Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chickens and Eggs for Sale

We have sold 16 chickens and without a lot of selling.  Actually no direct selling at all.  Local Harvest has been a great marketing tool so I have to give a call out to

We had one nice guy who lives in California who found us on Local Harvest and wanted to get 4 chickens to bring to a BBQ to his family that lives nearby.  He is a cinematographer.  How cool is that?  We sold chickens to a guy from California!

We're getting down to were we have probably 15 or so left that are decent size- in the 2.5-3 lb range.  They are selling for $4/lb.  If you want to make the best darn chicken stock you've ever had in your life, then I'd recommend buying 2 of the smaller ones that are at 2 lbs and cook them up in a big pot and then freeze the stock in small containers so you can use it to cook vegetables in during the summer.  

Now if you want even better stock, we'll also sell you the feet and necks for $5/lb and you should then add feet, necks with 1-2 whole carcasses and then that is really the best stock in the world.  I'm not sure yet if all feet and necks is better or if you should do feet/necks/whole carcass.  I've not done just feet and necks to compare.  You have to get past what the pot looks like with chicken feet in it...... I was going to take a picture and decided against it.

And if you just want to roast chicken, the meat is just so tasty.  We are going to be trying out different breeds of chickens over the summer.  We didn't really like raising the cornish cross variety (this is the chicken you get 99% of the time when you eat chicken).  But, they are really meaty and have lots of white meat.  The flavor is pretty darn good but not as good as a slower growing breed.  We then did White Rocks and some Barred Rocks and while we love the flavor of these, they have lots of dark meat and not a lot of white meat.  And we all love our breast meat these days.  But they make terrific soup and the reality is the white meat is a perfect portion size.

We are now trying out Color Rangers and they look to be a blend between the Cornish and the other slower heritage breeds.  The only problem is that these chicks are really skittish and Mike witnessed one chick run around flop over and have a heart attack and die.  He/she was stressed out from being moved from the first week brooding area to the 2-4 week area.  We'll see how they do as they get older.

The next batch of chickens will be ready the 3rd week of July.  We'll have the Color Rangers as well as another batch of Cornish Cross (we are going to try them again from a different hatchery).  

Eggs are also still available though we have been running short on supply and those with an egg share are the priority and they also get priority on extras throughout the week.  So until the next 150 hens start laying we'll be tight on supply, but please ask as we will give them out first come, first serve.  When the other 150 start laying, we'll have plenty of eggs and you can all have as many as you'd like!

We visited our friends who have a farm up north of Taneytown this weekend and saw the eggs from the Marans and Welsummers.  They are a wonderful chocolate color and just beautiful.  We are getting some of those chicks this summer to add to the colorful collection of eggs we already have.  

Monday, May 25, 2009

Always explore the possibilities...and trust your gut

It took me a while to figure out in life that I should just trust my gut.  I never know the reason why I want to do something-- but then after I do it or after really thinking about it, I then figure out why.

So I was toiling in my garden on the hill, which is a good garden but very rocky, and I kept looking down the hill at the spot where the chickens were running around.  I told Mike that I wanted to plant corn and watermelons in that spot.  It is full of great nitrogen and it is also a very wet area.  

Well, let me tell you that the soil also looks fabulous!  The only problem is that I am tearing up the animal pasture (as Mike tells me).  But that was my bottleneck in the first place and why I didn't think of that area I'm thinking of doing more garden in that area.  And now it all makes sense.  This is the area down the hill- so all the good soil has washed down there over the years.  This area also has been a hay growing area for a while so good deep soil that is loose.  etc, etc.....  

Mike did the section like a zamboni-- it was so funny to watch him.  
He will likely be doing 1 more section like this....

So some of you are probably wondering if I've planted all my stuff, what is left?
I was about to plant the eggplant tonight and then I saw the soil in this area so the eggplant will go there and the next succession planting of beans, and corn and I have another few hundred tomatoes that are still in my 'greenhouse' that I didn't know what I was going to do with as well as winter squash and pumpkins and watermelons and other melons.  And maybe I'll try lettuce in this area as well in another week.  And I have not planted ALL my seeds.  Ummm... did I mention that I have a lot of seeds?  
I just got in kolrabi to plant for 1 CSA member based on a special request.  So that needs a spot as well!  

Loamy black soil..... I love it!!!  It's like a pot of gold in my backyard.

Since we are not doing the farmers market this year, if there is anyone out there interested in a summer season share of the garden, please contact Mike...

This would be a share starting the 3rd or 4th week of July and going into the 3rd week of September.  So 8 weeks in total.  The price for this summer share would be $300 for those 8 weeks.  There will be lots of heirloom tomatoes in the share as well as corn, pumpkins, watermelon, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, beans and squash (winter and summer).  You will be able to pick flowers and also get herbs from the herb garden with this summer share.  The things that will not be part of this share are onions, garlic and greens.  These items are already purchased and accounted for through the normal CSA shares.

