Sunday, November 28, 2010

So much to be thankful for!!!

As 2010 slowly slips into the position of "last year" I want to take a moment to thank all of our farm's "followers", "fans" and customers. I feel so blessed to be raising our animals every day. Here is a top 10 list for what I am thankful for in 2010.

10. Backyardchicken.com - a great website for getting advice and support. I also find many chicken craft enthusiasts to talk to. Who thought there was more than 1 chicken craft enthusiast out there.

9. Pumpkin pie - for as much as I love this pie I don't make it but once or twice a year. ***Note to self - 2011 NY resolution - make more pumpkin pie!***

8. Turkeys - I can't believe how many people I met because I raised their Thanksgiving / Holiday turkey. This is just the beginning of our turkey adventures. Plus the animals themselves are smart and funny to be around. They make me smile on my worst days.

7. Fabric/Craft stores - to feed my chicken craft enthusiasm.

6. Oregon Peeps hatchery in Estacada, Oregon. A small farmer in his own right, Pete is doing a great job of supplying mine and many other small local farms with high quality chicks and poults at reasonable prices.

5.Chickens - well of course they are in the top 5! I love me some chickens :)

4. My 3 amazing pets - Pip, a 5 year old mastiff, adopted from Mastiff Rescue Oregon, she was a rescue from a neglectful situation but you'd never know to look at her now; Baby Girl, now 1 year old, mini doxie that was also rescued from neglect; and Marechal Foch, our cat that is so fat from never being neglected by us that leads you to believe she doesn't need your love until you touch her, then she's a motorboat. (You can find Pip and Baby Girl on Facebook too)

3. My country - regardless of our personal political views, we're all allowed to express them (in non-violent ways of course). I appreciate that I live in a country that wakes up everyday and says, "I can be better!"

2.Family and friends - this has been a stressful year for so many people in my life. I am grateful for their health and hope that 2011 brings more and better opportunities to all.

1. God for making #2-9 of this list and for sharing the world and Her grace with me.

May you have much to be thankful for this holiday season.

Thank you for your continued support!

God Bless,
Natalie

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Let's Talk Turkey!

I feel so blessed to be announcing that yesterday the Forest Grove News Times did a cover story about our turkeys. Here's the link: http://forestgrovenewstimes.com/news/story.php?story_id=129056105621193700

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The true cost of Thanksgiving

How can that be, we’ll pay $4.49/lb for frozen boneless skinless chicken breast from a factory farm but not pay $3/lb for a fresh heritage turkey? When did we decide that turkeys were cheaper to raise or that it was an inferior meat we’d only pay $.59/lb for???

It takes at least 14 weeks to get that huge bowling ball turkey raised yet it takes 6-8 weeks to raise a chicken for the dinner table. For our birds it is 20 weeks and 10, but you get the idea. That right there tells you the cost is higher per bird to feed and labor to care for. There is the opportunity cost to factor in that you could raise 3 times as many chickens in the time you can raise turkeys because they take longer and are bigger. Turkeys also are harder to raise because they have different instincts and yes are a little on the slower side. They try to take my rings all the time, and being taller I have to maneuver differently. They are more hassle.

If you buy a turkey in the off season you’ll be paying $1.99-$2.49 a pound, similar to that of whole chickens only the turkey is frozen where the chicken would probably be fresh. The main reason I think we take for granted the cost of our turkey meat is because we get it free when we purchase $100 worth of other stuff. That’s right, who hasn’t seen the ads in the paper or the signs at the store “Turkey $.99/lb; $.19/lb with the purchase of $100 worth of groceries” or a flat out free turkey with that purchase. You aren’t really getting the turkey free, grocery stores have done a wonderful job of making you pay for everything without you knowing it. And loss leaders aren’t even as great a deal as they once were. If you bought your eggs at $.19 a dozen, that’s a great deal at a loss to the grocery store, if you just buy the eggs. But they know that most people will also pick up the boneless skinless chicken breast, or maybe the $15 vitamins, maybe you splurge on ice cream, yea you paid full price for the eggs in the end when you walk out with $50 worth of stuff. Same goes for Thanksgiving, you paid for your turkey when you bought 2 things of stuffing instead of one, you bought 4 pie crusts and 2 big cans of pumpkin, and just to make sure you hit that $100 mark you bought that weekly celebrity gossip magazine in the checkout line. Yea, we all paid for our turkeys.

We really get what we paid for too. These quick growing all white meat, double breasted behemoth turkeys lack flavor and texture. We’ve all had that breast meat that is lacking texture, it turns to mush and it was so dry we gravied it up so now it is a chewy, salty, gravy-flavored mush. I don’t think that’s what Ben Franklin had in mind when he wanted the turkey to be our national bird. He’d be so disappointed with what graces our tables anymore.

I’m so excited we are offering the ability to have a heritage turkey to our patrons this year. I hope to continue the tradition and offer more tasty poultry products in the future.

Speaking of turkey, I have to go decide what’s for dinner.

I’m thinkin’ turkey meatballs,
Natalie

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Forest Grove Tour De Coop!!! Coming Soon

I am going to be putting together the first ever 2011 Tour de Coops in Forest Grove. If you are a backyard chicken raiser in the Forest Grove area please email me. I'd love to come check our your coop and get you signed up for the tour. Details to come. Yay Forest Grove chickens!!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Poultry Education (A Rude Awakening in Mississippi)

I was asked the other day why, with my background, I didn’t go into the commercial poultry industry. I thought I would talk about my last poultry classes and the education I received first hand from the industry here on my blog. I have a passion for poultry, they are fun, beautiful, and provide very tasty food. I enjoy the birds first and the products secondary. They are funny, quirky and sometimes crazy. At least my hens are! I love watching them scamper through the grass and I love learning about them. I loved learning about them so much I went one of the top schools for poultry – Mississippi State University.

I studied poultry at MSU my senior year and was taken to both broiler houses and a layer farm. I had learned about the commercial industry and didn’t like the concepts of chickens in cages, chickens eating the offal from the broiler industry, etc. Before I even saw these facilities first hand I had rejected the concept of being a part of raising chickens in cages. But until I saw it with my own eyes, heard them chortling and cooing like my chickens chortle and coo, I didn’t have that big a problem with chickens raised in cages. The whole out of sight out of mind thing.

Let me be very clear, P E T A’s depiction of abuse and disgust is not true of facilities housing caged birds or the meat industry either. They are known for staging abuse to prove a point (confused? P E T A euthanizes more animals every year than humane societies, “greater good” I guess). By USDA standards they were sufficiently cared for. The facility was surprisingly clean for all the dander and feathers that many hens would be releasing daily and it was almost odorless. A lot of research has gone into developing these facilities to have proper ventilation, odor and disease control. P E T A likes to film and with the tight security and biosecurity on farms today, I doubt any of their filmed farm abuse segments are real.

