Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Logistics for our new chicks!

We've never picked up our chicks from the airport before.  Normally our chicks have come via US mail.  However, since we ordered so many chicks it was better to ship them via Delta Airlines.  The chicks were less than a day old by the time I got them back to our farm.  They were so healthy and active that it was hard to walk around in the brooders -- they just kept running up to our feet or to the sound of our voices! 

Check out our new chick videos at

We were planning on having our new laying chicks outside before the 1040 broilers showed up yesterday.  Last year at this time there was green grass and the farmers had planted most of the corn!  This year it is snowing and sleeting, so we thought it might have been less than a good idea to move them outside in the cold wet weather.

Instead we decided to move the older chicks across the barn into the horse stalls that had previously been occupied by the laying hens.  The idea of picking up 300 some chicks and putting them into boxes only to carry them 40 feet across the barn into a temporary space wasn't too appealing.  After some brainstorming, we decided to have a 'running of the chicks event' Monday night.

Megan made a plywood alley that mostly restricted the laying chicks from running all over the barn -- The plywood almost looked like the buildings in Pamplona! (Not really so much).  We opened the doors to the laying chick brooders and expected them to rush out just like a pack of 300 bulls...  Instead they looked up at us and then went back to eating, scratching and pecking at the ground. 

After some coaxing we shooed them in batches down the alley with the cats perched above on the hay bales curiously watching the festivities.  I had planned on taking a video of the running of the chicks to post, but then there were the escapees!  I ran around catching chicks and plugging holes in the plywood that had been so small you'd have to be a chick to even see it -- much less go through it! 

All in all there were only about a dozen chicks that had escaped into the grater barn area.  Finding the escapee chicks was easy enough because they were chirping -- We managed to quickly get them all rounded up... well except for the one that we noticed peeping outside of the new home the following morning!  She sure was excited to run in and re-join her flock!

After a long night of herding chicks, moving laying hens and preparing the brooders for the new 1,040 broiler chicks, we finally and gratefully hit our pillows around midnight. 

The new chicks are doing really well.  It was fun to have baby chicks again, one forgets how small they are when they first hatch.  Hope you'll come visit them soon!

Our next round of chicks will be hatched on the farm -- that should make some fun video too!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


One of the hardest parts of our job is taste testing steaks from other farmers we are considering including in our subscription.  Today after a long day's work of doing chores and building chicken houses, we continued to slog away by eating a perfectly cooked sample steak, some homemade sweet potato fries with from scratch aioli and homebrewed IPA.  You can be sure that this dinner will be featured in our newsletter later this summer...  Some parts of our job are pretty sweet!

Tonight we sampled a steak from a new farm that specializes in slow growth, small framed cows. We both were in love with this particular steak.  It was so tender that we almost wished that it was a little tougher so that we could have eaten it slower!  Each bite was a buttery luxurious beefy unforgettable moment in our lives...  Ok, that might be a little over the top, but it really was quite good. 

One thing that was interesting was that even though the steak was so rich with plenty of marbling, it really tasted wholesome and healthy.  Other rich dinners we've had sometimes feel a little more like dessert, but it was clear that this steak was healthy and nourishing for us...  the contrast of such a rich butter flavor and the sense of being good for us was really quite profound and interesting to observe.

Needless to say, we're going to include this farm's beef in our subscription.  The beef is all pasture raised and 100% grass fed.  The hay the cows are fed in the winter comes from the same farm, so there isn't any transporting of nutrients from farm to farm.  Our steak tonight was missing something compared with supermarket beef: It didn't have any residual growth hormones that have been proven to stimulate human breast cancer or cause early onset of puberty in adolescents.  Instead these lucky steers are healthy and don't need antibiotics or other unnatural treatments.  Our country is the only industrialized country that allows the cancer growing hormone Zeranol to be injected into beef, pork and lamb.   For citations and more information about this chemical used in our meat supply, visit our website and click under products. 

We are really happy about the beef farmers we are working with for our subscriptions.  It has taken a lot of time and hard work taste testing, but we think the effort was worth it!  Each of our partner farms have a unique take on beef and we are excited to showcase the results from different types of cattle raised with different management styles. 

For those of you who are interested in learning more about the not so subtle nuances of raising high quality beef and how to taste test, check out the book Steak linked on our website.  It is a funny short book, well worth anyone's time. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


So I actually intended on posting an update about the chicks today, but the pigs got to the blog first. 

The chicks are doing really well -- I still get amazed how fast they grow!  Here is a photo I took today of one of our future layers -- just over three weeks old.   
 One of the things I like about our flock is that we have so many breeds... watching them all run around with their different coloring is really fun.  Most commercial birds have had their ability to grow full coverage of feathers bred out of them -- I guess some people think that feathers are a waste of protein.  I think chickens without feathers are abnormal, I much prefer our chicks! 

We should have these chicks out on pasture in the next couple of weeks!

Pigs in the Driveway!

There I was, talking to my sister on the phone and my wife points out the dining room window.  She sees the cow jumping around all excited.  I stand up to look and from my perspective I can see why -- the pigs were running around the driveway and the other animals were quite interested.

We currently have the pigs in a large deep bedded area in our haybarn because they need some sort of shelter prior to giving birth and we didn't have anything setup outside for them yet.  I semi-calmly told my sister that I had to go because the pigs were running around the driveway and for a moment enjoyed how strange that sounded.

Betsy and I run outside and notice that the pigs had pushed a pair of three inch screws out of the 2x4 that was holding up the wall of their pen.  That it and of itself is pretty cool... anyhow, back to work!  We have to figure out how we're going to get the pigs back into the barn.

Fortunately, they were as curious as we were and followed us back into the barn.  A bit of corn was thrown back into their pen and they were quite happy to run back into their area.

Pigs are great fun!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Signs of spring

We have lost faith and doubted it at times, but we're starting to believe that spring is actually coming.  Yes, we still have snow cover in the backyard, but really, it's almost spring!  Here is the proof:

1. The garlic we planted last fall has started to sprout.  There are a number of green shoots that have made it above the mulch and snow cover.  It is GREAT to see living, green things outside.

2. Baby chicks and baby turkeys!  Peep peep peep....

3. The sheep look like they are ready to lamb any time now.  The ewes waddle around awkwardly these days; they usually carry twins so most have saddle packs on either side of them.  The udders on a couple ewes are getting pretty full, which is a sign that the time is near.  Every time one of us goes outside we check for babies ... we can't wait for the first lambs of the year!

4. The chickens are laying eggs more often and the quality is getting better.  As the days get longer the chickens we have lay closer to once per day and the eggs get more delicious.  Pretty soon we'll get the chickens on green grass full of bugs, grasshoppers, and other goodies - then the eggs will be even tastier still.  Mmmmmmm....

5. This is unrelated to the farm, but Betsy wore shorts on her run this morning.  Much better than last week when she wore two layers of thermal pants ... maybe next weekend she can ditch the jacket?