Baked Ashe Co Mac N Cheese

During the store expansion we decided to check out Ashe Co Cheese. Mostly as Dan wanted to offer a cheaper butter that was still a great quality and well cheese curds. He’s a sucker for the curds.

This recipe comes from the Clark Family here at NCF. Their friend’s southern mother handed it down to them so it it must be good right? Wrong! It is PHENOMENAL!! I can’t remember what was going on at the time but  one night the adults were getting ready to go somewhere and  the Clark’s were making this for their kids dinner. I snuck a bite. Then when we got back from our adult dinner I snuck the leftovers, yes I know Bad Lucy. Someone should really hit me on the nose more often.

With all of the summer family get together skip the box and the mayo based salad. Head straight for the pasta and cheese that kids and adults will eat up with glee.

Before we get to the recipe of it all lets talk add in’s:

  • Sub ghost pepper jack cheese for the spicy lovers
  • Add in some cooked bacon on top the last 5 minutes
  • Add in some sauteed onions, mushrooms and garlic for some fancy times.
  • 5 Year Sharp Cheddar for the Cheddar Hounds
  • The Hoop Cheddar for the traditionalists out there
  • Add beef for a cheesy beef mac
  • Add seared chicken & broccoli for a whole meal in one the family will devour.

For your piglet cuteness quotient.

When I was done assembling dinner I found these 2 fast asleep.

Store Manager and resident chef at Ninja Cow Farm LLC
Lucy lives and works on Ninja Cow Farm. Most days you'll find her tending to the garden or working in the store. She's cooked in restaurants and as a Personal Chef.

Update on the baby piglets

Feeding the runt piglet baby food from a syringe
Feeding the runt piglet baby food from a syringe

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated you on the baby piglets. Last everyone saw them we had them out for our pig petting event. We have two currently living at the house, or with Lucy depending on what is going on at the time. They will be in the house until they are back on their feet in one case figuratively, in the other literally. We have Stripe, pictured above, who is a true runt but otherwise healthy. And we have Eeyore who is the one who was stepped on by her 700 lb momma.

Stripe is just going to need food and care until she is big enough to eat solid food. Cute to do the first couple times, annoying after a week or two, but no big deal regardless. Then Stripe will be able to fend for herself with the other piglets. It’s just a time thing for her so there isn’t a lot to worry about there.

Eeyore on the other hand has problems. We think she may have broken her pelvis. I’m pretty sure she broke one front leg. Regardless if they are broken or not, she cannot really walk much at all. That means we are having to care for her more than Stripe. Fortunately piglets grow very quickly so even broken, her bones should be knitting and getting stronger fairly quickly. Hopefully we’ll have her back on her feet in a few weeks. I really don’t want to contemplate what will happen otherwise.

Girl feeding baby piglet
Piglets outside in the planter

So overall the little piglets are doing well. They’ve readily taken to eating baby food from us and they much enjoy their time outside and in the planter where they can play and root and get some sunshine.

More updates to come as they progress.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Pastrimi (and other deli meats) have arrived

Pastrami and tomatoes cut up for lunch
Make lunch for the kids? No problem!

We’ve been waiting for this to show up for more than a month now. Pastrami, deli ham, and bologna, made with our meats by The Weeping Radish are here! Fortunately it was the day that I was in charge of making lunch for the kids so lunch was a no brainer. I thawed out some pastrami and ham and made a sandwich from each of them. But not before I made a test sandwich for the chef! Pastrami, fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and Lusty Monk mustard, all wrapped in a tortilla (no bread, watching my girlish figure). Ohh, lunch is gonna be awesome from now on.

The meats come in 1/2 pound packs and they are as good as I’d hoped they’d be. We should have stock for a while, depending on how quickly they fly out of here (remember the hot dogs?) so next time you stop by, grab some sandwich meats for your next Dagwood sandwich. 

Speaking of hot dogs, we do have more coming. I hope they show up Friday. I’m getting calls and emails, and texts from people asking if they are here yet. Don’t worry, I’m also getting poked by SWMBO and the kids constantly asking the same question. I sent two huge hogs to be made into hotdogs so we have plenty coming. It just takes a while to get them here. As soon as they show, I’ll do a post about it.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Don’t let the rain fool you

It’s a great day to visit the farm. We have Alarita here with samples of their products. 

