Getting ready for the chickens – Part 1

This weekend was a mix of the business of farming, and the practical side of farming … but in the end, it was all about the chickens. First, I got a call from the local Farm Supply with the price of our feed for this year and had to figure out how much we need to order. The next step, now that we know how much our feed cost will be, was to figure out the price we’ll be charging this year. We knew it would be going up because the price of feed was going up, but also because we seriously underestimated our costs last year. Turns out, this year’s price is going to be $4.97 per pound. A significant jump, I know, but prices are going up everywhere on all types of food and it is still significantly less expensive than certified organic chicken even though we are raising them using only organic practices.

The practical part of the weekend, well, it involved shoveling a lot of what the chickens leave behind. Since there’s only two weekends left to work on getting their house all ship-shape, we can’t put off cleaning out the brooder house anymore and got about half of the house shoveled out this weekend with the rest to be finished by the end of this week. Then we can sanitize it, make any necessary repairs, and freshen up the inside with a nice coat of whitewash (agricultural lime and water mixed together is like a coat of white paint but completely non-toxic). We had to quit early for the day because we’re off to dinner at a friend’s place. Need time to shower off the “barn” smell before we go out in public!


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I should know by now

For the last week and a half I’ve been happily telling everyone I see that there’s an amazing little forest of green in the basement at Our Farm, where broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have been up and at ’em for a week. And all the while I’ve been telling myself that the red cabbage will come up.

Just give it time, plants want to grow. How many times last summer did I find wonderful surprises in the garden beds after I’d given up all hope because things were taking too long to come up? Even so, I’ve been steeling myself to finally admit that red cabbage seeds which had all the help of Mat’s wonderful seedling racks and a toasty warm heating mat just weren’t going to do it this time. I hate giving in, so I was very disappointed but still telling myself that I’ve got lots of seeds and could start another flat this weekend to give it another shot. I came home from work today and added water to the tray under the flat hurriedly while I was in a hurry to get dinner and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary during my quick glance. So that was it for attempt # 1 of 2011 of red cabbage.

Then, about an hour ago I finally got up to turn on the lights and decided to go down and check on my little green darlings. And I found a little not-so-green darling!

At last!

I’d recommend clicking on the photo to zoom in, at this stage.

So for anyone who’s following along, the Calabrese broccoli started coming up in two days and by day five was all above ground. The de Cicco broccoli started coming up on the third day after planting and was all up by the sixth day. The Flat Dutch and Danish Ballhead cabbages were slowly starting on the fourth or fifth day, and the Flat Dutch is still straggling up here and there. The Early Snowball cauliflower broke ground on the fourth day and was all up by the seventh day after seeding. Red Express Cabbage? Seedling number 1 emerged on the 10th day after seeding.

Next time I’ll have a little more faith, when seeds are only overdue by three days. But it’s a little like being a kid and being told you have to wait an hour after eating before you can go for a swim on a sweltering summer afternoon – that hour feels like days. Waiting seems to take forever when you’re that eager for something.

Let's see what kind of schedule the rest of them keep!

Some things are just worth waiting for.


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I’m drooling

Good morning!

I know we don’t have chickens or any of our produce ready for you yet, but I came across this video this morning and could not resist sharing it with all of you. Having watched this video, I’m going to go with this guesstimated ingredient list:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

enough flour & Italian seasoning to dredge the chicken breasts in

1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, divided into two portions

4 to 8 cloves of garlic, diced

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 large bunch of fresh spinach

1 tablespoon of flour

1 cup of white wine

1 1/4 cups of heavy cream

1 cup of parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

The video really walks you right through everything, but my only hint would be to make the pasta ahead of time. Enjoy!

 


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And so it begins…

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 veggie season has officially begun. This afternoon, we planted our first flat of seedlings.

Step 1: Fill the flat with potting soil

I’ve got to tell you, it made us giddy to get our hands in the dirt again!

Step 2: Spray the soil with enough water to saturate it, but not too much!

We planted 2 kinds of broccoli, 3 kinds of cabbage, and some cauliflower. This family of vegetables (brassicas) have very tiny seeds, so we used my new favourite tool to make sure everything went smoothly!

 

Step 3: Meet the Tiny Tim Seeder, everyone!

And then there’s the absolutely crucial step, before things get too far:

 

Step 4: Label, label, label!

Even before we covered up the seeds with a dusting of potting soil, we had to MacGyver a couple of labels until we can track down where we stashed most of them last year in all the craziness. But with so many different varieties it would be too easy to lose track of what got planted where if we didn’t keep careful records!

Step 5: Move the tray to its heating mat

Putting the dome on the tray is essential to keeping the moisture from evaporating too quickly, but ironically the labels won’t fit anymore. They say farming’s all about doing the best you can with what you’ve got though, right?

Step 6: Program fluorescent light

The seeds need the heat mats to germinate, but they’re going to need light for 14 to 16 hours per day to grow.

Step 7: Admire your work

It’s going to be about a week before we see any sprouts. We’ll transplant them into bigger cells (mini-pots, really) in another few weeks after that, then we’ll start putting them outside on nice days to get used to outside conditions, and finally transplant them out to the garden at the end of April where our row cover will protect them from frosts.

I know they say you shouldn’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, but there’s a part of me that can’t help looking forward to steamed broccoli, cauliflower in cheese sauce, and coleslaw in June! After all,  I was an eater before I was a farmer!


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Great news and a big thank you!

We are now 100% completely sold out on vegetable shares for 2011. We would like to send out a great big thank you to all of our customers for their business, and we look forward to providing you with delicious vegetables this Spring, Summer and Fall.

In line with that, we will be posting lots of seed starting pictures in the next little while. This weekend will be broccoli and cabbage, with tons more to follow.

A quick note, as well, for anyone interested in purchasing meat chickens: If you haven’t already placed your order for the first batch to be ready in early June, please get in touch soon as this batch is more than half spoken for already!

There will be two more batches (of 100 birds each) ready in July and August, and we’ll be happy to reserve birds for you in either of those batches as well.

As a matter of fact, I’ll be putting one of our chickens in the slow cooker tomorrow morning before I leave for work so we can come home to a delicious roast chicken dinner!


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