenance is minimal. 

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So what about figs?

Figs can trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt. They spread to ancient Crete and then to ancient Greece around the 9th century BC, where they became a staple food in their diets. Figs were held in high esteem by the Greeks, so much that they created laws forbidding the export of quality figs. Figs were also revered in ancient Rome where they were thought of as a sacred fruit. Later, they would be introduced to other regions of the Mediterranean by ancient conquerors and then brought to the Western Hemisphere by the Spaniards in the early 16th century.

So you want to grow a fig tree? 

 

Growth Habit: The fig is a  deciduous tree and grows up to to 50 ft tall, but more typically to a height of 10 – 30 ft. Their branches are muscular and twisting, spreading wider than they are tall. Fig wood is weak and decays rapidly. We try to keep ours at picking height and let it get as wide as it wants to. 

The sap : It’s always a good idea to wear long sleeves and gloves…the sap and rough leaf texture of a fig tree can make for some itchy skin and some nasty allergy reactions. 

Foliage: Fig leaves are bright green, single, with a rough hairy surface. They are known to have anti-diabetic properties when ingested or made into teas. During spring and summer, leaves are bountiful,  but during winter you will be left with only branches. These leaves can be irritating, so again, use some protection between your skin and the leaves.

Location:  Full sun & lots of room- remember, when planting and searching for a location, that the roots invade garden beds.

Planting: If you are growing your figs in a row, plant the trees 15 to 20 feet apart. Prune your new plants back a little when you plant them. It is better to plant them a little deeper than they were growing in the nursery, about 2 to 3 inches deeper. The best planting time for bare-root plants is in the late winter – late January and February. Potted plants can be planted any time.

Pruning:  You don’t have to prune a fig tree; they will still yield lots of fruit, but you may want to tame this big beast now and then or you will need a crane to pick your figs. Never heavily prune in winter because it will affect the next year’s crop, instead, prune right after harvesting.

Fertilization: Compost and well-rotted mature are the very best fertilizer for fig trees, but commercial fertilizers can be used. Apply a balanced fertilizer about three times a year – spring, early summer and mid-summer. On a medium-sized tree apply 2 to 3 cups of a balanced fertilizer in a circle from about a foot from the trunks to the drip line and then work it into the soil. Do not apply any fertilizer in the fall since it can cause the trees to put on new growth when the plant is nearing the first frost, causing damage. Caution: Do not use any fertilizer the first year after planting; let the trees get established first.

Irrigation: Figs and water go together, but too much water is harmful. Keep the soil moist, but not wet constantly. This water can come from rainfall or irrigation so test the soil at least 2 inches below the surface for soil moisture and irrigate as necessary. Heavy rain or standing water can cause the fruit to split and spoil and if water stands on the plants for long periods, it can cause the plants to die.

Flowers: Though figs have flowers, they go unnoticed and are actually inside the green “fruit”. Bees and other pollinators actually go through an opening in the fruit to pollinate it. Pollinated seeds provide the characteristic nutty taste of dried figs.

Fruits Crop: There are two crops for the fig tree:  The first comes in the spring on last season’s growth. The second crop comes in the fall on the new growth and is known as the main crop. We are fortunate enough to have 2 huge crops per year. 

Fig Varieties

There are hundreds of fig varieties but the following are most commonly found in U.S. farms and markets. Here are just a few:

Brown Turkey Figs: Brownish / copper-colored skin, often with hints of purple, and mostly pink/red flesh with some white flesh.

Celeste figs :  Egg sized,  purplish-brown when ripe, and a dark, sweet, moist, purple flesh inside.

The Calimyrna Fig: Has a nut-like flavor and golden skin. Eaten as is.

The Mission Fig:  Got its name from mission priest who planted the fruit in along the coast of California in 1769. This fig is a deep purple which darkens to a rich black when dried.

The Kadota Fig: Is a trickster to birds since they are green when ripened, birds tend to leave them alone.  Also known as the “Peter’s Honey” fig, it is nearly seedless.

How to know when a fig is ripe

Color – Figs come in all colors from yellow, brown, red to purple, black and many others so know what color your fig is supposed to be, so you know when it’s ready.

