Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Accidental (happening by chance or accident ; not planned; unexpected) Chicken Farmer

When we started out last May, we just wanted four hens. I had my brother, David, build a homemade coop to hold four hens.  The magic number here is four.  By June, I'm talking about one month later June, we had close to thirty hens and three roosters. That is not four. I keep asking myself, "How did this happen?" Well, the short answer is, you can't have just a few chickens.  It's like an addiction or an affliction, depending on how you look at it. 
Our first chicken coop, with veggie garden on top.

The lovely thing about chickens is nothing goes to waste.

Our blue heeler, Gypsy, loves the chickens too. (June, 2012)
This year Becky wanted some Easter Eggers who lay pink, blue and green eggs and I wanted Silver Laced Wyandotte.  So...........

Yeah, we know. They are roosters but we also have five hens.
The original home of this hen suffered from overcrowding.
Now she shares a yard with three other laced hens and a young rooster only.
And then there are the "no telling what" that we got when brother Dave incubated  eggs from our hens.  So...........

As if that were not enough, I wanted Pygmy goats.  So..........
Meet baby Lily, Blossom and Sweet Pea.
Most of our chickens free range during the day now and we lock them  in the barn at night with the goats.  The goats seem puzzled by all the cackling in the barn when the hens are laying and the chickens really enjoy "goat watching" as does Gypsy and her 2- two year old pups. 

I would like to say there is always peace and love here at Harmony Acres Farm in beautiful Oklahoma, but the truth is "sometimes stuff happens".  
The older roosters don't have a proper appreciation for the younger roosters, the stray or untrained dogs running loose in the neighborhood make me crazy (I scream like a banshee at them) and chicken hawks flying overhead give me heart palpitations (I can almost see their amused looks as I flap my arms and yell shoo).  That is just the stuff outside. 
We have also taken in five house dogs and four inside cats over the years and least I forget, an outside cat that hangs out in my chair on the porch (sharing his fleas with me) waiting for me to bring him dry cat food (yes, he could hunt for his food but why bother when he has room service).  His name is Harvey Gene after a dear family friend.  They are both a pain in the rear but very special to us.
Living on a farm, even a small one, is lots of hard work.  It is not for everyone but for me it is heaven.  One can learn a lot by observing the animals.  Things about the seasons, the weather, the unseen danger (snakes, I hate snakes) and living together in harmony. 
 Thank you for stopping by.  Hope to see you again soon.  The adventure continues.......
Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.



You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The title says it all.  I am conflicted!  I hate "farm factories" but I am a carnivore.  Yes, my name is Linda and I eat meat.  I like meat! I need meat with my meal to make it a meal!  This goes back generations in my family.  My ancestors never heard the word vegetarian and wouldn't have known what it was if they had.
Factory Farm Chickens
Farm Factory
They say that you can't tell the difference between a tofu burger and a beef burger.  Let me tell you, they are wrong.  That brainwashing doesn't work on me when it comes to meat.  I know my beef.  And even worse, I love chicken!  Chicken nuggets, boneless chicken breast, chicken drumsticks, chicken.......well, you get my drift.  How can I ever look my chickens in the eye again? I never met a meat I didn't like and that includes calf fries (if you don't know, don't ask).
This should not be a problem for a chicken farmer like me with a ready supply of meat.
The thing is, I can't kill anything I've named (and all our animals have cute names).  Could you eat something named "Buttercup"?  Well, I can't!  So therefore, I am supporting "farm factories" which eats at my very soul. I am disgusted with myself for this weakness but what am I to do? 
I know that part of being a proper farmer is killing for food.  If I could kill anything, it would be the stray dogs that terrorize us.  They would find out in a hurry if "all dogs go to heaven" or not.  But I just can't.  I want to be a good vegetarian but I'm not good at grazing on plant products.  I need meat!  Becky does just fine grazing and would rather not have meat.  How do I explain to her my primeval urge for dead animals?  Is there any way this can not be my fault?  DNA? Cultural? Demented?  Is there any hope for me? 
After a lot of research, I came across this site, Life As A Human.  It may not totally resolve my conflict but it gave me some possible alternatives that I can live with.   
There’s a further complication to the decision to go meatless as an answer to animal cruelty. Crops are grown on land that was once the home of countless wild species. Think of the prairies. Where buffalo, prairie chickens and foxes once roamed in great numbers, we now grow wheat and other major crops to feed a human population that continues to grow. Some argue that just the annual planting and harvesting of crops kills millions of wild birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
So, what do I tell my daughter? She wants to do the right thing, but what’s the right thing? It’s not to replace her hamburger with a tuna sandwich. That would be putting the welfare of a domestic animal – one created by and dependent for its very existence upon humans – with the likely extinction of a wild species. It might not even be to go vegan as that would increase the already enormous pressure on farmland.
The answer might be that we have to rethink what we mean by animal cruelty. Yes, we can be cruel to animals one at a time, even one herd or flock at a time, particularly in a factory setting, but we can also be cruel to animals one species at a time and even one ecosystem at a time. A healthy ecosystem might be one in which a variety of plants and animals thrive, some of which are used or taken out entirely for food. There are healthy wild ecosystems and there are healthy domestic ecosystems. Many small farms fit this description. Animals feed on plants grown on the farm that are fertilized with manure from those animals. The animals are kept in small numbers and treated well. The plants are varied and some areas of the farm might be left fallow or completely unused to keep the soil healthy and to provide habitat for wild species.

