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Archive for September, 2011

Being a bi-vocational farmer is hard.  Notice, I didn’t say ‘part time’.  Nothing about our operation is part time, except maybe, sleep.

My day begins and usually ends, lighted by headlamp.  I’m out in the garden, watering, weeding and harvesting long before my suburbanite neighbors are caffeinating themselves to prepare for the daily commute.  A part of my morning routine is watching the lights go on, as one by one, the locals rise to face another day.

By 7, I’m getting ready to join the multitudes fighting Atlanta rush hour traffic.  This is when my wife takes over, grabbing a milk bucket and motoring the 5 miles down to road to the farm to alternatively feed, milk and cuddle our collection of grazers, browser and rooters.   When she gets home there is plenty of canning, freezing, baking, grinding, stewing, snapping, grating, chopping and blending, to fill the rest of her day.

Once Corporate America sets me free and I race the crowds home, there is just time to do a quick change of uniform and head back to the farm.  Sometimes we grab a bite of supper first, other times it must wait.  Often, it just doesn’t happen at all.

Evenings consist of a repeat of the morning chores along with various tasks like, planting, composting, mowing, mucking out, grooming and pairing up animals for breeding.  Saturdays are just like weekdays except we replace the morning commute for a trip to the feed store and extra chores.  Saturdays also mean processing animals and harvesting vegetables.

Sundays, after milking, we get a reprieve, because we have Church from 8:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., but since I teach a class at 8:30, we’re not exactly idle.

Yes, bi-vocational farming is hard, but it pays off in more than dollars.  Farming pays in a currency called, joy.

How can I describe the feeling of walking out in the quiet dark of an Autumn morning to wrestle the fog and dew in order to harvest a few squash, peppers and collard greens?  How can you explain the peace of looking over your garden, while scratching the ears of one or more of the herding dogs intent on remaining underfoot the entire morning?

Evenings are special times, too.  For some reason known only to Heaven and young ruminants, sunset turns juvenile goats and lambs into a kind of gymnast/rodeo clown hybrid. They run, they jump, they butt heads and generally get on the nerves of every adult animal in the pasture.  For the humans on the farm, however, they bring only smiles, and the occasional belly laugh.

As darkness begins to fall, chickens and turkeys start to look for fences, walls, limbs, window sills and feed troughs on which to settle in for a good night’s roost.  I really don’t have the right words to relay how the peaceful sounds of cooing and clucking can soothe away the stress of a day in the American Rat Race.  The sounds of roosting poultry provide a gentle serenade as we search the pastures for our hens’ latest egg hiding place.  Despite the presence of nest boxes in each pasture, every day is an Easter egg hunt in our world of free range chickens.

Back in the neighborhood, people are turning on lights and television sets for an evening of “Dancing with the has beens”, while we are being entertained by a small band of piglets squealing and gyrating around the milk stanchion, hoping to get a share of the fresh goat’s milk that’s being rhythmically squirted into the milk bucket by the Lady of the house.

Sometimes, she will aim a stream at a waiting porker who will open his mouth and grab the flying lactation out of the air.  He will wag his curly tail like a Labrador retriever and dance with delight.  There is absolutely nothing on cable or satellite television that can compare.

We started farming so that we could better control our own food chain.  We figured the best way to know exactly what goes into our food was to grow it, process it and cook it ourselves.  It worked.  We eat better.  We eat less.  We eat fresher.  Our food has something we didn’t realize it could have; flavor.

We got everything we expected from farming and more.  We got sweaty.  We got calluses. We got cuts, scrapes and bruises.  We got muscles.  We got tired.  We also got something we didn’t expect, something that money can never buy.  We got pleasure.  Pleasure to treasure, pure joy.  They just don’t sell that at the supermarket.

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Her Name is…..

You met her the other day.  I must confess that I am a bit jealous that the cyber world took more interest in the pics that Brittan put up on Facebook than the ones I posted here, but I guess that’s life.

The wee girl is doing well and already likes snuggles and having her nose rubbed.  We moved her, along with her mother, to their own pasture for a couple weeks.  They will be alone except for a half dozen hens who monitor that pasture.  We think Shylo was getting weary of warding off curious goats and piglets, so we let them move to their own space.

