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Archive for June, 2011

Predator!

It’s not easy to farm in harmony with nature. In fact, it seems that whenever you think you have it figured out, nature demonstrates that she can make your plan fail, no problem at all.

Yesterday, Patrick set off to the fields on his daily round of chores, and came upon a gruesome scene. In one of the chicken enclosures, 40 of the 5-week-old chicks had been killed by a predator. We aren’t sure what the animal was, but it got to the chicks by digging a shallow ditch under the electric netting. Lately, grass and weeds have grown thick around the electric fences all over the farm, draining power from the fence at every point of contact. The voltage got low enough that the predator, whatever it was, was undeterred by the shock. We all feel sickened by this episode. Steve has been furiously taking it out on the weeds with the weed whacker. He also installed a bigger fence charger, so the voltage is now back to a level that should be effective.

As for the animal’s identity, we were quick to suspect a fox. A fox has been spotted many times snooping around the fence. But the mass killing is not typical of foxes. And here is a strange detail: several of the dead chickens had been buried. Domestic dog is one possibility. Fisher cat, badger, and skunk are all on the list. But none of them matches the m.o. perfectly. Craig and Patrick will be on the case this weekend while Steve and I are both away for the holiday. Craig is going to install a game camera for hunters to see if we can get a photo of the culprit, so we can figure out how to deal with it.

It’s not that we think we can beat nature with technology–that is an arms race that we don’t want to start. But we have to solve this particular mystery because now that the predator has succeeded, it is almost certain to come back, bolder than ever.

We’ll let you know how this turns out.

Photo by Craig Fournier of a chicken buried by the myster predator

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This is the machine that will save Steve’s sanity. Some might say it is too late for that. But I say there is still time. Steve has been taking eggs home every night and washing them by hand. Ever since we hit 250 eggs per day, he has developed a strange twitch. Now, thanks to the folks at Gibson Ridge Farms, Steve will finally have time for a full night’s sleep. He should be better in no time.

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Happiness is a Hot Bath

For me, the hardest part of buying beef in bulk this past year has been planning dinner two days in advance to allow for the meat to defrost in the refrigerator. The refrigerator has always been recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture as the ONLY safe method of defrosting beef. It was said that every other method keeps meat in the “danger zone” of temperature too long, possibly permitting the growth of bacteria that can make you ill.

According to this article in the New York Times, the government is getting ready to change its mind. A study has determined that dunking a package of frozen beef in a bath of hot water will defrost it safely, and the resulting meat is just as juicy and tender as refrigerator-defrosted meat. And it only takes ten minutes! Yay!

Now if only the government would also discover that we don’t have to exercise 30 minutes every day…

Cow in Bathtub by Michele Bornert

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Steve and I were exhausted today after our first day of chicken processing on Wednesday. We owe a tremendous thank-you to volunteer Craig Fournier (Patrick’s Dad), who worked way above and beyond the call of duty to help us. Craig applied his training as a chef everywhere from eviscerating to following all the food safety best practices to barbecuing a chicken lunch for us on his smoker grill. Plus, his cheerful spirit and iPod/boombox really helped make the day fun.

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Pig Heaven

We are getting a lot of inquiries about pork. Yes, we know, we were supposed to send out a newsletter with pork ordering information weeks ago. And, no, we haven’t forgotten. It’s just been a zoo around here. We will send out a newsletter soon. In the meantime, here is a photo of the pigs foraging in the woods at the edge of the lower pasture.

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