Total Pageviews

Sunday, April 29, 2007

More Chicken

Picked up 100 pullets today down a Mt Healthy. That makes 151 chickens on our farm-all for eating, none for laying. We took the chicks out of he box hey came in, gave each one a drink of water and put them out on grass in the sun. leaving them to their own devices while we ate lunch and caught a bit of the race at Talledega (Jeff Gordon won which will make my friend Rosie quite happy). During lunch we decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to turn the brooder lamp on and put them in the tractor and shut the door after Eugene ran up there a couple of times to check on them.

So I went up to the peeps and one by one put all 100 into the tractor. This was not too hard to do as most were falling asleep and were very easy to catch. I was dubious that with 100 chicks there would be enough room under one brooder lamp (we have always done 50 at a time in the past and that is what we are set up to do comfortably ) but they seemed quite happy and content and well spread out but not so much to tell us they are too warm and need the lamp raised. They will likely stay inside for a day or two so they get used to the idea of the brooder lamp and know to get under it when they get chilled. After that they can come and go at will.

The older group of 51 birds is halfway to table weight and will go to the killers in another 3.5 to 4.5 weeks. These are our experimental batch of chicken cuts. In The past we have offered whole birds only. But after asking people on my email list what they would prefer we decided I would be well worth getting some of our birds processed into cuts like wings, legs, thighs and boneless breasts. If these sell well for us we will do more.

More Chicken

Picked up 100 pullets today down a Mt Healthy. That makes 151 chickens on our farm-all for eating, none for laying. We took the chicks out of he box hey came in, gave each one a drink of water and put them out on grass in the sun. leaving them to their own devices while we ate lunch and caught a bit of the race at Talledega (Jeff Gordon won which will make my friend Rosie quite happy). During lunch we decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to turn the brooder lamp on and put them in the tractor and shut the door after Eugene ran up there a couple of times to check on them.

So I went up to the peeps and one by one put all 100 into the tractor. This was not too hard to do as most were falling asleep and were very easy to catch. I was dubious that with 100 chicks there would be enough room under one brooder lamp (we have always done 50 at a time in the past and that is what we are set up to do comfortably ) but they seemed quite happy and content and well spread out but not so much to tell us they are too warm and need the lamp raised. They will likely stay inside for a day or two so they get used to the idea of the brooder lamp and know to get under it when they get chilled. After that they can come and go at will.

The older group of 51 birds is halfway to table weight and will go to the killers in another 3.5 to 4.5 weeks. These are our experimental batch of chicken cuts. In The past we have offered whole birds only. But after asking people on my email list what they would prefer we decided I would be well worth getting some of our birds processed into cuts like wings, legs, thighs and boneless breasts. If these sell well for us we will do more.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More Reasons to Eat Local

I pulled this off of the slow food forum
Remember Farmers Market season is just about upon us (mine start May 5th) so now is the time to hop on the local foods bandwagon. Remember the food corporations care about shareholders, not us and the USDA is run by these corporate interests.

If you didn't have enough reasons to make preservation of local agriculture a top priority, perhaps the latest developments related to the melamine contamination of pet food will convince you.

If you've been following recent national and local news headlines you should have seen stories regarding the melamine contaminated "pet" food being introduced into our food supply by hog farmers who fed their animals the aforementioned contaminated product to their animals as "salvage" pet food. Salvage pet food means pet food (dog and cat) in distribution that is no longer available for retail sale. Examples of distressed pet food include, but are not limited to, dented cans, torn bags, or pet food past its sell-by date....and apparently although is not good enough to be fed to our pets, it is apparently good enough to be fed to livestock that will eventually end up on your family's table. Interestingly enough, there is actually a Federal ban on feeding salvage pet food to ruminants due to fear of spreading BSE. here's the gist of it:

"A Federal rule that prohibits feeding protein derived from the tissues of animals to ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, deer, elk, bison, and buffalo became effective on August 4, 1997. The purpose of the regulation is to prevent the establishment and amplification of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States, and thereby minimize any risk to animals and humans. "

So the USDA recognizes potential danger in using salvage pet food to feed livestock, but is willing to make some exceptions.

