Locavore

2016: A New Year Brings New Ventures

After a quarter annual hiatus from the blog, we are back with some updates and ready to roll out some new blog posts in the next few months as we build towards more changes and additions on the farm.  Despite our absence from the blog, we’ve continued to plug away at farming on MacCurdy Farm.  Winter has a tendency of recharging the batteries, when sickness is held at bay, and tends to reinvigorate the body.  Lots of quality time snowshoeing on our family acreage helped to reinstill a hope in the members of the family to further establish our transitioning farm.

Multi-season farming has been a goal for Jonathan and Justin since they began to pursue their separate farm endeavours.  Without abandoning previously established elements of the farm, Jonathan and Justin have decided to put their knowledge sets together to increase productivity on the family farm and partner together in the birch syrup, small fruit, pastured poultry, and greenhouse operations.  They’ve both come to the realization that together they can accomplish much more in seasonal aspects of the farm that require man power and brain power.  Who better to partner with than a brother or sister?

Warm me up Scottie!

Warm me up Scottie!

Justin and Jonathan will be tackling birch syrup production beginning in March when the sap starts to run.  They’ve set amibitious goals and have made filling last years crowdfunding backers the first priority for this season, with birch syrup for the market and other stores within Canada to follow.  We’ll be putting out an informative blog series on everything pertaining to birch syrup production in the coming weeks for those of you interested in trying the product.  An informed consumer is more likely to be a satisfied consumer.  We have hopes of potentially sharing our knowledge in the school systems in years to come as well.  We’ve started to prepare our evaporator, sap collection equipment, and temporary sugar shack for our big boil downs to come.  The next few weeks leading up to March Break/Study break will be busy, to say the least.

In other news, Justin and Jonathan have added a wood fired furnace to the greenhouse to get an earlier start in march with herbs, cut flowers, tomato and pepper plants, and some in ground cold hardy plants for the table.  In our winter with the greenhouse, we are pleased to announce that we’ll be able to produce a substantial amount of produce, herbs, and flowers.  Our goal is to open up the greenhouse as flower shop in the Spring to provide hanging baskets, cut flowers, container herbs, and other floral arrangements.  More to come in the coming months.

We will be sharing more about our seasonal adventures on MacCurdy Farm/Nature’s Estate Farm in the near future.  We apologize for the hiatus from the blog.  Jonathan will hopefully be able to contribute his keen knowledge set on everything pertaining to birch syrup in the following months.  Please look for another tab on the website related to birch syrup.

MacCurdy Crest Dartboard Cabinet

MacCurdy Crest Dartboard Cabinet

Taking care of health and family relations have been a priority for us this past year.  Justin has kept busy with teaching school and some small carpentry projects, Jon is constantly studying his craft and mom and dad are busy being busy.  Together, they are very excited to tackle birch syrup, small fruit production, market gardening, our cow/calf operation, pastured poultry operation, and greenhouse growing in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2016.  We are hoping to satisfy the local palates of our devoted customers and locavores.   Until we get to see you at the market this Spring, enjoy some of what’s left of Winter in our beautiful region in Northern New Brunswick.

 

Categories: birch syrup, family farming, four season farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, small family farming, small fruit, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Three days of meals with Heritage Breed Chicken

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The past two years, when our meatkings go to table, we send our heritage breed roosters along with them.  Sadly, they don’t make the selection for breeding due to either temperament or less suitable breed traits.  The first time I cooked a heritage breed rooster, I made the mistake of cooking it like a meatking, which is a type of bird that amasses muscle very quickly due to selective breeding and is super tender when roasted.  Unexpectedly, I bit into a drumstick the consistency of rubber, and less along the lines of the meat that falls off the bones with meat kings.  With a potential customer base for heritage breed chicken, I set out to cook atleast three meals in three days from two roasted heritage breed roosters to provide customers with some recipes and quality feedback on the taste and texture of heritage breed chickens, the type of chickens that my grandparents grew up raising and eating in their barnyard/backyard flocks.

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Each and everyone of us has a different level of expertise in the kitchen.  Hopefully, you can take these words of advice and add cooking heritage breed chicken to the list of culinary favorites.  As I continue to pursue a larger disconnect from the “supermarket” mentality that once governed my decisions on food, I find myself spending more time in the kitchen and making more efficient use of food items that have come from our small diversified farm.  Each time I cook a heritage breed chicken my imagination takes over and I picture myself operating a homestead and cooking around an old L’Islet cooking stove like the one we have inside our farm house.  Before the age of the supermarket, people cooked in the name of efficiency.  They made multiple meals from a roast beef or roast chicken.  The one and done approach didn’t cross their minds.  They ate to survive and cooking was an experience, not a quick stop in your day.  I try to keep this in mind when I look at the left over meat on the chicken carcass.  The chickens gave their lives to feed my family so I’m not going to throw the meat that didn’t get eaten into a garbage can (Like many of us often do) but rather I’m going to make multiple meals.

