Sunday, November 24, 2013

The story behind your supermarket eggs

There are lots of catch phrases on the front of your supermarket eggs today. Phrases like; free range, cage free, natural, and so on. The truth is none of these phrases are regulated, they are simply phrases put on the package to get you to buy them. When you read cage free, or free range you probably think of something like this. Lots of green grass lots of room

But, this is what really happens

So many chickens crammed into a dark factory chicken house with no room to move much less spread their wings. Oh, and so called "free range" just means they open a door for 45 minutes a day, but the chickens never get to go out.  The fact is that extra money you are shelling out for cage free or free range, is just money down the drain, those eggs are just the same as the standard supermarket variety. Those chickens that lay your eggs will never see the sunshine, never scratch in the dirt, never run around, they live out their productive lives on a space no larger than a sheet of paper. 

   What can we do, you might ask? Well buy your eggs from a farmer, go pick them up, get in touch with your food, after all what we eat becomes a part of us. We should at least see how it is produced. If going out to a farm is out of the question consider a farmers market, there are many that are open year round. You will find that the prices are not that different from those false statements from the grocery store. It's time we all start buying our food from local farmers and producers. The average morsel of food travels an average of1500 miles before it reaches your plate. Think of the gas we could save if we just bought our eggs from your local farmer

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Exactly what is a micro-farm?

We have been asked from time to time what a micro farm is, and that's a very good question. If I was pressed into giving a definition it would be this; a farm that produces agricultural products for sale to the public on less than 10 total acres. The federal government defines a small farm as "those with less than $250,000 in gross receipts annually on which day-to-day labor and management are provided by the farmer and/or the farm family that owns the production, or owns or leases the productive assets."
    That's a broad definition if I ever saw one. If that is considered a small farm we are definitely a micro farm. There are lots of successful micro farms around the world, past and present. One of the most popular is the farm of masanobu Fukuoka. It is no larger than 1/4 of an acre and yet he produces enough to feed himself and to sell. There are countless 1/4 acre farms across America that sell their produce to local restaurants. There is a farm on bainbridge island that is able to farm full time on 8 acres of ground. 
    There is one term that gets my hackles up, hobby farm. Our farm is anything but a hobby. It provides food for my family and a handful of other families, it's not a hobby it's a way of life.

    It has been a dream of mine to farm since my teen years, I had all but given up until we bought this place. At the time we thought that was more than enough. As we learned and grew we realized it wasn't enough. Farming on just three acres has its own set of challenges. We have to be careful we don't overload the land, too many animals can kill the pasture. We have to always be space conscious, using every corner, and finding ways to utilize land that may not be ideal, such as the pig barn being down in a gully with a path to the pasture. We have to choose ventures that compliment each other. An example is the chickens and the garden. The chickens are fenced in with a hoop house in the garden where they scratch around and spread their own fertilizer. The pigs eat the extra eggs we have in the spring. One of the best books I read when I first began to dabble was "You Can Farm" by Joel Salatin. He inspired us to start where we where instead of just wishing for more, and that we did. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New batch of pigs need names

Well we where finally able to get the fence and the pig area expansion done. We where finally able to pick up our three feeder pigs, I know what you are thinking "three, didn't you just raise two last year?" Yes but this year we are raising a pig for a customer. 
    Last year we named our two pigs ham and bacon, easy enough right. This year we are drawing a blank, we have named one with floppy ears pork chop, but the other two we need help with. We would like to keep it food related. It's hard to process something called princess. 
Our pigs will be in the old pen until they are trained to electric wire. Pigs are very smart and they learn to respect electric. You might think electric is inhumane, but actually it's the opposite. The electric is to keep them from rooting under the fence. Pigs have a front end loader for a snout and can really do some damage to a fence if its not electrified. It also keeps them contained so they don't get out and wreak havoc on our neighbors blueberry bushes or gardens. The only alternative is nose rings. Nose rings go against our husbandry philosophy that animals should be able to do what God created them to do in the environment He intended them to be in. Nose rings keep them from rooting, and pigs should be able to express their pigness by rooting to their hearts content, just not under the fence

