Saturday, June 16, 2018

Unraveling the Mystery of Lamb

Lamb is a very polarizing meat.  When I mention that we sell lamb I usually hear one of three answers:

a.)  I love lamb!
b.)  I've never had lamb.
c.)  I had lamb once and it was terrible!

Let me start by saying that not all lamb is created equal.  For some bizarre reason we always feel compelled to try lamb when it's on restaurant menus.  I can tell you this - we've never liked lamb from a restaurant, even some fairly swanky joints.  We've found it tough and gamy flavored.  After raising lamb for years, we've found out one major key for a great lamb flavor that doesn't overpower you with "earthy flavor" - the age of the lamb.

Lamb conjures up images of cute little baby lambs hopping around green pastures in the spring.  While this is a lamb, the lamb meat available usually comes from an animal that is at least 4 months old, usually older.  Once a sheep is a year old, meat from that animal is called mutton.  I've never had mutton (or at least that's what I'm telling myself), but the older a sheep is, generally the stronger the flavor becomes.  So if you've had tough lamb or very strong tasting lamb it likely came from an older animal.

Globally, there are over 1000 different distinct breeds of sheep.  Some are known for wool quality, such as Merino or Rambouillet.  Some are known for meat quality due to fast growth, such as the Suffolk.   Some are a dual purpose breed that are good for meat and wool, like a Cheviot which produces the wool for tweed fabrics and also grows fairly rapidly for decent meat.  Some breeds have hair instead of wool, which eliminates shearing for the farmer.  And some are even milked to produce delicious feta or Roquefort cheeses.  They are hearty animals that do well in a variety of climates and land conditions which is part of why they have a much more prominent place in the global diet than here in the US.  Per capita, Americans consume less than one pound of lamb per year, where globally the number is over 4 lbs. per year on average.

Lamb does not have be a scary meat reserved for high society functions.  It's more than than the glamorous Frenched rack of lamb at the fancy dinner table.  It can certainly be served at an elegant function but it can also be made into a simple Shepherd's Pie, simmered all day in a crock pot to make tender lamb shanks for a winter's night or even grilled with salt and pepper just like a steak to provide variety for your family's dinner routine.  My goal for this summer is to share some of my favorite uses for lamb and to help you feel like you can be a culinary rock star!  Keep watching for recipes and ideas on how to confidently add lamb into your meals.




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Too Many Words - Part 2

Image result for inigo montoya i do not think it means

This is another of my favorite movie quotes and I can't even tell you how many times this scene has flashed through my mind as I've been questioned by customers about terms used regarding meat.  It is from the movie "The Princess Bride" where Inigo Montoya finally questions the diabolical mastermind about his use of the word "inconceivable".  

Grass Fed Beef and Pasture Raised Pork are terms that fit into this category.  They seem pretty clear if you take them as they are written, but there is always more to the story.  

Do you remember music class or those piano lessons when you learned the name of the bass clef space notes?  Maybe not.  But you will remember this mnemonic - All Cows Eat Grass.  Does that sound familiar?  It holds a truth we seem to have forgotten - all cows DO eat grass!  Not "Only Grass Fed Cows Eat Grass".   All cows.  Let me elaborate in a tiny little science lesson...

Cows are part of a family group of animals called ruminants.  There are roughly 200 different ruminants in all of nature, but on the farm our ruminant friends are cattle, sheep and goats.  Ruminants have one large stomach that is broken into four parts:  the rumen, the reticulum, the masum and the abomasum.  Just fun information for a party.  The important part of the stomach for this conversation is the rumen.   When we're feeding cattle, we're feeding the rumen.  The rumen is loaded with microbes which break down things that are inedible to other species.  Cattle (and sheep and goats) get the majority of their nutrition from grass or forage.  If the balance between grain and forage gets out of whack, you have sick cows. However cows like grain, in fact if they escape in the fall or winter you will often find them in corn fields munching on the leftovers from harvest. Grains are a great energy source for cows as they spend their days lumbering about the farm grazing and growing.

