Archive for July, 2014

What it takes…

So what does it take to grow the best food possible? What goes into raising a chicken from a day old chick on organic feed on pasture until it is large enough 9 – 10 weeks later to be converted into food?

Well here’s a run down in a very condensed nutshell. First we map out the schedule for the entire year to pick the weekends that we will process the birds. We borrow some of the equipment from another farm so we plan around their schedule. I work every third day at the fire department and so we plan around that schedule. Next we have to take into consideration any holidays such as Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. which might render farm members unable to pick up their birds. This generally leaves us just a couple of weekends a month to choose from for processing our birds. Also in all this planning, we have to consider the time frame in which we are going to grow out each flock of birds and ensure that we allow for enough time between flocks. Oh, and each batch of chicks must be ordered 4-6 weeks in advance. Then we have to decide just how many chicks to order. We don’t want to order so many that we have a load of birds that don’t sell but, we don’t want to order too few that we don’t have enough to sell when a new member joins.

Next we have to put together our feed order. In order to make organic feed as affordable as possible, we order it by the ton. One ton of chick-starter feed and grower feed costs between $1300 – $1400 which is a substantial investment before we put the first chick in the brooder.

Then we get the call from the post office that our chicks have arrived. Yes, that’s right, the chicks are sent via United States Postal Service. But they don’t deliver them to us, we have to finish up whatever project we’re in the middle of and get to the post office and pick them up.

The chicks are then placed in the brooder where they will live for the next 3 weeks until they are big enough to live on pasture. Every day they are fed and watered at least 2x’s. We also must monitor their temperature to ensure they are warm enough. Once we move them to pasture in the chicken tractors, we no longer just feed and water them twice a day but we are also moving them to a new patch of pasture twice a day. For 6-7 weeks we maintain this routine along with all the other farm chores and family commitments. All of this then cumulates on that fateful day when these birds are converted from living animal to food to nourish bodies. On that day, we rise an extra hour early to complete the other farm chores and choke down a quick breakfast. We set up the processing area, giving all the tables and containers a final scrub down. We make sure the scalder is heating so that we have hot water for loosening the feathers. When the ice is delivered, we hand unload 1500+ lbs of ice for the warm up to all the activity the day has in store. We then take to the pasture to catch the birds and place them in crates or cages for hauling them up to the processing area. Then the real work begins.

In order to make a chicken edible, it must be killed, plucked and eviscerated. Performing this task on 100 – 150 birds takes around 6 hours if we don’t take a lunch and we have 4 or more volunteers who come to donate their time and labor. After the last bird goes on ice, cleanup begins. All equipment that was used; tables, buckets, knives, killing cones, scalder, & plucker must be cleaned of blood, feathers and other parts. Because I am the slaughter-man, I am covered in blood and other excretions and I make for the shower before any members show. Now we are waiting on folks to come during the two hour window we set for them to come get their birds. After the designated time is up, we now have all the same chores that we did once already this morning. After all that we remember we have kids to feed.

And so ends one phase, but there’s another flock of birds on the pasture and in a few short weeks we will convert them into food.

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Gardener(s) Wanted, er Needed!

Alright folks, we are up to our necks and the very notion of trying to keep up with a garden right now is kind of laughable, as in hysterical. We are now looking for those who want to grow their own food or would like to start growing food for a living. We have plenty of chemical free land that would grow some awesome crops. No experience is necessary but definitely a plus. We are very flexible but we would ask a commitment for at least one growing season. Our terms and requirements are as follows:

1. We are not looking for monetary payment. In exchange for access to land to grow crops on, we will ask for 20% share for our own use. We would be open to barter for what we produce.

2. Chemical abstinence is a must. Organic methods are required, biodynamic/permaculture methods are preferred.

3. If you intend to market the produce, it must be offered to our farm members or through Marietta Locally Grown here at the farm. If this is the grower’s intention, then we will only ask a 10% share.

4. Helping out with other farm chores is not required but is encouraged.

If you are interested in joining and growing with us, please fill out the form below. Can’t wait to meet you!

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Pig Harvest

Yesterday we harvested one of our Tamworth pigs. This was a first for us and we were very thankfull that it went so well. The only real mishap was getting shocked by the electric fence. It only went so well because we had some great help from our friends; Sandra, Tiffany, Kory, and Judy from Atlanta Farm to Fork who took the following photos. Warning, real life happens in these pictures. If you don’t want to see how we get healthy sustainable meat from pasture raised animals, you might want to leave now.

Calling them up.

Trying to decide which one to pick.

 

 

I was caught by surprise with this photo.

Here I am pumping the leg to try to get as much blood out as I can.

Rinsing off the dirt and mud.

To loosen the hair I covered the carcass with burlap and poured 170 degree water over it.

To loosen the hair I covered the carcass with burlap and poured 170 degree water over it.

After scalding, we could scrape the hair right off.

After scalding, we could scrape the hair right off.

A scorching gets the remaining hairs that wouldn't be scraped off.

A scorching gets the remaining hairs that wouldn’t be scraped off.

Keeping it real with a gut shot.

Keeping it real with a gut shot.

Cutting the pelvis.

Cutting the pelvis.

Rinsing out the cavity.

Rinsing out the cavity.

From here the carcass was placed in a large cooler, we salted it and covered it with ice. 24 hours later we will be smoking!

LET FREEDOM RING!

Here is an excellent post from our friend Sam at East of Eden Farm. Farming and growing food is one of the surest ways to declare your independence. I have become a champion of not looking to the government to keep me safe from myself, food, recreation and even from others to a degree. I do not want laws that tell me what to eat, what to drive, or what kind of light bulb I can use. I choose to consume something I believe to be a superfood such as raw milk, but just because I have cows shouldn’t mean that I be the only one to consume it freely, without government molestation. If i choose to fill my body with candy bars, fast food and soft drinks, then I alone should bear the consequences that comes with it; diabetes, obesity, and cancer. I should not look to someone else to foot the bill and carry the responsibility for my poor health. Rather put my faith in people I’ll never meet to feed me, I choose to grow it myself or patronize a nearby farmer. Anyway, happy Independence Day and however you celebrate it, do it with meaning.

Our Simple, Sustainable Life

FlagThis week, America goes on a binge.  We will consume literally tons of hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs and potato salad. We will guzzle an ocean of beer. Barbecue grills will burn acres of charcoal and rivers of propane. The night sky will light up like the day from multiple billions of fireworks and sparklers as we celebrate the biggest midsummer party of them all.

Indeed, all America lets our collective hair down on July 4th as we celebrate our Independence Day, but I can’t help but wonder if the party has become only that, a gigantic party for partying’s sake.

It appears to my aging eyes and ears, that we have slowly traded the freedom so costly purchased, for something much less; the illusion of safety.  I have watched us trade liberty for laws and autonomy for regulation until not much liberty remains.

Each time we cry out for…

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