Category Archives: Project Start a Farm

Everything is Autumn

Early morning fog, yesterday

We wrapped up broiler season yesterday and now our five chest freezers are stocked full of chicken to supply customers for the rest of the winter.  We raised over 3,000 broiler chickens this year and I think I speak for our entire butcher crew when I say we are happy to take a break for a while.

(Missed the opportunity or want another chance to volunteer?  

We are butchering stewing hens in a couple weeks and  turkeys on November 18 and 19.)

Keith catching broilers

I do love the early morning chores and the chance to watch the sun light up the mist that hangs over the chilly fields.  There is something magical about being out in a pasture, listening to the steady grazing of my heifers and hearing my turkeys gobble as they wake up to sunshine.  Here in western Oregon, though, there is always the knowledge in the back of your mind that these delightful mornings are numbered.  Soon there will be an incessant rain, cold fingers, muddy boots and wet hair that hangs in my eyes.  There are still delights, I just have to look harder to find them.

Sleepy kids on the butcher crew – mirroring the sentiments of the grownups. 

It’s time to slow down for the season, start thinking about putting a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup on the stove and begin making goals for the winter and spring.  I’m looking forward to:

  • Pressing more fresh apple cider
  • Thanksgiving dinner with my beloved family
  • Mad Men season 6.  I don’t know when it will start, but I’m on the edge of my seat!
  • Running more.  Maybe training for something big?
  • Having more time to tackle nagging projects that get put off during summer farm season…like equipment maintenance and fixing fences.
  • Reading the next book club selection which just happens to be written by one of my favorite authors.
  • Our church home group that starts tonight.
  • Going skiing and soaking up some Mt. Bachelor sunshine.

What are you looking forward to as the seasons change?

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Broiler Pasture Shelter Plans

Last year in this post I said I would upload plans for building broiler shelters.  Well, funny thing happened…I got busy building and farming and stuff like that.  A year later, it took a blog reader to remind me that I never got around to uploading those plans.  Well, here they are!  I know a lot of people are interested in knowing how to build these, so I hope this is helpful.  All credit for this design goes to Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm and Tyler and Bradd Jones of Afton Field Farm.

For some pictures of the building process see my previous post .  If you have any questions that are not addressed here, let me know in the comments below.

One note about using PALRUF corrugated PVC : this stuff is on the spendy side, but I think it’s worth it. It’s much lighter than corrugated metal siding, and it is durable.   In our small town we could only find it at Home Depot.

I don’t appear to have saved a close-up picture of the dolly that is used for moving the pens.  I will take a picture of it (I really promise this time!)  and take note of the dimensions so that it can be replicated easily.  The dolly is the genius part of this whole project.  It allows a 120 lb woman like me to be able to move the shelters effortlessly.  (Granted, I can pull them without the dolly but it’s pretty backbreaking, as my chiropractor bill will attest.)

Without further ado, here is the link to the plans.  Go grow some chickens!

Broiler Shelter Plans 2011

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Hen-pecked

The sunny streak is starting to fade, but this weather we’ve been having totally rocks my world!  I was so inspired by a recent sunshiny evening that I pulled out my iPhone camera to capture some pictures during chore time.

Wanna see?

Emmie takes a momentary break from "herding" the chickens

A broody Silver-Laced Wyandotte hen

The whole crew

A curious Dekalb Amberlink hen, right before she pecked my iPhone

I guess, if you’re a chicken, shoelaces look like delicious worms.

Emmie and I go for a walk to the lower paddock

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Mowing the Lawn

My favorite chore is mowing the lawn.  Imagine my delight at having to mow the field…with a 1950’s Massey Ferguson tractor!

View in 720p for the most clarity.

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Blog? What Blog?

Somehow I strained my lower back doing farmwork, and so I’m sitting at my computer wasting a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.  I should be out with Keith getting the old Allis-Chalmers tractor running and the mower blades sharpened but I’m listening to classic rock and tending to this neglected blog instead.  (And also doing what I do best:  googling and YouTubing for answers when Keith calls with tractor operation questions.)

I have no idea how to catch up with this blog so I’ll just give a quick recap of the summers major events.  Hopefully that will get me back on track and then I won’t be so lazy about it!

So, without further ado:

It rained throughout most of June, so we had to wait a long time for the Annual Migration of the Eggmobiles.  Not long before we moved them from our house to the 50 acre field, Eggmobile #1 got a flat tire.   I found the whole situation quite hilarious.  Poor Keith was not so impressed because he spent most of the time fending off chickens that were getting in his way while he changed the tire.