Texture – Ripe Figs Become soft like a peach when ripe. Don’t let them sit too long…a mushy fig can be a messy fig.

Fig Picking Tips-Figs grow on low, open trees, with no thorns and soft leaves, so they’re very easy to pick!  The ripe figs will separate easily from the tree when you lift them upwards from  their normal drooping position. The ripe figs definitely droop a bit and feel softer.  Unripe figs are harder, more firmly attached, and do not droop. Figs must be picked ripe from the trees, since they do not ripen once picked.

Storing fresh figs

Figs won’t last long at room temperature. I found this out the hard way.  I once picked buckets upon buckets of fresh figs and left them on the counter until I could get to them a few days later. Unfortunately, they became chicken and worm food :(.  The fridge will keep them for a few days, but only a few…so check on them often.

 

Fig Facts

  • Figs date back to 9400-9200 B.C. and were considered the “fruit of the gods”
  • Figs are high in calcium, 3.5 ounces of figs provide 16 % of your daily recommendation. and 1/2 cup of figs is the same as a 1/2 cup of milk
  • Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches
  • Figs hold moisture in baked goods and keep them fresher longer
  • Figs are the sweetest of all fruits at 55% sugar content
  • Figs can be used as a fat substitution in recipes using half the amount as you would butter or oil
  • 3-4 figs   have more fiber than a cup of oatmeal
  • In Roman times, figs were thought to restore vitality and keep you young and free of wrinkles
  • In the 16th century, the Spaniards introduced Mission figs to California territory
  • In the early olympics, figs were used as a training food much like a Power Bar today
  • Fig Newtons made their first appearance in 1892
  • The Mission San Diego priests planted figs throughout California in 1769, hence the name “Mission Figs”
  • The fig is a symbol of fertility, abundance and sweetness
  • California produces 98 percent of the nation’s figs and 100% of the nation’s dried figs

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If you don’t have a fig tree already, I encourage you to get one, even if it’s on the patio or porch.  It’s a wonderful addition to the garden and the possibilities for using figs are endless.

Check out our blogs on some ways to preserve, can, and dry figs.

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time,

Keep It Local & Keep It Real Y’All,

The Texas Chick

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    Me & my hubby “Farmer Rob”

August’s Hot Chick of The Month

And the winner is…..Eloida! 

The votes are in early! Spread the news! Eloida Boca is our August’s  “Hot Chick of the Month”!  

Eloida is an Ameraucana hen and lays lovely medium sized blue and green eggs.  This rumpless, tufted beauty is a sweet, docile, and affectionate gal who enjoys sitting in your lap and snuggling in your arms.  Standing at 10″ tall and weighing in at about 5 lbs  she is not “oven worthy” in most farmer’s eyes.  In her spare time you can find this 1 and 1/2 year old feathered fowl roaming in the  pasture, hunting and scratching for bugs, and taking cool dust baths under a breezy tree.  

This little lady is a true survivor and has had more than one bought with a near death situation.  While in the pasture, not too long ago, a neighbor bird dog pounced her and left her for nearly dead.  We noticed she was missing later that day and went in search for her. Not too long passed before our neighbor  informed us his dog had generously left a chicken on his doorstep for dinner.  Farmer Rob was ready to put her out of her misery, but I saw a glimmer of hope in her eye (he’s always been the pessimist, and I the optimist–opposites truly attract).  I  went straight to YouTube and the internet for help…now, now, come on…you know y’all self diagnose all the time.  Lo and behold, come to find out there were dozens of optimists out there trying to save a half dead chickens just like myself!  I felt hopeful as I gathered up all my “surgical” supplies and prepared a  warm bath for Eloida. With sterilized sewing needle and thread, I went to work taking deep breaths with every stitch. This would be my first time performing “poultry surgery” and I was terrified. After more than 20 stitches throughout her body, some antibiotics, and a dab of homemade healing salve from our farm she was put in a hamster cage with lots of cushy pine shavings, kept in our home, and hand fed food and water with electrolytes.  She could not stand, and could barely open her eyes, but three days would pass and she would begin to drink on her own, and a week later would attempt to hop on one leg.  With continuous round the clock care and lots of love and attention, Eloida bounced back stronger than ever. She even began laying eggs before she could walk. I suppose it was a little gift of gratitude.