Cows are also like us - they need carbohydrates (energy), protein and fats, as well as water.  Good farmers provide all of these for their livestock.  Their needs of these nutrients fluctuate depending on their age, if they are pregnant, if they are nursing a calf, etc.  All cows for part of their life are nursing a calf while they are pregnant with their next calf!  That means they need a lot of goody to keep that big body going.  They are really remarkable creatures because they can take just about any food and keep their rumen rolling.  Living on things that are inedible to humans while raising two babies - that's a cow's super power!  It's also important to realize that cows, especially in Kansas, do not have access to green grass throughout the year.  Therefore they eat hay and corn silage when the grass is not available.  That idyllic vision of a happy cow spending all of its days on lush green grass just can't happen in most parts of the United States.

On the flip side, pigs are not ruminants.  They have what is called a "simple stomach" and they are omnivores, meaning basically they will eat anything.  When the term "pasture raised pork" is brought up, it is largely referring to where the pig is raised not it's diet.  If you spend any time around a pig you will soon realize that they are not too particular about things.  They need massive amounts of calories in a day to fuel their muscle-laden bodies.  They love to forage and root in the dirt, digging up the soil, lifting fences, flipping feed bunks and even using their mighty snouts to push each other out of the way if need be.  If you turned a pig out into a field to "graze" and expect that to be it's entire food source you're probably asking for trouble.  Farmers feed them grains for their nutritional needs and to help them finish for market in a timely manner.  On our farm we also like to give them hay to keep them busy, because a busy pig is a happy pig.  A happy pig is a pig that is not destroying things, which leads to a happy farmer.  And a happy farmer makes for a happy farmer's wife, which is really the bottom line.

So, is there a nutritional benefit to grass fed vs. grain fed beef?  I would just say there are health benefits to beef, or just meat in general.  Our fear of fats that has run rampant since the mid-1900's is now being called into question as new science shows that there are good things that our bodies need that can only be found in meat.  If you look at the statistics comparing grass fed and grain fed beef, they are extremely similar.  One of the selling points used by grass fed proponents is that grass fed beef has twice as many Omega 3 fatty acids as grain fed beef.  However, if you look at the numbers it's only a .02 g vs .01 g difference in a 1 ounce serving.  There are many better sources for Omega 3's if this is a key component of your diet - like adding a few walnuts to your oatmeal or eat some eggs.    
 
 

Grass
Grain
RDA
Total Fat
14.4 g
16.8 g
70 g
Saturated Fat
6 g
6.4 g
24 g
MUFA
5.2 g
7.2 g
16 g
PUFA
0.16 g
0.4 g
6 g
Total trans fats
0.08 g
1.2 g
2 g
Omega 3
0.08 g
0.04 g
1.1 g
Omega 6
0.48 g
0.4 g
10 g
Cholesterol
69.6 g
76 g
200 g
Per one ounce serving.  

The take-away from all of this?  Find a source of meat that you enjoy and are comfortable with their husbandry practices.  If you like grass fed beef, by all means find a good and reliable source for grass fed beef.  If you prefer the taste of grain fed beef, you can still "feel good" because they also eat grass and you are getting the same health benefits.  No matter what you chose, ask about where the cows are raised, what they are fed.  Ask about herd health practices, why the farmer chose the particular breed of animal they chose.  Ask why a farmer feeds the particular way he or she does.  Go visit the farm if you can.  Same thing with pork.  Labeling is deceiving, terms have wavering meanings.  Don't get hung up on the words on the package.  



Data Source:  www.beefmagazine.com/beefquality-vs-grain-fed-groundbeef-no-differencehealthfulness   

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Too Many Words - Part 1

I've been procrastinating writing this particular blog post because I don't know how everyone feels about are this topic.  People tend to have definite opinions about their food.  A quote from one of my favorite movies, "What About Bob?" comes to mind - "There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't."   In this case, there are people who like ____ meat and those who don't.  In this post, we are not passing judgement on any of these methods of raising chickens or producing eggs.  We want to make sure you are an informed customer and to help you navigate the sea of words.   So here we go!


There are so many words that seem to be used with our food supply.  We are bombarded with what is "best" for us, we're given statistics that are written in percentages and comparisons to blur the reality of the numbers.  Catch phrases as smattered through advertising and the every day implications of those terms are hidden.  We feel like we're making these great choices for ourselves, not realizing that in a lot of ways meat is meat, eggs are eggs and we've just been swept into the river of insanity and confusion, willing to drop money on this and that to chase after the current trend in food.


Here's a fun game.  Fill in this blank for me:  "The best kind chicken is __________."   You might use words like natural, free-range, cage-free, antibiotic free, hormone free, organic, vegetarian fed, non-GMO, pasture-raised - am I forgetting any?  That's a crazy list right there!  And that's just chicken!

