We will have pastured chicken available at the market again this weekend.
We are raising Laughing Frog Farm red broilers, aka freedom rangers. The chickens free range all day on pastures and in the woods. They are not confined in “tractors”. At night they go in the electric netting and portable huts that are periodically moved around our pasture. They eat bugs, seeds and grass, and we supplement with duckweed from our pond and farmed soldier fly larva.
Like our laying hens, they are also fed organic chicken feed from our friends at Coyote Creek Organic Feed in Elgin, Texas. We do not use the “natural” feeds, feed that is not free of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and additives. All certified organic feed is also GMO free.
The red broilers were developed for France’s famous Label Rouge organic free-range chicken program. After WW II, industrialized farming introduced the now standard cornish cross chicken, with its’ huge breast and soft flesh, a chicken that could be raised to 7 pounds in 45 days, but could not walk or graze, which made it perfect for factory farming.
The French began to demand the taste of traditional poultry. They developed, from heritage stock, a slower growing, more muscular chicken, to be harvested at about 12 weeks.
We follow most of the Label Rouge standards for raising chickens which include:
• All birds have access to the outdoors from 9:00 am until dusk. (I let mine out before sunrise and close the door at dark).
• Each bird must have at least 22 sq. ft. of outdoor grazing space. (They have a lot more grazing space than that).
• Trees and brush are available for shade and browse. (No problem here)
• Feed must contain whole grains and not be medicated. No animal products or growth stimulators are allowed. (Thank you Coyote Creek)
• No pesticide use is permitted (Never happens)
• Birds must be grown a minimum of 81 days.
• There are also regulations about the maximum size of flocks, 4000 birds, and I will only have 100 to 200 in a flock.
• We cannot follow the requirement that the birds be sold fresh, not frozen, due to local regulations and our distribution methods.
Our birds will be sold whole and frozen, with giblets sold separately
The whole birds mostly weigh between three and four pounds and cost $7.00 per pound.
Last Friday I went out to talk with my sheep and spread some hay when I noticed the smallest lamb I have ever seen. She was standing alone, in a helpless hunched over position, still wet from birth. I have seen many sheep born the last few years but this was the first not being protected by its’ mother.
All our sheep have been born on pasture, cleaned by their mothers and they started nursing within minutes. That is one of the reasons we chose Gulf Coast Native Sheep. The main reason is the taste.
We did have an incident a few weeks ago when an older ewe could not let her milk down for a few hours and we decided to give a bottle to to a lamb, but she never an abandoned her baby and the baby kept trying to nurse.
Ringo, the donkey noticed the tiny, lonely lamb and went over to comfort it. I looked around and he had it in his mouth so I decided I needed to take it with me. It weighed in at 4.5 pounds, not half of what the last few lambs weighed, but walked fine, tried to nurse Mojo, the dog, much to his chagrin, and was real happy to get a bottle of milk.
Our friends at Blue Heron Farm said they might take it in because they were set up to bottle feed and we are not. A very kind gesture indeed, but something happened that afternoon that made it impossible to take them up on the offer. I got back from market on Saturday and started on chores, and everywhere I went that lamb was sure to follow. She tagged along, heeling like my dogs do not, lying down when I stop, and heading out again when I move on.
We have seven ewes who were too young to be bred in the fall and obviously one snuck out in the middle of the night (and we now know who you were) for a midnight rendezvous with a rambunctious ram. We never saw any blood nor a placenta, so I guess it was an easy delivery of a tiny lamb. Often the moms eat the placenta, but I doubt that a ewe that didn’t even have the instinct to stay with her baby would know that predator protection technique.
So now I have another chore for a few weeks. Lambs need to eat three of four times a day and one this small cannot miss a meal. I have to go to Houston today, so guess who is going to be in the dog crate in the truck.
So maybe she is an alien and we need to name as such or maybe she is just a miracle. We have been known to have those around here.
