A Chicken In Every Pot

A Chicken In Every Pot

A Herbert Hoover quote during his Presidential campaign.  I like it, especially because we raise chickens for your pot, pan, deep fryer, casserole and grill!!

Today we received our first flock of chicks for our 2018 season.  I thought I would share just how they arrive and our protocol for their first few days.  They were shipped yesterday from the hatchery, so they arrive at 1 day old.

This is how they arrive in shipping boxes with holes in the sides for air flow and arrive via the United States Postal Service.  Our local USPS ladies have my phone number on file so as soon as they are unloaded from the truck they call and I meet them, even if the Post Office is not officially open just because they know the importance of me getting the chicks as soon as possible.

I warm the truck up and put the heat on as high as I can get it this time of the year.  It was set at 90 degrees this morning.  I’m sweating but the chicks will be warm on the ride home.

When you open the box, they are chirping like crazy,  they can survive up to 48 hours from hatching on the yolk they absorbed in their bodies right before hatching from the egg.  The yolk inside the egg is what they are fed on through absorption while developing in the egg.  Right before they hatch the last of the yolk is absorbed and that colors them bright yellow.  If they were with the hen this allows the hen to hatch eggs over 2 days without having to leave the nest to feed the newly hatched chicks.  All the chicks will leave with her even if they were hatched different days.  Just a neat fact of chickens.

Before I leave for the Post Office, I will turn on the brooder lights , get the starter feed ready and this time of the year we tarp the brooder to trap as much heat inside as possible

We add a vitamin to their water while in the brooder and the first day I boil eggs and crush them, shell and all to mix with their starter ration.  The eggs provide an additional protein and is easily digested.  It’s fed to them warm to help warm their bodies up.

The hatchery always sends at least a few extra chicks, because it’s not unusual to lose a few that may be weak.  If started off right and we stay vigilant with their care we don’t lose very many if any at all.  It’ll be 8 weeks before these little guys take their trip to the processor.  Hopefully if the weather is cooperative they will be outside in a few short weeks, eating up bugs, getting grass and lots of sunshine so they can grow into delicious , healthy and nutritious chickens in every pot.

If you every have any questions about our farming practices, just ask!!

Farmer Amy

Yep, I picked it up!!

There are so many things that seem like a good idea, but you find out they were not.  This little tale begins on a very cold morning here on the farm.  Kent and I are doing the morning chores and because it’s so early in the morning we of course are doing them in the dark.  By all accounts everything is going smoothly and we have been steadily getting all the morning tasks knocked out one by one.  It was also a day that we needed to breed one of the sows that was in heat.  

We use artificial insemination on our sows to get them bred.  This allows us access to diverse genetics from all over the country.  We can choose a boar(male) that will compliment which ever sow we are breeding to either enhance particular traits we like or add traits that the boar is noted for.  We always look at “meat quality” when picking each boar.  Now back to my story.

We had finished the feeding and watering and now it was time to breed the sow.  We do this out in the pasture with her.  With pigs artificial insemination is not difficult it just takes the right eye to spot when the best time is.  Like I said it was still dark that morning.  Kent was getting his equipment together that he needed to inseminate the sow when he said to me…. “Ooops , I just dropped my glove.”  Me, being a loving wife precede to reach around on the ground trying to find his glove.  Before you ask , yes we had a flashlight but it was in Kent’s hand pointing at the sow.  I’m fumbling around on the ground with my hand and finally pick up what I thought was his glove.  Eureka! I thought.  But, to my surprise it was not his glove……..it was a nice sized pig poop.

Yes, I eventually found the real glove and we successfully got the sow bred.   Times on the farm can be funny and gross all in the same instance.  I love this life even when I have pig poop in my hands on a cold, dark morning.

Farmer Amy

 

We Can Back It Up!!

“Humanely Raised, Caged Free and Natural”  isn’t just talking points for us.  We can back it up!!  

There is a trend among large grocery chains and commercial meat producers to throw out terms like “humane” “free-range” “natural” “cage-free”, but is that real?  Are they being completely honest or just giving a half-truth.  You’re going to have to decide that for yourself, but please do your research.  Knowledge is power.  You can find pro-articles and non-pro articles on each animal raised for meat when it comes to commercial practices.  I can’t speak for any other farm–small or large.  But, I can assure you how it is done here!!  And you’re more than welcome to come and see for yourself.  Try that at a commercial factory farm and see what kind of open house you’ll have.  At some facilities you won’t even get on the farm much less inside where the animals are housed.

