Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fall 2006 Newsletter

Vancalcar Acres
Fall 2006 newsletter
392 Elwood rd Ft. Plain, NY 13339 518-993-4326

Time has been flying by here. It’s late fall on the farm, and we’ve officially begun supplementing stockpiled pasture grass with large round hay bales. The girls number 282 right now, just shy of our goal of 300. It was a difficult summer here, and we have decided not to purchase any replacement ewes this winter. We will strive to build our numbers next year from within our own ewe lambs born this coming spring. We are planning our breeding groups this December for a mid-May lambing start. We are NOT expecting a February lambing group again!!
We went to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in October this year as a vendor, and met several of you face to face. We had a great time, we hope you did as well! We introduced 5 sock kits with designs by Tsock Tsarina (Lisa Grossman) at Our hand-dyed sock yarn and her patterns were a hit and we’re backordered now on yarn to fill after-show sales of those kits. If your waiting for yours, I expect the yarn to arrive around the 15th of December. I’ll be up all night dyeing yarn J Pictures of the sock kits are on the website under ‘sock kits’ and there will be a sock club beginning in January, details will be online in the next couple of weeks.

Fiber: As some of you know, we lost the majority of our fiber clip this past spring. Because of that, there has not been much roving available around here this year! Occasionally, I’ve made special purchases of superwash merino fiber, wool/silk blended fiber, wool/mohair blended fiber to dye and card. I am expecting more wool/silk in the next week, and have just gotten merino top roving for dyeing. Watch the website for the fiber to go up for sale. We will be shearing the flock in mid-April this coming spring, so our own fleece will once again be available soon after.

Grassfed Meats:
Lamb currently available by the cut in limited quantities.
Pork orders are on hold here. We have a new group of heritage-breed piggers out in the garden doing a good job of roto-tilling things now, but they are not ready for butcher yet.
Taking reservations on freezer lambs, availability of mid-December, and mid-January.
Grass-fed ground Beef in 10, 25 and 50 lb sets. **This is not typical ‘trim’ ground beef! We’re taking the whole steer and making ground beef and a limited number of prime cut steaks (filet mignon etc). This is extremely lean lean ground beef, I find no grease left in the pan when browning this ground beef.
Poultry: We raised out about 20 broilers this summer. Processed here on the farm, they were very flavorful and it was good to know where they came from. So much poultry in the grocery stores is raised in caged or at the minimum, indoor penned environments and fed low doses of antibiotics and other additives in efforts to maintain them under these conditions… well don’t get me started! We will be raising at least 3 groups of broilers next summer for our customers.
**If you want more information about current standard commercialized growing and processing of beef, visit and read her articles and scientific references. Sobering information!
Pelts: I have 3 white good-sized pelts available right now, these are machine washable.
What’s on Sale: Going to be driving out this way? Bring a cooler and stock up. 25lbs of ground beef from our grass-fed steers, made from the whole cow… not just trim! Just back from the butcher, get 25lbs at the 50 lb price of $4.00/lb, packed in 1lb tubes.

Eric, Jennifer, Nora & the animals.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I'm in denial about winter's fast approach here. I pretend it's not as cold as the thermometer says, and continue out the door in a sweatshirt... but it's not working very well anymore. I had to spend serious time scraping ice off the car the other day, and there was definate snow covering the grass that stayed way longer than it was welcome while it warmed up.
I'm almost overwhelmed by the desire to start knitting with large needles and thick yarn to make huge warm 'things'. With little time to spare from other required projects, I'm afraid that will have to wait. Why don't we have these desires in the months when we don't NEED those heavy warm 'things', when we might have time to work on them?? Looking back now, it seems I wasted good knitting time on silly eating & sleeping. I could have had so much more done by now!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stopping to catch our breath around here!

As you can see, I'm a bit behind in posts and newsletters. The summer newsletter took 2nd place in the schedule when the flock had some health problems battling the constant wet weather we had this year. Things are finally under control, and I realize that it's time for the fall newsletter! It's on the to-do list here now for this week, and will be posted when finisehd.
I had a wonderful time at Rhinebeck this year! I teamed up my dyed yarns with designer Lisa Grossman (aka Tsock Tsarina) to introduce 5 amazing works of art disguised as sock kits. One even has pre-beaded lace for the cuff! They have been very popular, and a sock club is forming.
Nora turned 4 and has started pre-school. She loves every minute of it and doesn't understand why she doesn't go on the weekends.
Several new Butcher Block CSA monthly subscribers, welcome to the family!
Tons of new sheep in the rental program... and tons of them already rented!
I've been making soap again, and have a nice sheep's milk soap recipe that we really like.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Spring 2006 Newsletter

Vancalcar Acres
Spring 2006 newsletter
392 Elwood rd Ft. Plain, NY 13339

Well, it has been an amazing spring here. It’s the 1st of June, and the first chance we’ve had to sit down since March! Our ‘regularly scheduled’ lambing season started off with a bang. A week before our planned due date, a yearling gave us a set of quads. Several days later, lambs started appearing like popcorn all over the pasture, to the tune of close to 330 lambs, out skipping around the fields today.