The Garden Week 1

I'm calling this week 1 even though it's not really week 1.  It'll help me keep track.
The pictures are too bright- so apologies- it was on the P setting on the camera and not automatic.  Although it is really hot and humid here so it fits.

I really hate how slow our internet is..... during this time uploading pictures, I talked to my mom for 15 minutes, peeled corn for dinner, defrosted a chicken, started laundry, did the dishes and had lunch.  

I've been slow to blog but this is planting time..... time to plant and not blog.  

Mike puts the sheep on the side of the hill where it is hard to mow and the sheep mow the grass.

This is what happens when the sheep can reach the red maple.... oops.

Of everything that grows on our farm....this is by far my specialty.  Thistle.
The realty of organic farming... I will eradicate it over the next few years.

Garlic scapes are coming up.  It's the middle stem that would flower but that we don't want to flower.  So you cut them off and they are wonderful to use with olive oil to fry things.  Those will be in the CSA shares starting the first week.

The peas are flowering!  should only be 2 more weeks for snap peas now!

Anything in the cabbage family will need to be covered.  I thought it was beginners bad luck last year but we have black fleas in this area and they eat the leaves off of anything in the cabbage family.  The only thing I've read to do is to cover it with a floating row cover.  In the fall those bugs are gone but for spring/summer I'll have to deal with them with more row covers.  UGH.....

Lettuce planted in the broadcast method....didn't work well for me-- but I should have sowed more densely.  This lettuce will be ready in 2-4 weeks.

Zucchini starting!  Lots of it started.  It'll be fun to see how fast it grows from this size.

Blueberries have started!!!  Now we need bird netting.

This is the lettuce area that will be ready in 5-7 weeks.  You need to have several lettuce areas all at different stages of growth.  There is a new section I planted yesterday that is just black dirt.  
That plot will be weeks 6-9 lettuce.
This is the 3-5 week out lettuce.....

Tomatoes are flowering!  I used these red water liners around the tomatoes and they have really worked out well.

This is lettuce that is ready now and for 2 more weeks.  This will be in the first CSA basket.
We tried some this weekend and 2 varieties are great and 2 of them are slightly bitter.  These have been out since mid April and my guess is that the other 2 varieties are slightly bitter due to the frost we had the 1 day in May.  But they still taste good-- and it didn't stop me from eating them- nor will it.  I'll suggest a sweeter dressing when you try that variety.

These are the green beans, yellow wax beans and purple beans planted today.

Rows of tomatoes.... yum!

Asparagus wisps coming up!!!  Yippee.  1 variety grew but the 2nd variety doesn't look like it's coming up.  
These are for next year.

Field of tomatoes.  Yes, every stake is a tomato.  I still need to sneak a few in here or there-- but majority are planted.

Field of potatoes and zucchini.  (that is not our house)

Strawberries!!!  I am going to water them diligently the next month as they are just starting to form.

This is a guinea hen.  They are a new addition.

We had friends here this weekend and they helped collect eggs.

I love when the city folk come to see the chickens....

Chickens in their coop.

And finally--- this is Shirley Joe.  He had the last laugh.  We should have kept him in the fridge for around 10-15 days and then stewed him.   He was a little tough but it sure was fun to watch the kids eat him.  No more attacking rooster on our farm......

And now I shall go plant more beans---- soup beans.  And then the eggplant.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Garden Update

The following pictures are from 3 weeks ago-- but I had to start at the beginning of the garden's life.  I love to see how it starts off so barren looking but each week it takes on new life.

We had the open house for CSA members last weekend.   Thanks to those who came even though the weather didn't necessarily cooperate.  I had a special request to grow kolrabi so that will be added to the garden.  I will take any and all other requests as well.

We've decided that we are not going to do the farmers market this year since we have the perfect sized CSA.  There are 15 customers in the CSA and we're full.  We want to be able to provide as much great food for those 15 customers as possible and so although we say you'll get the bushel of food a week, it'll likely be a lot more than that (especially as we get past mid-June).  You'll also be able to take more of what you like and less of what you don't like.  And if the crops are super abundant like they were last year--- then at least we have 15 people that will hopefully take advantage of the bounty!   We are thinking that this is a better way to give out the produce from the CSA as well when you have a small CSA.  In the larger CSA's, they have it down and really do give you the exact weekly amount of produce each week.  But what if you are having guests one weekend and you need more tomatoes or watermelon.  How can I choose what you might want in week 13.  Maybe you really just want a whole bushel of zucchini and tomatoes so you can make a lot of sauce and store it for the winter.  We want you to be able to have that without paying more for it.  So while there will be some standard items ready for you in your box each week, we think that a lot will also be a la carte.  

And if there are still extras after everyone has taken what they want, then the chickens and pigs will love the  extra vegetables.

