Epic Paleo Labor Day Weekend

This weekend was a long one here in the States, whereby we’re given an extra day prior to school starting in order to recognize Labor Day.  For our family, that meant lots and lots of fun crammed into 4 days together.  This is an epically long post; but, it deserves every word.  We had some fantastic, life-long moments created and it was all about spending time with friends and family, rather than spending money or doing anything grandiose.  Don’t get tired half-way through, the best part is the end, whereby Bill & Hayley from Primal-Palate came to visit!

On Friday I was able to leave work early and join the family for an evening event, Cinema at Sunset in a local park.  We arrived around 7pm, after hanglers (hamburgers) and mock-a-mole (guacamole) for dinner at home.  We let the kids run around and play before How to Train Your Dragon started at 8pm.  The kids were glued to the outdoor film as they munched on carrots, our grain-free granola, and apples.

Despite staying up unusually late the night before, we woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next day to pack our bags and get ready for a day on the road, which I blogged a bit about here.  There aren’t words for how wonderful visiting Polyface was.  I’ve read people’s descriptions which say it just smells like a farm should – and that’s the best description I can muster as well.  The day was warm, the skies were blue, the green fields expansive and the farm utterly welcoming.

I never in a million years expected to see Joel Salatin actually working the farm on a Saturday afternoon, but there he was.  Wonderfully covered in chicken bedding and knee deep grass stains.  This is what the beauty of what real farming with real food looks like.  We thanked him for letting our family explore his farm and chatted about my funny shoes.  We walked what was probably miles exploring as much as we could of his breathtaking farm before the boys starting melting down from the heat and utter exhaustion.

The trip took about 2 and a half-hours, when we arrived the boys were ready to explore the farm shop.  We decided we would visit the farm store first and figure out a plan from there.  The shop offered an adorable magnetic map to show us how and where to find certain areas.  We opted to visit the “baby” houses first and then the fields before returning to fill up our wagon with meat (Wes went a little overboard with his shopping, but you’d be shocked to see how much that boy loves him some food).

We took turns goofing around with the camera, Cole and Finian took some silly portraits in front of the farm house while we all cooled off and relaxed on the swing after round one of visiting the baby houses.  The boys (of course) adored these areas.  To be honest, I was a little nervous to visit the chicken house.  But, they share a barn with the baby pigs and bunnies – which we HAD to see.  So, I hesitantly went in first to make sure I wouldn’t get pecked and squawked at when I walked in (my normal experience with chickens).  But these chickens were friggin’ happy!  They did circles around us, talking and flapping their wings.  They followed us as we walked around and checked out the other animals.  Never in my life did I ever think I’d meet friendly chickens; that in and of itself speaks volumes to the Polyface farming practices.

I love the middle photo in this collage, because Cole is explaining to Finian These animals are not for pets, you can’t pick them up, they’re here to get big and healthy so that we can eat them when they’re delicious. Just look! Don’t touch! This particular house is for the chickens that lay real baby chicks, and not eggs for eating – so the boys were pleased when they found some eggs in nests (bottom right photo), knowing there was a real tiny chick inside the egg.  It was difficult to get Finian to leave; he really REALLY loved the baby pigs, but we lured him out with the tease of baby chicks.

In our exploration for the next baby house we found a wooly caterpillar, did some sprinting races and Finian gave me a wild flower for my hair (above).  It was like our very own Sound of Music movie: peaceful and relaxing with the sounds of happy animal noises and the scent of fresh air surrounding us.  When we finally found the baby chick farm house (aka sauna), built with a TON of room for baby chicks to play and cluck together, I couldn’t believe how clean and fresh it was.  I was literally able to walk into the house in order to pick-up a chick, the bedding was so clean.  The boys and I held one particularly friendly chick for a minute and then let it rejoin it’s flock.

After the baby chick sauna, we had to get some water. So we walked over to the farm store. Cole climbed and played in this insanely awesome tree fort (below) that the Salatin family kids made and were playing in.  How cool for those kids to play outside using their bodies and imagination every day.  When their father came to get them for lunch, he chuckled at my “awesome tree fort, you should be proud!” comment and said that the fort was cool, yes, but the kids somehow never manage to pile the wood back up.  How very funny; I have a dirty laundry problem – he has a tree fort problem.