Let me break this down for you. 
Natural - this word means nothing.  There is no legal definition for this term, therefore it has no standardized meaning for producers.

Free-range - animals have access to outdoors for at least 5 minutes per day.  There is nothing requiring the birds to actually go outside.  And in actuality this would be a nightmare on large chicken farms, particularly for egg layers.  This would require the farmers to wrangle up the chickens to return them to the barn or to have a modified Easter egg hunt daily to collect the eggs.

Cage-free - animals are not individual cages.  They can be inside a large barn and cooped up (pardon the pun!) but are all together.

Antibiotic free - Some large farms give antibiotics to all their chickens to prevent outbreaks of illness.  Some farms are trending towards no antibiotics, but if a chicken gets sick they will give it antibiotics and cannot sell them as antibiotic free.  There is no requirement for meat producers to indicate the administration of vaccines, which is a way that farmers can manage animal health without giving antibiotics.

Hormone free - there are no hormones added to any chicken in the United States.  It's not allowed!

Organic - Organic chickens are fed organic feed.  Organic feeds are not pesticide free but are raised using "legal" pesticides that are approved by the USDA.

Vegetarian fed - this one in my favorite!  Chickens are not vegetarians, so I'm not really sure how they pull this one off!  Chickens love bugs, worms, snakes, and to be totally honest they are even cannibals when given the opportunity! 

Non-GMO - this refers only to the feed that they eat.  There are no genetically modified "Franken-chickens" running around with extra legs.  Farmers are skilled at creating breeds of chickens that highlight positive, beneficial traits such as quicker growth, increased egg production or hardier animals. 

Pasture-raised - these are chickens that are raised generally in pens out on grass.  The chickens are generally  moved around the pasture to give the birds access to fresh grass and bugs.

Were there are surprises to you?  Start watching your menus and fast-food boxes to see what words they are attaching to their chicken and eggs.  You might be surprised at how little they're actually telling you!   Also watch for information about water added to products.  "All natural" chicken and turkey can contain 15-30% added saltwater or chicken broth to improve the moistness of the meat. 

We try to avoid terms and suggest that you come see our birds and how they are raised, how we care for them.  Like we always say, know your farmer, know your food! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Miracle, a Chicken and New Dance Move

Stick with me on this one!

Our daughter, Lydia, is six years old, though developmentally she is more like a two year old.  She is our miracle girl.  She has a unique chromosomal abnormality that has presented many challenges in her development and the doctors did not have much hope for her when she was born.  She has completely blown away their expectations and is loads of sunshine in our life.  She loves the farm and is a "helper" in the kitchen.  "Helper" in this case translates to "has her hands in everything".

So one evening when I was working on preparing chicken for dinner, she was right there with me, watching every move.  I knew I wanted to blog about how to spatchcock a chicken and was taking pictures as I worked with the bird.  She was sitting on the kitchen table watching me work.  I took pictures at each step and she watched intently.  When I got done, I looked down at the chicken and found myself absentmindedly moving my arms to make myself look like a spatchcocked bird.  I heard a giggle and looked up to see Lydia doing the same movement with her arms.  I laughed and said, "Spatchcock!" and she moved her arms again and laughed.  And now, my little girl who has very limited speech has a new dance - the spatchcock!  She does it on demand and finds it to be incredibly humorous!



And while you're thinking how marvelously cute my daughter is, you're probably trying to figure out what in world I'm even talking about.  So, let's get to the "meat" of the post!

Spatchcock is essentially a way to flatten out a whole chicken to make it more manageable to cook.  It's super easy to do, though it sounds pretty fancy.  And it's always fun to do something fancy in the kitchen.










First step is to get a whole chicken.  We're of course partial to our chickens raised on our farm, which you can order from the link.  Rinse it out with cold water and put it on a cookie sheet while you work.  Lay it so that the back of the chicken is facing upwards.  I used kitchen shears for the next part, but if you don't have them you can use a good sharp knife - but be careful!

Locate the spine and starting at the bottom of the bird, cut up one side of the spine all the way up to the neck.  Cut just to one side or the other of the spine so you don't lose the meat.  Then cut on the other side of the spine to remove that whole piece.
Find the spine and cut right next to it with your shears.



