Inspire Coop Permaculture presentation: Integrating chickens into permaculture design

Today, I had the pleasure of sharing my passion for livestock, namely chickens in this instance, at a permaculture orientation session in my hometown of Dalhousie, NB.  As always, I had some butterflies but overcame them to deliver my powerpoint presentation on chickens and their integration into permaculture set-ups.  In my 2+ years of farming with chickens, I’ve learned a great deal from books, websites, discussion forums, and other farmers and poultry enthusiasts.  I hope I was able to accelerate this process for those in attendance as they seek to determine the right fit for their backyard or barnyard flocks.

A big thank you to Bob Ewing and Marie-Christine Allard for the organization of this much needed event in our region.  I am confident that efforts such as this will help us to bring about big changes in the mentality towards food security, food sustainability, food availability, permaculture, and agriculture as a whole.

Should you have questions concerning anything from the presentation or anything contained within the power point, please do no hesitate to contact me via the contacts provided in the power point.  Sometimes time constraints keep one from fully answering questions or concerns that might arise from the presentation.  For example, in determining the quality of a laying hen, despite signs of aging, one can look at the condition of the vent.  A moist horizontal slit would indicate that a bird is laying, while a dry puckered vent would indicate that the hen is either off cycle or has slowed down to the point of very little egg production.

Finally, it was very encouraging to be in the company of people who are eager to learn and share what they have learned about farming.  It is through communication of different approaches that someone can learn to break a mold and step into an area of discomfort to better their farming experience or, in the very least, try something new.

Click on the link below to access the power point presentation.  Livestock & Permaculture Design

Categories: Food Awareness, Heritage breed chicken, livestock, MacCurdy Farm, mobile chicken coop, permaculture | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Food Awareness in Our Children

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my son’s birthday party at the farm.  For the first time in our long and drawn out Winter we had a day with sunshine and warmth, just below 0 degrees Celsius.  A day to get outside and play.  In today’s society it seems as though our children are always tuned into technology and less with the open spaces of our own backyards…and barnyards.  My wife and I decided to have our son’s party unplugged at the farm.  No smart phones, personal gaming devices, or any other form of technology, just sleds, snow wear, our means of locomotion, and an adventurous spirit.

Hay Parkour!

Hay Parkour!

I thought we’d start the party off with a brief tour of our livestock barns and introduce the kids to our animal companions on the farm.  I knew I had a limited amount of time before the freedom of the farm drew them in different directions so I took them into the world of our heritage breed chickens.   Being an educator I thought I’d pile them into the coop that contains our Plymouth Barred Rock chickens and then fire a bunch of questions at them on chickens.  Although my son is fairly well-versed in poultry talk, I was unsure of what to expect from his friends.  I started with a basic reproductive anatomy question, who lays the eggs, hens or roosters?  It might sound like a simple question, but I can honestly tell you that I’ve had some people ask me if roosters lay eggs or if roosters are required for hens to lay eggs.  Adults say the darndest! My son and his friends unanimously exclaimed, “the hens!”  I continued on with a few more questions, awaiting the hand-raising reflex and the accompanying stares, and to my surprise they collectively knew the answer to nearly every question I posed to them.  (Farmer pauses to smile).  With the exception of knowing where they roosted during the night, my son and his friends were able to confidently give rational explanations and answers about where eggs come from, which birds were roosters/hens, where they laid their eggs, and where baby chickens are made.