Since it’s the Thanksgiving season I’ll speak first on our turkeys!!  We only raise one flock a year.  We take orders for the Thanksgiving turkeys in March so that we can get on the Hatchery’s list and get the baby turkeys in around the end of July.  It takes a few months for them to reach the ideal weight for your table.  We practice strict bio-security with the baby turkeys due to diseases they are susceptible to, so they stay healthy.  We keep them in the brooder for several weeks until their immune system is ready for them to go outside on the pasture.  Once on the pasture they are contained in a poultry netting that is electrofied to help keep any predators out.  We also keep one of the Livestock Guardian dogs with them for protection.  The turkeys will take about 40% of their diet from grasses, leaves and insects giving them and us the benefit of higher Omega 3’s, Vit E, Vit C and Beta Carotene.  We move the netting every 2-3 days giving them fresh access to new grasses and insects.

Our chickens that we raise for meat are housed in mobile units that we move across our pasture twice daily giving them access to fresh pasture and it helps keep them clean and out of their own waste.  The mobile units are to keep them protected from weather conditions and keep them safe from predators.  We also keep one of the dogs with them in the pasture to watch over them.  We’ve never lost a bird to predators when the dogs are there.

Our pigs are NOT housed.  They have access to shelters to sleep and relax in but that’s it.  Our sows when it is time to have piglets will come in a stall so that we can monitor them and have access to the piglets when they are born.  We have several pastures set up for the pigs giving each group plenty of room to socialize, graze, root and wallow at will.  They are separated in groups by ages and gender. 

Our sheep flock is moved to different pastures throughout the year to keep them access to new grasses.  In the winter we have about 15 acres of woodland that we put them in for protection from the elements and this gives our pastures a rest for a few months.  The cloven hooves of sheep can do a lot of damage to wet ground so we keep them off the pastures during the winter months.  This is a time that the ewes are pregnant with next years lambs so they are fed with a high quality hay over the winter and if they need grains they are fed a locally milled grain mixture.

Last but certainly not least is our laying flock of chickens for our eggs.  They have access pretty much to the entire farm.  They roam around our yard, barn and pastures at will.  They keep all the bugs and spiders from getting into my house!!!  They dust bathe, sun bathe, peck and eat whatever they want—they’re slightly spoiled, but make the best eggs!!!

I welcome you to stop by and see how we raise our animals—cage free–YES, naturally–YES, free-range–YES, humane—YES and we can prove it!!

Farmer Amy

Our Security Team…whatcha gonna do when they come for you??

Junior

I’m asked a lot about whether we worry about predators with our sheep flock and chicken /turkey flocks and the answer to that is “No”.  We have three Security Guards that are on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week.  They have proven they can handle their jobs so we rest easy knowing our flocks are well taken care of.

First I’ll introduce you to Junior, the big male of the Team.  He is actually Lily’s pup from her one and only litter.  He is a Great Pyrenees, a breed of dog known for their protection of livestock.  Junior is a character who adores ladies, but not so much fellas except for Kent—he loves Kent.  Junior will protect anything we put him with.  He has taken out an opossum or two trying to sneak in with the chickens, he patrols the fence lines and you can hear him barking from a great distance especially when the coyotes start hawling.  He is also very good at watching the sky and barks at any and all buzzards, hawks, and geese that happen to fly over.  He is intimidating to look at and weighs in about 135 lbs.  He’s frontline of defense.

Lily— the oldest and wisest of our Security Team.  Lily is the Boss-Lady.  To look at her, you would think she is a lazy loafer that couldn’t protect an old shoe, but you would be wrong.  Lily works smarter not harder.  Lily sets up advantage posts where she can see as much of her guard area as possible.  Whether that is a corner or smack-dab in the middle of the pasture.  She is ferocious along fence lines , daring anything to come in her area.  She is gentle with the lambs and routinely makes checks of her lambs.  Lily also is our teacher and Emma Jean spent a great deal of time learning her job along side Lily.

Emma Jean—our craziest and youngest member of our team.  Just about to turn 2 years old.  Emma Jean has proven herself well already.  The most ferocious when she spies a flying predator and will leap in the air barking to run them off.  Emma Jean is comical and ALWAYS in your pocket.  It’s an ordeal just to gather the eggs when she’s on chicken duty.  Her face has to be in your face.  We are hoping that one day soon she will be able to pass some of her great protective traits to a litter of pups.  But, that will be a while off.

We sure couldn’t run this farm without them.  There is no telling how many tragedies have been avoided because they were on duty.  They are a vital part of the farm.  Most of the time visitors won’t see them because they are working.

We love them and will keep you posted on their jobs.

What’s So Special About Farm Day?

What’s so special about Farm Day?  That may not be the exact question I get, but I do get a lot of questions about our Farm Days.  I guess I’ll start with telling you how they came about in the first place.

I knew I really wanted to share our farm with the public.  The farm had participated in the SC Ag & Art Tour the previous year and I really enjoyed having the visitors come and ask questions about the farm and take the tours.  I knew I wanted to share the farm more with my customers and let them be a part and see just how their food is raised.  As much as I love the farm I knew I had to offer more than just our products…..

