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Posts Tagged ‘pastured eggs’

aquaponics greenhouse in progress

aquaponics greenhouse in progress

Our Edible Suburb has ALWAYS been about optimizing small spaces for gardening and farming.  We’ve also been focused on being good stewards of the earth and treating God’s creation with respect.  With each passing day, I become more convinced that Aquaponics and Aquaponics related methods are the key to the future of small space, back yard,  limited acreage and urban farming.  Aquaponic methods are water wise, energy efficient (though not yet fully sustainable, but we’re working on it) and kind to the earth.

The systems we’re designing and building now, utilize a combination of floating raft systems and self watering containers and their larger cousins, wicking beds.  Wicking beds of different sizes use only a fraction of the water of traditional earth gardens or raised beds.  Because the water stays in the system there is no leaching or runoff.  By utilizing captured rainwater we can minimize city, county or well water use as well.  And by composting our donkey and rabbit manure as well as using coconut coir rather than peat, we have extremely sustainable sources for our growing media.

Plants can be much closer together because they don’t have to compete for nutrients.  There are plenty to go around.  The earth is not destroyed.  There is no tilling to erode topsoil.  There are no chemical fertilizers to damage ground water and chemical pesticides are not necessary to control pests.  Imagine for a moment, a bed full of summer squash with no squash bugs to fight.  That is entirely possible with an aquaponics system.

B and I have realized that on our 6.5 acres with our dairy goats, rabbits, pigs and aquaponics systems we can produce around a ton of pork, half a ton of goat meat, a ton of tilapia and redclaw crawfish and many thousands of pounds of vegetables and fruit.  We will even be able to keep a dairy cow and an annual feeder calf.  I can”t calculate the milk products and by-products like soap yet, because we’re just too new in that field, but the potential is very high.  I haven’t even touched on rabbit meat, chickens, eggs, turkeys, worms or compost.  The potential is mind boggling.

It will be a slow process, because we don’t do debt and we don’t have any investors, but the future is very bright.  Our goal continues to be to ‘feed the world while we heal the earth’, but we also want to teach others how to do the same.  I am convinced that the average American family can cut their food bills in half by growing some of their own food.  I believe this is possible with a space as small as the average back deck.  And again, aquaponics systems are the key to that belief.  Stay tuned for details on an upcoming e-book on that subject.

Have you tried your had at aquaponic gardening yet?  Have you considered it?  Would you consider it?  Would you buy Tilapia, crawfish and ‘fresh water lobster’ from a local provider if it was available?  I’d love to hear your experiences and your thoughts.  Please do share.

 

 

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Given the title of Jake Meader’s article on the Christianity Today website, “Did we love ‘God Made a Farmer’ Too Much?” my expectations were pretty much below ground level when I read it.  Even with the bar set so low I still feel he fouled off the pitch at best.

I realize his target was the modern ‘factory farm’ movement, consumerism and a potential misunderstanding of scripture rather than those of us who are small, diversified farmers, and that’s why I give him credit for making contact even if he didn’t quite put the ball in play.  I would encourage him, though, to watch the ‘game film’ and reconsider his conclusions.

Most Americans have no idea where their food comes from.  For them, it’s all neatly packaged at Kroger, IGA or one of a thousand other chains.  So for one fleeting moment, America’s attention was drawn to the men and women who make Kroger possible.

Yes, too much of our farming is industrial and destructive of God’s creation.  Yes, monocultures of flora and fauna are a detriment rather than a blessing to the earth we’ve been commanded to steward.  The American Industrial Farming industry needs to be outed and corrected.

The commercial, though, highlights those of us who are trying to bring balance back to an industry and a world that desperately needs balance.  America, and many other parts of the world, has multiple thousands of farmers exactly like the ones in Paul Harvey’s poem.

