December 27, 2009

a new life begins.

Wednesday night, under the cover of darkness, we moved ourselves and our 99 hens and began our new life! We chose to do the moving at night because as soon as darkness falls, the hens go to sleep. In this state they are completely out of it and are very easy to grab, put in crates and transport. It's less stressful and traumatic for them and in turn, for us. Earlier in the week while I was packing up the camper, Nate was at the new farm setting things up for them. We stacked all of the crates in our mini van and off we went on a new adventure.
It was hard to drive away from the farm that started everything. The farm where we spent the last 2 years learning and growing. Where so many experiences were born. But many new changes and experiences are on the horizon.
So...where did we go?
For over a year now, we've been trying to make things work out with a well-known organic farmer. He raises organic grass-fed beef and organic grains. He's very knowledgeable and we have a lot of respect for what he's done and stand to learn a lot from him. The farmer, 'Farmer R', has been running this whole operation by himself (which is A LOT of work) for many, many years and he's getting tired and is in need of help. We will spend time helping him and learning the ins and outs of raising cattle. It's a whole new learning curve for us. We have a future vision of a sustainable, multi-faceted, multi-farmer farm where we have a group of people involved and we produce a little bit of everything.
We have moved ourselves and our hens here but we don't actually have a house yet. Luckily, a good friend of ours, also lives on the farm with her family and is letting us stay here until the housing situation works itself out. The good news is that our hens are settled into their new home on the farm and are doing well and we're staying in a real house with a wood burning stove, a REAL SHOWER and a REAL KITCHEN. I'm seriously in heaven.
After a most stressful period of freezing, worrying, packing and moving, we were able to relax a little and spend christmas with our family. There's no rest for the wicked though.....or, I should say, the farmer. This morning we started our new lives as cattle farmers, complete with the 2 of us being covered in manure by 1pm. Ah, life is good.
We still have a long way to go like getting into a house and moving the rest of our stuff from the old farm but for now, in this moment, we're here. We finally, finally made it and we can now take a deep breath and let it all sink in.

December 20, 2009

we're snowed in.

We love the snow. The hens, on the other hand, are not so into it. This is the young girls' first big snow and they don't quite know what to make of it. They are braving the cold weather amazingly well. We still plan to move them into a barn for the winter once we move but we're glad they're doing so well.

We are so ready to move but are still waiting for the final word. Time is going so fast and I can't believe it's taken so long to work this out. I promise more details soon. And yes, it's December 19th. Nuff said.

7 foods people shouldn't eat

I can think of many things people shouldn't eat but I just came across this article that mentions 7 foods you might not expect could be harmful...

Canned Tomatoes
The tin can your tomatoes come in is lined with a product that contains bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen. The natural acidity in the tomatoes causes the BPA to leach into your food. This could cause all sorts of medical ailments, including diabetes and obesity. Buy tomatoes in glass jars, or can your own organic tomatoes using the old-fashioned Ball Canning Jars. Aseptic pack tomatoes can also be found in Whole Foods Markets, natural food co-ops, and most large supermarkets.

Corn-Fed Beef
Cows are herbivores, and as such, were meant to eat grass, not grains. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.

Microwave Popcorn
The bag microwave popcorn is popped in, is full of chemicals that vaporize during the process of microwaving, and end up in your popped corn. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. They also stay in your body for years. Quit microwaving your popcorn, and pop it the old-fashioned way – in a pot on top of the stove. Tastes better too.

Regular Non-Organic Potatoes
Potatoes grow underground, and as such, whatever is sprayed on top leaches into the soil and eventually ends up in the potato. Fungicides and herbicides are the worst culprits, but then they are doused again after harvest to prevent sprouting, because no one likes potatoes with "eyes". Washing isn't good enough, so buy only organic potatoes.

Farmed Salmon
For obvious reasons, farmed salmon is not as good for you as wild salmon. They are kept captive in pens, and fed things most wild salmon don't eat. As a result, the salmon are lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens and various pesticides. Buy wild Alaska salmon. Stay away from Atlantic salmon. Despite the label, they are still farmed salmon.