 Eloida is now back home with all her sisters, pecking and foraging and using both legs like a pro. Even farmer Rob was happy she recovered (even though the thought of pot pie was still lingering on his taste buds).

 

Eloida truly became a part of our family in her one month stay with us.  She comes to our back door everyday, pecks on our window and says hello.  We feel she knows we kept her from becoming dinner and it’s her way of saying, “thank you.”  If she only knew how much joy she gives us…and some great eggs to boot! If you ever get a carton of our farm fresh eggs and you’re lucky enough to have a green or blue one, you can eat it with a big grin and know a special lady laid it just for you 🙂

 

Stay tuned for September’s Hot Chick of the Month and as always,

Keep it Real & Keep it Local Y’all !

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

Like us on Facebook : www.facebook.com/bocafamilymicrofarm

Email us: bocamicrofarm@gmail.com

About

Our Micro Farm

At Boca Family Micro Farms we are committed to growing and raising nutrient dense foods using organic and sustainable farm practices. Absolutely NO herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, or GMOs are used on our micro-farm.  We invite you to follow us on our journey as we learn and grow. We have a three year plan to complete our self-sustainability mission and a  bumpy road ahead, but in Texas we go big or go home!

What we grow and do:

Organically grown fruits: Our property has 50+  fruit trees and bushes which include several varieties of : plum, peach, apple, fig, persimmon, mulberry, jujube, orange, lemon, sweet kumquat, apricot, nectarines, loquat, pecan, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, mulberries, raspberries and grapes.  Harvest is dependent on the season and how hard or mild our winter and drought are.

Organically grown veggies/herbs:

We are currently working on our second “Back to Eden” veggie/herb garden and practice a no-tilling method.  Much like a lasagna, “Back to Eden” is a method of layering, rather than disturbing the earth by tilling. We layer leaves, along with other carbon matter, compost, manure, green grass clippings and wood chips to create a nutrient rich foundation for plants to grow and thrive in. Our harvest includes: tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, eggplant, squash, pumpkin, watermelon, cantaloupe, beans, onions, cucumbers, lettuces, greens, kale, corn, peppers, chilis, flowers and herbs of all types.

Bee Different Honey & Bees :  

 Our micro-farm currently has four hives working furiously in preparation of  pure, organic, raw wildflower honey.  We harvest with extreme care and respect for our honey bees and only check on the brood and queen when necessary to not disturb them. Though honey is sweet, saving our earth is much sweeter and a priority here at Boca Family Micro Farm. We feel that we are helping save our world one bee at a time.  We ensure our bees  have  plenty of food (honey) to keep them through the winter months.  Did you know that bees are responsible for pollinating many of our key fruit and vegetable crops? In fact, without their help, over one third of our crop supply could be in danger of disappearing.  So next time you take three bites of food, remember a honey bee should be thanked for one of those!  Our  “Bee Different”  honey line celebrates diversity, and our unique differences, because what makes us different, makes us BEEautiful!

Cheeses/ Butters:

We had a great time taking classes from some wonderful people at the Ploughshare Institute in Waco, Texas and have been making great cheeses ever since. Our local raw milk dairy farmer provides us with  organically grown, humanely raised, grass fed jersey cow and goat’s milk.  Oh the things one can do with fresh milk!  Homemade mozzarella, ricotta, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, and butters have such a rich, fresh and pleasant taste and aroma. Pair fresh yogurt or cream cheese with our fresh berries, fruit, or chives and something magical  happens. From smooth and mild to hard and sharp your palate will be pleasantly pleased.

Breads:   

Nothing beats the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven.  Our certified organic and non-GMO grains come in their purest form and are ground to perfection to create amazing Artisan breads.  We also carry gluten free/dairy free/egg free options.  Fresh baked loaves or frozen ready to bake loaves are both available.  Pair this with homemade churned whole raw milk cream and sea salt butter, fresh honey butter, cream cheese, olive oil,  or our “Bee Different” honey for a real delight.