But, while walking through the rows of caged laying hens I did have to separate from the group as I started to cry. I couldn’t hold back my emotions regarding the chickens, not because of the chickens themselves, as far as I could see they were not deformed or cannibalizing each other. The reason I was crying was because I have chickens. They may not be treated as pets, they are farm animals, but I still respect them and value their job highly. I didn’t feel the chickens were respected properly there. And what was worse, I was in a class filled with people who had no emotional reaction to this. They were not horrified, many had worked summers in these facilities or have family who run them. When asked if I was crying I had to say I was sensitive to the ammonia (which there really wasn't much of because they really do regulate these houses well). I feel they should have earth beneath their feet, not wire, and they should have room to flap and roosts to rest on. It was frustrating to me.

I do believe there is a valid reason for confined animal operations and to some extent genetically modified organisms. Don’t de-friend me just yet. We can’t feed the world or even our own neighbors. Our global population isn’t well nourished, so I understand that until we can feed all of our people we need to find creative and scientific ways to care for everyone better. But that doesn’t mean I agree with chickens being dubbed (they still have all of their beak but the tip so debeaking is not an accurate term) so you can shove more of them in a cage and I certainly don’t agree with shoving them in cages.

I do apologize for my long winded tangent(s). Yay chickens!

Anyway, I decided a while ago that I really wasn’t needed or wanted in the commercial poultry industry. I don’t want to be branded a pot stirrer and I certainly am not one to keep my mouth shut. So I have sought out on my own to redefine poultry for Forest Grove, one egg at a time.

Thank you for your support and continuing to read my blog.

Speaking of eggs… gotta go hatch some,

Natalie

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What is my risk of Salmonella from my breakfast?

I know the media has to make money with the news but they really know how to scare people don't they?!

EGGS ARE SAFE. In general anyway. As long as you cook your eggs entirely and wash your hands after handling raw eggs, the risk is minimal. Salmonella like most bacteria is killed when heated with cooking or with a microwave, it also can be washed off of your hands easily with soap and water if you wash your hands vigorously and for at least 20 seconds. Oh, and wash your reusable shopping bags at least once a month. 97% of people say they rarely or have never washed their reusable bags. You might want to get on that, I know I should get better about it. And as always, try to purchase eggs from hens that are from small farm producers that utilize fresh air and green space for their chickens. Cooped up chickens get sick easier and that can incubate increased bacteria loads in eggs.

The best way to ensure the best eggs is to collect eggs daily from your own healthy chickens from your own coop, but if that isn’t an option, you know where to find me :)

Better go grab some eggs from the nest for breakfast,

Natalie

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coming Soon!!! Our very own logo!

I’m so excited, we’re finally getting an official logo. I can’t wait to share it with everyone. I will be working with Blogspot to make the logo our title on the blog as soon as it is ready. Next stop www.mylittlesistersfarm.com. That will be a lot more work but sooooo worth it.

Gotta run, eggs don’t box themselves,

Natalie

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Turkey Day Rocked!

Thank you so much to everyone who came out for our second turkey day. We had a lot of fun showing you the turkeys and sharing with your family what our farm is doing for you and for the birds. We enjoyed answering your questions and appreciated your feedback regarding this process.

We had several children come out and they were really excited to meet their meat. It seems that children introduced to the concept at a young age embrace it openly. One 4 year old even picked out “his turkey” from the bunch. There were many smiles and giggles from the children and I think sighs of relief from their parents that their children were excited not scared for eating an animal they had seen.

So what were the grown up people saying? Well, there were less giggles, more questions and some funny comments:

‘They certainly aren’t cute, but they have some very pretty feathers.’

‘The whole point was for us to understand where our food was coming from. Now we know for a fact.’

‘Wow that’s a big turkey, a yummy, yummy big turkey.’

‘Can you start feeding them some thyme and sage now?’

Oh, what fun people make up our community.

Thank you so much for attending and remember there is one more Turkey Day before the final pick up dates. Everyone is welcome to the final turkey day so “like” us on Facebook or join our mailing list for updates relating to the that and many other farm goings on.

Gotta go soak in the beauty of this September day,

Natalie

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Egg Colors

Oh my, a green egg! Must be moldy right? Nope.

Chickens lay so many different colors of egg, from white to chocolate brown, from pale pink to green, to turquoise blue. They lay them with spots too. Sorry, no strips to speak of.

I get asked a lot at the farmer’s market why there is such variation between the heritage breeds and their hybrids. It is because of the evolution of genetics. God created the adaptability of species to survive with genetics. The chickens that lay white eggs are considered Mediterranean breeds because they would lay their eggs in the white sand. If a bird genetically laid brown eggs, hers would be more likely to be eaten and her genes would not carry on to the next generation. After hundreds, now thousands, of years of this happening, rarely is there a brown gene amongst these breeds.

Same goes for the brown egg laying breeds. Many of them laid in the prairies or in the soil and dead leaves. If a chicken laid white eggs, her eggs would probably be discovered and her genes would not be passed on.

That still leaves GREEN eggs though doesn’t it. Well, those are easily explained by where these birds evolved too. The green eggs originate in the rain forests of South America. The female chickens are a verigation of browns, to easily blend in with her surrounding. But in the rain forest there isn't a lot of dead leaves and such that aren't already decomposing, they have to use living materials for nesting. They have a lot of moss and green vegetation to mask their nests. The gene is dominant over white egg genes but is completely separate from brown genes, so there are a lot of brown gene chickens from the rain forests too.

Many backyard chicken raisers have noticed that some breeds are more motherly than other. Going broody and stop laying eggs so they can nest. This is a characteristic that stems from the adaptation to environment as well. The white sands of the Mediterranean get hot, so if a hen sat on the eggs, she might overheat them causing them to die. The hens from this region of the world are not maternal at all. They aren’t very fearful of their eggs being eaten so they don’t feel the urge to stay too close to the nest either. They don’t go broody easily, a great characteristic for commercial egg companies because they will get an egg almost every day. The record for a white leghorn laying is over 300 eggs laid in a year. Since it takes over 24 hours to complete an egg, that’s a lot of eggs. They are great for backyard raisers too, I have a few. When you are limited by the number of hens you can keep, having several eggs a week from each hen is critical.

Hens that go broody adapted to be protective of their young for survival reasons too. For the breeds that come from areas of the world with a lot of predators, they instinctively want to sit on their eggs almost all day, they are very protective to keep them by their side for months so they can protect and teach them to be protective too. And this is obviously a genetic tradition, nature not nurture, because we have so many hatcheries raising our chicks and very few have a hen to guide them, yet a Buff Orpington will almost always be the best broody hen and a white leghorn couldn’t care less that you took her eggs, she was probably already off eating in the other corner of the pasture anyway.

Off to count my eggs before the chickens lay,

Natalie

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jam/Jelly Tips

It’s Jam/Jelly making season around here. We’re kicking off with strawberries in the Northwest but the blue-, rasp- and blackberries, peaches, and so many other fruits are not far behind. Here are some quick my tips for making SEEDLESS strawberry jelly. That’s right, I make seedless strawberry jelly. I’ve made jelly this “secret” way for 4 years now and can’t believe everyone isn’t doing it this way. You can use these tips for more than just strawberries, but people don’t believe me that I make strawberry jelly without seeds. I’m here to share that it can be done!