After the chicken barn, we made our way into the beef/hay barn.  First, we talked about how to behave around cattle so that they didn’t scare them or put themselves in harms way.  They filed into the barn, one behind another, in to the rich organic smells of hay, dung, wood, and straw. I decided to change my interactive questions to something mathematical.  I asked, “Who can estimate or guess how many cattle are in the barn?”  Some minds started to count, others grouped, and some just scanned.  In the end, after a very close guess, they got hotter until they nailed it, 27!  Number sense is alive and well in this group of grade 1 friends.  After a little chat about calving season being just around the corner and what cows eat, the kids made their way back to the hay pile.  I found myself musing over the agricultural awareness that my son, daughter, and friends demonstrated.  What a wonderful blessing to grow up in a rural area, connected to our food through ways of life like hunting, fishing, gardening, and farming.  I would even argue that children today have a high measure of food awareness unlike what has been purported by Jamie Oliver in his food revolution in America.  In our region, with respect to the aspect of where food comes from, I am compelled to believe that they have a high food awareness in that aspect.  Understanding what not to put in their bodies, is another story.

Today’s society has been socially conditioned to accept the convenience of grocery stores and supermarkets, but this has broken the link between families and the true sources of food, farms.  I jumped at the opportunity to share our family passion for farming when my son’s friends arrived for his birthday party.  I didn’t take a didactic approach to highlight what they should know but rather we took time to celebrate what they did know and thereby make the farm a more inviting place to families who want to have a relationship with their family farmer.  It’s time to place farmer in the same relationship status as knowing your family doctor, dentist, and pharmacist.  Raising children who care for the lives of animals and the health of garden vegetables is the first step in changing the mentality about current food system and it’s degradation away from the once numerous small family farm into corporate monoculture.  Biodiversity opens the mind to endless possibilities for our future generations on small family farms.

Martin Luther King in his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement suggested consumer boycotts to force change through non-violence.  I think this idea can be embraced to a degree to perpetuate ways to support the struggles and labors of farmers in your local communities.  Buying a months supply of meat from a nearby farmer, for example, diverts the flow of money directly into the producers hands, allowing them to pay bills and to continue to grow and raise food with a high level of transparency and in a manner where a sense of community is promoted around something as simple and necessary as food.  Farm visits allow families to learn about the impacts of their decisions when buying locally.  Who better to learn from about how food is raised than the farmer down the road.  Grocery stores may have an assortment of conveniences and goods but nothing beats pulling a carrot from the ground or collecting eggs from nesting boxes.  It’s this type of work that teaches an appreciation for the small family farm at an early age.  I started spending time with my dad in the hayfield around the age of 3.  True story.

Farming, it's in our genes.

Farming, it’s in our genes.

In the days that followed my sons birthday party, I watched with a great deal of agape love as I considered the well-being of my two children.  In front of me, they jumped from hay bale to hay bale, imploring me to catch them or chase them or watch them.  My whole body smiled.  They were playing exactly as I had when I was their age.  I stand resolute in my convictions about doing the work I do on the family farm to make it something better for my children as they grow into adults.  Both of them have a fondness for animals that is apparent in the kindness they show to others including their animal companions.  My son is always trying feats of strength and my daughter has a magical way of showing love to the animals.  This is not something you can teach, but it is something that you can foster.  I know they’ll both be with me in the greenhouse in the next couple months as we prepare our transplants and i’m sure they’ll have something to teach me about agricultural awareness as time goes on.  Perhaps, some day they’ll even have a chance to become involved in our birch syrup production on our farm woodlot.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Hay: Fun for all ages.

Should any of you wish to have a tour of the farm with your children,  you can contact us at the numbers provided on the website, 506-684-2297 or 506-685-7741.  The best time of year is from the part of Spring when the ground has mostly dried and all of our seasonal operations are underway until our last harvest in fall when we have our pumpkin pick.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Food Awareness, future generations, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MacCurdy Farm T-shirts Have Arrived

As promised, our first line of t-shirts have arrived.  We’ve decided to do a test run of our customized MacCurdy Farm t-shirts with our signature farm logo on the front and our slogan, “Responsibly Stewarded, Naturally Balanced”, on the back.  We’ve kept it local as well and used Picaboo Graphik in Point a la Croix, PQ, which is just across the bridge from Campbellton, NB, and only 20 minutes away from the farm.  In our first order we have produced white t-shirts only for sale while the colored shirts are for family members and workers at our vendor booth at the Restigouche Farmers Market.  However, given enough interest from our supporters, we will most likely get colored shirts for sale on the next batch with a small cost increment.  The tees are M & O pre-shrunk cotton.  That being said, I have been told, that there could be a very small reduction in size after a wash or two.  Having tried them on, they are incredibly comfy and breathe very well.