Before I cooked the two heritage breed roosters, I did a little research on cooking heritage breed birds.  I found a gem on Mother Earth News, which I had incidentally read about in Joel Salatin’s book on pastured poultry.   Just click on the following link for an informative read: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/cooking-heritage-breed-chickens.aspx.  This article, as well as other leading authorities on chickens like Gail Demerow, Joel Salatin, and the many contributors to the backyardchickens forum, talk about the four different types of birds available for cooking.

On our farm, our pastured meatkings qualify as broilers as they are processed up to 12 weeks.  By this point they have amassed a substantial amount of meat but are not impeded by the weight gain to the point that they are immobile (unethical and poor management at that point).  However, meatkings do not qualify as heritage breed birds so you’ll rarely see a heritage breed rooster processed that young because they are a much slower growing bird.

We have not produced fryers yet, but this year when we have our turkeys processed in the fall we will also be doing our heritage breed roosters that have not made the cut for breeding or have not sold to other farmers.  Our Plymouth Barred Rock Cockerels/Roosters are supposed to make excellent fryers.  When it comes to livestock I also offer them a chance for life on another farm first before having them processed.  We have sold more than a few roosters over the last couple years in exactly this effort.   When we keep our roosters through the winter we process our roosters at an age that qualifies them for roasting and slow-cooking techniques.

The recipes/meals in this blog are written for roasters, which are birds on our farm that are still the first year of their life, but past physical maturity.

Finally, we seldom process stewers, or our laying hens that are near the end of their egg production days.  We do not butcher on farm so these birds often end up finishing out their days on another farm as pets or, strangely enough, stewing hens.

Cooking:

Take a roaster, Close the vents.  Add a 1/2 cup to a cup of water and some olive oil to the roasting pan.  Place the birds breast side down in the roaster and cook in the oven for 3.5 hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is important to note that a pastured rooster will have very yellowish fat.  There is nothing wrong with the bird, it simply means that they had the luxury of enjoying the great outdoors and the healing power of the sun during their life cycle.  The carotenoids found in the grasses that the chickens forage on deepens the yellowing color of their fat, filling it with nutrients that make their way into your soups and gravies.

Day 1: Chicken Wraps

Our family is big on wraps and sandwiches so we use up the tenderest white meat in our own concocted wraps, which usually includes sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  You can choose to use any part of the chicken for your meal but I suggest delving into the tenderest meat, especially if you have young ones.

Day 2: Baked Chicken and Rice with assorted peppers

At this point, day 2, we start to pick away at the meat on the legs and wings as well as anything left over from the breasts to cut into cubes for our baked chicken and rice, which is a family favorite.  You can make changes to the recipe as you see fit.

Day 3: Homemade Chicken and Rice Soup

Finally, my favorite day, soup day.  I have grown increasingly fond of hearty soups and stews this winter (Our Northern New Brunswick winter has been especially hard on people of all ages).  I have added two soup recipes (Heritage Breed chicken and rice soup and Grass fed beef and barley soup) to our farm website menu.

Heritage Breed Chicken and Rice Soup

Stock

Place your left over chicken scraps (back, legs, wings, etc.) in 4 quarts (16 cups) of water.  Including a small amount of vinegar will help to break down the ligaments and sinew on the bones.  Bring to a boil and then put on low heat for at least 3 hours.  Skim the water as it cooks.  Add a 1/2 cup each of celery, carrot, and onions.   When the broth is done strain the liquid to remove the chicken bones and pieces of vegetables.  These can be composted.  Place the pieces of meat from off the bones in the chicken stock.

From chicken bones to chicken soup

From chicken bones to chicken soup

Soup

Again, add a half cup of celery, carrot, onion and rice to the stock with chicken.  Then add a whole can of diced or whole tomato for color and flavor.  Add a tea spoon of sea salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper for taste.  You can change these amounts at your discretion.  Add a small amount of garlic, a 1/4 teaspoon of celery salt, and a bay leaf.  You’ll remove the bay leaf after the soup has finished cooking on a low heat for an hour.  This makes a hearty soup.  I prefer to leave the vegetables sliced in larger size pieces for a chunky appearance.