Does this absolve me of the responsibility to prevent animal cruelty by becoming a vegetarian? Does this solve my dilemma? Does this instantly make me want to eat a tofu burger? Not really.  This will have to be an ongoing process, made one choice at a time.  I cannot undo years of evolution in one day.

The tofu burger is on the left. I can tell the difference just by looking. :( 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Light Cinnamon Apple Crisp

This is a seriously delicious Apple Crisp. Seriously. Maybe it's because the apples were fresh picked off the tree, or maybe it was the tantalizing smell of apples and cinnamon baking in the oven.

Early last Saturday morning, before the heat of the day hit, my mom and I drove over to John's Orchard and picked McLemore apples until the baskets wouldn't hold anymore. The Mclemore, one of the best varieties in Oklahoma, is a medium-sized 'Delicious' type fruit, that has good dessert quality. So good, that I ate quite a few before I made it home.

Seems that apple choice always comes down to personal preference. Skinny Taste suggests Empire, Gala, or Braeburn apples for baking, while Chocolate and Zucchini suggests baking with an assortment of organic apples. However, not all apples are good for baking. For a list of best baking and cooking apples, along with best uses, flavor characteristics, and appearance, I highly recommend  The Farmer's Almanac. You'll also find more apple recipes here. Yum!

Enough about apples already. Let's get baking!

Servings: 8
Serving Size: 1/8th
WW Points: 5 pts
Points+: 7 pts
Calories: 242.0
Fat: 6.8 g
Protein: 2.3 g
Carb: 49.5 g
 Fiber: 4.5 g 
Sugar: 32.3 g
Sodium: 10.1

Cinnamon Apple Crisp
Adapted recipe from Skinnytaste.com

For the Filling:
  • 5 medium apples, peeled, and diced
  • 1.5 oz raisins
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar (I used honey)
For the Topping:
  • 1 cup Quaker quick rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (half stick) butter, melted

    1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Combine apples, raisins, cinnamon, agave nectar (or honey) and lemon juice in large bowl.  
    3. Sprinkle with cornstarch.
    4. Toss until fruit is coated.
    5. Place fruit in an ungreased baking dish.
    6. Mix remaining ingredients (takes a bit of stirring).
    7. Sprinkle over fruit.
    8. Bake about 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender.
    9. Grab a fork and enjoy!!

    Friday, June 29, 2012

    Two Chicks and Our Chicks! Love Our Chickens!!!

    “Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.”Frank Lloyd Wright 
    No self respecting woman can have a farm without having a few chickens.  So.................after pricing the small chicken coops at Orscheln's, I decided my long suffering, ever so talented brother David could build it bigger, better and cheaper (not to mention adding my special request for a garden on the top).  Boy was I right about that!
    Becky loves to tend the chickens when she gets home from work.
    We have three Black Star hens and one white Sussex hen and a white Sussex rooster.  Love our chickens!
    David built them some shade for mid day using PVC pipe and a tarp.  Love our chickens!
    With the 100+ degree temps, I've been adding bottles of ice to their water bowls in the afternoon.  Love our chickens!
    We feed our chickens inside the coop late in the evening and lock them in for the night.  The coop is inside a chicken wire fence which is inside a chain link fence.
    Becky has a veggie patch on top with lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes (tomatoes got lost in the pic by the trees in the background).
    The day after they arrived, they started laying eggs (two). We have at least three eggs a day and sometimes four. Like the solar power, it doesn't sound like much but boy do they add up fast. I'm learning that the number of ways to cook eggs is endless. I would like to share them with friends and neighbors but everyone has chickens around here. I can hear roosters crowing in all directions.
    O.K. this is the last picture I'm going to post today of the chickens and the coop!
    Love our chickens!
    Another great thing about having chickens is the poop.  Yeah, I know.  It's hard to get excited about cleaning out the chicken coop every day but the straw and poop will be a great fertilizer for our garden next year.  Gotta keep my eye on the prize when I have chicken poop splashed all over my legs and the smell is a little on the toxic side, especially in this heat.
    Our first two eggs!  Love them chicks!

