A Break From the Farm

Our farm is currently not too terribly taxing when it comes to the amount of labor we have to invest to keep it running on a daily basis. During winter we don’t have any meat chickens out on pasture because there is no real active pasture for them to forage and the Cornish cross we raise wouldn’t do well in the extreme cold temperatures we can get here in Northeastern Kansas. Our egg layers went through their molt in the fall which slowed down their egg production (they have to put most of their energy into growing new feathers) and that was followed by the short daylight hours of Winter, which also decreases egg production. The hens are housed in a large “hoop coop” with access to a sacrificial part of the pasture, but when snow is on the ground, they tend to not want to go outside much. We take them scraps of fruits and veggies to add more interesting variety to their diets and force them to forage around a bit more on the ground. When Spring hits they will be running around chasing down bugs and munching on clover. Our ladies are just starting to really ramp up production and from now through the Fall we should be up to our ears in eggs.

As you’ll recall, we kept back a trio of heritage turkeys to breed. We currently have them in a really big, covered run in hopes that we can keep them alive and manage to get some fertilized eggs to incubate this year. They will go back out on pasture this Spring and Summer, but we didn’t think it would be feasible to move around our electric net fencing with frozen soil and didn’t want to spend frigid evenings getting them down from the trees when (not if) they chose to fly over the fence and roost anywhere but in their mobile coop. The turkeys have a handful of Muscovies in the run with them to keep them company, but if I’m being honest, the two groups are not particularly fond of each other.

Our two big old LGDs are still living down adjacent to the chickens and turkeys and we have not had a single predator attack since we got them. Recently, however, we found a chicken that had flown over the fence, dead inside the dog area. The dogs had clearly gotten it, but they didn’t tear it apart like when the stray dog attack happened. We’re not sure if the dogs intended to kill it or were trying to get it back where it belonged, but nonetheless, it died it in the process. Bo, our boy Pyrenees, had a rooster the other day, too, but it survived. Because of course the excess rooster lived and the hen died.

Anyway, our chores currently just consist of breaking ice out of the waterers, making sure everyone has feed, and opening/closing the coop every day. Oh, and cuddling the puppies as much as humanly possible. Can we still call them puppies when they’re almost 16 months old and bigger than our 100-pound, senior-citizen, house-dogs? So, the chore-load doesn’t sound like much, right? Well, it is and it isn’t. We may spend an hour or so a day making sure everything is as it should be, but it’s every single day. And it’s cold. And it’s wet. And it’s icy. So, even though it’s really not that bad, we can’t just take a day off. When it’s below freezing we have to make sure everyone has access to fresh water a few times a day no matter how tired or cold we are. It may not seem like much, but not getting an occasional break (from anything in life) can be pretty taxing.

So, where am I going with this long-winded banter? We got a break! We just got back from a weeklong trip to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. We were fortunate enough to join some of our best friends at their time-share on the beach. It was really wonderful to not have to be anywhere at a certain time or do anything that we didn’t feel like doing. The sun and the ocean really rejuvenated us. And we couldn’t have done it without the help of my parents. They came out and took care of all of our chores in some nasty conditions so we didn’t have to worry about anything while we were gone. We’re fortunate to live in the same town as our parents and have really wonderful, helpful neighbors I know I could have called on if my parents weren’t willing or able to help. Ok, they’re always willing, but it’s nice to have multiple people to be able to rely on. I know Shannon’s dad would have gladly helped us, too, if we had asked.

While we were on vacation I was thinking a lot about how nice it was to have a little break and how we could work on implementing vacations into our farming schedule. Our last true vacation was November 2016 and I don’t want to wait that long again to have a mental reset. I must admit, this did make me a little worried about how to manage our absence from the farm as we continue to grow the size of our operations and add new enterprises to the farm. I think I’ve talked a bit about this before, but it reinforced the need to really think strategically about the efficiencies we need to have in place on the farm. We need to be cognizant of the fact that we may not always be the ones doing the tasks on our farm and design systems and processes that can be easily relayed to and completed by others. So, while we got a break from the farm, it also allowed time to reflect on the farm and how things like this need to be incorporated moving forward. I don’t know if I would have really focused on this if we weren’t off the farm. We may not get another break from the farm until next Winter, but in the meantime at least our mint plants will provide the necessary bounty to sip porch-mojitos while we look out across an ocean of pasture grass.

