Welcome to our Holden's Hide a way farm

Holden's Hide-A-Way Farm is a diversified farm that produces a wide variety of meat product, in much of the same manner as a farmer would have 100 years ago. Our ideas on how to raise livestock come directly from mother nature. We raise grass fed beef and lamb because that is what mother nature intended. Our pigs are free to root and roam through out the warm seasons. Winters are spent in a barn with ample space and lots of hay to eat and root around in. Poultry is raised on pasture where they get lots of fresh air and can do the things poultry likes to do.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

This week in review

Winter is approaching fast. We have been in a rush trying to get stuff ready. Sometimes it feels like we are not making any progress, but at the end of the week allot has been done. The last of the carrots were harvested and ready for storage. The vegetable field was plowed down, composted manure is being added as an organic fertilizer. Nest season we plan to offer a variety of naturally produced vegetables. We do not use chemical insecticides, fertilizers or genetically modified seed. We have not decided if we will be selling at the farmers market, privately, farm gate, or a vegetable stand. Lynn has been looking for a location to make our products available in town, but so far a suitable location has not been found.
We replaced some windows in the old house and found some repairs that needed done in the process. Not farm related other then it took time out of the farm work time.
A new winter paddock is almost complete for the cattle. The paddock is loosely designed around Joel Salatins model. The idea is to capture as much of the manure and urine from the cattle as possible utilizing a high carbon bedding. The bedding is completely composted with the help of our pigs. They love turning compost. We use them every spring to turn bedding packs from the cattle and sheep. Usually we leave the sheep on pasture all winter. They are happy with their thick wool coats. Sheep manure is pelleted so it does not run off in the spring thaw. However cattle manure is more likely to run off. Soaking it up in the high carbon bedding allows us to spread it and use the very nutritious compost for fertilizer in the gardens and the fields. Combining pasture rotation and compost has allowed us to double our pasture production. We still have along way to go before the fertility is where we want it.
The rams are ready to be taken out. I think they are done their job for the year. But we put them back in January just to make sure they didn't miss any of the girls.
There is still so much that needs done. The bulk of our hay still needs brought home. It is a slow process. We still have to bring home the combine. We bought some oats off of a neighbour. The oats are a high fiber energy source that we use for our sheep when the lamb. Sheep have a smaller digestive system then a cow. So they just cannot consume enough hay to meet their needs when they are feeding a couple of lambs. Spring lambing does not require any grain. Our philosophy is to mimic nature as much as possible, but in nature most baby animals do not reach maturity. So we supplement with natural grain feeds for the sheep when necessary. The pigs also eat grain. They could not survive our winters without it. Mixing oats and hay with the sows feed keeps them full, healthy and prevents them from growing too big to be efficient mothers. Next year we are hoping to get a good crop of barley, oats, and field peas. If we do then we will be able to make most of the food the pigs will need. Which brings me to the next job. We have about 12 acres that needs plowed down. The grain mix will be planted and under seeded with good clover and grass seed. Many of the hay fields that we cut are in desperate need for plow down. They are full of weeds and rough ground that needs leveling. The pastures will be maintained with manure application and grazing livestock after being reseeded.
The last group of chickens are almost ready for processing. Two more weeks to go.
In the little spare time we have, Lynn and I read. I am reading Joel Salatin new book "Folk this ain't normal". A farmers look at farming , food production, and general problems our culture is facing. I recommend it for anyone interested. It is a very common sense type book. I admittedly share many of the views and opinions Joel expresses. Lynn is reading a book called "The Omnivore's dilemma". I am not entirely what it about. All I know is it brings to light some of the problems with our food production system, how big business influences it, and how too many people put faith into the government as the protectors of our food and health. The government does not make its decisions unbiasedly. Not sure if is any good but Lynn is usually angry or disgusted when she puts in down.

New Cattle coming

If everything works out right the new herd additions will be here this weekend. The new additions are Highland cattle. An old world breed from Scotland. Recognised by its long horns and shaggy hair. The hair on a Highland is supposed to be similar to Buffalo fur. They are a medium sized hardy breed that can excel on hay alone in the winter, and will do very well outside in our cold winters. We have owned some Highlands before. They are intimidating looking but are usually very gentle animals. They produce a very delectable beef product. In fact in taste tests the Highlands usually rank first place. Above angus and other popular breeds. They are slower growing and because of their fur and horns they do not fit well with more intensive feedlot style systems. However they will do well in our pasture management system. When bred back to our angus or similar breeds of bull they will produce a nice beef animal. We are looking forward to the arrival of the cows.
This is a picture of our last Highland cow(the one with horns) The others in the picture are her offspring. For those that didn't know, cows and bulls can have horns.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fall is flying by

