Our Farm to our Table

Farm to table means many things to many people. This is our farm to our table. These birds arrived on June 7 and were butchered on September 1. They were 85 days old at butchering day. The days in between were spent, in a brooder in our garage, while we watched them carefully for developing problems that we could lose chicks to, if we were not watchful. The first week, there is a lot of rear end cleaning, this is to be sure they do not suffer from “pasty butt” when their poop can dry and stick to their bottoms because of the heat lamps they need to regulate their temperature. This can result in death if not carefully monitered. After the first week, this hurdle is generally behind us.

While the garage was busy with the brooder chicks, we planned their move up to their new home in the big coop. After about 4 weeks in the garage they start getting rambunctious and this creates lots of dust in the garage, so out they went to the big coop which had a carefully regulated temperature in it, as they didn’t have their full feathers yet. After about 2-3 weeks they were big enough and it was warm enough to let them out, first into their protected run so they were on grass, but then we opened them up to the big world in the latest part of the day so they didn’t range too far and forget where home was for them. We lit up their run that leads to the coop so they would see the light and come home to it. Within a few days they were full on free ranging, and exploring. We have lots of fir trees for cover for them, and they were pretty savvy to danger or hawk shadows up above. Finally butchering day came almost exactly 12 weeks later. We could not be more pleased to have birds going into the freezer at 4-5 pounds this year. We will stick with this breed, a heritage breed bird, comprised of a mix of 2 other heritage breeds. They grew much faster than our Delaware birds did, are much bigger, and we butchered 4 weeks earlier. I’ve never been a fan of Cornish Cross chickens that grow way faster and bigger, we always prefer to raise a heritage breed here on our farm. We will be sticking with these Red Rangers!

Day 1

Day 75

Day 85

The effort that went into these birds is well rewarded. This bird was delicious, juicy, and flavorful, beyond anything I have ever purchased in a store. This is what “our farm to our table” means to us. It means giving up the garage to the brooder and checking on them every couple of hours the first week, and it means hot days feeding and watering chickens, and early mornings letting them out before it was too hot in their coop, and even hotter days butchering the birds, which is an all day event. None of this is complaining, I enjoy the process, but it is a process, it is work, and it sure is rewarding.

Sitting down to the table to eat this bird, after the effort that went into raising it, becomes more than just dinner. This dinner started, actually on June 7, and to me, nothing tastes better or has more meaning, at a meal, than the food, that we spent months, bringing to the table.

Turning the corner into Fall

This past month we got rain. This was not your garden variety rain, this was more than an inch an hour. It came down in sheets, and the volume of water was incredible. Fortunately we are lucky to have our house on a hill, so flooding was not an issue for the house. The driveway washed out quite a bit, but we are again fortunate to have the heavy equipment to fix it. All in all we were very lucky, so many others did not fair so well. The above picture is of our “pond” which is not much of a pond at all. Mostly a large wildlife watering hole, but now it is a pond, till the water goes down again.

This was our little creek after the storm. Normally one can jump across this creek!

When we want to get a “flush” of mushrooms we soak a log in water. The storm however, essentially soaked all the logs at once. We got over 7 lbs of mushrooms! We have never seen that much from our small mushroom set up, at one time.

We celebrated with turkey mushroom soup.

The garden has peaked. It is now producing just small amounts of large tomatoes, a fair amount of cherry tomatoes, (shown above) some Swiss chard, kale, collards, parsley, basil, and cutting celery. The onions have been picked and are drying, the cucumbers are done, and I am officially done canning tomatoes. If I save anymore, they will get frozen whole, and used later.

These are the cherry tomatoes shown up above, but they are dehydrated for winter time snacking. Hubby loves these.

This was a couple of weeks ago. It was not a normal garden year but turned out to be a pretty productive one, in the end.

Hard to stop taking pictures of vegetables. They are so beautiful, and colorful!

Well, my carrot crop was not huge, by any standards, but it’s the best I have done. Carrots, it turns out, are not super easy to grow. I think, though, that I learned some things from these, and now I could possibly have a decent crop turn out next year. I did, this year, actually manage to grow enough potatoes for most of the year and that was a first. Carrots, onions and potatoes are traditionally crops I have purchased from local farms in a quantity to last us through the winter. We just haven’t had a fenced in garden that is big enough for these crops. Now, though, I am starting to think about that larger hoop that we have stored up the hill. It would be nice to have a larger tunnel than I do now and be a able to use it for crops like onions and carrots, so they are protected from the critters.

Carrots with parsley, tomatoes with Cilantro, and Shiitakes with, gathered, dried ramps (wild leeks).

This Elderberry cluster will be all purple soon. It will be picked, so that I can make Elderberry syrup, tincture, and liquor all to be used in warding off colds this winter. The netting you see around them is so the I can be sure to get my fair share of them. I net some for me, and then let birds have their share.

These chickens were ready for butchering. Since this picture we had butchering day. We had 3 extra people and the 26 birds went quickly. We are getting it down to a smooth system. These birds were a new variety here on the farm. Still a heritage breed but they grow larger and a little bit quicker. The birds are now “resting” in the fridge, and will get shrink wrapped tomorrow and put into the freezer. I have weighed about half of them and am happy to say that they have gone from a range of 2.9-3.7 pounds last year to 3.10-5.5 pounds this year. Hopefully we will like the taste and texture, and if that is the case then we would definitely raise this breed again. It’s good to have them ready for the freezer. One step closer to closing out this years growing season. We still will have some tomatoes, and lots more apples to pick and press, and pumpkins to puree, and then lastly the high bush cranberries to pick. We are definitely seeing things winding down.

These are Aronia berries. They have more anti-oxident power than blueberries, and even the recently fashionable Acai berry. They are native to Wisconsin. These will be made into an Aronia/Cherry jam. They are not tasty on their own, but mixed in jam with other fruits and it tastes great and is oh so healthy.

Thee are some of my honey ferments. Aronia honey on the left, and pineapple honey in the middle. The pineapple honey is to be used as a cough syrup in the winter. The cherry honey, on the right, is to be used as an aid for achy sore joints. I still need to make my elderberry honey, I am a firm believer that Elderberry helps to prevent colds, or at the least shortens their duration.

Just another sign of change. The pumpkins look beautiful on the hill.