Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Seed Swap

It's that time of year again... out with the old, in with the new. I have dozens of 2009 seed packets, some still sealed, that I am going to put together into a Seed Swap package.

Here's how it works. If you are the first person to sign up, you will receive the Seed Swap package directly from me. Look through the packets, see if you find something you like. If you've always wanted to try a variety, but didn't want a whole packet, this is a great opportunity to do so. Take what you want, add a little from your stash, and then mail it on to the next person. If you don't have any to add, don't worry. These seeds would have been thrown away, so if you plant them and make a small difference, it will be worth it. This is a great opportunity to try some gardening for the price of postage (from mailing on the package). Let's spice up our gardens with some variety AND increase our food independence!

Most of my seeds are certified-organic, heirloom varieties, but a couple of Burpee packets did sneak in there. All my packets are from 2009, so germination rates should be high. Try to limit seed dates to three years old or less.

Some examples of what I have in my seed package:
Brussels Sprouts
Mesclun Salad Mix
Romaine Lettuce
Heart of Gold Melons

If you would like to participate in the Seed Swap '09 (and live in the continental US), email me at fiveacresenough at gmail dot com. If there is a lot of interest, I can try to make this a more formal thing to encourage new gardeners and not waste valuable seeds. I will mail out the packet on January 15th so try to sign up before then! Before we know it, it will be SPRING!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

From the Intertubz

Hi all, I hope you are having a good winter. Here's some fun reading to stimulate the mind during the "off season".

"For the first time in the world, we've proven that GMO are neither sufficiently healthy nor proper to be commercialized. [...] Each time, for all three GMOs, the kidneys and liver, which are the main organs that react to a chemical food poisoning, had problems," indicated Gilles-Eric Séralini, an expert member of the Commission for Biotechnology Reevaluation, created by the EU in 2008.

In 2006 a paper by Catherine Badgley found that, while yields from organic systems in temperate regions were typically 9% less than in non-organic systems, in. tropical regions, organic agriculture can increase yields by over 50%, with the possibility of more than doubling the production of some types of food. A report in 2006, by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), based on 114 studies in Africa, found that organic agriculture could increase yields by up to 116% – more than double.

With the purchase of Seminis in 1995, Monsanto is now estimated to control between 85-90% of the U.S. nursery market (this includes pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers). By buying up the competition and lobbying the government to make saving seeds illegal, Monsanto has slowly been taking over all of the seeds.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What's Next? Dairy!

I've talked before about the trouble with finding ethical, sustainable and humane meat. It is, in large part, why I work so hard to have a farm. But once you open your eyes to the perils of meat, you start to feel that spidey sense tingling when looking at other food sources. And so I turned, reluctantly, to dairy.

Ahh, dairy. Milk, cheese, cream, butter. All nutritionally dense and excellent foods. And if purchased from conventional sources, filled with cruelty and disease. Pure awesome.

My journey started when I read a book at the urging of my good friend in Texas. The book is called The Untold Story of Milk and I can't recommend it unless you like horror stories or forever want to be skeeved out in the milk aisle at your local grocery store. Large scale meat production in this country is pretty scary, but dairy production is not far behind. And like meat, the poorer the animal, the poorer the resulting food, so it's not just for ethical reasons that we need to improve dairy. It's behooves us and our health as well.

Here's a fun factoid: The average grass-fed dairy cow has a lifespan of 15 years. The average confined, conventional dairy cow has a life span of 42 months. 3.5 years. An animal that is so sick as to live a quarter as long as it should is not exactly the kind of animal that I want to be producing milk for me to drink. True, a lot of those animals are culled early, the second their production drops, but majority of them are culled because of disease.

I will spare you some other, truly horrifying facts (like what those cows are fed, bacteria counts, and rampant udder infections) and skip straight to my personal quest. While I still lived in the buzzing metropolis of Austin, I found a local producer of grass-fed raw milk. I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to discover the many benefits of drinking properly-handled raw milk, and just say that my body was very thankful to have the nutritionally dense food source.

Raw milk sales are a bit of a gray market in some states, and Texas is worse than others, so I was happy to see that you can buy raw milk in the store in Maine as soon as I arrived in New England. I no longer felt like a shady criminal trying to score some milk. In my own state of New Hampshire, you can buy raw milk directly from the farmer at markets or from their farm. I found a local dairy that produces certified-organic, raw milk from heritage breeds (the Holy Grail for milk snobs such as myself) and have been a very satisfied customer.