I had met some really great Farmers like myself that were raising different products than me, but were having a hard time advertising and getting their farms out there.  That’s when I decided on Farm Day.  The Farmer’s Markets in our area are just not what Market’s were in the past.  The ones that seem to be managed well are not really close and that makes it difficult to set up and sell at those.

I decided that I could open my farm up , invite other farmers and local Artisans to set up and do my own “farmers market”.  I also decided that I would not charge a Vendor fee to come and set up.  I figured all of us are small businesses and need every dollar to pay our operating costs and have a little take home money.  With our farm along with the others there is NO advertising budget, NO subsidies, and NO one but ourselves that have invested money and tears into our farms.

It’s been 2 full years and I have put together some of the best local Farms and Artisans anywhere!!  I have watched people step out and follow their dream to start their businesses—-I’ve watched people get excited because they actually have a place to sell their creations.

We are a band of friends!  We all support and care about one another.  I do have the best Vendors!!  They are good people with immense talents.

You can find about anything you need on Farm Day—from of course our pasture raised meats and eggs, beef, produce, honey, goat cheese, fresh roasted coffee, baked goods, cheesecakes, jewelry, clothing, baby items, toys, furniture, crafts, home decor, outdoor decor, accessories, health and beauty items and more to come.

Help us support each one of these great people along with our farm.  Without your support we will cease to exist in this climate of commercial misrepresentation of what is available in stores!!  Our products like these other vendors are unique and in our case much healthier than what you will purchase in a grocery store.

Check out the Event page for dates and times.  As always you are welcome to visit and shop at our farm throughout the month, not just on Farm Day.

Farmer Amy

The Gravy on our Biscuits

You know it’s hard to not pair biscuits and gravy together.  Yes, you can have them separate, but boy are they really good together.  It’s no wonder that biscuits and gravy are my all time favorites!!

Well, that’s how I feel about the two girls that work for us….my biscuits and gravy!!  Let me introduce you to these farm assets.   Griffin Poulter and Katherine Jones

They are Treasures here!!  They keep the animals taken care of and that’s not an easy task especially in the summer heat.  Neither is scared of anything, well I take that back  Katherine hates spiders.  If it’s spidery she may balk a little at the task.

They can catch and hold a full grown ewe or tenderly cuddle a scared orphaned lamb.  They do all the castrating and ear-tagging when the lambs are born.   Let me say that catching ewes to be wormed or treated can be difficult and they get it done.

Heavy farm machinery is no problem for these girls!!  Katherine is a master at the bush-hogging and Griffin can plow a garden row in no time flat!!

From catching piglets to catching a wayward black snake to relocate.  All you need to do is ask.

They can milk a cow

Shoot a gun or guns!!

Of all the assets we have here on the farm, I would say these two beautiful girls are two of the best!!  They can never know just how much I love them both.  Just how much they are needed and wanted!  God didn’t bless Kent and I with children of our own, I think he wanted to share these two with us though.

Say “Hey” to them when you come!!  They clean up nice too!!!

Farmer Amy

 

Hank Jr. Said It Best!!

Hank Jr. said it best “It’s a family tradition.”  One of ours is Buttermilk Biscuits.  My Mama has been making biscuits since she was about 9-10yrs old.  Always with Buttermilk.  When I was growing up, she didn’t keep no half gallon, she kept a GALLON of Buttermilk in the refrigerator.  Not only was it for biscuit making it was also for a tall glass of cornbread, sliced onion and Buttermilk all mixed together….Daddy’s favorite meal by the way.  It’s a family tradition that each and every supper came with Buttermilk biscuits.

Mama makes her’s strictly by hand—-NO gadgets for her.  Her hands, her biscuit making bowl and a rolling pin.  Yes, I said biscuit making bowl–not used for anything else, kept in its own special spot because it holds just the right amount of everything to “make a mess of biscuits.”   “Mess” for y’all not from the South means a bunch.

I have tweeked Mama’s recipe by using a food processor to do my combining of flour, buttermilk and butter.  Another tweek for me is using butter instead of Crisco (which by the way is NOT food—it’s a by-product of cotton seed processing).  Real butter is much better for you!!  Also butter contains water which will make the biscuits rise from the evaporation.  Just remember to keep it COLD!!

Here is a video I did for Facebook showing the steps of making my biscuits.

I’ll post the pictures and explain a little more about each step.

First are the ingredients:

Mama always uses self-rising flour, so of course I have stayed with that.  She also always uses Southern Biscuit and yep, me too!  I usually use 1 1/2 cups flour , 1/2 cup Buttermilk and 1 stick of butter cubed and kept cold.  You really want all your ingredients cold.

I place the flour and cubed butter in my food processor and pulse to combine until you see little balls of flour/butter.

