Monthly Archives: January 2014

Animal Therapy

Today, I’ve decided to take a different approach to blogging. I normally write my title first, after I’ve spent a significant amount of time ruminating over events in the weeks leading up to the deadline (self-imposed ofcourse). I like to have a loosely defined road to travel with the points of my narrative so that I can get a feel for fluency and voice in my writing. I don’t want my writing to sound staccato and disconnected. One way of overcoming this is to find the pieces of commonality (i.e., theme of your blog post) that exist between the points you want to cover in the blog. I do not write simply to write. I need to feel inspired, motivated, encouraged, or excited to put pen to paper or finger to key before I turn on the creative juices and delve into my opinion piece. So, I spend some time writing down key points I want to cover, researching applicable quotes, selecting suitable photo material, and usually finding a title that catches the eye and gives a preview of the content.

Everyday after teaching math (my other current passion) I drive 15 minutes from Campbellton to Point La Nim to feed, water, and give care to my laying hens and roosters. The avian class, in general, has always fascinated me and it still does, only on a more intimate level. Spending time with the chickens (and cattle for that matter) removes any lingering stresses from the school day. It is remarkably therapeutic. Many people ask how I go from an 8 hour work day to a 3 hour work evening at the farm? My response, “animal therapy.” I truly enjoy watching chickens be chickens. The Roosters posture, watch over the flock, and cock-a-doodle-doo.

Foghorn Legwho?

Foghorn Legwho?

The hens scratch for bits of hidden goodness in their deep litter, turn their eggs with their beaks, establish their pecking orders, and peer at you with a wary eye.
Casting a wary eye

Casting a wary eye


I always take my time around the chickens and cattle. I try not to rush through my chores. It’s my time to slowdown and unwind, if only for a minute. As those who farm know, there’s always something to do when it comes to farming but the only time stress arises, in my humble opinion, is in interactions with other humans, not animals. Animals do not talk back. If they could, I’d want mine to say, “Farmer Mac, you’ve done well, real swell lad.” That being said, there’s always room for improvement, which probably explains my continual renovations to housing, routine inspections of the animal’s health, and fine tuning routines around the animals.

Recently, I had a little sit down and chat with my beloved grandmother, Betty MacCurdy. She is a driven, animal loving, get up at dawn and work all day, lovable, beautiful person. She has, and continues to be our source of family history. I was drawn to farming because of my father’s work ethic and love for animals, my mother’s love of fruits and vegetables, and my grandmother’s ability to bring farm histories to life. As youngsters, we knew we were in for a treat when we heard our grandmother say, “I remember the time when…” I sat with my grandmother, listening to her stories about how the MacCurdys stored their eggs in the milk house on a large tray before the time of refridgeration, cooked chickens in brown paper bags to keep them moist, and how my grandfather had purchased a dozen meat chickens when he was near my age to raise for the family. I hadn’t heard the story before but my grandmother cracked a smile of reminiscence that I’m sure held a memory of my grandfather and his time on our farm when he was with us. Thank the Lord for the positive memories we carry with us through our lives. Taking the time to sit down with my grandmother and listen to the stories of our farm history makes me want to soldier on to write my own chapter of farm history with my family members.

With Spring only a couple months away, now is the time to act on our farm goals. That means purchasing an incubator to hatch our own eggs, building an eggmobile for our pastured hens, purchasing a solar energizer and poultry netting for protection against predation, and increasing our fleet size of triple-ps to 6. Every week i’m emailing and telephoning companies for prices and trying to find the best deal possible. At this point, we have a price on our solar electric fencing set up and a new Hovabator incubator. the ball is rolling and we can begin to chip away at necessary costs to improve our farm outputs. Our farm’s transition towards sustainability will take time and unfortunately a fair amount of money in the beginning while we add infrastructure and technology to the farm. However, it’s an exciting endeavour. We fund it as a sideline and grow it slowly taking care of it for future generations.

Brain Fodder

Brain Fodder


My brother and I are both looking forward to the Spring time. We’ll hatch our own heritage breed chicks, along with 20 Easter Egger chicks. Easter Eggers carry a gene that allows them to produce blue and green eggs. I’m excited to provide green and blue eggs as a novelty item at the Farmer’s market to get young children excited about eating healthy food. Green eggs and ham anyone?
Our little egg eater helping dad take care of the hens.