Except there's one problem, it's hard for me to get it. Because of the location of the farm and the timing of the midweek markets, I can only score some milk about once a month. And raw milk of such delicate quality is only really good for drinking for about 10 days. After that time, it's better for cheese making or other "value-adds". So there are the times of plenty every month, and the dry times, where I look aimlessly in the fridge, jonesing for some milk. There had to be a way I could be in milk all the time...

This fall, at the local fair, I spent a lot of time in the dairy barn and got up close and personal with some beautiful cows. They are pretty amazing creatures, but quite large, and a bit too much to handle on my small land, especially since a cow would directly compete with the horses for grazing. Not to mention the learning curve of caring for such an animal and the initial expense; young cows can run a couple grand easily.

So, I thought, what is appropriately sized for small farms, produces a reasonable amount of milk per day, doesn't compete with the horses for grazing, and is easy on the eyes?

It was at that point, walking around the fair, pondering this very question, when I stumbled upon the dairy goats. And it took all of about 30 seconds for one to look me in the eyes and it was all over. I was in love.

I rushed home and did some research and settled on a breed: Nigerian Dwarf. These diminutive goats stand about 2' at the shoulder, eat little food, but produce a large amount of milk (up to 2 qts per day). Their milk has the highest butterfat percentage of any goat breed at 10% (compared to about 3% from cows). As I did more research, I uncovered that the majority of the world drinks goat milk (about 72%) and it contains more protein, vitamin A, and calcium than cow's milk.

All good things, but what about the taste? Every time I mention goat milk to people, they curl their nose and talk about the "goat musk". One closer inspection, most people have never tried it. I recently tried raw goat milk from a local farm and found it did not have any musky taste at all. Goat milk will absorb a musky flavor and smell if the does are housed with the bucks. Handling is also important. It is best to chill the milk as soon as possible.

So having made up my mind that goats were the New "In" Thang for 2010, I found a breeder in Maine and arranged a visit. Now let me forewarn all you readers who might think that buying a goat is a good idea. If you visit a breeder with 60 or so does and a dozen kids, you WILL buy goats. Because they are so darn cute. I am not joking. Consider yourself warned.

My goats "helping" to mulch the asparagus.

My first visit to the breeder, I bought two does for, let's just say, mid three figures. Not cheap animals by any stretch of the imagination. These are not $25 Craigslist goaties. I wanted a quality, proven milker and healthy stock and this breeder delivered. And, she had all the great qualities I look for in a mentor: understood livestock, not just pets, was obsessive about the details, obviously had good stock, and brutally honest.

Not too sure about that first snow fall...

I bought a 8' x 10' shed with a cute dutch door and brought the goats home. They've been with me since October 18 and we're already very bonded. The older goat, Jolene, is almost 3 years old and VERY pregnant. She is due to deliver March 7th and from the looks of her, I am expected triplets at least. Amy is 7 months old and not old enough to be bred. She's a little whipper snapper and tons of fun and she zooms around.

Once Jolene delivers and her kids are established at about 2 weeks, I will start sharing the milk with them. Jolene was previously leased to a goat dairy, so she is an old pro and a proven producer. Once her kids are fully weaned, I can expect up to 2 quarts of milk a day from her. In preparation, I have already started making my own cheese from our raw cow's milk. I hope to eventually get enough does to produce all our dairy needs.

What an adventure, but definitely the highlight of 2009.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Garden Lowlights

Without question, the least exciting aspect of the 2009 farm is the garden. I put approximately 1600 SF into production, which means I tilled it and prepped it. Because of improper timing of sowing some seeds and general lousy weather, some crops didn't sprout at all, like Melons, so I lost about 200 SF to just dead space.

The main problem with the garden was lack of sunlight. Mother Nature did not always provide enough light, with 80% cloud cover in June and July, and then what did come from the sky was filtered by a giant, 100 year old Oak tree which perfectly shadowed the garden for four hours a day. The result is that the garden received early morning light and late afternoon light, which is less intense. The growing season here is 145 days, so losing 60 days to cloud cover was a big blow I could not recover from with such shady conditions.

During Phase 1 of the logging last May, I opted not to cut down the Oak and see how the garden fared through the year. My (conventional) garden neighbor insisted the lack of light was not the problem and that I should expect 50% loss just because I refused to use pesticides and supplemental irrigation. He also said my peas and other veggies were stunted and unhappy. I listened to what this wise old man said very carefully and became depressed with my garden.

