Saturday, October 31, 2009

Holiday Turkeys!

This holiday season, Ecotone Farm is pleased to offer heritage breed Blue Slate turkeys for your family's table!

Contrary to industrially-raised turkeys - almost without exception the only birds available in supermarkets - heritage turkeys are slow-growing, naturally-reproducing birds that are intended to be raised on pasture their whole lives.

Raised from day one on our farm - eating bugs and grass and grains in the sunshine and rain - these are turkeys truly worth giving thanks for!

Eating an all-natural, custom-mixed feed with no antibiotics or hormones, you can be confident that these birds were raised in a sustainable way with integrity and care.

Now accepting deposits on a limited number still available. The price is $5.00/lb. less a $25 deposit. Please mail deposits to the address at the top right of this page.

Check out the older posts on this blog for their entire life story! Bring the kids to the farm to pick out your bird!

For more information, contact C.J. Sentell at 318.272.4288 or For more information on heritage breed livestock, please see The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Turkey Update

Well, the turkey processor in Bowling Green called a few days ago to both move our appointment and to raise the price. After speaking with several folks about it, we found a plucker in Little Rock and have decided to do the processing ourselves.

So....we'll have FRESH turkeys for Thanksgiving! I think they'll be much better this way. Fresh is always better, and so is keeping it local. We'll process the birds the weekend before, and store them in my neighbor's walk-in refrigerator until pick-up. For those of you who've ordered a bird to ship, we'll do those somewhere around Nov. 12th and freeze them prior to shipping.

If you have a problem with this, and would like your turkey still USDA processed, please let me know and we'll try to work something out. If not, feel free to come to the farm the weekend before the holiday to pick out your bird and/or help out! It's sure to be a learning experience for all!

In the meantime, we still have about 15 birds available. Please send a $25 deposit to the address at the top right of the page to make a reservation. Also, many folks have been asking how much they'll weigh. To be honest, I don't know. But there are plenty of hens out there, which will give us a nice range I estimate to be between 8 and 20 lbs. Reservations secure your size preference as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Billy v. Goldman

Last weekend, CJ and Jen traveled with their trailer to Woodbury, Tennessee to pick up a small herd of Angora goats from our friend Christina Ott (Artisan Builder's Collective) who was headed out of town and looking for caretakers. This seemed an opportunity to put the multiflora rose that covers the pasture to good use, and we've been discussing the possibility of finding Billy companionship for some time. Billy lives happily enough with the pigs and chickens, but he has a freer spirit than the others, different thoughts and desires. Lately he's been pursuing new forms of sociality, spending a lot of time with the dogs and humans on the farm. He enjoys sleeping in the barn, long walks around the perimeter of the pasture, and morning coffee on the deck overlooking the backyard. With the recent briskness of fall, Billy's been excitable, and he has indicated to me that he occasionally pines for the amorous attentions of lady goats. I admit this interpretation is partially projection. Billy is a handsome goat, charming too. More than once, I've wished for him love.

But love, it seems, does not come without a fight. Along with several females and a few kids, Saturday afternoon brought Goldman the goat to Ecotone. A billy himself, Goldman is an impressive specimen. Goldman shepherds the Woodbury clan, and he's protective of his flock. When Jen and CJ arrived to collect the goats, Christina warned that a battle was likely to ensue.

Before we could let goats roam, we had to put up electric fencing around the rose pasture and create access to the barn. For Billy and Goldman, our thoughts were to clear a safe ring. We cleaned up the barn a bit, removing chairs and buckets and other miscellany unnecessarily tempting to the whims of goats. Matt and Kim and Zachary came over from next door to meet their newest neighbors. Together, we brought the new goats one by one from the trailer to the barn, all beautiful animals -- Coco the pygmy, Lucky the Kid, Lily and Ashley, the ladies of Woodbury, several others. And, of course, Goldman.

Before long, Billy came in from the roses to introduce himself. We wished them well, encouraged sportsmanship, and stood back to watch.



Thursday, October 8, 2009

Goat Descending A Staircase

Billy, we don't like you to be so free....

Call & Response

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ends and Means

At this point it is appropriate to outline what, exactly, it is we're up to at Ecotone. First and foremost, we are trying to live here together at this place. The principle characters of this "we" include: 150ish chickens (heritage laying hens: Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, & Rhode Island Reds), 38 turkeys (all heritage breeds, mostly Blue Slates), 25 guineas, 4 Ringneck doves, 3 Toulese geese, 3 semi-feral barn cats (Maxine, Crescent, & Sassy Cat), 2 Red Wattle Hogs (Ruby & Sadie), 2 Great Pyrenees puppies (Cloe & Cletus), 1 Rogue Goat (Billy), 1 Variegated Kingsnake (Herman), Ozark (The Poodle), John Morrell (Ecotone Chair of Pastured Poetry), Jen, and, well, me. There are also a host of less personable - but no less present - characters that include our friendly predator the fox, a salamander, the mouse that lives in Jen's dresser drawer, and several large spiders residing in each window. Must I list the birds and the bacteria? The trees? Each blade of grass?

Second, we are building a small-scale, highly diversified sustainable farm. Through the farm we aim to increase the amount of food we raise for ourselves, as well as offer high-quality food for folks in middle Tennessee. While we are not certified organic, we use no synthetic chemicals in the garden and no antibiotics or hormones with the animals. All of the animals are "pastured", which means that they have constant access to fresh forage in the pasture; in other words, inside of portable pens, they are free ranging -- with some even freer than we would like.