My wife and I are among that army of farmers, who rise early and rest late.  I remember staying on the phone with my bride as she helped pull a lamb when the mother couldn’t do it alone.  The late winter wind howled and the actual temperature hovered around freezing. By the time I raced across town from my day job, she had pulled the lamb and stripped off her own jacket and sweatshirt to dry and warm it, giving no thought to her own comfort.

I have searched pastures in the darkest nights during driving rain to find goats born in the storm.  I have buried them deep inside my shirt and wrapped my coat around us all to warm them and give them a chance at the life they were born to live.

We have labored day and night to save a hen with a gangrene leg and I have wept man sized tears over creatures I’ve had to put down to end their misery.

While our friends and neighbors slept late on their Sunday mornings, we have been up at zero dark thirty, so the goats could be milked, the animals fed and watered as well as the garden tended to so we could be ready for me to teach an 8:30 a.m. Bible class.

We have fought droughts and battled floods.  We’ve seen bumper harvests and withered fields.  We have savored the birth of countless animals and have awakened to find flocks slaughtered by predators the previous night.

My wife can decorate a table as fine as the fanciest establishment in New York City and she can build a stall in a barn as well as any carpenter.  Her dairy goats follow her like she fell from Heaven and they may just be right.

We know no greater joy than when our friends and customers (those are synonyms by the way) tell us that our eggs, milk, yogurt, chickens, beef, pork, vegetables or fruit are the best they’ve ever had.

We go to bed at night knowing that our farming methods are helping feed the world while we heal the land.  We are stewards of God’s creation and we take our responsibility seriously.  We are not alone.  We know many more like us, most of whom are far more skilled than we.

Last week I had serious neck surgery.  The nurses stuck me in 5 different places before they found a vein into which they could place my IV port.  The head nurse said, “I’m so sorry to do this to you.  I don’t mean to hurt you.  Your skin is very thick. You use your hands.”  I beamed.

During the Super Bowl, in an attempt to sell trucks, Dodge drew the world’s attention to a subculture often overlooked and under-appreciated.  My email inbox was full the next day from people saying, “I thought of you.”

Our lives are not romantic, they are real. Did we like “God Made a Farmer” too much? Maybe Mr. Meader surmises we did, but I’m thinking, that thousands of others thought a Super Bowl ad finally hit the right note. Y’all decide.  I’ve got chores to do.  I’m a farmer. And I thank God every day for the privilege.

 

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There’s not much happening around here this time of year and that’s the way it should be.  We have nothing in the garden except a few sugar snap peas and they are in the sun room in the house.  We have some small cherry tomato plants in there as well as a winter experiment.  Out at the farm things are quiet, too.  The sheep are gone. Most of the turkeys are in the freezer. The chickens are starting to slow down production a bit. The cows are getting ready for the processor.  The goats are finishing up the autumn breeding cycle. The rabbits are a bit behind in their breeding schedule, but are enjoying Fall. The pigs are eating everything that doesn’t move, because that’s what pigs do.  The donkeys and mules seem a bit bored with it all.

The only projects on the move are building some new chicken shelters and setting up the aquaponics tanks. I should be working on some of that right this minute, but I’m being quite lazy this week. So there.

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Summer has faded, fall colors are past their peak and winter looms.  Its a relief to have the work load lightened, but it’s sad to see the garden bare and pastures losing their green.  We’ve decided to make a few changes in our emphasis for the coming year.

First, we are not planning on doing broiler chickens in 2012.  We actually lost money on them this year.  Between rising feed costs and predation, we lost quite a bit.  We are, however, going to increase our number of laying hens.  We intend to offer CSA shares this coming summer and will include an egg option in the package. We may make the occasional stewing hen available at the end of a season.  Older chickens make great chicken and dumplings as well as chicken noodle soup.  We’re not sure about that option yet.

We are going to increase the number of turkeys we raise.  We like them a lot. There is certainly a market.  What I find unfortunate is that they are only thought of as Holiday bird.  Sure, they’re larger than chickens and cost considerably more, but when you think of all the meals you can make from a single turkey, they are a real bargain.  I’ll do a ‘turkey versatility’ article sometime.