Soup is Served!

Soup is Served!

Enjoy this soup as a natural treatment for a cold or on a cold winter day with friends and family.

Categories: farming, Heritage breed chicken, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Friends of the Farm – Hengst Quality Sausage

Point La Nim, New Brunswick is not only home to our small diversifying family run hobby farm but another local family run business, Hengst Quality Sausage.  In the name of collaboration, we teamed up with the Hengsts this end of summer to produce our first turkey sausages from MacCurdy Farm turkeys.  I know, just like Pavlov’s dog, I’m drooling at the thought of it too.

This summer, while the turkeys grazed on pasture in our fleet of pastured poultry pens (aka. chicken tractors), an idea came to mind.  Small scale farming always has room to consider value adding.  Those of you caught by the addictive game, Hay Day, on your smartphones, will quickly understand the concept of adding value to a farm product.  For example, pumpkins retail for $3 – $5 (depending on the size) but they can be value-added in the form of jams, pies, cakes,  and painted Jack-o’-lanterns.  Value adding allows us, in the case of pumpkins, beans, and strawberries, to find a return on our perishable products that might not sell at our local Farmer’s Market on any given Saturday.  Turkeys, on the other hand, require some more expertise.  Namely, quality production from our neighbour’s up the road.

Market days at Restigouche Farmer’s Market have their ups and downs for all vendors.  On those days when the crowds are waning, I usually saunter over to the Hengst Sausage booth to toss ideas around with Mark and have a tasty mild italian sausage (my favorite) off their grill.  Our conversations cover a lot of topic areas, mostly related to food, but on one occasion we discussed some possibilities for our larger retail turkeys that might not sell.  The turkey sausage idea was born.  Through many conversations with Mark and Jane, I’ve realized that they are just as passionate about locavorism and small sustainable family run businesses as I am.  Like us, they endorse buying seasonal local farm products and, like us, they understand that supporting small farms like ours boosts our local economy and funnels money back into the hands of farmers to help nourish the people of our region.  So, I jumped at the idea to try something new.  I love novelty.

As I came to find out from Mark, and his wife Jane, turkey sausages are quite common.  We talked at length about producing the best product we could with the turkey meat and settled upon mild Italian turkey sausages.  A bit of spice is nice.  To share in the experience of sausage making, I carved all of the meat off of the thawed turkey frame and boiled the flesh off of the bones (You can use up to 10% cooked meat in a sausage).  The meat, fresh and cooked, was bagged in freezer bags.  We bottled the remaining turkey broth as stock and have decided to sell it at the market for all of you scratch soupers out there.  I am a strong believe in using everything from a turkey and a chicken.  It’s healthy and you pay the animal respect by eating all of it.  A quick trip to deliver the frozen meat to the Hengsts and then the magic could happen, sausage making magic that is.

The before picture.

The before picture.

One of the most endearing qualities about Mark and Jane with their sausage business is their openness and willingness to talk about everything related to their operation.  In my opinion, it is a reflection of the knowledge they have required over their 20 + years in business and that passion that so often accompanies the entrepreneurial spirit.  They love to do what they do and they aren’t ashamed to share it.  They are exactly the type of people that we would want to collaborate with on a project handling the meats of our labor.  Their openness has allowed many people who grow and raise their own food in this region to create variety in their culinary selection.  Hamburgers, sausages, and steaks are all equally at home on the bbq grill.

Hengst Quality Sausage

Hengst Quality Sausage

Hengst Quality Sausage is a family owned business.  They use recipes that are over 60 years old with only the best ingredients available.  As Mark says, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.”  Isn’t that the truth.  Mark and Jane’s respect for the older traditions of sausage making are very apparent.  You can see it in their diligence and attention to detail in making and cooking their sausages.  Mark and Jane have been stuffing sausage goodness for over 20 years.  Now, thanks to their automatic stuffer, they can produce sausages at an accelerated rate getting them to grocery store shelves and home freezers at a much quicker rate.  They also have a variety of other food products available from beef jerky to smoked meat.

