Saturday, 21 March 2009

Food safety at home

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

There is plenty of food safety issues that have been in the news lately, so I won't go into all that, but I do want to share how we handle food safety on our farmstead and in our kitchen. My husband has a compromised immune system so good habits are important.

We raise most of our food, and maintain our own watershed, so we are the "they" that has to keep things safe for ourselves. We consume raw dairy products, drink spring water, eat foodstuffs prepared with raw eggs, and graze in the garden freely. All are things that are frowned upon in modern day society. And, unfortunately modern day industrial food practices can be unsafe, even with all the laws and procedures that must be followed. First, everyone has to be on board, when productivity is the only factor, quality may go down. After all, if the milk is contaminated, it can be pasteurized right? Well, I suppose, if you want a simple answer to a complicated question. The milker will never see the person who drinks the milk, and neither will the farmer. But on a smallholding, the farmer and consumer are one and the same.

On our farm we follow rules I learned as child and I am passing on to my child, and anyone who works with us. It begins at the beginning, of course. A hen's goal in life is to lay an egg that will hatch into chick, for that to happen, she needs clean surroundings, and a clean place to lay her gift. If left to her own devices, she would seek out the safest, cleanest place she could for her nest. If I confine her for her safety, or for my convenience, I must provide her with good food, clean feeders and waterers and a clean nest box to lay her eggs in.

It would do me no good to deny the hen these simple things, because ultimately I need to keep my own "chick" safe. Gathering eggs can be fun or drudgery and it can be dangerous if the nest boxes aren't kept clean. When I gather eggs, I am gathering eggs, I don't stop and pick a salad for dinner on the way back to the house. I put the eggs away, wash up and then go back out and pick greens. Mostly it is just a little thinking, and a lot of hand washing on my part. But, after awhile it becomes habit. The same with milking, when I go to milk, I do not stop and pet the barn cats or let them in the milk bucket, I do my milk chores and get the milk to the house to process it as soon as I'm done milking. Stall cleaning, and general barn chores are a different ball of wax.

Ditto with the feed and water, it must be kept clean to keep the stock healthy and the stock handlers healthy too. It is also a good idea to not let your chickens roost on your hay or water troughs that your ruminants use. However, it is OK for your chickens to scratch through manure, just not the other way around. Birds follow herbivores.

We follow the same principles in the barn. Pitchforks for the hay are only used for hay or spreading clean bedding. Never for mucking out stalls. Think of these pitchforks as the utensils for the stock, they must be kept clean. We always have them stored in a bale of straw or hay, never on the ground. Parasites can be spread by using a manure fork for a hay fork.

Pitchforks and shovels for mucking out are never near the hay, and can be stored touching the ground. If someone new is helping us out, we make sure we go over these simple rules and explain the differences in the tools, and the how's and why's of using these tools.

The same goes for our wheelbarrows. We have separate wheelbarrows for mucking and wheelbarrows that are just used for bringing in vegetables from the garden. The uses are not interchangeable.

This is the food wheelbarrow pictured with the spading fork. Everyone knows not to just grab the nearest wheelbarrow or fork to do a job.

Since we do use composted animal manure/bedding for our fertilizer program, we follow the same guidelines while spreading compost.

Our compost is aged at least a year, and if spread by hand we use our manure forks and wheelbarrows. Spreading fresh manure is usually not recommended, but if you do use it, plan for at least 90 days from application to harvest of edible crops.

Most of all, keeping things clean in the first place is the easiest. But if you want to wash your vegetables, food grade hydrogen peroxide is easy to use. In some areas you can purchase a 3% solution or if not, you can mix it yourself. I purchase 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide from Azure Standard and keep it on hand, mostly for washing salad greens. To make a 3% solution from 35% hydrogen peroxide, mix 1 ounce of hydrogen peroxide to 11 ounces of water. Use 1/4 cup of this dilution to a sink full of water to wash your vegetables in.