It is late January and this is the busiest time of the year for this farmer. I am starting to plant spring broccoli and pak choi, 1500 tomato plants need to be bumped up to 3″ pots and the hoop house they are going in needs some repairs. I am potting basil, separating lemongrass and grafting persimmons. In a couple of weeks I will begin grafting citrus.
Right now is the time to prune all the dormant fruit trees and grapes.
I have to keep my baby chicks at 95˚, which is sooo easy in the summer, but today it requires some extra monitoring.
It is lambing season and though the Gulf Coast Native ewes do all the work, giving birth on pasture, cleaning them up and nursing them, we spend some time weighing the babies, recording info, tagging ears and monitoring the mamas’ health. And heck–just looking. That’s what the blue chairs are for. I consider that work.
Nursing ewes are always requesting some alfalfa pellets and they drink a lot of water. Yesterday morning the hoses were frozen, making me truck water from the house. It was only 29˚ and they were thawed by 9:00. The weather has been glorious this winter.
Fruit trees are selling out, we are running low on lamb meat and the broiler chickens will be sold out before the new ones are ready.
Add to that the fact that the sun is only up about 10 hours a day. Ten beautiful hours.
In the north winter is a time to sit inside as much as possible and plan. For me that would be August.
This is a great job.
Even though it is 68˚ at 4:30 am on December 11, people are preparing for the Christmas season and often that entails spending money on gifts, food and decoration this time of year. If you spend your money at a department store or supermarket, most of that money goes out of the area to middle men, trucking companies, China, Mexico…
If you spend the money on something produced locally and sold at a farmers market or many local shops, most of that money will be recirculated in the community.
We used to write on past due invoices at my old company, “Please pay us, so we can pay him, so he can pay you.” Money moves, and when you can help direct where it moves, it benefits friends and neighbors.
If 10% of the people in the greater Houston area spent $100 for locally produced Christmas goods this year, over $50 million would be recirculated in the local economy.
If 1% of the people in the greater Houston area were to spend $50 per week at a farm or farmers market for an entire year, that would contribute about $130 million per year to our local economy. That would support a lot of farms.
We consumers make a lot of decisions that effect our economy. We often complain about the federal reserve, congress and the jobs in America, but consumers choose where to spend some of their money. Don’t send money to China or Wall Street this year.
Invest in your local farms and shops.
Whether it is fruit trees, gift certificates, art, meat, cheese or vegetables, make sure some of it is locally produced.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanzaa, and enjoy the solstice.
Non-tropical fruit trees are usually planted when the tree is going dormant, the weather has cooled off a bit and the ground is moist but not saturated. The best chance of having good conditions is late November, December, January and February in Texas. This gives the tree time to acclimate before it starts putting on leaves in the spring. Most fruit trees like full sun, but berries and muscadines can do well in partial shade, and can, therefore, be used as an understory plant.
For blueberries see my earlier post on planting blueberries.
For all other trees, muscadines and berries that I sell:
Remove the weeds and grass in a five foot diameter circle. In the center dig a hole twice as wide and just the depth of the pot or, for bare root trees, large enough to spread all the roots out without bending them. Keep the graft (if grafted) a few inches above the ground. Make sure the ground drains. Fill the hole with water and if it does not drain in 3 or 4 hours you must build a raised bed. Spread about one cup of rock phosphate or bone meal in the bottom of the hole. Remove the plant from the pot and set it so that it is the same depth in the ground as it was in the pot, or even an inch higher. For bare root trees, make sure all the roots are below ground and the graft is a few inches above. Replace the same soil you took out of the hole around the plant, working in another cup of phosphate and a cup of azomite would help, if you could find it. You do not want fertilizer or compost in this soil. You want the roots to grow out far and wide seeking nutrients. Water thoroughly. Put five gallons of compost around the tree 6” from the trunk out to 2’. Mulch the five foot diameter area with at least 3” deep mulch. Make sure the mulch does not touch the trunk of the tree, as this will create a habitat for fungus and insects.