Mark’s passion stems from his roots in sausage making.  His father was a butcher and a sausage maker who worked as a chef in many of the finest hotels across the country of Canada.  Today, Mark continues to refine his craft as a next generation sausage maker.  Their business continues to evolve in a shrinking market via many pathways including word of mouth and social networking sites like Facebook, which can be found by searching their business name.  Their business finds success through the support of family and a collective effort to make quality the word that stands out in their business.  You can find their sausages and other products at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning from 8 – 1 pm just across the way from our market booth.  Just follow your nose, it’ll take you to sausage heaven.  Trust me, I’ve tried every sausage they make, including our MacCurdy Farm turkey sausage, and all of them carry that taste that makes you want to go back for more.

Italian Turkey Sausage

Italian Turkey Sausage

I think it would be safe to say that both of our families could be considered Bay of Chaleur locavores who seek to provide tasty and healthy food products for the omnivorous diet in our region.  That is what excited me most about collaborating on this project with the Hengsts.  Tradition and innovation both play an important role in how our businesses evolve in our region.  There must always be a respect for those generations who broke ground ahead of us and a spark within us that seeks to make refinements and improvements while we are at the helm in hopes that something exists for the next generation of farmers and sausage makers.

MacCurdy Farm turkey sausages are available at the Restigoucher Farmer’s market.  Make a note of stopping to have a chat at one of our booths the next time you visit.  Conversation creates relationships as well as opportunities.  It did for us at MacCurdy Farm when we chatted with the Hengsts.

We will soon have a drop down menu on our MacCurdy Farm website entitled, Friends of the Farm, that will share more details concerning Hengst Quality Sausage products as well as other local businesses who use our products in their food creations.  Look for this added site feature in the very near future.

MacCurdy Farm

MacCurdy Farm

 

 

 

Categories: Bay of Chaleur, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, pumpkin, turkey, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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

Think Big, Start Small.

Think Big, Start Small.  Sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it?  How often do we hear of young entrepreneurs crashing and burning after a short while down their avenue of commercial exploration.  The stresses of debt accrual and the pitfalls of a “too much too soon” approach can rob an individual of the fruits of their labor and seriously jeopardize the longevity of his/her small business. An approach that embraces “Think Big, Start Small” can provide a small-scale family farm with an opportunity to explore the grandiosity of the scope of their farm plan through the power of imagination.  As it stands, this years additions to MacCurdy Farm (pastured poultry operation) were financed as a sideline.  The generosity of friends, neighbours, and community members also went a long way in helping us to complete projects.  Gradually our farm is becoming, little by little, more diversified from a cow-calf operation to a farm with an abundant variety of life.  Dad continually reminds us, that our farm is a farm of life.  This message serves to keep us ever attentive to the needs of the animals, soil, forest, and gardens.  Not to mention working safely each day.

I’ve decided, with the close of our first year of pastured poultry farming on MacCurdy farm, to chronicle the additions to this year’s farm model, give some critical commentary, and include the plans for expansion in the upcoming 2014 calendar year, beginning this January.  It is important, as a blogger, to write reflectively.  When looking over archived posts, I want our readers to be able to get a sense of how our farm changes, grows, and evolves.  Some day, we can look back and say, “That’s where we started.  That’s what we had, and this is what we (through God’s grace and love) have made from it.”  It’ll take time and lots of effort.  But, it’ll be worth every ounce of energy.

Beginning in the frigid months of January and February, which is what you might call down time for a northern climate farmer as calving season has not yet arrived, we built a small 8′ x 12′ coop and three 10′ x 12′ portable poultry pens.  Some days involved working outside in -35°C to -40°C weather without the windchill.  You get frostbite in places you would not expect, if you get my drift.  I’ve dubbed our completed fleet of portable poultry pens triple-Ps.

Triple P - Pastured Poultry Pen

Triple P – Portable Poultry Pen

Other grass-based farmers call them chicken tractors, poultry pens, portable chicken housing, etc.  So, given that I work in the education system where buzz words are a dime a dozen, why not exercise my creative juices and make it fun.  After some research into designs for chicken coops and portable poultry pens, I went ahead and designed our own.  One has to give consideration to the movement of air in the triple-Ps as heat can be deadly to chickens.  So, in our designs we included a low pitch gable roof with wire meshed ends to allow trapped air to escape.  On one side of the gable roof we also included a wire meshed section to allow for sun exposure and air escape.  One third of the triple-P is open to the elements so that the chickens have free movement from shade to sun.  The next round of triple-Ps, which we will start to build this january, will require a few revisions.  The 2 x 2 rafters will have to be reinforced with makeshift collar ties to compensate for winter snow load storage, rope handles for easier pulling, attach rain gutters for rain collection to further reduce our carbon foot print, and a custom-made dolly to give us a break pulling the triple-Ps on 2 x 6 lumber, which we used to create less resistance.  If anything, it asserted our knowledge of simple machines…lol.  However, we’ll graduate to the wheel and axle with the custom fabricated dolly this coming year.

