The Wine Cellar & Bistro now serving our lamb!

I had a chance to meet Chef Craig Cyr, owner with his wife, Sarah, of The Wine Cellar & Bistro,  after I read an article in the local newspaper, “The Columbia Daily Tribune” about local restaurants making an effort to use local food sources.  Chef Craig was very receptive to using both our lamb and beef in some of the dishes offered on his menu.  What a delightufl person!  The restaurant atmosphere is charming, the service exceptional and of course the food is delicious–not just because our meats on our their menu!  You can check out their menu on their web site  They’re located at 505 Cherry St., Columbia, MO  65201.

The rest of the story is that the family that started this restaurant, the Vernon’s, and our family go way back!  Sarah Vernon, the daughter, went to the same grade school I did, Grant Elementary on Broadway in Columbia.  We both had a love for horses and started taking riding lessons at a local riding club called The Horse Fair.  Sarah’s mother, Marilyn, was a superb artist, and I can remember spending many “sleep over” nights doing all sorts of fun crafts at their home on the corner of Garth and Stewart.  Sarah rode a talented little pony named, Comet, and I rode a quarter horse/saddlebred mix named Navaho Dandy.  We traveled all over the midwest together as a part of a pony club team.  Marilyn and my mother were great Pony Club team moms!  I stayed in contact with Marilyn over the years by visiting the artisian store she and several friends opened in downtown Columbia on Ninth Street called Bluestem, known internationally now as a retail outlet for many fine midwestern and beyond wearable, hangable and usable crafts.  My day job with our family printing and mailing company, Direct Impaqt, provided printing and mailing services to Bluestem for their customer newsletters.  Paul Vernon, the son, started this restaurant and Marilyn’s artistic touch shows in the beautiful decor of the The Wine Cellar & Bistro.  This is definitely a Columbia destination to enjoy.

Please patronize The Wine Cellar & Bistor and support their desire to support local food producers  and offer fine food dishes to their customers!

Have You Ever Seen A Jackobee?

Meet Copper and Todd!  They’re Jackobees!  Now, you’ve seen one!  A Jackobee is a cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Beagle.  Copper and Todd found me.  I was driving down our gravel road one day this June, headed home and saw a tiny dog bouncing around in one of our cattle fields.  It looked like a puppy, so I stopped the truck, got out, knelt down and called to the puppy.  This female puppy, now called Copper, can running up to me–really skinny and covered with ticks.  She let me pick her up and started licking my hand.  So sweet!  As I was putting her into the truck, something brushed my leg.  There was another tiny puppy pawing my boot.  He is now Todd (on the right in the photo).  These puppies couldn’t have been more than a month old and someone had already dumped them on the road to fend for themselves.  That is one of the hardest things you come across living in the country–abandoned dogs.  Some very, very old and some way too young to face this kind of treatment.  Well, I pick these dogs up and take care of them.  That is what country folks do.  So, Copper and Todd now enjoy running around, or I should say running away from my border collies.  It is fun to watch because beagles and terriers are extremely fast and know to run in circles.  Well, border collies are fast too and want to herd anything and everything.  Two Jackobees and four border collies all placing chase or herding or whatever game they call it is super fun to watch.  They do this every morning!  Copper and Todd do need to find forever homes, so if you know anyone that loves Jackobees, will take both of them AND give them a fabulous home with tons of attention, let me know.  In the meantime, they’re romping with the sheep dogs!

Herd Bulls in the Making

Meet our 2013 herd bull class! In front, we have two South Poll Grass Cattle bulls.  Samson is the solid red and Hank has the white face.  Bringing up the rear, is our Polled Hereford bull calf, Frosty2.  These guys were weaned last Saturday and are in a holding pen for a few days getting used to people.

At Harrison Valley Farms, it takes a lot of the right stuff to make the herd bull class. First, of course is genetics.  The bull calf should come from a cow that has excellent confirmation, production performance and temperment–traits that we believe will enhance the quality of our herd or a customer’s herd.  Then, we take a closer look and consider points including, the ease at which this calf was born; the vigor of the calf at birth and how long it took for it to stand up and nurse; the frame or size of the calf at weaning age; the calf’s temperment; the shape and size of it’s mother’s udder–we want a firm udder that produces a lot of milk, but doesn’t sag; the bond between mother and calf–we want a a good bond with the cow being attentive to where her calf is; the  condition of the calf’s coat; the shape of the calf’s head and for our Polled Herefords we want a dark line under their eyes.