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Pastured Poultry Update

It’s been a while. How are you? Sorry we haven’t posted lately, but sometimes life gets a little busy with kids, jobs, side jobs, side-side jobs, and side-farm jobs. Since our last blog post we have pretty much finished up all of our major farm tasks for the season.

We moved all of our Cornish cross chicks out to pasture in a mobile chicken tractor moved them to fresh grass every day (twice a day for the older ones). As I tend to do, I waited until the last minute to build another chicken tractor to house these birds when it was time to get them out of the brooder. I put together another simple hoop structure like the one we used for the turkeys and slapped some wheels on it for easy daily moves. One new thing we tried out is a bell waterer. These are pretty much the standard for chicken tractor use, but we had never used them. After watching a youtube video on assembly, I installed one in the tractor and connected it to a 5-gallon bucket that gravity fed water to it as needed. It’s pretty slick. I’ve read that they can get clogged, so I checked it multiple times a day and only had one issue with it not replenishing the water correctly. Not sure what the cause was, but I apparently fiddled with it enough to get it flowing again. Based on our experience with this waterer, we will be using them in our chicken tractors and egg mobiles moving forward. It doesn’t work for a winter watering solution, but we’ve just stuck to using the flexible rubber dishes and freshen water several times a day as we’ve done in winters past.

We processed around 50 cornish cross chickens the first week of November along with 12 turkeys. We sent roughly the same number to the processor along with 16 excess heritage roosters back in October as well. If you are looking for some chicken, we have whole chickens for sale for $5.49/lb (pastured and fed certified organic grain) with a discount if you purchase 10+ birds. Email us (1450farm@gmail.com) or contact Shannon through our Instagram account (@1450Farm) if you are interested. We will deliver locally! We sold all of our broad-breasted white turkeys and heritage breed turkeys (also pastured and fed organic grain) and were able to enjoy a fabulous 30-pounder for Thanksgiving. We will definitely be expanding our turkey production for 2019 and will be taking pre-orders for Thanksgiving turkeys in late summer/early fall. We’ll keep you posted!

I couldn’t believe the size of the broad-breasted whites when I picked them up from the processor. I knew they were big because I had carried them multiple times, but I didn’t expect them to be THAT big! We had a range of about 25-31 pounds! The good news is we can start our turkeys a little later next year and aim for a more manageable average size around 18 pounds or so. The turkeys were a real joy and we are keeping a breeding trio of heritage birds through the winter to try our hand at hatching some turkeys on-farm next year. The hens haven’t begun laying yet, but hopefully they’ll begin in time for us to hatch out some poults to raise for Thanksgiving processing. We’ve discovered that our biggest challenge with the turkeys is that they like to fly over the electric poultry net fencing and wander through our property. They like to check out the woods and our woodpile and can often be found impeding traffic on our driveway. Fortunately, turkeys are pretty inquisitive and social and have thus far been happy to follow us back to their paddock when it’s time to close them in for the night. Our oldest son has turned into the Pied Piper of turkey wranglers.

 

With all of the rain we had back in the Fall (and as I type this!) I joked to Shannon that perhaps we should have gone into the farm-raised Tilapia business. While we have no intention of shifting to fish-farming, we are starting to put together some ideas for product offerings in 2019. In addition to our chicken and egg sales, we’re looking at creating packages combining chicken, eggs, whole/half hogs, and a turkey as kind of a full-season meat CSA. The idea would be that you would put down a deposit to reserve your spot and then be guaranteed either a whole or half hog (your choice & delivered to you at time of processing), 1 turkey (delivered in November), and a certain number of chickens and eggs spread over the season. If this is something you would be interested in we would love to hear your feedback. We haven’t finalized package sizes, prices, or logistics, but we thought we’d see if there would be interested in this type of offering at a price discounted from our retail pricing. Let us know and we’ll keep you posted as things are finalized. We plan to also begin selling retail chicken cuts (breast, thighs, etc.), so if cooking or breaking down a whole chicken isn’t your thing, we should have some more familiar options for you this year. As we continue to expand our product offerings, we hope to also eventually add an online shopping component to our website with predetermined delivery dates.

Well, I think that’s about all of the excitement we have going on right now. We have plenty of projects on the to-do list, so stay tuned to see what’s in store for 1450 Farm! Cheers!

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs!

