Rain…sunshine…it’s all good! The weatherman says possible frost warnings for tonight and that may not be so good, but we don’t have our tomatoes and tender plants planted outdoors just yet.We just sent out the last spring share delivery yesterday and we hope that they have satisfied everyone’s veggie cravings for a while! It was really fun packing the spring boxes with gorgeous greens from the high tunnel each week. It was also nice to have yummy salad and cooking greens to eat every day!Summer shares will begin mid-June. We still have summer veggie shares available and bread shares are available, however, EGG SHARES are SOLD OUT! Sorry about that, but there is a good chance that we will still have eggs available for individual sales through the season. Please keep in mind that we also offer winter egg shares from November –April!In other farm news: We have added an Oconomowoc delivery site in addition to Jefferson, Lake Mills, Fort Atkinson, 3 locations in Watertown and the farm
It is so nice to see how green everything has become, our veggie plants are all doing well in the fields and the chickens are happy to be back out on lush grass! Our bossy, “seasoned” layers that are now 15 months old are still laying eggs like pro’s and our sweet, young pullets are just starting to lay eggs. They are laying good-sized eggs, too! Not many of them are the small pullet eggs that we usually get, but we will have pullet eggs available for those who like them for a short while. (The pullet eggs are usually much smaller than the mature hen’s eggs are, but only for a few weeks!)
After the weather finally improved and the snow melted this spring, the work on our new barn finally started progressing. Our old barn has been converted to our cooler, washing and packing area and the animals have been uprooted and are in need of a new location away from our work space! The new barn has access to nice pasture and it is nestled into a protected spot.
We have also added to our fruit orchard this year! Mother’s day here turned out to be a great day for friends and farm members to come and help us add 100 red currant bushes, 25 Juneberries and more apple and pear trees to the orchard! And everyone who helped did so willingly for a simple scrambled egg breakfast! (The work crew had pie, though.) This past weekend, we planted 10 more large cherry trees and more rhubarb plants and now we are done with the big trees for this year. We are looking forward to adding fruit to our member’s boxes soon! It is too early to tell if there will be much this year yet, but we are hoping. The rhubarb and raspberries that we planted last year will be surely ready for shares next year.
If you missed the planting day and are feeling left out we do still have about 50 hazelnut’s that need to be planted (very small ones) and there are also some small oak trees to plant. We have a few more white pines and Frasier fir’s that we need for now and would be happy to give them away to a good home!
An awesome and eager planting crew planting 100 currant bushes on Mother’s Day!
We have had the good fortune this spring to have housed a fairly nice rooster that has now left his legacy in our 17 adorable, fluffy chicks. Although it is always fun and rewarding for us to raise chicks from our own hens, we usually make a point not to have a rooster available in the spring to make this possible. This time it worked out well for us!
I learned the hard way that roosters don’t make good pets. I still have the beak-shaped scar on my arm to remember the day that I tried to talk to my “pet” rooster, Mario about his rude behavior to our guests. He was not in the mood. It was spring. He had only the hens in mind and scoffed at my perceived friendship.
As we stared at each other in contempt, I wondered what I was thinking. He is an animal that acts instinctually. Of course he would be nice to me in exchange for food during the off-mating season. He even let me pet his pretty feathers. I remembered how my mother once made “pets” of some wild raccoons that were vandalizing our garbage cans nightly. They completely turned on us when the Ritz crackers ran out and Mom had to call the animal control people.
That was years ago, when our flock was small. Since then, I rarely keep roosters past 5 months of age. I don’t befriend them either, preferring to keep them a bit leery of me and other humans. Mature roosters will challenge visitors and small children and can be very aggressive with our dog, Leo as he simply goes about his evening chores of herding the chickens into their housing.
However, last fall, as we sorted the roosters from the flock, we apparently had one that was left behind due to his remarkable quiet, hen-like behavior (and hence; disguise). His breed (Cochin) and slower development played out in his favor. He was allowed to spend the winter months with our young pullets* that had not started laying eggs yet early in the season and that worked out just fine. In February, the pullets began laying eggs and the rooster became sexually mature which resulted in the majority of these young hen’s eggs being fertile.