Any and all money made from the sale of our t-shirts will go directly back into the farm to pay for seeds, materials, feed, etc.   We’ve priced our t-shirts to be comparable to the prices you would pay at other small businesses.  We’d like to say thank you to those of you who will wear our t-shirts proudly in representation of the local food movement and our small diversifying farm.

T-Shirt Prices

White tee with farmer logo on front $22

Color tee with farmer logo on front and slogan on back $25

Youth sized tee $15

Our little model with the smile

Our little model with the smile

At this point in time we will only have two types available.  We are looking into a MacCurdy Farm golf polo and a different tee with a smaller crest above the heart with a different farm related logo.  So, if you are looking for a muscle shirt you are out of look.  But, these tees, when worn in the hayfield at MacCurdy farm, produce a great set of forearms.  Finally, I’ll post pictures of the tees and information about sizes as a new page on the website banner this week.

MacCurdy Farm Tees

MacCurdy Farm Tees

As previously posted, Jonathan’s crowd funding project on kickstarter is ongoing with 35% of his goal raised to date and 36 days remaining.  If you haven’t already, please take a moment and read about his venture into birch syrup production.  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1554230499/birch-please

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Categories: birch syrup, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Beef and Barley Soup with MacCurdy Farm beef soup bone stock

Beef and Barley soup is, without a doubt, my favorite winter comfort and home remedy food.  If the pot has soup in it after two days, send a search party, because I usually like the pot to finish.  My love for this type of soup originated with the Campbell’s Soup variety and now, just as I did then, I can’t stop eating it until the pot is empty.  Even better than that, the nutritional elements of this homemade soup far exceed that of any canned variety.  It’s breakfast, lunch, supper, and in-betweensies when I make this soup.  Hope you enjoy this hearty traditional favorite of the MacCurdy family!

Homemade Beef Stock

You will need a bag of 2 lb soup bones.

On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, bake the soup bones for 45 – 60 minutes until nicely browned at 350 degrees.  Some people suggest longer at higher temperatures.  You want the bones to be nicely browned before adding them to your soup pot,

Ingredients

  • 2 onions chopped coarsely
  • 2 carrots chopped coarsely
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 tsp of summer savory
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (Draws minerals out of the bones)
  • I bag of browned soup bones
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt (optional)

Preparation

Cook in a 4 quart soup pot.  Make sure that the bones are completely immersed in water.  Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Turn down and simmer for a minimum of 12 hours (I did it over night) and up to 48 hours.  The longer it cooks, the more flavor emerges.  Skim the scum as you simmer.  Remove the bones and give to the dogs for a treat if they are still hard.  I used a soup ladle to fill freezer containers with the excess stock that I didn’t use in the beef and barley soup.

Beef and Barley Soup

Soup is Served!

Soup is Served!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of homemade beef stock
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (You can use a smaller can if desired)
  • 1/4 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of pearl barley (Don’t use too much)
  •  2 cups of stewing beef (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 1 cup of chopped onion

Prep

In a large soup pot (4 quart), add your beef stock, water, diced tomatoes, and spices.  Saute the vegetables in a separate pan or simply add them to the soup after it has been brought to a slow rolling boil.  Add your beef (I’ve used uncooked stewing meat and leftover roast on separate occasions although I prefer cooking the stewing beef into the soup.  Add the 1/2 cup of pearl barley and cook the soup for 45 – 60 minutes.  Taste to check to see that all ingredients are tender and cooked.  Serves up to 12 individual bowls.