As the year wore on, the garden produced very little. For example, we got a single pumpkin, about the size of a softball. Tasty, but sad. The melons failed to sprout, the corn withered and died at 24" tall. It was an abject failure, punctuated with amazing success. For example, even though I harvested my potatoes a month early to head off the voles and blight, I yielded 1 lb per row foot, which is just about right. The heritage beans produced amazing quantities of beans, even though the poles were way too short, from July until the first frost in October. We couldn't eat enough so we canned the rest. And the greenhouse tomatoes, at 10' tall, produced 35 lbs of tomatoes before also succumbing to the late blight, losing half the harvest.

And those poor stunted peas? Delicious. And, I learned when researching 2010 crops, I had purchased dwarf peas. So they were doing just fine at 2' tall, thankyouverymuch.

Overall, between the organically fed eggs, our meat birds, and the produce, we grew $1730 worth of food, the majority coming from eggs. Our inputs, including seed, soil for the greenhouse, fertilizer, and feed for the animals came to $1230. Capital costs, such as the greenhouse and the tractor were not factored in, since I really am doing this as a hobby (and I would have the tractor for the horses anyway).

So a dismal year, but still not as grim as it could have been. The first year is all about learning, so in that respect it was an overwhelming success. Prior to 2009, I had never grown a single vegetable in my life. I also moved from Texas where I developed an instinct for the seasons to New England where everything is totally different. Last frost here is JUNE!! It's already 105 F in Austin at that point. To say I was drinking from the firehouse is an understatement.

I have made some improvements looking to 2010. I cut down that old oak as part of the pasture logging in November. I mulched and bedded down my garden with a year's worth of compost, instead of tilling up the grass in April and expecting something to grow. Sod gardens are always weak. I have formulated a more efficient layout to the garden and expanded the growing areas. Squashes will be moved out to their own patch to allow for more beans, peas, and potatoes. I plan to double the row length of just about everything with the space vacated by the squash. Corn is going to be moved to a 100% sun location and more of it. I will not plant my Brussels Sprouts too early, acknowledging they are happiest to be maturing in October/November.

But the biggest lesson is that I should not doubt myself so much. My doom-and-gloom neighbor who mocked my poor dwarf peas lost his entire garden when the rains came. The lack of earthworms from his exuberant spraying left his soil heavy and his plants drowned. I mentioned the worms to him and he went looking but couldn't find any. As a last ditch effort, he came to me to use my bean seeds since my beans were thriving. He looked incredulously at the "Organic, Heirloom" label but planted them anyway. They failed to thrive in his garden, dying at 10" tall.

Talking to other farmers, the year was not great all around. So my little patch of the earth did about average. The blight hurt a lot of people this year.

The theme of 2010 is production (and researching what I am actually planting), and so I will select from more hybrid (but still organic) varieties and see if I can figure out this gardening thing with the deck stacked my favor. For example, my heirloom broccoli did very well, but because the heads looked so small compared to the broccoli in the super market (my only experience with veggies to that point), I waited too long to harvest and lost a lot of the crop to flowering. When I looked up that variety to find out what I did wrong, I learned I did nothing wrong. That particular broccoli produces small but prolific heads. And true to form, the plants from last April in my greenhouse are STILL producing wee heads!

After I get another year of experience, I will start delving back into heirloom varieties and more sustainable crops. Once I get the skills to help them thrive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From the Intertubes

Many of my readers (all five of you) probably read the same blogs I do about farming, food, horses, World Domination By Apple Products. But in case you don't, in case you foolishly rely on moi to provide real information about farming and food, I thought I would pass along some content that has stirred my soul.

There are many more eloquent authors than I that seem to speak directly from my brain. I wish I had the ability to pen some of these discussions, but for now I will just nod vigorously and do my best to listen.

First up is a piece by Howling Duck Ranch that discusses the conundrum of large predators going after your product. Bears in the apple trees is not really a problem I, or most of us, will face. And that part of the discussion is not what grabbed me. Here's the salient quote:
We have developed strategies for competing with all aspects of nature, from traps (mice and rodents), to fungicides, herbicides, insecticides (molds, weeds, bugs), to windbreaks and rip-raps (erosion by wind and water). We have become so conditioned to these agricultural weapons that we no longer see them as such. We certainly don’t see weevils on par with squirrels, or squirrels on par with grizzly bears. Many bear enthusiasts would not object to a farmer spraying crops to prevent weevils from destroying it but would be horrified if the same farmer shot a bear to protect his apples. However, if you were dependent upon the apple crop for your livelihood, or to keep you from starving, you wouldn’t. The privilege of a full stomach affords us the luxury of seeing these two actions as vastly different. Today, most North Americans would tell me to go buy the apples from the store and save the bear because they are no longer engaged in direct economics and can afford to be blindly unaware of the cold hard realities of what it takes to put food on their tables.