The development of the embryo doesn’t start until the egg incubation temperature is brought to around 99°f; the temperature that a hen will keep them at when she begins sitting on the eggs. That is why a hen can lay several eggs in a nest over a week or more and then have them hatch 20-22 days after she begins setting on them. As an alternative to a setting hen, we us an incubator. When our rooster found a new home last month, we set an incubator’s worth of eggs aside to hatch. With no rooster on the farm now (except perhaps in the brooder right now!) none of our eggs are fertile anymore and there is no chance for them to ever become chicks.
Although there is little difference between a fertile egg vs. a non-fertile egg other than a cloudy spot on the yolk or in the white, our fertile eggs have been used for our home use or sold to customers that ask for fertile eggs. We do this for consistency in our egg quality; non-fertile eggs will keep longer than fertile eggs and sometimes, even the cloudy spot causes some concern to people that are not accustomed to farm fresh eggs.
The High Meadow Flocks
We have and still do raise several different types of birds on our farm. Different breeds will meet different goals when we are raising chickens and the same goes for turkeys and ducks. We like to have some diversity in our laying flock, but the majority of our laying hens are Rhode Island Reds or a similar breed. Although Rhode Island Reds can get broody* at times, this trait has largely been bred out of the breed, but they are prolific egg layers. The ones that do choose to set on eggs often have very short attention spans for the task and may end up abandoning their eggs before hatching. Other breeds that we have in our laying flock are Auracana’s; bearded ladies that lay blue and green eggs, Dark Cornish (pinkish eggs), White Rocks (white eggs), Barred Rocks and Delaware (brown eggs) and Lackenvelders (small, white eggs). All of these, with the exception of the Lackenvelders are nice dual purpose breeds, meaning that they are good for both egg laying and as meat birds. We also raise a few flocks of Cornish Cross chickens that are raised entirely for meat.
Our flock sizes more than double in the warmer months as the chickens have access to outdoors and are allowed to forage and graze, but the flocks are never so large that the hens are stressed, crowded or more than our farm dog, Leo and I can enjoy caring for or manage to round up in the evening. In the winter, we reduce our flock size, bringing a smaller percentage of our laying hens into the barn with access to the outdoors when weather permits.
Some of our hens are acquired through mail-order as chicks or from a local hatchery. They are raised organically from the time they hatch, allowing their eggs and their meat to be certified organic. We usually order “straight-run*” which provides us with a number of roosters in the mix. As the chicks grow, the pullets will join the laying flock and the roosters will become meat birds (before they become mean birds!). If we do decide to keep a rooster for breeding, we often hatch our own eggs in the incubator. We also will switch a hen’s unfertile eggs with fertile eggs if she is broody and we believe that she is up for the task of setting on her clutch* for 21 days. Usually the hen that we depend on the most to hatch a clutch of chicks is Mother, our tiny little Banty hen who is 12 years old and can still lay a nest full of eggs when she is in the mindset to hatch them. She is the best mother chicken that I have ever known and we love her very much.
The best time to collect eggs for hatching (if you have a rooster) is in spring, when the grass is green and the days are getting longer. It is also a time when you can notice the greatest change in the yolk color and flavor of the eggs! The chickens are busy and happy and all of this is reflected in their eggs. The eggs get larger in spring, too; often resulting in eggs with double yolks!
If you are still curious for more information about how the chicken got into the egg, there are more egg facts and a few definitions if you click HERE.
To see what a fertile egg looks like click HERE.
To see a nice chart on the developing stages of an egg, click HERE.
We are sold out of our winter produce shares! We DO still have bread shares and egg shares available for the season.We are taking memberships now for our 2013 shares and will have that information on this site in the next few days! We hope that you will join us next season!
This does not mean that we won’t have any extra eggs, though, especially in the beginning of the season. You are welcome to come to the farm for eggs if we have them available, or we can deliver them to your veggie pick-up site if you call a few days ahead, if we have them and if it is a egg week for that site.
We also have lots of eggs right now, beautiful as they are for Easter! In a few weeks, the young hens will start laying nutrient-rich eggs from their diets of lush green grass and sunshine! The pullet eggs (pullets are young laying hens) are always a little smaller and we often offer them at a reduced price for a few weeks because of this, so watch for specials!