Then I slowly drizzle in the cold Buttermilk—you won’t use all the Buttermilk—you just want the dough to be somewhat wet and just starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Like in the next picture..

Throw  a good handful of flour on to your work surface to keep the dough from sticking..

Pour the dough out onto your work surface.  With your hands just work enough to bring the dough together….Don’t work it to much, just bring the sides in and combine any loose flour.

You can start to flatten the dough out but again, don’t work to much and if the dough starts to warm up from your hands, just pop it in the frig for a minute or two.

Now I fold my dough over on itself a couple times, just to create layers of the butter within the dough.  When the butter melts and produces the steam from water evaporation it will cause the biscuits to rise and create layers in your biscuits.

Now you can roll it out and cut your biscuits.

TIP: when cutting your biscuits out, don’t twist the cutter, cut straight down.  Twisting will seal the edges and prevent rising.

I always cook my biscuits in a well-seasoned cast iron pan.  Brush them with a little butter.

Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes

The last thing is ENJOY!!

 

Farmer Amy

 

 

Some Days You Just Cry

 

Some days you just cry…..Farming for the most part is hard physically but rewarding deep in your soul.  Most days go and come without much excitement.  You go to bed tired and thinking of the work that lies ahead the next day resolved that you accomplish at least a smidgen of what you wanted to.  Then there are those days that wrench at your heart.  The other day was one of those days here on the farm.  My Sweet Spot was gently euthanized so that her pain of arthritis would end.  Let me tell you about this precious Treasure.

Sweet Spot came to us 6 yrs ago due to divorce situation that apparently was quite contentious.  The husband had threatened to shoot her just to hurt his wife.  She came here, not neglected but quite spoiled.  She was pushy and she seemed to make a point of waiting until you weren’t paying attention before she kicked her milk bucket over.  She had a quirk of NOT being milked while she ate.  It took some time before I knew her and she knew me.  But, that’s when the beauty happened.  She looked for me and all I had to do, from anywhere on the farm, is call her name and it wouldn’t be long until you saw her coming.  She became so quiet and gentle around me, we just loved each other.  No matter what pasture she was in all I had to do was open the gate and let her out, she made a b-line for the barn to be milked.  Many occasions I would get lost in the “milking moments” with her.  She would chew her cud and if you’ve never sat and listened to a cow chewing her cud you should put that on your bucket list.  It’s so soothing.  You can’t be stressed around a cud chewing cow!!

It’s hard when you get attached to them and they steal away part of your heart.  I wouldn’t trade this life for any other, but with it can come some pain.  I believe that God takes them to  His home and restores them to be what he created them to be in all of their beauty and perfectness.  I plan on seeing her again one day and calling her name to watch her come across that beautiful pasture to greet me.

Rest In Peace my Sweet Spot

 

All About Ears

One of the questions I always get when I am either giving a farm tour or showing new customers around the pigs is “What’s wrong with their ears?”  As you can see in the above picture their ears are funny looking.  No, they were not born that way.  Let me share our system with you.

We use a universal ear-notching system.  This provides us a means to identify each pig without a lot of expense.  It gives each pig an individual identity so that we can follow the life of that pig from the time it was born until the time it goes into the freezer.  If we have a pig that gets sick or injured for some reason and we have to use medications on that pig, we can cull that pig at the sale barn and not use it for our pork production.  We have been very lucky on that front and have had to cull out only a few pigs.

Each coordinate of the ear represents a number and each ear represents the litter and the individual piglet.  Here is a picture to help explain…

We use a special tool to notch the ears and we do this when the piglets are no more than 3 days old.  At the same time we will castrate the males, remove the incisor teeth (we’ll get into that later) and check for hernias, get weights and look for any birth defects.  They receive an injection of iron to boost their immune system.

Here is a picture of the notcher….

About removing the incisor teeth on the piglets.  We do this for a few reasons.  The reason the piglets are born with such sharp incisor teeth is because sows can have litters that have more piglets in them than they do teats to nurse the babies.  In nature this allows the strong to fight for their teat to nurse on and survive.  We strive for all our piglets to survive so if we have an issue with too many piglets we will remove the piglet and bottle raise it or if we have another sow with the piglets the same age we may try to get her to adopt it.  Piglets are born highly competitive and fight for the best teats which are toward the front of the sow and give the most milk.  After about 4-5 days the piglets will establish ownership of their particular teat and the fighting will subside.

Neither procedure is harmful, stressful or painful to the piglets.  The most stress is from being held for the procedures.  We do this while the sow is eating so that we don’t stress her over taking her piglets away from her.

It’s all a process and everything has a reason and a purpose.    I enjoy picking the little piglets up and cuddling them before we get started.

As always if you have any questions or comments please let me know!!

Farmer Amy