In my own baby attempts to grasp Farming, I have already hit the cognitive disconnect between people who believe food comes from grocery stores (my entire family and neighbors) and myself. When foxes took my hens, I bought a .22 rifle, hardly a supreme act of Crazy. And because the foxes show up at random times, the rifle is parked next to my back door, loaded (but with safety on). My family recoils at the sight of this wee rifle, sitting out in plain sight! The nerve! Such an act of violence! I hope, for their delicate sensibilities, I will never have to actually use the rifle to protect my hens, but I would. You see, to them, this whole farm thing is a game. If I lose my flock to predation, I can just go to the store and buy food. It's not like I am going to starve or anything. But to so many hard-working people, it IS their livelihood and they will suffer if they lose their crop.

I'm not advocating extermination of all predators. I believe in living in balance. That fox kills my chickens, yes, but he also kills mice and (hopefully) potato-eating voles. I don't actively hunt him, or trap him, and I don't shoot them on sight. He is welcome to cross my land at will. Just stay away from the chickens and we'll get along just fine.

The most salient point, however, is the comparison between bears and weevils. Opposed to the shooting of bears? Reconsider your stance on pesticides, or mono-cropped dead zones, or CAFOs.

The next literary gem is from the great Joel Salatin, polarizer and minor deity for the small, sustainable farm movement. His piece is the forward of a book I intend to buy on the legislation of Raw Milk sales. Joel certainly has a way with words, but he is dead right.

Isn't it curious that at this juncture in our culture's evolution, we collectively believe Twinkies, Lucky Charms, and Coca-Cola are safe foods, but compost-grown tomatoes and raw milk are not?

In my small enterprise, I have considered what I would do with "excess" and I have few real choices. I can compost it, feed it back to the animals, but I cannot, ever, sell it. For my pasturing plan, it would be better to raise two lambs a year instead of one, because they need companionship. I cannot eat two lambs a year and I am loath to hold the lamb over in my freezer for an additional year. Unless of course, I can find a vacuum sealer that won't burn the meat sitting for so long. But let's assume I can't, that if I raise two lambs a year, I must consume or dispose of two.

There is no way I am going to sell that lamb to strangers. Who would buy it? I have a single lamb for sale, a no name operation. I've seen the ads on craigslist and I think they are crazy. No way would I buy a single animal from some stranger on craigslist. I could ask some farmer friend of mine to sell it as part of her products. That farmer might already have a customer base, and a brand. But she may not want to take the risk on the animal, who was raised outside of her quality control. I could possibly give it away or donate it to a charity, like hunters donate venison. There is less implied liability if the meat is free. I could make an arrangement with a friend who doesn't have land to raise this lamb for him and he incurs the risk and the butchering cost.

Most of these options are scary and some of them are illegal. I am all for food safety. We have the technology now to keep our food safer via refrigeration, etc. But we need a way for farmers to provide micro scale products without the legislative road blocks. Long time ago, New Hampshire had a state run, USDA inspected processing facility. I could bring my lamb there, pay my fee, and it was legal for me to sell the meat. No longer. And to see what has happened to the private butchering market, you only need to look to an enterprising pig farmer in Vermont.

I am small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but it is unlikely that even if I had amazing success at this whole farming venture, that I would ever attempt to sell any of my products. Which makes it all the more important to thank the farmers who do, who play the game, get inspected, pay the overhead, deal with the hassle, to provide real food for our tables. Thank you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Case For Meat

One of the issues with which I struggle daily (just ask my close friends) is the sustainability of meat. Long ago, when I was in graduate school at Cornell and later Oxford, I was a vegetarian. I stopped eating meat for ethical reasons, long before Fast Food Nation hit the scene. I felt very strongly that even though humans evolved to eat meat, and much of the population did not have the luxury to turn their nose up at a food source, that we had the technology to keep people happy and healthy without slaughtering animals for food.

What can I say? I was young and full of principles. I focused on the face of the beautiful cow that should not become my supper and ignored the reality of the thousand faceless animals killed in the growing of my squash due to deforestation, pesticide runoff, habitat destruction, maiming from farm equipment, etc. Life, it seems, is never that simple.

