Saturday, March 29, 2008

Grass Fed Beef That's Tender: It Exists!

We just purchased a side of grass fed beef from Shagbark Mountain Cattle in Maryland/ West Virginia. It is amazingly tender and absolutely delicious. John and I happily enjoyed our rib steaks the other night, especially since we'd been eating only chicken since ordering our beef a month ago. The flavor of this grass-fed beef is excellent, in my opinion, with an incredible tenderness.

Finally, we've found beef that meets the high standards we're used to after being spoiled by John's family's grass fed beef in Kentucky. We previously bought beef from another farm, in Virginia, a half one summer and last fall, but the results were not as good. The meat had a gamy taste to it and while the ground meat was good, the steaks and roasts tended toward dryness. Even rare, the meat was not as tender or flavorful as we expected.

My friend Anne (who got me into Nourishing Traditions in the first place ... but that's another story) found the Shagbark Mountain through and spoke at length with the rancher before placing an order for a whole animal, which we split.

According to their listing, Shagbark Mountain raises "Black Angus and Simental cattle on over 200 acres of clover, broome and orchard grass—naturally without hormones or chemical fertilizers." We enjoyed meeting the owner and his sons, who kindly showed our kids the goats, kids, sheep and donkey near the office while we completed the transaction.

We ended up with 191 pounds of meat, and 5 pounds of organ meats. The price per pound, packaged in the freezer, came to $3.87. (Hanging weight price was $2.85/ lb.) That's ground meat to sirloin steak, and everything in between. I didn't even include the soup bones and suet in that price calculation, although the butcher delivered them as promised.

There are several grass-fed beef ranches near us, but we're so pleased I expect we'll order from Shagbark Mountian again, if we don't have our own cattle by then. We've even recommended them to our friends already -- some things are too good to keep secret.

I'm looking forward to marinating and grilling and spicing and roasting our meat over the coming months. My friend Anne recommends the Grassfed Gourmet cookbook, which I will buy as soon as the budget allows.

What's your favorite source for grass fed beef? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Natural Health & Nutrition Links

I'm busy this week, but don't want to ignore Raw Milk Mama. So, to provide you with some reading material and to be concise at the same time, I've decided to share with you some links for further reading on topics I love. Some articles I even wrote myself, so it keeps me from feeling like I'm neglecting you.

  • What makes Raw Milk so healthy? Check out this page at Real Milk to learn more.
  • Curious about switching to whole foods and what to stock? Check out the Natural Food Pantry List at my Natural Health Information site. While you're there, subscribe to the Natural Health Information Blog and stay on top of my latest articles.
  • Looking for a substitute for commercial sports drinks for the summer season ahead? Try coconut water and enjoy a delicious, hydrating beverage that has nothing artificial.
  • If you've switched to grass-fed beef, you'll want to check out the Grass-Fed Gourmet cookbook, which is nice enough for a wedding shower gift.
  • Do you know someone with autism? Learn more about a autism diet that is changing children's lives.
That should provide a little reading material until I check back in.

What books do you recommend, and what online sources have inspired or helped you? Let me know in the comments, below.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Simple Container Gardening Tips

My soil is clay and full of rocks, discouraging to even the most avid gardener. My green-thumb sister tried planting cabbages in my backyard but gave up. After a couple disappointing summers, I turned to container gardening as both a creative outlet and means for food production. Container gardening is simpler – and more productive – than you may imagine.

There are many benefits to container gardening, especially for a beginner. It's easy to start small, with only a few varieties in several pots, and grow more each season without feeling intimidated by a large untamed garden plot. You can also start your plants inside late in the winter and move them back indoors after the summer, extending your growing season.

This spring, I felt very inspired and have started 150 seedlings as my container gardening project for the year. I planted tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, herbs and more. Peas and cucumbers will follow, but I'll start those later this spring in outdoor pots.

Want to try container gardening for yourself? Pick some seeds, find some containers, and get started!


My favorite seeds are heirloom varieties, and I love the huge selection at Seed Savers. But really, any seeds will do, and organic varieties are widely available. Just avoid hybrid seeds in order to save the seeds from your plants each year. Choose several varieties, keeping in mind your family's preferences.


There is no need to spend a lot of money – or any money, if you're creative – on container gardening. This year, my containers are an eclectic group of nursery plant pots (saved by my sister from her home landscaping projects) old enamel pots (from a junk heap) and 5-gallon plastic pails someone discarded. To ensure proper drainage, drill several holes in the bottom of each container and put a layer of gravel or clay pot pieces under the soil.


Use any combination of your native soil, potting mix, composted horse manure, chicken manure, and compost that is possible. Use a soil test kit to learn what your soil needs. If it is low in nitrogen, add a little chicken manure.

Plant Food

I prefer to avoid chemical fertilizers, so I use an organic sea mineral supplement to feed my plants. Also look for organic fertilizers and plant food in stores if your soil is not rich in nutrients. See minerals are an excellent way to add nutrients to the soil.

Container gardening really is that simple. Choose your containers, prepare them with proper drainage, mix and add your soil, plant your seeds ... and expect great things from your container garden. I can't wait to make a tomato salad from my garden's bounty.

Inspired? Pass it on! Share your container gardening plans (or tips) with other readers, below.