Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Solstice Egg Count

A hen's laying cycle is coordinated to the amount of light in each day. Generally speaking, the more light in the day, the more eggs. With the passing of the winter solstice on December 21, we pass the mark at which the days cease to get shorter, and begin the slow, steady march to summer. So I thought I'd do an official egg count, and post every week or so the increase in egg production for us all to watch. One central thing I'm interested to note is how long it takes to go from minimal to maximal production. There are roughly 130 hens out on pasture and another 20 or so roaming the yards closer to the house.

On December 21, the egg count was 5 dozen exactly.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Feline, Canine, Avian

Leftovers from a recent turkey dinner, followed by wintertime snuggling as the remaining live turkeys peck snow from the windowsills.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Year Guineas

For this turn of the year season, we'll be offering a limited number of fresh guinea fowl for your family's table. These birds have been raised on our farm, very much free range, eating bugs and grains in the fields and trees, down by the pond, in the middle of the road, and even on our neighbor's roof!

These are small birds - much like a Cornish hen - and will dress out between 1.5 and 3 pounds. We're only processing these birds on request, so please contact me if you'd like to place an order. The price is $10/lb.

Bountiful Blessings in Winter!

I've just heard from Edwin Dysinger of Bountiful Blessings Farm in Williamsport, TN, and it looks as though we've made our first connection with a regular CSA. Currently, Bountiful Blessings is providing a full winter CSA and I will be delivering eggs to their weekly pick-up points. Be sure to check out their website, and think about all those robust winter veggies!

Right now the hens are on the far side of the pasture, laying between 5 and 6 dozen a day. Below, Ozark and I attempt to calculate the number of eggs per day versus the amount of grain 144 laying hens and 4 roosters eat per day. The numbers are difficult folks, even excluding the value of my labor. But Ozark figures there are things I have yet to account for.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Farming and Philosophy 2

It is well-known that Socrates wrote nothing, or at least nothing which has been handed down under his name alone. While the main source of our information about him comes by way of Plato, Aristophanes, and some brief remarks by Aristotle, there is another source - Xenephon - who presents an altogether different picture of the Gadfather.

Socrates, according to Xenephon, holds that the art of household management is one of (if not the) highest arts, and that farming is central to its activity. Since the nineteenth century, however, Xenephon's Socrates has been largely occluded from consideration on grounds that his characterization was taken to be too simple-minded or philistine to represent the founder of Western political philosophy. Put differently, perhaps it is his subject matter - home economics and farming - that causes philosophers to ignore him. Perhaps not. In any case, in Xenephon's Oeconomicus Socrates' central claim is that "not even the altogether blessed can abstain from farming. For the pursuit of farming seems to be at the same time some soft pleasure, an increase of the household, and a training of the bodies so that they can do whatever befits a free man." Socrates goes on:

"First, the earth bears, to those who work it, what human beings live on, and it bears in addition what they take pleasure in experiencing..."

"It exercises those who work with their own hands and adds to their strength, and it produces a kind of manliness even in those who are merely concerned with farming, causing them to rise early in the morning and compelling them to move about vigorously. For in the country as in town, the most important actions have always their proper season..."

"Further, the earth stimulates in some degree the farmers to armed protection of the country by nourishing her crops in the open for the strongest to take...."

"Furthermore, the earth, being a goddess, teaches justice to those who are able to learn, for she gives the most goods in return to those who serve her best..."

"At the same time farming educates in helping others. For in fighting one's enemies, as well as in working the earth, it is necessary to have the assistance of other human beings. The one who is going to farm well, then, must provide himself with eager workers who are willing to obey him...The farmer must often exhort his workers no less than the general his soldiers; and good hopes are no less necessary to slaves than to the free, but rather more so, that they may be willing to remain."