We have entered a lovely time of the year now when our Spring-born pullets have started laying like crazy! Ideally we would have started our chicks in the Fall, so they would begin laying in the Spring, but our plans were derailed by the stray dog attack of 2017. We had plenty of hens to produce a good number of eggs each week, but our flock was decimated, and so was our egg production for much of the Spring and Summer this year. We aren’t starting any more egg laying chicks this Fall because we are at a comfortable number of hens that are just entering their prime. But, going forward we will probably start rearing our egg layers in the fall and try to implement a plan to cycle through our aging hens to keep production as efficient and cost-effective as possible. Robbo, our farm matriarch, is the one hen that will be granted immunity from the cycle-o-stewing-hens.

So, why am I emphasizing starting our future egg layers in the Fall? Doesn’t everyone think of baby chicks in the Spring? Well, Spring does bring with it the romantic excitement of growth and regrowth as we throw off the shackles of a long winter, but for production purposes, it’s not optimal. When we start chicks for our laying flock in Spring (say March/April), we are not going to get eggs from those chicks for 4-6 months. Well, as you may or may not know, egg laying is triggered in large part by the number of daylight hours. So, as our days are getting longer in the Spring and Summer, our young pullets aren’t in production yet. Just as the pullets come into production in late Summer the days begin to get shorter, thus slowing egg production. Spring-born pullets will be flush with eggs in late summer, but will only have a small, optimized window before things slow down in the fall and winter. As consumers we don’t really think of eggs as being seasonal, but they really are. Some producers use artificial lighting to create the “daylight” required for hens to continue laying through the winter, but we have no desire to do that to our hens. We think it’s important to allow the biology of our birds to act as it would in nature and allow their bodies to have a period of time to recover. We still get plenty of eggs through the winter, but it’s significantly less than the summertime.

Now, when you consider hatching chicks in the Fall (September-November) you can see that these chicks will be spending that first 4-6 months of their lives when they wouldn’t be laying anyway, during the darkest time of year. As you can see, it makes sense to rear chicks at this time of year because they will begin to lay right as our days are getting longer, providing for a much longer and productive laying season.

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Since we are flush with eggs right now, I’d like to take a moment to talk about our eggs. I recently heard some college students at Target (who were buying cheap eggs) talking about the price of “farm fresh” eggs they had come across and were incredulous that they were $5/dozen. I was in a hurry, but I really wish I would have had time to stop and chat with them about the economics of local, small-scale, pastured egg production. As many of you know, we currently sell our eggs for $5/dozen (by the way, holler at Shannon on Instagram @1450Farm or email us at 1450Farm@gmail.com if you need some eggs and live in Lawrence!). We have amazing customers that understand the value and quality of our product, so we haven’t gotten any pushback on our price. In fact, we’ve had several people tell us that they pay more for “Organic” eggs at local natural grocery stores. Obviously eggs prices are all over the map. I’ve driven past large grocery store chains here advertising eggs for $0.99/dozen and I’ve seen eggs for $7/dozen. I think it’s important to compare apples to apples (or eggs to eggs as it were) because not all eggs are created equally. Those sub-$1 eggs come from chickens that have been stuck in a wall of artificially lit cages inside a factory (I wouldn’t call it a barn), fed cheap food, and live a horrible life. Some people don’t care about the animal welfare of a chicken, but I am not one of those people. But, beyond the poor treatment of the chickens, the egg coming from that system is nutritionally inferior. So, if you don’t care about the animal, perhaps you care about your own health? Eggs that are labeled “organic” are a step up in that they are fed a better quality of feed and are generally required to have a little more space than conventional chickens, but the organic standards for animal production are pretty laughable. This is where local egg production has such a wonderful advantage over large-scale producers. Well, that and the fact that you are going to get a much fresher product because they haven’t been stored and shipped all over the country. Local producers are typically going to be selling you eggs that are less than a week old and often times just a day or two old.

 

 

Beyond the freshness, local producers are more likely to be raising their hens in a more natural system. Most local producers I know either allow their birds to day range on pasture or have them in large, mobile structures with wire mesh ends that get moved to fresh pasture daily while allowing the birds protection from predators. These systems allow the birds to scratch and peck, eat bugs, clover, grass, etc. The end result of these systems is a final product, the egg, that has a more nutritious nutrient profile because of how the chicken was able to get its nutritional requirements filled. Our hens are currently housed in a stationary coop at night and then allowed access to a portion of one of our fields during the daylight hours. Once we have this field perimeter fenced, we are going to start moving them around the pasture along with our meat birds to help spread their manure around and improve the quality of our pastures.