In addition to the eggs that are now available - and the 35 Thanksgiving turkeys for which we are now accepting deposits - we have also committed to becoming stewards of several livestock breeds that are in danger of extinction. Both the turkeys and the pigs fall into this category. In the future we hope to add bees and mushrooms, plant fruit and nut trees, considerably expand the garden, add a few more goats, some sheep, and perhaps a milk cow. The idea behind this is that a diverse farm is an ecologically sound farm. We aim to farm this way, and to provide the place and space for others to learn to farm this way too. To this end, we also hope to make Ecotone a place for agrarian education, and so welcome all who wish to learn. Our method, above all, is experimental, but we incorporate permacultural, biodynamic, and ecological principles into farm practices as well. We do not own, nor do we plan to own, a tractor; the only combustible engines we employ belong to the truck and weedeater.

Obviously this is only the "agricultural" aspect of Ecotone. But because ecotones are borders of transition - liminal spaces where differences coexist and edges intermingle - there are other aspects to our dwelling here as well. More specifically, Jen is in the process of setting up an art and paper studio that she will call Recellulose Paper Products. This is just one of the "industrial" or studio aspects of Ecotone. John, too, has his own projects lined up, the most prominent of which is his plan to construct a structure for himself and future farm and studio interns. As these projects get up and running, I'm sure these folks will have more to say.
For more information on sustainable farming, see the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and the Tennessee Organic Growers Association. For more information on pastured poultry, see the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association. For more information on heritage livestock, see The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Predators Inside and Out

Well, after I reported that we were under little or no predator pressure, one showed up just on cue. Because of my faulty observations, I had let the well-constructed defenses go relatively unused: letting the turkeys sleep outside the tractors (both on top of and in the bushes around them), accidentally leaving their electric netting off, not doing an evening walk with the dogs, etc.

Silly. It even took me a few days to figure out that it was happening. I discovered the problem one evening when I noticed an area of silver feathers in the pasture. Close by, I found a turkey, still alive and whose wounds were relatively superficial. Gathering them up together inside their tractors, I counted 38 healthy birds and 1 wounded. We'd lost five.

In the days and nights that followed, the dogs and I scoured the property looking for any signs of this elusive but deadly critter. We found a feeding location deep in the bush, covered in feathers but no flesh. We found a fresh corpse, drug under the electric netting close by and with the same scratch wounds around the neck. All this pointed to a predator not much bigger than the birds, and not especially efficient at killing this size prey. This, of course, ruled out what I've been told is the biggest threat - stray dogs or coyotes - as well as anything like a large cat; given their weight, too, I doubted a hawk or an owl or any other bird of prey. My first hypothesis was that it was a raccoon. After that, I thought it could be this other medium-size mammal both Jen and I have seen but neither can identify.

Whatever it was, though, it was elusive. Leaving not a trace, I searched in vain for its tracks as it continued to scare the turkeys at night by pacing around their secured roosts. I set traps. I walked around. In the rain. At night. In my underwear and boots. With a 410 shotgun thrown over my shoulder. On a mission. I was the Department of Homeland Security and the terrorist must be eliminated.

But all to no avail. Whatever it was continued to be elusive, displacing its wild traces into the nocturnal lives of our domesticated dinners. Within these traces, marked by blue feathers and stressed faces, the difference between this predator's presence and its meaning began to open up for me and, I think, for the turkeys too. Perhaps this is because, as Derrida notes, "[t]he trace is the differance which opens appearance and signification. Articulating the living upon the nonliving in general, origin of all repetition, origin of ideality, the trace is not more ideal than real, not more intelligible than sensible, not more a transparent signification than an opaque energy and no concept of metaphysics can describe it.” Very well. I just needed to stop the flow in the feeding ecology in one particular direction.
At first, the wounded turkey healed nicely. He hung out in the back yard, and John and Jen and I cleaned his wounds. After a few days I tried to put him back with the rest of the turkeys, but after only 20 minutes the other males had identified his weakness and were very close to killing him themselves. Weakness, too, seemed in need of elimination. Instead I moved him into the chicken pen, where he lived and slowly recovered from his second brush with death. But yesterday I found him dead under a small bush. This time it was another predator - or, rather, a scavenger. Flies had found the wound that somehow opened again without me noticing. Dinner was to be had one way or another. This time it was from the inside out.

After finishing my own dinner, I was standing on the porch in the moonlight and finally caught a glimpse of the predator. Traced on my retina, silver as the moon and blue as the turkeys she was clearly pursuing, a fox crossed the road and disappeared into the pasture. Finally, with all the birds secure, I found a new response to this exquisite spectre of death looming amid the thorns in the blue moon light. Welcome, I said softly, belly full and mind soothed by my renewed attention to those things that threaten from both the inside and out.

Although he was talking about his cat looking at his member in the bathroom, again I find Derrida helpful with respect to our fox: "The animal is there before me, there close to me, there in front of me – I who am (following) after it. And also, therefore, since it is before me, it is behind me. It surrounds me. And from the vantage of this being-there-before-me it can allow itself to be looked at, no doubt, but also – something that philosophy perhaps forgets, perhaps being this calculated forgetting itself – it can look at me. It has its point of view regarding me. The point of view of the absolute other, and nothing will have ever done more to make me think through this absolute alterity of the neighbor than these moments when I see myself seen naked under the gaze of a cat." But soon enough the dogs will be on the job and an entirely new ethic will already be underway. In the meantime, it looks as though we'll still have 35 turkeys available for Thanksgiving.