"Whoever said that farming is the mother and nurse of all the other arts spoke finely indeed. For when farming goes well, all the other arts also flourish, but when the earth is compelled to lie barren, other other arts almost cease to exist, at sea as well as on the earth."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Time and Images

some photos from the digital vault:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Heritage Turkeys in the News

A piece from yesterday's New York Times on heritage turkeys.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Cook Heritage Turkeys

Turkey Brining 101:

Why Brine?
Brining your turkey before cooking is the best way to ensure that the meat is juicy and flavorful. The salt in the brine solution breaks down some of the muscle protein in the meat (making it more tender) and also allows the meat to absorb whatever flavoring you add to the solution.

Basic Brine
2 cups salt
2 cups sugar
2 gallons of water (orange juice or apple cider can be substituted for some water)

Optional ingredients for flavor:
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup of your favorite dried herbs and spices (sage, oregano, thyme, basil, cloves, cinnamon, etc.)
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
lemon or orange slices
crushed garlic cloves

First: In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, combine 1 gallon of water, salt, sugar and optional flavor ingredients. Stir until sugar and salt have dissolved, but do not boil. Remove pot from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.

Next: Spread a layer of ice into the bottom of a cooler that is a little larger than the turkey. Set the brining bag inside cooler of ice and place turkey, breast side down, inside bag. Pour cooled brine over turkey, plus an additional 1 gallon of water or juice. To further cool brine, add 2 scoops of ice into brine bag. Seal bag, making sure to let out as much air as possible. Add additional ice to cooler so that your turkey stays at 40 degrees Fahrenheit while brining. Brine for one hour per pound of turkey. Do not over brine, or turkey will be salty.

Last: Remove turkey from brine, scooping some of the herbs and spices from brine solution and spreading onto the skin of the turkey for extra flavor. Brush turkey with vegetable oil or melted butter and cook as desired until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Discard brine and clean area exposed to raw poultry.

Cooking your heritage turkey:

Besides the fact that these heritage turkeys have been raised the old fashioned way--with plenty of grass and sunshine--they need to be cooked differently than their modern, factory-farmed counterparts. Heritage turkeys are much leaner and smaller than sedentary commercial birds. Fast cooking at high temperatures is a better method than slow roasting. Heritage turkeys should be roasted at 425-450 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the thigh! Butter (plus flavorings like rosemary, sage, maple, etc) can be added under the breast skin to add flavor and moisture during roasting. Loosen the skin around the breast with your fingers and insert butter between the meat and the skin as well as on the inside of the bird's cavity.

Remember your giblets inside!

Giblet Broth:

- 2 cups white wine
- 2 cups water
- Giblets (look inside body cavity of turkey)
- Bay leaf

Simmer everything in a small saucepan for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Giblets can be discarded if they aren't your type of thing or they can be finely chopped and added to the broth. Giblets can also be used to make gravy.

Finally, take a picture of your bird on the table - and maybe even with the family! - and send it to us and we'll put it on the blog. If you include cooking/eating notes, we'll post those as well!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Farm Fresh Eggs!

We are now proud to offer fresh pastured eggs from Ecotone Farm.

These hens were raised on our farm from day one with integrity and care, on an all-natural, custom-mixed diet free of antibiotics or hormones. Living entirely on pasture, rotated every few days to a fresh paddock, the eggs from these hens are naturally healthy and delicious, with deep orange yolks that stand up tall in the pan and a smooth, rich taste you'll remember.

Why are these eggs so good?
* Truly free range

* All-natural diet

* No antibiotics

* No hormones

* Local: Joelton, TN

Egg deliveries are on Tuesdays and Thursdays to the Nashville Metro area. Individual dozens are $4 each, or $35 for ten dozen. Commercial accounts welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Farm Photos

Two weekends ago, several good friends visited the farm. One of them, a good friend of mine and documentary photographer Briget Ganske, brought her camera and got some photos. Check out her website to see more of her work. Also pictured are Sam and Pete, two of John's good friends from college. Thanks for visiting everyone!

A poetic break, courtesy of Briget as well:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Mary Oliver