Friday, August 29, 2008

Farm Friday

It rained this week. As a result I spent a great deal of time indoors. To keep myself from going insane, I started researching some interesting topics- alternative methods of raising pastured poultry, and open pollinated corn.

All of my greatest research discoveries (three, to be exact, all of which led to an epiphany) have included a research paper dating back to 1950 or before. One of these led me to find that Lactobacillus Acidolphus prevents pasted vent in chicks. Pasted vent decimated devastated my laying hen chicks. Another study started me on a search for open pollinated corn. This particular one was just a part of a 1936 USDA publication. It listed Open Pollinated (OP) corn varieties suitable to all of the corn growing states, including Alabama. In searching for the varieties listed for my state, I found that only one out of eight were available from seed companies, even from heirloom or preservation seed companies such as Seed Savers Exchange and Sandhill Preservation. I had already decided that I wanted to grow open pollinated corn from reading the Northern Farmer blog and seeing the work of Mr. Dave Christensen with his Painted Mountain corn, which is absolutely amazing. The fact that the varieties I wanted were rare just spurred me on. Since then I've found two more of those corn varieties, one from a man near Mobile, who advertised in the Farmer's Bulletin, and another from a local feed store(!).

The only problem with the idea of growing it was finding a use for it. You can only eat so much corn meal in a year. Then another research paper providentially showed up- this one about pastured poultry. A few weeks ago, my feed prices nearly hit breakeven. That is, the price of feed and of the chick that produces a chicken was nearly equal to my selling price. Since then it's dropped rapidly by a few dollars a bag, but this research paper opened a whole new dimension of pastured poultry production. This one, from 1949, was a favorable report about grazing chickens on Ladino (big white) clover and feeding only corn, which I could now try growing, and minerals. This would cut my costs drastically and actually makes pastured poultry look like a lucrative business again. It would also be a very sustainable production system completely independent of purchased inputs except for the minerals. I'm getting ready to try out the idea next year, and am praying that it will work.

Have a great holiday weekend, and don't labor too hard,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Farm Friday

This week was even less exciting than last week. We're planning our fall and winter garden, and starting to plant some of the earlier-planted crops like beets and cabbage. It seems all of the vegetables I don't like are the ones that grow in winter. I've been trying hard to make myself like tomatoes, however, so maybe by force-feeding myself boiled cabbage, steamed broccoli, radishes and spinach this winter I can come to tolerate them. My only ray of hope is that home grown or farmers' market vegetables always taste better than the grocery store version.

I thought I should post a picture of our farm mascots. They're big fans of siestas on hot days, so we often catch them napping. I'm not sure if we've ever blogged about these two, so I should probably introduce them. The cat is named Tiger and the goat is Abigail.

80 more Cornish Cross chickens arrived at our post office this morning and they've happily settled into the brooder. They're so cute when they're less than a week old.

I have to do a followup on my Optimistic World News, because corn (and thus chicken feed) has gone down even more, gas is even cheaper, and although the temperatures are a little warmer, it has been breezy. And over in Beijing, the U.S. is ahead of (communist) China in overall medals.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Farm Friday

This week was fun, but we didn't do too much. On Monday we picked the apples from our grandparents' tree, which held about a bushel. We processed most of the apples into chunky applesauce today. After tasting the unsweetened applesauce from those apples, it makes you wonder just what that stuff called unsweetened applesauce at the grocery store really is. I'm hoping that the rest of the apples will be dried for use in fried pies.

On Tuesday we were blessed with a soaking rain for most of the day. The ditches were flowing and the creeks were rushing with all of the rain we got.

On Wednesday we took the last heifer to the stockyard, but I'm still waiting on the results. I'm out of the cattle business for a while now.

On Thursday I got the brooder ready for broiler chicks, which are scheduled to arrive next Friday, and that afternoon some good friends came for a visit.

Have a great weekend,

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Around the Farm

Our newly graveled driveway.

Here are some of the laying hen chicks. About half are roosters, which will be ready for processing around the last week of September.

This is the hoop coop. I first learned of the design from Josh, who also uses it. I much prefer it to the Salatin-style pen.

Miss Beef will be off to the Stockyard on Thursday, Lord willing.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Farm Friday

In case you've been wondering, I am still alive. Today was a good day to be alive, too, with much cooler temperatures that felt more like fall than the dog days of August.

After processing the chickens and selling two of my heifers, things have slowed down alot here. I ordered another batch of 80 Cornish Cross broilers today, however, so things will be getting busier.

I sold the red and white heifers last week, and found that one gained only 15 pounds and the other lost 20. I was expecting them both to have gained at least 90 pounds, so this was a revelation about the quality of our pasture, and also scuttled our grassfed beef plans. No gain=tough beef. I suspect that on the fresh spring grass with lots of clover the heifers gained weight, and then started losing weight after the first full grazing rotation, when our pasture must have been lower in quality than hay (!). It would have been best if I had sold the heifers in late May (only a month after I bought them), as the price of 400-weight heifers was highest at that time as well and slowly dropped afterwards. But hindsight is 20/20, so I'll just learn from that mistake and stick with goats for the rest of the year, and maybe next year, building up the quality of our pasture in the meantime.

I never seem to have pictures before I blog, so Lord willing I'll post some pictures tomorrow, one of which will show the laying hen chicks. I have about 60 of various breeds on the pasture in our hoop coop (which deserves a picture of it's own).

We've really been having fun eating our local, seasonal produce. When we first started going to our farmers' market there was little produce besides onions. Now everything is at the market and, best of all (in my opinion), the apples have started coming in. We discovered Moon and Stars watermelons last week, which are sweeter and more flavorful than any others I've tasted

Our grandparents' had a grape vine loaded with grapes that we picked yesterday, and we're in the process of making grape jelly. They also have a pear tree and a couple of apple trees that are loaded with fruit ready for making pear butter and preserves, apple butter, apple jelly, applesauce, apple juice, apple cider, and apple pie (I love apples). They also have crabapple trees and I'd like to try and make crabapple jelly. On Tuesday we tried our hand at making salsa, which turned out okay, but we learned how we might make it better next time. In Alabama summers, at least, eating locally is a rich life and we count it a blessing.

In closing, Optimistic World News courtesy of Sherlock:
Gas has gone down a little.
Corn has gone down a little.
The temperature has gone down alot.

Have a great weekend,