With the rain, lack of pettable piglets, and general normalcy it hasn’t been non-stop people. The girls, never to be bored, decided to go get a game to play. This is what they came up with. 

Girls playing apples to apples with Alarita
Crystal dealing out the next hand of Apples to Apples

I know I probably played it at some point but I don’t really remember how it works. However with Alarita here, it must be a hoot because I can hear them screaming with laughter in between customers and it’s big smiles all around when I get into the store. You never really know how it will go with vendors in the store but I can say that between how good the products are and how good the people are, Alarita will always be welcome at our store.

I know this post is late in the day. While the girls were a bit bored, I certainly haven’t been. But we are open till 5pm so if you can stop by, it’s a great day to visit and stock up. We still have father’s days baskets available as well.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Gift baskets for fathers day

Me – Wait! Why do I have to be in the picture?

SWMBO – Because you are a dad!

Me – But why can’t I just use a generic picture? Like this?

Gift basket available for sale
Gift basket available for sale

SWMBO – What?! It’s sitting on top of the freezer and you just snapped an iPhone pic of it. There are probably cobwebs on it. Did you even look?!

Me – Sure…maybe. It’ll be fine, what’s the big deal?

SWMBO – Get out here and hold the stupid thing. It’s father’s day and you are a father.

Me – But I don’t want to. Doesn’t being father’s day mean I can do what I want?

SWMBO – Shutup and hold the basket. No not there, come outside.

Me – Shuffle, shuffle, grumble, grumble.

SWMBO – Ok! Pretend you’re happy. 

SWMBO – You look constipated! And there is a squirrel in the background! Can’t you just pretend you are happy for 2 seconds?

Me – I thought I was happy. I can’t fake this. Can’t we just use my picture?

SWMBO – Just one more. 

Me – There, that’s as happy as I can be. Can we go home so I can eat this stuff rather than holding it?

SWMBO – Fine, go put the basket back. Some poor wife is going to need something for her husband on father’s day and you have paw prints all over that one.

So… we have gift baskets for sale. The way it works is you only pay normal pricing for the goodies in the basket. The basket, bow, wrap, etc is free (no really, it’s not a scam) so in reality you’re getting a cool present for dad for the cost of the stuff he’s gonna eat anyway. Plus if he’s a cool dad he’ll use the stuff in the basket to make your dinner because that’s what dad’s do so it’s a win-win.

You can wander around the store and pick whatever you want for the basket so you can really get dad what he likes. We have different sizes and SWMBO makes them for you to order. Swing by the store tomorrow 2-6 and pick one up for dad, or come on Saturday and you can sample Alarita products with their folks on site to answer questions and get a goodie basket.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Results from pig day. Some good. Some bad.

This is a long one. I’m trying to get all the details written down while it’s still fresh. I’m also, as I normally do, trying not to pull punches. Some of these subjects are touchy and I really am not comfortable with all this but we’ve strived to be transparent since we started this blog and people generally like to hear the unvarnished truth. We’ll see on this one.

This past Saturday we had our free pig event. In comparison to our Open Barn Day, we strived to make this event as small as possible. This entire event started because of a comment that Gran-SWMBO made after barn day that she really loved seeing the kids faces light up when they interacted with the piglet she was holding. The thought was that we could have some kids out to play with the piglet and have Gran-SWMBO happy, the kids happy, and the piglets happy.

SWMBO posted one event on Facebook. No boosting the post. No advertising, no flyers around town. I made one post on our website, purposefully at the last minute. That’s it. We did this to keep the event as small as possible because we were dealing with baby piglets and they can only be handled so much.

In response to our barely whispering about the event, we had a major group in NC contact us and inquire about posting our event on their site. We said no. It’s a peculiar thing to tell someone no, you don’t want free advertising. But our intention was to only have a small event where people could pet and maybe hold a baby piglet. The limitation for us was the piglets themselves. They can only take so much.

