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Posts Tagged ‘free range chickens’

logoIt sure seems like my posts are getting further and further apart. You have my humblest apology for not keeping you better informed, but my silence has been due to many changes and perceived changes around here.

First, we thought we were moving across the country, but that didn’t happen. Still, I had shut down most of the operation in preparation for selling you, so there wasn’t much to write about.

Now, we are staying put here in NW Georgia, but we’ve gone through a rethink of all of our operations, and lifestyle. These changes will dramatically affect East of Eden Farms and Our Edible Suburb.

As for the farm, we are going back to subsistence farming/homesteading, which means a big reduction in livestock and garden. Over the next few months we’ll reduce our flock of chickens to less than a dozen and our rabbit herd to around 6.  The quail are still in the testing phase, so their future is uncertain. We plan to add a pair of dairy goats back in next spring, but only a pair. The pigs will all be processed this fall. We may add a feeder calf in the Spring, or we may just barter pasture land for meat. Stay tuned.

The garden is being transitioned into a testing and education space. I’ve become passionate about helping people feed themselves and want to create different kinds of experimental soil, hydroponic and hydroponic growing systems for observation and learning. I intend to develop some gardening coursed along the way. I’m especially interested in growing methods for developing countries that require minimal inputs yet produce maximum results.  Eliminating hunger and malnutrition matters to me. And doing so using methods that enhance the environment rather than destroy it also matters. So watch for more information on these subjects, too.

Because I hope to document my experiments on video, you should look for more of my updates to be found here and on my youtube channel, “Our Simple Sustainable Life”

Thanks again for not giving up on me. I’m looking forward to getting the fall garden in place. Let’s do this!

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goatsSo much for ‘a long winter’s nap’.  Spring is upon us in all its busy glory.  Where did the peaceful winter go?  Yikes.

First, kidding season has begun and is nearly over.  We have 10 baby goats on the ground and only one more doe left to kid.

In a related matter, Brittan has begun milking.  She’s doing things a bit differently this year and leaving the kids with their mothers and only milking once a day until weaning.  As a result, we’re not going to have much milk available for customers until around the end of April, but I’ll be having my chocolate milk nightcap on a regular basis.  I can’t figure out why I don’t lose any weight…..

The greenhouse is up and operational.  It’s far from finished, but at least it’s functional.  I’m so happy about that and so grateful to everyone who pitched in on weekends to make it happen.  We have a seedlingsfew things growing in it already.  The strawberries are looking good as are some herbs and a couple of early tomato plants.  I have several seedling trays going and have more to start.  I’m way behind getting beds ready for planting, but still have plenty of time to catch up…if I get my wide side in gear and get going, that is.

We move the aquaponics unit into the greenhouse this weekend and should have some lettuces and herbs going in it very soon. I’ve decided to focus on the Tilapia business this year and wait until next greenhousespring to do the crawfish.  I am very good at putting too many irons in the fire and getting burned, so just this one time, I’m going to focus on one fish project only.  That means, I’ll be ordering this year’s Tilapia and my breeding colony within the month.  Watch this space for pre ordering fish that will be ready to harvest this fall.  My plan right now, is to do this just like we used to do with chickens and take reservations.  I know that we’ve had loads of requests for them already, so it will be first come, first serve.

Since we were surprised by baby pigs, our pork project is way off schedule.  We should have had two in the freezer and instead we have 5 babies being fed by one of the sows and the other one is looking pretty pregnant to me.  It will be at least May now before we have any pork.  On the other hand, we have this year’s feeder pigs already on the ground, so the glass really is half full.  Watch for details of pastured pork being available this autumn.

We are out of the beef business.  For space and financial reasons, and because of my health, we had to find new homes for our cows.  It was an extremely difficult and emotional decision, but the right one.  We are comfortable with our decision.

We have eggs.  Yay!  The girls are laying well, as one would expect this time of year, and we are collecting quite a few.  Unfortunately, the pigs are collecting their fair share, too.  As a result, we’re going to have to build a pen to feed the pigs in and to put them in at night so we can actually gather eggs before they do.  We love having our porkers ranging, but since we can’t keep them from stealing, they’re going to have to spend some time in their cell, and we’ll let them out on a work release program.  We have them in our worst pasture so they can root it up and allow us to replant. If they get their fill of eggs, though, they will never get the plowing done.shadows

We do hope to have a few rabbits born this spring, as well.  The only kindle so far, had two in it and they were born outside the nest and died.  It happens to first time rabbit mothers sometimes.  Hopefully, two more are pregnant right now.  We’ll know in a few weeks.

