Monday, March 13, 2006

Dog Tired

It has been one busy week - my only excuse for not posting.

The weather has been incredibly spring-like. Yesterday was practically Junish around here - in the high 70's. I've been spreading mulch, prepping beds, transplanting trees and overseeding lawn and pasture areas. I even managed to pop some cute little pansies in the ground.

The animals know it's spring. The fish pond has been cleaned and I found lots of little fish eggs, so maybe I'll have new baby comets this year. The eggs that we put in the incubator should be hatching (keep your fingers crossed) Wednesday. All the kids in Monkey's class are so excited I'm worried they are going to pass out or wet themselves. Seriously. New chicks, ducklings, goslings and turkey poults arrive in two weeks.

We've ordered all the materials to build fences around the garden and about a quarter acre for the poultry.

This past weekend I attended the Organic Growers School. I picked up a lot of good ideas. I attended the dairy goat class taught by Chris Owen of Spinning Spider Creamery (lovely, delicious fresh chevre and hard goat cheeses!). I thought/hoped it would discourage me from wanting dairy goats (what with the milking, breeding, lots of work...), but it didn't and now I want some so bad I can taste chevre rolled in cracked black pepper. Her farm is not far from us and she was very encouraging, so I may give her a call and see if I can come up and check out the herd and breeds and the more serious day to day work. Her suggestion was that I get two dry yearlings or a pregnant doe. We have enough room for a couple of goats, I would love the milk and things I could do with it. I have to decide if I want the extra work and responsibility. My cowboy grandpa must be rolling in his grave thinking I want to be a chicken and goat farmer...

I took two classes on marketing - Being a Local Food Activist and Value-Added Production and Marketing. The local food class was fun and enlightening. It was amazing to see how many "organic" companies are owned by the giant conglomerates. I don't think I can buy anymore Horizon products. It was nice to network with other growers, students, and those interested in locally grown food. I sat next to a guy who works for a local produce distributor that deals mainly with farmers in the area and distributes to restaurants and groceries here in Western North Carolina. Everyone wants eggs - another reason to up my production. The value added production - sauces, jams, jellies - various processed foodstuffs was also intriguing, but it would mean the need for a lot of start up money and jumping through a lot of federal regulation hoops. Something I'm not quite ready for.

The last class I sat in on was Pastured Poultry. I was hoping to pick up a few hints and insights to make the "girls" even happier. However, the class focused on meat production and meat class birds like the Cornish Cross - a chicken monster mutant, if there ever was one. Those birds are ready to be slaughtered in 8 weeks. They feather out in one to two weeks. In contrast, my good old-fashioned multi-purpose layers take about 4 weeks to feather out and months to mature. The class did cement for me that I don't want to do meat production. And "pastured" basically means they get rolled around in a cage on a pasture. That's not for me.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to. I'll be doing some more planting today and enjoying this weather while it lasts. I just know it's going to snow again...

6 comments:

  1. We grew those monster meat blobs (well, actually I think they were Cornish Cross) last year, and I have one thing to say: they're delicious.

    I know it's not the most sustainable way to grow meat chickens, and in the future I'll have a better set-up, but for now all we have is a chicken tractor and a quick turnaround. Please don't judge me. ;)

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  2. Liz's chicken tractor is nicer than some houses in our price range! ;-)

    It's all a process, isn't it? We start out small and get better and better. We may end up with a turkey tractor this year, for want of somewhere better to put our poults until we can create a more satisfying solution.

    Maggie, I want dairy goats too. Hopefully you can set an example for me!

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  3. If some of the monster meat blobs (I love that, by the way!) show up as freebies in my chicken order, I will cherish the flesh :) I will not judge, I promise. By the way, Liz, do you eat your ducks? I already have people clammering for duck eggs!

    Jamie, how many turkeys are you getting. I've promised myself to not name those or get attached. They are meant to be dinner. I'll keep you posted on the dairy goat situation.

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  4. We haven't had snow, but the cold weather persists and only one tray of red onion seeds has shown itself to be in the least cooperative...

    The course sounds very interesting. Especially liked the Spinning Spider Creamery - what a fab name!

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  5. I think there are six turkeys in our order. They're pot luck, basically--whatever breeds McMurray has extra of. I'm hoping there will be a male and female of some variety we like, so we can save them as a breeding pair; the others will become dinners. You are right to avoid naming them!

    So people clamor for duck eggs?! I like the sound of that! We have ducklings coming, too. I know I am going to be utterly stunned by the cuteness.

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  6. I'm feeling a wee bit jealous that you and Jamie are getting baby ducks. Our girls are almost two, so it's been a while since I had duckling cuteness around here.

    We got 16 ducks orginally, and have eaten all the males (10... what kind of "straight run" is that?!) Sometimes I wish we had saved a male, but I don't want to perpetuate this breed... they're not as good layers as Khakis, and they're kind of small for a roaster (the carcasses were only 3 1/2 lbs, and ducks have more bone mass than chickens). But they are so cute that the girls are going to live as long as they want to. We're thinking about trying a few Pekins for meat this year because they are looser feathered and milder tasting.

    Duck eggs are so fabulous for baking... for regular eating they're kind of rich. You might want to sell them by the half dozen when the time comes.

    I spent last night pouring over the McMurray catalog...I'm still getting the meat blobs, but am adding in a Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Delaware, maybe a White Giant.

    I'd like to keep dairy goats, too, and maybe some sheep. And a donkey! We're planning the barn now, and hopefully will start construction next year!

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