1)You have to pick the best berries to get the best jelly/jam. I went to a local u-pick to get my strawberries. When selecting strawberries you need to find the best ripe berries you can. These are perfect berries that are fully ripened on the vine. Once you pick a berry it will not ripen, green is green. Also, you don’t want blemishes. Go in the early morning or at least try to get them when it isn’t about 75 F outside, the heat will wilt them and they won’t last as long, even in the fridge. You only have about 24 hours to make your jelly from the time you pick them, unless you’re going to freeze them and come back to the juice or berries at a later date.

2)Wash your berries only once you’re ready to consume them or start your jelly process. Washing them makes them spoil sooner. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use yucky berries, whether it’s been nibbled by a bug or starting to mold/rot. The quality and longevity of your final product is dependent on the quality of berry you select to use. Remove the tops but you don’t have to remove the white core, it won’t affect your jelly because of the next step...

3)Bring out your Jack LaLanne Juicer! Yes a juicer. I guess any brand might do but I’ve found ZERO seeds and I get almost a dry product out the back side with my “Jackie.” I get more juice this way than with cheesecloth or grandma’s method of using nylons. And I don’t stain my hands. Juice those suckers up good, but you can add some crushed berries to the mix if you want some seeds. Tom, my husband, likes to have some chunkiness to his jam, or it isn’t a good PBJ, so I do a 50/50 juice to mushed berries to make him happy too.

4)Now you need to follow the directions your box of Pectin gives you for making strawberry jam. Strawberries need more pectin than blackberries or raspberries so don’t try to substitute either recipe for strawberry. If you like your jelly really firm you may even want to add a ¼ of another pectin box.

5)You have to do jelly in small batches or you’d have to cook it for a long time and then your pectin would break down causing a runny jelly. So do it one batch at a time.

One of the big reasons I remove all of the seeds is that there are few people with diverticulitis or other colon/intestinal issues that get to enjoy blackberry, raspberry, or strawberry jam. Several people in my family have to be careful about this. This is a great gift for those people in your lives. Just slap on a decorative label (you can get templates from Microsoft Office or make your own with Publisher or another computer program. You can also theme several jellies together with a fabric topper. Make sure to label them as seedless because people may just assume they can’t have your wonderful gift. Also label ingredients used if you think there are dietary restrictions of some of your recipients.

If you’re looking for recipes, tips, or places to pick fruit in your area, veggies too, visit www.pickyourown.org. If you’re looking to pick up a Jackie of your own, I’d try www.ebay.com first as many people fall in love with the idea of juicing and fall out of love with it just as fast. They are easy to clean, efficient, very quiet for a juicer (don’t do it while the baby’s sleeping, a little common sense is required), and they are pretty safe. The infomercial actually took it into the classroom to have some kindergarteners make their own juice. (This is not an ad for the Jackie or for the Pick Your Own website, but I do love them and depend on them for accuracy and getting the job done right the first time.)

Till next time folks,

Natalie

My Little Sister’s Farm

Friday, July 9, 2010

Missing Turkeys!!!

Yesterday we lost 2 turkeys. I don’t mean they died, I mean I LOST THEM. I count them at least once a day because of my minor OCD-ness. 1, 2, 3…36, 37, 38, 38, 38??? Oh no! Where are they?! Over here? No. Behind the waterer? No. In the feeder? No. No. No. No. No. No. NO. Oh mamma mia, mamma mia! ( Yes, I sounded like a Queen song.) Anyway, they weren’t in their brooder, under a pallet of feed, in with the chicken pullets, nowhere!

Then I saw something wrong…my ever-brooding Buff Orpington whose about 5 years old and probably hasn’t laid an egg in as many months was NOT in her nestbox. She sits all day, only getting up to eat and drink and to let others lay eggs for her to nest on. She was waddling around in the coop, more of a strut really. I came out of the brooder, walked into the coop and low and behold, 2 little turkey heads popped out from behind the waddling mamma.

I couldn’t believe it! They did escape the brooder but they found another one.

It saddened me to have to take her new found babies away, but there is a glimmer of hope for her yet. I have decided that I want to let her raise a clutch of chicks this summer. Once all of the pullets are into the layer coop I am going to put her onto the other side of the coop away from the layers to nest on a clutch of about 12 eggs. I think she’d really appreciate the chance to raise her own and we can always use a few more egg layers for our customers.

So I guess the title isn’t true, maybe I’ll change it to “Found Turkeys!” or better still, “Found Mamma,” because that’s what those bitty turkeys did.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meat Processing Demonstration

I promised more information to come regarding the processing class and here it is.

When: Saturday, November 13, 2010. Rain or shine.

Where: Our barn south of Forest Grove, Oregon

What’s Gonna Happen: I will be demonstrating how I butcher various species of poultry including 2 types of chickens – Cornish cross fryer and a heritage breed chicken.

This will be a hands-off demonstration, guests will not be participating in the processing of the animals. But as well as a demonstration on our ethical butchering practices, we hope some small backyard raisers will come to learn how you can butcher your own chickens on the small scale. We won't be using fanciful equipment, we don't own any (yet - someday I hope) and you probably don't either. You will want to dress in clothes that can get stained/dirty and dress for the weather. It is a barn and it is November. The barn is covered so if it’s raining we’ll be fine.

By processing a heritage chicken and a Cornish fryer, you will be able to see the difference selective breeding has done for the meat chicken industry. We will be cutting up a fryer, showing you how to take apart a whole bird to become boneless skinless pieces. We hope this demonstration will provide answers to questions you have as well as show you first hand that we process our animals with the same respect we raise them with. We believe there is an ethical standard to be upheld when raising animals for meat and will do so when processing them too. There will be lots of time to answer all of your questions regarding the meat industry, our process and techniques, as well as see where our pastured turkeys are in their progress prior to their own processing the following week.

For this class we will not have the professional equipment we rent for the turkey processing, this means we will be scalding and plucking the feathers by hand, just as you would if you raised a few chickens yourself. We also may not have the bleed cones so the involuntary muscle release may be too visual for some. You are welcome to watch every stage, or just those you are comfortable with.

The demonstration will be from 1pm until all the animals are processed.There will also be a door prize – how about the meat we process? Someone’s going home with that cut up fryer!!!

Email mylittlesistersfarm @ yahoo.com or message us on Facebook to reserve your spot today!

Hope to see you there!

Natalie

Friday, June 18, 2010

The turkeys arrived!!!

They are adorable and amazing. Tom dunked their tiny heads in the water for them to learn where to go and we put down lots of egg cartons filled with feed so they’d be stumbling over grain constantly. I can’t believe how fast they have grown and it has only been a few days. It’s amazing how cute they started out, I know it won’t last long. I have a guess at who are boys, there is a little button of a snood on about ½ of them and since the girlies don’t get the dangly snood I have to assume it is a hint at who the boys are.

