Monday, June 16, 2014

Bison Ranch Life: Eating Local Foods

Local food is a blessing to have and here on the ranch we have it in abundance - but I'm not just talking about the several hundred bison that roam our hills, woods and pastures. Local food cuts down the miles your food travels, increases your awareness of the local climate, flora and fauna and can help you to stick to a healthier diet. Which really isn't a challenge to stick to when you can put on a meal of Catfish Parmesan with asparagus and morels as a side dish. Or perhaps you're more of a red meat lover and want to go with a deer roast served with young potatoes, onions, and carrots. Perhaps for breakfast you're a steak and eggs kind of person; well Miller Bison at Elkhead Ranch has that to. Personally I love to cook and these are the sort of meals I make with the food from the ranch and with the fully equipped kitchen at the guest cabin you too can make these meals (in the right season of course). Join us at our cabin and see all that we have to offer in whatever season you chose to join us. Here I'll just give you a brief overview of the local foods we have when you come to stay with us (just to get your appetite going).

The Pond:

Catfish from Elkhead Lake right here on the ranch.
Our pond, which to me seems more like a small lake, runs just over 30 feet deep and covers 10 acres. The waters are teeming with 17-19 inch catfish (at the current time), some really nice sized bass, and of course plenty of bluegill. If the amazing fishing that the pond offered wasn't enough the pond sits on top of the ranch and has in my opinion the second best view of the sunset and sunrise (the best being the guest cabin's front porch). On three sides the pond is bordered by bison pastures so at the moment when I go fishing I can look over from the dock and see our newborn bison calves playing around with their mothers on the other side of their fence.

The Wildlife:

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.

Chickens:

The Chicken Coop
One of the hens with a new baby chick!
We currently have 11 laying hens here, I say currently not because we are going to expand our flock but because one hen just hatched 5 little chicks to add to the flock. We don’t have a rooster because contrary to popular belief they do not crow only first thing in the morning but instead all day and I even once had one that loved crowing right at 1 am every morning.

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.

The Garden:

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.

The Bison:

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.




1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this blog with us. It provides a collection of useful information. You obviously put a lot of effort into it.

    ReplyDelete

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