Thursday, June 30, 2011

feeding babies not your own

Experts tell us that a cow will reject calves not born to them. That the mother cow can distinguish the smell and sight of her calf from any other, and will kick away an unrelated calf if it tries to nurse. We read an article about tricking a cow into believing that successive calves were hers, a way to keep milk production high even if the farmer goes on vacation and cannot milk the cow. The method required cover of night, penning of cow and calves, clandestine feedings until she was tricked into feeding 2 calves of different ages. Then periodically taking milk from her for our consumption.

With 700 chickens, 200 turkeys, 180 laying hens, 7 pigs, a whole herd of calves, an acre of vegetables, fruit trees, blueberries, geese, ducks, bees and a little dog too..we don't have time or energy to monitor and influence Sybil and the calves. But when Homer went to milk her the other day he came up dry. Her teats had no milk in them and we wondered how this had happened so quickly. Then we saw the reason why.

Our farming methods continue to be the same. We listen to the experts at lectures and conferences. We think about what people did for centuries. I reread Heidi..whose solution to regaining health was to go outside and climb around, collect flowers, be in the loving care of her grandfather, drink milk from grass fed cows..and contemplate how much of our intervention is really necessary. Part of why we have so many different things growing here is that we love it all: bees and honey, flowers and pollen, cows and milk/cheese/yogurt and meat, pigs and their easy recycling of everything extra or funky that we have on the farm, chickens and their fertilizing and meat, or their eggs, turkeys and the massive consumption of thistle, vegetables and their delicious taste, herbs and the wonderful addition to everything and all of these things keep us busy. Too busy to worry about any one thing, because as the focus on cows might require more time than we have, they are working it out themselves.

 Homer is seeing opportunity everywhere for multiple uses of the land. We have succession plantings everywhere with lots growing. Last fall, just before our pig roast, the hoop house was cleared of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, watermelon and cantalope plants. This year on their own all those plants have sprung up in that same area where the pigs consumed them. We grow open pollinated varieties, not hybrids, so these will grow back identical to the parent plants. A little extra bonus of growth, in an area we had not intentionally planted.

This year as the pigs have been digging up the back fence line Homer has been adding pockets of compost and putting seeds in them. There is not water that far from the house and hoophouse, but he has discovered that the line of trees and the hill above this area are providing a watering system of its own. Every morning it is as wet out there as if sprinklers had been running all night. Now buckwheat and melons are growing there.

The honeybees are happy with this arrangement. The hives are growing and we are adding supers every other week. Feels like prosperity.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

wind damage

Sunnyside Farm is in a beautiful spot most days of the year. Breezy and wide open, the fields are a sight we love to see.

And then there are the days when the wind is 60+ miles per hour, the skies open up to unleash torrential, driving rains or the snow drifts into 6 feet high mounds. And our out of commision, set to the side for the winter, moveable pens look like this:

The winds peel the lid back. and pull the roof off. The wheel systems crack into little bits. Sometimes the wood breaks, or the chicken wire gets holes in it. And the watering system always needs refurbishing, as the hose clogs and the bucket holder snaps off. Here is a pen back in working order, with the help of Jerry Schnick. Jerry has been a huge help in every large and little way for Homer..he has even worked a farmers market for us when I needed to get to a funeral. Fencing, planting, bed building, pen repairs..whatever needs done Jerry is a willing participant.

It just needs a bucket on top to hold the water for the in pen dispenser. And some poultry inside.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

landing strip and chickory

We use the pigs for clearing land. Since we do not own a tractor this seems like a great way to get the work done, and we get the best pork ever out of it! The growth of weeds, shrubs, grass, clover, and small trees is about waist high. Homer rolls the pen over and they munch through all the growth and down to bare ground in one day. Soon this pen of 5 pigs will need to be split, and we will have groups of 2 keeping the fence line and key lines clear all over the farm. right now it looks like they are building a landing strip out there:

Meanwhile, the turkeys have uncovered a cornerstone of an old structure. Based on the fieldstone fence that is in our woods, there have been people on this property for many years..PA and these parts were settled in the 1700's..we do not know the long time history of this parcel of land, only that our house was built in the 1940's..but who knows what was going on here prior to that? We will ask our neighbors, and check courthouse records in the winter time.