All three of these boys have made the initial cut.  Now comes the handling test.  Bulls are not pets–a 1,800 – 2,200 lb. pet is not a safe pet.  But, good herd bulls are going to be around for a long time and they need to handle with ease.  They need to walk into a chute and stand for health checks, they need to load into a trailer quitely without much fanfair, they need to be friendly toward people, but respectful of their personal space, and they need to respect fences.  We’ve had a couple bulls over the years that had some very annoying habits, such as fence jumping or wanting to lead the cows during a drive to a pen or another grazing area then turning around to face the cows and push them back the other direction.  These bulls do not stay long.

So, for the next couple of months, we’ll be working closely with Samson, Hank and Frosty2 to see how they progress.  Hank will be our next herd bull, Frosty2 will go to a neighbor who loved our Frosty1 bull and Samson will be asked to be considered for the 2014 Annual South Poll Grass Cattle Production Sale held in June in Missouri.  Samson will have to pass additional testing to be approved for that sale.  He is off to a good start!

Real Simple Magazine Features Leg of Lamb Roast Recipe

Check out “Leg of Lamb” recipe in the the December issue of the “Real Simple” article, “The Big Easy.”  Right under the photo of an awesome looking leg of lamb roast is the comment that “If you really want to make an entrance during the holidays, something spectacular on a platter does the trick.” I have to whole-heartily agree!  Their recipe calls for a 5 – 6 pound lamb roast–we have these in stock and they are ready to ship to you on dry ice.  My lamb product page and pricing should be uploaded to our web site today or tomorrow.  We ship our orders out on Tuesdays using UPS ground.  We ship using dry ice, so your roast will arrive in great condition.  Can’t you just smell the lamb roast in the oven, seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary!  If you have questions about what size to order, call me during the day at 573-642-8988 and dial ext. 304.  This is our distribution facility, Direct Impaqt.  Be spectacular this holiday by serving lamb!

Photo Contest-Win Beef!

Grilling the perfect brat starts with a great product!  You really must try our Swiss Beef Brats–they are awesome!  They are so good and we so want you to try them that we’re running two promotions. (1) Place a beef order with us before 11/1/13 and get a free package of our brats–a $11.99 value (2) Enter our photo contest, starting tomorrow-10/24/13–with your best edible and creative brat topping picture or a fun picture of you and your family or friends having fun grilling brats and win 4 of our melt-in-your-mouth KC Strip steaks–a $36.00 value.

Our Swiss Beef Brats have a great beef flavor with a mild heat from the salt, pepper and onions added to the meat mix.  No sodium nitrate is added and the casing is natural. It is like eating steak on a bun!  Kids love them too.  They don’t shrink in size during grilling either.  In November we’ll be adding another beef brat product called the JBurg Beef Brat.  It will have a little more heat to it with the same great beef flavor.  Watch for this to be added to our online store.

Come on and show us your brat grilling style!

Meet Balou, my storm dog!

Meet Balou, my storm dog!  Last week you met Bella.  Balou is the exact opposite of Bella.  Remember the bear from the Disney movie, The Jungle Book”? Well, Balou is like that.  Not much bothers him.  He is steady and sure of himself and will help me move sheep in all kinds of weather.  Our sheep need to graze every day possible because we’re a forge-based system.  Now, if it is super bad weather in the morning or if I know a blizzard is brewing, I will keep my sheep up in their night lot and feed them lots of hay so they have something to eat and something to burrow in for warmth.  But for most days they go out to pasture.  And, sometimes the weather is unpredictable and what starts as a beautiful day ends in stormy weather.  Bella does not work in storms.  Balou does.  He will run through pouring down rain, mud and snow to do his job and he loves doing it.  I’ll be soaked because my rain coat stopped working and have water in my boots after the sheep have been herded into their night lot or out to pasture and Balou is right by my side with tail wagging asking, “What is next.” Every shepherd needs a dog like this!