Olive Oils:  

We take our farm fresh herbs, spices, peppers and fruits  to enhance and infuse the very best olive oil for cooking, dipping and seasoning.  Pair our oils with some of our fresh breads,  baste steak, chicken, or  fish prior to cooking or drizzle over some farm fresh greens or garden salad.  The possibilities are endless!

Jams, Preserves, Pickling :

When our fruit trees and garden are bountiful, so are our cupboards. Fig, strawberry, apple, peach, apricot, blackberry, orange, raspberry, grape, pepper, plum, & veggie preserves and jams are made with no or very little raw sugar and lemon juice, that’s all; we keep it simple and real.

Salsas: Mild Boca, Medium Boca, or Hot Boca:

“When are y’all making more salsa? “ seems to be our number one inquiry and it’s no wonder because our salsas are made with only organically grown veggies and herbs and are sure to please the pickiest salsa connoisseur. Our deliciously deep red tomatoes ripen on the vine to perfection along with green peppers, Texas size jalapeños, and other sweet and spicy peppers, garlic, cilantro and onions to create a truly boca (mouth) pleasing salsa.  We can’t keep this seasonal treat on the shelves, so it’s always good idea to grab a few bottles (and hide one for those late night snacks).

Soap/Skin Care:  

We are happy to announce our new skin care line boasting luxurious goat milk and oatmeal soaps (Goat & Oat) and pure essential oil bath salts, balms, salves, bug spray, and non-alum deodorant. We also carry  a baby/child line of products such as bath wash, bubble bath, salves, and bum balm. Even new moms can benefit from our breast balm and relaxing teas.  Our farm only uses  organically certified and responsibly harvested oils of olive, coconut, argan, palm, grapeseed, sunflower, avocado, rice bran, jojoba, apricot and grass-fed organic tallow along with the finest grade essential oils and organically farm grown herbs & fruits to bring you the very best in bath and skin care. We are especially cautious with those who have allergies, asthma, eczema, psoriasis and dry skin and developed this line for our skin-sensitive  children.   What about that teen that seems to be fighting a war on acne? We have an amazing facial bar full of acne fighting essential oils and ground herbs that calm the skin while detoxifying.  Our skin care is crafted by hand in our  very own kitchen with only the very finest of ingredients and the utmost care. 

Farm Fresh Pasture Raised Eggs :   

Our lovely ladies lay some of the best eggs around, maybe that’s why they make such a racket of celebration when an egg is laid.  Our nests are filled with fresh cut herbs and rose petals to make nesting and laying relaxing and stress free.  Our  gals are bug gobblin’, grub eatin’, pasture peckin’, stress free squawkin’ happy hens, and their beautiful bright orange yolks and thick whites are proof of it.  Hens are supplemented with only Non-GMO certified organic grains, absolutely no soy and only Non-GMO corn as a late night snack to keep them warm in winter. Our girls have plenty of room to roam and enjoy rotating pasture pecking.  They are a great garden clean up  crew and help us prepare for the next planting by gobbling up leftover veggies and greens as well as high protein bugs and slugs. They are by far the best natural and organic insect control  around!

Ours vs. Store Bought…

Can you guess which egg our happy hens made?

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Compost, Worms, & Black Soldier Flies:

Nothing ever goes to waste! With worms, black soldier fly larvae and chickens to feed, everyone and everything gets a piece of the pie, or scraps so to speak.  Our worm castings make for rich, healthy soil and our black soldier flies make lots of larvae that feed our hens high protein snacks while our compost bins get everything else, including chicken and cow manure. This will  “cook” for months before we add it to our gardens.

How it all began….

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I am and always have been a teacher; a Spanish teacher, bilingual teacher, ESL teacher, ELA teacher, and a reading teacher.  I can say for certain, there’s nothing better than putting a book in a child’s hand….unless, it’s a chick! And that’s how it all began.