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Another important component of our egg production is our feed. As we’ve mentioned in the past, we use only certified organic feed milled here in Kansas. Organic grain is quite expensive, but we feel that it is worth the extra cost. When you account for the cost of grain, the cost of egg cartons (which aren’t as cheap as you’d think they would be), the cost of labor (feeding, watering, collecting eggs, washing eggs, packing eggs), raising chicks, coop and nest box bedding material, water, etc. you can see that our cost to produce a dozen eggs is much more than a conventional production system. So, next time you see a local farmer selling a product at a premium over what you see in the grocery store, please take the time to consider the quality and nutrition of their product over what you see at the store. Take the time to learn about how and why a local farmer raises their food and try to understand the difference in products that share the same name, but are vastly different. An egg isn’t just an egg and not all bacon is created equal.

 

Turkey Update

It’s been a little over two months since we added our first batch of turkeys to the farm. As you’ll recall, we lost some of our heritage birds in the brooder phase, but added a handful of Broad Breasted White turkeys to the mix for a grand total of 15 turkeys. As of today, we still have all 15 of those turkeys (it’s hard to knock on wood and type at the same time)! We moved the turkeys out to one of our pastures near the garden to let them scratch around and deposit some manure in an area that we would eventually like to expand our garden into. We put up a section of Premier One electric poultry net fencing around the hoop coop and kept them shut in the coop for a little over a week to get them acclimated to their new environment. Since the stray dogs destroyed part of the hoop coop last winter we added a new tarp to the top and reinforced some of the wiring in the lower section of the coop. Since turkeys are pretty hardy we used a tarp that would stretch from end to end, but wouldn’t go all the way to the ground, so they could get sunshine and air flow when they’re inside the coop, but still have protection from the rain. So far this setup has worked really well for the small number of birds we have.

Shannon lets the turkeys out every morning and makes sure they have food and water. They have developed such wonderful personalities and follow us around wherever we go inside their fence. We have both been surprised by how much we are enjoying the turkeys. In the evening we sometimes have to “herd” a few of the stragglers back into their coop for the evening, but for the most part they are getting the hang of going back into their home to roost. The heritage birds occasionally fly over their fence, but so far they haven’t strayed into the woods. Typically we find them pacing the fence line trying to figure out how to get back over to their friends. It’s adorable to watch the little Toms puff up their feathers and strut around when they all get worked up. We plan to eventually build a mobile roost with a roof to move around the pasture once we have it externally fenced, but for now we’re content to move the hoop coop around in the electric net.

Speaking of the future, what’s the plan for turkeys on our farm long-term? Well, 10 of these birds will be going to the processor on November 1stand we will keep 5 of the heritage birds to either grow out a little longer or keep to breed. Since the Broad Breasted turkeys can’t mate naturally, we won’t keep any of them. Feeling pretty comfortable with the turkeys now, we will probably look to incubate some heritage turkey eggs and order around 50 Broad Breasted Whites to finish out for Thanksgiving 2019. We will be taking pre-order deposits for those birds next summer and will keep you posted on how all of that will work. All of our turkeys will be (and currently are) fed organic feed and allowed to roam our pastures during the day. As I’ve mentioned before, both of these elements are very important to us and guide how we’ve chosen to farm. If you’ve been following the news lately you’ve probably seen the reports of glyphosate in breakfast cereals. There is much debate about how much exposure is safe for people, but given the opportunity to have traces of it in my children’s food or not having any in it, I’ll choose the latter every time. If things go well with our 2019 batch, we will probably increase our numbers again in 2020 and hopefully get to the point of doing over 100 a year. Turkey is the centerpiece of most American Thanksgiving tables and we look forward to producing an organically fed, local, pastured bird for our community.

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Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

 

Why Pastured Poultry?