Example of a Salatin dolly

Example of a Salatin dolly

Beginning this January we will be building 4 more portable poultry pens to bring our Triple-P fleet size to 7.  A lucky number one might say.  First the power of three and then the luck of 7.  We have been collecting scrap tin from generous community members and friends, which will allow us to increase production this spring.  Most likely we’ll have to buy some appropriate gauge tin in the spring to complete construction.  We will be doubling our pastured chicken operation to 400 chickens as well as including turkeys.  We couldn’t meet the demand for our pastured chicken this summer/fall so doubling production is necessitated.  There is a quota system in place for turkeys, which I believe restricts us to 25 turkeys per individual on the farm.  More to follow on this but we are happy to inform our customers that turkey will be on the menu, to one extent or another, for the fall at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market in Dalhousie.  We are hoping to do some pork this year but that will require building a portable pig hut and the purchase of electric fencing, as we plan on doing a forested pork finished on apples.  Scrum-diddily-umptious, I know.  Our approach to animal husbandry revolves around allowing an animal to express its animal nature to the greatest degree so we’re hoping, given the time to prepare, that we can add heritage breed pork to the menu if it doesn’t stretch us thin.    Nevertheless, It’s in the works and brother Jon will run with this project.

Finally, our egg production system is in place.  Our heritage breed layers and hybrid layers are performing nicely.  We’re able to supply eggs at the market every saturday.  The laying rate is down as we are not yet equipped with solar-powered lighting to put the birds on a regulated laying cycle but the birds roam freely around their winterhousing and are in great health.  Some aspects will have to be tweaked, namely the purchase of bulk feed, to find savings.  In the months ahead, Jonathan and I will also begin to construct our portable layer house as we will be doing pastured eggs this summer as well.  We decided to construct a shed roof chicken coop on an old wagon frame.  As with our forested pork intentions, this will require the use of electric fencing (electromesh) for protection against predation and restricted grazing.  I am really looking forward to this aspect of the farm.  The prospect of further improving our local food supply system for locavores excites me greatly.

Lately, brother Jon and I have been tuning in to a newly discovered show called The Farm Kings.  The show is based on a family in Pennsylvania of 9 brothers and one sister who have embarked on a farming adventure after breaking away from their father, for agricultural differences.  I am thankful that we continue to farm as family. There are times when we butt heads and share our differences vociferously but we have kept it together.  We understand that there are generational disparities that exist.  Dad has his tried, tested, and true ways and sometimes our approaches don’t agree, in principle, with his, but we make it work.  Communication is the key and when that breaks down, so does everything else.  For this reason, thinking big and growing in small increments is required.  Essentially, it allows us with our new endeavours to prove to ourselves, and the ever watching eyes of Sir Jim, that we can do it.  In the show, the Farm Kings, they meet weekly to discuss business related matters amongst themselves.  This is uber important.  It allows them to realign themselves with their farm goals, express their concerns, and make progress.  Think big, start small.

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

Categories: farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Get your fresh beef here!

Market day is tomorrow November 9th, 2013 at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market in Dalhousie.  Our newly processed beef has arrived so we are taking orders for 50 lb boxes, quarters, and sides.  Our market deep freeze is stocked with steak, hamburger, roasts, stewing beef, soup bones, etc.  We have the following steak cuts available:

T-Bone

Packaged t-bone with two steaks

Packaged t-bone with two steaks

Porterhouse

Packaged porterhouse with two steaks

Packaged porterhouse with two steaks

Sirloin

Packaged sirloin with two steaks

Packaged sirloin with two steaks

Prime Rib

Packaged prime rib with two steaks

Packaged prime rib with two steaks

MacCurdy Farm Beef

MacCurdy Farm Beef

MacCurdy Farm Beef

Our hens are currently laying steadily and this week we will have 10 dozen eggs with us at the Farmer’s market.  These eggs are guaranteed to show the difference between a farm fresh egg from chickens who have access to vegetable and grass feed and a factory farmed egg.  They are currently selling for $4/dozen.

MacCurdy Farm eggs

Farm fresh eggs

Farm fresh eggs

Nature’s Estate Preserves and Veggies

At our market table you can also purchase preserves and veggies (carrots, onions, cabbage, and potatoes) from Jonathan MacCurdy.  Prices are available at the market.