But until I could guarantee the end of suffering for the meat animal itself, I could not pay into the system which caused such cruelty. So I went without meat. This was actually quite easy to do. Mad Cow had paralyzed the UK and so even McDonald's offered a veggie burger. The years ticked by and although I missed the taste of meat, I was happy for the token effort I was making to Make The World A Better Place.

Then I got sick, very sick, and I began to lose eyesight in my right eye. Back in the States, and working at my first professional job, I had access to MRIs, specialists, tests. They found nothing, no brain tumor, no retina detachment, no Glaucoma. Doing research on my own, I found I had a severe Vitamin A deficiency which is derived from eating too many tubers. Yep, starch can suck the vitamins right out of you. I started eating meat again and my eyesight improved. My doctors were incredulous, after all, American doctors never consider diet and nutrition when treating an ailment, right? Many people can live quite happily on a vegetarian diet. I could not.

I decided I needed to eat meat, but was saddened at the lack of choice. Picking up a steak at the grocery story made me sad for the creature that had sacrificed so much. (Again, this was before much of the publicity around the fecal contamination in butchered meat, so I was not concerned about cleanliness). Until I did some more research and found a grass farmer in the Texas Panhandle that would ship meat to my door. Clean, ethically raised meat that never stepped foot in a feedlot and was humanely killed instantly. No misses, no suffering. I became that farmer's biggest fan and as he expanded his offerings from beef to chicken to lamb to goat, he became my sole meat provider. I had entered a world of Food Consciousness.

The years ticked by and I become vaguely away of some of the other issues with our meat supply: the contamination from fecal material, the treatment of workers, the ridiculous amounts of fossil fuel required to grow a pound of corn-fed beef and deliver it, packaged in wrap, to the grocery store. My dream of a farm starts to take shape in my mind. Yes, it would be great to grow some veggies, but really, I wanted to secure a sustainable meat source.

And here I am. With only five acres, I am not about to run a herd of beefers on my land, but there are wonderful, low impact solutions for people just like me. I've covered the chickens I raise on the farm in a previous post. I know they are treated well and they are humanely processed, because I do the work myself. Every chicken is appreciated and they are never forgotten or faceless. Animals, especially those that sacrifice their lives for us to eat, should always be treated with dignity.

Chicken is great, but what about other meat sources? This fall, we logged the back three acres which will open up about 4 acres of pasture in the next three years. It takes time to build pasture, and I intend to do it right, so there will be no grazing through 2010 and then select, high intensity, rotational grazing from then on. But more about that in another post. With 4 acres in high production, I can rotate through 2-4 horses (with Brego muzzled to lessen his impact, of course), a lamb and a pig. And then there are also the goats, but more on them in a later post as well.

I estimate that my small family can live quite happily on chickens, a pig and a small lamb a year, using all the parts from tail to snout. These animals will live in fresh pasture and treated with dignity, this I can guarantee. Once the pastures and animals are running smoothly, I will no longer buy beef, even from a local farmer. Many, many people raise cows sustainably and with beneficial impact, but I will be able to provide my families' meat on farm without it.

In the meantime, the pastures are still a year or more off. So I bought a pig from a local farmer. I purchased the live pig and then paid the farmer to take him to butcher. I was able to see the pig alive, in his field, wallowing in mud. I was able to follow his progress and even help move him from field to field. When the time came, I was able to specify the cuts to the butcher. He was my pig, in a very real sense, even though he did not set a trotter on my soil. I will have more details about the pig in the coming days.

So in many ways, I have reversed my opinion on many things. I used to abhor the slaughtering of animals for meat, and it still weighs heavily upon my mind. But now I either perform the act myself or I am a willing and eager participant. Not out of blood lust, mind you, it is never a fun job. But because it is the only way I can continue to eat meat, with eyes wide open, to the Real Cost of the food on my table (lest we forget the Meat Fail). I firmly believe that if you eat meat, you are complicit in the death of an animal. The sooner we all acknowledge this fact, the sooner the atrocities in our food supply will stop because people will not stand for it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Farm Raised Chicken

I shall begin the recap with highlights from the year. At the end of September, we processed the 21 Rangers we purchased as meat birds. After processing a few of our young layer roosters, which dressed to 2.5 lbs, I was hoping for a much larger, meatier bird. I was targeting the 3-5 lb range for each dressed bird.