If you look at the labels of things like chicken and eggs at the grocery store you will find a dizzying number of buzzwords trying to entice you to make the “right” choice. Many of the labels are just ambiguous phrases that make the consumer feel good about what they’re eating, but aren’t really a meaningful representation of what the consumer thinks they’re getting. Things like “natural” and “cage-free” sound good to the average consumer who imagines a serene, pastoral setting with chickens scratching the lush grass at the base of a windmill, but let’s talk about reality for a minute. I’m not going to drill down on every labeling phrase, but be warned, most of them are meaningless. Some “cage free” and “free range” birds never even see the outside of a crowded commercial chicken house. That “range” could be a slab of concrete or bare dirt outside a small door that they never even pass through. Most people (myself included) feel good about buying things labeled “organic”, but when it comes to organic meat products, you’re really only being guaranteed that the animal was fed organic grains and not given antibiotics/growth hormones/etc. While that’s better than some production methods, that doesn’t mean the chicken wasn’t still just crammed into a crowded building while it was eating organic grain.
So, what’s the answer? We think it’s locally raised, pastured poultry. What does that mean? Well, who knows? What it means in most pastured poultry operations and in our system is that once our birds have fully feathered out in the brooder (about 3 weeks of age), they are taken out to our pasture and are placed into floorless structures that allow the birds to eat grass and bugs along with their grain rations. Some people seem misled by the term “pastured” and think that it means the chickens are not given any supplemental feed and are gleaning all their needs from the pasture, but that’s not the case. At a production level, it’s not feasible to expect to grow chickens to a marketable size with no grain inputs. The structures, called chicken tractors, are moved to new grass every day to allow the birds to continue foraging for a portion of their diets. This forage allows the chickens to uptake more vitamins, minerals, omega 3’s, etc. than they would otherwise get in a confinement operation, thus producing a more nutrient-dense meat. We are planning to experiment with a day-range system once our pastures have perimeter fencing to allow the birds to range over more ground than a chicken tractor provides. While the final product will remain the same, we think it’s ultimately better for the birds.

Our main goals in farming are to produce the healthiest possible products in the most environmentally beneficial way we can. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we use organic grains for all of our animal operations that require supplemental feed (future lambs and cattle will be grass-only). We think that the organic production methods used to produce our grain not only provide a more nutritious feed for the animals, but also are much better for the environment than conventional grain production. Another added benefit of pasturing our chickens (and turkeys) is that we are able to evenly distribute their manure as a natural fertilizer across our pasture, which will help in building the quality of our soil and grasses/legumes. With proper stocking density, we’ll be able to add sheep and a few cattle to our pastures and they will graze and trample the grass, which will also help build soil and grass. Over the course of a few years, we should see our pastures improve significantly without having to bring in any additional fertilizers. As our pastures improve through daily pasture rotations, we should be able to increase our stocking density, allowing us to produce more animals on the same land base. All from proper, intensive grazing practices!
While the animal welfare piece and the environmental impact component of this is important, we still have to produce a great tasting product. This is another area where pastured poultry wins out over conventional, confinement chicken. You can taste the difference. When birds are allowed to eat grass, clover, and grasshoppers, all while actually being able to walk around, they develop a superior flavor. Pastured poultry producers usually raise their birds a little longer than confinement operations too, which allows the birds to develop more quality fat and muscling, resulting in a better flavor and texture profile as well. We recently had some friends in town from Colorado and decided to cut up one of our whole chickens, brine it, and grill it for them. Our friend, Sean, couldn’t stop raving about how good the chicken was. He was telling us that he had recently bought some chicken from the store and it had a terrible texture and no flavor. We haven’t bought chicken from the store for a couple years, but it sounded about like how I remember it. If you want the best tasting and most nutritious chicken you can buy, seek out a farm raising pastured poultry in your area. It will definitely cost you a little more, but it’s reflective of the real cost of raising real food.

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We forgot to take pics of the one we bbq’d but frankly, they looked very similar. We’ll post a recipe soon!

Shannon’s Made-From-Scratch PIZZA SAUCE

You guys! This is my new FAVORITE pizza sauce.  Shannon here, and I just want to share my new, delicious and homemade pizza sauce recipe made from our own home grown tomatoes (and onions and herbs).  Its not a quick process so, make sure to plan it for your day off!  Don’t worry, although it takes time – it’s not very complicated. 

We are not alone in saying that growing gorgeous, sun-ripened tomatoes in the heat of summer has to be one of our favorite parts of the season.  A lot of the times we all consume them straight from the vine faster than we can get a nice stash up at the house. Finally, we had a beautiful pile of tomatoes and the wheels started turning on what to make first.  

We have a tradition of Friday Night Pizza at our home.  (it’s not always on Fridays but usually once a week).  Aaron makes a wonderful homemade pizza dough and we make simple yet delicious pizza with the boys. Instead of buying the jarred stuff this week, I decided to take on making my very own pizza sauce.  I kind of winged it and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.  I just hope we didn’t get spoiled and can still appreciate the jarred stuff when time and supplies are limited.

We are growing a variety of tomatoes from small to large such as Sun Gold, Black Cherry, Red Pear, Valley Girl, Brandywine, San Marzano, Monte Carlo and Lilliput Cherry.   I decided to make a party out of it and use them all!  Although, you could surely use whatever you have on hand.

