Beautiful sunset on the farm. Every single day something reminds me of how blessed I am. Thankful and content.
Last Thursday, a very important package arrived in the mail.... 1500 ladybugs for the garden. Ladybugs keep aphids under control and everybody knows aphids are bad news!! The ladies arrived five days sooner than I anticipated and boy, was I ever excited!! I had to wait until dusk to release them so I carefully placed the bag in my bedroom to wait.
At 8:30pm, I took the bag of Ladies out to the garden. I sprayed the pea plants with water and cut the bag open.
The Ladies began their exodus. How cool to see them emerge from the bag in waves!
They were on the move but they were in no hurry. I reluctantly stepped back and retired to the cottage to allow the Ladies some breathing room.
The next morning I arose bright and early and went right out to the field. What I found was some very happy Ladies and a few girls still hanging around in their little shelter they arrived in.
So I placed them in a pea plant and left them to find their way out. Later that day, they all had found their new home and what a joy it was to see them working hard!!
Everyday, when I'm in the field, I see some of the Ladies and it makes me smile. They are doing what they do and they do a good job!
Pastured eggs are better!
Our hens will be strutting their stuff all day long in our pastures at the farm in Long Valley, NJ. They will also have the unique distinction of calling a former full-sized school bus their crash pad for the evenings!
I am not sure exactly when I will get the bus over to the farm, but I think it should be by mid-July. I plan on retro-fitting the inside with one wall of roll-away nesting boxes, a row of 5-over-5's that will accommodate 200-250 laying hens! Remember, they only sleep in the bus and lay eggs, then they get to roam free in the pasture helping us with a natural cycle of fertilization that will improve the grasses for the cows and sheep on each successive grazing rotation. The lucky ladies will also have an all you can eat buffet of bugs, worms and grasses which will benefit them and will also serve as natural insect management!
This is how it should be.... thanks to Joel Salatin for the ideas and thank you Susan for the dream.
I hope all our friends in the Long Valley area will stop at our stand for these world class eggs which should be ready in the fall. Our delicious eggs will also be available to our great farmer's market customers in Oradell, Boonton and Montclair, NJ.
Thanks to Steve MacLean at Heritage Valley and Jim Totten, owner of Totten Family Farm for giving us a chance. To see our farm stand hours and get more info on Heritage Valley products visit www.HeritageValleyNJ.com , or like us on FaceBook, #HeritageValleyNJ
Thanks to John Lecke bus company and Uncle Jules for helping out on our Eggs-cellent Farming adventure!
Some important information on Pastured Eggs and why they should be in your diet:
TAKE OUR EGG POLL BELOW
It's been more than a couple of days since I've last written. Everyday I have thought I would sit down and pour my thoughts out and everyday I find myself busy and rolling with the punches. Everyday, when the sun sets, I find myself dirt tired.
Whether I spent the day working a farmer's market, spreading manure in the vegetable field, helping wrangle pigs or putting more plants in the ground. I'm so tired at the end of the day, that when I sit too still for too long, I go out like a light. When I fall asleep....I sleep hard and I sleep deep. When I wake up in the morning, I start all over again.
I love life on the farm. It's long hours and lots of hard work but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Today Susan and I were at the Oradell, NJ Farmer's Market and a good friend came out to visit us. He asked me, " so what have you learned from farming so far?"
I thought for a second and laughed and said..."whatever your daily ToDo List is when you wake up, you better be prepared to scrap it and start all over again and switch direction on a dime.
I think having a list is great, but the ability to adapt is most important. Sometimes things happen.... often beyond our control. Maybe the plants are cooking in the greenhouse and really need to be in the field, but then a calf gets under the wires and is roaming about.... so you turn the fan on, spray some water, take care of the calf situation and hope that what you have done is enough to buy a little more time until things go a little more in your favor.
I think as humans, it is in our nature to try to control things, we even convince ourselves we can and do control things, but in the end we only control our reactions to what happens.... and stuff does happen!
So what I have learned so far is to try to be pro-active, also to be adaptive to the stuff that inevitably happens while farming (or in life). The weather dictates your farm life, and we do not control the weather, or the calf that decides the grass is greener across the wire. But I wake up and do it again each day, and I am loving it.