Years ago, as I prepared for our annual Easter hunt for our large family of seven and all our friends and extended family, my son and I went in search for a galvanized metal tub for beverages. I was going for that “farm” look.  Upon entering,  the sounds of peeps and chirping were overwhelming. Hundreds upon hundreds of tiny chicks had arrived for the spring season. Immediately, my heart flooded with memories of chicks running around the “rancho” as a child, and as we made our way to them  I could see my son’s face light up and I knew right then and there I was about to be in load of trouble.  “Mom can we have one?” – I couldn’t resist.  I mean, first of all, he’s my only son. Secondly, he’s my only son!  How could I resist those big blue eyes, and that sweet face as he cradled that little yellow ball of fluff in his hands? Fast forward twenty minutes and $102.49  later and we were out the door with heat lamp, bulb, pine shavings, a hamster cage, starter feed, a watering can, and well, let’s just say I never did get that beverage tub I was looking for! 

When we arrived home, we had to explain ourselves to the hubby who was not on board, but I soon pacified him with  “It’s only temporary”, and at the time I meant it.  I had every intention of the this “temporary” situation, but instead chicken math happened.  It’s a real thing and it definitely exists; I’m proof of it. Every time I would go back to the feed store to buy more feed, I’d see another yellow ball of fluff which would send me back to 1978 and the multiplying began.  Two coop mansions, four bee hives, thousands of worms,  and a two acre veggie and herb garden later we are officially a micro-farm, The Boca Family Micro Farm. 

 In my classroom, my students take time to write and reflect on their successes (glows) and failures (grows).   They write these in their journals, share their thoughts, observations and feelings and learn from one another. Connections are made, relationships are formed and bridges are built; organically, a community is born.  On the farm, I am the student and nature is my teacher. Here I will share my glows and grows in hopes to learn, and in turn educate those who may one day enter a feed store and end up on this road of sheer joy and madness.

At Boca Family Micro Farm we are committed to growing good food and making natural organic skin care that’s good for you. No GMOs, No pesticides, No herbicides, No Nothin’!  

Keep it real and keep it local y’all! 

The Texas Chick

Midnight came to visit my students in class.  The students won a “date with a hot chick” for achieving  (and exceeding) their reading goals! Everyone enjoyed her visit.

Summer Garden Veggie Soup

 

Summer Garden Soup…cold or hot, this soup serves up a heaping load of nutritious veggies for lunch or dinner.

After a day in the garden I found myself with a cart load full of zucchini squash, butternut squash, carrots, and onions.

I decided to whip up some soup and some zucchini, apple, carrot bread .

I made this garden soup a few weeks back and it was a hit.  Honestly, I just dumped all my veggies in a pot and quite remarkably it came out wonderfully.  I tried searching a recipe but couldn’t find one with all the veggies I had harvested and I thought… how hard can this be, really?  It turned out to be an amazingly delicious soup, and one my whole family loved. This large batch made for plenty of leftovers to freeze and eat another day.

What you will need:

  • 6 cups shredded zucchini
  • 6 cups shredded carrot
  • 6 cups shredded butternut squash (one large butternut squash)
  • 64 ozs of chicken broth (organic if possible)
  • 1 & 1/2 cup onion -chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (large)-chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil OR 1/2 stick of  butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of  half and half
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Add oil or butter to a a large stock pot, then add onion, bell pepper and garlic till onion becomes transparent and fragrant.

Begin to add other ingredients… zucchini, butternut squash, and carrots

Add chicken broth.

I am often asked,  “Do you eat your chickens ?” or “Do you make your broth from your chickens?” Well, when I started on this micro-farming venture, I had every intention of eating my chickens as well as their eggs.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of naming them, and then falling in love with them.  They truly give me such joy and I can’t say enough about what a stress reliever they are for me. No matter how difficult my day, when I get home , I grab a glass of tea, some grain, and head straight for the back yard where I plop down in a chair or hammock and watch these beautiful creatures scratch and peck under a big blue sky. I could sit there for hours…it’s chicken therapy…and they feed me to boot!  No, I’m not at the point where I can make my own broth from my feathered friends, but it’s in the works; I just need to get there mentally ….and emotionally.