Preliminary investigation by independent watchdog groups, the media, and our own Congress has turned up what amounts to massive failure and negligence on the part of our government agencies to protect our food supply. According to the USDA the main sources of contaminated or inappropriate food products appear to be FOREIGN in nature. However, there is NO ban on feeding salvage pet food (or a number of other questionable or non-USDA approved items) to livestock in many countries we import food from...and so here we are back to foreign food imports that don't get much attention from our inspectors being introduced into our food supply.

Additionally, the amount of foreign food products and ingredients imported into the US has increased substantially in the last few years. In 2001, the United States imported about $4.4 billion worth of ingredients processed from plants or animals, according to analysis by the Associated Press. By last year that total leaped to $7.6 billion — a 73 percent increase. Other food and drink imports rose from $38.3 billion to $63 billion — up 65 percent. Unfortunately, there has been no effort on the part of our regulating government agencies to increase the scope of inspections on said products. The lack of oversight appears to be even greater with respect to food ingredients, like the contaminated wheat gluten that was used in the recent pet food debacle. In fact former USDA official, Carl Nielsen, whose job until he left in 2005 was to make sure field inspectors were checking the right imports said, "I don't ever remember working on ingredients.. That was the lowest priority..."

"The lowest priority". $7.6 billion dollars worth of ingredients going into your family's food is of no consequence to the government agencies whose job it is to protect our food supply. Not very reassuring, is it.

I'm going to briefly change subjects and touch on the latest edition of the US Farm Bill. The same folks who are responsible for the mess covered above are the brain trust behind what is perhaps the WORST piece of agriculture related legislation in history. I won't get into the details, there are plenty of other folks out there who have dissected this bill and they are a whole lot smarter than I am. In fact, if you're the intellectually curious type, you can find out more by following one of the links below:

What I can tell you is that the 2007 Farm Bill opens the door of our nation to even more foreign food imports and does not address the issue of import food safety at all. Also, it continues the taxpayer funded, corporate welfare program designed to reward large, agribusiness commodity growers and completely disenfranchises the small, local farmer. The very same local farmers who are our last hope to provide us with a safe food system. So much for national food security.

So there you have it. Compelling reasons to not only support and preserve local agriculture, but to have serious concerns about the safety of our food supply. Please folks, I know that when buying locally sometimes it might cost a little more or may not be as convenient, but for the sake of our nation, our communities, and your family, put your best foot forward and do even a small part to save our local farms. Here in Clark County, WA you can start helping out by writing to our county commissioners and letting them know that you do not support the proposed County Land Use policy and that you want to see more effort going into policy that will support, preserve, and encourage local agriculture. Our children will thank us.

Thanks for your support,

Glenn Grossman
Slow Food SW Washington
Clark County Food & Farm

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rainy Spring Days on The Farm

It's been raining for the past two days so we have not been doing much farming-the soils just too wet. That is not to say we didn't need the rain, we did. And the lettuces, peas, spring mix, spinach, asparagus, strawberries, radishes, onions, leeks, raspberries, kale, broccoli, chard, scallions, herbs rutabagas, etc., look quite happy about the rain

Before it rained we got almost all the onions in the ground. All that is left are some late planted seedlings that are not big enough for transplanting yet. Now we have 3 or 4 beds of leeks to get in and we are pretty much done with allium planting until October when we plant garlic.

The next big transplanting project will be tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that will go in the end of May or early June. Looks like we will have around 1500 plants to put out over a couple of days.

Meanwhile we will be transplanting broccoli, cabbages, cukes, zucchinis, melons, winter squashes, lettuces, pac choi, etc., and doing a lot of direct seeding of various crops like carrots, turnips, spring mix, radishes, basil, parsley, sweet corn, potatoes, etc., throughout May, June and July. Unlike home gardeners we have to keep planting over and over so we have a constant seasonal supply of produce so there is no putting in the garden over a day or weekend. We will be done planting sometime in November or December.