Fiber: Eric was injured earlier this spring, and was unable to shear until just recently. Those of you waiting for your fleece or yarn from your Sheep Rental, he has begun shearing, and we’re working on them for you! I’ll keep you posted. We’re working on lots of new roving and blends, as well as hand-dyed variegated yarns. Look for them on the website in July.

Grassfed Meats:
Pork and Lamb currently available by the cut.
Taking reservations on ½ or whole pigs, as well as 40-50lb pork packages including a variety of cuts, bacon and sausage.
Taking reservations on freezer lambs as well, availability beginning late summer.
Taking reservations on ground beef packs in 10, 25 and 40lb sets. **This is not typical ‘trim’ ground beef! We’re taking one whole beef calf and making ground beef and some beef jerky. This means the ground beef will be made from cuts like filet mignon and T-Bone steaks! Very lean

Poultry: Still working this out, since shearing is now a priority, we will probably put this off until later this summer.
Pelts: Currently sold out again. More on the way to the tanner, let me know if your interested, I will contact you when they come back.

Well, that’s all for now! Thanks so much for letting us keep in touch with you,
Eric, Jennifer, Nora & the animals.


Baked lamb shanks over rice

Any number of lamb shanks
Paul Newman’s Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
1 can Diced Tomatoes in water, not tomato juice/sauce
Green beans (optional)
Cinnamon, salt, pepper.
Orzo pasta
Chicken bouillon
Marinate shanks in salad dressing 30min to an hour. Transfer to baking dish, add tomatoes with no water removed and green beans to suit your appetite. Arrange shanks so tomatoes are comfortably around/on them, sprinkle liberally with cinnamon, and lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and bake at 300 degrees until meat falls off bone, 2 hours works great for us.
Rice: melt 3tbsp butter in rice cooking pan on medium low (3-4 on my stove). Add ¼ cup orzo pasta to butter, mix with butter, stir frequently as the orzo browns. While orzo is browning, add 1 cube all natural chicken bouillon to 1 ¾ cup very hot water and dissolve. Once orzo is browned, add water, one cup of rice, and liberal dashes of cinnamon. **Be careful adding bouillon stock! Butter spatters when you add water! Turn heat to med.high, bring to simmer. Stir, cover and turn to low. Cook rice as usual, until done. Takes 20 minutes here for us.
Serve shanks with tomatoes & green beans on bed of rice. A perfect side dish would be pita bread, humus and tabouli salad available from some deli markets, and middle eastern restaurants for take out, if you don’t want to make it yourself.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Winter 2006 Newsletter

Vancalcar Acres
Winter 2006 newsletter
392 Elwood rd Ft. Plain, NY 13339

Late Notice!!! The Winter Newsletter is a bit late this year, and we apologize. We do have a good reason though… we have had an unexpected winter lambing from some ewes we purchased that we THOUGHT were not bred! As of the first of March, we have 56 new lambs in the barn. 4 sets of triplets!! An awesome thing for us, but reminders about why we prefer spring lambing on pasture when freezing temperatures aren’t going to risk the little lambs. A couple had to come in by the fire to warm up, but everyone is doing fine. Well, we’re a bit tired but the sheep are fine!

What an odd winter for weather! It’s February now, and we had enough warm weather in January to completely thaw the ground and start grass growing in some places! Maple syrup was running, and the trees were thinking about budding. We were even able to put up some temporary fences and graze the sheep up by the pond for a couple of days. They were thrilled and we saved on some hay. Of course, reality set in this month with minus 10 wind-chills. The Native Americans didn’t call this the crying month for nothing!

Fiber: We’ve invested in some Patrick Green Carding Equipment for fiber processing this winter. This has really sped up processing time, as well as shown vast improvements to the quality of our roving and batts. I’ve been carding some stockpiled colored fleece, and blending the last of a gray/brown corriedale with silk. The results are a beautiful honey-colored roving with a sparkle from the silk. I have some lovely things hanging around here for blending; angora, camel down, mohair, cashmere, bombyx and tussah silks, spin-able acrylic (spins like silk), and can’t wait to see how they all turn out! We’ve been washing and dying the last of the lamb fleece from last year in an effort to make space for the coming shearing in March. It’s going to be a bit overwhelming around here at that point as we’re shearing 300 this time instead of 130! We’ve included a sample of roving from our new equipment for the spinners (custom hand-spinning available of our fibers). Other colors available in the acrylic, as well as an acrylic/wool blend, just give me a call.
We’re thrilled to offer Jagger Brothers full line of yarns for the knitters & weavers. All worsted spun, these are great for warp as well as weft, and knit wonderfully. Color cards are on our website in the woolroom under yarns. Currently available on the cone by the pound with discounted prices for our minimum order of 2 cones (mix & match from any style), contact me for pricing depending on the style of yarn. Limited colors/styles currently available in 400yard skeins, check our website for those details at

