“To lay an egg” – city style vs farm style

A milestone.

Even as a kid in New York City, I knew that “to lay an egg” was not a good thing. It meant you’d failed to do something you’d set out to accomplish – and everybody knew it. Why’s an egg synonymous with failure? According to numbers of Internet sources, it’s because an egg resembles a zero; and zilch is what goes up on the board when you fail to score.

This expression took on new meaning when I moved to farm country. Over the last several years, I’ve learned there’s a world of difference between an egg from a free-range hen and an egg that comes from an industrial battery-caged bird. The free-range variety is deep orange (lots of carotene) and the yolk has tension and body because the hen pecks around in the sunshine foraging diverse seeds, insects and grasses. This makes for an egg that not only tastes great but packs lots of nutrition. According to research published in Mother Earth News, pastured eggs provide more beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A and E, and lots less saturated fats and cholesterol.

Dave and I raised chickens for the first time this summer. We bought three dozen day-old chicks to free-range across the farm. Most are meat birds – an iridescent mahogany – that now weigh between six and eight pounds each. The flock also includes four laying hens. The two Buff Orpington are a pale yellow, and the Buckeyes are a very deep brown.

Over the summer, Dave and I watched the birds grow and patrol the pastures for bugs, worms, seed heads, grasses and herbs. We laughed when five chickens would chase after the one with a tasty grasshopper in its beak. The birds helped our beef cattle by aggressively consuming flies and fly larvea. On the downside, Dave and I also contended with losses due to predation by hawks, eagles and fox.

Chickens on a snowy afternoon

Chickens on a snowy afternoon


Summer’s gone and the pastures are covered in snow. But the chickens are still here. Yes, they can do very well in our cold winters.

Yesterday, I opened the chicken coop and lowered the ramp so that the flock could climb down into the fresh air. I then opened the side door and reached in to refill the waterer. That’s when I saw them – two eggs sitting in the wood shavings.

Eggs! Tan and small (the first eggs always are) I carefully picked them up and carried them into the garage. They laid eggs!

Our first free-range eggs

Our first free-range eggs


Three small eggs now sit in our refrigerator. I can hardly wait to see if there will be one or two more tomorrow. First cows and calves, now chickens and eggs. For this city-girl turned grass-fed-beef-farmer, “laying an egg” means success.

Where to go for a sustainably-grown Thanksgiving? Listen in Nov. 22, 9-9:30AM Central

You’ve heard lots of news stories about the toxic herbicides and pesticides used to grow food and about the illnesses from bacteria in foods, and now you’re wondering where to go for food you can feel safe to serve family … Continue reading

We’re on TV! WI Public Television tonight, Nov. 17, 8PM and Nov. 18, 2PM !!

Sooo excited! Bull Brook Keep and our 100% grass-fed beef are featured on tonight’s episode of Around the Farm Table. It’ll be broadcast at 8PM tonight (Nov. 17), and again tomorrow afternoon (Nov. 18) at 2PM.
A big thanks to host Inga Witscher and her crew for coming out to our farm. I hope they’ll visit again soon.
Here’s a link to the video: http://video.wpt.org/video/2365331365/
Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 10.17.47 PMTonight’s show also features Keppers Farm (Turtle Lake, WI) and the Hungry Turtle Farmers Cooperative, based in Amery, WI. I hope you enjoy this show and plan to visit our farm in the very near future. We’d love showing you around.
Sylvia

Podcast: What’s in store at Hungry Turtle Weekend, Nov. 14 & 15, Amery, WI

In this Deep Roots Radio interview, Bobby Maher, director of the Hungry Turtle Learning Center, Amery, Wisconsin, describes the many activities scheduled for the upcoming Hungry Turtle Weekend. Coffee workshops, yoga classes, bread-baking session, all about fermenting foods, and a … Continue reading

A wild apple night

What a night! Up till the wee hours boiling down apples to make and can golden sauce and ruddy butter. Added just a splash of pinot grigio, a dusting of cinnamon and a couple of pinches of cloves, and had the pots bubbling for hours. Nothing like putting up sparkling jars of summer. Most of the apples came from volunteer trees across the farm. We never spray or dust with any types of herbicides or pesticides. Yumm.

Lids and bands, jar lifter, magnet to lift lids from hot water, and digital timer

Lids and bands, jar lifter, magnet to lift lids from hot water, and digital timer

Cores and scraps for my apple-loving cows and chickens

Cores and scraps for my apple-loving cows and chickens

Bubbling apple sauce ready to can

Bubbling apple sauce ready to can

Apple sauce and apple butter - edible jewels for the winter.

Apple sauce and apple butter – edible jewels for the winter.