While it's been raining we have started clearing out the storefront of a lot of detritus (aka yard sale items) and putting that in the barn where the huge, commercial, 3-door fridge used to be and moving all the equipment we use to package produce (scale, plastic wrap, pulp boxes, plastic bags, wax boxes, salad spinner, wash tubs, chest freezers etc., from the barn to the back of the store which is being turned into a packing shed. This will greatly streamline selling produce out of the store having the refrigeration where things are being sold so no one has to run to the barn to get more bags of spring mix or strawberries or a chicken and than at the end of the day take everything back to the barn

We also bottled homemade pear wine and beer over the past two days. The beer ought to be ready to drink for my birthday May 11h

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earthday History

One prominent politician, Gaylord Nelson, then Senator from Wisconsin, had been frustrated throughout the 1960s by the fact that only a "handful" of his Congressional colleagues had any interest in environmental issues. On the other hand, during his travels across the United States, he had been greatly impressed by the dedication and the expertise of the many student and citizen volunteers who were trying to solve pollution problems in their communities.

It was on one such trip, in August 1969, that Nelson came up with a strategy for bridging the gap separating grassroots activists from Congress and the general public. While en route to an environmental speech in Berkeley, California, the Senator was leafing through a copy of Ramparts magazine, when an article about anti-war teach-ins caught his eye. It occurred to him that the teach-in concept might work equally well in raising public awareness of environmental issues.

In September, in a ground-breaking speech in Seattle, Senator Nelson announced the concept of the teach-in and received coverage in Time and Newsweek and on the front page of the New York Times.

Several weeks later, at his office on Capitol Hill, he incorporated a non-profit, non-partisan organization called Environmental Teach-In, Inc. He announced that it was to be headed by a steering committee consisting of himself, Pete McCloskey, a Congressman from California, and Sidney Howe, then the President of The Conservation Foundation.

Early in December, Senator Nelson selected a 25-year old named Denis Hayes, the dynamic former President of the Stanford student body, as national coordinator. Hayes, postponing plans to enter Harvard Law School, immediately set to work making plans for the inaugural Earth Day.

Without the support and help from these two San Franciscan's the first Earth Day might have been delayed.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cheese Update

The cheese urned out good. I wanted to make a hard cheese, like cheddar, but I forgot a step-the final heating-so I got mozzarella instead.

It is creamy and mild, I have not tried melting yet but a pizza is in it's future

Harvest Day

Tomorrow we have a farmers market so today I spent harvesting, cleaning and packaging greens, radishes and chives. I got started later than I wanted to due to life interference. Let's see, I got a call from L saying she could not come out to help today (due to life interference). The dogs had to be fed and that means someone has to stand between Danny and Arlo so Danny doesn't chase Arlo off and than eat Arlo's food, while they eat (Arlo is too wimpy to stand up to Danny even though he is a lot bigger and has all his teeth). I put in laundry when I got up at 6:30 and figured it would better to hang it on the clothes line before I started work rather than hanging it up in the afternoon or completely forgetting about it and letting it get moldy and rewashing it all.

Finally at 8:45am I got up to the gardens with bins, towels to cover the greens so they do not get flaccid and a sharp pocket knife for cutting. I walked around removing row covers from beds that had havestable things for about 15 minutes and than started in on cutting spinach than moved on to cilantro, than spring mix, than mustard, than lettuce and I was done around 10:45am.

The next step was to wash everything which meant getting the wash tub (a 30 gallon Rubbermaid tub), The giant salad spinner and salt and white vinegar which I add to the wash water to kill slugs, rehydrate greens and kill any pathogens. Since we put in a new water line last fall I can now set up my wash station behind the store under the apple trees instead of behind the barn which means I do not have to go up any steps to get produce into the 3 door commercial fridge in the upper level of the barn (which should be moved into the store this Sunday-yay!).

