|Catfish from Elkhead Lake right here on the ranch.
Everywhere you look there seems to be something, I am constantly spooking up quail, rabbits, and squirrels, being stared at by gorgeous deer, or simply being put in awe at the numerous flocks of turkey I see on a daily basis. These are some of the more common game animals that I see on the ranch but it not uncommon to also find many species of ducks and geese, and even this morning I found a nice sized snapping turtle in the creek. Now folks, I know you may have read that and thought "eww who wants to eat snapping turtle," but trust me, don’t knock it till you try it, those armored tanks can make an amazing meal. While not quite your red-blooded kind of wild life the ranch also sits on some amazing morel ground that is ripe for the picking in the spring and could easily be found on a hike through the forested hillsides and bottoms.
|The Chicken Coop
|One of the hens with a new baby chick!
The fertilized eggs she hatched, if you were wondering, came from Klaires’ parents flock - she went broody and I swapped the eggs out. Our hens are definitely not battery hens, I can promise that, they have a very spacious hen house built by a small local company in Seymour, Missouri and a fenced in yard that is around 250 feet long and about 75 feet wide, as you can see above. These are about as close as you can get to free range chickens without them having to get out of the way of the tractor. We get several eggs a day, more so then we can seem to eat, but they are an amazing variety with white, brown and green eggs. For those curious we have primarily Rhode Island reds, Americana’s, and Barred Rocks.
This year I have started a rather large garden here at the ranch, probably too large for my first year, but it stretches 175 foot long and 25 foot wide. We are growing radishes, onions, carrots, beets, tomatoes, Australian squash, zucchini, several types of peppers, green beans, shell beans, potatoes and I am trying wheat. All of our plants in the garden are heirloom varieties, and I try to grow them as naturally as I can which means a lot of manual weed pulling, hand picking pest insects, mulching, and companion planting. Next to the garden we also grow three beds of sweet corn.
Well last but not least, and the very reason I am here, BISON. Our primary goal here is to raise the highest possible quality of bison. The herd fluctuates, especially right now with calves being born, but our numbers run about 300 head of yearling calves, around 20 cows and so long as no one jumps a fence, 5 bulls. To ensure that we do what's best for the bison, the land, and in the end, your health, we follow a set of grazing principles known as Management Intensive Grazing. I'll do another blog article soon on exactly what that entails, what it means to us, and ultimately the health of the land and the quality of our meat. The short and sweet of it right now is that this allows us to keep our bison happy and on green grass for as much of the year as the grass stays green while building the quality of our soil. And when your bison are happy, you get an amazing result... some of the best meat in the world–available online and on select days at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks in Springfield, MO!
Honestly sitting here typing all of this is making me rather hungry, and I’m really looking forward to my dinner of a Bison burger on homemade sourdough buns with pan fried zucchini and young onions. Come join us and see where your food does or can come from. Remember folks, eat local when you can but above all eat responsibly and healthily.