Pork: We have fresh pork in the freezers now, available in limited quantities. While pigs do need a portion of grain in their diets, they are grazers and love to eat grass, roots, and hay, and we let them have all they want! They produce lean, flavorful pork here, something unheard of from the grocery store.
All cuts are $6.00per lb
Bacon, ham, & ham steaks are $5.00per lb
Sausage is $5.00 per lb. (sweet italian)
Sausage comes in either link or in 1lb-ground packages for frying up loose or slicing into patties. Hams are not just for holidays anymore! We have 4-5lb hams perfect for everyday dinners. Send an email or call to check availability. Shipping is available to most areas, contact me with your zip code to get a shipping price. Check out the recipes at the end of the newsletters for perfect easy ham glaze and what to do with leftovers. If you miss out on pork now, we’ll have more available around June.

Lamb: We also have some limited lamb available, contact me for availability, selling by the cut. We have ground lamb and lamb sausage available in 1lb packages as well. Shipping is available to most areas, contact me with your zip code to get a shipping price.
All cuts: $5.00per lb
Ground Lamb: $4.00per lb
Lamb Sausage: $4.50per lb (packaged loose like ground beef)
Organ Meats: $2.00per lb (heart, liver, tongue)

Beef: We will have beef from our farm available this summer, June timeframe. We’re planning on mostly ground beef with just a few cuts and some awesome beef jerky. This means the ground beef will be very lean and flavorful since it won’t be made up of just ‘trim’, it’s made from all the cuts together. Ever had Filet Mignon ground beef? Well, this would be as close as you can get! More info on this in the spring newsletter.

Poultry: We always have pastured/free-range chickens on hand for fresh eggs. We are planning on adding broilers to the farm this summer, but we’re not sure how many yet, so check the spring newsletter for updates on that one. We’d like to get pre-orders on Heritage Breed pastured turkeys for your Thanksgiving dinners now so let me know. You may think it seems early to think about this one, but there is a timetable for these things and you can’t rush Mother Nature! Heritage Breeds are slow growing, and more flavorful. They take about 6 months to reach maturity, so we can’t wait until August to think about birds around here, we hatch them ourselves from our own small flock and they start laying in March. Just let me know if your interested, and that will give me a good idea what to keep here to raise for our customers.

Pelts: Currently sold out, but we’ll have more available late spring/early summer. If you’d like to reserve one, we have several colored (moorit) lamb fleeces being processed. They do go fast though!
Well, that’s all for now! Thanks so much for letting us keep in touch with you,

Eric, Jennifer, Nora & the animals.


Ham Glaze for Baked Ham:
¾ cup packed brown sugar
3tbsp pineapple juice (optional)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup orange juice
1tbsp sweet-hot mustard or dijon
1/8 tsp ground clove
Combine ingredients in small sauce pan, blend well. Bring to a low boil stirring frequently for a couple of minutes without scalding (low boil). Set aside, it will thicken slightly. Bake ham on 325 covered with 1/4c water and a splash of orange juice in the bottom of the pan for 2 hours. Remove ham from oven and brush generously with glaze. At this point, I raise the temp of my oven to 350 for the last 45 minutes and leave the ham covered. I don’t think my oven temperature is accurate, and the ham should finish in the next 45 minutes, so adjust your oven temp accordingly for this entire recipe. Apply more glaze several times in the last 45 minutes of cooking time. Be sure to test ham for doneness with a meat thermometer! Left over glaze is excellent drizzled over sweet potatoes as a perfect side dish, or as a gravy on smoked ham steaks.
After you’ve munched on sliced ham for lunch the next day, take what’s left and make the best split pea soup you’ve ever had!

Split Pea Soup:
In a large pot add 16oz split green peas (2 cups) and 4 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil, stir well then turn down to medium-low with a lid (should be a low simmer/boil). Take the bone from the ham and cut a couple slices off, and dice into very small pieces, almost shredded ham. Add that to the soup, along with the bone. I shoot for about a cup of diced ham, but you can do more or less, but don’t skip the bone! That’s where all the flavor is. Stir your soup periodically, the peas are turning to mash. Add about 1/8tsp pepper, ½ - 1 tbsp dried onion flakes and about ¼ tsp powdered garlic. Salt shouldn’t be needed with that ham in there. Allow the soup to simmer until dinner time, peas should be thoroughly mashed. Feel free to modify seasoning to taste. Goes great with sourdough bread, and the leftover soup can be frozen for quick meals later.