Category Archives: Local Food

New turkeys…

The turkeys arrived today. It is so frustrating to open the box and see that all of them didn’t survive the journey and a couple more don’t look very strong. They will need lots of TLC the next few days. Turkeys this week, 150 chicks in three weeks – let the two-a-days and worrying begin!

20120822-075820.jpg

20120822-075834.jpg

To market, to market – get connected to your food!

We took our first hogs to the processor Thursday. It was very much bitter sweet for me, and not just due to the injuries I received in the battle to get them loaded. I had become attached to one of them – surprise, surprise. I enjoyed seeing them grow and learning about them. Pigs are intriguing animals with smarts and personality. But I understood from the beginning that we were raising food for ourselves and other people.

Except for the few tomato plants we raised and a small garden, I had become disconnected from my food. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I knew from my childhood experiences with my grandparents who had a small farm outside Springville, AL., meat was once a living, breathing animal. I knew that some farmer labored to bring the lettuce, tomatoes, onions and other produce to the market. But I had allowed myself to almost totally disconnect from exactly what goes into bringing that food to market. (don’t EVEN get me started on the regulatory purgatory that exists for farmers!) In just the nine months or so we’ve been working to raise food, I’ve learned so much. I have a great deal of respect for farmers who labor to bring us our food. Regardless of their methods, it’s hard work!

However, I must say that I have a new found admiration and sense of awe for those farmers who work to bring clean, natural food to the tables of their family and neighbors without chemicals and fancy equipment. To raise meat animals with respect and regard for their well being is honorable. To raise produce in ways that minimize the risk of contamination is hard, hard work. Their days are long, their financial reward is not going to make them rich, at least not in a financial sense. Matter of fact, most that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting still hold down off farm jobs just to pay the mortgage and make ends meet. Therefore, I find their motives to be pure and deeply rooted in their desire to make a difference in this world, both for the land, the animals and for their fellow man. I’m learning that many of these farmers are Godly people and have reverence for all that He has given us. I aspire for Porter Pond Farm to make its place among them, as they are the true stewards of the earth!

To my non-farming friends, next time you are in the market, think about what went into producing whatever it is you are buying. Remember that someone, somewhere put their blood, sweat and sometimes tears, into that product in order to get it to market! I encourage you to go out and buy local food products, get in your kitchen and cook something! Put at least some of your food dollars back into your local economy, and by that I don’t mean Walmart, Kroger or Publix. If you are one of my Alabama friends, go buy some Blount county tomatoes or Chilton county peaches. If you are one of my Mississippi or Tennessee friends, go buy some Ripley tomatoes, Nesbit blueberries or delta catfish. Wherever you are, go buy something local today. You will find it more flavorful and nutritious, I promise. If you need help finding local sources, check out the sites below. It’s time we all get connected with our food and support our local farmers!

Eat Wild
Local Harvest
Mississippi Market Maker
Poultry Direct To You

20120804-103239.jpg

Happy as a Pig In Slop!

For those of you who have been following us for a while, you might remember that we had our pigs in a pen until we could complete the fence around the woods through which we hope to rotate our animals. With the heat and a sidelining shoulder injury, the fence was not ever finished. We’ve kept Bacon, Pork Chop, Ham Hock and Petunia well fed and watered. We’ve been sure to put plenty of carbon in their pen each day, as well as making a place for a mud hole so they can stay cool. They have seemed mostly happy in their home, especially since they discovered “each other”. (that’s a post for another day 😮 )

But better late than never, we decided to secure the small paddock outside their pen for them to spend their remaining days with us. We put cow panels and a double strand of hot wire around and we were able to turn them loose today! They will have to get used to the hot wire, but they’re learning quickly. We are thinking this small paddock will be good for our young pigs in the future until they are ready to go in the large pasture. Here are some shots of them in their new home as well as pictures of the turkeys in their new paddock.

20120721-095917.jpg

20120721-095937.jpg

20120721-095943.jpg

20120721-095953.jpg

20120721-100010.jpg

20120721-100025.jpg

20120721-100018.jpg

20120721-100031.jpg

Trying to beat the heat

Man, oh, man is it hot! We’ve had triple digit temps for the last week. After losing two hens and a turkey, we decided we had to do something for the animals. We’ve moved the baby barred rocks and turkeys out of the brooder into chicken tractors in the shade. And we put up a shade structure on the back of the Eggmobile to give the layers some extra shade in the hot part of the day.

