Organic Rabbit Available!

cropped-cukewithlogo11Moon Shadow Farm just added organic-fed rabbit to the Independence Online Farmers Market. Order online and pick up Wednesday, 4-6 pm at the Grayson LandCare office in Independence.  Or contact the farm to make an order and arrange for pick up.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes to whet your appetite.

Buttermilk Fried Rabbit
Buttermilk Fried Rabbit
Italian Style Braised Rabbit with Mushrooms




Rabbit Ragu














Hinesite & Moon Shadow to Exhibit Rare Breeds

11081223_10206178441641038_691350570503436820_nTwo local farms in Fries that feature rare heritage livestock breeds have been selected to exhibit their animals at the Mother Earth News Fair to be held in Asheville, NC April 11 and 12.

Cynthia and Rick Taylor of Moon Shadow Farm raise Silver Fox rabbits and Buckeye chickens on less than one quarter  acre just outside the town of Fries.

Kendy Sawyer and husband Bob Hines of Hinesite Milking Devon Cattle focus on American Milking Devon, breeding, milking, and training these heritage cattle near Old Fries Junction.

Photo 1 - Kendy Sawyer with working cows.The Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville will host more than 200 hands-on workshops that cover organic gardening, food preparation and preservation, natural health, renewable energy, homesteading, small-scale livestock, green building and remodeling, green transportation, and related topics. Local and national experts on sustainable and rural lifestyles will lead the sessions. Over 18,000 people are expected to attend the two day event.

Cynthia Taylor said, “Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by the farmers of earlier times. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. They were carefully selected and bred for survival and self-sufficiency — fertility, foraging, longevity, maternal instinct, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites. These all continue to be important attributes, especially in our times.”

“Applying to be a part of the Mother Earth News Fair was a bit intimidating,” Kendy Sawyer said. “As a rare breed steward, it’s important to reach out to let people know that a cow like this is available: they produce wonderful milk on grass in family-sized fields, grow beef that is ranked as one of the best tasting and finest textured in the world, and will pull your plow, log, or wagon.”

10384832_10206178436520910_3874215861250956484_nShe continued, “When people learn about livestock from conventional sources, they learn about conventional livestock. Right now, many people are interested in cattle because prices are high. I try to send all my heifers to homes  to be bred to purebred Milking Devon bulls and where they will be milked; not to the sale barn. Of course, not every calf is perfect, and those are delicious. I keep in touch with other small breeders, and can often bring people and animals together if I don’t have the right cow for a family. My main goal is to find the next generation of rare breed stewards for these marvelous animals.”

1904151_758491384230816_8334135116157537036_nSawyer added, “This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase livestock suited to homesteaders and small holders. Each of these heritage breeds is multipurpose. Unfortunately, they have become very rare because modern industrial agriculture is based on single purpose animals.”

Taylor agreed, “We have inherited a rich variety of livestock breeds. For the sake of future generations, we must work together to safeguard these treasures.”

“These rare animals are not novelties or just for historical displays. Since the ability to succeed in an industrial environment has never been bred into them, most still have good immune systems and ability to thrive on simple feeds, outdoors. This is a definite advantage in today’s world,” Taylor said. Both families are active members of The Livestock Conservancy, an organization which works to protect rare breeds. They breed animals to traditional standards.

11079673_10206178436440908_6657953305632585984_nTaylor stated, “We are excited to exhibit these great breeds. The Buckeye chickens are multipurpose, growing quickly to produce a good sized fryer in 18 weeks, or maturing to a laying hen that produces up to 200 eggs per year. The best part for us is the taste. This chicken has an excellent flavor you just don’t get from the commercial breeds.”

“Silver Fox rabbits also are multipurpose, raised for both meat and fur. Their fur is very unique silver-tipped black. We are learning to tan hides so we can utilize the furs in crafts and clothing, as farmers before us have done. Our breeding program is working to bring the breeds back to the rare breed standard and preserve these great genetics.”

10411064_721847531228535_3920216471773485235_nSawyer, who volunteers at the Matthews Living History Museum and Heritage Day near Galax and Independence, Virginia, noted, “These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment, and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture. People may wonder how animals as common as cows and chickens can be endangered. However, just as there are endangered wild species such as pandas, tigers, and elephants, there are also endangered livestock and poultry breeds. Specifically, 21% of the world’s 8,000 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction.”

Sawyer concluded, “Milking Devon cattle, Buckeye chickens, and Silver Fox rabbits are far from the only endangered farm animals. There are over 200 breeds including goats, sheep, swine, and horses that are critically endangered. Small-scale farmers are in a position to benefit from the unique attributes of rare breeds, while gaining the satisfaction of preserving this valuable genetic resource for future generations.”