Well, I seem to be better at keeping Facebook updated than I do the blog so please be sure to check us out at www.facebook.com/lilsisfarm.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Yummy, Yummy, Quail Egg Recipe

Have I got a recipe for you. You can do these Quail Egg Nests as an appetizer or and a breakfast food depending on which meat you use. If you use prosciutto they look very elegant and make fantastic hors d'oeuvres. I found the idea in a Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, but she never provided a recipe. After testing this out in my home my test subjects, my husband, Tom, and our dogs, a 7 month old Mini Doxie names Baby Girl, and Pip, our almost 5 year old English Mastiff, I found that if you’re looking for a fun breakfast these work for picky eaters, breakfast on the run, or just an everyday breakfast when using bacon or turkey bacon. You can use any herbs, fresh or dried, even though I think Martha would say, always fresh, organically grown, properly pruned herbs bushes in your very own arboretum you call a backyard.

Quail Egg Nest

Makes 10 nests

Ingredients

10 quail eggs
8oz of prosciutto, thin bacon, or turkey bacon
1-2 teaspoons chopped of any fresh herb:
-flat-leaf parsley
-chives
-tarragon
-basil
-rosemary
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
(Optional) 10 slivers of garlic

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.Line mini muffin tin holes with prosciutto or other meat.

3.Break 1 quail egg into each lined mini muffin hole.

4.Sprinkle each egg with herbs, salt and pepper to taste.

5.Optional: add slice of garlic clove to garnish

6.Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until eggs are firm.

7.Serve with toasted quartered bread.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Butcherin

I learned how to butcher rabbits when I was in 7th grade, first with my sister and later with a professional butcher. I have worked in 3 college campus processing facilities and I have processed several species of animals. I am by no means a professional myself, but sometimes that’s a good thing. My techniques are the same, but my facility is open air and basic. We process animals in the big barn. Sparing the gory details – we use only the sharpest knives and the most humane techniques to ensure our animals are not stressed, fearful, or inhumanely treated as their life comes to an end. I am a realist, yes we are processing animals, but I believe the way we treat them the whole time they are alive is reflective of one’s character.

Many farmers and rural Americans process their own animals, be it beef cows, hogs, or like us, poultry. Everyone has their personal beliefs and we respect those who choose not to eat meat. We do. And we raise our own. Our family also processes goats, bison, and rabbits.

We will be butchering the presold turkeys the weekend before Thanksgiving. (Email mylittlesistersfarm@yahoo.com to inquire about turkey availability.) We will not be inviting the public to view the processing of these birds as it is a busy day and there isn’t a whole lot of time for questions. However, this posting will be followed soon by an invitation to join us the weekend before for a demonstration/seminar about processing poultry. We will have demonstrations of processing various species of poultry including rabbits (yes, USDA classifies them as poultry legally). The class will be observing only but there will be plenty of time for questions and we will demonstrate how to cut up a whole fryer. Cutting up a fryer isn’t practiced much in America anymore as we can by boneless skinless chicken breasts in the grocery store, but if you want to purchase locally grow chicken, this is something that will come in handy in the future. Finally you’ll be able to put those poultry shears to proper use. Even if you are only cutting up fryers purchased in the grocery store, there’s a certain amount of pride from taking your food into your own hands. Not to mention the savings when you get a fryer for $.99/lb instead of $3.49 for boneless, skinless parts.

So look for that information to come. We promise to keep the class small, if it gets too large we will decide if we should hold 2 classes so everyone can see and be heard.

Gotta go check on our duck babies!

Natalie

I Heart Tractors

Tom, my born-n-raised farming husband, has been driving tractors since before he was old enough to drive a car. He’s even won awards at the county fair for his mad tractor driving skilz, maybe that’s not a big thing for most people, but for FFAers, that is a reason to come to the fair! It may seem crazy to think that after knowing the guy for 8 years, he hasn’t once said, why don’t I teach you how to do this? But he hadn’t, until this spring. Come to think of it, it never crossed my mind to hop on a little green machine and take it for a spin myself. I have never even driven a riding lawnmower.

I thought it would be like driving a car, foot on the pedal, hands at 10 and 2, but it isn’t. First of all, there are so many levers and not like with a manual transmission either. You hold down the clutch, put it in gear, and then you push another little lever to get it to go forward. Then you let go of the lever, sit back and relax, it stays at that speed. No wonder they can drive for hours, you don’t have to have steady pressure on the gas or anything else. You have to use other levers to get implements (the attached tools) to move and run but you don’t have to hold those either. I really like the brakes, you can hold 1 side down and not the other to tighten your turning radius, which is handy. And you don’t have to go at super slow field speeds to get where you’re going, there’s a lever for that.

The reason I was on the tractor was because I wanted to plant a pumpkin patch. So, I was the one that needed to rototill our little pumpkin patch. I tilled 9 rows in all, once planted we had 8 rows with pumpkins and 1 row of gourds. The pumpkins include Luminary white pumpkins, Hercules (big orange ones with super strong handles), Triple Treats that are good for baking, seeds and carving, Sugar Babies that make divine pumpkin pies, and of course Giant Prizewinner pumpkins. Got to have the biggies, or it just isn’t a true pumpkin path. I’m hoping we get at least one large enough I have to hop on another tractor just to get it out of the field.

I have a goal of learning how to use all of the tractors and implements used for doing hay this summer too. But that’s another tractor tale for another day.

Anyway, I drove a tractor and I liked it. I guess I could have said just that.

Hate to run, but eggs don’t collect themselves,
Natalie

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Irrigation: The Leaky Truth

I told you I would tell you about my adventure with irrigation and here it goes…

We had just spent about 6 hours working on the garden. Tom, my husband, disked the field, then rototilled the field, then we took turns walking up and down the field with the Earthway seeder. I also spent many hours on planting starts. Bean starts, pea starts, egg plant starts, broccoli starts, cauliflower starts, squash starts, melon starts, pumpkin starts (but those aren’t this story), and of course tomatoes starts. That was a lot of hard and dirty work. Fortunately I farm barefoot so it was also a lot of fun, hard, dirty work. Little did I know there was still muddy work to be done.

Now, I have seen Tom “lay pipe” in a field, and his movements are so fluid. Mine our too, but a different fluid I guess. We laid 4 rows of PVC irrigation pipe, laid out the sprinkler heads, then Tom went to turn the water on so we could get started watering this ginormous veggie garden. It wasn’t long before he was back and the water going through the pipe had cleaned out any muck, leaves, and other (varmint) debris. He plugged in the sprinklers one by one and pressure started to build until we had arcs of water raining down on every inch of the field.

For most people this is the end of the story. But not us! I don’t know if it is normal or if Tom was just trying to drowned me but he said we had to go through and clear gunk from the sprinklers one by one. He of course neglected to show me the trick to keeping the sprinklers from getting me wet. Apparently you can stop the heads from rotating, and he was doing this. I should have paid closer attention, but I digress. He would call for a replacement sprinkler and I would run through the field 1) avoiding stepping on the starts and seed rows and 2) running in circles trying not to get doused by every single sprinkler, every single rotation. I failed at that second one. Tom was laughing so hard not just because I was being chased by water, but that I was failing at out running the streams of water. I assumed he thought I should embrace getting wet, so I did. I stopped trying to stay “kinda wet” and embraced that I was going to get completely soaked as I replaced sprinkler heads and brought Tom his replacement heads. By the time we were done I was barefoot again, not because I was having fun, but because the loosened soil was now filling the space that once held air with water and I lost my shoes too many times to want to put them on again until we were done.

