Your Eggs, Your Right To Know

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We rotated the chickens to a fresh pasture a few days ago. So for anyone who bought eggs at this past Tuesday’s market, here’s where your food is coming from!  This week’s pasture is further away from the woods, with plenty of breezy, high shade provided by the pine trees.

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As the weather heats up the hens will seek the shadows and spend the hottest parts of the day there.  Also included in this week’s pasture are the last of this Spring’s wild blackberry crop. Not unlike a human, the egg-layers tend to pick the fattest, juiciest berries first.

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There’s also plenty of greens and bugs for them to dine on and with all the coastal showers we’ve been receiving, hopefully we’ll get some good mileage out of this pasture before we rotate the girls to a new spot. IMG_2854

 

 

 

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Daily Browse Walks

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American Lamancha “Pecan Sandy” and her two kids

It’s important to balance the diet of a goat. For their own health you never want to feed them only grains or let them feed solely on pasture grass. Goats are “ruminants” just like cows, sheep and deer. In layman’s terms this means they have four compartments in their stomachs that are able to process plant matter into a usable food source (trust me when I say I’m simplifying this). Roughage is an important part of this process for goats.  On the farm roughage can come from different kinds of hay, and in nature it takes the form of various types of leaves, shoots, twigs, even tree bark. I love letting our animals be as close to nature as possible without allowing them to completely strip the land down to bare dirt. This is where proper pasture rotation and land management comes into play.  A few months ago we started taking the goat herd on daily browse walks, opening up the gates and letting them wander through the fields and woods at will to consume their needed natural roughage.

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Saanen goat “Sunshine” and her kids

Do we still feed them hay?  Of course we do but much less than we did before.  A favorite on the menu this week has been the young tender leaves and berries of the creeping springtime blackberry canes. I’m continually amazed at how they’re able to strip off the leaves and not get stuck by the needle-like thorns, while I’m always getting two thorns jabbed into my skin for every single blackberry I pick.

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Saanen kid enjoying blackberries

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An Unexpected Addition

swarmThere’s a few things in nature that will really get your attention, and I mean instinctively grab you on a primal level and make you take notice. For instance: a bolt of lightning striking too close, going on a hike and hearing a rattlesnake shaking his tail because you almost stepped on him, and in my case recently, rounding the corner of the barn and coming face-to-face with a buzzing swarm of honey bees that set up residence under an old sink I’ve been saving.  I slowly backed away and called my friend and fellow farming enthusiast Mike, to come and help me out. He’s had hives for years and knows far more about bees than I do. He discovered that the bees had already started making comb, which he pulled off (along with the bees and hopefully their queen), placed them into a few containers, then transferred the whole stinging mass to an empty wooden hive about 100 yards away.IMG_2888

The sections of comb Mike pulled off were placed inside frames and held in place by rubber bands. In the coming weeks the bees would hopefully add to the the comb, eventually filling the frames with new bee larvae and honey.IMG_2903

Admittedly I know almost nothing about bees at this point, so Mike came back a week later to help me check on their progress and to make sure the queen had made the journey from the old sink to the new hive.  Success!  The queen was indeed present, busy laying eggs to grow the hive and the workers had visibly added to the combIMG_2906

Thanks again to Mike for helping and generously setting us up with a hive, smoker, bee veil, hive tools, and not to mention his time. IMG_2898

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Rainy Days

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Woodland Swamp indeed…

Days of heavy rains and wind last week were somewhat of an inconvenience. It’s hard to dig post holes for new pasture fencing when the holes keep filling up with water. Goats hate to get wet and will stay inside and eat supplemental food instead of browsing on fresh pasture. Even some of our favorite forest trails are under water so forget going for a walk in the woods (the area behind us is called Woodland Swamp for a good reason).

On the other hand there are certainly benefits to all those showers. Garden vegetables seem to grow faster from rain instead of well water.  The blueberries are looking fatter and wild blackberries are definitely bigger and juicier than before…and they are everywhere.

 

A quick 5 minutes of foraging yielded enough to bring back and enjoy with a bit of fresh raw milk goat cheese. A nice way to end the day and enjoy delicious food that came from the farm!che1

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