Most of all we want to enjoy the fruits of our labors and working together. By setting a few rules that we can all follow, we can enjoy our work and the rewards it brings us!


Green Bean said...

Good advice from someone who knows what they are talking about. I waver back and forth over getting chickens this year. I definitely do want them but is it this year or next. Anything I can read about caring for them goes into my decision making pot. Thank you.

ChristyACB said...

That is incredibly good advice on a bunch of stuff I hadn't even considered! While I don't have animals yet, I'd had never once thought of the hayfork/manure fork issue. Since we laid new hay and hay fed by hand at our house (less than a dozen horses) it had never come up before.

Thanks so much for the considered post!

Farmer's Daughter said...

As always, I love your photos.

I just read an article about how cows produce more milk when they have a name. Of course, having a name probably indicates that they are on a smaller farm with people that love them, so it made total sense to me.

risa said...

That picture of the little one washing greens is one for the ages! I hoe there a framed print of it somewhere ...

Ditto, CACB, we've been thinking we had good practices but the two forks had NOT occurred to me. OOPS. Will reread this one several times.


Great Post, wonderful pics~ I dig everything here!

Paula said...

Great Post! Those photos of your daughter are priceless! The one of her washing the greens is so absolutely darling, and the one of her with the eggs ... well, you know how I LOVE my eggs! :-) This was a great post and reminded me of how at the fair this year we watched a gal "hook up" her cow for milking. The suction failed and the mechanism fell off and got stepped on and dragged through the thick, wet muck, and the gal just picked it up and hooked it right back on. Ick. That milk most likely wouldn't be used, but still, wouldn't you at least make sure the device was clean before putting in on your cow? Even my young daughter commented on it. Made me wonder about the milk at home in my fridge! :-) Just checked out Joel Salatin's book, Holy Cows and Hog Heaven. Like it a lot! :-)

TheMartianChick said...

Thank you so much for posting this information. I can see a few changes are in order in my house, since we will soon have livestock to care for.

lizzylanefarm said...

These are all great safety issues. We also have different tools for different jobs. I took a can of spray paint and painted the handles red on any thing related to mucking, composting that shouldn't be around any thing to do with food.

Also our horses each have their own sets of cleaning tools, brushes, picks, buckets, clippers...They items used every day are washed in hot soapy water every week and the water buckets every day.

:) Karyn

fullfreezer said...

Great post. I had never heard of using peroxide for washing veggies. Thanks for the information!

Compostwoman said...

Yep another great post..... :-)

we tag buckets by their grade, fresh from the soil food, muck and only muck..we colour code the handles so there is NO error................

It is all general, practical stuff BUT until you live it, you probably wouldn't think about it.....

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this thought provoking article! As an urban dweller who is new to vegie growing and thinking of chooks this information gave me some really good tips. Have copied your ideas to keep at hand to improvise change in my little bit of the world. Yuk! I will never look at the shop brought milk in the same light!
Please keep writing and educate us into the things school never taught!

Hayden said...

Great rules, great advice. I'm taking notes!

Anonymous said...

Too much hand washing is not good either as weakens our immune systems. It's not that we shouldn't wash our hands at all, but maybe not every second.

In general, I love the article for stating simple truths. However, they are too simple at certain points.

The other thing not mentioned is that food factories do all the pasteurizing stuff and other sterilizing things because they don't know where the stuff they transform into food comes from.

If we know our cows, plants, soil, water, there is nothing we can be afraid of. Our grandfathers did it in the same way without food factories and the human race has not shared the dinosaurs' path.

Pat aka Posh said...

Very good brought back memories of growing up on a farm and mom always making sure we kept things separated and clean.. she was especially picky about the milk and made us wash our hands and the cows tits before milking... then we put a clean cheese cloth over the pail before carrying it to the house.

Country Girl said...

Great post Nita with lots of helpful tips! Are the pictures of you or your daughter?

Jodz said...