It was so loud with all of the irrigation on that he didn’t bother saying anything until we were back in home. After I changed into dry clothes and with a towel on my head he informed me that he did not have to change his clothes, a fact I somehow did not observe earlier. He then took out a sprinkler to show me that if you hold the head (the tick, tick, tick-er) you can make the stream of water go where ever you want. Well at least he got his boots stuck too, or else I’da been, I’da been, well, I have been madder than a wet hen!

Thanks for reading my silly stories, I gotta go get this water out of my ears!

Natalie

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Favorite Gardening Tool: The Earthway Seeder

Maybe you can tell this already but, I’m not a born and raised farmer. I had farm animals in the city and a garden in the back yard, but nothing compared to what my husband grew up with. No, no, nothing like what I have now. Now that we are settled into our home and feel we don’t have enough to do (so not true the house is a fixer-upper by every definition and there is of course never any time for anything, but I digress) we’ve decided to plant a garden. I think I mentioned once already that we planted over 100 bean starts, well, that wasn’t the ½ of it. That wasn’t even ½ of the beans we ended up planting. We have planted on a plot of land that is about 2 acres and the actual planting of it took only about 5 hours. How? We invested in an Earthway Seeder (if you have anything bigger than a 20x20 foot plot it will pay for itself in no time at the price of $85-90) so we could easily plant seeds perfectly spaced. It doesn’t do a perfectly straight line, that is dependent on the “driver.” There are about 25 rows in our garden and we’ve planted everything from beans and peas to corn, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, melons, squash zucchini and even jalapeƱos. We plan on canning A LOT this summer and giving much away to family as Christmas gifts (oops, Mommy, please don’t read that ;) We also plan to offer it for sale at the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market. Hopefully my little herb garden by my kitchen will also grow so we can be really set this winter. Well, I set out to brag about this awesome seeder not so much the garden. Hope those of you who are local will get a chance to try our grubs later in the year. Enjoy the pictures of our little fledgling starts.

My next blog about the garden will be about my adventure with setting out irrigation for the garden. It is a very drippy story.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quail Baby Hatching

Here is the video I promised of a baby quail hatching. It's 4 minutes long but worth the wait. How cute is this guy?! Sorry it took so long...for 25 years old I sure don't understand some technology!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reason #1 why you should buy eggs from My Little Sister's Farm

There is a link between forced molting and Salmonella enteritidis bacterial poisoning of force-molted hens, their eggs, and the consumers and handlers of eggs and egg products. (Hens’ immune systems break down under the strain of starvation causing severe bacterial infections in their ovaries and other vital organs.) Molting refers to the replacement in birds of old feathers with new ones. In nature, birds replace all of their feathers in the course of a year. A natural molt occurs most often and obviously near the onset of winter in response to the shortening hours of sunlight. At this time the hen lays fewer or no eggs, devoting her energies instead to staying warm and renewing her plumage, calcium, muscles and fatty tissues for the cold months ahead. The egg industry exploits this natural process by forcing an entire flock to molt simultaneously. Deprived of food and essential nutrients, the hens stop laying eggs, and their feathers fall out. This is done through starvation or food deprivation for as long as it takes for the flock to lose 15-20% of their body weight. This is not a time when force-molted chickens are able to develop those reserves and new feathers. Unlike force-molted hens, chickens molting naturally do not stop eating, they are not traumatized, and they do not become sick with Salmonella infections the way force-molted hens do. Forced molting is based on the desires of egg producers, rather than being a natural response of the hen’s body to the season of the year. OUR HENS ARE FREE FED EVERY DAY YEAR ROUND. WE DO NOT FORCE THEM TO MOLT. THERE IS A LOWER RISK OF SALMONELLA FROM OUR EGGS THAN ANY COMMERCIAL PRODUCER FOR THIS REASON.

Hope to see you at the market tomorrow!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reason #2

Our hens are hatched here in Forest Grove. Yes, we have on occasion purchased chicks from the feed store – their just so darn cute! But the majority of our chickens are hatched right here at home, some by their own mothers.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reason #3

Grass and grubs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These chickens have the instinct and the opportunity to eat grass from day 1. We start our chicks with hay from our fields so they can try nibbling on it. Chicks will completely ignore their feed when we put in new hay. Free access to the great outdoors is more than just about eating down the grass – it’s about fresh air and playing too!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Reason #4

We don’t use antibiotics. There is a lot of speculation about the use of hormone and antibiotic use in animal agriculture. We just don’t want to get mixed up in that mess. You can’t raise your chickens with hormones, they’re not allowed, but we don’t want to keep them hopped up on antibiotics either. We keep everyone well fed with fresh feed and water, give lots of fresh veggies and keep their living space as clean as we can – that will do a lot more for their health than antibiotics ever could!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Reason #5

We don’t sex our chicks and cull the males day 1! This is the practice of any hatchery in the world. They squeeze every chick to determine if it is a girl or a boy. Hatching is a stressful activity on its own without also popping out their little behind. If you buy a pullet from the feed store or a hatchery, there was a brother that was euthanized the day he was born. We raise every chick and when they are about 2.5lbs we decide which cockerels will be culled. These will be humanely processed and will be eaten like you would a Cornish game hen. Maybe they don’t get a full life like our hens, but they are grown with a purpose, not just dumped in a dumpster or made into pet food. Eww!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reason #6

We don’t cull our chickens because they are getting “too old.” We have chickens that are 5 and 6 years of age. These are the chickens we get our Jumbo eggs from, and that’s okay with us! We have a greater demand for our Jumbo eggs than we can fill most weeks at the market, we don’t mind that our older ladies lay double yolks every couple of days instead of a medium-large egg every day. They are too pretty and wise to get rid of.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reason #7

Because you’re family. I love to sit and chat about chickens, eggs, and even the meat. Poultry is something I know a lot about and I am really passionate about learning more. We value our neighbors, friends, and “fans.” People should know where their food comes from and we are so happy to be able to offer that opportunity to you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reason #8

Chickens are the most abused animals in animal husbandry! Chickens live and die in cages and in grow out houses. Even “cage free” and “free range” on a commercial egg carton doesn’t mean much. Legally it doesn’t mean anything more than they are in the same old houses without the cages but with even more birds. They aren’t fed differently and their “free range access” is nothing more than a cement slab with no incentive for the birds to even go out there. Don’t get me started on the heartbreak of meat chickens growing 6lbs in 6 weeks, now that’s torture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reason #9

We treat our chickens with respect. “Vegetarian fed” means that a chicken isn’t fed back animal by-products. And “organic” on a label simply means the feed was organic corn and soy, nothing more. These are caged birds!!! Unless it says “cage free” they are in cages. It’s the way of the industry. They are not being humanely treated, but they won’t tell you that. We couldn’t buy non-vegetarian feed from the local feed store if we tried. It goes rancid so quickly because of the animal based fat and protein that it is almost exclusively fed to broiler (meat) chickens. We are not feeding organic feed, but since our chickens eat a lot more grass, grubs, and greens than they do feed, they are definitely receiving greater health benefits from their diet.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Reason #10

These eggs are more flavorful. We think this is a good thing. Because our chickens get to make the choice between grass, grubs, fresh veggies, and several grain options, they select what they want to eat based on what their body needs. Therefore each egg will have a variation on the golden orange colored yolk and some may have greater nutrient power as well. They will all have a stronger egg flavor to make any frittata or quiche the most yummiest of the potluck.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reason #11

Fresh eggs from small farms are lower in cholesterol and higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Mother Earth News has done multiple studies on random eggs from the grocery store versus those from small farmers like us. (We have not had our eggs tested yet.) They have concluded that hens with feed options including grass and veggies have lower cholesterol, higher omega-3, and lower saturated fat, even if just a little bit.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Buy Our Eggs

We’re in the final countdown to the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market!!! I can’t tell you how excited we are to see all of our customers and so many new faces. We are counting down the days with what we think are 12 really excellent reasons why you should check out our eggs!