Nature's Estate preserves and veggies

Nature’s Estate preserves and veggies

Hope to see all the locavores from all over the Restigouche region tomorrow at the market.  Please share this blog post to help us get the word out about our grass-fed beef, pastured and free range eggs, and beyond organic veggies.  See you at the market booth tomorrow!

Categories: 0rganics, farming, grass fed beef, Locavore, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Music to my ears

The farm is like a symphony of nature’s instruments.  The cows moo, the cats meow, the chickens cluck, dogs bark, and all other passersby add their sound to the mix.  These sounds, to a farmer, are music to his ears.  Definitely, music to my ears.  I sometimes stop in my tracks, raise my hands in the air, and soak in a plethora of sensation.  I call it farm therapy and it helps me to keep my sanity in today’s demanding society.  Lately, with winter encroaching on our warmth laden afternoon days, I’ve found myself scurrying to complete unfinished jobs that must be addressed before snowfall.  Having handily prepared to complete these jobs, I’ve found a little down time to pursue a lifelong interest, learning how to play guitar.  My ambition is simple:  I want to learn how to play songs around the beach fire, learn some blues songs, and play some good ol’ gospel songs at church and with family.

In keeping with my philosophy on supporting local farmer’s and artisans, I jumped at an opportunity to take music lessons from a local music school in Dalhousie, N.B., named Musicpro Restigouche music school.

Musicpro Restigouche

Musicpro Restigouche

I feel it is vitally important that the arts, along with athletics, receive support within our communities.   Musicpro Restigouche music school offers lessons in percussion, guitar, piano, and bass so I jumped at the chance to pluck some guitar strings.  I didn’t know what to expect, having taken guitar lessons in Maine over a decade ago, so I went to my first lesson with an open mind and the intention of learning what I could.  I came away from the lesson with a great amount of confidence and a determination to return the next week to further develop the calluses on my finger tips.  A big shout out to Paul Jensen for his differentiated approach to guitar lessons.

My family is a very musical family in terms of appreciation of the art form and our memory capacity for songs on the radio, which allows us to sing along to every lyric of every song on the radio.  Do some people get annoyed? Yes.  Do we keep on singing away? Yes.  (Insert laughter if you wish).  We appreciate the universality of music and it’s threads into every aspect of our lives.  Some farmers have even told me that playing certain genres of music in a cd player for their chickens helps to increase their laying rate.  I haven’t empirically verified this report but I can say that animals are very much in tune with rhythm and melody.  Often times, I’ve sat in the barn listening to the cows methodically chew their cud.  Each of them chewing in unison.  Then with an approaching ambulance or a whistling farmer, they stop, ears pointed towards the sound until they determine its relative importance.  Then, as though they hadn’t stopped, they resume their rhythmic mastication.  The same happens among the chickens when I share my “vocal” abilities with them.  They stop in their tracks, turn their heads to the sound of my voice and patiently wait for the noise to cease before they resume their collective clucking and cock-a-doodle-dooing.  It appears, in the name of common sense, that animals as well as human beings have an ear, or two, for music.

Last night, as I plucked clumsily at the strings of my wife’s guitar I found myself closing my eyes momentarily to try to make sense of the sound of the note, while other times I peered intensively at the neck of the guitar to find the exact location for my finger placement.  My farmer hands and the small neck of the guitar didn’t mesh together at first.  My instructor, Paul Jensen, remarked on the overwhelmingly physical nature of playing guitar.  Building muscle memory through practice helps us develop our musical playing abilities into extensions of ourselves where we simply touch our fingers to the strings and strum away without a thinking about the next note to make.  I’m a long way off from that level of mastery but I can say that by the end of a 1 hour lesson my confidence level had boosted.  My memory and musical ear allowed me to play the notes of the new scales in my head while I plucked away at the strings.  While I write this blog post, I am forever trying to connect this experience to that of farming but I think I should just let it stand alone.  Perhaps, when I’ve written a song about the farmers blues or the fight for sustainability I can meld them together via a celebration of local farming in the form of a concert with food and drink at the farm?  A couple of years ago, my brother suggested the idea.  No doubt, it is an endeavour requiring a lot of planning  but, I think it is a foreseeable opportunity to bring local music and food together.  More on that in the spring.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide our readers and farm supporters with the contact information for the Musicpro Restigouche music school.  They currently have openings for guitar, piano, bass, and percussion lessons.  Lessons are provided on the second floor of the NBIP building on william st.  You can contact Tim Harquail at 684-6472 or search their Facebook page on Facebook.  I attempted to hyperlink the website in this post but it wouldn’t work.  Thank you for your continued support of local entrepreneurs, farmers, and artisans.