We still have veggie shares and bread shares available.
Has anyone mentioned how unusual this warm weather is for mid-March? Yes, I’m kidding, there is no avoiding the topic, but it is very strange.
I want to be thrilled about the warm days, the green grass, the flowers, but I haven’t even raked the flower gardens yet, and my snowshoes are still pouting by the back door! I am concerned about the early progression of the season; if we would get a hard freeze, there will be serious damage to flowers and fruits and important food sources for wildlife (and people). but what can we do? The bluebirds have returned, and I expect the barn swallows and the Orioles will be back any day now. Friday as I walked down to the barn I started hearing a loud buzz and thought that someone had left a power tool plugged in but it turned out to be our honeybees covering the flowering red maple (acer rubrum). (It has been a good year for bees.)
I’ve been finding ticks on the dog, too, and I have been swatting at mosquitoes at night. (A good year for those insects, too.)
I was thrilled about the weather this weekend, though, when we were able to finish our hoop house project with the help of some fantastic friends and workers that volunteered to help! The warm sun made it so pleasant to be out working and the light breeze…well…lets say light breezes and 100′ long sheets of plastic don’t always cooperate with each other but we managed. We had a great crew on Saturday to install the plastic on the end walls and the roll-up sides, but it just got too windy to do the top.
I’m not sure why I decided to plant chives in a patch of quack grass 2 years ago. I should know better than to think that I could win that battle. I can speculate on the thought process; 1.) They arrived as a gift unannounced, 2) they are perennial and needed to be planted where they would be undisturbed for years, 3.) that particular spot looked really good at the time and was near the horseradish, another perennial, 4.) I would be sure to keep them weeded…
These are thoughts that I had as I weeded the chives today. I surely must have weeded them last year, but the quack roots were pretty large and determined! But there is something about burying my arms up to my elbows in cool, worm-rich soil and searching for underground networks of quack rhizomes in March, that helps me to forgive them today. Digging the fork deep into the soil and lifting the roots, shaking out the dirt and spreading nice soil around the plants, I am promising myself that I will be sure to keep them weeded this year.
Tomorrow, maybe I’ll be sore from the first day of garden work. I will surely have a visible farmer-tan-line. I found 2 ticks on our dog, Leo and we had mosquitoes flying around our heads tonight. Now I’m not sure what to make of this weather… I don’t think our seedlings do, either.
Wow, winter went by and spring is almost here! We have had 10 weeks of egg deliveries for 2012! The chickens are laying enthusiastically and nibbling at the grass. Yesterday, I could swear it was already turning green!
If you live in the area and would like to sign up for the rest of the winter season egg share, the cost would be $20.00 and you will receive eggs every-other week for the next 10 weeks, (a total of 5 dozen). We deliver to Fort Atkinson and Lake Mills and we also offer pick-up at the farm. Call the farm to sign up! 920-699-3658.
During the veggie season, (June – Nov.), summer egg shares go out to ALL of our delivery locations: Watertown, Lake Mills, Jefferson, and Fort Atkinson. We may be adding a few additional areas as well, check back soon!
We have added 2 additional delivery sites for CSA pick-ups! In addition to the regular pick-up sites in Fort Atkinson and Watertown, we will also be delivering to both area hospitals. These are options available to any member; if it is most convenient for you to pick up at one of these sites, just indicate so on your membership form or if you have already signed up, just send an email so that we can make the changes for you.
Pick-up times will remain the same (4:30-7:30pm on Tues.) as all other sites.
Specific details regarding area of pick-up, etc. will be provided to you at a later date.
Really! We’re working on seed orders and plans for 2012 and we can’t wait for spring!
Thanks to everyone who has returned for another season and welcome to our new members. If you haven’t sent in your membership yet for 2012, there are a few days left to get a great discount!
2012 membership information is now available by going to the “Join Us” tab on this blog. For descriptions of our shares, click on the “Our Shares” tab.
We are already looking forward to the next season and hope that you will join us!
Sign up now to get the “early bird” discount!
We also have lots of produce and eggs available all winter. If you are looking for organic, local produce, I hope that you will check out the “Farm Market” page for details!