Top 10 reasons to buy our eggs:

#12 Eggs are not the cause of cholesterol problems. The medical community used to say (way back in 1975-1988) eggs were bad for you because of their cholesterol. They assumed cholesterol was ingested and created cholesterol. Seemed simple enough. But eggs are considered good now because science has proven that we convert saturated fat into cholesterol not straight cholesterol. Eggs only have 1.5g of saturated fat, so eat up! The goodness that is the egg (every essential vitamin and mineral except vitamin C) out weights the 1.5g of bad according to the medical community. Stay away from that double bacon cheeseburger, it’s to blame, that and genetics. Yay, let’s all go celebrate science with an omelet!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The chicks they are a hatchin'


Oh my goodness! We have been up to our elbows in chicks for the last 4 weeks. They are such a hoot!



Please check out or facebook page for more pictures and videos.

http://et-ee.facebook.com/pages/Forest-Grove-OR/My-Little-Sisters-Farm/307090850803

Monday, April 26, 2010

Archibald the Angora

For the longest time I had a rabbit named Archibald. He was a black (although the wool was grey more than black) French Angora. Quite, shy, kept to himself, but such a love. He recently passed away and I sadly was not able to harvest enough wool from him to make a complete scarf in his memory. On top of lacking wool, I lack the knowledge of spinning and knitting so I would probably have been storing it for a while longer anyway.

I grew up raising rabbits. My mother is currently the rabbit breeder in the family raising a family favorite – the English Spot. She does very well too, but they are neither a wool breed nor a meat breed. In fact, they are short haired and have a slim, trim, racy body type. I have raised several breeds, mainly for fancy (showing), including palominos, rexes, satins, Dutch, and spots. And many rabbits were raised for meat as well.

I want to get back in the swing of bunny things but try something new to me. I want to start raising angora rabbits to spin their wool. Except for dear pet Archie this is foreign to me. They are sweet, docile rabbits with a lot of grooming requirements. I don’t know if I would have the patience or the time to have more than one or 2 at a time right now, so this is more of a 3-5 year goal. Rabbits are a lot of work, and to have enough to make yarn and then knit it into product, will take time and know how, both are in short supply for me right now too. Especially with all the other things I am trying to get off the ground right now for the farm. I will have at least one rabbit soon though, it is hard to be without a fluffy companion when I have had them for so long.

My next pet rabbit will again be an angora. Not that Archie is replaceable in my heart, but that he reminded me how rewarding raising rabbits as a youth was.

And, yes, I have raised rabbits for meat too. I would like to continue raising rabbits for meat soon too. I am not quite ready to get back in to raising meat rabbits or pushing forward into breeding woollies just yet.

Gotta run, I think I hear chix pippin in the incubator,

Natalie

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Turkeys, Turkeys, Turkeys

I have a background in raising meat animals but this is the first time we will be raising meat animals for sale. We will be raising heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving. We already have the facilities ready for raising them, including pasture rearing for good grass-n-grub fed gobblers. Most turkeys are raised to be ready for the table by 14-16 weeks, not to mention they are bred to just eat, eat, eat. Gobbling up grain and getting fatty. Ours will be growing slower, out on the pasture as they get old enough and forage. This will allow for the meat to still be tender but also moist. Our turkeys will be 20-22 weeks old when we process them out. We will be processing the weekend right before Thanksgiving so if your bird is for Turkey Day, it will be fresh, fresh, fresh!

We will be using this blog to keep you posted on the progress, from hatch to harvest as we say. I know it is important to a lot of Oregonians to know where their food comes from. We intend to be transparent about the growth of our turkeys. As with all of our animals they will be fed a vegetarian diet of grass, and other things they find, supplemented heavily by fresh fruit and vegetables. We also will supplement with grain but we are fortunate to have a local feed supply that ensures their diets are hormone and antibiotic free. We will be raising them as we do the rest of our flock – with the utmost care and compassion. How an animal is treated while it is alive is just as important to us as how it is treated in the end. We take a lot of care in giving our laying hens the best life we can and will ensure we do the same for the turkeys. And you’ll be able to see pictures all along the way, so you’ll know they are actually outside and enjoying the warm summer days and the crisp apples of fall. (Sorry, I can be a bit corny, but really they will be given all of the fallen apples we have from the 12-14 apples trees as well as garden scraps, and pumpkins – oh boy do they love pumpkins.)

We will be selling the turkeys “live and whole.” You can pick up your bird and process it yourself, OR we can process the birds complimentary the weekend before Thanksgiving. This way you have a fresh-never-frozen turkey for the dinner table. I was taught how to butcher humanely and will be assisted by family members to assure the safety and sanitation of processing. We will be renting professional equipment I have used before so the birds are the highest quality for your family celebrations. We will be accepting up to 50 reservations with a down payment of $25. This will help pay for the upfront feed costs throughout the summer. We will also have a waiting list for those unable to reserve a bird. Based on current feed costs we estimate it will cost us about $3/lb to produce the turkeys. We don’t intend to make a profit as we are still growing as a farm and learning more and more every day. If you are interested in reserving your Thanksgiving bird already, please email us at MyLittleSistersFarm@yahoo.com.

(To our long distance friends across state lines, we cannot ship the turkeys live or processed and cannot transport across state lines for you. It would be your responsibility to check with a local extension service agent regarding bringing live poultry into your state from Oregon.)

Peace, Love, and Scrambled Eggs,

Natalie

Sunday, February 28, 2010

We Collect Used Egg Cartons!

I want to thank everyone who saves us their used egg cartons. I know not everyone purchases eggs from our farm or all year round. I really appreciate that you are still saving them for us. We are able to sell eggs “on farm” in used egg cartons, but not at the Farmer’s Market. We do not use them when selling from the L-Bar-T Bison Gift Shop either.

Please feel free to bring them to church, or drop them by the gift shop or our booth at the Farmer’s Market. It is a great way to do more than just recycle them. They just keep cycling over and over and over and over and over…until they get dirty, wet, stained, etc… Please bring us your Styrofoam cartons too. These are not recyclable with curbside pickup. We make a point of reusing them with fellow church members because if they don’t get back to me to use again, they will be dropped off at church at the beginning of the month to be recycled by our BEST (Be Earth Stewards Today) team.