Anyhoo I got the equipment together and the hose where I needed it and filled the tub and spent the next 2 hours cleaning up leafy greens and dumping them into the water to cool, rehydrate and get any dirt off. Than I would put them into the salad spinner to remove excess moisture than dump them into a towel lined bin and put that into the fridge so the produce could cool off for a couple of hours. I was done with that around 1pm.

Next was lunch (chicken sandwich and yogurt and bananas) and a needed break. Than I decided to transplant some germinating pepper and eggplant seeds from tiny soil blocks to larger soil blocks while I waited on the produce to get cold and than I made some labels for the bags and finally I was almost ready to bag up what I had harvested and cleaned.

So I started putting spinach labels on produce bags and than brought out the two bins full of fresh, sweet, crisp spinach and bagged up 10 1/2 pound bags. I repeated this with the spring mix, Mustard greens, lettuce and cilantro and put the d'avignon radishes and chives into bunches secured with rubber bands and put everything back into the fridge.

Tomorrow morning we will put everything into coolers and haul it to Oxford for market. If all goes as planned we will sell everything and not feel so poor (the weeks before the regular season starts-May 5th-are the nadir of the year financially for us).

I figure for every hour we spend at market selling we spend 8 hours growing the food and getting prepared

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chickens in the Morning

One of my favorite farm chores is getting up at dawn on a clear morning and feeding the chickens.

Chickens are such joyous animals in the morning. They get noisy when I go into their area. The noise level gets louder and louder as they hear me open the feed bucket and fill the feeders and finally, when the doors to the chicken tractor are opened they come pouring out flapping wings (and this current group is still small enough to be able to get a few inches off of the ground) and crowd around the newly filled feeders and the waterer and fill up after a night long fast.

After feeding he birds, the coffee is done brewing and I go back in the house and grab a cup.

Friday, April 13, 2007

RIP Vonnegut

I was very saddened to hear the news yesterday that Kurt Vonnegut had died. It was the first thing I heard when I turn on WMUB/NPR. I don't often cry for dead people I have never met but I did for Kurt.

He was my favorite author as well as a great critic of society, politics, etc..

I did almost meet him once. He spoke at Miami University back in the early 1990's. I was working at DiPaolo's and was pissed off that I had been scheduled to work the night of his lecture. I felt somewhat better that my boss, George DiPaolo Jr, was also working that night and wanted to go to the lecture as well. We were commiserating together about missing Vonnegut when he walked in the dinning room with his Miami escort and proceeded to get good and drunk. DiPaolo's had a policy that no employee was to bother famous people (they did a some catering of big musical events and since they were the finest eatery in town that is where the famous would be taken to eat) so I was not allowed to go and introduce myself but I did get to see him down 5 gin and tonics in about an hour

Difficult Spring So Far

So far spring has sucked. It got way too warm way too early so we lost a lot of lettuce and spinach to bolting during the warm period. Than it got very cold and we got quite a bit of damage to the raspberries and maybe the grapes. We won't know for a few weeks if these crops will be alright.

Fortunately we are very very good at growing in cold conditions and have a lot of know how and paraphernalia to keep our crops alive when it freezes. That and we did not transplant the tender crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis into the hoophouses the first week of April as planned.

Still, despite not losing much and finding that the strawberries in the hoophouse had not only survived the week of subfreezing conditions but are making berries, it was a very difficult week of not being able to do anything much in the garden because of all the snow, wind and rain and not knowing if we had done enough to save most of the crops. This has translated into big time stress. If enough damage was done to certain crops we lose a lot a of money and over a year of work establishing them.

Now the weather is a bit better, not much, but some. Yesterday we worked in high winds and snow/rain trying to keep row covers from bashing tender young plants which was a futile effort. We go out and tighten hem up and put more weight to keep them down and than turn around to see some of them flying again. We did get a hoophouse all ready for the cukes and squash that are getting way too big. We put down drip tape and landscape fabric. Now we have to wait for the black fabric to heat up the soil for 5 days or so and we can put the seedlings in the hoophouse.