Serves well on cold Winter days and during cold/flu season.  Spruce yourself up with this homemade belly warmer.  Finally, a big shout out to Mark Hengst for his cooking wisdom for producing healthy soup stock.

Best. Soup. Ever.

Best. Soup. Ever.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Snowblower Ramp Build

In case you haven’t noticed, Winter is here.  It is here for a good time … and a long time.  And, according to our little shadow fearing varmint, the groundhog, there will be 6 more weeks of it.  I haven’t checked my farmer’s almanac but judging by the frequency of snowstorms this Winter, I felt it was time to extend the reach of my snow blower.  It was time to build a snow blower ramp so that I could load my Ariens Deluxe 28 snow blower onto the farm truck for some snow therapy at the farm.  The high winds over the past few days have cause hard packed drifts to litter landscape of the farm, even making our farm lane impassable.  Our tractor blower has been out of commission since my grandfather passed in August of 2003 and these cold days with windchill up to -39 degrees Celsius have rendered the old Massey 383 out-of-order due to severe frostbite.  Time to bring up the Ariens to the big leagues and blow out a path to my chicken barns.  The cold has been a nasty opponent to our flock’s health and laying production this winter.  I’m in the process of adding more ventilation to my chicken barns, some poop boards beneath their roosts, and some heating via heat lamps, which will be run off of a solar panel on the south side of the barn.  A diversifying farm is never without projects.  In fact, if you’re not careful you’ll get bogged down with them.

The Build:

I’ve always enjoyed repurposing materials that are readily available.  I had two 2 x 6s that came out of an old green house frame, excess ice shield from my reshingling my home this summer for grip on the tracks, and an abundance of greenhouse strapping.  We could basically say, the cost is free, or better yet, undetermined.  Overall this project took under 2 hours to complete.  I assembled it in my basement next to my toasty pacific energy wood stove.

Modelled on an SUV

Modelled on an SUV

Cut list

  • 2, 2×6 @ 78″
  • 12, 1 x 2 strapping @ 5 1/2″
  • 3, 25″ long boards (any width).  I used 1 x 6 spruce.
  • 2, 5 1/2″ wide strips of gripping surface (I used ice shield)

Materials:

  1. 2 x 6
  2. 1 x 2 strapping
  3. Material for grip on the surface of the tracks (I used excess ice shield)
  4. 2 1/2″ screws
  5. Staple gun to secure the grip to the track
  6. boards (1 x or 2 x)

Tools:

  1. Cordless Power drill
  2. Staple gun
  3. Circular (skill) saw
  4. Scissors/shearers (To cut ice shield or grip material)

Steps:

  1. Cut your 2, 2×6 to 78″ (or a length that suits the vehicle you will be loading your snow blower onto)
  2. Cut the ice shield (or similar material) to 78″ length and staple to the tracks.
  3. Cut and fasten 3, 25″ cross pieces (braces) to the two tracks.  The boards are cut to 25″ to accommodate the width of the snow blower tire base.  Fasten, with 2 1/2″ screws, in three locations: bottom, middle, and top.  I used 4 screws on both sides of the ramp.
  4. Cut, and then fasten, your 5 1/2″ pieces of 1 x 2 strapping.  Fasten the first piece 2″ from the bottom of the track and then at 12″ spaces until you have installed the final piece on each track.
  5. Test the sturdiness of your ramp before you attempt to load your snow blower onto your truck or SUV.  If it’s bending, you may have to add thicker cross pieces or shorten the ramp tracks.
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Top side of tracks with grips

cross pieces screwed to the tracks

cross pieces screwed to the tracks

Loading your snow blower:

  1. Firmly set the base of the ramp into the snow.  The bottom cross-piece will act as a footboard so that you can brace the snow blower as it travels up the ramp. 
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    Foot board to stabilize the ramp

