Category: chickens

This is about chickens

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? – Field Notes Volume 3 | Number 11 August 10th, 2015

Field Notes Volume 3 | Number 11 August 10th, 2015

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

There is nothing simpler than an egg- at least as a metaphor. In actuality, although on the outside they may be the simple carrier of our yummy breakfast favorite, they are an incredibly complex vehicle of life. Eggs are a pretty amazing way to bring life into the world.
Here at the farm you might have heard me mention that we have a few chickens- WeÂ’ve had upwards of 200 this season, including 100 egg layers and 100 broilers. I donÂ’t get to spend enough time with them as I would like, but chickens are pretty special to me. They are kind of like our own personal feathery dinosaurs, and a bunch of clucking punchlines to a joke that never seemed all that funny until you get to know a chicken.
Chickens are strange- They are an amazing combination of smartness and lower intelligence. Chances are they have more common sense than any of us, but they are about as simple as warm blooded animals get, but that doesnÂ’t mean I donÂ’t love them. Something about their simplicity is not only appealing but also admirable. Often I think I wish my life were more like one of our chickens, where I woke with the rising sun and busied myself until it got so high and hot that the only reasonable thing to do was to go back inside and I would stay there until it got cool enough to venture out again to see what opportunity had brought me. That might be a farmers life if time and money werenÂ’t the basic rhythms of our lives, but

Day Old Rhode Island Red

Day Old Rhode Island Red

they are so I donÂ’t get to live like the chickens.
I introduced yaÂ’ll to the Rhode Island Reds as soon as they arrived, theyÂ’ve settled in nicely and are now as much a part of the farm as any vegetable and any worker except maybe Moses. We say hello every day, and I often say good night to the ladies at night (although Tom puts them to bed about half the time.) Their days are pretty simple. The roosters crow at first light, they flock around the yard, they look for bugs, but their favorite time of day is when we bring them veggie scraps. At some point we started giving them plenty, and they quickly learned that I was the guy that brought them the good stuff. So now when I come they all come running, even if I donÂ’t have any vegetables. I think that their favorites must be zucchini, but they are really starting to love the tomatoes too, which is a good thing, because we have plenty of them and will make their eggs a lovely hue that reflects all the nutrition inside.
About a month ago we got another 50 egg birds (called Red Sex Links) which were supposed to be ready to lay. It took them a bit of time before they got used to the place. At first they (we call them blondies) seemed like they might not fit in with the farm crowd- they were fussy, and

Blondies enjoying the grass.

Blondies enjoying the grass.

didn’t really care for the vegetables that we gave them, which would shrivel up in their yard as the Rhodies devoured anything they could get. I pointed out to anyone who would see how they were suffering from the same problems that most Americans do- we are addicted to corn and soy, and wouldn’t know much good food even if it were thrown at us. But after about three weeks of me throwing veggies to them they’ve finally gotten over their pickiness (I think it was the sweet corn and maters). That was also around the time that they began to lay eggs! 10 Days ago I discovered the first 2 eggs in the dirt and today Tom gathered 19 from their laying box. Every day there are more and more and hopefully within a month we will begin selling them. When I cracked the first egg I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and color- the yolks are almost as dark as the sungold cherry tomatoes! So the blondies have settled in pretty well, they have even gotten used to farm life and even let two of the Rhodie roosters join them (although they seem to tolerate them more than accept them).
So why did the chicken cross the road?

To eat the good stuff, same as us.

-Enjoy, Farmer Sky

CSA pick-list
Sweet Corn!- Mini Mr. Marai
Cherry Tomatoes- Sun Gold, Sun Peach, Sweet Treats, White Cherry, Black Cherry, and MattÂ’s Wild. Do not refrigerate! We are freezing them whole to preserve for winter.
Beefsteak Tomatoes- Moscovitch, Big Beef, and Brandywine. Really flowing now.
Gold Potatoes- Red Maria. Enjoy!
Basil- Just a bit. If you canÂ’t eat it you can freeze it and it will be a lovely addition to winter dishes.