Well it is the middle of October now. Wow time sure is flying. It is a busy time around the farm. Final harvests are coming in, hay needs to be brought home, grain is combined for the ewes, birds and pigs,  plowing for next years crops, and a general clean up of the equipment and yard before the snow comes.
We planted mulitcoloured carrots in the new garden. They turned out great. The taste in unbelievable.
Christina showing off some of the harvest. We did very well this year with peppers, water melons, and cantaloupe.
Some critters raiding our apple harvest. Max treed these 4 trespassers. They returned to their mother shortly after this picture. We had to put Max in the porch. He Doesn't like trespassers
More critters raiding the apple trees. Allison a Christina making a game out of the apple harvest. Like most other home grow crops the apples are very intensly flavoured. We have been planting at least 2 apple trees a year. Hopefully we will have some for sale in the next couple seasons.
A few extra tasks we are doing include building a new cattle winter pen with a solar watering system. Repairs to the old drafty farm house we call home, spreading manure before the gound freezes, as well as trips to the auction barns in an effort to increase our livestock numbers. Speaking of which, we have a rouge cow running around our neighbourhood. She was a new addition that decided she did not want to stay. Hopefully we will get her back before the snow.
Grace decides she likes the rabbits

So I am done until the weekend now. Back to work for the next couple of days. Lynn and the girls will be continueing the harvest. This weekend I have to get more of the hay home. My uncles are coming Saturdya to put new windows in our mainlevel. Hopefully that will help with some of the drafts.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

New Arrivals

We just picked up our new girls. A new tamworth and a Berkshire sow. We currently have a our Tamworth Boar and a yorkshire sow.
Tamworths are heritage pigs. They have been around for since the middle ages. Traditionally used for grazing fields with cattle. They have longer legs which enables them to walk further when grazing. They are supposed to be able to get most of their nutrition from a pasture. Requiring much less grain then commercial hogs. However they are also slower growing. They were most famous though for their long bellies. That is where the bacon comes from. They are known as the bacon breed.
Berkshires are also heritage pigs. We hope that one day we will get a Berkshire boar as well. Berkshires were also used to graze with cattle, but are not quite as good at it. They are a black colour which prevents them from getting sunburned. They are known as the "angus" of the pig world.The meat has finer marbling, which makes for very tasty and tender meat.
Cross breeds between tamworths and berkshires have been happening for centuries. Crossing the breeds will give the best qualities of each.
Yorkshires are an older breed as well. However they remained very popular because they adapted well to confinement and they are very prolific mothers. Crossing with the tamworths produces a hardier animal and improves The meat is also a very good quality.
Pictures will come soon I hope.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Haying Season

Haying is in full swing. We are running a little late with all the rain we have has in last 2-3 weeks. And of course there are the break downs. Filters plugging, flat tires, broken mower parts, etc. That seems like it is just a part of haying season. If something is going to break, it will always be when you need it.
So far we have about 100 bales made. Thats around 100000 lbs of food for the critters this winter. We are hoping to get 250-300 bales made by the end of the season. That is only about 2 weeks away. Any time after that the hay will be very poor quality and really of no feed value. We usually like to be done by now. The earlier you cut, the higher the quality of feed. 
Pictures are coming.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Poultry coming along

I was feeding the little meat chicks last night and realised they are not so little anymore. It is amazing how fast these little guys grow. We purchase the chicks at two weeks old. They are still in the brooder pen at this time. The brooder pen is an area that we strictly control the temperature, so that the birds grow quickly until they feather up. As soon as the weather permits we will be getting these guys out onto pasture.
Over the years these birds have been bred to grow and finish at an incredible speed. I once read an article that stated in the 60's it took 16 weeks to raise a meat type chick to finish weight. Now it can be done in a factory farm setting in as little as 8 weeks. Our birds are finished in 10-12 weeks because they spend time on pasture, which slows their growth a little. However it greatly improves the meat quality.
We are going to try and experiment with a 'free run ' arrangement for the chickens this year. In the past we have used pasture pens. I hope it works out.
For more information on what pastured chicken can do you can look at the Eat Wild web site. They go into great detail about the benefits to you and your family. The biggest health benefit I think would be the Omega 3 fatty acids. Pastured poultry are high in Omega 3's because of the grass and legumes they consume. Store bought "Omega chickens" are high in Omega 3 fatty acids because they are fed supplements, usually flax seed. This is a tricky way of raising Omega 3 chickens because it can cause a fishy taste in the meat.
Stay tuned for pictures.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Grass fed meat and your health