Our lambs kept on munching lush grass that lasted through the beginning of the summer.  They are growing fast and I love ’em, despite the fact that they keep running through the electric fences in search of the chickens’ grain.   For the record, sheep are stinkers.

The broiler chicken operation is going smashingly.  We have butchered 3 batches of 180 chickens each, and Provenance Farm chicken is on the menus of some of the most renowned restaurants in Portland, and in the freezers of many of our favorite home cooks.  We have two more batches of chickens to butcher and then….TURKEYS!

Keith and I on our first butcher day.  Look at those giant chickens!  That batch resulted in some 6 pound birds.  Live and learn…they have been a lot more reasonably sized since then!

We rented a small tractor with a mower deck in July, and mowed the 5 acres around our house.    Keith worked really hard that day.  I am not sure what I was doing.  I’d like to say I was clearing boulders or something, but I was probably sitting on the deck with a martini in my hand, working on my tan.   Sounds like me.

Our cherry trees went crazy in July.  There is nothing and I mean nothing like a handful of fresh sun-warmed cherries.  Oh man!  We canned a bunch and made pies.   My mouth is salivating at the memory!

I have been entertained all summer by twin fawns that have been frolicking around our property.  Did you know they make a squeaking little call when they’re looking for their mother?  I had no idea what a baby deer sounded like until this summer.  It’s really cute!  Here’s a YouTube video I found that shows a fawn making the noise I hear outside my window all the time.

I turned 26 on August 4th, and Keith gave me a .22 rifle for my birthday!  We went up to Mary’s Peak with our friend Matt and got some target practice in.    I’m ecstatic to have my own gun.  It will come in handy for taking care of predators this winter when we have our chickens at our house.  No more coons in the hen house!

We made friends with an 80-something year old Philomath farmer named Fritz.  He has chickens and dairy cows and sells fresh milk and eggs.  Keith and I help him milk the cows sometime.  This is just a crummy iPhone photo, but it shows the new farmer/experienced farmer duo filling 1/2 gallon jars with fresh, creamy milk.  Clearly very serious business indeed.

Well that’s a small summary of what we’ve been doing this summer.  It’s been a lot more low-key than other years.  No backpacking to the Sierra Nevadas or Hawaii, no world-travelling.  But I’ve actually been really loving what I’m doing and hey…if you have to stay put, the Willamette Valley is a pretty great place to be.

Hasta luego.  I promise I won’t be gone so long again!

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Farm Tours – kid version

One of the most rewarding parts of owning a farm is sharing the experience with other people.   Views like these are too good to be kept to oneself.

the farm at sunrise

The biggest attractant, though, is not the view but the fuzzy baby chicks in our brooder.  With batches of broiler and layer chicks arriving every four weeks, we have a constant supply of cuteness.  No matter how ungainly these birds will look in a few weeks, as day-old babies they bring out the  child in all of us.

After all, aren’t baby chicks what a farm is all about?

fluffy chicks

Many of my friends bring their kids out to the farm to see the baby chicks and to feed the laying hens.  The chickens are just the right size for a child to approach. There is nothing more adorable than seeing a little 2 year old girl in a plaid dress, hand-feeding chickens in a pasture. Heart-melting adorable, I’m telling you.

Know what else is adorable? These:

Kid's drawings - the price of admission for a farm tour

The last few kids who have come to visit the baby chicks have each brought me pictures and letters. One sweet little blonde first grader even brought Chocolate Banana Braed, as mentioned above.   Her note was written in blueberry-scented Mr. Sketch marker too…she gets extra points for that!

I’ve decided that the new price of admission for a farm tour is a hand-painted picture. Disney character drawings merit extra special farm tour priveleges.   I wouldn’t turn down a loaf of Chocolate Banana Braed, either.  That stuff was good.

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Green Acres is the Place for Chickens

Our Amberlink pullets are now 6 weeks old!  It doesn’t seem very long ago that they were sweet, fuzzy little chicks.  You can see video of their first day here.

We are getting another batch of layer chicks this week, so it was time for the Amberlinks to vacate the brooder.  They were also looking a little bored in there, so it was time for them to hit the grass.

I’m not ready for them to live in the Eggmobiles yet, as I want to keep them seperate from the older hens until they begin to lay.  So we built some extra Salatin-style broiler pens and put them in there for the time-being.  The pullets are doing great on pasture, and it’s amazing to see how well they forage for insects, slugs and seeds.

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