Your broth will probably not cover the veggies at this point….no worries, their will be plenty of liquid once the veggies cook down a bit. Give it a good stir.  Once it comes to a boil, cover and simmer until all the veggies become soft (about 45 minutes)

Once all veggies have become very soft and are cooked through, add in half & half cream, and salt and pepper to taste. If you choose to at this point and you feel a bit more spice it needed…go for it! Add it some garlic, minced onion, powdered onion, chicken bouillon, etc.  I enjoy the flavors of the garden coming through in this soup, therefore,  salt and pepper worked just fine.

Let simmer an additional 20 minutes, stir often.

You may eat it at this point if you choose to have the veggies chunky, OR you may use an immersion blender to make smooth (I use my immersion blender to make soap and use strong essential oils, so to ensure I don’t transfer any of that over to my soap, I’m going to put it in my blender and get it a bit smoother). Yes, it’s hot, so be careful if you choose to do it this way. If you are using an immersion blender, be careful not to lift it up in the pot, OUCH!

And that’s it! You can definitely feel good about this soup. It’s full of nutrition, antioxidants, beta carotenes, and carotenoids.  If you’re watching your dairy intake or want to slim it down, you can always eliminate the half and half and use a nut milk or use whole or 2 % milk in its place.

Add some shaved fresh parmesan, croutons or a warm slice of bread…mmmmm...

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Dont’ forget the girls….(chickens)

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Until next time,

Keep it real & keep it local y’all,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

Zucchini, Carrot, & Apple Bread

 

Today, as I was adding fresh wood chips and compost to our garden, I decided to harvest some squash and carrots.  I ended up with more than I could make for dinner tonight, or tomorrow, or the entire week! What to do with so many carrots and squash?  Bread and Soup!

Ironically, though we try to grow most of our food, our son will not eat a vegetable or a fruit, so this is a  great way to sneak in tons of veggies, fruits and nuts in a healthy snack. It’s so much better than those store “fruit bars” and it makes for great muffins too!

Ingredients  you will need for zucchini, carrot & apple bread

  • 2 cups sugar ( you can use coconut sugar, or other natural sugars, although honey may make bread gooey and this bread is already very, very moist! )
  • 1 cup coconut oil – melted  (or vegetable if coconut is not available)
  • 3 eggs (farm fresh if possible)
  • 2  teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded apple (red or green)
  • 3 cups stone ground wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger

Optional below but make for a great bread! 

  • ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • ½ to 1  cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
  • ½ cup shredded coconut (optional)

First things first…. preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour 2 loaf pans or generously oil with coconut oil and dust with some flour.

In a mixing bowl:  add eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. Beat until well blended and eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

In another bowl:  add flour, baking powder, salt,  baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger , and cinnamon

Hand mix the dry flour mixture until all spices and other ingredients are well blended.

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Add the sugar/ egg/oil/ vanilla mixture a little at a time to the flour mixture and mix well.  You will notice the batter it is very thick. This will change when you add your veggie/apple mixture and  will become more moist.

IMG_5936Add shredded zucchini, carrot and apple

Mix well.  Choose all, some or none of the optional ingredients and fold in- below I have added dried cranberries, coconut, pecans and chopped crystallized ginger.

Once you have added in optional ingredients and squash, carrots and apples your mixture will resemble something like this.  As you can see it’s FULL of goodness! IMG_5947

Divid between the two prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour or until a wooden toothpick is inserted in center and comes out clean.  Mine took about 1 hour and 10 minutes to fully cook due to all the extra “optional” ingredients.

You can see that the zucchini, carrots and apples are very visible and in their whole state.  This is a very moist and dense bread and it’s always better the next day 🙂

Now for the test….

Goal and score! My non-veggie and non-fruit eater loves it! We can now add this to his picky food list of peanut butter sandwiches, egg & cheese tacos,  and yogurt.

Don’t forget the chickens!  We divide our scraps up between chickens, BSFs (black soldier fly larvae), and red wiggler worms.

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Keep it real & keep it local y’all,

The Texas Chick