Sunday, May 30, 2010


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 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!


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,

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!


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.