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Your Nutrition begins with Our Soil

written by

brad mcintyre

posted on

March 20, 2021

It was 2009 when the lightbulb went off in my head. I had the opportunity to listen to Ray Archuleta and Gabe Brown talk about how we can create healthy and sustainable soil that will heal our land resource. It was all about operating in the way nature intended. I couldn’t sleep just thinking about all the opportunity in front of me and the chance I had to heal the soil my grandparents had left to me. It was a way of returning to their practices of diverse animal species being on the farm with a diverse crop rotation. Somehow, we had drifted away from that way of life into what we thought would be better and more efficient. Limited animals --as they could be a burden, and then just a few crops that we could get the highest yield from ---with little concern about what was happening to the life underneath our feet. I was taught as a young child that all choices come with a consequence-- either good or bad. I (we) had now realized that getting more “efficient” is not always best for the whole of things. And so began our story...or the re-writing of our story.

Healthy Soil became my passion! Soil is truly our foundation and the literal foundation of our world. Without healthy soil we would be nothing. Eventually everything will become soil again. For me, soil is forgiving and powerful. At McIntyre Family Farms we have witnessed with our own eyes that when you properly manage the soil ( that is keeping soil armor always on top, minimizing soil disturbance, plant diversity, continual living roots as much as possible, and some sort of managed livestock integration on the land) nature can begin healing itself quickly within just one season. Through this management style, we can create/facilitate all the nutrition needed to provide a nutrient dense crop which will then translate into a nutrient dense You... or animal if they consume that plant. We are mimicking nature just as before when the massive herds of buffalo, elk, deer, and antelope (just to mention a few) roamed this great continent. They were followed by even larger flocks of birds, rodents, and many types of creeping things. Nature was in sync with itself and provided all it needed without human command.

Soil holds the key to remediating some of our greatest disasters as humans. Soil has the power to heal our bodies and our animals’ bodies through proper nutrition. Soil has the power to sequester carbon from the atmosphere through living plants feeding the soil with root exudates. As farmers, gardeners, and stewards of the land we hold one of the main keys to helping alleviate carbon levels in the atmosphere. If we follow the principles I mentioned above, we can sequester more carbon in each square foot of soil on our properties every year. We can be the change that is needed. Every one of us has the ability to manage in the way nature does and evoke change in our little part of the world. You might ask what you can do in your corner? Plant a garden, try not to disturb your soil when planting, then when your garden is idle plant a cover crop, plant some pollinator species, get creative if possible with small species of animals on your property, and if none of this is possible for you or you can’t produce enough for your family, get to know your local farmer that is doing a great job. As I mentioned above soil is forgiving and in one short season the produce from our land will in return nurture our bodies and our world as we care for it. A little moto from our family farm that we feel so passionate about is “Your nutrition begins within our soil”. It’s truly our foundation!

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Pursuit of the perfect, crisp Pickle!

Over 15 years ago, I went from a small garden in the back yard (or in pots) according to where ever I was at the time, to a large garden spot that has been permanent ever since.  I had helped my mother and grandma can over the years growing up and had collected or bought all the necesary canning equipment.  It was now my turn!  First up, was crisp dill pickles using my cucumbers.  I experimented with a few batches (with some results better than others) and eventually learned a few, very important tips that I'd love to pass on to you.  I've since pickled beets, beans (dilly), asparagus, and peppers.  This year I want to try an Italian blend with cabbage, carrots, garlic, peppers, and cauliflower. I am definitely not a pro, but these few things might help.  Let me know if you have other things that have helped in pickling. The most KEY advice I can give you is WATER!!   *don't use city water that has been treated or well water that has ran through a softener.  This is a sure way to end up with soggy, pickled veggies!  (most especially cucumbers) When I first started, I would actually haul water up from my parents' well down in the Magic Valley of Idaho, but since have found a source here on our place that has decent water, unaltered (our water table here is a struggle with lots of sulpher).  You can also buy many types of water.  There are a few different sources here in the Treasure Valley. Other tips include... *Making sure the veggies are nice and dry (either air dried or patted dry with a towel) after you rinse the dirt off, never water logged, before putting them in the jar and adding brine *Steam canning them just long enough to seal the jars and not longer than that (this is kind of a variable with your individual set up, but I like to go no longer than 10 minutes on most things) *Using alum?  And what about salts?I have found there is not a lot of difference in crispness when using alum in pickling, so I prefer not to use it/eat it.  As for salts, I have used sea salt, natural Redmond salt, pickling salt, and more.  There is not a huge difference.  The Redmond salt will not dissolve as well in the brine, so just be aware.  It still tastes good!  It will just show up as a brown color sometimes in the jar (almost like sand). Hope this helps in pursuit of your perfect, crisp pickle!

Trying Sourdough or something NEW!

If you've ever been the recipient of Kathy's (our mother/mother in law) warm bread, dinner or cinnamon rolls, you know how divine they are.  Kathy has been baking yeast breads for decades, but in the last few years, starting experimenting with sourdough.  I asked her to share what she's learned and some tips we all could follow whether in trying something new in life or in baking.  Below are her thoughts: "I began exploring the sourdough world a few years ago, I killed my first starter but have kept my current one alive and growing for several years. Sourdough baking is fun to me now, but it felt a little intimidating at first. I did some research and read a lot of blogs and recipes and finally just took the plunge without looking back.  Sourdough has several health benefits, it’s easier to digest and many folks who have some sensitivities to regular bread, can often eat sourdough without any adverse affects. The fermentation of sourdough is what helps the gut digest better. Now, that being said, those with serious problems with gluten may not be able to handle it, so please be cautious. Learning something new is exciting and gives you a great feeling of accomplishment. I have always loved baking breads; I had a goal to become a great baker.  I wanted my husband and children to associate the smell of baking bread with the feeling of being home. I tried several different bread and cinnamon roll recipes and finally, after trial and error, achieved some pretty decent and delicious results. I love to share what I bake with anyone who could feel better by bread, because, doesn’t everyone feel after eating a warm slice of bread? Probably the best thing I did to figure out how to master the art of making bread and cinnamon rolls was to be ok with failure, it’s not fun, but it’s how I learned. I had to accept that becoming accomplished took trial and error and sometimes scrapping it and starting over. I talked to my husband’s aunt, who made wonderful cinnamon rolls and pies, I listened and then kept trying and I didn’t give up, but kept reading recipes and asking questions and then trying until I felt that I could do it with ease and most of all with JOY.  Feeding people, especially your family, warm bread is the greatest feeling. Sharing bread is like sharing a warm hug, it feels so good. My advice to you in making bread or mastering anything, is keep trying, keep reading recipe blogs, ask a lot of questions, watch someone make it and learn from them and then be ok with some failure. Start small, like keep your sourdough starter alive, learn how dough should feel, what flour is best, bake one loaf and then before you know it...... ... you’ll be amazed at what you can create and how it feels to share your bread with others." To sum it up, whether in trying something new or in sour dough, Kathy's five steps to succes include: 1) Keep your starter alive- read up on what it takes to do so. (For sourdough- your water should never be HOT, but nice and warm.  Hot water will kill the starter) 2) Don't be afraid of failure, keep trying and and know that practice makes perfect 3) Spend some time reading about sourdough bread and learn how the dough should feel.  It should be tacky, not sticky. 4) Ask questions.  Find someone who knows breadmaking and ask. 5) Keep trying!