Today has been quite nice, sunny and about 55˚F with light winds. This allowed me to folier feed most everything in the ground. Folier feeding is one way we fertilize crops. We use a combination of powdered, water soluble kelp and powdered fish emulsion with a dash of Dr Bronner's peppermint soap as a sticker. We were able to move the chicks to clean ground as well. They seemed to enjoy getting onto new ground with uneaten clover. If the weather were dryer we would move the birds daily but because it has been both wet and cold we have been forced to leave them be and have resorted to thickly bedding them to keep them cleanish and dry. The upside to this is we have some good material for the compost pile.

Cheese Making

Today I am making cheese for the first time in my life. We have not been drinking all of our allotment of raw milk each week since the oven broke 3 weeks ago (the bottom element fried itself and a new one has been ordered) and a month ago bought Sandor Katz's book on fermented foods so I decided since we had an extra gallon of milk in the fridge and some rennet tablets it was time to try my hand at cheese making.

At this point in time I have heated the milk gently to 100˚F, added a 1/2 cup of homemade yogurt, let the milk stand at 100˚F for just over an hour to let the yogurt cultures grow and culture the milk (i.e. give it some tang) and a minute or two ago added the rennet. Now I wait 1/2 hour for the rennet to do it's work.

After the milk has coagulated I will carefully cut the curds and put them into a cheesecloth lined colander, add salt and let them drain and become cheese.

I want a harder cheese so will let this sit for a week or two and than eat it.

Aspartame and the Politics of Food

Aspartame/Nutrasweet approval:

"Rumsfeld was president of Serle corporation in 1977, maker of aspartame, then, part of Reagan transition team, and got aspartame 'legalized' by appointing a defense department contractor [??] (Hayes) as head of FDA!

In January 1981 Rumsfeld told a sales meeting, according to one attendee, that he would call in his chips and get aspartame approved by the end of the year. On January 25th, the day the new president took office, the previous FDA commissioner's authority was suspended, and the next month, the commissioner's job went to Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes.

Transition records do not show why the administration chose ***Hayes, a professor and Defense Department contract researcher.*** In July Hayes, defying FDA advisors, approved aspartame for dry foods -- his first major decision. In November 1983 the FDA approved aspartame for soft drinks -- Hayes' last decision. In November 1983 Hayes, under fire for accepting corporate gifts, left the agency and went to Searle's public-relations firm as senior medical advisor. Later Searle lawyer Robert Shapiro named aspartame NutraSweet.

Monsanto purchased Searle. Rumsfeld received a $12 million bonus. Shapiro is now Monsanto president. .....Former White House Chief of Staff Rumsfeld owed a debt of gratitude to former White House confidante and Rumsfeld friend Donald Kendal, Pepsi's chairman. The Pepsi announcement and aggressive marketing (millions of gumballs, a red and white swirl, tough contracts) made NutraSweet known in every home. ....From 1985 to 1995, researchers did about 400 aspartame studies. They were divided almost evenly between those that gave assurances and those that raised questions about the sweetener. Most instructively, Searle paid for 100% of those finding no problem. All studies paid for by non-industry sources raised questions."---James S. Turner

Aspartame is a toxin, and is unique in this hazardous respect. This in NOT an allergic reaction, but rather a true toxin. No other food can be provided as a comparison to the toxic nature of NutraSweet. Upon closer examination, the available research revealed that the manufacturer (Monsanto) and the FDA are manipulating the public (via the media) into thinking that aspartame is safe. It is not. As an American who trusted the system we all created, as an American who worked for the system, it made me angry that public health has taken a backseat to greed. This is the "engine" that perpetuated this epidemic: the collusion of our government with multi-national conglomerate influence. Arthur M. Evangelista Former FDA Investigator. Aspartame: The History Of A Killer - The Whole Story By Arthur M. Evangelista

Monday, April 09, 2007

Don't Mess with Our Chocolate!