I gathered all of my beauties up and weighed them on my kitchen scale – it added up to be 4 pounds.  First I had to clean and core the tomatoes and cut an “X” on the bottom for blanching.  This will make it easier to peel the skins off.  Once you have them ready, use a large pot to boil water.  Slowly add your tomatoes for about a minute using a skimmer strainer to both add and remove the tomatoes.  Luckily they won’t be too hot since they were only in the boiling water a minute.  Then you get to work on peeling the tomatoes (don’t forget to save the skins and cores for your chickens or compost!)

Now you take the skinned tomatoes (Is it just me or do they feel super weird without their skins?!) and you’ll dice them.  Set them aside.  

Next, I gathered some onions from the boys’ gardens and diced them up – about a cup.  Then I minced about 3-4 cloves of garlic.  We grow a variety of herbs in our landscaping bed – so, I went out and grabbed a bit of basil and oregano – equalling to about a tablespoon each once chopped. 

Now the fun part.  With about 2 tablespoons of olive oil warmed in the dutch oven on medium heat, I added in the onions.  Once they are starting to caramelize a bit – about 4 minutes or so I added the garlic in for another minute.   Then I added in the diced tomatoes, herbs, about a teaspoon of salt and a few shakes of pepper.  I decided to also drizzle in some honey – maybe just about 1-2 teaspoons but in hindsight, I’m not sure it needed it with the sweetness of the tomatoes.  I also usually add a few dashes of turmeric to things and this time, one bayleaf. 

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I gave it a nice stir and turned down the heat to low and let it simmer for HOURS.  Ok, it was just 2 but it did seem like forever.  The aroma was amazing.  After the time it needed to thicken, I threw it all in a food processor (or a blender would work!) and blended it all into a nice puree.  I wish you could have experienced the savory and sweet aroma!  Four year old Arlo licked the spoon and could NOT get enough – he could barely wait for it to be added to the the pizza!  
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Now you just add it to your favorite pizza recipe.  We’ll post ours here soon!  Enjoy and let us know what you think!

Shannon's Homemade Pizza Sauce from Scratch

  • Servings: 1 pint
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Shannon’s Homemade Pizza Sauce

Ingredients:

4 pounds of garden fresh tomatoes

1 cup chopped onions

3-4 garlic cloves – minced

1 tbsp fresh basil

1 tbsp fresh oregano

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

few dashes of turmeric

2 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tsp honey (optional)

Directions:  Clean and Core tomatoes. Cut an “X” on the bottom of the tomatoes. Blanch for approximately 1 minute in boiling water.  Using the X part of the tomato – peel then dice.  

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Cook onions for approximately 4 minutes until tender.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the rest of the ingredients and lower heat to Low – simmer for 2 hours.

When sauce thickens after simmering, put in a food processor or blender and blend.  Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for a week.  Enjoy!  

Selling Chicken

After doing some trial runs with the Cornish Cross, we’ve decided to squeeze in a couple of batches of chickens this Fall that will be available for sale! We secured processing dates on October 11thand November 1stfor two batches of 50 chickens. We will be retailing our pasture-raised, organically fed chicken for $5.49/lb for a whole chicken. If you would be interested in reserving chicken for your family, please email us at 1450farm@gmail.com. We are providing a discount for orders of 10 or more birds. Orders will be filled in the order they are received and we will notify you when we are sold out. We are also going to be processing some of our turkeys on November 1st, so we may have a few of them available as well, but we want to make sure we keep them alive long enough to process them before we pre-sell any of them :).

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We also wanted to let you all know that next year we will be adding a chicken CSA to our offerings. We are working on setting up a system where we will have 3 package sizes available at discounted prices (the more you buy, the cheaper per pound). We will be sending out an email in late Winter for sign up and will be taking deposits to secure spots in the CSA. Once we have all of the logistics worked out we will post about the details before sending out the sign-up email. If you are looking to fill up your freezer with chicken next year or just get a few birds every now and then, we’ll have a package that fits your family’s needs.

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And since we’re talking about next year already. We will be adding forest-raised, organically fed pork to our line-up in 2019. Our first pigs will probably be ready in June or July, but when we have dates and quantities lined up, we will begin taking orders for half and whole hogs. We will also be ramping up our turkey production significantly, so stay tuned in 2019 for pre-ordering opportunities to secure a local, pastured, organically fed Thanksgiving turkey.