In a side note, our eggs are now available at the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  My pullets have come into their laying cycle and, despite the shortening daylight hours, they are laying very nicely.  I will have approximately 8 – 12 dozen each saturday for the time being until we get more chickens.  Enjoy!

MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly Stewarded, Naturally Balanced.

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

Categories: farming, guitar lessons, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, music school, Musicpro Restigouche, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Cookie tin water heater

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

Hi everyone,

Still haven’t set up the coop for solar electric power but thought i’d provide this useful link for you to browse and put to use if you have a few chickens at home and are attempting to winterize your coop.  More to come about the solar panel in the next couple weeks.

Here it is:

http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/11/make-cookie-tin-waterer-heater-under-10.html

All you need is a tin cookie jar, a lampkit or a dismantled lamp, a light bulb, and a 3/8 ” drill bit.

I would also like to thank Mr. Murchie in Doyleville for providing MacCurdy Farm with a half dozen more chickens for our egg laying operation.  Much obliged.

Categories: 0rganics, chicken waterer, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A part of history

MacCurdy Farm logo

MacCurdy Farm logo

History is continually unfolding around us.  It shapes our experiences.  It calls for our attention.  It is, without a doubt, a remarkably subjective experience.  What matters in terms of importance varies greatly amongst all of us.

On Sunday October 13, 2013, my  brother-in-law and I made an impromptu trek to “The Best Sports City in the Western Hemisphere” to watch our Boston Redsox in game 2 of the ALCS versus the Detroit Tigers.  Usually, when Spring baseball rolls around, we plan a trip to Boston to catch a ball game at the hallowed hall of baseball, Fenway Park.  However, this season we somehow lucked upon playoff tickets to the ALCS, which we jumped at the chance to use.  When you first walk through the concession grounds, into the shops, and along the brick walls you experience a sensory overload from the past images of Redsox baseball history that adorn the walls.  As a lifelong fan, player, and promoter of the game of baseball, Fenway park is the creme de la creme and it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone (even Yankee fans, yes I said it).

After making arrangements with dad and mom to feed the chickens, my brother-in-law and I drove 8 hours to Boston to catch the game.  We didn’t know what madness was in store for our first MLB play-off experience.  In the bottom of the 8th inning, down 5-1 after a slow and uneventful first seven innings, one of the most clutch play-off performers in baseball history stepped up the plate with the bases loaded.  On a first pitch inside fastball, Ortiz belted a grandslam on a frozen rope over the right field wall into the Redsox bullpen.  If anyone has ever been to Fenway, you know first hand how boisterous the crowd can be after a nice hit, catch, or play.  Well, if Fenway had a dome roof, it would have lifted off it’s moorings from the chorus of yays and yeahs that filled the crisp Charles river air.  We were in shock and awe.  We jumped, we high-fived, we looked at each other in dismay, and we yelled yeahhh at the top of our lungs.  Boston tied the game and later, in walk-off fashion, the Redsox won the game 6-5 and eventually the series.  In hindsight, it’s still hard to believe that we were there for a ball game that will undoubtedly go down as one of the best playoff games in Redsox history.

The next morning, after saying goodbye to some friends who had graciously allowed us to overnight at their house in Charlestown, MA, we hit the road with our minds buzzing about the events from the night before.  After replaying the spectacular sequence of events at the ball field the night before, I pondered the significance of the piece of history we had embedded ourselves into from our presence at the game.  Questions, like the following, popped into my mind: (1) Why don’t we express the same feverish support of professional sports to movements of sustainable agriculture, anti-fracking, human rights, and healthy eating, for example? (2) If we can find extra money to enjoy a professional sports game, shouldn’t we also find extra money to give to charity, pay it forward, and support those in need? (3) Is it important to take time for yourself and do something, away from the norm, that brings you happiness and stress relief?

The answer to the above questions is yes.  There is a take away message from my experience at Fenway.  Always reflect and then actively look for ways to connect life experiences to the passions that you uphold.  Farming sustainably, organically, and ethically are of the utmost importance to me.  For this reason, I applaud for all to hear, the laudable actions of activist groups who seek protection of our global water supply, the acts of defiance and resistance that groups, communities, and nations have taken against Monsanto and their GMO crops, and the environmental activists who dare to stand against the oil behemoths and other industries who wreak havoc on our precious planet.  Sometimes, taking time away from the daily grind to support local artisans/athletes or taking a whirlwind boomerang trip to Fenway park helps recharge our batteries.  It allows us to come back to our passion feeling revitalized, reassured, and enthused about our roles on this spinning marble we all inhabit.  Not to mention it makes for great conversation starter at the dinner table after tending to the animals needs.