Conventional Apples
The produce with the most frequently sprayed pesticides probably has to be the apple. The residues don't get washed off easily. Studies are being done to determine whether or not cancer and Parkinson's disease are directly related to the chemicals doused on apples. Buy organic or at least peel the apples before eating.

Milk with Artificial Hormones rBGH or rBST
It comes as no surprise that milk tainted with artificial growth hormones, rBGH or rBST, would be one of the top do-not-eat foods—or drinks. Recombinant bovine growth hormones have been in the news for a while now, citing that high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. The solution of course, would be to check labels, and buy organic milk. Ben & Jerry's ice cream uses milk and cream from dairy farms that have pledged not to use rBST. Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores featured hormone-free "Great Value" brand milk, but did not label it as such in 2008.

December 13, 2009

the downside of having laying hens.

Something else happened this week that added to the intensity and I've been conflicted as to whether or not I should blog about it. For seasoned farmers, it will sound like "blah, blah, been there, done that. Toughen up already." And to the average person it will sound cruel as hell. But this is the reality of farming and honestly, I need to talk about it. This blog is mostly about chronicling our journey and I want to remember all of it. Even the sucky parts.
We had to butcher our older flock of laying hens this week and man, I think it was the hardest thing we've had to do so far. Really. These were our first hens and we were very attached to them. They taught us a lot. See, a hen really only has 2 seasons of good laying in her and ours had pretty much stopped. We could have taken a loss and foolishly kept them anyway if only for better circumstances. We hope to be moving somewhere soon and just can't realistically move 2 flocks of hens nor could we easily house them for winter. If inside for a spell, hens need more space than they would if allowed to range outside. There's also the expense of feeding them without getting any return. Oh how I wish there was a 'spent hen sanctuary' somewhere that could house all of the old layers of the world. Unfortunately, that would have to be run by a very wealthy person because they're very expensive to feed.
We knew we would be doing this someday but needless to say, it was a very emotional day. We thanked them for all they've taught us and given us and did what we had to do. They have gone on to fulfill another purpose...the most healthy, flavorful and golden soup ever. We process and sell them as stewing hens and people love them. Most older folks know what amazing stock, chicken noodle soup and 'chicken and dumplings' old hens make since that's what our grandmother's used.
So, we're hurting a bit here. We miss them a ton and keep wondering if we made the right decision, even though we know we did. We're appreciating and loving our younger girls a little more these days and holding the memories of our very first girls close. Oh, and we might have let our two favorites escape....on purpose.

still here, and brrr!

Wow. This last week has been pretty intense around here. For starters we've been having a serious cold snap which should be normal for this time of year, however, we're STILL living in this teensy tiny little box on wheels and baby, it's cold! We've worked out a little system where we let the faucets run to keep them from freezing and add a little electric heater into the mix. It's far from ideal but we're surviving. I'm dying to have a house again. I haven't had a real kitchen or taken a real shower since August. Yeah, seriously.
Add to that the crazy 60 mph winds we've had and it sure makes for a super fun ride. The wind would howl, the camper would sway and we would just look at each other and hope we didn't fly away. I'm happy to say that we're still here, safe and sound.
And our hens made it through as well. After losing our first Eggmobile to 2 windstorms last year, Nate has done a fabulous job building 2 new, very windproof designs and we're thrilled to report that they're still standing. We're waiting to figure out their winter housing arrangements for the girls when we get to our new destination so we've been trying to make do for now. We thought we had really pushed our luck when we had those 12-14 degree nights. Nate put up a windbreak around the Eggmobile, covered the wind-facing windows and they were in good shape. They are such resilient creatures, it's amazing. Our only issue is keeping their water from freezing which is next to impossible so we just keep dumping out the ice and filling with more water.
You're probably wondering just how long we're going to be stuck in this camper, right? I mean, we were supposed to have moved to a new farm way before now, right? Well, some amazing and very exciting news may be coming but we're just not able to say anything just stay tuned.