Friday, April 27, 2012


I am...

  • Having a mild panic attack
  • Ok - I'm having a moderate panic attack
  • Really excited
  • Completely terrified
  • Rather proud of our accomplishment
  • Looking forward to new challenges
....once I get past the moderate panic attack.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Someday I'll write a series of posts about why I have quit my desk job to become a small farmer. In the meantime, Susan - the owner and shepherdess at Juniper Moon Farm - wrote a lovely Accidental Manifesto about why she left her life in a big city to be a small farmer.

She covers most of the big reasons why I'm doing this too. (Though, most of you will know, I've never spent a fortune on shoes, make-up or fancy sheets). The satisfaction she describes of decreasing dependence on a centralized, industrial food system, and the joy of making something useful - and honestly getting dirty - is something I really relate to.

Check it out.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wool chickens

They are adorable.
Pattern: Spring Chicken

See how this works...I rant about something and then feel guilty about making you read it, so I post random photos of wool animals to make up for it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A rant about Industrial Eggs

Via Casaubon's Book, an article in the NY Times about how gross industrial "farming" is. The subject of this groundbreaking report: eggs.

The Humane Society of the US (which I often find to be a bit too radical - and which is no relation to the local Humane Societies where you should get your next pet) is about to release a report about a gross egg farm.

I agree (as I so often do) with Casaubon's Book author Sharon Astyk when she says:
Anyone who doesn't know that factory egg and poultry production is a nightmare - a nightmare of cruelty to chickens, contamination of your food, a nightmare of manure and dead animal disposal issues that threaten human health is not paying attention. Eating commercial chicken or eggs is an act of willful blindness, and the investigation into Kreider farms is just par for the course.

This information has been available to everyone in the US for a decade and more, and promulgated in media, film, etc... Anyone who cares even a tiny bit about what they eat knows this. Most people who do not are actively choosing not to know.

I think I am nearly immune to the attempt at shock in these articles on factoring farming. If I can imagine something horrid happening, I assume that it does happen. In fact, the thing that I found most sickening about Times article was this one line - "Like many readers, I don’t particularly empathize with chickens."

I'm not sure why the author included it. Is it to make us feel better that we've allowed these places to exist? There are a lot of animals (and, to be honest, people) that I have a hard time liking. But that doesn't mean I can't empathize with their situation. It's not hard to see a bunch of stressed-out chickens missing feathers and crammed into a cage to think "I'll bet that sucks."

It's also not hard to find local eggs from small farmers in most places. We actually give our eggs away to coworkers as soon as the percentage of eggs to "other food" in our fridge goes above 50%. We accept donations to Heifer if people insist on paying for them.

Get a chicken. Or get to know someone who has a chicken. Or stop eating eggs.

Or, know that you are directly causing harm to animals and people as the result of your choices.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Look what showed up in our Easter basket!

Poofy - one of the Hobbits that hatched on our farm last year, went broody three weeks ago and when the chicks started hatching last night, I couldn't resist.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's all fun and games until somebody looses a chicken

Maybe you are thinking of moving to the country - or maybe you already live there. "It will be so lovely and peaceful," you think. "We can get a dog. And let them run anywhere they want. Because it's The Country!"


Like many small farmers, we raise chickens for specific environmental and moral reasons. We have chosen breeds, and individuals that are good foragers but don't range too far from home. We expect the chickens to mostly take care of themselves and act like real animals - finding their own food. We provide water, a safe place to live, and treats, but for the most part the chickens find their own food throughout three seasons.

Our chickens are free-range birds. You know what this means. You know that it is good. It's better for the birds, the environment and the people who eat them.

The alternative is to keep them locked in a building and feed them agricultural products that are grown on large farms through the use of oil, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And then processed and transported to be fed to chickens.

Around here, for most of the year, the sun shines on our 8 acres. Plants grow, bugs crawl around...and my chickens eat them. This "solar powered" system is sustainable and natural. I'm not polluting the air or warming the earth to produce my food.

The drawback is that we loose some birds to natural predators pretty much every year. For the past few years, I think red-tailed hawks have nested in our woods and the juveniles find our birds (particularly the young chickens) to be an easy target. We usually lock the birds up in their fully enclosed run for a week or two until the hawk moves on.

It's annoying because we have to feed the birds. Their run is too small to support their needs. There aren't enough bugs or plants to feed them, so we go to town and purchase mass-produced, oil-dependent chicken food for them. Everyone is unhappy, but eventually the threat goes away and the birds free range again.

We accept this as part of the natural cycle. TANSTAAFL. Our birds eat bugs (which are free) instead of chicken food (which is not) and there is a trade-off.

This week we came home to a pile of chicken feathers in our driveway, and we knew something had happened that was not part of the natural cycle. When you have poultry, you learn pretty quickly to identify predator damage so that you can compensate. After 3 years of practice, we know the grisly details of what sort of predator typically leaves what sort of carcass.

A pile of feathers and no body made us think Domestic Dog. Our neighbors happen to have two, which have been on our property multiple times chasing our chickens. We already suspect them of killing two chickens previously. When we found the feathers near our driveway, which is near the middle of our property, we counted our birds and found we were missing two hens and had a beat up rooster.

We searched all over our property and could not find the hens. Fortunately, they did turn up - unharmed - at bed time. We figure the dogs attacked, and the rooster countered while the hens escaped and then hid for hours.

Here are the consequences:
  • The rooster, who is a backup that I don't particularly like, has been declared A Hero and earned the right to live out his natural life. Bill has made him A Pet.
  • The birds are locked up in their run during the day, meaning I have to buy them food from the agricultural system I'm trying to escape.
  • Our tolerance of the neighbor's dogs is at an all time low, which will make it easier to shoot the dogs if we catch them in the act of attacking our livestock.
Can you believe that last bit? Do you like me a little less that I've said it? I know it's not the dogs' fault. I understand that dogs are animals with instincts. I know they are not children. I know they need rules and boundaries. I know it's not their fault they have stupid owners.

Though I would actually probably not shoot a dog (at this point), if I see one in the act of attacking my livestock on my land, it is my right to do so in Indiana. The dog owner would also have to pay for damages to my animals. There are similar laws like this in most states.

That my irresponsible neighbors are making it impossible for me to live the way I'd like, on my land, makes my blood boil (probably as much as us letting our backyard return to woods - rather than a monoculture lawn makes theirs boil).

The dogs next door are beautiful, playful animals. I want to like them. I love dogs - quite a bit. But they are not people. Dog owners need to keep their animals under their control or supervision at all times. Even in the country. Not just for my stupid chickens, but for the safety of the dogs.