It is important for all of us to stay committed to our principles but still find time to do other things that we love like watching a baseball game.  A shift in the current paradigm is imminent and, in the absence of leisure activity, those of us who uphold sustainable organic farming practices are in the midst of an agricultural revolution that seeks to empower the small food producer and consumer.  I actively cheer people around the world who are aware of its health impacts for our bodies and our soils.  In every sense of the word, we are actively conducting the history writer’s strokes.  In using a crude analogy, you pick a team to cheer for in baseball, you pick a side to stand on in food production.  Farmers and consumers need to stand together in solidarity to continually pressure for change from our governments and in the status quo.

Come join us at the Restigouche Farmer’s market in Dalhousie every saturday from 8 am to 1 pm.

MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly stewarded, naturally balanced.

Categories: 0rganics, Boston Redsox, farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The old and the new: Solar panels, Inverters, and electric wiring

Hi everyone,

This most recent blog post is an inquiry into another eco-friendly form of power, sun power.  The sun fuels the grasses and perennials that cover the landscape of the MacCurdy Farm.  Why shouldn’t it also fuel the poultry winter housing?  Recently, I finished the installation of the new three tab shingled roof on our 24′ x 11′ gambrel roof chicken barn, which we have erected on temporary concrete block footings so that it can be moved to the pasture, if need be.  No harm in more portable housing.  The barn is docked, so to write, near our other chicken coop for the approaching winter.  Little by little the building is taking shape.  Next comes the 1 x 8 barn board siding, the attached fenced in run for winter exercise, and a solar panel to provide adequate heat and lighting through the cold winter months.  It seems to be an increasing trend towards self-sustainability in society and in keeping with that philosophy of mind, I had a personal eureka that getting off the grid as much as possible wouldn’t be such an intolerable idea.  Perhaps, I am behind some of in terms of this school of thought but, in all due fairness, life’s journey has many twists and turns in our search for truth and love.

I am putting a call out for a licensed electrician to install outlets, switches, light bulb receptacles, an inverter and a solar panel on our winterhousing chicken barn.  Willing to barter or pay cash for some work on the barn.

MacCurdy Farms Logo

MacCurdy Farms Logo

I am hoping to purchase a solar panel from Canadian solar but am willing to consider other options should any of our readers have suggestions for a solar panel that would provide enough wattage for several light bulbs and outlets this winter.  Given that this barn houses our very hardy heritage breeds while the other production layers are in our insulated coop, there is no rush.  However, I’d like to get started on the next project at the farm so any advice, encouragement, or suggestions would be much appreciated.  Hoping someone out there can offer a guiding hand into this area.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on the attached rain barrel and spout for the barn so that we can collect rain water for the chickens and thereby limit the amount of water used from our well.  Finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint is always at the back of our minds.  Recently, my father remarked on the importance of limiting the amount of contact to a cattle feed (i.e., perennial grasses) in order to maintain a higher feed value.  Basically, the less the feed comes in contact with farm implements, more crude protein and other essential digestible nutrients remain in the feed.  I nodded in agreement and added, “Imagine if the tractor didn’t touch it at all.”  My father grew up in an age of industry post-WWII.  The use of farm machinery, in land stewardship, is something to which my father spends a great deal of time marvelling.  It is the reason for his uncanny ability to operate and maintain farm machinery, his devotion to Massey Ferguson, and his exhortations on farm machinery safety.  However, despite this, he still sees the importance of the natural way of managing livestock, like giving cattle continual access to grass with minimal use of diesel powered tractors.  However, it is breaking the forces of habit that takes time (much like my forces of habit in taking electricity for granted and not considering alternative sources of power) in realizing these ideals.  So what do we do?  Take the time to consider others ideas, endorse them, sew a seed for your interests and ideas, and converse about the endless opportunities that exist on the family farm.  Something will undoubtedly come to be.

Looking forward to hearing from you on these thoughts and ideas about a solar powered chicken barn.  Please contact us via our facebook page or my email address, justin.maccurdy@live.ca.  Thanks for reading!

Categories: 0rganics, farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, Solar power, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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