  2. Engage the differential lock on your snow blower, if it comes equipped with one, so that the wheels turn equally as it climbs the ramp.  Otherwise, one wheel pulls more causing the snow blower to come off the ramp.
  3. Walk the snow blower up the ramp in the slowest travelling speed.  Take caution as you do this and, if at all possible, have someone with you as an extra set of eyes and hands.  You may find that there are alterations and adjustments to be made with this plan to make the loading and unloading of your snow blower an easier endeavor.
  4. Once the snow blower is loaded, firmly secure it with ratchet straps and/or rope to the bed of the truck.  Do the same to your ramp.  Don’t forget, it has to come off at some point but the name of the game is safe road travel.
  5. Remove the key.  We wouldn’t want that to bounce loose on the drive.  Drive to your destination.

Unloading your snow blower:

  1. Firmly position and secure the ramp before loading the snow blower on to it.
  2. Do not bother to start the snow blower.  Slowly back the machine down the ramp.  Use the cross pieces as braces to give more resistance to the snow blower as you back it slowly down the ramp.
  3. Bundle up your ratchet straps and ropes.  Put up the tail gate and get to work.

I hope these plans and pictures can inspire you to make this functional ramp.  At 200 lbs, it safely handled my weight.  During the snow blower test, it safely handled the weight of my Ariens deluxe 28″, which weighs in around 250 lbs according to the specs.  I would suggest fortifying the track supports by using 2 x 4 instead of 1 x boards should your lumber flex more than it should.  I used true rough sawn 2 x 6 for this project.  This is a bit of a change in content from my usual blog posts but, I’m determined to make this a site for all things related to farming.  I’ve always admired DIYers and FIYers so projects like this continue to help me draw a deeper connection to the way things used to be done.  Namely, when people built their own needs and didn’t flock to the nearest hardware store to order something they could build with their own two hands.  People like Dick Proenneke, who built his own log cabin with traditional woodworking tools in the Alaskan wilderness, are becoming harder and harder to find but for people like us, the MacCurdy family, they represent a truer sense of sustainability and an honest way of living.  Enjoy your build.  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment. Next up, a blog on cooking heritage breed chickens.  After that, building a farmhouse table.

Categories: farming, MacCurdy Farm, snowblower ramp | Tags: , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Address to the Future Generation of Farmers

This autumn’s hiatus from our farm blog was not without thought from the wheels of pensivity.  I had much time to muse over material for our next blog.  Many ideas crossed my mind, especially with the arrival of our new greenhouse kit from multishelter solutions but sadly, with an early start to winter I was left with little to write about concerning the greenhouse installation and operation.  But, we have assembled and installed the sliding door entrance this new year so only the plastic remains to be installed.  Raincheck until the Spring rains arrive.  In other words, we’ll hit the ground planting in the Spring with our greenhouse setup.

Greenhouse door

Greenhouse door

Over Christmas vacation, I had the great fortune of spending time with my family and loved ones around many lovely meals, and one that included a MacCurdy Farm turkey (Insert plug for farm here).  During a moment of midday revery I thought about the things I would most like to say to my own children, nieces, nephews, and the next generation, if they decided to some day take up the pitchfork or broadfork and pursue a love of farming.  This is exactly a topic I can pour my heart out about, with no apprehension, to create a fossil record of my insights into multiple aspects of farming.

The Farm Land

Get to know your land.  So much can be learned through the exploration of every nook and cranny in the farm landscape.  Every generation has draws and matters of interest that might pull you away from the farm from time to time, but make it a point of importance to explore anything that might pique your interest.  This is how oral histories are formed and connected.  For example, from our peramblings along the brook that runs through the acreage of the farm we found a multitude of farm artifacts such as horseshoes, cow skulls, pottery shards, and old cast iron cooking pots.  Each item would and will elicit responses of how things used to be done on the farm from the older generation.  I’ve always said that we have to respect the ways of our forefathers and seek to make our own stamp in our own agricultural pursuits.  By making connections with the generation that farmed before us, we find a commonality that elucidates a shared affinity and love for agriculture.  It helps to ease young farmers with  breaking new ground in implementing new aspects to a small diversified farm.