Chickory is not, I believe, a native to the U.S. but we certainly get a bumper crop of it. And the bees are on it every day too. When people ask about the flavor of our honey..well, it is everything growing out there!

We are back in the swing with chicken, and will have good sized birds at market this week. In mid-April when Homer injured his back I had a mis-hap with a shipment of that Homer is fully the farmer again, I pick bugs off the potato and squash and cucumber plants, he tends the livestock. That works out better for all.

Monday, June 27, 2011

gosling from another mother?

Our Toulouse Geese came to us via a craigslist ad. Every city has a farm/garden section in craigslist, and we check regularly for things we might need. We had heard that geese can provide amazing protection for livestock and property and decided to adopt this pair. Clover and Toulouse have turned out to be great farm guards: they sound out different noises for different circumstances, but we always know when a visitor is approaching or has come through the fence, as the geese make a very distinctive sound when people are here. And they chase the hawk away before they can get to our laying hens, let us know when a predator has entered the property..who knew that geese could distinguish between animals supposed to be here and those that are a threat? They can and do, and we are glad to have them. We have heard that geese can live up to 20 years..a funny thought to keep a pair of geese that long, but we are game!

The previous geese owners were not certain of the sexes, as they were still pretty young birds when they arrived at Sunnyside Farm. We kept the same names, and it turns out that we have a male and a female. And as a result we have goslings. Last year one hatched but did not survive, this year 4 hatched and we have 2 that are growing beautifully. We also slipped a duckling under the goose one night, as the mama duck was in her shelter for the night and the goose nest was still available.

Clover and Toulouse look very much like each other. Both are a lovely gray, and while his neck is a bit longer and she rides a little closer to the ground, at first glance they look a lot alike. Their goslings are a different story.

It is difficult to take pictures of the goslings. The geese never leave them, and there is always one parent at each end of where the 3 babies are..the grownup geese keep them surrounded at all times. You will likely have to enlarge this picture to look at details.

The smaller, light colored bird is a duck. Ignore that one. The other 2 are both has dark feathers, beak and feet, the other is as light as it can be with yellow beak and feet. Both parents are gray with orange beak and feet..the male a bit brighter orange, but the colors are just a few shades different. We do not know yet how these goslings will mature: they are getting big but are still covered completely in baby fluff, there is not yet one true feather on either of them. And while they both look like geese, and are beautiful, they look nothing like each other, or their parents. DNA is a funny thing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

from Tennessee to Newberrytown

Homer's sister Pat visited the farm with 2 of her grandchildren. Sam and Alex, sisters, and the daughter of our nephew David and his wife Shelly, surprised us with their request.

Sam said milking a cow was on her bucket list. I did not know that high school aged kids had bucket lists..I must be late to the party, as I barely have one now! Alex said she wanted to milk a cow too. Sybil was nice enough to have her calf just in time to be ready to be milked, and milk her they did. By hand, as we have not yet invested in the equipment to milk one cow. While the math for spending the money makes sense..we would likely get a couple of gallons from her a day.. we will pay taxes and insurance first, and use the old fashioned hand method until then!

Here are the girls with their bit of milk from Sybil.

in a mason jar, of course!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

pigs drink from the hose

We are having long, sunny, warm and low humidity days here at the farm. It is just beautiful. Dew in the morning, sunshine, warm days, comfortable nights. The pigs still get hot, and have learned to combine a cooling off and a nice long drink..

Friday, June 24, 2011

Australia changed my eating habits

My sister, Jenny Peters, took me on a 3 week trip to Austalia a couple of years ago. Sydney, the Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef, oldest plant varieties in the world, beach houses, great was an amazing trip.