For open barn day, we had only one little piglet. For this event, since the piglets were the focus, we felt good that we had two piglets. Once the day started, I immediately went and grabbed another piglet from a momma (no small feat) so that we ended up with three piglets. About an hour into the event, I tried to go back and get a fourth piglet. The 700 lb now severally pissed off momma sow was having none of it and I left empty handed. Three piglets were all we had to work with. Two of them were runts who we were taking care of. One was literally pulled off of his mom’s teat and shoved into service.

For this event, we made a point to count cars so we’d know how many people we had come through. At the end of the event, we had 150 cars. If you add in the 10-15 cars that came after the event then we were around 165 cars. If you figure 4 people average per car that is 660 people on the farm for our event.

The line of folks waiting to see the piglet waiting in the garden
The line of folks waiting to see the piglet waiting in the garden

Most of those people showed up before lunch so we had quite the line of people trying to get into see the piglet.

At barn day, we were able to hold the piglet outside as it was a relatively cool day. Quickly we realized that it was a bit warmer than we expected and the piglets were becoming overheated. We had to call an audible and the decision was made to move the event inside into our stock room which is air-conditioned. Once again we were making this up as we went, we’d not planned on having to move inside for A/C. Rain yes, A/C, no. There aren’t that many places where we have both enough room and A/C. In fact there was only one, our stock room.

Line to see a baby piglet
The line to get inside to see the piglet. Everyone was very accommodating.

The downside for us was the stockroom was a disaster of empty boxes and whatnot from all the stock we’d just put into the store so some emergency cleaning was needed. But in about 15 minutes we had everything moved and we were back in business. It was in the nick of time too because one of the piglets was just laying there  he was so hot. We were minutes away from just shutting down to protect the piglets health. Luckily the combination of water, milk, and A/C revived the piglets and things moved forward. The A/C had only been installed a few weeks, in fact I haven’t even paid the bill on it yet so this was a big win for installing such a nice A/C system for our store.

Another plus of this change is that everyone was able to stand in the shade rather than in the sun like they’d done in the garden. Just a few days prior the forecast had been for cooler weather and partly sunny so the warmer weather and clear blue skies had been a bit of a surprise.

Lynn and daughters from Lee's produce
Lynn and her daughters at our event.

One special treat we had was that Lee’s produce showed up to display and sell their fresh produce. I know I scarfed up some of the blackberries as I happened by. They were delicious! I saw a good number of customers leave with produce so I think they were happy to have the choice. We don’t charge Lee’s for coming and we don’t make anything off their sales so it really is just a bonus for our customers. Once again Lee’s said they were happy with their results from our day so hopefully we can continue to offer their produce for our events going forward.

So what went right on our day?

We made a lot of people really happy. I never knew there were so many people so enamored with pigs. Everyone was able to pet the piglets and many of them were able to hold them. Many people said this was their lifelong dream, to hold a piglet. Who knew?

Despite trying to downplay our event, we still had a tremendous response. There is definitely an opportunity to bring new customers into the farm by having family friendly events. Had we actually advertised the event, it could have rivaled Barn Day.

We are getting good at parking and directing traffic. We have our radios pretty much sorted out. We know how many people it takes to park and direct traffic. We have a system for handling the one way road and it works well. And we’ve proven, again, that we can get hundreds if not thousands of people on and off of the farm with no crashes and no anger. That’s no small feat for a farm with a one way road.

Girl feeding baby piglet
Towards the end of the event, a few families had a special treat

I was not giving tours on this event. By combining tour groups, Spork was able to handle all the tours by himself, freeing me to be anywhere I needed to be which was everywhere. That made a tremendous difference. Combined tour groups is working well and we are adopting it as standard practice going forward. We had several no shows for booked tours (I still need to address that) but a few people who were here for tours took impromptu tours so it all worked out.