Dealing With Winter Weather

10991229_1611431169070289_7515086469300119242_nWith over 6 inches of snow (not so bad) and temperatures below 0 with -20 windchill (Oh My God!) February is kicking our butt!!

In the fall, I had lovely visions of lazy, winter days with enough time to catch up10987579_1612244922322247_7830646290660889271_n on sleep, my reading list, and planning for spring.  I figured if it was too cold for outdoor work, I wouldn’t be so busy.  WRONG!

Since this is our first Virginia winter with animals, I had much to learn and do.  Most of our shelters are temporary, waiting for the move to our farm this summer.  When I say temporary, read: BREEZY!  Perfect for the summer, but not so great on really cold winter days.

10942495_10205867604270298_3491013538477818087_nNow our goat Rosie is the proud owner of a goat coat.  We have a rabbit maternity ward in the basement with kits expected any day.  We have heated water bottles and bowls and tons of extra hay for bedding.

Despite the cold, with the growing daylight hours, the Buckeye chickens are laying well (even if it is in the nest they made outside rather than in the nest box in the coop).  10959226_1605671072979632_4296935509528497640_nSlightly frozen eggs are even OK to eat that same day if not cracked.

So, we are wearing lots of layers and face masks and learning as we go.  When we build new animal shelters this summer we will have more knowledge to guide us.  Spring won’t be long now.

Happy New Year!!

We are spending the winter getting the new place habitable and planning lots of great projects for the spring/summer!1489173_1452837138263027_1923744111_n

We will be enlarging the rabbitry with larger cages to house breeding pairs or mamas with kits and try to solve the ventilation in summer / warm in winter dichotomy.  We hope to create a movable colony set up on pasture as well.

We have great plans for a compost-fed, egg-mobile for chickens and also set ups for several breeding groups of Buckeye chickens.

The goats will be happy to have a new pasture with rotational paddocks and the addition of ducks to the system.  Hopefully we will breed Rosie and have new goat(s) in June.

We will have a booth at the Independence Farmers Market this year selling “Bunny Berries” for folks gardens, mushrooms, marmalade, garlic (and maybe a few veggies), rabbit, and anything else we can come up with.DSC02269

We will also be expanding our crops of medicinal herbs and non-timber forest products.

It looks to be an exciting year with lots of new ideas to sprout and grow!


Cooking for Cowboys

kendy(ur…Ox Drovers? Red Cow Folk? Milking Devon Divas?)

Last weekend we had the pleasure of helping out our neighbor Kendy Sawyer of Hinesite Milking Devon with Ox Workx Galax, a gathering of cow folk for team and teamster training at Matthews Living History Farm Museum.

We agreed to prepare meals for the participants using Kendy’s Milking Devon beef (best beef we have ever had by the way).

cowThe Menu:

Saturday – Chili, roasted sweet potatoes, southern kale greens, corn bread & apple crisp.

Sunday – Smoked beef barbecue, cole slaw, baked beans & Indian pumpkin pudding.


Smoked Beef BBQ

We used a mix of sirloin tip and chuck roasts and a couple of shoulder steaks (2 flat iron steaks with the connective tissue left in place).  I recommend using chuck roasts, but the shoulder steaks worked great too and cooked much quicker.

The Rub:

8 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme (crushed)
1/2 teaspoon coriander

We air-dried the roasts for a couple of hours on the counter before applying the rub then an hour or so afterward.

The Method:

We smoked the roasts at 225 degrees to an internal temperature of 110 degrees.  From the smoker to the crockpot (with enough water to fill the crock 1/4) on high till it simmered then low till fully cooked and the meat is very tender (about 4 hours).  Allow to cool in the pot.

Hand-pull the roasts (or cut with the grain) and cover with a small amount of the broth.

Indian Pumpkin PuddingCucurbita_moschata_Long_Island_Cheese_squash


3 C full-fat milk (Raw Milking Devon Milk is best!)
1/4 C molasses
5 TBS cornmeal
1 C pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix- we used cheese pumpkin)
1 egg
1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 C cold milk
2/3 cups nuts (we used pecans, but walnuts would be good too)
coconut oil, for greasing


Preheat oven to 325 F
Grease a 1 qt casserole dish.

In a small pan over low heat, scald the 3 C milk (let bubbles form on the side of the pan but do NOT let the milk come to a boil!)
Add molasses and cornmeal to the milk, whisking constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, egg, salt, sugar, spices until well combined. Whisk in cornmeal/milk/molasses mixture. Stir in nuts.

Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake for 35 minutes.
Carefully pour 1/2 cup cold milk evenly over top of the pudding.
Bake for one more hour.
Cool for 15 minutes.