Balou is a rescue success story!  He and 2 of his liter mates were rescued by a good friend of mine, Sharon Yildiz, about 5 years ago.  One border collie became an ace agility dog, Sharon’s became a champion herding dog and then there was Balou.  Balou’s early years were plagued with seizures.  After taking him to the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Veterinary Hospital and determining nothing was really wrong neuroligically with him, I was determined to get to the root of the seizures that left him completely depleated mentally and physically for a long time.  So, I sought Dr. Ava Frick’s help.  Dr. Frick lives and works in the St. Louis, MO, area.  Her clinics are called Dr. Frick’s Pet Rehab & Pain Clinic, in Chesterfield, and The Animal Fitness Center, in Union, MO.  By using a fur analysis and her holistic diagnostic skills, she was able to determine critical minerals and other supplements that would help Balou’s nervous and digestive systems work better.  It really is amazing how she helped Balou.  Balou has been seizure-free (knock on wood) for almost 2 years now.  His past seizures have left him a little slow mentally and sometimes he gets confused, but he is one happy dog! He loves everybody and especially likes to lie down next to baby lambs.  Balou is a great part of my herding team.

Sheep get health checks too!

Every morning at dawn before my border collie, Bella, herds our sheep out to pasture, I do a health check.  So, what is a sheep health check? My health checks involve looking at each ewe or ram carefully to make sure they don’t have a health issue they’re trying to hide.  Keep in mind sheep are prey animals.  Survival instincts tell them not to show any signs of weakness or sickness until they feel really, really bad.  Because in the wild, a weak animal is fair game for a predator.  My sheep try really hard to fool me into thinking everything is always okay.  Sometimes it is not.  So, I look at their feet and make them walk away from me.  Are they limping–maybe it is just mud between their toes (sheep hate this) or a twisted ankle or maybe a cut that needs to be treated.  Are their eyes bright and ears alert or do they look lethargic, dull and sad?  Is there any discharge coming from their nose?  Are they breathing okay or is it labored and raspy?  For pregnant ewes, I even like to smell their breath because a fowl smell indicates pregnancy toxicity.  This is a very important part of flock management.  One morning early spring 2013, a ewe that usually likes to be a “groupy” was off by herself.  I walked over to her to see if she would stand up, which she did, and immediately her two lambs wanted to nurse.  She quickly moved away and seemed to flinch in pain.  This was odd, so I separated her out and took a closer look.  Her temperature was high, one side of her udder was hard and hot and she definitely did not want her lambs nursing.  So I called the University of Missouri-Columbia Food Animal Clinic and requested a veterinarian visit.  Sure enough this ewe, named Tootsie, had acute mastitis.  If I had not brought her up for care that morning, she probably would have died.  For two weeks, 3 times a day, I had to milk the “bad” milk out of her sore udder and put hot compresses on it.  She would not eat her feed, so I had to go out into the field and cut different grasses for her to try and eat. And, I had to bottle feed her lambs.  But, she recovered fully and both sides of her udder are fine and she ended up raising both her lambs herself after her udder healed.  Not all “sick bay” stories are successful, but this one was and it is so good to see her out in the field with lambs at her side.  Below is a picture of one of my favority “pet” Katahdin Hair Sheep ewes named Coreo.  She loves the camera and always wants her back scratched when it is her time for a health check!

Humpty, Dumpty Had a Fall

Humpty Dumpty was riding a horse.  When it bucked, he fell of of course!  The moment you get launched off a horse and hit the ground is a combination of surprise, humbleness, anger, pain and okay, comedy.  Surprise because it is never really expected.  Humbleness because even the best trained horse can spook, side step and unseat you.  Anger because it is irritating to know you’re getting ready to hit the ground.  Pain when you do hit.  And, I have to admit falling off can look pretty comical even if ends up being a serious incident.  My mustang filly, Mariah, bucked me off Sunday.  Glad I got that over because the last time I was bucked off was about 3 years ago and it REALLY, REALLY hurt.  Months and $ spent with the chiropractor later, I’ve had this fear of what would happen the next time I fall off.  Will I break?  How much will it hurt?  So, when I asked Mariah to canter on Sunday at a training barn I ride at each Sunday she felt pretty frisky and started bucking.  I was trying out a new mecate bridle and reins, which I am not used to at all and by the time I shortened the reins to pull her head up, she had launched me into the air.  Lucky for me, the arena footing was sand.  I landed on the same side that I had hurt last time and it stung pretty badly, but as I lay there I had to start laughing.  I was okay.  I got up, brushed off my ego, rubbed my leg a little and got back on.