Animal Husbandry

Don’t worry, this term does not mean what you think it means.  Animal husbandry is defined as the practices of care and management of livestock.  As farmers who are parents, new-born animals are often the first introduction for a young child to one of the joys of farming, birth.  I remember the feeling of wonder when I first watched my father and grandfather assist a cow during parturition.  Today, every time I bring a calf to its mother, alongside my father, I ponder the journey the calf takes until it takes a breath and its eyes flutter.  A bond is not only formed between cow and calf but also between farmer and animal.  Oftentimes, I spend time observing animals and I’ve watched my father and grandfather do the same thing over the years.  There is something deeply tranquilizing about studying animal behavior up close.  I took an animal behavior course in university but nothing substitutes for a firsthand experience of behavior between animals in a social group, such as you find in our herd.

Our herd during a pre-storm hay feast

Our herd during a pre-storm hay feast

Read…Alot

Personally, my love affair with reading has come in cycles.  I would encourage you to read as much as you can, when you are inspired to read or your pursuit of knowledge draws you down a road of discovery.  As a youngster, I read books like, “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriott, which deepened my appreciation for rural life, agricultural, and animal medicine. I didn’t read the book on a whim, but rather, I accepted it as a gift from a gentleman who taught me music theory and composition while I was at private school in the USA.  His passion for rural agrarian community reaffirmed my love for farming and my appreciation of the hard work that my grandfather and father put into their operation.  I still think of him and his ability to sing gutturally (throat singing).  As you grow older you will grow to more fully appreciate the people who come and go in your life.  Always lend an attentive ear to those who chose to share their life experiences about farming and life in general to you.  When you’re not farming and not sleeping or eating, read.  Whether it’s a manual, a magazine, or a how-to book, read your heart out.  It will facilitate life on the farm.

Multi-Generational Considerations

At the present time, I’ve been drawn in by author/farmers like Joel Salatin, Elliott Coleman, and Jean-Martin Fortier, who embody my sentiments about small time food production and local food supply.  Joel Salatin touches on the issues of stacking additional portable enterprises on to pre-existing farm systems (e.g., pastured poultry on hay fields) to allow young and new farmers to get their hands dirty without falling victim to capital-intensive start-up costs like buying a tractor or building a state of the art beef barn.  However, these opportunities require trust and trust is built by developing responsibility, accountability, and consideration for others on a small family farm.  Beginning at a young age I started to work in the hayfield (about 10 or 11).  Some farmers joke and equate farmers children to slave labor (perhaps offside) because they get paid very little but I understand now that all of the time I spent working in the hay fields was an investment in earning trust and respect.  I do not believe I would be able to pursue my agricultural interests on the farm today if it was not for that investment of time, sweat, blood, and tears over the years.  Some of us would balk at the idea of lending a vehicle to a friend if we didn’t trust that they would return it in the same condition.  The same principle applies in the transfer of ownership and responsibility on a family farm.  Nothing is privileged, everything is earned.  I am thankful for this type of experience and I would hope that you would embrace it when the time comes for you to test your mettle in the reinventive field of agriculture.  Hardwork is a precursor to a successful business venture and the generation that made footsteps ahead of you will appreciate your devotion.

