Saturday, April 26, 2014

getting the pen on

Today is the day Homer conducts his pen building workshop. My part is this.


Making certain there's a little something to eat.

Meanwhile the pens are taking shape.




Workshop participants will leave the farm with the pen completed and ready to roll. Chickens, egg layers, pigs, turkeys or vegetables...depending on how the top is configured...go inside. And then move easily every day. OK the vegetables only move season to season...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

the wind

Its spring. Full on. Around here that means glorious sunny blue skied days followed by cold, windy and sleet or rain days. Temperatures can vary 40+ degrees in 24 hours.

The wind can be so extreme on top of this hill. It comes up between the mountains and fills our 12+ acres with impressive wind currents.

Yesterday it blew the top off of the potbellied pig pen. This is little pig found by the police in Steelton, taken to the SPCA and then ending up here. She looks quite healthy.


When parts of her pen blew away she stepped out of her shelter. Met Homer in the backyard with her tail wagging like a dog. Likely she was a pet before. She looks small here and for a pig she is small. Unless you live on a city sized lot in a place like Steelton. Her 70 or so pounds likely takes up a bit more of the available space. 

Luna. Is in the background giving this pig space. Watching but not getting too close. That dog is smart.

Elsewhere these are getting close to looking like dinner.



Oh yes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

unintended

We don't use much on our vegetables besides compost, a hoe and our hands. So in early spring when we start to see aphids panic can set in.

Praying mantis lay their eggs on our blueberry bushes and on some briars. Maybe they are raspberries. Maybe not.


We clipped a few eggs and moved them inside the hoophouse. Right next to the peas.


No aphids yet. Or peas. Or praying mantis. But the briar is sprouting green shoots and setting down roots.

No wonder our fields were covered in these things when we first moved here. That's a fertile plant!



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

parts and labor

We left the farm again last night! Farmers celebrating chefs. And butchers!

We went with friends to Parts and Labor, a butcher shop and restaurant that opens on Thursday. Lucky enough to be part of the food and service testers!

Woodberry Kitchen, Artifact Coffee and Shoo-Fly Diner are all associated with Parts and Labor. Here the butchers work in what, as a grower, makes us overjoyed. Entire animals. They know what to do with every part and if they don't know they make something ridiculously delicious up. I've been there when an entire carcass arrives. The butcher/chefs there break it down and use every cut, every piece. "I have dogs that would enjoy that" I say. "Oh no, we have plans for that." Is the response.

We offer whole chickens and turkeys only. Sides of pork and beef that have cuts that people need to look up what to do and how to prepare. I'd describe what we had last night but it will be different as the week progresses. As the available parts change the menu changes. As vegetables are picked and delivered those offerings changes. There are 24 beers on tap, local wines and spirits too. Real sugar soda. Fermented foods. And it all changes as seasons change. The weather will change the flavor and texture of meals here.

And, for us, the bonus of dining with friends. And additional folks we know who are lovely. Life is good.


I love a cloth napkin and real silverware. 


Spicy salad of radishes. Another had milder greens and cheeses. There were roasted ramps and asparagus. Roasted broccoli too.

An assortment of in house prepared meats. These were delicious. And I'm not usually a fan, but these taste great


Ham hock. Slaw. Cauliflower.

We look forward to returning. There is something to a love of food that calls us back. Wonderful to see this available in restaurants.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

staying alive

We received a phone call thus week. "Neighbors have complained about our roosters making noise."

My standard answer is that yes, we will take a rooster if y'all don't mind that we put it into a slow cooker. Because we don't enjoy the noise either.

This tough guy has managed to make it several nights, outside the pens, with dogs and everything else. That is a rooster that might escape the slow cooker if it can help protect 400+ hens...


Friday, April 18, 2014

moving on

The peepers we received a few weeks ago are now ready to go outside. Sort of. If it weren't raining and sleeting.


This flock will lay eggs sometime this summer. They are out of the brooder and into a training pen: small with lots of roosts that are close to the ground. We will sort our current production hens, make certain they are laying and then move these in to replace the nonproductive hens. 

They love to get outside. Grass consumption just happens automatically.


Egg production is still months away. They have lots of growing to do first!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

one gone

We have hundreds of laying hens. Delicious eggs result.

There are dogs here to protect them.

How can we tell if the dogs are doing their jobs?


A pile of feathers in the morning right next to the egg layer pens?

Not a sight we want to see.

The green grass of early spring shows those white feathers from a distance. 

Now we plan a change in nighttime dog location.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

lending a hand

The Assistance Center for Towson Churches puts efforts to a number of programs.

We had our kids in scouts when we lived in Towson. Trips, talks, weekly activities introduced us to wonderful people who have remained beloved friends.

The boy scout troop has, after more than 50 years, ceased to exist. So an alumni group contained the great work that had been conducted by the group...mulch sales. Yesterday we helped...mostly moral support...at the mulch distribution. 4 tractor trailer loads of 50 pound backs. Loaded onto trucks and delivered to local neighbors.



Kids helped. Parents helped. Church members allowed us use of their facilities.