After a short break for water at the farm house, we ventured up a far hill to the famous chicken coop area.  They are just as iconic looking in person as they are to anyone who’s seen them in Food Inc, Farmageddon or the Robb Wolf series.  After climbing the big hill, the field just opened to about 2 dozen of his classic coops. We even had a nice surprise in running into a few baby ducks.  It was clear and obvious how wonderfully his system is working.  The demarcations from the previous day’s chicken coop area were clear squares; however, it looked as though there was never a place where they resided before that.  Joel is absolutely genius in the science he has worked out – the grass had already grown out in the areas which the coops had previously occupied.

As we ventured to the turkeys and cows the sun and distance had begun exhausting the boys.  We made it far enough for us to see the male chickens walking around in the open at the end of the chicken field.  When I asked Matt how he thought they got free he laughed and said, “The presence of cock makes the hens lay eggs.”  An interesting biological concept, and I’m assuming the abundance of egg-laying ladies keep the roosters from wanting to escape?

We returned down the farm path and had a few meltdowns a long the way.  I carried Wes, Matt carried Finn and we lured Cole into finishing despite exhaustion with the promise of winning the race if he sprinted back to the farm store.  As a side note, Matt and I carried 40 and 20lbs (respectively) while walking miles of hilly terrain.  And neither one of us was tired or achy.  The lifestyle we lead provides an abundance of stamina that never ceases to amaze us.

When we arrived back at the farm store, we were grateful for Polyface’s free water cooler, breezy swing in the shade and the expansive selection of meats available.  We’re asked often how we afford such luxuries and although we did write about that here, the answer is pretty basic.  We buy cheap cuts that are high in fat.  If I’m getting grass-fed organic meat, I want it to be my fatty cuts so that I avoid the toxic fat stores of grain-fed meat and just buy lean cuts of lower quality meat.  We love Polyface’s backbone (country style ribs), uncured hot dogs, pork belly, eggs, sausage, and chuck roastGround beef in bulk is often reasonably (relatively, people) affordable too, but we have been finding ground venison very affordable locally so we didn’t get any this weekend.

What was particularly awesome about this weekend is making new friends, in connection with Paleo.  We happened to run into Michal and Nate, who are on the Board of Ancestral Health and are planning the Ancestral Health Symposium in Boston next year. They recognized my Vibrams Five-Fingers as well as our t-shirts (NomNomPaleo and Whole9); they introduced themselves and, wouldn’t you know it, we were soon having lunch together in a nearby gluten-free restaurant.  What a happy coincidence!

And with an ton of pork backbone in-hand (well, in-wagon really) and the boys satiated with gluten-free bacon wraps followed by in-store made date and cocoa squares, we were finally ready to return home.  I had a lovely peaceful ride because all of the boys crashed, even Matt.  We spent all of the next day (Sunday) cooking, preparing lunch boxes (you saw the Lunchbox Challenge post, right?!), and working on big batches of applesauce, granola and other items we had run out of but like to have on hand.

Early Monday morning the boys burst into our room full of excitement to exclaim, “How many hours until our party?!” We had a Paleo potluck with a few friends, who we’re happy to now say include Bill & Hayley from Primal Palate, and they knew friends and food were coming.  On a whim I had extended a last-minute invite to the spunky, awesome, and talented duo and they happily drove a few hours for a single day visit.  They came bearing adorable gifts for the boys (kid cooking utensils!) as well as the ingredients for the boys’ favorites, chicken thighs for Cole and guacamole for Finn.

Hayley and Wes immediately started a love affair, such a lady’s man.  Poor Bill & Nate, they’ve got no hope of keeping the baby pressures at a distance when Wes is near.  There’s something about a Wessie that makes the ladies want one of their own.  I think it’s that Paleo exuberance, personally. OK, now, if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed.  Let’s play a game.  [sesame street music playing] One of these photos is not like the other…

A special thanks to Bill for helping us showcase our new shirts with a legit family photo.  B&H as well as Matt & I are all in agreement that the silly faces paired with the homemade fruit and nut bar dripping from Wesley’s mouth was by far the best of the photos he took.  We just look ridiculous when we try to take a serious photo.  We’re a family that’s always moving and the kids never stop putting food in their mouth, might as well incorporate that into a photo! Too bad Wes truly ate like a dinosaur and ruined his shirt before we thought to ask for a photo of us together.  You get the point though, right?  No?  OK, it’s this: Our shirts are adorbs on kids and uber-masculine on Dads, see – photographic evidence! No one’s more excited about them than us!

In case these photos weren’t enough (goodness, how much more could you want to see?) I’ve uploaded all of our weekend photos to our Picasa folder here.  I hope it inspires you to find a local farm (we drove quite a while and it was worth every minute) to explore with your family and friends or plan a Paleo potluck of your own!


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