Pieces of Eight

The pullets suddenly transitioned from being terrified of us to mobbing us at every chance.  Something must have clicked in their brains connecting us with food.  Now we are their best friends. They are certainly the most gregarious group of chickens we’ve raised.

No More Apples!

We started picking apples the last week of July.  Since then we’ve been picking and preserving apples every week.  We love apples.  There comes  a point when we love being finished with them too. Besides the innumerable apples eaten out of hand, this year we managed to dehydrate over 700 pounds of them.  Cores and bad spots get trimmed, so about a quarter of that weight ended up in the pigs’ bellies.  If we had used pristine grocery store apples we wouldn’t need to do so much trimming.  But the price for perfection in apples runs… Read More

Double Whammy

  This is our last day of grazing grass.  From now until May the cattle will still be eating grass, but it will either be harvested and dried (hay) or fermented (baleage). We can usually stretch our grazing out into December.  January is possible in a mild year if we don’t get early ice and slush in the fields.  February grazing is inconceivable to me based on the plants available and the weather we get, but fifty miles east of here from Albany down through the Hudson Valley the weather is much milder… Read More

Fairy Rings

Back when I was picking puffball mushrooms I found a long, vivid green swath of grass about two feet wide.  I didn’t think much of it, but a few weeks later when I returned to that field I realized that the green grass formed a long arc about fifty feet in diameter.   It puzzled me for a while, but going back over the arc I observed that all the puffballs in that field were along the path of the arc.  I found puffballs in three fields this year, but only this one had any… Read More

Just for Pretty

Scratch My Back

Whenever I drive into the sows’ pasture to drop off a bale of hay, they come barrelling out of all corners of the field, ears flopping, doing the bucking-horse run I never grow tired of watching.  Do they care about the hay?  Are they happy to see me?  No and no.  They are only excited because I’ve brought them the big scratcher (at least that’s what I imagine they call the tractor).   They love scratching their hams, backs, and shoulders on the tires, rims, loader frame, and three point hitch arms.  The… Read More

Oat Sprouts

Our bales of bedding straw came from a weedy field that wasn’t combined, so there are plenty of oats still attached to the stems.  This straw would be disastrous if used for garden mulch, but it excels as livestock bedding.  It fulfills two Maslovian first tier requirements in one package (food and shelter), almost as good as living in a gingerbread house.  But I digress… The autumn rains sprouted the oats in the outer layer of the hay bales, creating a sixty foot long mat of oat grass running the length of the bale row.  When I… Read More

Vertical Integration

Last winter I pondered whether it would be feasible to add laying hens to our operation.  We gave it a try, and we lost money spectacularly.  Rate of lay rarely exceeded 60% and most of the summer it hovered just under 50%.  This might be due to any number of things.  Maybe our Red Sex Link hens are just a poor batch (we had a surpisingly high occurrence of hens going broody this summer, which is unusual for this type of chicken).  Maybe our feed mill isn’t giving us a good mix.  Or maybe… Read More


CSAs deliveries are wrapping up for the season.  This is our second year working with the Montclair CSA.  For anyone living in Essex County, NJ, we have high praise for them.  We feel fortunate to work with folks who are so supportive. It is no shocking revelation to observe that our culture seems to push us all toward sectarianism.  If we choose to be either paleo carnivores or vegans, we feel pressured to close ranks and demonize those who make food choices different than ours.  This isn’t a new topic for me, but… Read More

Just for Fun: 1956 Propaganda Poster