2012-06-20 08.25.32

RBR Explorers (age 5) enjoying the creek!

RBR Explorers (age 5) enjoying the creek!

Summer classes are in full swing at the Ranch, and we’re doing our best to have fun in the heat.

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Why Do You Farm?

I was just signing up to join a web community of young farmers and was asked on the survey, Why do you farm?  Those four little words really got me thinking, and here’s what popped out!

Farming is a natural evolution of my first career in animal welfare. Instead of making life a bit more tolerable for animals in humane societies, I now foster partnerships between livestock and the local ecosystem that improve the land’s resiliancy while giving the animals fulfilling lives. I love the daily opportunities for creativity and innovation and am so grateful for the strong bonds that quickly form between new and experienced farmers in our local agricultural community. My schedule and duties are never predictable, giving me an incredible freedom to take advantage of perfect afternoon running weather and yet a deep sense of responsibility to meet the needs of the livestock at any hour. Accomplishments are measured on both a much larger and a much smaller scale than in our mainstream society, continually keeping me both challenged and satisfied. Most importantly, I don’t have to leave my dog sitting at home as I trudge off to another day on the job, but open the door each morning to a calling that is hardly a job at all, with coworkers who only wear carhardts and smiles, and many more who sport suits of fur and feathers. This type of farming is a dynamic, frustrating, loving, co-dependant relationship – though I couldn’t tell you if the farmer is the parent or the child.

Community Calls Speaker and Workshop Series

Rock Bottom Ranch presents the Community Calls Speaker and Workshop Series!

Every Tuesday in February and March 2012
Community Calls Speaker Series invites Roaring Fork Valley food and wildlife experts to discuss issues of sustainable food production, wildlands preservation, and local economy through an evening lecture with time for questions.  The Workshop Series, alternating weekly with the speakers, offers hands-on opportunities to improve practical skills such as bread baking, knitting, building a worm farm, or preparing for the growing season.  Whether participating in a discussion or learning a new community-building skill, this series calls you to action!
Community Calls Speaker and Workshop Series Schedule
Jock Jacober
Tuesday, February 7 at 7 p.m.
“How the sustainable economics of agriculture is inherent in sustainable community.”
This conversation will focus on understanding the opportunities and impedimentsto participating in local food production. We can expect to discuss issues relating toland use and the changing values attached to land used for agriculture. In addition,we will look at the feasibility of incorporating the production of a certain amount ofhuman food into our local mountain valleys. We had also better take a look at this word “sustainable”, don’t you agree?
Jock is an owner of Crystal River Meats and JBC Agricultural Management.  These two companies are dedicated to providing truly locally raised meats to the communities of the Roaring Fork valley and the Colorado River valley.  Jock has been raising and distributing local foods for 30 years, while owning and operating several different businesses in western Colorado.  

Beginner’s Knitting Workshop
Spend Valentine’s Day developing a new passion….
Tuesday, February 14, 6-8pm

Have you bought the yarn, needles, and pattern, but haven’t figured out how to begin your project?   This class is designed to help you get started and get creative!  Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Rock Bottom Ranch with a date, friend, or just yourself during an evening of learning to cast-on, knit, purl, and bind-off a scarf, hat, or any other knitted project.  Bring all your materials and we can give you the tools you need to get the ball of yarn rolling and eventually complete your hand-crafted item!
$5 ACES members/$10 non-members

Michael Thompson
Tuesday, February 21 at 7 p.m.

“What is a ‘sustainable lifestyle?'”
Adopting a new way of thinking about the resources we consume, is all you need to create your own sustainable way of living.  Michael Thompson is happy to share locally sustainable ideas for personal transportation, composting, gardening, food sourcing, cooking, recreation, bartering, and more.  When many of us adopt locally-sourced methods of providing for our own needs, and teach others how to do so as well, we will be on our way to creating a real local economy filled with quality, diversity and character.  If you know someone who is under-employed but talented, perhaps this presentation may inspire you to encourage them to take a leap into a new way of working.
Michael Thompson is a local architect, gardener, homebrewer, baker and cook.  He is intrigued with creating the finest quality bread, beer, and garden produce, and trading these with like-minded local creators, for artisan crafts of their own.  Michael would like to share with you a vision of a local economy for the future, with locally sourced and produced energy, food, and everyday products, keeping jobs and resources locally robust and sustainable.
Bread Baking Workshop
with Michael Thompson
Tuesday, February 28, 5-8 p.m.
Would you like to bake artisan-quality bread at home?  Learn from Michael Thompson, Basalt home baker, to create your own style of artisan bread with organic grains, water and salt.  Learn how to raise your own bread culture with flour and water, and to maintain a healthy culture indefinitely.  On a side note, Michael will also guide you to culture a “sweet sourdough”, and to use this to make your own homemade pancake/waffle batter and other goodies.  Bring one large and one small wood, plastic or glazed ceramic bowls for mixing your dough, a strong wooden spoon, a small spatula, an apron if desired, two cotton cloths minimum 8” x 8”, and a couple of wide-mouth jars with lids, if you wish to take home samples of my bread and “sweet” cultures.
$25 for ACES members/$35 non-members
Worm Farm Building Workshop
The army of tiny, garden workers…
Tuesday, March 13, 6-8 p.m.
Ever wondered how to start a worm farm? This workshop will go beyond – teaching participants how to build one, care for one, and finally, what to do with all that black gold! There will be a building demonstration and alternative worm farm design tips. A manual and bag of starter worms will be yours to take home. Take one more step towards environmental responsibility through RBR’s worm stewardship program.
$5 ACES members/$10 non-members
Tai Jacober
Tuesday, March 20 at 7 p.m.