I know a lot of this stuff is pretty far down the road, but we are excited for the opportunity to grow our farm in 2019 and wanted to let you know what’s on the horizon. Our pullets just started laying, so we should be flush with eggs here shortly. Email us or let Shannon know on Instagram (@1450farm) if you want to be notified when eggs are available ($5.00/dozen). We can’t begin to express how grateful we are for the fast support we have received this year. Cheers!

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Farming on the Side

As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, Shannon and I both work full-time off-farm jobs. I spend my days running my own business and doing physical labor outside from March – December, while Shannon spends her days inside laboring mentally. Coming from the corporate world, I understand just how taxing mental labor can be, so like most working people, we are pretty tired at the end of the day. Unlike a lot of people, our work starts beforework and ends around sundown. These days Shannon gets up before anyone else in the house and makes her way down to open up the chicken coop and make sure all of the chickens, ducks, and pups have food and fresh water. She typically takes the Pyrenees on a perimeter walk around the front pastures and works with them around the chickens.

When I get home, usually between 4-5, I stop and freshen all of the waterers again since the temps have been 90+ pretty consistently since late Spring here. I make sure feeders are topped off, and I gather eggs. Sometimes we all go down to visit all of the animals again after dinner, but that doesn’t happen on nights the children decide to spend way too long at the table not eating their food. We alternate nights putting the kids to bed, so whoever is not conducting bedtime heads back down to check on the garden and close up the coop. Most of the time in the garden these days is harvesting okra, squash, and tomatoes and gathering tomato hornworms and squash bugs to toss to the chickens. In the height of summer, we have enough sunlight to allow for a good deal of leisure time to snuggle on the puppies before the sun sets. It’s really amazing how mentally refreshing it is to just go sit in the pasture with the pups for 30 minutes or so.

Right now chores are pretty easy. Back in Spring (and coming up again later this summer) we had the pastured meat birds to deal with a couple times a day as well. I would go down to the pasture every morning and move their pasture pen forward to new grass, topping of the feeder, and making sure their water was full. Every night about 12 hours later, we would have to go back to the pens to remove any feed that was left to prevent them from overeating and suffering heart attacks and leg problems. We have a batch of 50 meat chickens coming at the beginning of September and we might try to do some starting in August, too, but we are still trying to decide on that. So, if you are interested in buying some whole chickens, we should have some available after November 1st. The labor of moving the chicken tractor is pretty easy the way we have it set up, but we’re planning to modify how we raise them a bit next Spring (or whenever our pasture is fully fenced). We like the pasture pen method for security, but we want to create something closer to a day-range model since the dogs and fencing will be available to protect them from predators. If we are successful with our range model, it should cut our labor significantly when we increase our meat bird production.

A lot of these chores aren’t terribly taxing, but they have to be done every single day of the year. You can’t just skip a day or two. Obviously we enjoy doing this, so it doesn’t seem so bad to us. We were just talking the other day about how we don’t even know what we would be doing with our time if we didn’t have the farm. We might watch a show or two on tv at night before bed, but we’re not the type of people to just sit and watch tv for long stretches at a time. I’m sure we would find other hobbies to fill our time, but I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than raising our own food and teaching our kids the importance of caring for the land and our food system. A lot of people think we’re nuts, and we probably are, but hopefully we can keep improving and growing our farm while transitioning it away from being just a side-hustle. Thanks for joining us on this journey!

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Easy Balsamic Summer Squash Pasta

We’re entering the time of year when gardeners and market farmers are about to be up to their ears in summer squash. If you’ve grown tired of it, you can go with the tried-and-true method of leaving a bag of the stuff on your neighbor’s porch, ringing the door bell, and running back to your house, but I would recommend trying a light pasta dish with it first. We got our garden in late, so we’re just now getting to the joyous-abundance-of-squash phase of the year. With our first harvest, we decided to make a light, simple pasta dish to accompany the heat and humidity that have settled into Eastern Kansas this summer. Give it a try and let us know how you like it and feel free to share any of your favorite summer squash recipes!

Easy Balsamic Summer Squash Pasta

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

16 oz of your favorite pasta  (we used Strozzapreti)

4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 small summer squash (we used crookneck yellow squash & a zucchini)

3 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbs butter

1 Tbs Olive Oil or bacon grease

Splash or two or three of Balsamic vinegar

Shredded Parmesan to taste

Fry up the bacon and set aside while you make the rest of the dish. If you want to use the bacon grease to sauté the veggies, omit the olive oil from the ingredients. If you cook your bacon in the oven, I can’t help you. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta per the package’s directions. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the garlic in either olive oil or bacon grease over medium heat for a minute. Add the squash and continue to sauté until the squash is tender. Once squash is tender, add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar to the mix and sauté a little longer. When the pasta is done cooking, drain and return to pot. While pasta is still hot, add butter to pasta and mix. Mix in the cooked squash, bacon, and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Add Parmesan to each serving of pasta.