We’re selling the sheep.  We like them, but they just don’t fit our model.  We’ll miss them, for sure.

We won’t be doing beef.  Chuck and Diane go to the processor on the 30th of this month.  That will leave only Butter.  We will keep her for dairy and if she has a heifer calf, we’ll keep it for dairy.  Dexters don’t produce a lot of milk, but it will be good quality and they do well on less than lush pasture.

We are increasing the number of Alpine goats.  We love the quality of milk as do those who get it from us. We will sell the males as wethers for weed control or for BBQ.

We will hold steady on Nigerian Dwarf goats.  They don’t produce as much milk as the Alpines, but we are crazy about them.

Pig numbers are on the increase.  We brought home a young sow yesterday.  Her name is Patty.  She will be a wife for Link. The pigs have been an awesome addition to the farm. The eat the garden scraps and all the surplus milk and whey. Apart from certain ethnic communities, most people love pork, so the market for sausage, ham and bacon is there. Besides, pork is our favorite meat here.

Finally, we are adding the Tilapia and Giant Red Claw Crayfish.  The only thing holding us back is the cash to build the greenhouses.  Since we don’t do debt, we have to wait until we have the money saved up.

As regards veggies for 2012, we are planning to offer a few all season CSA shares, featuring potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, herbs, beets, turnips, greens, bell peppers and jalapenos.  There will be a little broccoli and cauliflower. A lucky few might even talk me out of some habanero and jolokia peppers.  But you’ll have to be really good talkers. 🙂

Lest I forget, we still have rabbits. We will continue to breed our meat rabbits, but have added American Chinchilla rabbits for the pet market and for those who want to start breeding rabbits. They are a rare breed and have awesome personalities.

I think that should get you up to date on our forward look.  Please stay in touch.  It’s not too early to let us know if you’re interested in a CSA share.  Also, drop us a line and tell us if you have interest in a CSA share that includes meat, dairy, eggs and fish.  We are looking at a package that we call “The Omnivore’s Delight”.

Have a great week.

 

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This is not the year of the chicken for us.  Early this morning, Wes, one of our Livestock Guardian Dogs, got into the field with chickens and killed a number of laying hens and some of the broilers we were going to process this coming weekend.  Several other hens were injured or traumatized.  So for the time being, eggs are off the product board.  We will attempt to fill current standing orders, but casual and occasional availability will be extremely limited.

The good news is we have around 30 baby hens who will begin laying sometime around the first of the year.  Until then, please be patient.  We’ll keep you posted as to when we have eggs.  Thanks.

Also, Wes is looking for a new home.  If you know of anyone who needs a Livestock Guardian Dog, but doesn’t keep poultry, let us know.  He’s good with goats, sheep, cows and donkeys.

 

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First, the bad news.  As we feared, we are going to have to raise prices on eggs, chickens and rabbits.  Since meat prices on goats and beef have not been set yet, there is nothing to announce in that regard.

Beginning May 1, eggs will be $3.50 a dozen.  Chickens and rabbits will be $15 each.  Those who pre ordered chickens and rabbits at $12 will receive your promised price and will only be charged the $12.  Similarly, pastured turkeys will go from $55 to $75.  We will honor the pre order price of $55.

It is difficult for us to do this, because keeping prices as low as possible is a part of our whole business plan.  The cost of feed and fuel has simply forced us into this.  In the case of the turkeys, we grossly underestimated what it would take to get a turkey to market at 6 mos.  Yikes.

Now for the good news.  Also, beginning May 1, we are launching an Edible Suburb Referral Program, giving you a chance to earn rewards for promoting East of Eden products.