This is what it looks like when you're halfway done.
Now just cut the other side.





Flip it over on the cookie sheet so that it is breast side up.  Then gently push on the center of the breast until the chicken "cracks" or "pops" and it lies flat.  That's it - spatchcock!


From here, you can be creative and prepare the chicken in your favorite way.  We brined one in 1 gallon cold water mixed with 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup sugar.  You can get way fancier than that, but it was fast and easy.  I put it in a large Rubbermaid dish and added the spatchcocked bird, letting it marinate for 2-3 hours.  I just rubbed the other bird with my favorite BBQ rub before we grilled it.



When you're ready to cook it, tuck the little wing tips behind the thighs to keep them from burning or cooking too quickly.  We grilled ours using indirect heat until it reached 165 degrees. I'm also going to try roasting one in the oven on a bed of seasoned potatoes.  More information on that later!

So if you have a crowd of eaters and want to be all fancy, try spatchcocking a chicken then getting creative! Don't fear a whole chicken. It's a much quicker and easier way to roast or grill a chicken and it's just really fun to say.  And to use at a dance party.  Just ask Lydia!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Amazing Growing Bacon and Other Farm Mysteries

I'm officially grossed out.  We all are.  And what's at the center of this nasty little mess?  Bacon.

There are better ways to stretch your dollars than with this bacon!  

I'm not a scientist, nor will I ever claim to be.  I have taught science for a lot of years and have found that dealing with agriculture involves a fair amount of science and good farmers are data driven.  So when I hear people ask questions about the healthfulness of mass produced meat products, the pricing of grocery store meats versus those from smaller producers or get the inevitable questions about words like "pasture fed", "free range" and "natural", I start doing my homework.  I read articles, get information from a variety of sources and even do my own experiments.

Recently I've spoken with several people about bacon and have read some articles offering surprising facts on bacon.   One article I read talked about the smoking process some commercial bacon goes through - including being injected with water and liquid smoke so they can masquerade as smoked bacon.    As I read this, I kind of felt a little ill, so I decided to do a little test at home to compare our bacon and a commonly available store brand to see just what the difference would be.

 We started by checking out pricing at our local grocery store to compare our prices with what is available at the markets.  I would not have done this experiment if I'd had to pay full price for store bacon.  But I found this little gem on sale for $2.88 for "thick cut bacon".  There were others varieties that might have been more comparable to our bacon product, but they were between $7 and 8 per pound and I refused to pay that much for the sake of science.

So with my little scientists help, we started.  We placed 4 slices of our bacon on a baking sheet and 4 slices of the store brand on another baking sheet.


 Store bought bacon - 4 slices weighing in at 5.7 ounces as a group.









Prairie Center Meats bacon - 4 slices weighing in at 6.1 ounces as a group.








Here is the side view of one of our slices of bacon:

And here's where the experiment started to get really funny.  We tried to take a picture of the store bought bacon from the side view but it wouldn't hold it's shape.  In fact, just like magic, every time we touched it, the bacon grew, and grew, and grew...


How did that just happen?

We were seriously cracking up at this point - what in the world?


The two bacons side by side after some "man handling"
Okay, so back to the experiment.   We put the two pans of bacon in the oven at 425 degrees and checked them at 10 minutes.  Here's the before picture and the 10 minutes in picture.   
 The store bought bacon is on the left and our bacon is on the right.  Notice the shrinkage of the store bacon.






After about 5 more minutes the bacon was done - the store bacon finishing a little earlier than our bacon.  So here's the final product - our bacon on the left, store bought on the right.

I took this picture just to show the degree of shrink from the store bought bacon.  It lost a good 3+ inches in length through the cooking process.

So, how to compare the two.  After baking, we reweighed the slices and we weighed the drippings from each pan.  Because you can never discount the drippings.

The store-bought bacon now weighed 1.7 ounces with an additional 1.5 ounces of drippings.  Our bacon slices weighed 1.9 ounces with an additional 2.3 ounces of drippings.   With the store-bought bacon, 56% of your original weight was accounted for, which means that you lost nearly half of your purchase weight during the cooking process.  Our bacon lost 31% of its weight in the cooking process.  

Since both products contain some water as part of the curing process, it's my assumption (not a very scientific word, I know) that the mysterious lost weight was water that evaporated in the cooking process.  This makes sense, knowing that some bacon available at the grocery store is pumped with water.  I'm also assuming the larger water content has something to do with the amazing growth properties that bacon seems to possess.  Not necessarily a positive trait, unless you're a bored 10 year old looking for something to mess with on a Saturday afternoon.

