Twisted Maple Farm

I’ve driven past Twisted Maple Farm a million times and never stopped to appreciate its beauty. Now I can’t drive past their farm without driving slowly to take it all in. You see, I’m not only a farm lover, I’m a totally history nerd. And what a history this farm has!

 

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(Photos courtesy of Twisted Maple Farm)

Twisted Maple Farm in Whitehall, Michigan is a Michigan Centennial Farm, meaning it was owned by the same family for over 100 years. Locally known as the Durham Farm,the farmhouse and the barn date back to the late 1800s. The farm was purchased in 1876 by Samuel Zachariason who immigrated from Oslo, Norway in 1868. (click here for a link to a newspaper article about the farm shared by Remembering White Lake History Facebook Group). Still standing today are the farmhouse and a barn, which Twisted Maple is still using for their cattle.

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Part of my tour of Twisted Maple Farm included that historic 1860s barn. Cassidy showed me around, pointing out beautiful hand hewn beams, as we imagined what the farm must have been like back then. At that point, the railroad (where the bike trail is today), ran right past the farm. Cassidy and I wondered if people ever stopped by the farm as they traveled along the railroad tracks. According to the article shared by the Remembering White Lake History group, the family used the cleared railway tracks to get into town during the winter, and the railroad to get to Muskegon in the summertime. If only that barn could talk, the stories it would tell.

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Cassidy and Adam made the decision in 2016 to move from Lansing, where they attended college, to the Muskegon county area where they are from.  When Adam and Cassidy purchased the farm, the historic barn was in need of repair. Respecting the history the farm has in the community, the couple decided to start restoring the barn to its former glory. They began with having the foundation repaired, ensuring a safer area for their animals and a more structurally sound barn. The next major project will be having the roof repaired in order to protect the original hand hewn beams.

Cassidy showed me to their herd of Scottish Highland cattle. The couple chose to raise Scottish Highlands due to the high quality meat they produce, lower in cholesterol than most beef and full of beautiful marbling. Highlands are processed around at around 24 months of age, so the two steers they currently have will take another year before being butchered. This made me smile because I feel like even their choice of cattle pays homage to the history of the farm, a time when things were much slower than the fast-paced age we live in now. I have a feeling the beef Twisted Maple will produce will be well worth the wait.

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(If you want to see more of their beautiful Scottish Highland cows, check out Twisted Maple Farm’s Facebook page where you can find a collection of videos of their animals!)

 

Of course, what would a farm tour be without stopping off to see the wide array of farm animals being raised there.  From meat chickens to egg layers, ducks to pigs. Twisted Maple Farm was certainly full of wonderful sights and sounds, including the curious hen who followed us everywhere, even popping out of the bushes by the barn, startling us a tiny bit. Whereas I did enjoy my feathered farm tour companion, I enjoyed visiting the pigs even more. The pigs being raised at Twisted Maple Farm have access to pasture where they can root around and munch. They are also offered non-GMO feed to supplement their pasture grazing. I don’t know about you, but these look like some happy, content pigs.

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According to Cassidy, they use De Vries Meats in Coopersville, Michigan to process their pigs, which is a USDA Certified processing facility. If you’re looking to fill your freezer with pork for the winter, Twisted Maple will have pigs ready for processing in October. I have to say, my family sampled their bacon and ham steaks, and they were absolutely delicious (as in, I had to hide the rest of the bacon so my children didn’t devour it in one sitting). It’s no surprise that their pork is so delicious; healthy, happy animals produce higher quality, better tasting meat.

Speaking of high quality, great tasting meat, Twisted Maple also offers broiler chickens raised right there on their farm. Seriously, there’s no comparison to the meat from a farm fresh chicken. Not only does the meat taste amazing, the stock or broth you can make from them is beyond compare. Contact Twisted Maple about purchasing their farm fresh chickens to fill your freezer. Trust me, you will be thankful for this tip when it’s the dead of winter and you don’t have to rush to the grocery store to put a delicious, locally sourced meal on the table.

My tour of Twisted Maple Farm concluded with a conversation about what the future has in store for this historic farm. Cassidy said they would love to continue restoring the barn to its former glory. She also said one day she dreams of combining her life-long love of horses with her education in psychology to create a therapeutic farm. Cassidy grew up around horses on her grandmother’s farm and said she would love to share that passion for horses with others.