One of the items served at hotel breakfast buffets was a thing they called muselix. I've seen it here..packaged, registered trademark, dry, chalk like. Not in Australia.  Mixed in with a delicious yogurt, nuts, dried fruit and some sort of grain made for a delicious and hearty combination..not too much and I was filled up. Returned home, nothing but the chalky stuff again.

Found a couple of places with better granola, a cousin to this mix. But still not what I was looking for. And then I got Mark Bittman's books: How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. He has a start with this basic thing and then change it up approach..a simple, use what is fresh and/or in your cabinet style of cooking. A substitute anything and everything, end up with a delicious finish approach to cooking. Right up our alley, as we eat lots of what we grow and the closest, not great grocery store is 7 miles away and the real, have all you could want grocery store is 15 miles away..each way.

Last year at the Farmers on the Square market in Carlisle, I met Melanie from Keswick Creamery. And their rendition of yogurt, which tastes much like what I ate in Australia. The other day she had a long list of things not in her yogurt..thickeners and stabilizers and a bunch of others. I've known it was delicious and sure do not miss all those additives I can't pronounce.

We started making a granola or muselix mix here, and adding it to the sort of yogurt Keswick makes. It is delicious, filling, satisfying, yum. Here is how we do it. O, and even Homer, the breakfast in a box dude, eats this!

We combine the oats, raw cashews and raw slivered almonds on top of the stove (not the egg, that snuck in the photo) in a roasting pan, to just toast a little while the oven heats. Stir the oats and nuts so they don't burn while on stovetop.

It will look like this! Once the oven is at 325 degrees, pop the pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove, put the pan on a rack to cool. Add the bag of cranberries and stir it up. Side of pan hot! Don't touch!

Then add honey..ours is raw and full flavored..add maple syrup if you prefer..

Put the granola/muselix into an airtight container..we use a clear glass jar so we can see it, and when hungry put a little of your mix along with some frischkase (or yogurt) in a bowl and eat up! Yum!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

growth and plumage

Early in the calendar year we discuss and decide what we are going to grow. Finalize the business plan. Get seeds ordered. Do some off farm work, negotiate for livestock, order turkeys on January 1 because those heritage breeds sell out quick. Get some house projects done. Then it is time to start digging, moving compost, install and repair fencing, start seedlings under grow lights and plant, plant, plant.

Now the beds are full of seeds. Some of the beds have been pulled up and replanted. Some will go into the CSA boxes this week, next week, and on until November. It is now time to weed, mow between rows, pick those bugs off and harvest. To eat interesting, not seen in the grocery store things. Last night we had our steak, our lettuce salad, our roasted potatoes. Claire baked blondies topped with Keswick Creamery chocolate the hook! A couple pots of chicken stock cooked up, strained and now in containers in the freezer. Strawberries will become jam. Blueberries will get frozen (still have to pick and buy those, as we do not have enough here to last all winter!). Peaches after that..

And so with the first day of summer comes a shift on the farm. We start fighting bugs, trying to prevent them from eating what we are growing. We know that everything has a short season..4-8 weeks, and we work to get it local, preserve it and have enough until next year when we can get it fresh again. Peas are done for the spring, we will try them again in the fall, but that might be it for them, as we have not had much luck with fall planted peas.

and so here is what we have at the farm now: abundance..
first bit of milk from Sybil!
black swallowtail caterpillar on the carrot tops
volunteer squash and tomato plants where the pigs were last fall..we fed the pulled up plants to them, and might have something to harvest in that area!

or just might use the flowers to stuff and fry and eat!

dragonfly (I think)

milkweed and honey bees

Thanksgiving turkeys, getting large

grapes, in the making

and when I was a kid, my father said he was going to have us celebrate the vernal equinox rather than Christmas. I was horrified, as I was certain everyone thought we were weird..and not having Christmas was not going to work! So this is Homer's shout out to my dad..a Summer Solstice mustard, decorated with onion, carrots and radishes..Ryan shows it off..

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

our hens go to MICA

Ryan and Fritz carried the 4 hens to the lawn in front of the Brown Building, Maryland Institute College of Art.