The chicks were purchased online and mailed to me. They were raised inside for two or so weeks and then were moved out into a chicken tractor so they could enjoy the grass, the sun, the bugs and just be chickens. I did not withhold feed for 12 hours a day which is common with the Cornish Cross variety of meat bird. I cannot say that these birds never ran out of feed, because their appetite was voracious, but if they did, it was unintentional and soon remedied.

We processed the birds at 10.5 weeks. We butchered 20 of the 21, leaving a pretty hen to join our layers and see what would happen. It took two people 5 hours to process all the birds, but we did all the scalding and plucking by hand. Never again! Next year, I will rent a barrel plucker.

Our smallest chicken at 4.25 lb on a standard dinner plate.

Nice color, nice thighs, nice breast... but not overstuffed.

Overall, we fed the chickens 575 lbs of organic feed (8 bags of chick mash, 2.5 bags of grower pellets, and 1 bag of scratch). The smallest bird dressed out to 4.25 lb, way over my target low range of 3 lb. The biggest bird was 6 lb! The average weight was 5.18 lb and overall we got 103.75 lb total.

If you calculate just the cost of feed, the birds came out to $2.50/lb. If you add the original chick cost ($2), it comes to $2.88/lb. If you add in our processing labor (2 people x $7/hr x 5 hr), it's $3.50/lb. For reference, we were paying the farmer up the road $3.50/lb for organically raised Cornish Crosses last spring. An average bird cost $14.99. The Feed-Conversion-Ration (or FCR) of the birds was 3.52 live and 5.28 dressed. So it took 3.52 lbs of feed to make 1 lb of live bird. Those FCR numbers are not great, but I think I might know what is going on.

As a bird ages, their feed intake rate stabilizes but the growth rate slows. If I processed the birds two weeks earlier, I would have not only hit my target 3-5 lb range, but would have saved about 150 lbs of feed, which would really help my numbers. Next year, I intend to process at 8 weeks.

Was it worth it? To answer that, you have to go beyond the numbers and look at the quality of the bird. This is my first batch of home-grown birds, so I don't have much to compare it to. The farmer down the road who raised free-range, organic Cornish Crosses had some pretty tasty birds. My birds blew his away. He feeds the same feed so the only thing I can attribute it to is the breed of bird. I purchased a hybrid bird derived from French meat lines and these chickens remind me of rich, savory French meals. The meat is infused with fat, to the point that it beads on the surface. I found the chicken very rich and filling. It has enough calories in it to stretch it over many meals.

Very moist roast chicken. Lots of calories there!

Recently, my family visited and we roasted a whole chicken. It fed four adults, with second and third helpings, and then went on to feed two of us over five more meals, including chicken soup, chicken and black beans, chicken enchiladas, etc. The stock is solid at refrigerator temperatures and continues to live on.

I am a big fan of this type of meat bird, but it is not very sustainable for a small farm. For one, they are hybrids which means that even if I kept a breeding pair, I would not be guaranteed to get the same results. I did keep one hen and we'll see what she produces if crossed with a layer rooster, if she lives that long. She's going strong now, but definitely waddles around. We recently weighed her at 10 lbs live, so she's pretty big. Secondly, they need a tremendous amount of food to grow them so big, so fast, and that food comes from off the farm.

The hope is to eventually create a flock of true dual purpose birds, that both lay and grow to 7 lb free ranging. I will expound on that more in a later post, however.

In the meantime, these meat hybrids will be part of the farm next year, with a plan to order two batches of 25 birds in the summer. That will give us about a chicken a week for the year and a wonderful protein source.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is This Thing On?

*tap, tap* Can you hear me?



It goes like this. In the whirlwind final days of Autumn, with the ensuing mess on the Brego blog, I stopped visiting the Five Acres Blog. I had 50 million things to do to finish our meager harvest and prepare for winter and foxhunt twice a week and, oh yea, that full time job. Plus, I felt like our meager harvest was just that, nothing to write home about.

But time heals all wounds and now, under the first foot of snow, farm work has come to a screeching halt. We have settled into the easy rhythm of caring for the animals and dreaming of Spring. More research has revealed my meager harvest was actually pretty decent, for our location, our weather, our experience. Some things were failures and some things were startling successes. And even in mediocrity, there is much learned and much to be shared.

So I intend to spend the Winter catching up, sharing our final days of Summer, the bounty of Autumn, and the exciting plans for the Spring.

And to my readers, with their gentle prodding, I apologize for the long silence. I have disabled anonymous comments because of scam posting, not negative comments. Keep the constructive, challenging comments coming and if you are uncomfortable posting in a public way, you can email me at fiveacresenough at gmail.