So on to the garden---  but before that, I'm still on a greenhouse/high-tunnel kick.  I'm learning this year how important it will be to have a high-tunnel as you need this to start things early.  I did start a lot with heat mats and lights but you need the space and the natural light from a high-tunnel to really get things started early and to keep it going so you can plant at the last minute when the temperatures get better.  I know I was a good late season gardener as lots was still harvestable till mid-November but the early season gardening has provided a new challenge for me.  Lots of things I'll do different next year-- including a small greenhouse if the larger one proves to be too expensive.  If anyone knows of a used greenhouse/hightunnel--  let me know as I'm looking for a bargain.

The snap peas are doing ok.  The seeder I used still gives me trouble and it plants sporadically.  
This plot worked out ok except for the large area in the middle that was weeds.  The reality of gardening is there are lots of weeds, but you can always dig them under and start over.  Which is what we did with that middle section.   It is now planted with spinach.

The raspberries are full of leaves and starting to grow.

Onions and shallots look great.  The onions I started from seed in this area are also doing really well but I didn't get a picture.  The ones from seed are so small but they look adorable in the row.  We'll have a nice supply of onions throughout the season.

Garlic is also doing very well.  There was one section that didn't grow well.  The supplier did send a note to tell us that it might not do well-- and it didn't.

This is the newest section of the garden.  In this shot it is empty.  When I take a picture this weekend you'll see that it's much busier in this area.  By the end of this weekend it should be filled up (or very close to being filled up).
This is the potato, sweet potato, next years strawberry patch and next years asparagus patch section.   The potato plants are already 6 inches high and soon we'll need to start covering them up so they grow some potatoes!

This is the current strawberry patch.  The plants are flowering and I see small green strawberries starting.  I'm thinking I will get some bird netting as a preventive measure.  I do not want anything to get these strawberries.  I grew these plants from seed last year and so I'm really thrilled that they are doing so well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Animal Update

Before we get to the animal update let me say that I've sold various tomato, pepper and eggplant seedlings the last 2 weekends.  It was a test.  Both venues were not ideal for my product but it did teach me a lot about markets and consumers.

I love to interact with customers- I learned that.  The revenue for the amount of work was really not there so I'm thinking of a new approach for next year.  I love to grow things.  And growing only my own seedlings doesn't give me enough to germinate.

So next year I'll offer to make flats of seedlings personally for you.  You tell me what you want and I'll grow it for you and put it into a nice flat for you to pickup or for my husband to deliver to you.  So I'll be thinking about that model next fall.

But, on to the animal update:

Tadpoles, tadpoles in the pond-- I love to watch them grow.

Those of you with the blog for a while know that we started out with 16 ducks, 2 suffered untimely deaths, 2 were sold and now they are free range ducks.  Well, we have a fox and he's helped himself so that we are down to 6 ducks.  The 4 ducks pick on the 2 other ducks in the background.  And the Blue Swedish is the lead of the gang of 4.  I do go out and feed them and I chase the Blue Swedish away so that the other 2 can eat.

We have wild geese also in the pond.  The other day, the parents took their gosling for a walk around our property.  I was not here to see it but Mike and the kids took photos.  Adorable.

Mike is practicing managed intensive grazing for the cows and steers.  The calves can still get under the wire so they run off and play by themselves as moms eat.  Look carefully at the picture and you'll see the line where the fence is located.  It's right where the green grass and yellowish grass merge.   The tan calf, Clark, is the ringleader and always getting the rest of the gang into trouble.  You know they are saying, "Clark, don't go over there.  Our moms will get mad!"  In about 4-6 weeks the cows and steers can be together on the back pasture and Dudley can be with his ladies.  This will put them at March calving.  I've decided March is good for lambing and calving.  February I still don't like but March is good.

The guineas are getting big.  About time to let them free range as well.  Their job will be to eat all bad bugs including ticks.  They love ticks.

We also had another lamb.  This really should be the last one.  I do not like the mother and I really want to make mutton out of her in a few months. And the little ram lamb should be good to eat in 6 months as well!  (there is no way I'll ever be a vegetarian-- I've confirmed it time and time again)

Last but not least, our 3 little piggies...  they are Red Durocs and are purebred.   They are likely 55-60 lbs by now so they aren't little.  They still really make me laugh.  We're thinking whole hog sausage for the first victim.  (again no vegetarian in my future- I look at them and I think about breakfast sausage and bacon-- horrible, just horrible).

I cooked up the feet and necks as well as the carcasses from 2 of the barred rock roosters and made chicken stock.  Oh my goodness.  The pot looked weird and I didn't take a picture but probably should have.  Feet in the pot look funny.   I have never made such wonderful chicken stock.  Oh my goodness.  

And the 2 carcasses from the barred rock roosters----- wow.  They were too skinny to eat normally but the meat on them was so tasty that I'm salivating thinking about it.

In the next 2 weeks we'll be processing more of those roosters as they'll have more meat on them.  Let Mike know if you are interested in any of these chickens as you can come that afternoon and pick them up.  If the flavor is even close to the skinny ones I used for broth then this is flavor you do not want to miss.