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Hog Harvest

Fall brings harvest time, and it is time to harvest your larger pasture raised animals!  It’s hog harvest time!  You can butcher and process your pig at home, and we can show you how.  This hands-on agri-class gives you an opportunity to learn how to “seam butcher” your pig, a technique that requires very basic equipment and a good table.  You’ll also get to make sausage, homemade ham and bacon, and learn about special charcuterie products you can make at home.  Coppa and proscuitto are within your reach!

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Participants scraping the hair off a hog.

Participants scraping the hair off a hog.

Contact us today to reserve your spot in this three day class that starts Friday, November 11 and finishes Sunday November 13.  For more information, click HERE.

Success! A well cut loin and belly from a Mangalitsa pig.

Success! A well cut loin and belly from a Mangalitsa pig.

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Tips on chickens

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Multi-modal learning means leaning with all your senses.  That’s what an on-farm class is all about.  Here are a few snapshots from our last class and the tips being the students learned with their eyes, ears, nose, hands, etc.:

Joe showing Remi how to pluck a chicken.  The scalding water (to loosen the feathers) is about 140 degrees.  The bird is completely dunked for about 20 seconds, then checked.  Ideally the feathers pull out easily and leave the skin intact.

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Jadwiga picked up quickly on cutting the back side of the bird open prior to gutting.  We start about halfway between the vent and the breast cartilage, cut a slit down and around the bottom of the vent.  You should have an opening big enough to stretch and allow your hand in to pull out guts, but not so large that the rear end looks skinned.  The vent should come out with the guts.  The tricky part is in not nicking the intestines.  If you do, rinse with clear water quickly.

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How to brood a brand new chick is not too hard, but requires a bit of know-how.  They need 90 degrees and dry bedding for the first several days, and the temperature can back down from there.  Brooding in July and August is, of course, much easier that in early spring or winter, but proper equipment and a well set up brooder can make all the difference.  People can brood chicks in almost anything (and do!), but the key is to be able to expand it as the small day old chicks grow exponentially.  Another trick is to shape the brooder, or add wedges, to make it have rounded corners.  Chicks “pile” in sharp corners and simply rounding those corners discourages that tendency.

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Assessing the health of your birds is important.  Examining the manure for rusty or red spots is an easy way to catch coccidia before it overwhelms the bird.  Coccidia is a protozoa that burrows into the intestinal lining, causing bleeding and scarring.  It impairs the intestines ability to function and, therefore, the bird’s ability to gIMG_1432-001ain nutrients from its food.  When you process your birds, the quality of the carcass and the conditioIMG_1613n of the internal organs can also tell you about the health of your birds.  Here the class looks at a not-so-healthy liver and a vibrant liver.  This was the only poor liver we saw, so likely the bird was just not as constitutionally strong as the other birds and its liver had to work harder.  Because it was the only one in the bunch, the birds were a healthy bunch overall.

Everyone’s favorite part of a class is dinner!  You are invited to eat with our family for the weekend, enjoying lots of chicken and learning how you can utilize the whole bird at home.

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There’s a Pastured Poultry class coming up July 19-21.  We hope to see you there!

 

Nature

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Here is anDSC03160other example of how the first permaculture principle can play out with animals:

Anyone who’s raised animals very long can tell you that sometimes things go wrong.  They aren’t really “Acts of God.”  Things were designed to work a certain way and when it goes wrong it usually involves nature, as in “the nature of the beast” (literally).  Animals have a way of looking at the world, and when they become difficult it’s usually because we aren’t understanding their viewpoint and meeting their needs. (Temple Grandin is a proponent of this if you want to read about it elsewhere.)

Last night was a case in point.  Our youngest group of chicks is about 3 weeks old now.  They needed to transition out of the brooder, but Joe didn’t have space until Monday and needed to let the next pen dry off before he moved them.  They had sustained a couple of losses, but were generally doing well.  Then, Tuesday morning, Keith came rushing in: “I have a BIG problem!”  Apparently the thunderstorm the night before, or the humidity of the storm, or something caused these easily stressed birds to panic and they “piled.”  They climbed on top of each other seeking comfort, suffocating the ones on the bottom.  It can be ugly, but it’s their nature.

This started out as a group of 600 chicks.  By the time Joe and Keith got it sorted out and various ones had revived once rescued from the pile, Keith counted 169 dead.  Ugly doesn’t begin to describe the feeling.

They cleaned up and Joe moved the chicks into the next pen.  The chicks had been very stressed by now—big storm, moving, new and unfamiliar surroundings.  Then dark descended.  By their nature, they wanted the comfort of their big, solid walls and low ceiling.  This big, open pen scared them.  So they started to do what they do when looking for comfort.  They started to pile again.  The “Act of God” was that Joe, contrary to his nature, decided to check on them again after he was nearly in bed for the night, and came back over at 11:30.  We lost about 10 or so birds, but that’s all.  We gave them walls and a ceiling and rigged a heater.  That was all they wanted, after all.  We put more wood shavings over top of them once they settled in, shut the lights off, spread the last few who were determined to pile out to the edges, and said goodnight.  By their nature, they don’t move much during the night.  We’d provided the security they desired, with a little extra warmth to boot.  That was all we could do.

I’m happy to report that we lost zero chicks during the night.  At 6:30 this morning they were running around, chirping happily, drinking and eating and dust bathing.  They were in and out of their security area and generally looked very happy with life.  It doesn’t take much to be happy when your brainstem is bigger than your brain.  Those of us with the cognitive capacity just need to slow down sometimes and consider the nature of things, and go with it.

Now, Kimi the bull-who-climbs-through-small-holes-in-the-wall is a story for another day.

Intro to Permaculture and Soils, this Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday.  Come learn a new way to look at your “farm.”

Chickens (and more)

Wondering what the Pastured Poultry Course is all about?  Mark tells you here:

 

Sign up today! Share the word with your friends and food conscious groups.  Classes are coming up soon and we want to make sure we get everyone in.