Something we do with a few every year is make fire starters. For fire starters we use pine shavings and used candle wax. Melt your wax with a double boiler method (pot with wax in pot with water) and mix with pine shavings. Pack into the egg carton holes and allow to cool.

We also will use them for plant starts. Instead of buying plastic plug trays we use the cardboard fiber cartons. They are recycled so the fibers are pretty small and will break down in the soil when planted directly in the carton. Perfect for starting tomatoes inside and then putting into 4 inch pots in a greenhouse or just their first stint outside before going in the ground.

Once again, thank you. Feel free to use either of our ideas for uses with your cartons. I personally appreciate any effort to be a bit greener in day to day life.

Gotta run. The chickens, they are a cluckin’

Natalie

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Little Garden Plans

Last year we were pleasantly surprised when we were told we’d be moving into our home and the chickens would be moving from my mother’s farm to our very own. It was a blessing to walk into our home June 1st. But we had just planted a beautiful garden. We didn’t realize how much work it would be remodeling the house, so when we finally remembered the garden was continuing to grow, we went to check on it. Oops, you’d think we were growing grass not herbs and tomatoes. We started a lot of seeds in the ground so they didn’t even have a chance with the lackadaisical weather we had last spring. It never really got warm enough for things to sprout, and then it was too late for them to.

Well this year we mean business! Literally. We hope to grow enough to feed ourselves and sell at the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market May through October.

We are going to plant lots of tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, the works, this year. I have a home canner and will be putting up a year’s supply of tomato sauce, beans, jelly, jam, and anything else I can can this summer. We want to have enough that we can share with family and sell some at the Farmer’s Market. If you go to the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market, we intend to have fresh produce as well as our usual quail, chicken, and duck eggs. We even have a strategy of planting so we will always have fresh, delicate lettuce and salad greens available. Hope to see you there.

Gotta go collect eggs,

Natalie

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Best Little Farmer’s Market

The Forest Grove Farmer’s Market is the best little market I've ever been to. Hosted by Adelante Mujeres, it has been running for going on 4 years. This will be our 3rd year selling eggs at the market. It will be our first year selling turkeys (not at the market but to people at the market) and produce. We sell the quail eggs in counts of 10 eggs. We also sell duck eggs in season, they will be very large as our girls are several years old and still laying their little hearts out. We sell them as XL and jumbo duck eggs. The chicken eggs are broken down by size too. We get a lot of XL and Jumbo eggs that just can’t fit in regular cartons.

We set up right next to my in-law’s buffalo booth. You can try the jerky, pepperoni and summer sausages they make as well as pick up fresh and frozen USDA cuts of bison meat. My father-in-law has such a wealth of knowledge regarding bison he can probably answer any questions about the animal or the meat. We’ve raised all of the bison on our ranch in Forest Grove and in Eastern Oregon. Visit their website at www.LBarTBisonRanch.com.

If you’re in the area we have everything there! From 4pm to 8pm Wednesdays on Main Street. I love the pulled pork and brisket burritos from Cousin Kenny’s for dinner and of course shopping for the week’s groceries.

I won’t assume that you’d get all of your produce from us at My Little Sister’s Farm’s booth, but hopefully you’ll stop by and get some eggs, or at least say hi!

Filling the 'bator with eggs today,

Natalie

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quail Baby Hatching

Unfortunately I can't get blogger to take the video. Please view on facebook.

Trouble finding it? Copy and paster: http://www.facebook.com/search/?init=srp&sfxp=&q=my%20little%20sisters%20farm#!/pages/Forest-Grove-OR/My-Little-Sisters-Farm/307090850803?ref=search&sid=19718919.3122863204..1

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Quail Are HERE!!!

So far there are 15 hatched and another 5 pipped. I can't believe it. I was all prepared to have to tell you something went wrong. I didn't want to "count my chicks before they hatched." But 15 is a great number from the eggs seeing that we were warned the fertility would be pretty low because of the age of their parents. The really cool thing is that this is 1 day's eggs, so each of these chicks has a different mother and father than any other in there. They may be closely related but not exact siblings, so the problems you get from inbreeding won't effect these little guys or their offspring.





Now the count down is to egg laing. 6-8 weeks from now we should be posting we are getting quail eggs. And I thought it was hard to wait 16-18 days for them to hatch!

In these pictures are the chicks in the incubator. They are kind of dumb, they kept putting their heads into the wire and getting stuck. They say quail and sheep are born looking for a weigh to die. It's a good thing their so stinking cute!

Here they are in their brooder tub, sitting on the feed. CUTE!!!

The next post will include a video of one hatching :)

Check out more pics by becoming a fan on Facebook:
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Gotta go enjoy the pees,

Natalie

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Shoppe

We have the most amazing chicken coop ever! It is a 2 car garage with an attic for storage. We divided it in 2 so we could raise chicks and the turkeys on one side and have the other side with full access to outside. In both we built roosts for the chickens to sleep at night on. It is the coolest chicken roost, fitting all 104 chickens and roosters as snug or as spacious as they prefer. The roost could actually comfortable fit closer to 200 hens, but don’t let my husband hear me talking like that ;)


We are south of Forest Grove and right off of B Street and Hwy 47, we have some pretty brazen coyotes. They come right into the buffalo barn sometimes. Oh yea, I didn’t mention the buffalo. Check out www.LBarTBisonRanch.com . This is my family’s farm. My husband, Tom, grew up raising buffalo and we still do. They have a gift shop where you can buy every cut of buffalo you can get from beef. We sell our eggs year round at the gift shop. Back to the coyotes…

We knew we’d need to protect the chickens from coyotes and even feral cats. (I will be posting a plea for people to not abandon their dogs and cats in the countryside sometime in the future as well.) Sitting chickens make easy meals for hungry wild animals. So the hens are completely fenced into their yard. We do let them out to wander the entire farm and to “mow the grass” when we are out there. This fall we found cracking a pumpkin open in the pen worked well to get the hens to come back in from roaming, if only we had pumpkins year round, it’d never be a problem.

The coop has electricity so we can regulate lighting inside. This is great for the laying hens as they will lay more in the winter time. It’s also great for me because I don’t have to collect eggs in complete darkness. Without 16 hours of daylight we can go a full month without 1 egg. We were down to getting only 1 or 2 a day during the darkest days, but someone was always trying.

We like to allow the girls to go broody and with the second pen, we may be able to let a few of the hens actually set a clutch this year. You have to be careful as hens get jealous of each other and steal chicks. Also the roosters become aggressive towards the chicks so you have to keep them away from them. With the second pen, these hens and their chicks would be safe.

Many small chicken farmers can relate to the countless hours spent chucking poo out of their coop. Trust me I have done this over and over again, for YEARS!!! But we don’t do that anymore. The Shoppe has 2 garage doors we swing up and we just drive the smallest tractor we have right in. My husband on the loader and me with a pitchfork can clean the coop out in ½ hour tops. The most labor intensive part is getting behind the roost to throw all that poo forward. However, we use bark mulch so the carbon to nitrogen ratio is fairly perfect for active composting in the coop. We brought in a lot more shavings than I thought necessary to begin with, but it turned out to breakdown over the course of 3 months so there were no recognizable bark pieces left. A local landscaper/pruner brings loads of mulch for the farm, win-win as he gets rid of it and we get to use it. We plan on using this compost for our garden this year. It broke down really well so there isn’t really that much of it, but a little dab will do ya. The circle of life starts with the poo and never ends.