    Early morning is my favorite time of the day.  After I spend two hours watering all the fruit trees and bushes, taking care of my big dogs outside, cleaning chicken poop, watering the veggies and hauling trash to the dumpster, it's time to sit down under the shade tree with my cup of coffee and, yes, my cigarrette, and just relax watching our chickens do their happy chicken thing.  I love living in the country and I love our chickens.  There's something just so darn comforting in watching the chickens meander around at a slow, calm pace (farm t.v. you know).  Much better than watching fish in a tank! 

    Have a great day and come back again to see what we try next.

    Have you had a kindness shown?
    Pass it on;
    'Twas not given for thee alone,
    Pass it on;
    Let it travel down the years,
    Let it wipe another's tears,
    'Til in Heaven the deed appears -
    Pass it on.
    ~Henry Burton, Pass It On

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

    Learning to Love the Oklahoma Heat...........Solar Power

    "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Theodore Roosevelt

    Hi. I'm Linda and my daughter is Becky. We are striving to become a self sustaining homestead here at Harmony Acres.  The quote above has recently become my mantra. Like many women, I assign myself more tasks than even Wonder Woman could achieve on a daily basis. Becky does the same thing so "the apple didn't fall far from the tree". Country Living is very satisfying but it is also a lot of hard work, especially for two "beginners" like Beck and I who are learning as we go. Sissies need not apply for country life but a hottub would be nice.

    This is what we have to work with: 
     two ladies who have never lived on a farm,
     five acres of land (probably another acre if all the brush were cleared) 
     the totally unpredictable Oklahoma weather. 

    Our goal is to reach a happy medium somewhere between helpless females and doomsday preppers.  Every day is an adventure around here.

    We started our quest with a DIY solar panel array. Why wouldn't we want to utilize an unlimited free source of God given energy? We're smart people, right?   It's going to shine anyway, so why not use it? My long suffering big (and only) brother David has come to the rescue (again).  He is like "Tim, the tool man" (sitcom Home Improvement) on steroids.  He really can build it bigger and better!
     He custom built the metal frame to perfectly fit the solar panels. Pretty impressive, huh?

    I knew what I was doing until you started "helping" sis.  Now I'm a little confused!  Where did I say the red wire went? Becky is amused by our good-natured bickering.
    These four panels will produce 920 watts per solar hour.  It takes a 1000 watts to make one kilowatt. Doesn't sound like much until you go to pay the electric bill and see that it really adds up.  A penny saved is a penny earned.......... Can I get an "amen", ya'll?

    The electric line then runs into the house and connects to the invertor (green lights are good. means it's putting power back into the grid) and the invertor then plugs into a wall outlet.  Ours has a 1000 watt capacity with a lot of safety features.  If the electric goes off, it will shut down automaticlly (this is a good thing as Martha Stewart would say). Pretty cool, huh?
     This is my solar clothes dryer.  Nothing like having your granny panties waving in the breeze to amuse those passing on the road on the back side of the house.

     Just when I thought we were ahead of the game, our antique (circa 1976) central heat and air unit gave up the ghost and we had to replace it on January 25 of this year.  We bought a heat pump because we have natural gas as well as electric that we can use to supplement the heat this winter. Geothermal would have been nice but it is a little in the "you've got to be kidding me" price range.

    Since we replaced the unit and put up the solar panels the first of February, this is the breakdown of our usage:
                                                       2011                     2012
    February                                   1537 kw                 788 kw
    March                                         950 kw                 741 kw
    April                                           950 kw                  525 kw
    May                                          1318 kw                 711 kw
    Total                                          4755                  2765          so far we have saved 1990 kw 
    That's about $140 in actual usage plus the power cost adjustment is about another $45 (don't even get me started on PCA).

    The total cost of adding solar was around $2200 which included extra pvc pipe to run the electrical wire through and really long pipe to elevate the outside line to make it safer to mow and clean around and the metal (which ain't cheap) to build the frame.  We plan to add more solar panels as we can (this will call for another invertor) and a wind mill as well. 

    The heat pump cost around $5000 (we'll be making payments on that puppy for a while). Bottom line:  I don't have to feel guilty about staying cool this summer (another string of over 100 degree temperature going on here) and the power of the sun is a free resource we have an ample supply of without harming any part of the environment.

    It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it. 
     ~Albert Einstein
    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...