First Eggs!

First Eggs!

 

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The Chicken – Field Notes Volume 3 | Number 10 August 3rd, 2015

Field Notes Volume 3 | Number 10 August 3rd, 2015

The Chicken

Today Athena drove the last of the broilers to be slaughtered at Working H Market outside of McHenry, MD. They were the last 18 of the 50 Red Rangers that we have been raising since May. We processed the first 32 a couple of weeks ago at the farm, but due to some technical difficulties we didnÂ’t get to finish.
Slaughtering that many birds is a big job, both in terms of organization and time, but most of all for me the hardest part is killing the chickens, but it is also the most meaningful. I picked these birds up as day old chicks from the post office, they were a chirping box full of joy and concern, and even for a man as hard as myself, it brought a smile and some tenderness to my heart. We cared for them for 12 weeks- feeding, watering, and moving them twice a day. Most of those duties were taken on by Tom and Myra, but I too always had an eye and an ear out for them. I enjoyed watching them grow and fed them a lot of the same vegetables that we gave to the CSA. They loved them and ate
everything that I gave.
For some folks killing animals might be easy, they might think nothing of it, but I am not one of those folks. I believe that death is part of life,

Red Rangers wondering what is for dinner.

Red Rangers wondering what is for dinner.

and that we humans are a part of that natural cycle. This does not discount the fact that all animals have a right to a decent life with fresh air, fresh water, sufficient food, and without unnecessary stress. This unfortunately isnÂ’t true of the large majority of animals raised in the United States or the world.
Every year in the US 10 billion animals are slaughtered for meat, almost all of them in confinement operations, where the animals live in poor conditions and are constantly stressed. I eat this meat on a weekly basis, so do you, so does nearly everyone who eats meat. We usually donÂ’t ask any questions, and if we do itÂ’s usually not the right ones. I try not to let this bring me down. I fully believe that eating should be not only an act of nourishment, but also one of joy, and there is no bigger buzz kill than the crazy farmer sitting across from you telling everybody how the animals have suffered for our meat. This doesnÂ’t make it any less true though, so for me, raising animals for meat- that get the basic rights of a good life, whose days are filled with sunshine

All grown up and living the good life

All grown up and living the good life

and fresh grass, who only suffer for the singular moment when death meets them- is not only a duty that I feel deeply, but also a privilege. When I or you, or anyone eats one of our birds,  they will taste some healthy, flavorful chicken, but we can also feel secure that there is happiness in those chickens, and that they were loved from their first day to their last.
Last week we roasted two of them for a dinner to welcome a new member to the farm crew- Amanda, but also to share in giving thanks for what we have and celebrate in sharing. The birds were at the center of it all, plucked and roasted, devoid of their regal plumage, but looking lovely in the pan (and tasting lovely too!). I donÂ’t think too much about the living animal when I eat these birds, but for just a moment I looked at the tasty leg that I held in my hand, and thought how thankful I was for their life, for their deaths,
and for the yummy goodness that they blessed us with.
Enjoy- Farmer Sky

CSA pick-list
Sweet Corn!- Mini Mr. Marai
Zucchini- Enjoy!
Cherry Tomatoes- Sun Gold, Sun Peach, Sweet Treats, White Cherry, Black Cherry, and MattÂ’s Wild. Do not refrigerate! Beefsteak Tomatoes- Moscovitch, Big Beef, and Brandywine. They are starting to come on strong!
Red Potatoes- Red Maria. Enjoy!
Basil- Just a bit. If you canÂ’t eat it you can freeze it and it will be a lovely addition to winter dishes.

Moses guarding the rangers their first day on pasture

Moses guarding the rangers their first day on pasture

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Laying an Egg. – Field Notes Volume 3 | Number 1 June 1st, 2015

Field Notes Volume 3 | Number 1 June 1st, 2015

Laying an Egg.