Here is Fritz..sorry, blurry but it was an action shot..opening up where the girls will spend the night. Elevated and under lock and key. Also guards on the plaza.

Ryan depositing a hen.

Their nighttime spot, Fritz locks them in there, in the morning he lets down the gangplank and down they go onto the grass.

One of the pens.
Both of the pens, and the Brown building (also part of the Fox building too) behind. Fountains..these girls are living large!

As part of his art installation the birds will move around the green grass. The pens are honeycomb shaped, here is what the artist, Fritz Horstman, writes about his design:

"I'm going to have two small versions of chicken tractors moving around MICA's front yard.  They are each hexagonal, so the pattern that will develop will be vaguely honeycomb-like.  Each hexagon-coop will have two chickens in residence.  Over the course of about two weeks I'll move them every two or three days, and so will have a total of approximately twelve marks made."

So 4 of our hens will spend the next few weeks in the city. Hope they don't cop an attitude when they return to the boonies..

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

bee stings and diamond rings

Sunday evening as the sun was going down we added supers to the hives. The bees are clearly loving their life here, as they are filling up the comb like crazy. So we keep adding supers to the hive and letting the bees make more honey. Some day we will have to get honey out of there, but that is another time..

The hive was really crowded. It looked like they might be getting ready to swarm, as there was really not enough room for all the bees. They were hanging out on the front and all up the sides. There are no pictures, as we knew we needed to get the work done, quick. Claire ran the smoker and I had the hive tool that breaks the seal the bees have built. I ended up with a total of 5 stings, Claire had 2. Homer and Ryan were a little further away and did not get any.

Supers on, we admired the fireflies filling the night. Just a beautiful early summer night. Woke up the next morning and my ring finger on my right hand felt a little tight. I knew I had a bee sting at the tip. And as the morning progressed so did the swelling in my finger. And it really started to hurt.

Claire made me a boo-boo bunny like I used to have for her, and I iced it down all day. Took an antihistamine. And still it was swollen and painful.  The 2 rings I had on were 2 different sizes, so Homer cut the smaller one off. It helped for a bit, but then the diamond ring had to be cut off too.
Of the 5 bee stings, 2 are barely even noticeable. One is a little swollen but no pain at all. And then there is the one at the tip of my finger and the forearm just below..still hot, itchy, swollen, hurt! Not much done at all yesterday. Guessing the ones that hurt came from brand new bees, while the 3 that are not noticeable came from older bees.  Claire has requested a bee mask and gloves, says she really enjoyed it. We might need a larger smoker a wood stove sized one..

Monday, June 20, 2011

murderer, caught

Sunday morning Homer found about 30 of our 3 week old broilers killed in their pen. A small hole had been dug just outside the pen, and it led under and inside the chicken pen. Most predators will take away what they kill to eat at another time..they stock up their dens. A raccoon will leave a different trail, so we knew it was not raccoon, rat or fox. There was no question the murderer would return..those chickens are good eats!

So Homer set the have-a-heart trap out last night. Nothing in it, just set right next to the pen with the door open, in hopes that what was out there would walk right in. And amazingly enough, it worked!

The zoom was needed. Neither Homer nor Ryan would get any closer. And thankfully the dog did not catch it.
Yup, its a skunk! No plans on any of us having a heart and going near that trap until..well, we don't really know. We have heard a skunk can spray with distance and accuracy, and that is a theory or fact we do not want to test.
And Ryan has learned a few things in his first 12 hours at Sunnyside Farm:
1. He might not take up beekeeping
2. When Homer asks to go get the have-a-heart holding the skunk, it is ok to say no
3. Chickens are easier. Here he is as the chicken whisperer. The laying hens escape their enclosure sometimes, and nothing brings them back like the sight of an orange 5 gallon bucket they think is full of feed..

Time now for weeding and reducing grass growth in the garden..pulling bugs too..