Now is the time to take action!

What this proposed FDA law would do is make it so that up to 100% of the cocoa butter in chocolate could be replaced by vegetable fats and they could still call it Chocolate! So when you buy a bar of "fine chocolate" there would be a possibility that there is vegetable fats in it and not cocoa butter.

Cocoa butter is important because of the way it melts. If this change occurs the companies that use vegetable fats will have chocolate that will have a horrible melting property and ruin the taste and feel of the chocolate.

This law will confuse people on what real chocolate is in a time when people WANT REAL CHOCOLATE!

So write in to the FDA! All the instructions are on the link below and it only takes a minute. Go tell them that you don't want to allow vegetable oils in Chocolate!


Click on he link above to learn more and to stop this crazy idea. I for one do not want inferior hydrogenated vegetable oils in my chocolate

Picture Time

It's been fridgid here on the farm and i have gone back into winter hibernation until spring returns.

Here are some pix I took during the summery weather of the a couple of weeks ago

Danny and Nate standing in the barn's doorway

Mold on a drying Squash.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Almost Famous

Wednesday after a final push to get everything covered and ready for the hard freeze we took a trip down south to pick up our allotment of raw milk for the week. Because we had not been to the post office in many days and I had a catnip order to send out from an order recieved from my Local Harvest virtual store front we went to the PO to get the mail out of the PO Box we have.

In the PO Box was a large envelope with 2 copies of the April edition of the Country Folks Grower (Midwest edition) that has Boulder Belt Eco-Farm as the featured farm. This article was from an interview I did with the author Kelly Gates about 6 weeks ago. It should be on the web in a month or so, maybe less.

Also in the PO box was a yellow card telling us we had something too big for the box to pick up at the front counter. So while I was mailing a package of catnip to Manassas, VA I also picked up the package that was from Seattle but not from my sister. Inside the package was a book, "To Buy or Not to Buy Organic" by Cindy Burke (available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and at some local book sellers) and a letter thanking me for for my time. I was puzzled by this. I did not remember at the time being interviewed by this person. But there was a pink post-it in the book and it was marking a nice profile of the farm plus some of my rantings on why Boulder Belt is no longer certified organic by the USDA. I later read through the end notes and found the date of the interview and it all came back to me.

Talk about short to medium memory loss...

The other thing that happened on Wednesday before we got on the road to pick up the milk and mail was I got two phone calls. One from a loyal blog reader from Loveland, OH (I am sorry I did not get your name, feel free to leave it in the educations) asking if his garlic would be okay during the hard freeze. I said I thought so but putting down some extra mulch won't hurt anything.

The other was from some woman from Youngstown looking for organic farms/CSA's in her area. This woman got my name from my GreenPeople listing and seemed to be of a mind that the only good food was industrial organics and if a farmer was not certified than by default they are using chemicals and GMO's. I tried to explain to her this is not usually the case with us small farmers but she seemed to have her mind set about this opinion. I believe she needs to buy a copy of Ms Burke's book and learn more. At any rate, I gave her the OEFFA web address and assured her that NE Ohio has more than its' fair share of sustainable and organic farms and CSA's as she was convinced that NE Ohio was a wasteland as far as organic foods are concerned. I hope she finds the farm of her dreams and buys the book too.

So Wednesday was a day of a me distributing information to people I have never met or a series of coincidences, but since I do not believe in coincidences there had to be a cosmic reason for the calls and the mail.

The Big Chill

After 2 weeks or so of well above average temperatures it is now freezing and this is not good for anyone.

We spent a frantic two days getting protection on the crops we have in the ground under very windy conditions. We did manage to keep row covers on everything that needed a row cover so I do not expect much loss with the annual crops. Most everything we have already put out can take quite a bit of cold so with row covers there should be little to no loss.