I think that catches you all up for now.  I will try and be more diligent about taking photos.  I’m really terrible about remembering to capture images.  Please have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

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Periodically, we have to take inventory of what we have and where we want the farm to go.  This always results in some difficult decisions, because the heart and the head are not always aligned.

We have come to the conclusion, that we are primarily a meat goat and dairy goat farm, with pigs and pork as our secondary livestock and product.

We will continue to raise chickens for eggs, but as mentioned in an earlier post, we are out of the broiler business.  It is not profitable and not sustainable.  We’ll still do a few turkeys every year.

Beef is a difficult one.  We will stick with our two Dexter cows to provide us some meat and some cows milk for cheese.  Our mixed breed heifer will be processed this fall and our bull calf will be processed next year.  We don’t have enough quality pasture to raise large feeder steers for either ourselves or customers.

So, having thought this through, and sitting in my chair praying for wisdom, we are going to make some outstanding animals available for sale.

1.  Our two beautiful Belgian Draft Mules, Laverne and Shirley.  These girls are awesome, but just too much animal for our little place.  They need to go to someone who can work them in harness or ride them.  They are green broke and will need an experienced hand to get them back in practice, but they love attention, stand well for the farrier and load easily. They must go together as they have never been separated.  We paid a handsome price for them, but would let them go for $2,5oo total.  That’s a steal.

2. We are getting out of rabbits.  We have two breeding pair of registered American Chinchilla bunnies.  These are heritage rabbits, barely a year old.  They are worth a great deal and will produce outstanding offspring.  We’ll part with them for $100 a pair.  Again, I know we can get more, but we want to move them.

3. We have some super Nigerian Dwarf Goats we need to sell to make room for bigger goats.  We have some babies, some older girls and even some does in milk.  The milk is awesome, BTW.  We have a couple males as well, one of which has horns, but is positively gorgeous.  If you’re just getting into goats, or have a small place, Nigerian Dwarf Goats are the perfect breed. Prices vary according to age, gender and blood line.

4. We have a one year old pair of Black Spanish turkeys.  These two birds are delightful.  They hatched 14 live poults this spring.  They are good parents and pretty well mannered.  Our place is too near busy roads, though, and they are good fliers, so they need a home somewhere more remote.  They have always been free range.  Call me crazy, but I’ll let them go as a pair for $60 and we get more than that for a Thanksgiving bird.

5.  We have a yearling female Vietnamese Pot Belly Pig.  She is a fantastic mother and had no trouble birthing.  Patty probably weighs a little over 100 lbs. She’s a little bit wild, but if you can catch her, you can have her for $50.

We have three or 4 two year old Buff Orpington hens that can go for $15 each.  They will lay for another year or would make great stewing hens now.  If they don’t sell, we’ll put them in the crock pot ourselves.

I think that’s it.  Our miniature donkeys are not for sale at any price, so no need to ask.  They are expecting a foal again this winter, but we will be keeping it to train in harness.

An opportunity like this will probably never happen again from our farm.  These are quality animals at crazy bargain prices.  Our sacrifice is your gain.  Let us know if you’re interested or pass the word along to someone you know who might be.

 

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From Seattle to the Outer Banks, America has seen blast after blast of Winter’s wrath. People all over America are posting photos of freshly minted wonderlands of white. It’s a magical time of year….or not.  Here in North Georgia, we’ve had storm upon storm, but of the wet rather than white variety.  We’re up to our hips in mud.

I absolutely love the milder temperatures. It’s been great for our heating bills.  The sheer volume of rain, though, has been exhausting.  Our goats spend days on end in their shelters, because they hate rain and mud.  The mules, cows and donkeys are weary and grumpy from all the sloshing and slogging. The chickens and rabbits are soggy and discontented. The turkeys are too stupid to come in out of the rain, so they don’t count.  Only the pigs are enjoying the moisture.  They dig and root and tear up great patches of pasture, creating ponds and craters wherever they can, then race back to the barn and bury themselves in the straw to warm up and dry off.