Thank you for a great post. We are about to move house and have a small bit of land. We want chickens and will grow our veges so these food safety ideas are spot on

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this up.

Indeed, hygiene is quickly becoming a lost art as we depend on antibiotics and anti-bacterial soap to save us.

But lest we forget people did die of bacteria back in the good old days, too.

It would be great if we could combine modern knowledge with common sense...

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Green Bean, thank you, chickens are pretty easy, but with anything new all those little tidbits we file away come in handy!

ChristyACB, I am always amazed when someone is here visiting and they offer to help, the manure fork is the first thing they grab - for the hay not the manure!

The number of tines makes a difference too, the manure fork has more tines for picking up manure pats easily, and the hay forks have less tines for picking up the hay easily. They really aren't generic tools. I went to buy a new hay fork for my daughters BD, and I bought the last one in stock - it seems so many people have went to the large round bales and use equipment to handle them, so the feed store doesn't have much call for hand tools!!

Farmer's Daughter, thank you, and I just read an article about how much calmer cattle are with introverted, confident handlers. It seems extroverts can be too loud, and the cattle appreciate a calm, quiet demeanor. The best old stockmen I knew, were always quiet and methodical and of course named their cows! We have silly naming practices like naming sons after their mothers, so we have boys named Mabel, and Sylvia but it makes it fun! My DH wanted us to name with the same first letter as the dam, but it was too complicated, and we gave up because he couldn't tell them apart anyway ;)

Risa, I know what you mean, the little one is a big one now and we cherish that picture!

Sugamama's Cafe, thanks me too!

Paula, a priceless picture of Ruthless! They probably weren't keeping the milk at the fair, but still, it would look better to be more careful for the public...

Hope you like Joel's book, they are all good. He is never at a loss for words, that one!

TheMartianChick, I'm glad this helped. Sometimes the simplest thing can make a lot of difference.

lizzylanefarm, that is a good idea to color code things. We keep different species feed tubs separate too, and make sure younger animals don't follow older animals without adequate rest of the facilities and/or pasture.

fullfreezer, thanks, the peroxide is safer than chlorine, and it is hard to find food grade chlorine around here.

Compostwoman, thanks, I agree if you don't work with animals or compost the thought just may not occur to use things differently.

We also only use food grade barrels and buckets for animal feed and water storage. No recycled soap or chemical buckets, since plastic can leach into their systems too!

Anonymous, thank you, it will be easy to implement this for your hennies and garden. Thanks for reading.

Hayden, thanks!

Anonymous, I would hardly say I'm a handwashing fanatic, but it is just being prudent to keep my livestock handling practices similar to my own toiletry practices.

I doubt I would get sick after gathering eggs and then grabbing a salad on my way back to the house, but my husband could, and it is not worth watching him be sick for days on end.

As for the factory farming causing the need for pasteurizing, while that is true, I have been on too many small farms, where safe food handling practices aren't being used - and I have been to large farms that were spotless. It is up to the humans in charge to take care of all they come in contact with.

I guess my point is that I'm familiar with my soils, and our water supply, and have but a small herd of cattle, and even smaller flock of chickens, but when it comes down to it, I don't really care to ingest any manure from any of my animals until it has been composted and returned to the earth.

Pat aka Posh, your mom had some good rules. My milk bucket is only for milk, and the washing bucket is only for washing the cow. On one hand it may seem complicated but it really does make things simpler. And if the cow is dirty, I still have to milk, it just goes to the pigs or a calf, so it isn't wasted.

Kim, Oh I wish they were of me! Thanks!

Jodz, thank you, I'm glad to be of service. :)

Anonymous, I agree, too much either way and we're in trouble, and common sense is hard to teach!

inadvertent farmer said...

Great post with simple and sound advice...thanks for the reminder! Kim

Don said...

I appreciate all of your sound advice. I especially am taking notes with the use of garden tools. I tend to be a bit of a cheapskate and don't want to spend on things like "extra" tools, but you have shown me that these AREN'T extra, but necesary.