We are working on several ideas including growing veggies for our family and the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market. I’ll let you know when we get that up and running as well.

Thanks for checking in on the chickens,

Natalie

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quail Day 7

Well the eggs have been in the bator for 7 days now. I candled* the eggs. I know for sure 3 are infertile** and 1 died in the shell. I can tell it died because there is a distinct blood ring^. With 32 eggs still in the bator and many definitely growing and strong, I foresee a great hatch day in our future.

Not gonna count my quail before they hatch,
Natalie


*Candling eggs is where you shine a light on the egg to see the development inside. Very easy on white eggs, almost impossible on spotted quail eggs I've found.

**If there is no development of blood vessels I can see that the eggs are not developing embryos. When broken out I can see there is no development and it is defined as infertile, even if it developed up until the blood vessel stage.

^Blood rings form around the outermost part of the shell when the embryo dies. This is common and has many reasons. There could have been a lethal gene not allowing the quail to continue to develop, it could be bacterial or viral. It is hard to say without further testing, that I don't do. I do make sure to clean the bator as best as I can before the next hatch reducing micro causes.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Our Name

People always say they like our farm’s name. My hope is that you feel welcome in our community, even if just passing through, and that we make you feel like you have a home here in Forest Grove. Our name is fun because I sometimes wonder if people ask, “Where did you get these green eggs?” Then I wonder if the response is, “my little sister’s farm.” Not as if it were the name of our farm, but that our customers felt they were a part of something. I want you to feel you are a part of our farm, because you are. If it weren’t for our customers we wouldn’t get to enjoy the gift of life every time we open up the incubator, we wouldn’t have so many chickens (who needs that many eggs for themselves?), and we certainly wouldn’t be taking on a really awesome project of raising 40-60 turkeys this summer! I am also the little sister in my family. I am the younger of the 2 sisters and although I have a younger brother, I am the shortest in my family.

Through this blog I hope to communicate with our customers and other what is going on down on the farm. I will share with you our new hatches of chicks, projects we’re working on, where we are selling, and so much more.

Stay tune for more details regarding our farm, facilities, and most importantly our animals!

Your little sis,

Natalie

Friday, January 29, 2010

We're now on Facebook

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Where to Buy Our Eggs!

I probably should have mentioned this already!

We sell our eggs year round at the L-Bar-T Bison Ranch Gift Shoppe located at 43465 SW Hiatt Road, Forest Grove, Oregon 97116. Open Monday - Saturday 10-5pm. Our chickens are laying up a storm right now so we have both Large and Jumbo eggs in the shop.

Come check it out. Visit www.lbartbisonranch.com for a buffalo meat price list and information about them.

We will also sell our eggs at the Forest Grove Farmer's Market on Wednesday from May to October too. Look for us this spring!

Our Chicky Start


I didn’t start raising chickens until college. From 5th grade through high school I raised rabbits and cavies in 4-H and open, and then in high school we got goats and showed them in FFA. When I got to Oregon State University to start my Animal Science minor I discovered rabbits were not very important to the agriculture community, so they didn’t have any classes on small animals. I could have taken any class I could think of regarding cows. So I compromised and my older sister and I popped into our first poultry class. We loved it! I didn’t know chickens were so cool.

My sister is 2.5 years older than me and we started our animal science minors together so we had to stuff a lot of classes into that last 2 years for her. Our second poultry class was a 400 level embryology class. I discovered with this class that a passion for something will get you everywhere. We had no background in poultry like most of the student, and we certainly didn’t have the biology background. Yet we set the curve.

That summer we took home 5 hens from the OSU Poultry Farm. They were 5 Rhode Island Reds (Lucy, Ethel, Gertrude, Maggie, and Hannah). We built a great pen for them and they were able to free range all day long, only penned up at night for predator prevention. The following spring I fell hard for the chicks at the feed store, we brought home 2 Leghorns, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 Black Australorp, and 1 Ameraucana green egg layer. And I was hooked!

Since then we have hatched numerous batches of chicks most of which were in my mother’s classroom for her 3rd and 4th grade classes to watch and learn about. We started with a Styrofoam incubator and can happily say it worked well for us. We upgraded to a GQF as soon as we found a good affordable one. We have had 100% hatches several times with this incubator.

I now have 2 incubators and a hatcher for our hatching purposes. Someday I hope to be hatching my own turkey eggs but right now we just do ducks, chickens, and (starting 1/26/2010) quail.

Keep watching for information and pictures about the quail. They should hatch in about 15 days

Gotta go feed the chooks,

Natalie

Thursday, January 28, 2010

We’re Hatching Quail!


We set 36 beautiful coturnix quail eggs 1/26/2010. 16 days or so later the slippery little suckers should be springing out to take on the world. Quail are crazy little birds, they bound off walls, flutter as if they can fly high, and lay rich and cream little eggs. They will start laying eggs at about 6 weeks of age, from then on they will lay about 6 a week. If we aren’t careful we could have a quail takeover of the farm. Not really, they won’t be hatching their own chicks so we can have a bit of population control. However, if I have anything to do with it we won’t stop at these 36 eggs.

You’re probably wondering what we plan to do with our quail. Well, I love their personalities, so for me it is largely about the entertainment, such as with the chickens. We will eat and sell the eggs though. They are a delicacy all around the world, essential in Japanese cuisine. I will try to post some recipes as we experiment ourselves. The first we will try is an appetizer. You line a mini-cupcake/muffin tin with prosciutto then crack a quail egg into the whole, add some fresh Parmesan and chives. Bake & serve. When we finally get to try it with quail eggs I will post the results! I love the idea of single-bit deviled eggs for Easter, how fun will that be. It takes about 4-6 quail eggs to equal a large egg, but they are very rich in flavor.


Here are some pictures of the incubator and the eggs. They will pretty much look like this until day 13 when we will place them in the hatcher. When they hatch they will be wet, hopefully I will be home to capture some of the early moments of their lives, if not, the first pictures will be of when they dry out to look like little balls of fluff. They are cuter then anyway. Regardless, I intend to keep you informed about their progress. They grow up so quick it will be no time before they are ready to start laying eggs and we get to start the cycle all over again!

Gotta go check on the 'bator,

Natalie

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Greetings from My Little Sister’s Farm

Welcome to my new blog! I have wanted to start this for a long time, but never had the time to sit down and figure out how to set it up. My Little Sister’s Farm is going on 3 years old now, we have so much going on all the time that I have to get this going. I hope you find our blog as fun and entertaining as we find our farm to be. We hope to keep our visitors up to date on the farm comings and goings as well as invite you to taste of our farm’s bounty. Please look around, our website www.mylittlesistersfarm.com is a work in progress and we hope to be announcing its launch soon.

From our family to yours,

Natalie