We saw 165 cars come into the farm for our event. The event was free so obviously we’d hope people would at least look in the store and maybe try something, anything. Heaven knows we have tons of really good stuff in the store. For the day, including our regulars who came by, we did 107 transactions. Lee’s did about 30 transactions for a grand total of 137 transactions. If we deduct our regulars from the totals, that would leave us about 107 transactions, total, from the event. That means roughly 2/3 of the people who attended bought something. Had we been giving out samples, I’m sure we’d have sold some more. I think a 2/3 hit rate is pretty good. I know some people will just come and leave without spending any money.

For total top line revenue, we did about 1/2 of what we did on barn day. Considering barn day was all day and this event was 4 hours, barn day had multiple vendors giving samples and this day had none, barn day had advertising and this day had none, that’s actually pretty stellar. If we can run an event like this smoothly, I think this is a win for us.

Now the bad

SWMBO made a special effort to have more signage for the event. We knew this was an issue after barn day so we’d been working on it. However she can only print 8.5×11 signage. We used our two dry erase boards for big signs, but they kept blowing over and people still didn’t see them even if they were up. We need some professionally made signs that are easy to mount so they are plainly visible. I know who will make them and how to get them, I just need to figure out what they should say (it changes from event to event) and get them made before our next event in the fall.

At barn day, we had a crowd control issue because we’d planned on people staying in the yard and in front of the store. We had a physical barrier to delineate the customer areas from the “behind the scenes” areas. But 2000+ people later, overflowing parking blew that plan and people wandered into where the cows were and the food was. They fed the entire days food in just a few minutes. That caused some ruckus later in the day when the cows refused to eat and people were disappointed.

This time we had the gates closed and signs saying nobody past this point. However when the piglets got too hot, we had to open the gate for people to get into the store-room and sure enough, people wandered over and started handing out the food as fast as they could despite the sign saying that feeding the cows was part of the paid tour. Fortunately I saw it this time and broke it up so it wasn’t an issue but I learned later that other employees has seen it and “didn’t have the heart to tell them no.” Trying to be nice can cause problems as it did on barn day. Sometimes you have to be mean to be nice.

Despite multiple inquiries about taking a tour, hardly anybody actually signed up for a paid tour . Frankly, people were quite interested until they found out there was a charge, then the interest immediately died. I don’t know if it’s because they were already seeing enough of the farm for free or they were simply unwilling to spend money. Since we had staff dedicated to tours all day, this was disappointing.

Kids swinging at pig day
A more sedate pace, after lunch

Of the 660 people we saw throughout the day, I’d say better than half were there from 9:45 – noon. We really had a big surge at that time, and then it tapered down to a good flow the rest of the day. The result of all  the people being here at once is it was crazy busy for a few hours and then calm in the afternoon. That’s still a few hundred people after lunch but comparatively it was smooth sailing. We need to control the flow of events going forward, for the customers benefit as well as our own. A steady flow is better than a big surge for everyone involved.

This was the big one of the day. Some people were quite frankly nasty. Several times we had to switch from holding the piglet to only petting the piglet. We explained that the piglets were only 1-2 weeks old and that after non-stop handling for the past several hours, plus getting too hot in the sun, they needed a bit of a break. We never stopped people from seeing and petting the animals, just the constant handling of switching laps so they could rest for a few minutes. Usually after 15 minutes we’d be back to holding again.

I understand being disappointed. It’s unfortunate and we tried our best to avoid it, but we were dealing with live animals and more people than we intended. It had been non-stop since before we opened (people showed at 9:45), and the babies needed a break. Most folks were good about it, but unfortunately some were downright nasty. We tried to accommodate them all and make it up to them. Some by offering return one-on-one trips, some by comping a full tour at another date. We do try to please everyone and make them happy. We don’t have such high reviews by accident.

However what I wanted to do was offer them their money back for the free event. We charged you nothing, opened our home to the public, and did our best to accommodate everyone and you are nasty you only got to pet the pig instead of hold it too? I wanted to ask if they acted this way if their friend had twins and they stopped by to see the babies. Did they get mad if the babies were napping when they showed and demanded the mom go wake them up? We ended up having to closely monitor the piglets after the event to ensure the stress had not damaged them. They were obviously overtired and overworked. Again, MOST people were understanding but as with anything, a few bad apples ruin the bunch. I heard the comment from our folks multiple times, “Now I know why other farms don’t do events like this.”