We raise grass fed beef and lamb for many reasons. The primary reason though is our families health. As long as I can remember red meat has had a bad reputation for a variety of health related issues. The problem is I realy like beef. Nothing is better than a BBQ steak or even a burger during the summer.
Grass fed beef allows us to consume the foods we want without the health issues. As I mentioned I love beef. But consumeing high priced cuts of beef upset my stomach. Fat is difficult to digest, especially in a high consentration. Besides the basic physiological bennifits of eating leaner meat, there have been many studies that conclude that grass fed beef can be a good addition to a healthy lifestyle.
Bennifits include;
  • Two to four times the heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids
  • Three to five times the CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
  • Over 400% more vitamin A (beta carotene) and vitamin E
  • Higher in the "good" unsaturated fats and lower in "bad" saturated fats
Cattle, sheep and goats are all ruminants. Ruminant animals were not developed to eat high amount of high energy foods like grains. Their bodies have developed over thousands of years to turn high fiber grasses into meat. It has been less then a century since man started pumping high amounts of grain through them, in an effort to grow fast cheap meat.
Fat content has been the main health issue with red meat. A "good" steak can be anywhere from 35%-70% fat. Most of which is saturated fat. Part of the problem is the meat grading system being used. The higher grades, triple A or choice, are also the fattest. However more recent studies have found that fat content does not always give better tasting steak. Properly cooked grass fed steak is just as tender as fatty steaks and has a fat content less them skinless chicken breast. Grass fed beef has been proven to actually lower your LDL cholesterol levels. Because grass fed beef is lower in fat, it is also lower in calories. Fat has over 200%the calories of protein. The average person consumes 66.5lbs of beef. By switching to grass fed you could save 17733 calories.
Omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acid ratio is also very important in maintianing health. Ideal ratio would be no more then 1:1. However many grain fed beef cuts have ratios of up to 20:1. A ratio 4:1 is the majic number where health issues begin to show up. Grass fed beef can have a ratio as low as 0.16:1. That is simular to the ratio found in fish. Omega 3 fatty acids are particularily important for growing children. Mothers consumeing grass fed meats has shown to be very good for babies during breast feeding. Omega 3's are important for every cell in the body. Omega 3's are the heart healthy fat. In fact people consuming ample amounts of omega 3's are less llikely to have a heart attack, or an irregular heart beat. They are also 50 percent less likely to have a heart attack. Studies are also being done now that are showing cancer fighting properties of omega 3's.
Grass fed meat is not the only product with high amounts of omega 3's. Grass fed chickens produce eggs that are 20 times higher in omega 3's.
Grass fed meat is the best known source of CLA. This is important because CLA is one of our best known defence against cancer. In lab animals even if  0.1 percent of calories are derived from CLA, it can greatly reduce tumor growth. A finish study showed that women with the highest amount of CLA in their system had a 60% lower chance of developing breast cancer. Switching from grain fed to grass fed meat places women in the lowest category.
Higher amounts of Vitamin E are also found in grass fed beef. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxident. It has been proven to lower cardiac risks as well and cancer risk.
All this information can be easily varified by doing a quick search for "grass fed beef bennifits".
Our personnal experience with grass fed beef has shown many bennifits includeing;
  • Taste- We have found our grass fed beef very lean and much more flavourful. One of the biggest differences is the pastured chick eggs. The taste, texture, and colour are far more intense then store bought eggs.
  • Digestion-I have always loved red meat. But Sometimes I found it difficult to digest. Many others that have purchased our meat have expressed the same issues. The reason red meat can be difficult to digest for some is the fat. Because our beef is so lean, I do not have any trouble digesting it. Our beef does have some fat in it. But it is in the form of fine intermuscular fat, not the big chunks or fat found in commercial beef.
  • Piece of mind- We have two hard working little girls (9 and 10). They help around the farm, and can be very hard workers when then need to be. Lynn and I have the piece of mind knowing we are feeding them vital nutrients for their growth, and we are not feeding them all the garbage in store bought beef. Our girls can tell, and will complain if we serve store bought beef in our house.
  • Clean consious-Since we actually produce the meat we eat, I take pride in the fact that we treat our livestock like nature intended. Our animals are happy and healthy eating and living as they should. Sure a cow in some feeds lot may seem content. Much like a child that lives in a candy store.  All that thigh energy "food" comes at a price. I like to see the cows and sheep grazing, the pigs digging and rooting, and the poultry scratching and pecking. If you have seen pictures of confinement farming you know the difference. 