Here’s how it works:  Beginning May 1, if you refer a customer (someone who has never purchased from us before), we will give  you a 10% commission on everything that person buys for the first 6 months they are a customer.  For example, you refer someone who buys 2 dozen eggs in May, that’s 70 cents back to you.  If they, then buy 4 dozen eggs, 1 rabbit and 2 chickens in June, you would earn $5.90.  That’s like getting a dozen and a half of your eggs FREE.

If you do the math, you’ll see that if you refer three or 5 people and they become customers, you can knock a big chunk off your produce bill for a while.  We will pay out monthly.  Eg.  we’ll pay the second week of June for what is earned in May.

We consider you more than customers and friends, you are our partners and we want to reward you for helping us spread the word.  Sometime in May, we will have business cards available.  When you buy from us, we’ll give you a few cards.  Just write your name on the back of it and when your referral buys online or on the farm, we’ll give you the credit.  The credits will be good on garden produce too, when they (if they) are available later in the summer.

If you have any questions, just let us know.

One more thing; as mentioned yesterday, you can now write to us at sam@eastofedenfarms.com and brittan@eastofedenfarms.com.  The hyphens are no longer necessary.

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Eggs, glorious eggs. Man have we got em!  Even with the predator taking 17 layers, we’re still getting 3 dozen a day.  Part of it is the fact that it’s spring and chickens go into overdrive in the spring, but I am convinced that there is another factor.  About a month ago, we switched from a chicken tractor model to free ranging our hens.  The production picked up almost overnight.  Not only that, but I really believe the chickens are happier.  The picture on the left shows a few of the ladies enjoying the April sun.

They waddle out of the hen pen in the morning and go straight to work scratching, grazing, digging through straw and old hay looking for critters.  They make short work of any cow pats that are more than two days old.  Fresh ones are ignored, but the slightly aged ones are an excellent place to find bugs and larvae.  The pasture gets the benefit of having fertilizer spread on it.  And it’s all done without machinery.

At night, when we go out to put them to bed, they come running full speed to meet us, because they know we’ll have a couple scoops of feed as a bedtime snack.  The girls follow us straight to the hen pen and run in to grab their treat.  Brittan and I are much happier with this model.  And the eggs are phenomenal.  The yolks are dark orange and the taste is out of this world.  Our customers seem to agree.  Sales are strong and customer satisfaction is high.  If you know anyone in our area who is looking for the best tasting eggs they’ll ever have, just send them our way.

We’re finally making some progress getting the garden planted.  We’ve had a lot of wind and storms this spring which have put us about 10 days behind.  This week, though, we’re starting to gain momentum.  Our roma tomatoes have survived the storms and sunburn and are growing new leaves.  The green beans Brittan planted last week sprang up today.  It looks like about 100 plants in our first planting.  A few beets seem to be sticking their first leaves up, as well.  And, we have some slicing tomatoes along with cherry ones and peppers out now.  Slowly, but surely, the garden is taking shape.  It’s work, but well worth it.  I’ll get some pics on here once the thing is done.

Lastly, I must tell you about Brittan’s latest great invention.  Unfortunately I don’t have any photos yet, but I’ll get some soon.  It’s a rolling cattle paddock.

We’ve had a hard time figuring out how to get the animals from one pasture to another without risking an escape.  The land we lease does not have a complete perimeter fence so there is ample opportunity for livestock to make a run for it if they get out into open space.  The donkeys and goats are no problem because we can put leads on them.  But the sheep and cows are another story.

First, we collaborated on designing a portable pasture that we could move every day.  You’ll see pics of that once it arrives.  We still had to figure a way to get the cows to the portable pasture as it’s a couple hundred yards away from where they are now. At first, we considered using step in posts and horse cable to make a channel, but that was time consuming.  Then, out of the blue Brittan had the idea to make a cattle truck without an engine.  Essentially, it’s 4 gate panels connected together and two sets of gate wheels.  The cows or sheep go in to eat, we close the door and walk them to their new pasture.  It worked like a charm with our sheep.  Once we get the new pasture up, the cows will go next.  My wife is not just gorgeous, she’s a genius.

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