When we moved the piglets to the stock room to get into the A/C, we opened the “no customers beyond this point” door so that folks could flow right out of the stock room and into the store. This kept the flow going one direction and made foot traffic work much better than trying to reverse and walk against traffic. If you wanted to exit the store immediately, you were free to do so. Or you could look around. Whatever. This was all an audible we called because of weather not a plan to trick people into the store. We heard several comments about “being forced to go into the store.” This comment is just a combination of the ugliness and the cheapness we observed with a few folks. We charged nothing for the event and nothing for parking, we staffed up with five extra employees for the day, and we had the entire family working non-stop all day, plus Lucy on her day off. This comment was disappointing to say the least.

We need staff here a bit earlier. On barn day, due to bad communication, they showed up at the event start time. This time they showed up 30 minutes before start. But because people show 15 minutes early for the event, that’s really only 15 minutes before start. I think next time we need staff here 45 minutes before start time.

We’ve always been pretty easy going about tours. We don’t have a check in process. We don’t accept payment up front. We don’t take people coupons for tours if they have them till after. Frankly I’ve always tried to be easy going and welcoming rather than strict. However we gave multiple tours on Saturday and Spork and I told the customers to make sure they told the girls to charge for a tour when they went in the store. At the end of the day we’d given more tours by far than we were paid for. People obviously didn’t tell the girls to charge them. Sadly the honor system doesn’t work. We need to implement a pay first tour system with a check in process.

So should we have an event like this in the future (believe me there is some doubt), what do we need to do differently?

I have to get better signage. We’ve gotten used to handling small groups of people personally. Large groups need signage to direct them. We need a sign that lets you know the store is even there. Plus directional signs, sign that make customer areas and private areas, stuff like that.

This is a big one. We need to charge for parking. We have to staff up with extra help for events like this. By charging for parking we can offset these extra expenses and make it easier to justify doing an event like this. I know we’ll lose some customers because there is paid parking. I will also have to staff an extra person taking money and making change. All I can do is try it one time and see how it goes. I know when I go an event I have to pay for parking so I think people will be ok with it, but I hate doing it.

Staff needs to be here 45 minutes early. That means more pay and more cost. But being prepared before the start makes everything go much more smoothly. It was 10 times better this time. Next time it needs to be 100 times better.

I need to order a lapel mike and a few more radios. I keep borrowing Dustin’s. I need my own complete gear set, not partly mine and partly his for events.

We need to use our appointment system to control the flow. Even for a large event, we can still utilize the appointment system. If we can handle 100 people at a time, then we can have 100 appointments concurrently. That would have flattened out the curve for the pig holding, and given us a better idea of who was coming when. I think I can also make paying for parking pay up front to deal with the no shows so that would be a bonus.

And lastly, we need to make sure we are clear with expectations on our advertisements. When SWMBO put out the original event, she put pet and hold a baby piglet. We thought we’d get 75-100 people for this event. When interest took off, she regretted her choice of wording and sure enough, some people clung to “holding” the baby piglet seemingly caring more about what they wanted than the health of the piglet.  Some, patiently waited and were able to hold the piglet a little later.  In everything I put out after, I made sure to be careful with the wording to make sure that I put petting the piglet but who knows if people actually went to our website vs. reading on Facebook. On barn day, we had a lady get mad that she couldn’t feed the cows 15 minutes before cut off time. They’d been fed so much by then (remember people feeding when they weren’t supposed to) that they refused to eat. We have to be careful what we promise, especially in our first post.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Just a reminder about our pig petting event

The pig petting event is from 10am-2pm today. Our store hours are 8am-5pm. If you want to come early and shop, or late and shop, that’s a good idea. This is especially for our regulars who couldn’t get in on Barn Day because it was so crazy. You have extra time in the schedule to come before and after our event today and avoid the rush. We also are having a smaller event this time so it shouldn’t be so crazy.

We are extra stocked up on items in the store so don’t worry about us running out of most things.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

7125 Old Stage Road Raleigh NC