Monday, 11 April 2011

Great Pyrenees Puppies

Our female great pyr had puppies about a week ago. Unfortunately we lost a few at birth. She gave birth in the barn over night, so I don't know why we lost the pups. However on a positive not there are three happy healthy pups. Two females with traditional great pyr markings, and one dark male. Dark colours are not usual for the breed. However even our female has a tan colour to her. These are dogs come from a long line of working dogs. So I don't know if a different breed of livestock guardian was used generations ago, of if the colour is just a mutation that persists in our line. I have seen other pure bred great pyrs with colour.
The Great Pyrenees is a breed of dog developed to live with and guard sheep. The breed comes from the Pyrenees Mountain area of France. They are large dogs with a very strong bonding instinct. They will bond to lambs, goats, cattle, even children. Once that bond has developed, they will guard their "pack mate" furiously. We are the only sheep farm I know of that has never lost a lamb to cyotes or wolves. I have seen the dogs at work. They are very impressive. That being said they are usually friendly dogs, and in studies they were found the least likely to bite unless provoked. Livestock guardians rely on the fact that most wild animals do not want to fight. A fact we are also very grateful for. We have a female that lives in the house. She is usually very friendly, but does not like strangers around. She seems to be able to sence if we are comfortable or not around the strangers. Having a great pyr around offers a very good sence of security. That being said great pyrs do have a down side. Some tend to bark more then others. They work independantly, which makes them very head strong if proper obediance is not done.
Back to my pups. There eyes just opened today. In a couple weeks I am sure they will be following their mother everywhere, learning how to be a good guardian.
I am includeing a picture of an 8 week old pup from last years litter.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Why grass fed?

I wrote this blog once already going into detail about how and why the red meat industry has such a bad wrap, and discerningly so. But I decided it was to preachy and basically boring for most people.
So I will only go into brief detail about why we produce grass fed beef and lamb.
If you have ever read about how beef is produced you will no doubt read about the health issues related to red meat, the environmental impact, and animal welfare issues.
We don't have to worry about these issues.
First of all grass fed beef has many health benefits. It is high in omega 3 fatty acids, high in CLA (good cholesterol), very low in fat (lower then skinless chicken breast), and high in protein. Not to mention much more nutritious. We don't use hormones or feed subtherapudic antibiotics.
These are not my personal beliefs, but facts substantiated by several studies. Grass fed beef has actually been subscribed to help in the treatment of high blood pressure and other cardiac issues. Grass fed beef has also been shown to cause less digestive upset and allergic reactions.
Secondly grass fed beef is much better for the environment. Conventional beef production in feed lots uses vast amount of grain, which in turn requires vast amounts of fossil fuels to produce. Then more fossil fuels are required to haul manure away. As well the run off of the manure can be detrimental to the environment. Our beef however spends most of its life on pastures where manure is naturally spread in moderate amounts and broken down by insect and worms, where it then feeds the ppasture creating a sustainable cycle. The grass requires very little in the form of fossil fuels for management. Cattle keep the pastures in a vegetative state. Good pastures can actually clean more air and sequester more carbon then forested areas.
Thirdly. Our animals are happy. We encourage them to live in a way that mimics nature. Hundreds of years ago our country was covered in buffalo that would feed on lush pastures as they wandered from one side of the country to the other. Our cattle live in the same manner, with the help of electric fencing. We graze one area, then rotate to another allowing the the first to rest and regrow. We do our best to keep our cattle in a low stress natural environment. We do not crowd them into small pens, feeding them huge amounts of unnatural feeds like corn or soybeans.
For more information on our production methods  you can do a search for "Eat Wild". This is a site dedicated to advocating for grass fed and pasture raised livestock.

Introduction to Holden's Hide-A-Way

Holden's Hide-A-Way is a family run traditional farm. We are relatively new farmers. This has been both a detriment and a blessing. We don't have typical farmer beliefs. If fact I am sure many farmers in the area thought we were crazy, many still do. However on the blessing side we have had to learn a lot about producing livestock and selling the product. We have researched others who are successful and have the same values. One of these farmers in Joel Salatin. He is and advocate for sustainable diversified farms. Not only do we want to produce healthier food, we want to do it in a way that promotes environmental healing, and in a way that is humane for the livestock. We believe this is accomplish able, but not with if using modern farming practices. First of all environmental healing can be accomplished by imitating natures animal management systems. Secondly animal welfare issues are adequately managed by allowing the livestock to behave naturally and minimising stress when handling livestock. Producing a healthier meat product is the third step and accomplished simply by doing our best to complete the first to two steps.
I will elaborate on each of these steps in the near future, as well as go into detail about our products.