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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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!
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 email@example.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 :).
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!