Some times I feel like a mother hen. ItÂ’s as if I was sitting on a big egg, which happens to be the whole farm- worrying and waiting and tending and doing all of the things that I imagine go through a hens little head. Sometimes I envy the simplicity of the hens life- how simple it would be if my needs and the farms needs were as simple as just sitting on an egg and eating my fill. The farm is more complex than that. On the good days I feel like a conductor orchestrating all of the little parts that go into making the symphony of the garden sound sweet. Some days I am a plumber, some days an electrician, some days a carpenter, some days a factory worker, and some days an accountant, and every day a boss 🙁

Chard Gleaming in the sunshine

Chard Gleaming in the sunshine

Some days its great, some days itÂ’s not, some days its both. Every day there is at least a moment when I am thankful for this life, for being able to hear the sweet sound of bird song, for the sunshine, for being able to look over and see my buddy Moses laying in the sun. ThatÂ’s when I know that life is good, when I can look across the field and see everything growing and all of the promise of sharing that joy with you.
That’s what it is all about. Because for every day with sunshine, there is another that is miserably cold or miserably hot. Everything evens out except the joy that we can share with others. That’s the good stuff. That’s the taste of the sweetest corn we have ever had or the juiciest tomato sandwich. It’s the prayer before a meal and leaning back in your chair when it is done. Those are the blessings that make this work worth doing and that is why we farm.
This winter two venerable farmers who have touched my life passed on, and put their mud boots away for one last time: Del Yoder of Owl Creek, and Patricia Keith of Ridgeway Farm. My words would never do their lives nor deeds justice, but I feel the need in mentioning their passing, not to express the immensity of their loss to this world, but for what it means to the farmers who live and carry on after them.
Farming is a struggle- that is why less than one percent of Americans do it and even less try to make a living at it. Its a gamble, and a fight, and a hard road to walk upon. I can’t speak too much about down the road (because I am not there yet), but I imagine that some things get easier and some things get harder the further down the road you get. Many folks quit, or sell the farm, but these folks were not that sort. They are the kind of people that aren’t made any more, who carried on with the determination and perseverance in the face of all challenges, who took them on with open minds and determined hearts. They struggled not

Moses checking on The broilers

Moses checking on The broilers

only to improve their own lots but also the lot of others around them and those that would come after. For that I owe them a great debt, because without folks like that- who are too faithful and foolish to believe that dreams are impossible, but can be made real through sweat and blood, this country would not be so great, this life and this place we call home would be poorer for it. IÂ’m not too sentimental a man, but I think that is worth a bit of sentiment, so there it is. 🙂

For me IÂ’ll sweat while I can and try not to complain too much. Every year is a great gift to us all and I am truly thankful. This season, although it is shaping up to be a challenging one, has started off blessed and we look to be in for good and fruitful harvests. I am lucky and thankful to share this with you. So for me and for you- lets remember to enjoy the sunshine while its still light out.

Enjoy. -Farmer Sky

CSA pick-list
Salad Mix – Enjoy!
Red Kitten Baby Spinach- Enjoy it as a salad green, or try it lightly cooked. It is so light and tender though right now that it would be best raw.
Lacinato Kale – Great sauteed, pan fried, or baked into kale chips.
Rainbow Swiss Chard – Enjoy!
Sugar Snap Peas – Can be eaten whole. Sweetest thing of the season.
Broccoli?! – ItÂ’s just about ready, if we can harvest enough for everyone I will be a happy man. 🙂
French Breakfast Radishes – Spicy, Crunchy, Crispy. Great addition to a salad or on buttered bread.
For Market-Style CSA Customers:
You will receive Salad Mix, Spinach, Snap Peas, and Broccoli with your choice of addtional items.