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Knee high in sunflowers


 I really am enjoying the sunflowers in our garden this year. They are big and beautiful. The tallest plant in the garden by far at five feet. I'm not the only one that is enjoying them. We have had just about every species of song bird in the sunflower patch. We have had cardinals, doves, sparrows, blue birds, and one bright yellow bird with blue wings. I have been forced to protect the flowers from the beautiful vocalists if I'm going to have any seeds this fall. We covered the bright yellow heads with knee high stockings. I feel so guilty for taking the songbirds snack, and I have just about decked to remove a couple of the stockings. Guess I need to share with the wild life since they live here too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mystery of the midnight dinner guest

We have a real life mystery folks. It all started a few days ago when the lid of one of our feed bins kept winding up on the floor of the supply shed.  The first time it happened I assumed I must have forgotten to put it back. After it happened again I suspected our farm cat, simply because he takes refuge in the shed when it rains. The lid is not easy to remove, you have to lift up on one side to remove it. I put about a two pound rock on top of it, that took care of the problem for a day or two. Then I found the rock on the ground and the lid tossed to the side, man whatever this is it is definitely persistent. So this time I put a large cinder block on top of the bin. A couple days later sure enough the block was on the ground and our midnight dinner guest helped himself to another meal. This time I noticed something

Teeth marks! And pretty big ones at that. We decided to put a small radio in there to scare them away, along with those rascally crows, argh! 
     Maybe we can borrow a trail camera from someone and get a look at this midnight marauder. Thanks for reading and God bless

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Micro Farmer

I thought I might share with you a typical day for me. My day begins at 3:30 Am. I wake up and get ready to face the day, I eat two eggs and pork sausage, both of which came right here from the farm. At 4:08 I go outside to check on the animals and to move the layer tractor, which is a 8 foot by 8 foot pen with no floor so they can eat grass and bugs all the while protected from predators. They get moved to a fresh salad bar twice a day.

After I move the tractor it's off to work I go. I return to the farm at approximately 2:05 pm and I immediately begin my afternoon chores, my little helper in tow

I go to the storage shed and measure out the feed for all the animals. The layers get fed once a day and the broilers are fed free choice, which means they have access to feed via a feeder. The broilers are fed free choice so that they can grow as quickly as possible. If the layer flock is fed free choice they will be lazy layers. At 2:15 I make my way to the layer tractor as I pass by the main garden I notice something in the squash row

Little squashes, if squashes is really a word, this is a female bloom you can tell because of the baby squash it is attached to. These squash plants have both male and female blooms but only the female bloom produces squash. As I pass the main garden and come to our expansion garden I notice the sunflowers are growing like crazy.
A other thing I noticed' as you can see is the grass growing in this garden, I've got to get at it with a hoe. There is a story behind this grass; a few weeks ago I over seeded rye and fescue in the pasture which is uphill from the expansion garden. Shortly after we scattered the seed it came a big rain and washed all the grass seed you know where.
At 2:30 I finish feeding and watering the layers and moving them to fresh grass, and collecting 13 eggs, and move on to the second batch of birds. the next tractor is filled with a Rhode Island Red rooster and the RIR hens. They are for breeding purposes, all the eggs we collect from them are incubated.

At 2:40 I make my way to the third and final tractor that houses our broilers, nine of them to be exact. They get fresh water and get their feeder topped off, and moved to a fresh salad bar. At 2:50 pm I'm finished with the chores. I finished off the day by watching my nephew play baseball.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Eating high... Low on the hog

Here in the south we have a saying; "eatin' high on the hog", it means your doing pretty good, that life is good, it's similar to saying "walking in high cotton" since in a good year the cotton would grow real high, and subsequently on a bad year the cotton would be short and stunted. Anyway back to the hog, eating high on the hog means that you are eating meat from the top of the hog, meaning tenderloin or pork chops, this is the best part of the hog, and the most expensive cuts. So to eat "high" on the hog means your eating the best part.
    Most of you know we raised 2 pigs over the winter. We took those pigs to the butcher, and we just  received our meat this past week. This morning we had a pork fest, we had bacon, sausage, sausage gravy with biscuits, and our fresh eggs. Michelle (the boss) looked at me and said "we are eatin' high on the hog this morning" I thought about it and said "no, we are eating high... Low on the hog"  but as far as I'm concerned bacon might be low on the hog, but its tops in my book.