The first year they require frequent watering, equivalent to an inch of rain a week in the spring and fall. In the summer in Texas, they require twice weekly soakings the first year.
I sell fruit trees at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. This is the inventory as of Nov. 1. Fertilization schedule
I have always been a moderate meat eater. Most of the meat I eat comes from a trusted source. Usually me or a farming friend. I raise chicken and lamb on the farm.
This World Health Organization study condemning red meat is not what the media is presenting.
This is a collection of data from random trials. When you study a group of people who eat a lot of hot dogs or other processed meats, you are probably not studying people who spend a good deal of time in the gym. These studies are based on questionnaires, not, as best I can see, on controlled scientific studies. Do they sit on the sofa in front of a TV while consuming large quantities of sausage or do they eat the sausage after a five mile run? Or even better, do they eat a grass-fed lamb chop with an organic salad and beets after a hard day of farming?
They make no distinction between grass-fed and grain-fed red meat. Meat processed by salting, fermenting, curing or smoking is different than meat preserved with sugars and nitrates.
My father died of colon cancer and I do not take the risk lightly, but I feel that the conclusions made by the WHO are not warranted from the information in the study. Possibly the average American eats too much meat and most of the meat is raised under unhealthy situations. Cows, lambs and goats cannot digest grain well and most are raised in horrible confined situations. Can we connect the stress the animal is in to the quality of the meat? Does it matter that the people raising the animal have no regard for their wellbeing?
If this declaration makes more people choose to avoid the fast food hamburger and forgo the hot dog, it will have a positive effect on the world’s diet. It should help the meat consumer become more aware of the quality of meats, and therefore, should help the small, local farmer who raises meat responsibly.
However, if you read the report, you will find that the conclusions are not good science.
1 1/4 cups of cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chopped mustard greens, kale, collards, bok choy, etc.
1 cup corn kernels
1 chopped red bell pepper
Chopped jalapeno pepper is an option
Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix the dry ingredients and beat the eggs with the milk in separate bowls. Melt the butter in an iron skillet. Then stir the milk/eggs and the butter in with the dry ingredients. Mix in the vegetables, pour into the buttered skillet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
Of course you do not have to use an iron skillet, but it is what I use. If you do not melt the butter in the baking dish you will have to grease the baking dish. Experiment with different vegetables.
Our sheep have been sheared and we have fleeces for sale. This is unwashed wool from Gulf Coast Native Sheep. It came straight off the sheep, into the bag. There will be vegetative matter in the wool. The sheep were not coated and they browsed in the woods at times. These sheep do not have facial or belly wool. The fleeces weigh between 1 pounds and 4 pounds each and we have 15 still available. Fiber lengths vary. The price is $10 per pound. I will have some with me at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston each second and fourth Saturday starting again in October. Please contact me if you are interested in seeing them before that. I would prefer not to ship. I want spinners and felters to see the wool before purchasing it, because I do not know much about wool, just sheep. All wool is from our flock here in Hempstead, Texas.
We will be teaching a backyard aquaponics workshop at the farm on Sunday, October 22 from 2:00 until 4:00. We will discuss the biology, various systems, possible fish and other aquatic life, organic feed options, pumps, stocking rates and growing beds. We will talk about the types of plants that do best, the nutritional information of aquaponic fish and vegetables, types of media for the beds, and what you are eating when you buy grocery store fish. This class is for the backyard aquaponic operator and we will go through the construction of a simple, inexpensive system. We will put together an IBC system, a simple to build system that will cost around $250 and can yield 50 pounds of fish annually and lots of vegetables on a 4′ x 8′ footprint in a garage or backyard. Workshops begin at 2:00 in the afternoon and will last until about 4:00. The cost is $45 per person. sign up for class or contact me by email. You will have the opportunity to purchase an IBC system, tilapia fingerlings and plants. Classes are limited to ten people. The class is outdoors.