Oh, the name, I almost forgot.  We tossed around maybe 300 names and finally came up with one we agreed on.  Our little, spotted, spice colored girl will go by the name, PUNKIN.  Not PUMPKIN, that sounds way to Yankee.  She is a southern girl and down here they are punkins.  Anyway, Punkin is now officially a member of the East of Eden menagerie.

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The Donkey With No Name

Here she is.  We’ve been waiting for her for a year and she finally made it.  The little lady was born sometime between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. today.  As you can see, this little girl is the spit and image of her mother.  I kind of want to name her Mimic.  There is not universal agreement on that in our house, though.  Perhaps you have some great baby donkey names.  We’re open to suggestions. 

Whatever her name turns out to be, she’s gorgeous, healthy and sweet as sugar.

 

 

 

 

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Regular readers know that I believe rabbits are Mother Nature’s secret weapon.  No other livestock, with the possible exception of the Nigerian Dwarf Goat, offers as much diversity and usefulness as the rabbit.

Rabbits of course are an outstanding source of protein.  They are low in cholesterol and fat, mild tasting and versatile.  Many doctors recommend rabbit for patients with heart issues.

For those so inclined, rabbit fur makes warm clothing and a very soft leather.

Rabbit manure is the best fertilizer available for gardeners.  It composts excellently, but can be used uncomposted.  The manure also makes outstanding food for worms in a vermicomposting operation.  Some aqua culturists are also using rabbit manure as fish feed.  Wow.

Oh, and before I forget, rabbits make great pets.  If handled regularly, they are cuddly, cute and quiet.

American Chinchilla rabbits are an American breed developed in the 1920s as a dual purpose meat and fur animal.  They are fairly large, with a good meat to bone ratio.  Their fur is renowned for its chinchilla rings.  During its heyday the American Chinchilla was enormously popular.

In recent years, with the decline in the fur market and the growth in popularity of the New Zealand White rabbit, the American Chinchilla nearly went extinct.  The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has listed it as Critical.

Brittan and I have been looking for this breed for nearly a year and a half and finally found some just up the road in North Georgia.  We are very excited to participate in the effort to save this outstanding breed from extinction.  We will be breeding purebred American Chinchillas to sell to pet and show homes and will be using the bucks to add hybrid vigor and size to our meat rabbit stock.

If you live in the area, please feel free to stop by and see these little beauties.  If you are not local, watch for photos to appear from time to time.

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I thought it was about time to post a few photos from the fall garden.  As I’ve said before, we’re getting mixed results.  Germination was not great and it seems like we didn’t get enough compost in the mix and we have a few nutrient deficiencies.  Nothing that can’t be fixed.  On the positive front, we will soon be snipping off some turnip greens and I noticed a couple zucchini and squash forming.  We have several blossoms, so as long as we have some bee or butterfly activity, we should be ok.  And, just for the heck of it I included one random Chick Pic.

 

Beans and Corn

Beets


Squash

More Squash

Turnips

Chick Pic

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We have set our next chicken processing day for Saturday, October 1.   It’s about time.  After the predator problems forced us to start over, we thought the day would never arrive.

As it turns out, we will have a few chickens available that were not pre ordered.  If you’d like to go to the store at the farm website and order, that would be great, or simply drop us a note and tell us how many you’d like.

Pick up will be at the farm between 3 and 4:30 on processing day.

Oh, we are also still looking for volunteers who’d like to help for the day.  Please feel free to let Brittan or me know if you’d like to assist.

 

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A Taste of Eden

Saturday, October 22, 7:30 p.m.

Please join us for a dinner tasting party featuring a selection meats and produce raised, harvested and prepared right here at East of Eden Farms.  All presented buffet style in a casual, candle lit environment.

Menu:

Starters:  farm fresh cheese, chicken liver pate, pesto and goat’s milk mozzarella crostinis, jalapeno and cream cheese spread along with freshly baked artisanal bread

Soup:   French Onion topped with hand crafted Mancheddo cheese

Entrée:  charcoal grilled pastured chicken, smoked rabbit

Sides:  melted beets, sauteed seasonal greens, roasted sweet potato bites,

Dessert:  butternut squash pie w/fresh cream, old fashioned egg custard, home made vanilla bean ice cream

Beverage:  iced tea, coffee, water, East of Eden’s own ‘Sensational’ milk

Price: $10 per person.

Only 20 seats available, so please book early.  All tickets may be purchased online before October 15.

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