Even the dogs are tired of the rain.  They are too muddy to come in the house and it’s too wet for them to play outside for long periods of time, so they mostly lounge around in their covered porch, alternately snoozing and barking at school children headed for or away from bus stops.

Yesterday, I got the truck stuck in the mule pasture while I was delivering hay.  I knew it would be tough sledding, but it was nearly my undoing. Fortunately, our 4 wheel drive got us out of the mire, but there are some pretty impressive wheel ruts left behind as a memorial to the adventure. Oh well, we were going to have to reseed anyway.

Speaking of seeds, that brings me to the high point, it’s seed starting season. I love this time of year, when we go through the catalogs, order our seeds and start the ones that need to be planted indoors and transferred outside in spring.  This year, we have all the usual suspects, but we’re adding a new heirloom tomato, German Green, and discontinuing our Early Girl tomatoes. The Early Girls never do as well as we hope, so we are planting more cherry tomatoes which always do well, and are adding these green tomatoes, which should be fun.

I couldn’t find my Ghost Pepper seeds, so I’ve had to order some new ones. I need to save some seeds this year as the prices are really rising. We have planted a few extra ‘gigante’ jalapeno peppers because everyone loves them for making poppers.  For the heat lovers, our ‘Biker Billy’ jalapenos are back this year. They have habanero level heat with all the normal jalapeno flavor. They make outstanding salsa and are fantastic when grilled and put on burgers and hot dogs or diced into sloppy joes and spaghetti sauce.

The other new product will be blue hubbard squash.  Winter squash is hard for us, because of the long growing season required, the space needed and the squash bugs that love Georgia clay so much.  I think I’m going to try and grow a lot of squash aquaponically, since squash bugs don’t like water. I’m also going to try to grow them vertically.  B has some trellis ideas that we can experiment with.

I still have to start our cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seeds, but I ran out of starter cups.  Fear not, I know how to get to home depot, and there are plenty of rainy days in the forecast to keep me locked inside, so the seeds WILL be planted.

Such is the story of our winter in the burb. Now, though, I have to get this updated. I have some restless dogs and rabbits and the Tilapia need a water exchange. Father time stands still for no man.

 

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We get asked a lot of questions by customers, neighbors, readers of this blog and other curious sorts, about the diets of our animals.  Mostly they are regarding soy, antibiotics, growth hormones and corn.  Some are from people genuinely interested in facts.  Some are from people who’ve recently watched Food, Inc. and are looking to change their eating habits or want to make sure we aren’t cruel to animals.  Some, though, are well meaning, but misguided.

One of my favorites is from people looking for eggs, “Do you feed your chickens an all vegetarian diet?”

“Umm, no, why would we do that?”

Usually, that’s followed by an indignant, “You don’t?” and a rapid end to the conversation.

I always hang up the phone with an amused shake of my head.  The question is so bizarre, that it makes me wonder about the American Public School system.

Ok, to be fair, the marketing of some supermarket eggs, labeled, “fed all vegetarian diet” contributes to the confusion.

The simple fact is, chickens are omnivores just like most other birds, pigs, dogs, cats, grizzly bears and humans.  Ever heard the phrase, “The early bird catches the worm”?  Note: worms are not vegetables.  Chickens love worms, bugs, slugs, ticks, grasshoppers, milk and even meat.  If a chicken dies in the pasture, the rest of the flock will usually eat the thing pretty darned quick.  I’ve seen a carcass picked clean as a whistle by a flock of hens.

A vegetarian diet is not natural for a chicken.  They want to roam the pastures finding goodies hiding in the grass.  Sure, they eat the grass, too, along with corn, oats, wheat and almost anything else that will stay still long enough.

There is nothing noble or healthy about a vegetarian chicken.  We find that our chickens are happiest when they are allowed to free range and eat whatever they can find.  Even after a day of foraging, they clean up their chicken feed and still have room to muscle their way into the pig trough for a bite of whatever goodies the porkers are chowing on.

Admittedly, B and I have only been raising chickens for a year and a half, but we’ve had several hundred pass through the farm and we have yet to meet a vegetarian among them.

Cows are vegetarian. So are sheep, goats, mules, donkeys, rabbits and horses. Chickens and yes, turkeys, are omnivores.  Don’t tell PETA, it will ruin their delusion.

 

 

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