What’s life like for a free-range chicken at Goodness Grows Farm? Let’s have a look. “Free-range” means free to explore, and exercise..
Compare this to the conventional, industrial method that provides your typical store-bought chicken. Such birds are confined to crowded, dark, diseases-ridden cells and stuffed with antibiotics and GMO/chemically-grown feed. For their entire lives they know nothing but misery. And miserable chickens make miserable meat. Anyone who has grown accustomed to eating only healthy, organic food but then regressed to a fast food meal knows what I mean, that miserable feeling in both mind and body.
That doesn’t fly at Goodness Grows! We ensure our chickens live fulfilling lives, taking part in the cycles of nature. We grow organic soybeans, millet and buckwheat to supplement their diet. In return they provide fertilizer for next season’s veggies. Furthermore, they help maintain our gardens through their scratching, foraging, and other chicken-like behaviors. Our chickens contribute greatly to our farm’s balanced ecosystem, all while receiving the respect and fair treatment that living creatures deserve.
Most of all they help sustain our community with healthy, delicious and happy meat!
After a much needed vacation, and some great times with family, we are ready to get back on track for the rest of the growing season!
Speaking of the rest of the season, we have a whole new line of great organic produce to bring to you all this week!
I loved seeing those that came over last week to pick your own, we had lots to clean up, and still have a little left from the early spring season, so if you are in the mood for more broccoli, cauliflower, kale or swiss chard, than you are in luck! Last Saturday for our family reunion I made a wonderful-
Asian Kohlrabi and Broccoli Salad
1 Kohlrabi shredded
1 cup of broccoli broken into tiny florets
1 Tablespoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts
1/4 cup dried fruit of choice ( I used dried figs on Saturday, but I have used other fruits too and it seems like any work well)
Combine and chill for 30 minutes. Serve cold.
So what’s new this week?
Eggplant will begin to appear on our tables as well as Okra, Peppers and serous amounts of TOMATOES!!!!!!
I’m also excited to tell you that our zuchini and squash blossoms are ready to take a place at the table too!
This evening I made a delicious pesto pizza for our crew!
1 bunch of basil, large stems removed
2 cloves of garlic
2 T olive oil
2 T sunflower seeds or pine nuts
2 T Parmesan cheese
pinch of sea salt
Add all ingredients to food processor and process on high until well mixed and there are no chunks left.
You can freeze this pesto in ice cube trays for the winter months. Just fill your ice cube trays with the pesto and freeze. Once you have pesto cubes, you can pop them out of the tray and into freezer bags with the date and contents labeled.
These cubes will make quick and easy meals for you later on!
We will have plenty of basil for the rest of the summer!
Our green beans are blooming, but I’m not sure we will see beans until next week.
We received a call last weekend about bees that had colonized in the siding of a clients home. OH JOY!!!! Not for the homeowner, of course, but we have been considering getting bees again. We haven’t had bees since we moved to the farm, and it just seems that the time is right.
Our very first date was at “Bee School.” We had taken a class on raising honey bees at the Lavale Library in Maryland offered by the Allegheny Mountain Beekeeper’s Association. I was thrilled to be asked to such an interesting venue. It sure beats the ole dinner and a movie anyday. And I learned so much during the class.
Back to the bees. Our wonderful clients know that Rob can handle this kind of situation with courtesy to life and asked if he would remove the bees. We just so happened to have a hive body ready to go in the barn, empty and waiting for a colony. Rob got his gear ready and went this evening to recover the bees.
Finding a livestock vet can be grueling especially if you have small animals, and only a few. Right now we have five milking nannies, one buck, 1 yearling doe, 8 kids, four ewes and 6 lambs, four pigs, and about 130 chickens of various ages and breeds. This list could be why so many vets have said, I can’t help you. Is it too diverse? Should we need to have 100 head of cattle to make your trip worth while? How about if we just raised chickens, or pigs, or goats or sheep? Maybe I can find an egg laying dog and just make the whole thing much easier!
Dr. Michelle Anderson is a diamond in the ruff, and a Godsend to us. We have a standing yearly appointment with her to make sure that all of our animals are happy and healthy. We are also coached by her along the way to make sure that we are doing all of the right things to keep it that way. Dr. Anderson has taught me so much about livestock health. She has instructed me on giving tetnus shots, the life cycle of a parasite, nutritional requirements and infection prevention. She also has shown me how to castrate and dehorn in the safest, mildest way, train my goats how to not kick me while I’m milking them, and handle my sheep so they respond to guidance.
Dr. Anderson is also working with us on our raw milk certification for the goats and sheep. A vet that does all of this for their clients is PRICELESS!!!! And even though her value is far beyond what I could ever afford, she still only charges a very minimal fee for her work. Infact, she will tell us if there are state programs to cover the costs of testing for milk permits, just to save us a little money.
My animals are very healthy, but I know that if I had any other vet, that wouldn’t be the case. Dr. Anderson is in every way a teacher of good things for the farmer and the animals. When looking for a vet, consider this post. Remember to ask your vet if there are things that you can improve on. It is horrible to have an emergency with pets and animals. If you are armed with a good animal first aid kit, and the right knowledge, you may only need an annual well check too!