“The practicalities and benefits of managing local meat production”
 In this discussion we will learn how a combination of private and public lands are used to raise locally consumed food.  This talk will address some of the real problems of managing herds of animals, including health, nutrition, confinement, and transportation.  In the end, we can expect a robust conversation about our democracy and how it is applied to the production of local protein through the federal grazing systems and conservation easements.
Tai is an owner of Crystal River Meats and JBC Agricultural Management. These two companies are dedicated to providing truly locally raised meats to the communities of the Roaring Fork valley and the Colorado River valley. He has focused on agricultural techniques and animal management improvement for numerous years and studied agricultural sciences at the University of Montana in Bozeman.

Dreaming up a Garden Workshop
Tuesday, March 27, 6-8 p.m.

Despite the probability of snow on the ground, this class celebrates the first week of spring!  A green thumb workshop for gardeners of all abilities to begin dreaming up an edible utopia! It will focus on edible landscaping, seed starting, and the importance of heirloom plant varieties. Join us to receive tips on ordering seeds, maximizing yields within the short growing season, and readying the garden bed for spring. Walk away with a quality seed catalog in hand and ideas on how to plan your best garden yet!

$5 ACES members/$10 non-members

Please arrive early to Rock Bottom Ranch: 2001 Hooks Spur Road, Basalt

Utilizing Our Local Ingredients: Embracing Fat

By Caitlin Bourassa

Growing Program Manager at Rock Bottom Ranch

At ACES’ Rock Bottom Ranch, live remarkably happy and healthy pigs. They spend their days wallowing in baths of cool mud or grazing in the pastures. They are given respect and attention by the steady flow of staff and visitors that frequent their domain, and used as educational tools to demonstrate to the public the importance of  preserving heritage breed pigs.

The ranch is home to Large Black and Duroc hogs – two heritage breeds known for their large litters, fine temperaments, and delicious pork. Heritage breed hogs are also notorious for putting on large amounts of body fat after the age of six months, which can be undesirable to a consumer culture accustomed to lean, white meats. However, I imagine lard was a valuable ingredient back in the day when bottles of olive oil and other heralded oils were unavailable.

Like homesteaders of the past, we do not let this lard go to waste! It can be rendered into an odorless and neutral-tasting fat for cooking, baking, soap making, and more. Pastured lard is an excellent source of vitamin D and monounsaturated fat, the same “good fat” found in avocado and olive oil. It is a wholesome, nourishing fat that also celebrates the wealth and character of our local food shed. In addition, pork lard does not contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which means its shelf life is much longer than fats like cold water fish and flax seed oils. It is also very heat stable making it great for frying or sauteing.

Pints of Lard for Sale at the RBR Farm Stand

Since harvesting our pigs in the fall, we have stocked our freezer with pounds of lard to save for rendering. Now in the midst of organizing for the coming season, we have been rendering and canning the lard, which will be available for sale at our upcoming Rock Bottom Ranch Farm Stand! We have also used the rendered lard (in addition to olive oil, coconut oil and lavender) to make a pristine, creamy-white soap also to be sold at the farm stand. The next step is preparing baked goods for visitors so they may try a cookie and realize the flaky goodness (with no pork flavor) is thanks to a locally produced ingredient: LARD!

If you have an interest in buying the products mentioned above or would like to learn more, please call/email or stop by the ranch! Ranch phone: (970) 927-6760 Or email me at: cbourassa@aspennature.org

Here are some great instructions on how to render lard in your own kitchen:


The Mind of Big Willy

As we hear reiterated at many a ranch educational program, fall is a time of harvest. We collect apples from trees, pumpkins from the vine, dig potatoes and carrots, and so forth. On our field programs, students join in for cider pressing. They take turns spinning the crank of the apple-crusher, and all sing the song: “This the way we crush our apples, on an autumn day.” Next we turn the topmost crank, and the press mashes the fruits.. “This is the way we press our apples…” And the sweet cider oozes out.

Meanwhile, a 600-pound beast watches. Big Willy stands right behind the fence at the edge of his pasture. He pants and grunts, and shakes with excitement. Drools streams from his open mouth, with tusks on full display. (Don’t be afraid; Big Willy uses his tusks ONLY for display.)

A singular obsession has entered his mind. The apple-chunks that remain after cider pressing. Sweet and delicious. To be eaten with speed and gusto. Big Willy has apples on his mind.

Long have humans contemplated the mind of the beasts. Biologists, psychologists, philosophers, and lay-people all have their own explanations for what goes on in animal minds. But in the case of Big Willy, animal thoughts are not hard to deduce. His sole preoccupation in life is food. Being a large black pig, his primary diet is grass, supplemented with a bit of grain. But he’ll take any food he can get, especially sugary apples.

Sometimes, people ask if hogs are really as smart as reputed. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that Big Willy can be quite clever, when there is an opportunity for food. If his gate is left open, just enough for a huge hog to slip through, he’ll go out. Not for fresh air or social life, but because our only way to lure him back in is with food. When we move chickens and their pens and fence to new pasture, Big Willy is close behind. He’ll scarf any chicken feed left on the ground, and slurp all grain spills. If we leave a barrel of grain unprotected, Big Willy will knock it over. The resultant pile of culinary goodness is his version of heaven.

Hogs have short lives, but they live a version of the American dream. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  And for Big Willy, happiness is something that you chew.

©2011 Ross Wood Studlar