Oral Traditions

I have a fondness for storytelling because of my grandparents.  My grandfather liked to spin a yarn that made you question every word out of his mouth but in it he had a remarkable ability to bring a smilish grin to your face.  On the other hand, my grandmother always had farm stories to tell.  My siblings and I would gather around the table for cookies with milk in our favorite cat mug, while Grammy proceeded to tell us about how she rode the draught horse bareback to get Grampy in the woods or how her mother-in-law had a hen that would follow her in the house and peck at the specks on the linoleum floor.  When she’d finish sharing stories about the animals, she’d tell us about how the landscape of the farm used to be with its orchard, milk house, and in ground cold storage on different parts of the farm.  Afterwards, we’d spill out of her kitchen and into an area on the farmland that we were drawn to and, unknowingly, we formed our own stories to share with future generations.  To this day, I still listen to Grammy’s stories about the farm, even though I have heard them multiple times, because they bring a great deal of mutual joy to the both of us.  I get a break from physical exertion to recharge the bio-battery and she has someone to sit and converse with about how times used to be.  Always ask questions, it deepens your understanding and it assures a person that you are interested in what they are saying.  In my grandmother’s case, it allows me to tap into her wealth of knowledge about the farm’s history that I can in turn share with you.  I would strongly encourage you to pursue your own adventures on the farmland. We roamed at will as youngsters through the acreage and are no worse for wear.

Farm Safety

I do not believe there is a topic of greater importance than farm safety.  My father always insisted that I read the manual before I used a piece of machinery.  To a great degree I always read the operational and safety portions of manuals when I purchase something for the farm.  However, even more can be learned from listening to those who have worked on the farm before you.  It may get under your skin and, if you are like me, test your pride and patience but in the long run you will be better equipped to work safely on the farm.  Where there are tractors and PTOs (power take-offs) used to run implements there will be injuries.  Unfortunately, livestock operations have a higher incidence of injury than other farm types (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ca-ra2006/articles/snapshot-portrait-eng.htm) so one needs to be even more vigilant.  I’m telling you this, not to scare you, but inform you that farming requires safety training and farm first aid, when available.  One rule that I live by is to never work when I am fatigued to the point that I lose motor control.   When this occurs, accidents happen.  As gung-ho as we may be, take frequent breaks or vary the pace at which you do your chores and responsibilities.  The human body is finite and therefore has limits.  If you are a farmer, strength will find you but use restraint and lift wisely.

PTO safety is a must

PTO safety is a must

Stick by your principles

We are what some might consider organic but not certified and in other cases transitional in terms of our status as a small diversified farm.  This change happened from the principles related to farming practices that both Justin and Jonathan have carried onto the farm in their agricultural enterprises.  We determined, as have many others across the country and world, that the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, destroying soils through deep tillage, and crowded animal housing practices had to be evacuated to build a more sustainably and responsibly managed farm system.  So, we developed a pastured poultry (chicken and turkey) operation and a restricted range egg laying operation.  Meanwhile, we’re steadily transitioning to a higher percentage of grass-fed beef with only oats and barley fed to combat the cold during the winter months.  Pesticides and fertilizers will not touch our soils by our means and as we continue to educate ourselves more changes will take place.  It takes some money to make these things happen, and money takes time.  For example, we are trying to source a chisel plow to get closer to no-tillage in our field practices.  With all this, we stand by our principles by continuing to show a great measure of respect to all aspects of our farming operation in terms of the soil, livestock, and interpersonal relations.

Bonnie, heifer with calf

Bonnie, heifer with calf

Educate Yourself

Approximately six years ago, I had the opportunity to follow in my father and brother’s footsteps and attend agricultural college at NSAC.  However, I felt pulled in the direction of education so I pursued an education degree in stead.  Fast forward 6 years later and I am about to embark on another educational experience.  I’ll be travelling to Maine six times beginning in May 2015 until October 2015 to become certified in permaculture design.  I’ve decided to do this for several reasons, the first being that apart from a life of learning from others on produce and beef farms, I have no formal education in agricultural practices.   Some of you may laugh and say, it’s just a piece of paper but I feel it is necessary to receive this training before the farm comes under direct management alongside my brother.  My father’s generation and those before him have a profound respect for education and I know it will please my father to know that I studied alongside like-minded people to take the farm into new management and help it thrive.  Secondly, community drives farming.  Given our increased connectivity with social media today this course will allow me to network with other farmers in this part of our world.  Thirdly, it highlights my devotion to pursuing farming and keeping the farm alive for another generation.  Most importantly, it teaches my children that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish great things.