We like to accompany this dish with a hearty loaf of bread from our local bakery along with a healthy heap of fruit. We’ve also found that alerting our kids to the fact that the food we’re eating came from our garden seems to motivate them to eat it a little better. It’s especially helpful if they helped plant or harvest whatever it is we’re eating. So, if your kids don’t like to eat veggies, try growing them together!

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Pupdate

Sometimes in life you get something that makes you wonder how you managed to function before you go it. That’s pretty much how we feel about our Great Pyrenees pups, Bo and Lou. Pyrenees have been on our radar for a long time, but until recently our home wouldn’t have provided the right environment for them to thrive. Now that we are building our farm with them in mind, we are enamored with them.

As you’ll recall, we got Bo and Lou back in January when they were little, squishy puppies. Ok, Pyrenees pups aren’t exactly little, but man are they ever cute. Well, our little fluff balls have since matured into stoic, lanky 7 month-old teenagers. Perhaps “teenager” isn’t fair, because they don’t really act like teenagers, but they’re kind of at that developmental stage where they haven’t filled out all the way and they still like to wrestle around. At every stage of their lives, I have to say, they have been the best dogs we could ever hope for. We absolutely adore our two old-timers up at the house (13 year-old Oscar and 10 year-old Merle), but these puppies have seriously made me question whether I ever want another breed of dog. From the day we picked them up they have been the calmest, most well mannered dogs we’ve ever had. Sure they’ve chewed a few collars and leashes up and they like to carry their food bowls out into the pasture sometimes, but overall, they’ve surpassed our expectations.

Playful puppies
We’ve posted this pic before, but in case you needed a refresher on their squishy cuteness.

Since we got the puppies we have been working with them to get them used to being around our chickens. We plan to have the dogs guard our future flock of sheep, but one of the other main reasons we got them was to hopefully eliminate some of our chicken predator issues. We have set up a fenced off area using portable electric sheep fencing that surrounds a permanent chicken run where we’ve housed some hens after our winter dog attack. It also surrounds our newest “hoop coop” that houses all of our soon-to-be-laying pullets and another area of electric poultry net that surrounds fresh pasture for them. We’ve created an alley around the pullet coop and fence to allow the dogs to patrol their entire perimeter. We often walk them around their perimeter, but Shannon also takes them for a walk around the perimeter of our two front pasture areas so they are familiar with our boundaries. We plan to eventually have both pastures fenced in, so they will have a decent amount of ground to cover.

From day one, we have been working with the dogs inside of the permanent run to get them used to being amongst the chickens and ducks. We started by taking them in on leashes, and corrected any undesirable behaviors, like chasing or trying to eat their food. As they’ve gotten older we’ve begun to allow them in the run without leashes, but still with supervision. They show almost no interest in the birds, even when the roosters mount the hens! We’ve been really pleased with how the dogs have interacted with the chickens, but recently we’ve noticed that if any pullets jump the fence into the dog area, they get a little more excited about the chickens. We’ve seen Bo run toward the chickens, but we haven’t seen any physical altercations yet. We’re wondering if perhaps the dogs distinguish between dog areas and chicken areas and while they are fine with the chickens when they go into the chicken area, they are less so when the chickens enter their area. Perhaps we’re being overly concerned, but we are going to start leashing the dogs and bringing chickens into their area to get them used to having chickens in ALL the areas they will be covering. We are planning to run an egg-mobile down the pastures once we have the permanent exterior fence up and we need to be able to trust the dogs with day-ranging chickens. We’re easing into this because we can’t afford another setback like the stray dog attack. It takes 4-5 months to get a chick to laying age and we don’t want to have to start over from scratch again. I have no doubt that some day we may go down to the field to find a chicken walking on a sleeping Pyrenees, but we aren’t there yet.

Even though we still have a little way to go before we can fully trust these pups with our poultry, we’re encouraged by their protective instincts. They’ve become pretty good little barkers and will give passing deer, coyotes, and throaty trucks an earful. And when they show each other their teeth while they wrestle, it becomes clear why they are such revered livestock guardian dogs. These dogs are not for everyone, but they are perfect for us.

Pups in June237