Sunday, June 19, 2011

knee high

When I was a girl I received a calendar as a gift. It was a calendar designed for children in the 10-12 year old range..lots of stickers, plenty of facts on most dates, room to commemorate all the important things happening. It probably set in place my love for had a most orderly flow to it, was colorful and I thought it was super cool. One of the summer time illustrations I remember was a fact about corn: "should be knee high by the 4th of July". We are growing the type of corn that grows like this..corn that is used for eating, corn that is for popping and corn that is for grinding into corn meal. right up next to the corn are planted squash or melons, and not far away are beans. And then sunflowers too..

It is unlikely that the honeybees will get in there and pollinate these. All are native to the United States, and developed using other techniques for fertilization. Corn is usually pollinated via the wind: the tassels and the corn silk get mixed up via summer breezes. The squash has a specific bee that moves their pollen around..early in the morning while the honeybee is still snoozing. And beans have a variety of little bees on them, bot usually honeybees.

Here is what is planted. We could hardly resist these old, non-hybrids..such great names..
Stowells Evergreen Corn
Blue Coco Bean
Lazy Wife Greasy Bean
Hopi Dye Sunflower

Silver Queen Corn (the one hybrid we grow..too delicious not to!)
Cherokee Cornfield Bean
Grey Tender Zucchini
Mammoth Russian Confectionary Sunflower

there are squash and melons in there too..

Banana Melon
Charentais Melon
noir de Carmes Melon
Honeydew Orangeflesh Melon
Queen Acorn Squash
Sugar Baby Watermelon
Northstar Watermelon
Small Sugar Pumpkin
Green Striped Cushaw Winter Squash
Delicata Zeppelin Winter Squash

so now we must be vigilant and pick the bugs off, so the plants can produce a harvest!

in the ground, with drip tape..

Saturday, June 18, 2011

maters, bees, chicks and stone fruit

The tomatoes are coming in..we have little green ones. The bee hive is full and needs more room, Homer got the foundations attached, tonight we will add these 2 onto the hive. Chickens are cleaning out from under the apple trees, and the plums look fantastic. Busy days at Sunnyside Farm!

Friday, June 17, 2011

how to cook a whole chicken

Sunnyside Farm raises pasture raised, GMO free feed, Food Alliance certified chicken.
That means the birds are different in taste, smell and texture. They resemble a grocery store chicken only in the bone structure, and even that is probably different in our birds.

We bring them fresh, not frozen, to market. And what do you do with a bird like this? If you have less than an hour, you can be eating the best meal..a roast chicken. On the grill or in your oven, popped into a crockpot to simmer dor the day while you are at work, easy.

Roast your bird by first rinsing it off, patting it dry. Best to start with a bird that is close to room will get the most even cooking, greatest flavor and texture if you do so. Olive oil or butter the outside, salt and pepper too. If you feel like going crazy: take fresh mustard greens, chop up and combine with softened butter, put between the skin and meat. Or a fresh lemon in the cavity, garlic cloves between the skin and meat.

Put it in the oven at 350 for about 40-45 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer, and when the temperature is about 157 in the breast, pull the bird out. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Or longer. Carve it with a knife or let it really cool and pull every bit of meat off with your fingers..and make a composed salad..lettuce under, chopped up cheese, fresh raw peas, snow peas, radish sliced super thin, hard boiled egg, carrots grated thin..cukes..whatever you have. Mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or red wine) and dry mustard, pour some over. Yum. Or cook any kind of rice and mix the chicken with it, with vegetables if you have them.

Save that carcass. If you do not have time now, bag it and put it in the freezer. Add more as time goes on. On a cool day, take all those carcases and put them in a pot of water on the stove. If you have, add onion, carrot and celery chopped to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a very low simmer, and let it be on the stove for about an hour. Put your biggest bowl in the sink, a colander inside that, and pour the contents into the colander. If there is meat left save it, otherwise throw away the contents of the colander. Whats in the bowl? The best feel good item ever..home made chicken stock. Put it in containers in the freezer..some large for a more than 1 person meal, some small for a quick one person meal.

When you want a little soup, take one out and heat it up. Add leftover rice or pasta or potatoes. Whatever cooked vegetables you have on hand. Prepare for a meal that is light but incredibly satisfying. Yum.