Some of my favorite bloggers are posting quite a bit about predators harming their chickens. I am familiar with this malady, as it took us six years to keep a clutch of chickens from harm’s way.
The barn hosted another entirely different set of circumstances, which we did not know about until our first clutch of chickens were nearly mature. We didn’t know about these predators because they were primarily of the nocturnal species of wildlife that you only read about, never really seeing them too much. These included opossums, raccoons, bats, coyote, rats and weasels. Five of the six listed here are threats to chickens. And these critters had at a feast every year for six years, despite my attempts at trying to fool, cage proof, catch and remove them.
One year, I even tried keeping our chicks in a pigeon coop on the second story of our tractor shed. I climbed a ladder everyday, making several trips with water, feed and poultry litter. This was done in vain, because it was one hot July morning that I climbed that ladder only to find lots of dead chickens. Apparently a few raccoons figured out how to get into the top of the tractor shed and wasted the entire group of them. It was horribly sad, and a real mess to deal with.
That was the last of the chicken massacres via wildlife predators. That was also after we moved larger livestock into the barn, and decided to feed our chickens near the bigger animals. These bigger animals were our goats. We spent a considerable amount of time catching and removing the wild animals from the barn, and we moved and cleaned up many habitats they were apparently residing.
We acquired some adult Araucana hens and roosters. We let them free range. They took roost in trees, high barn lofts and along the stalls of the goats. Araucana Americana or Easter egg chickens are not the same, but very similar. Ours are probably not pure breed, that doesn’t matter to me because they are alive and thriving. They have survival instincts far surpassing many other domestic varieties. They can jump and fly rather well. They can run fast. The hens make great mothers. They do not, however lay many eggs in the winter, I have addressed this by introducing other domestic breeds slowly and a little at a time. I trade fertile eggs with other farmers and allow our hens to hatch them, and our hens protect their peeps fiercely.
The first winter we had our Araucana chickens, a peacock showed up and roosted with the chickens. This was not only very strange, but entertaining and a fine conversation piece. He came in with a bunch of wild turkeys in the hay fields. I spotted him in the fields a few times wondering “What in the world is that?” About two weeks after my first sighting of him, he decided to live with us for the winter. He roosted in the trees too, and ate with the chickens, squawked when someone came to our house, and strutted his stuff for the hens. When spring returned, so did the turkeys, and our peacock guest left the same way he came, with the turkeys.
I learned some valuable lessons through this experience.
If you can’t beat wildlife, join it and try a wilder breed of stock to begin with.
Having our chickens in a cage or pen only kept our chickens confined to make it easy for predators to catch. Once the predators know they can eat, they will return and find a way to their next meal.
Having diversity throughout the operation can serve many purposes, like having larger animals close by as a deterrent to predators. Our first goats here had their horns. I don’t recommend horned goats, and prefer dis-budded goats, but they were able to defend themselves for the first few years and no major injuries occurred to the goats.
We got our piglets today from one of our neighboring farms. The farm we got them from just raises hogs for slaughter. The farm is interesting, mysterious and curious to say the least. We have never actually been inside the barn they came from, the farmer doesn’t allow visitors in. I do know that it is really dark, I know this from trying to peak inside during the very short period of time the door is open. There are no windows in the barn, and it is kept at 70 degrees all year-long. The farmer raises and mixes his own feed, and I have bought grains from his field before. The piglets I get from him are always healthy and docile, albeit very anxious when they first arrive in our bright world.
We raise a few hogs every year for a multitude of purposes. All of the animals we raise here have many purposes. Our piglets help keep our milk fresh. When milk has gone beyond the point of using, we give it to the piglets. Waste not want not. They grow fast on sheep and goat’s milk, and when they are big enough, and it is warm enough, they move to their forever home, at least for the rest of the season.
The hogs on our farm work our compost. Our compost is totally vegetarian, and so are our pigs. As the gardens get cleaned of leftover broccoli plants, bolted lettuce, misplaced lamb’s quarter and other wonderful edibles, we feed them to the compost pile which is where our hogs live. We also give them kitchen scraps and whey after making cheese. Their home at this time of the season consists of an old concrete silage shoot that hold 287 cubic yards of debris. We have never had it at full capacity, but I’d like to one day. The hogs eat what they want, and more importantly, they are constantly working the compost heap with their snouts. They also add vital manure to the mix. In the heat of the summer, the pigs stay under a shade tent that Rob made for them over the silage shoot. During hot afternoons, Rob or I will go and spray them with water. They love it, it’s kind of like watching my boys on a slip and slide. This spraying not only cools the hogs down, but it adds moisture to the compost, further helping it to breakdown.
When the weather cools, usually late October, our hogs make the ultimate sacrifice. They are around 250 lbs by then, and eating much more voraciously than we can accommodate. We humanly slaughter, with a 22 to the head and process the hogs here on the farm. Ending lives is always the hardest thing to do, but if we are to eat meat, this is the only way we will do it. It is sustainable to us.
I don’t feel guilty about our hogs, I feel that the lives they have here are far better than a fate of staying in that dark, densely populated barn, with no one to play with them. I do get attached to them, sometimes that is hard.