Finally, I’d like to close this address to you, future farmers, by saying that this is a living document of suggestions, which you may or may not uphold, and which form the crux of life on family farm.  More importantly, you must come to your own conclusions on agriculture and life on the small family farm that will allow it to not only survive, but thrive.  Add to the list, if you wish.  In closing here is a quote from Alice Waters that really hits home:

“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.”

Categories: farming, future generations | Tags: , | 1 Comment

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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We’re Here for a Gourd Time

The Fall of 2014 was our inaugural pumpkin picking at the farm.  We planted dual-purpose (carving and baking) organic Howden pumpkins, which many use as Jack-O-Lanterns but can also be used for pies.  However, it’s been said that they make the best pumpkin jam.  120 pumpkin plants were planted late this Spring in hopes that there would be a pumpkin patch for families in our area.  In keeping with our start small/grow big natural farm philosophy, we felt that a 100+ pumpkin plants would allow us to gauge interest in farm activities based around the pumpkin patch, provide pumpkin picking over two weekends, and give kids and parents an opportunity to step outside of their daily routines to have some fun at our farm.

Cucurbits!

Cucurbits!

 

This year, we had a photo zone set up, a guess the weight of the pumpkin contest (won by Annie Robichaud this year), and a feeding area set up with our young pullets (laying hens).  Our feedback form allowed us to gather ideas for next year’s event.  We’ll have signage at the base of our road and parking signs as well.  Others suggested hot drinks, baby chicks, a photo of the MacCurdy Farmer with a cutout for pictures, and a hayride.  Also, given both my mother and I’s educational background, we’ll have information and activities centered around the cucurbitaceae (gourd) family.  We’re thinking along the lines of a blown up picture matching and an information sign on the life cycle of a pumpkin, .  Don’t forget, pumpkins are native to North America so it would be interesting to learn a little more about their nutritional value (organic) and how they grow.  We’ll make sure that these elements of the experience exist during next year’s pumpkin picking.  A perfect blend of education, family time, and fun on the farm.

One of our proud customers

One of our proud customers

Pumpkins retail for $3 (small – under soccer ball size) and $5 (medium and large).  At this time, we do not sell wholesale.  However, we have not ruled it out for next year as our current plan is to grow at least an acre of pumpkins.  For those of you planning on picking a pumpkin, please remember never to carry the pumpkin by its stem.  The weight of the pumpkin can cause the stem to break off, sending the pumpkin to be pureed instead of adorning your entry way.  In the spirit of making more pumpkins available to additional customers, I’ll be capping the number of pumpkins per person to no more than 3 for pumpkin picking.

Ol' Sir Howden

Ol’ Sir Howden

We are located at 29337 Route 134 Point La Nim, NB.  Look for an old barn and a green farmhouse on the south side (not the bay side) of the old road (Route 134).  The farm is situated between Methot Road on the east (Dalhousie way) and McNeish Bye Road (Dalhousie Junction way) on the west.

Guess Howdy's Weight

Guess Howdy’s Weight

Next year, we will be planting Howden, Tom Fox, and New England Pie pumpkins, which all turn orange.  We will also have white varieties like Polar Bear and Moon Shine, as well as miniature varieties like, Jack-be-little and baby bear.  Finally, for the sake of attracting customers we will also grow the Atlantic Giants and Big moose giant varieties.  It’s going to be an exciting year of pumpkin growing and picking.  Our seed will be sourced from either Veseys or Johnny’s Selected Seeds, depending on where organic seed can be sourced.  We look forward to having you to the farm next year, 2015, for a day of farm education, enjoyment, and entertainment,

White pumpkins

White pumpkins

More pictures to come for those of you who emailed or posted your Jack O’Lantern creations to the Facebook page.  The first five designs will make it onto the blog and our pumpkin picking page.

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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

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