I also harvested all the lettuce and spring mix that could be damaged by wind and cold. This means we have quite a bit of stuff for sale right now. If you are in the SW Ohio/EC Indiana area and need fresh yummy greens (I have rarely had such good lettuce) drop me a line so we can set up a time for you to come out and buy some.

I don't know if I can say the same thing about the blackberries, raspberries, apples or pears yet. 2 days before this cold snap arrived the pear decided to go into full bloom and even if the flowers survive temps as low as 18˚F (very doubtful) there are no pollinators out and about to pollinate the flowers. Fortunately pears have the ability to put out 2 sets of flowers. Apples do not and even though the apples had not yet "pinked" (the stage before flowering) this does not mean the flower buds did not start to break dormancy and if they did they will likely be killed and there will be few apples for us this year. I am thankful apples are not a major crop for us or we would be in trouble and I wonder how my friend Scott Downing's orchards are doing. He is one of the bigger apple growers in this area and apples are a very major crop for him.

I am worried about the raspberries and blackberries. Both had leafed out right before the weather turned cold and they likely were developing flower buds that will be damaged by this weather. Than again, both are pretty feral as domesticated crops go and can take a lot of weather abuse before giving up. I am hoping we will be plesently surprised this summer with bumper crops from both.

I gotta say this was not unexpected. For the past 10 months or so we have had temps that are either 25 degrees above normal or 25 degrees below normal and when the temps got warm early I had a feeling we would see some fridgid temps before May. It would not surprise me to see a freeze around my birthday in mid May or later.

I did do one kind of bonehead thing. I ordered chicks early and we picked them up on April 1 and put them out on pasture. I knew this might be a bit early but we have biggish plans for poultry this year and had to start raising birds by April 1st. The thing about chicks is they have to be kept at around 90˚F for the first 5 to 10 days of their lives. this is reasonably easy to do indoors with heat lamps. It is far trickier to do outside on pasture. Eugene did fashion a small hoop structure for them and we have a chicken tractor inside with a lot of straw bedding and 2 heat lamps in the tractor and so far the birds are comfy and happy. The hoop structure is not great at keeping heat in but it does keep the heat sucking winds at bay so the lamps can do their job. Hopefully, the lamps will be enough for tonight when the temps may go below 18˚F. The good news is the weather is predicted to moderate starting Monday and will be in the normal range for about a week.

Climate change makes for a lot of adventures in farming

Monday, April 02, 2007

Pickin' Up chicks

Yesterday Eugene and I went down to the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area to pick up our first batch of day old chicks at Mt Healthy Hatcheries, where we have bought our chickens for the past 9 years or so.

We got on the road around 10am and traveled down US 127 to the city of Hamilton! (the city is really spelled with an exclamation point-why? I dunno) and than got on RT 4 and travelled to Fairfield and stopped in at Jungle Jim's where we scored big time on discounted fruit and bread. And we saw a really strange item-the fake stick made out of some squishy plastic foam to toss to your dogs for $8.95. The sticks came in a variety of color combinations. What is wrong with a stick made out of tree wood? I guess wooden sticks don't have the RDA of mel-a-mine (and other poisons used to make plastic items) that the modern dog needs.

My dogs chew on raw bones they find in the woods and sticks from real trees. They also take great joy in rolling in dead rodents and the feces from herbivores and birds. They are real dogs and are allowed to act as such. We do ask that they guard the chickens from predators (which they can kill and eat if they wish) and keep the deer out of the garden.