I have to say, Cassidy and Adam have already created a pretty therapeutic farm, whether they realize it or not. Stepping on to their farm is like stepping back into history. It gave me goosebumps to see the photos Cassidy shared of their farm so many years ago and realize I was standing in the same spot. A spot where children grew up, where trains passed, bringing people to and from our community, a spot where a family no doubt experienced hardship and happiness and still kept the farm running. I appreciate their respect for the history of the farm, sharing photos and stories about the farm. Restoring the existing barn when they could very well tear it down in favor of a modern pole barn. Choosing animals breeds based on quality, not on the speed at which they can be processed. Visiting Twisted Maple Farm certainly encourages you to step out of that fast-paced world many of us are accustomed to and slow down a little. Thank you, Twisted Maple Farm, for everything you are doing to not only preserve a piece of our community’s history, but also for raising your animals well, providing our community with high-quality local meat!

 

 

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Tips for Freezing Strawberries

It’s June, which means strawberries are in season here in West Michigan! Nothing beats a freshly picked strawberry, still warm from the sun. If you are like us and want to enjoy a bit of that amazing strawberry goodness all year round, try freezing strawberries. Whether you’re freezing several flats (which is 8 quarts of strawberries) or a few pints at a time, here are some tips to save you a bit of time (and frustration), in the kitchen.

1. Don’t wait too long to freeze them- Strawberries don’t keep for too long before they get moldy and mushy, especially if they are very ripe when picked. Pick or buy your strawberries on a day when you know you will plenty of time to wash, trim and freeze them. If you didn’t pick the strawberries yourself, ask when they were picked. If they were picked the same day, you can buy yourself a little extra time. If you’re not going to use them right away, or you want to save some to eat fresh later on, try soaking them in a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. This will help keep your berries fresher for a little longer.

2. Set Up Your Prep Station- Trust me, starting with the right set up will make all the difference in the world. I always make sure everything is close in proximity. Starting on the left, have your washed strawberries. Next, a bowl for the tops or over ripe strawberries. After that either a bowl for your trimmed strawberries or, save yourself a step and put them right on the tray you will freeze them on. I like to use large stainless steel mixing bowls because they are easy to clean, hold a lot and stow away nicely if you buy the nesting bowls. I picked up mine years ago at Sam’s Club and use them for everything. I also love my large strainer that fits over the sink. You can purchase one like this on Amazon, or I always have luck finding good quality strainers at TJ Maxx or Home Goods.

3. Lining Your Trays for Freezing- I’ve used a variety of things to line my cookie sheets for freezing fruits and veggies. You can use wax paper or parchment paper for the task. One “greener” solution is using silicone baking mats like these. I have one that’s a Silpat mat, which I highly recommend if you also want a good quality liner for baking. If not, a cheaper version will do. I like that they are non-stick and flexible so you can pick up the sides and pour the strawberries into your bags. Another green tip is using kitchen towels to line your trays. You can gather the corners of the towel and dump the frozen fruit into a bag. When you’re ready to get those strawberries on the trays, make sure they are in single layer, otherwise they will freeze in one big blob.

4. Stacking Your Trays- The biggest problem with freezing fruits and veggies is having the space in the freezer to put the trays. Here a simple solution for getting more trays in your freezer at once: Stackable cooling racks! I put my bigger trays on the bottom, move some berries around to fit the cooling rack on the tray, then put a second tray on top. This helps to utilize the vertical space in your freezer. (And in case you’re wondering, we have a separate fridge/freezer we bought at the Restore a few years ago that we clear out during the summer months for this purpose. We store some….uh…adult beverages for helping with the process in the fridge, along with any large harvests or produce purchases that won’t easily fit in our main fridge).

5. Bagging Your Berries– I generally fill up gallon sized bags since we use our strawberries a variety of different ways. But a little time saving tip if you know you will use a certain recipe later on, freeze the berries in the quantity you will use. For example, if your favorite jam recipe calls for 3 cups of strawberries, measure out 3 cups into each bag and label it. Or if you know you will use your strawberries for a smoothie recipe, mix your strawberries with other frozen fruit to make prep work easier when you go to make your smoothie. This tip also applies to freezing veggies. You may consider freezing veggies and blending them for a stir fry mix. Either way, remember you can wash out those plastic bags when you are done and recycle them anywhere plastic grocery bags are accepted.

img_1180-17357241242535958540.jpgI hope these 5 tips help you save some time in the kitchen when you’re freezing some farm fresh local strawberries! Not sure where to buy fresh, West Michigan Strawberries? Check out my list of places where you can either pick strawberries or buy them pre-picked. The same page features some of our favorite recipes using strawberries!

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