And if you put the chicken on the grill, it is the same process. Heat that grill, oil, salt and pepper the bird (go crazy if you want with additional stuff) grill using indirect heat..if you have a Weber, get the coals that are hardwood, not the brand names that advertise, but the real hardwood charcoal. Sold at Trader Joes and others. Use a chimney to start not use charcoal fluid! Put the coals on the tray over the vents, with vents about 1/3 open. On the rack where the bird goes, put it near but not over the coals. Put the lid on, with the vent holes on the opposite sides of the bottom vents, also about 1/3 open. 40-45 minutes later, test the temperature. If the outside of the Weber is not hot, prepare the chimney with more coals so you can add.  Once temperature is 157, remove, let set for 10-15 minutes and eat. Save the bones and make stock, it will have a hint of smoky flavor. If you cook on gas will have to figure that out, as I don't know how to use a gas grill!

Need a demo? Invite yourself over for dinner, we will show you :)!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

creepy crawlies

warning, don't read if spiders, snakes and bees upset you!
It has been beautiful weather here. Cool nights, comfortable days, no humidity, little rain. A great opportunity to overwork and end up with sore muscles and screaming head aches from not drinking enough water. Claire and I spent a few hours picking potato beetles and their larva off of 8 rows of potato beds. We discovered the beetles really love the Austrian Crescent, as the smaller, tighter, slightly curled leaves make it easier for the bugs to hide. Then to market, and back home and realization that not enough water had been consumed. The massage therapist at Farmers on the Square informed us that dehydration has the same effect as a hangover from drinking alcohol..and it sure felt like it. Drink yer H2O!

Found on the door of the truck:
and today's project, building more boxes for the overcrowded bees:
Warning!! Don't open the video if you do not like snakes!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

bug juice?!

When I was a college student I worked for 2 summers at Camp Louise, a residential girls camp near Camp David, MD. The kitchen kept kosher, so there were restrictions on what meals could have milk with them, as there are some things just not allowed to consume with dairy. So they offered a drink they called bug juice. Since then, at every summer event that includes children, there is usually an offer called bug juice..a watered down kool-aid made in massive quantities. I still prefer ice water.

Claire and I have spent the last few days picking potato beetles and their larva off of our  10 or so rows of potato plants. We started with wearing gloves but quickly shed those to use bare hands..the better to get the little tiny ones that do such horrible leaf damage. We get ahold of them and quickly transfer to a glass jar holding water and a little bit of liquid dishwashing soap, and the potato bugs sink right to the bottom. Homer then takes them and feeds them to the chickens. In between there is a nasty looking mess of dark liquid in the clear glass..bug juice of the most basic type..I still prefer water!

Over the next 8-10 weeks we will have the chance to spend a few hours every morning pulling some bug off of what is growing. There are squash bugs, tomato hornworms, melon eaters..and the chickens love them. We will use floating row covers to slow them down, sticky traps and hope for the right birds to realize we have a smorgasbord of their favorite bug waiting here for them. I hear the Ruby Throated Grosbeak has been known in the past as the Potato Bug Bird because they were such large consumers of our pests, but we don't have this bird here now. We would love them to find a home here!

The pen with 5 pigs in it has been moved to the field beyond the woods, furthest from the house. This area is still filled with shrubby stuff, poison ivy and generally woody, messy looking growth. The pigs were moved down there a little more than a week ago, and are now doing an amazing job cleaning up that ground. The 2nd picture above is of their pen, moved at least once a day, and the contrast of what was to what now is. They are tearing it up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

lying about in grass, clover and hairy vetch

These are most beautiful days. We have had regular rain so everything looks clean, full and beautiful. Grass is high, clover is thick and the hairy vetch is in bloom. While the bigger cattle mow, the week old calf lounges in the grass, as does Sandi the dog. Homer cleared out an area on Sunday, and when a vole appeared the dog got it. Good dog. Her reward? She lies in the short grass just after the chicken pens are moved. And we do hose her down before she comes back into the house.


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