Mixed lettuce

Mixed lettuce

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Animals in the farmyard?! Part 2 – Volume 2 | Number 11 August 22nd, 2014

Field Notes Volume 2 | Number 11 August 22nd, 2014

Animals in the farmyard?! Part 2

by Sky Harman

Baby animals are cute. There is nothing more to say about that, other than baby animals grow up to be big animals and sometimes they arenÂ’t so cute anymore, or sometimes they stay cute but donÂ’t act nice or play well with others. Sometimes teenagers are like that. I was and IÂ’m guessing some of you were too. In those cases we just have to hope they grow out of it. Some animals never do.

Sheriff Moses guarding a chick

Sheriff Moses guarding a chick

Around the farm there are a lot of cute animals, some babies, so big and not so cute. At Ridgeway the Cheat Lake site, there are a pair baby fawns just losing their spots these days, who look up with innocent eyes when we drive up to the farm. Their mother and the rest of the herd of anywhere between 10 and 30 deer look up the same way, and over the years they have lost their fear of people, and even expect people to feed them. One of the first times I was ever in the field there, I spotted some deer and tried to scare them away, by throwing rocks in their direction, but they just thoughtfully looked at me and walked my way hope that the rock was something to eat.

Maybe at first they thought the garden was such a place. When we began the season there, we planted things that I wouldnÂ’t have thought deer would eat, especially when there was so much green growth around- Tomatoes, Peppers- Hot and sweet, and Squash. Things seemed fine for a while, then one day 2 plants had been topped, then 2 more, then all of them- 300 tomato plants and 500 pepper plants. Out at Owl Creek, since I thought I knew the deer, I wasnÂ’t as concerned, but less than a week after they had struck at Ridgeway, they jumped the electric fence out at Owl Creek and ate 200 pepper plants with almost ripe peppers hanging below. Needless to say deer have been an issue this season. At Ridgeway, we completed an 8 foot fence a week after the deer struck. It has still been a work in progress (with the occasional deer running headlong through the fence), but the deer stooped doing damage after they ate all of the peppers and tomatoes. Just the peppers and tomatoes. Luckily most of the plants have bounced back and pepper season is about to commence. 🙂

Sheriff Moses guarding the corn.

Sheriff Moses guarding the corn.

Deer are cute to some people. They might look cute to me too when the light shines on them just right, but inside them I see a menace. Maybe thats just me, but around here we have a problem with the deer. There are too many walking around hungry, without much to fatten them up and plenty to sample in peoples yards and gardens. Combine that with the fact that it is more or less illegal to hunt them by normal means in many of these areas and we find ourselves with a problem.

IÂ’ve been speaking with the DNR about our problem, but they donÂ’t seem as concerned as I am (maybe because the deer pay their paychecks and not myself).

Moses loves deer. He loves to chase them and I am pretty sure he would love to eat them too. Sometimes he gets awfully close. Whenever I see the fawns around I make sure to give them a long head start before he goes after them, because even if they are baby vegetable eating machines I would feel awfully bad if he caught one. Now when the deer see Sheriff Moses come around they start running, because they know that if they donÂ’t move fast enough he might just catch them.

Moses is rather fond of chickens. We have 25 baby chicks at the house, and theyÂ’ll be out on pasture up at Rdgeway in the next couple of weeks. More details on this to follow.

As it is now, the deer are still around and hopefully the fences and sheriff Moses will keep them at bay until the DNR gets it together and we start to manage the herd.

Cheers- Farmer Sky

CSA pick-list

Tomatoes – Heirlooms, red slicers.
Cherry Tomatoes- Pink- Sun Peach, Orange – Sungold, Yellow- White Cherry, Red – Nectar, Bunched Red – MattÂ’s Wild, Red/Black – Black Cherry. Enjoy!
Green Onions- Enjoy!
Kale- Enjoy!
Parsley- Try freezing, for tasty herbs in winter
Basil- Just a bit, Enjoy!
Hot Peppers- Just a few for starters. Enjoy!

Baby goat at Ridgeway Farm, Daniel Richter - herdsman.

Baby goat at Ridgeway Farm, Daniel Richter – herdsman.

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