After our JJ's fix we got on the road again and drove to Mt Healthy and picked up the box of chicks. Yes folks chickens come in a box, 50 to a box. We pit the chicks in the van and went home the way we came. We got home around 2:30pm and ate lunch before doing anything with the chicks that we left in the van out of reach of the dogs. Don't feel badly for the chicks as they were packed to go into the USPS system for 2 to 3 days so waiting an additional 2 hours while we ate and got things ready for them ain't nothin'.

it was very windy when we got back and the hoophouse Eugene had put up for the chicks was coming loose because the edges were not dug into the ground they way a big HH for crops is. This is because the hoophouse and the chicken tractor inside will have to be moved in a couple of days and Eugene figured it would be better to weigh down the edges with heavy items such as small boulders, a metal water tank from the 1950's, cinder blocks and anything else that weighs more than 25 pounds. well he had not put enough weight on the plastic and it was beginning to come up so he spent a 1/2 hour hauling more heavy items over to the chicken hoophouse and got it to stay put. While he was doing that I washed out the feeders and waterers they use for the first 10 days or so. Finally we got everything ready-cleaned and filled waters and feeders, a brooder heat lamp in place, the plastic in place, etc.. Now it was time to get the box of peeps and introduce them to their new environment. So with me sitting on the ground in front of the tractor door I gently grabbed a chick, stuck its' beak in water and set it down in the tractor under the heat lamp and repeated this 49 more times until they were all out of the box and running around exploring their new reality. at one point Nate decided he needed to come in the hoophouse and nose a chick or two. After last year we do not trust Nate not to eat a chick. But to his credit, he did back away when told to. Maybe this year he will protect them and not try to eat them (yeah right...)

Soon we realized that we needed to put a fence in the chicken hoophouse as the chicks were finding small openings along the bottom of the hoophouse and trying to escape and the last thing we needed was 50 day old chicks running around the farm in high winds with dogs and other predators around. So Eugene went and got the plastic snow fence and started putting that up inside the hoophouse and immediately the chicks breached that fence, even before he had the thing all the way up. So he pulled the plastic snow fence out of the hoophouse and found the chicken wire fence we have used for tiny chickens in the past. They could not easily get through that, though they did try and did find a few openings at the bottom that we have since closed.

About 2 hours before dusk I found them screaming and cold. The heat lamp had been turned off and they were getting way too cold for comfort so I turned it back on and started placing chicks under it. Some liked the heat and settled in for a nap but others had things to do and places to be and continued to run around. At dusk Eugene tucked them in for the night and the spent an uneventful first night as pastured poultry. When I checked them this morning they were in a heap under the light warm as toast.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

How to Eat A Chocolate Jesus

There was a story in the news about a man who created a chocolate Jesus for Holy Week. This act pissed off a bunch of Christians and the chocolate Jesus has been banned.

Banned or not, the fact that a chocolate Jesus has been created begs the question just how does one go about eating a chocolate Jesus?

I asked my friends via email about this and here are the best of the replies

Erika D sez:

Hey Lucy -
I always had the same problem with chocolate bunnies. I could never eat their heads, so eventually my mom just hid a big chocolate egg instead & little toy bunnies sometimes. But you know, I have never had that problem with marshmallow peeps - chicks OR bunnies. Less realistic, I suppose.
x, E.

P.S. I think one should probably not bite Jesus. Just lick him all over until he's just a slimy lump of chocolate and maybe then biting him would be OK.

John W sez:

There are a number of ways to approach chocolate
Jesii, my child.

Apply the chocolate bunny principal and start with the

Is this particular jesus on a cross? In that case the
order shall be left arm, body, head, then enshrine the
right arm.

Treat him like a real fancy candle such as little girl
with a watering can. You would no more think of
burning down this little wax girl than you would
eating jesus. Put him on your knick knack shelf until

the rapture.

Melinda M sez:

Since this is the holy season of Lent, I believe the correct order would be:

The feet first, to symbolize the cleansing of the feet at passover.

Then gnaw on the back and head, to represent the crown of thorns and the scourging (re: The Passion)

Then on Friday, chomp off the head and bury the rest under a rock until Sunday.

Resurrect the torso and munch down, to represent the ascent into heaven. Extra bonus if the dog pees on the buried chocolate, to represent the descent into hell for a while, although this theology is not as commonly

So how would you eat a chocolate Jesus?
mentioned anymore.

And that's how you eat a chocolate Jesus!