Friday, January 30, 2015


It is cold. Predicted to be below freezing day and night for the next week. Tough days to have livestock. And to live in a cinder block house. And rabbits are eating our spinach.

Then the sun shines, and in the hoophouse out of the wind it is warm and sunny. A trip to Hershey yields this:

Sold out of all eggs!

And this:

Empty egg cartons!

And orders for CSA shares this summer of eggs and chickens!

We can get through these next few weeks. Then it starts to warm up. Not warm...but not as many days below zero. We can do this!

Monday, January 19, 2015

books to go

Recently boxes and bags of books were loaded into the back of my truck.

Several people had expressed the need to shed stuff without going into a landfill.

We dropped the books off at The Book Thing. Only open on Saturday and Sunday, The Book Thing takes all books. Textbooks, novels, how to, kids they take it all.

We were not the only ones who dropped off books this week!

The books are sorted through and then shelved, by category.

And then anyone who wants books can take all they want. For free.

Years ago I was there getting a couple books. A woman in line with me had a big box of books she was carrying out. 

She told me she was taking the books to the prison, where the inmates would take the books apart, split into chapters, and pass around to read until the paper itself fell apart.

Since then we have always taken books there. Free books seem like a good idea.

The building is at an odd angle with the front door facing away from the one way street.

And the sign is not exactly high visibility.

The parking lot was completely full. The streets had cars parked on either side, full up. 

Young men with volunteer stickers affixed to their sweatshirts unloaded the books we had gathered and brought along.

Keeping stuff out of the trash, out of the landfill. My favorite.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

a tremendous support

We feed our pigs table scraps, restaurant prep waste, stale bread and outdated milk.

I attended a professional workshop recently on hog raising. Timelines were expressed on raising hogs that I could not comprehend: just a few months from piglet to bacon. Its kinda reassuring that our pigs can't bulk up that quickly. The professional implied that our slow growing, sod busting, scrap eating pigs might not be the most effective way to sustain a farm. Hmm. Maybe. But it sure is delicious!

I visit several locations weekly and load the food that would usually go into a dumpster into the back of my truck. And bring it to the farm where the pigs get it.

The people who arrange these transactions are folks who have, in their food serving careers, seen tons of perfectly fine food go into dumpsters to be hauled to landfills. Bothersome to pitch perfectly fine food. And somehow we have met up and now keep plenty of stuff out of local landfills.

One of our food bypass advocates made a request about a year ago. For one thing: a Barred Rock laying hen.

A pretty breed of bird, with the black and white pattern. Shown here with Rhode Island Reds.

Last year at this time we had a flock of almost ready to lay hens. We pulled one out, and off the bird went to a new home. The home of one of these great farm supporter, one that helps keep food out of the landfill.

And then, a few months passed. No eggs. And the bird started crowing. It had a big beautiful comb and oversized wattles. Our "we can't thank you enough for all you do for our farm" bird was a flop. No eggs from that bird!

The request has been made again. Could I bring a hen to this generous soul? 

This year, I believe we will scout out the biggest, healthiest looking bird just like we did last year. And then take the bird right next to it. And hope that this one produces actual and not annoyed neighbors!

Friday, January 9, 2015

each is different

We have a lot of dogs now. One hardly qualifies as a dog anymore: old, feeble, going deaf and blind, its all she can do to eat, go outside briefly, then back to sleep.

But Jasmine. Traded two chickens and a dozen eggs for her in a parking lot in Lancaster. They said she was a Jack Russell. She is not. At all.

She lives to chase things. Not to hurt them, but just to nip at heels and get things where she wants them. She has the heaviest, thickest coat of any of our dogs. She's the one who burned her fur but not her skin. And makes Claire sneeze, even though Claire is really allergic to cats and not any of our other dogs.

The school bus drives in front of our house most days. Mid-afternoon. If Jasmine sees the bus driving towards her she does her best to chase it down. At 3:15pm today she was quietly sitting, all be herself, in the front yard. In the sun, next to the tree, with ears up and an intense gaze up the road. I'm certain she has figured out how to tell time, and when that bus will zoom past she will run, at top speed, along the fence line trying to catch it.

None of the other dogs do this. While Chaz is barking every time a firecracker pops, Jasmine snoozes. When Luna is barking and fighting with the pigs over a stale loaf of bread, Jasmine is quietly ignoring her.

She is the most content dog I've ever known. Happy to see everyone. Rarely barks. Always looks like she's smiling. Not picky about anything. Not destructive. 

But if you are a big yellow school bus, watch out. She has learned to tell time and she is waiting to give chase.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

farmer eats, frigid temperatures edition

Ouch. Its early for below freezing temperatures both day and night. Hoping for a warming trend.

The hens are laying a few more eggs each day. As the levels of daylight increase so do their laying standards!

We have eggs available for our customers again. Not a lot yet, but that will happen, soon!

And on these days when it is 7° or 12° or ridiculous numbers like that, some eggs freeze in the nest boxes. We collect eggs more than once a day, but with temperatures this cold...

Some end up with hairline fractures as the egg itself freezes and expands. These eggs don't go into cartons they go into a bowl in our kitchen, and then we cook them up! There is nothing wrong with the egg. And it sure is cold.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

and now

Our near forecast indicates low temperatures so low that a cover on the face is required while doing chores, as damage can happen to the skin. Homer has a neoprene mask he wears when it is this cold out.

Overnight the temperature is expected to be 7°. We add extra straw everywhere for every animal, and they snuggle right into it, together. It is a snuggling in time.

And yet food is needed, maybe a bit of extra food to function in such cold.

We feed extra to our livestock and ourselves when it is so cold.

We don't maintain bird feeders. We used to, but now we see the birds all over our property, finding places to snug in and shelter themselves. And foraging, all over the place, for all sorts of things. I watched a bird walk about and then pull a slug from a tuft of grass the other day. Swallowed in a quick gulp. 

We don't ever spray our pastures or our vegetable beds. We have sections of pasture that are not used, that we allow to lie fallow each year. Not the same spots, but always some. There are brambles in the back that have a myriad of other things growing in there. We can't really get good pictures, as it is too cold to have fingers and photo taking gear out and about right now.

But we see the songbirds here, near the house. As we move quickly through the chores, providing liquid water a couple of times daily to our chickens, we see the songbirds. We refill the water bowls for the dogs and see the songbirds visit to dip their beaks.

This is dangerous, lifethreatening weather. We are careful to stay dry and warm and to plan our time outside carefully. We are healthy and happy, and want all on farm to be so too. This weather can change that quickly. 

The songbirds and all of our livestock are safe here, as they forage in decreasing amounts of grass. Where the chickens are this time of year nothing grows back until spring. They strip the ground and it stays bare until the weather warms...ten weeks? Or eight weeks from now? As our birds get down to the end of fresh forage it causes us to chuckle as they search, find and eat bugs, slugs and the like. And then we run back to shelter ourselves.


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