I'm so addicted to this blog that I preordered the cookbook on Amazon WEEKS ago. It came yesterday. Mimi, someone whose life I'd like to be living, spends her days making amazing French food and taking fantastic photos. I would too if I lived in a French villa and grew my own wine grapes. That sounds much more romantic than butchering my own chickens. Plus no one wants to see pictures of processing day. On the other hand many of her recipes call for a whole chicken. So there's that.
Everyone is hacking things! Ikeahacks. Lifehacks. I was feeling left out. So I give you Farmhacks.
1. The 5 gallon bucket turned poultry waterer.
You can buy fancy waterers for poultry at your local feed store. A 5 gallon version with bird attracting red dish will run you about $30. Or you can grab a 5 gallon bucket left over from a paint job and a $6 Tuff Bucket from Tractor Supply. Drill two small holes near the top of the paint bucket. These should be on opposite sides of the rim. Fill with water up to the holes. Firmly attach the lid. Flip the bucket over into the black rubber dish and voila, poultry waterer.
2. The mason jar feeder.
For $3 at the feed store you can get a 6 slot feeder for chicks. But then you're expected to pay an additional few dollars for a plastic jug to screw on top. The plastic will melt under the heat lights. Just trust me on that one. But for free, or the cost of any jar of anything at the grocery store, you can use a mason jar instead. Cheaper, reusable, and much less melty.
3. Shredded leaves as bedding
It's $5 for a big bag of pine shavings at the store. We use them for the brooder and the coop floor. The only problem is that the chicks will eat the shavings instead of food. Instead you can use all the leaves you just raked up. The birds will scratch at them to release any insects and ultimately turn it into compost. Not only are leaves free but you end up with usable compost for the lettuce field.
4. Campaign signs as shade cloth support
To keep squash beetles off of the plants we cover them with shade cloth. It lets light and water through while acting as a physical barrier to keep insects out. It's one of the organic alternatives to spraying pesticides. As the plant grows we need to raise the shade cloth off the ground so we don't smother the plant. You can buy metal rods that you bend into an arc or you can use those conveniently shaped square ones from campaign yard signs. You get to recycle the metal sign parts and there's no bending required.
Who else has ideas on farm and garden hacks? I feel like there's a whole bunch I could be using.
It's the end of the farm season. We've spent the last few weekends spreading manure, wrapping up irrigation lines, taking down electric fences, and putting the farm into hibernation mode for winter. One of the side effects is having to go to the grocery store.
For most Americans this is a normal, twice weekly occurrence. But for farmers this is a moment fraught with stress. And maybe hives. Because all summer we don't actually buy groceries. We grow everything and what we don't grow we get at the market or we buy direct from other farmers. A local farm delivers my milk. I buy meat and cheese at the market. I trade eggs for garlic. I get flour and beans from a farming friend, and I grow the rest. But towards the end of October it becomes harder to get some of the foods we regularly eat. Sure I've frozen and canned things. But it's still technically kale season. I just don't have any. I can go to an indoor market on a Saturday. But we had plans this weekend and couldn't get there. So what's a girl to do?
I went to the grocery store. And I waffled for ages in the produce department. Do I buy the conventionally grown kale from the local farmer? There's a picture of them. They look nice. Or do I buy the organic kale from Cal-organics? They're a huge conglomerate out of California that uses migrant labor to harvest their greens. Is that bad? Is local conventional better or worse than far-traveling organic produce? How do I account for the fossil fuels used to ship it? How do I feel about the use of foreign labor, even if it's legal? But I'm buying it a local company that employs mentally handicapped workers. Does that make up for it? Does that even matter?
Please tell me I'm not the only one to stand paralyzed in a produce aisle trying to make the best choice. Is there even a right answer?
I ended up with the semi-imported organic kale. I still don't know if it was best. Or right. But I figure the alternative is eating fewer vegetables. And that's not good for anyone. So next weekend I'll do a better job of getting to the farmers market. Because I certainly don't want a repeat of this emotional roller coster over a pound of greens.
New chicks grow so quickly it's like watching the entire first year of a baby's development. They learn to walk, eat, drink, keep themselves warm, and interact with all of the other birds in the brooder. It's pretty impressive when you think that this is done completely by instinct. We don't have a hen brood them so they figure everything out on their own.
Here is week 1 for the chick baby book.
1. Baby's first car trip! Chicks spend two days traveling by postal truck from Iowa.
2. Baby's first tooth! Chicks have an egg tooth that they use to peck out of their egg. On day three they lose that tooth.
3. Baby's first meal! Upon arrival the chicks have their first sips of water and eat their first solid food.
4. Baby's first feathers! Chicks hatch out covered in yellow fuzz which is slowly replaced by feathers. The first feathers to come in are wing feathers. Right now the chicks are all yellow fuzz with little wings attached.
5. Baby's first diaper blow out! Chicks often develop something called "pasty butt" which is when their poo gets stuck to their rear ends. It backs up the whole system and can kill the chick. We lovingly clean each chick bum on day six so they have clear plumbing.
Grandpa didn’t teach you everything you needed to know about farming? No problem. You can just Google it! Beginning farmers don’t have to worry that a lack of knowledge and experience might keep them from being able to farm. Millennial farmers just hop on a smart phones to figure out the spacing for broccoli plants, id a squash beetle, or watch a video on replacing a tractor spark plug.
Is this an effective way to farm for the next generation? You bet. Inefficient farming is better than no farming. You can only get better at what you do. You can never get better at what you don't do.
Here are some of the things we use our iPhones for at the farm:
We order seeds and buy equipment online. Watching videos at www.tractorimplements.com convinced us to buy a disc a few years ago. And we ended up purchasing a tilther from www.johnnysseeds.com after seeing a demo on youtube.
If we forget the spacing for a plant we just go to the seed company website and look up the planting info. Our farm fields are 1,000 feet from the house so I'm not going to walk, or ride, all the way back to check the seed packet.
The nuanced tricks for knowing if plants are ready to be harvested usually comes from years of experience. But a quick google search lets us know that when the potato plant dies it's ready to be harvested and that squash is ready when the neck turns from green to brown.
In the notes on my phone I track the weekly produce included in our summer veggie CSA share. At the end of the season I'm able to see the total poundage and value of what was included that year.
I have reminders set to go off so I remember to send out the weekly CSA email, tweet the daily "chick pic," and buy buckwheat seed the next time I'm near Copley Feed.
We try to keep an active facebook page, twitter feed, youtube channel, pinterest board, and blog so that our customers know what's going on at the farm. It's how we communicate changes to the CSA pickup, let everyone know when Thanksgiving turkeys go on sale, and if we have eggs available.
We sell most of our products to customers we meet online. Almost half of our turkey sales are from people who sent us a facebook message. Our winter CSA share has members who found us on twitter, and all of our communication to CSA members happens through emails I send and receive via my phone.
We love our farm life and want to catalog it. Then we can drive ourselves crazy looking at pics from past years to see how far we've come. Plus we like to post the pics to all of our social media outlets for customers to see and comment on. We exclusively use our phones to take photo and video. #farmlife
"Can you turn on the water?" "Can you bring me a beer?" "Did I leave the shovel there?" We have 14 acres of land to cover so texting is how we communicate when we're not in the same place at the same time.
Yeah, we're Millennials. We don't talk on the phone.