A sizable donation will result from these efforts. And a beautiful day of service work happened. And catch up with so many people we have known for so long. Lovely day!




Friday, April 11, 2014

securing

In our livestock trailer it is sometimes essential to secure an animal. Calls to metal fabricators and gate supplier yielded price quotes that made us gulp.

For our farm gate we bought the real thing. Used daily it should look like a farm gate and hold securely.

But in a trailer we use 8 times maximum each year? We salvaged.


For about 1/20th the price we found a strong piece of welded metal. Any gate would be attached with a series of supports and reinforcements. 

Now ready for spring hauling. Different than fall hauling when all is bigger.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

changes

It is mild enough day and night that we are comfortable making changes. The frost free date is still 5 weeks away, but extended freezing times are over for this winter.

We use rubber tubs in the winter. A tub in each pen provides enough water for a day. As the weather warms the birds need more water each day and we convert to the bucket and bell drinker system.

The ducks keep their tub. They like to climb in it.



Ducks are waterfowl not poultry and have different needs.




5 gallons each day is consumed in each pen. In the hottest days we refill 3 times a day. Right now once a day does the job.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

when we spend real money

Lots of times we visit junk yards and resale places looking for things we can put to good use. We find plenty of stuff to recycle.

But there is one thing we spend the big bucks on (at least by farmer standards).


Tarps. Used as the top part of our mobile poultry pens, they help keep each pen light and easy to move.

But the cheap and medium priced tarps do not last a year outside every day and night.


The abuse suffered outdoors shreds the tarps available for purchase at local stores. We order custom sizes with grommets right where we want them. These tarps carry long warranties and are strong and sturdy.


These tarps offer shade for the girls. Rain cover. Snow shelter. While still allowing for a breeze to blow through.

There is always plenty that needs doing here. We want pens to last years without a lot of maintenance. Procuring parts, cutting, assembling of each pen is a full days work, and plenty of money too. The structure needs to remain solid while mobile. So this little investment in each tarp on the top of each pen keeps the girls safe, dry, shaded and the farmers productive in other things that need done. Worth the extra expense.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

bluebirds

We see bluebirds here all the time. One of the bugs produced in our compost is the mealyworm. Millions of them, and bluebirds stop here to help clear them out.


Last year a hollow but still solid log was located. Jerry was here to help move the massive thing into the truck, and then Homer drilled entrance holes and put a roof onto each birdhouse.

Over the last few years we have lost one of the cherry trees. It seems like a great location for birds. Plenty of trees around it. Open fields next to it. Out of reach of dogs. No cats until you reach a neighbors home. No squirrels to bother anyone.

Now we wait. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

not much

We hardly made a dent in the amount of stuff in our woods. It took some effort to pull it out, and yet it was only filled one truck bed.


Yes. It is really really full. We will exchange for a few old tire rims that will be placed in the gardens as hose  guides. To prevent water hoses from smashing what we are growing.spray painted so they don't rust.

Friday, April 4, 2014

vegetables

We grow our vegetable shares for only 40 CSA members. Our equipment and space allow for this to be the just right number.


And weekly we plant what will be harvested in 8 weeks. Lettuces, carrots, beets, kale and more each week. Herbs too. 

At the same time we plant big things to be transplanted. Tomatoes. Peppers. Squash. Okra. And more.

This beautiful bed of smoothed over soil will be a riot of goodies in just 2 months time. We will clear it and plant again. After adding a couple inches of compost.

Ready!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

a smile

Mornings like this we are all smiling. Pigs, cattle, farmers, poultry, ducks, dogs. It is mild with clear blue skies.

For a while this winter the snow was deep. With layers of ice in between for extra fun. The laying hen pens could not be moved.

Now we are all back into the usual rhythm of farming. The pens get moved. The girls scratch the ground to dirt. Moved again.

With all the dogs on farm the best part is that we begin the day with the same number of livestock as when we went to bed. That is truly what makes morning lovely. No carnage is a great way to begin the day.


Clear line from where the pen was yesterday and where it was not.


See the smiles?


Today's buffet. Makes for delicious eggs.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

clear up

Right now on farm we are planting, watering and weeding as we prepare for the launch of our CSA vegetable shares in mid-May. So daily activities don't vary too much.

While we pull up weeds and keep walk ways clear, we walk the farm in search of spring. Are you here yet?!

Every spring we have a small window of time to clear junk out of our woods. Hard to say why all this went into the woods, but getting it cleared out is happening incrementally. The truckfuls leave every year. And still. So. Much. More.


Wire mesh.


Metal bumpers or something?


Plastic containers that shatter when touched.


Cages that used to hold the exotic birds the previous property owners operated.


The vines and trees are overtaking the piles of debris. That's why we work to get out there and fill up the trucks to get this stuff out of here.


There are stacks and stacks of pallets. They need to be burned, but are rotten enough that as we move them they are likely to fall apart, and nails fall out.

Cattle and nails littered about are not a good combination. 

This clearing has to been done in the next week or so. After it is too overgrown to get back in there. Add it to the to do list!






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