The take-away, in my book, is this - grocery store bacon is cheaper.  I totally agree with that.  However, it is only cheaper in the sense that you are paying less for it, but you are also getting a completely different, and in my opinion, inferior product.  When you compare the flavor and quality of the bacon (or any meat for that matter) available from local producers, there is a completely different set of scales to be used. Pricing for our product is based on the cost of our inputs and current markets, which we research frequently to stay competitive.  We never intend to compete with your local grocery store - our hope is that our product is not the same as what you get there.  We want our product to be better, therefore letting you feel better about your purchase.  

I will leave you with two other tidbits from the bacon experiment.  The first is that my little scientists became taste testers and even though the bacon was meant to be used for BLT's that night at dinner, I ended up having to cook more because it disappeared faster than I could make toast.  The other piece of information is that the remainder of that little package of bacon from the grocery store is still in my fridge and I'm not sure what to do with it.  Sad, sad little bacon.  Anyone need meat for a magic show?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Memories and Biscuits - Random Thoughts from a Grateful Heart

I am an extremely fortunate girl.  I know this.  I had a childhood full of fun, happy memories with friends and family.  Now, I have a house full of little people and an ever-changing family thanks to our role as foster parents.  I have a daughter that has beaten the odds of a terrible diagnosis she received as an infant and has surpassed all expectations that were set for her.  I have a son that is full of joy and humor that can make friends anywhere - from a small town Dairy Queen to the butcher shop.  I have a farm full of animals, a garden that provides for us and a freezer full of meat that I can access whenever needed.  I can look back and laugh at time spent with those I cherish and for that I am blessed.

I realize this because of a breakfast date with a childhood friend yesterday.  She and I honestly can't remember how we became friends or when it happened.  I think somehow we just became completely woven into each other's childhoods to the point.  Her family was my family, my family was her family.  It's just the way it was.  She and I hadn't seen each other most likely since high school graduation - 23 years ago.  We've been able to maintain contact through social media and we were able to connect finally so that I could meet her grown-up family and she could meet mine.
Back when "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"

We all talked for several hours and shared a farm breakfast together.  We talked about fun times we'd had together, odd food combinations that we enjoyed, people that we knew from school, shared classroom experiences.  We talked about our lives now, parenting moments, our jobs.  We took a farm tour led by my overly-knowledgeable 7 year old who put forth more farm information that most people care to know.  We laughed a lot and hugged good-bye, adding another great memory to our friendship story.

I was so glad that we both took time out from our everyday to take advantage of this opportunity.  After she left, I got out my childhood scrapbook and looked through all of those great memories.  From the orange-tinted photos where we sported too much polyester, through the moments forever captured in white framed Polaroids, into the days of the perms before I entered my teen years, I'm happy to say there was page after page of smiles - not only on the pages of the book but on my face as I remembered my childhood.

I'm going to jump right into a recipe because not only is it a good memory, it's also one of the breakfast foods we shared with our company.  Here's an easy recipe for Biscuits and Sausage Gravy.  Don't be intimidated by it - biscuits and the gravy are from scratch and you can do it in around 30 minutes.  Talk about being a weeknight hero for pulling out breakfast for dinner and skipping the canned biscuits!

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl combine the following and mix until combined:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
3 tablespoons sugar

Using a fork or pastry blender (or honestly even your fingers if you're in the mood!), cut into the flour mixture either 3/4 cup very cold butter or you can use 6 Tablespoons butter and 6 Tablespoons lard until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Pour in 1 cup cold milk and stir until just blended.  Turn biscuit dough out onto a cutting board or pastry mat.  Form into a 1 inch thick 10 inch by 10 inch square.  Let dough rest for about 5 minutes.  Don't skip this step - it prevents the leaning tower of biscuit. Using a long, sharp knife, cut the dough to form square biscuits.  It makes about 24 biscuits.  Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake about 12-15 minutes until biscuits are golden brown.

While you are mixing the biscuit dough, brown 1 pound of breakfast sausage in a 12 inch skillet. Once it is browned stir in 1/2 cup all purpose flour (do not drain the grease before adding the flour!). Add milk about halfway up the sides of the pan (around 4 cups).  Stir until all combined and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the gravy thickens and gets bubbly, but not a rolling boil.  Season with salt and pepper until it tastes like you want it to taste.   Don't shy away from the pepper!