To boil it down, farming is about hope. Faith in tomorrow. When the vegetable sprout breaks through the ground and you discover it the next morning your work and your faith is rewarded and your hope is fulfilled.
Work. Adapt. Hope and Faith.
That is farming
About a week ago, I noticed two birds acting erratically in the vegetable field. They seemed to be working as a team to try to keep me away from something. Of course my curiosity was piqued and I began searching for a nest. Sure enough, right smack in the middle of a walking area, there was a lone little speckled egg on the ground. All by itself...no nest, no protection, save for crazy mama and daddy. I did my best to avoid the area as they squawked and ran in circles extending one wing as if they were injured.
I finished my work that day and we did a little internet research to find they are Killdeer. Killdeer are actually a shore bird but often are found on golf courses, parking lots, lawns and obviously, vegetable fields. They lay their eggs on the ground and make the nest almost as an afterthought. They protect the eggs as a team, running around with one wing out, squatting low to the ground, fluffing their orange tail feathers, chirping quite loudly and as a last resort....charging whoever or whatever appears to be threatening the nest.
The next day I was back in the field and they were at it again. I searched for the egg so I could avoid it. I walked all over where I remembered it to be and couldn't find it! Finally, I looked down and less than 24 inches from my feet was not one, but THREE little eggs. And there was a nest around them!!! All this time of searching for the nest, Mama and Daddy were pitching a fit!! I gasped at how close I came and split!
Well, a few days passed and yesterday I was out in the field again, dropping plants in the ground. This time Mama and Daddy Killdeer were a little louder, a little more aggressive. I also was spending a lot more time closer to the nest. I was putting squash plants in the ground and noticed FOUR pretty little speckled eggs. I was busy with my head down and all of a sudden Mama flew right at me!! ATTACK!!! I jumped up and ran in the opposite direction.
I thought, NOW what am I gonna do? I looked around and saw quite a few sticks that were close to the same size and length. I gathered as many as I could and with watchful eyes approached the eggs. Quickly, I pushed the sticks into the ground in a large circle around the nest. The result is a little fence like perimeter so I can easily spot the "forbidden zone". Strangely enough, they seemed a bit calmer after I marked the spot.
I'm heading back to the field today for more planting. Fortunately, I will be moving further away from the nest but will still be on high alert. And since the eggs will be there for about a month before they hatch and then awhile before the chicks can fly on their own....I will be ducking and weaving to avoid a Killdeer Dive bomb attack!!
Every morning I wake up, fix myself a cup of coffee and head out to spend a little time with these guys. They arrived at the farm about three weeks ago and when they got here, they were less than half this size. They have voracious appetites and are thirsty little devils! They raise quite a ruckus when they are ready for more food and try their darnedest to escape the brooder.
They are Heritage breed turkeys. They are a mixed group of Narragansetts, Royal Palms, Spanish Blacks and Bronzes. Right now they are called poults. Once they get a little older, males are called jakes and females are called jennys. A mature female is a hen and a mature male is a tom. They are quite majestic when they prance and preen, showing off their strut, but right now they look pretty goofy fanning out little two inch long tail feathers. It is quite a spectacle for sure!!
It's always good to start each day on the farm with a plan, a list of jobs and tasks to be completed by sundown. Of course, not everything on the list gets done but at least you have an agenda.
It's even better to have the ability to adapt to the moment the list goes out the window and you are loading up a broken down atv to drop at the mechanic and then heading 87 miles down the Shore to pick up walk-in freezer parts.
And even better than THAT, is the ability to grin and bear it and make the best of it.
As I'm bent over the tomato plants in the greenhouse, I hear a rumble in the distance. I finish up watering and head to the house to see the dark clouds moving in. The wind has picked up and it's a good 10 degrees cooler in a matter of minutes. I fasten the screen door so the wind doesn't grab it and the drops begin to hammer onto the metal roof of the mechanic shed. At first it is a steady shower then it begins to rain sideways. This lasts all of eight minutes or so. Then it is over. Time to head out to the field.
Susan Bates & Jeff Wallace both left the corporate world to get dirt under their fingernails trying to find a better way. Follow their journey as they learn to farm.