Our little egg eater helping dad take care of the hens.

Winter provides a time to enjoy the company of family. We can share stories, make plans, and look forward to the upcoming growing season. While the fields lay dormant our active imaginations and creative spirits come alive as we plan for further diversification on the farm. I’m praying for the continued opportunity to make history on our small family farm. Finally, our new business cards will be arriving in two weeks so you can pick one up at the Farmer’s market. Come see us at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market in Dalhousie.

Categories: farming, future generations, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Learning by Fire, The Cold Way

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

No amount of scholarly research can substitute for the power of experience.  Experiential knowledge teaches us a great deal about ourselves in the process of learning.  Although we need both, our experiences should guide our decisions for scholarly research and help us to filter out the necessary information.  This past year, as we embarked on our first foray into raising pastured meat chickens and egg layers, we learned by fire the many sides of animal husbandry.  We pride ourselves on the care of our animals, especially our beef, which we have raised with diligent care for many years. 

This year when it came to raising our meat king chickens, we lost about 15% of our flock due to a variety of factors.  We were broken hearted, confused, and unsure of the answers.  We regularly checked the temperature, rounded the corners of the brooders, blocked any drafts, fed them regularly but still we found suffocated chicks, chicks with malformed beaks and feet, and bloated chicks.  It was dumbfounding,  We had read about an “acceptable” loss of 15% but in our minds, 0% is acceptable and nothing more.  On the other hand, we lost 1 out of 60 of our heritage laying breed chicks.  Clearly, something has happened along the line of selective breeding that has affected the robustness of meatkings immune systems.  However, we are happy to report that we didn’t lose a single bird to heart failure, broken legs, or any other condition from the age of 4 weeks to the end of their life cycle.  With an increase in production around the corner for us this Spring, we’re hoping to greatly reduce the level of loss with our chicks.

Winter, that glorious season, has presented it’s own challenges.  Namely, the cold.  I learned very quickly that although our heritage breeds are cold hardy, frostbite can become a serious concern with the exposure of their combs and waddles to frigid air.  We’ve kept our laying hens confined to their winter housing until this cold snap passes.  Some of my roosters have a bit of frostbite, so we’ve applied some vaseline to the tissues to protect them from further damage.  Will it work?  Chicken forums tell us yes.  The verdict from experience still isn’t out yet.  On top of that, we’ve completely insulated the chicken barn with fiberglass insulation and vapor barrier.  Not my choice in terms of eco-friendly insulation but something had to be done to provide better care for the birds.  The final step will be to add some lighting to retrofit the building with electricity, since solar power seems to be out of the question, so that when our birds go to pasture in their eggmobile (portable chicken coop) this Spring, we can set up our brooders. 

Everything requires planning.  I’ve learned from four years of teaching mathematics that the best lessons are those that are well planned.  The same applies to farming.  The best ventures are those that have been mapped out for success.  Undoubtedly, we will run into challenges and issues along the way.  However, we are good at thinking on our feet so when troubles arise, we’ll problem solve and collaborate to find solutions.  The key is caring.  You need to want to go beyond suitable care and provide all the requirements for comfortable housing, proper diet, protection against predation, water, and flock management. 

I have always been a proponent of learning by fire.  When opportunities arise to allow us to learn by our experience, we enter into problem solving situations without pre-conceived notions and rigid ways of thinking.  This affords us a great deal of flexibility to problem solve.  I have never aspired to be a one way only type of thinker.  As a youngster, I often fell victim to criticism, from one person or another, and as a result I lost my way in a maze of self-criticism and perfectionism.  Eventually, I couldn’t get out of the starting gate in the pursuit of knowledge because I feared failure.  Our new approach to farming has allowed me to express my creative side, overcome my fear of disapproval or not measuring up, and find pride in my/our successes on the farm.  I’m proud of everything each of us have done over the course of this year.  Looking forward to more of the same in 2014.

Categories: 0rganics, Bay of Chaleur, MacCurdy Farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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