Wet summer made for great wild-apple butter

Wet summer made for great wild-apple butter

Oct. 18, 2014, 9:00-9:30AM Deep Roots Radio – savings seeds starting right now

What: Deep Roots Radio Interview with Koby Jeschkeit-Hagen, master seed saver, teacher, and researcher
When: Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, 9:00-9:30AM Central Time
Where: WPCA Radio, 93.1FM in and around Amery, WI, and streamed on www.wpcaradio.org
Why: Gardeners and farmers started savings seeds eons ago. It’s only been recently that we’ve all come to depend on the dwindling selection of vegetable, fruit and grain seed selections available from large-scale seed houses. You can reclaim valuable genetic diversity, flavors and growing habits by beginning to save your own seeds. And it’s not too late to start. Your fall garden may still offer several opportunities to gather and store seeds for next growing season.
But how to start? Jeschkeit-Hagen shares some tips in this interview. She’s also leading a class – An Introduction to Seeds Savings – on October 23rd. The introductory class is sponsored by the Hungry Turtle Learning Center, in Amery, Wisconsin, and the cost is just $10. You still have time to register!
For more information about seed saving, visit the Seed Savers Exchange and the Seed Sages sites. Jeschkeit-Hagen also suggests searching for “seed saving” on the Internet for the many other websites, information and videos available.
Hope you’ll tune in!
Sylvia

Deep Roots Radio, 91.3FM and www.wpcaradio.org

Deep Roots Radio, 91.3FM and www.wpcaradio.org

Join me Thurs, 10/16, 7:00-9:00AM CT on WPCA Radio – a voice of the people

Hi,
I’ll be sitting in with morning jockey Dave Corbett tomorrow at WPCA Radio to share a couple of hours of conversation and inquiry. If you join us, you’ll be able to answer these questions:
– What’s community-supported radio, anyway? Same as National Public Radio?
– Is WPCA part of the Wisconsin Public Radio network?
– How much government support does WPCA get every year? (Hint – the answer rhymes with bureau.)
– How much am I paid to host Deep Roots Radio every week?
– Is radio free?
– How big is my herd of BueLingo beef cattle?
– Where did I grow up?
– What’s the purpose of Deep Roots Radio? (You should know this one!)

Sylvia at WPCA Radio studio

Sylvia at WPCA Radio studio


Hope you’ll join Corbett and me for a fun couple of hours. Tune in, 93.1FM in around Amery, Wisconsin, and www.wpcaradio.org worldwide (thanks to the Internet).

Live, Sat., Oct. 11, 9-9:30AM Central – Rebuilding food hubs w food, farmers and education

What: Deep Roots Radio interview with Bobby Maher, Director of Hungry Turtle Learning Center
When: Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. 9:00-9:30AM Central Time.
Where: Broadcast 93.1FM, and streamed live from the studios of WPCA Radio
Why: The demand for local, sustainably-grown foods continues to grow all across America, Wisconsin included. What’s it take to redesign a local food system? The food hub planted and growing in Amery, Wisconsin (pop. 2,960 and just 65 miles northwest of the large metro area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.) has three strong legs: farmers growing delicious, nutrient-rich foods; a brand new Farm Table Restaurant; and, an educational/outreach component in the form of a new nonprofit, the Hungry Turtle Learning Center.

One of the three legs in the food hub stool

One of the three legs in the food hub stool

Hungry Turtle Farmers Coop - an essential component of the new food hub

Hungry Turtle Farmers Coop – an essential component of the new food hub

Delicious, nutritious, local

Delicious, nutritious, local

Deep Roots Radio - connecting the dots between what we eat and how it's grown

Deep Roots Radio – connecting the dots between what we eat and how it’s grown

What’s Facebook and Twitter got to do with organic food? Sat., Oct 4, 9-9:30AM Central

What: Deep Roots Radio chat with Soon Gunther, website designer, social media activist, good-food lover When: Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, 9:00-9:30 AM Central Where: Broadcast and streamed live on WPCA Radio, 93.1FM and www.wpcaradio.org Why: Sustainable growers want to provide … Continue reading

Harnessing sun, dew and grass

I was walking out to the chicken coop in the early morning, a pail of seeds and cracked corn swinging on my left and my right hand raised to shade my eyes. The sun, just a few degrees above the trees, hit the dew-drenched grass and sent spears of bright light into the air. It was like a white fireworks: busy, slightly chaotic, riotous.

Bright sunshine blazes on dew-drenched grassesBut the air was soft around my ears. The loudest sound came from my rubber boots swishing through the tall, wet grasses. What a difference from last year, when drought reduced our fields to short dry bristles that cracked underfoot.

The chickens must have heard me – they stirred noisily as I approached the coop. There was clucking, and more…a crow. A new sound! Our small flock of free-range chickens is 12 weeks old, and the young cockerels were practicing scratchy welcomes to the day.

I spread organic oats, wheat, and cracked corn on the grass outside the chicken coop before opening its door and lowering the ramp. What a ruckus as birds pushed one another to get to the grain! They cackled and shoved for about five minutes. Then, they were done. Just like that, they turned their backs on whatever middlings remained and headed out in search of fresh clovers, insects and frogs. (Yes, frogs.)

Cows and chickens working togetherAt sometime during the day, the chickens will wander over to the cows. I move the cows from one small field (a paddock) to another every day so that they can harvest their day’s meal: fresh grasses, weeds, herbs, clovers. Despite these frequent relocations, the chickens never fail to find them and feast on the flies that pester the herd. Dave and I had thought the chickens would help keep down fly larvae, but have been delighted that the flock is so effective at insect control directly on the cows’ faces, legs and bellies. A wonderful – natural – symbiosis.

Early fall: a beautiful time of year. I look forward to walking visitors through our fields, to observe our cows and chickens, and to talk about how we – farmer, livestock, and consumer – can work together to re-imagine and re-establish a more healthful food system.

Sylvia Burgos Toftness