These biscuits are also delicious with butter and jam, or our family favorite is apple butter.  Share breakfast with a friend - old or new.  Make some new memories and relive some old.  It's all good.





Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mama Duck - I salute you!

I was out for a walk on the farm one day this week and was struck by the multitude of life metaphors and quips that exist on the farm.  The grass is greener on the other side - hence the escaping cattle.  Following like a sheep - if you have a bucket of feed (or quite frankly even rocks in a bucket), they will follow you everywhere. How we "tend our garden" is a metaphor for taking care of our own lives.  But the thing that struck me in particular came from a mama duck.

We have a large group of Muscovy ducks that roam freely on our property.  They are not an entirely attractive bird, in fact a friend the other day commented on how ugly they are. They have red, bumpy faces and some of the males have bouffants that would rival Elvis.  I've always been a fan of ducks in general and since we ventured into poultry they have been a staple on the farm.  Their purpose?  To make me smile!  Female ducks are the loud ones and I love to hear their loud quacking.  It always sounds like someone just told a really great joke.  It totally "quacks" me up!

But the Muscovy ducks actually have a farm job - fly control.  They eat the fly larvae out of the animal's "eliminated material" and are a natural way to keep flies at bay.  This year we never got them officially moved back in animal pens so they are just free ranging in the yard.  Another perk to the Muscovy is their maternal ability.  I believe we have at least 3 nests in various nooks around the barn and yard.  They will lay collectively in a nest location then one lucky lady is the "sitter".  But she also gets the exciting role of being the mama.

We have one hen that has been exceptionally tenacious.  She sits day after day on her nest.  It's obvious when you look at the eggs that some of them won't make it, but she stays and sits.  She's just doing what a girl duck does.  And we all hope that her efforts will soon pay off with a brood of fluffy little cuties that will follow her around the yard - keeping her busy putting her ducks in a row.  Ha!

As we sit on the cusp of Mother's Day, I realize the importance of mothers, but as a farm girl I have learned that giving birth doesn't make you a mom.  We've had moms that have had babies and wouldn't do anything to help them survive.  We've had moms step in when they've lost their babies and take care of other overwhelmed mothers with too many babies.  I've listened to the recently weaned babies cry all night for their mothers.  Shoot, we have a house full of girl chickens that would just as soon eat their eggs as sit on them!  Then there's the mama duck who has pitched in and watches the other hens gallivanting around the farm yard while she sits on their eggs.  

So I know that Mother's Day can be a sensitive topic for a variety of reasons.  I want to share my perspective on mothers, hoping I don't step too deep into the stew pot.  To bare my soul a little, I have had some painful Mother's Days.  There were the Mother's Days when we weren't sure if we'd be able to have kids.  There were the Mother's Days when we'd lost babies to miscarriages.  There were the Mother's Days when we supported foster kids that did not get to see their mothers or even know where they were.  I acknowledge the heart-wrenching side of this day.

Our elderly Border Collie filling in as mom to this group
of older ducklings - or maybe just being bossy.
But I also know a lot of women who have served as mothers in ways they've never even noticed themselves.  To all the teachers who have held little hands, listened to stories about baseball practices and helped open milk cartons - you're a mom.  To all the women who smile at the antics of little people in the grocery store and lend a hand to another frazzled mother who's daughter just pulled a whole stack of "National Inquirers" out of the rack - you're a mom.  To the  foster parents and adoptive mothers and all the other women who step in to help heal the hearts of broken children - you're a mom.  To the women who model being Godly, who offer words of encouragement, who remember to pray for others and make them feel valuable even on the worst days - you're a mom.  To those of you who listen to a co-worker's life drama and offer a word of hope, you're a mom.   If you're a woman and you've invested, even in the smallest ways, in the lives of others - you're a mom.

The tenacious mother
 Just like on the farm, giving birth doesn't make you a mom.  It's the heart of a mom that earns those credentials.  I salute you, Mama Ducks!  Thanks to all of you for your mom skills and I hope on this Mother's Day, no matter how the world views your role in mommy-dom, that you see your mommy contributions in a new way.  Maybe through the eyes of the little ducklings who look to you as a model of what a duck should be.