Here is Mariah.  Pretty.  Pretty stubborn.  She had just been hosed off after a training session in this picture.  We’re headed to the Australian trainer, Clinton Anderson’s, training ranch in Texas this November so I’ve been spending a lot of time training Mariah.  Apparantly, we have a long way to go to get ready.  I just don’t want to have the most untrained horse at the clinic.  Somehow in clinics like this, whether it is with my horse or a herding dog, I always end up being the comical relief.  We’ll see if this is true to course in November.  At least I know now bumbles bounce!

Meet Bella, one of my border collies

Meet Bella Donna, or Bella, one of my herding border collies!  She is my adrenaline junkie!  Always quick, always moving and fun to watch.

I start each morning by doing a health check on my ewes and ewe lambs.  Bella’s job is to herd them into a small herding area where I can check their feet, their eyes, and general overall health (I’ll talk more about my daily health checks in another blog). This is Bella moving into the herding area.  The trick with sheep is to keep pressure on the back, but also to keep the front part of the flock moving.  Sheep are not like cattle where the back animals push the front animals.  You have to keep both sections moving and Bella does a good job of this.

After I check the ewes and make sure every girl is ready to go out to pasture for their daily grazing, Bella brings them back out of the holding area and moves them to the alley gate that leads them to the field. I ask Bella to hold them at the gate, then she should calmly walk them forward so no ewe gets pushed around going through the gate.

Then, Bella takes them through the alley way, which is actually a small field to a more open field that we have sectioned off with predator-proof electric woven wire.  The sheep will spend their day grazing safely, then at dusk we’ll be back to round them up, count them and move them into their night lot for a re-health check and to keep them from attracting coyotes.  This is absolutely my favorite part of the morning, watching Bella move the sheep into their lot.  She does it pretty quickly, quicker than my other herding dog, Balou that you’ll meet tomorrow.  Here is Bella moving the sheep up the hill to their grazing lot and then through the gate.  Job well done, girl!

Did you know a Chinese firm now owns the brands Armour, Farmland and Smithfield?

Foreign investment in our country is not a new thing.  In fact, it goes all the way back to the birth of our nation.  Just think about the impact the French had in our American Revolution or when they side-stepped the international agreement not to sell armed ships to either the North or the South during our Civil War by sailing their ships offshore to “arm them”. Now, the sale of Smithfield Foods on 9/26/13 to Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd, which represents the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm is not a part of a war effort, but it should concern you just as much.  Shuanghui has had repeated and widely publicized food-safety issues, one in 2008 involving dairy tainted with the industrial chemical melamine that killed six babies and sickened 300,000 and most recently in 2011 when the pork it produced contained the chemical clenbuterol, which makes pork leaner, but can be harmful to people.

Larry Pope, the Smithfield CEO, stated that Smithfield will continue to adhere to the strictest food safety standards and quality possible.  Okay…..but, he is an employee not an owner.  I don’t eat processed foods, so I don’t buy any Armour, Farmland or Smithfield products and don’t plan on starting.  You are what you eat–try reading the ingredients on any of these products.  Do you understand what is in them, what you are putting into your body?  Would you notice or care if Shuanghui adds some additional 12+ letter chemicals to the ingredients list?  Probably not, but you should.  Let your purchase power speak to this concern.  Think about supporting a local farmer that raises pasture-finished pork.  These are the folks that truly care about the integrity of our food systems, not Shuanghui.  Same for beef and lamb.  Check out how few companies own the meat processing facilities in the U.S.  It is pretty scary.