The pigs have been getting sprayed a couple times per day. They L-O-V-E it!

20120702-092643.jpg

20120702-092649.jpg

20120702-092657.jpg

We’ve had no rain since June 11. I sure hope the weather breaks soon!

20120702-093057.jpg

The mushroom inoculation is complete…

We’ve decided to add shiitake mushrooms to our crops. Are mushrooms considered a crop??? Anyway, we ordered the spores/spawn which came on small wooden plugs. You drill holes in the logs, insert the plug into the hole and then cover it with beeswax. This process is called inoculation. The logs are then stacked in the woods or an otherwise shady place. (see pictures below) Regular watering is necessary to keep them moist. We think it should take about six months to fully incubate. This should be interesting, as it’s a whole new glossary of terminology, which I’m sure I have and will misuse.

20120601-120928.jpg

20120601-120910.jpg

You can see the holes covered with the wax in this picture.

20120601-121208.jpg

Did you know…..

1. They have been used for medicinal purposes by the Chinese for over 6,000 years
2. They are considered a symbol of longevity throughout Asia
3. They support our immune system
4. They support good cardiovascular system health
5. They are a good source of B vitamins
6. They are not a vegetable, but actually a fungus with no roots, seeds, leaves or flowers.

For more info on these amazing little fungi and their health benefits, click

Chicken Processing 101……

Whew! What a day and what an experience. Before yesterday, the only time I ever tried to do anything with a chicken besides take it out of the package, none of the parts resembled anything you’ve ever seen. But yesterday, I learned all about the chicken from the inside out. It was sort of like science class, or at least that’s how I approached it. As a softie and a squeamish person, it helped. I could probably write a short novel about the day, but I will just hit the highlights for the sake of time. All the pictures are at the end.

The Process (You should probably skip to the next paragraph if you are squeamish.)

So here’s the basic process for those who have never seen it done so you can follow along. You put the chicken into the killing cone upside down and cut their main arteries. When they are upside down, they go into sort of a trance or something and it is mostly peaceful, for lack of a better term. Once drained, they go into the scalder which is a tank of hot water. The water needs to be maintained at the right temperature to loosen the feathers. Then they go into a plucker, which is a machine with little rubber fingers which pull the feathers from the bird. Next you remove all the unnecessary parts, inside and out. From there, they go into a huge cooling tank with lots of ice to get them to 40 degrees as quickly as possible. Then you bag and weigh them.

The Set-up and Equipment

We had all of our equipment under a tent with a screen all the way around. No issues with bugs or flies at all. The set up worked well, except we think we need to pour a concrete slab or maybe put down some gravel for the future. From an equipment standpoint, the plucker was good. The cones were fine. But that scalder and roto dunker left a lot to be desired in my opinion. The pilot light kept going out so we would lose water temperature. The root dunker couldn’t keep up with the plucker so we were standing around waiting on chickens to clean. I think the Featherman people are going to hear from us. Even being new to this, it should not have taken us from 9 until 4 to process the number of birds we had.

The Product

As first time broiler chicken farmers, we’ve been so consumed with daily care and keeping them alive and healthy, we hadn’t had much time to think about the end product. But the past few days, the little niggling thought about how good the product would be has been there – will they be big enough? I’m pleased to report that with 120 birds, we averaged just over 5 pounds per bird, with a few weighing in at a little over 6 pounds fully dressed. The goal is between 4 and 5 pounds, so we feel we did pretty good. The proof will be when we cook one tonight. I can’t wait!

Many thanks to our family and friends who came to help! We could not have done this without you! Having such a great team really made the work fun and the day go by quickly! I can’t wait for the next go around!

20120529-074650.jpg

20120529-074711.jpg

20120529-074720.jpg

20120529-074729.jpg

20120529-074804.jpg

We’re not in Kansas anymore!

Hello faithful followers! This has been quite a week to say the least so I’ll just jump right in with the highlights, starting with the raccoons.

Our son, son-in-law and grandkids came to help with the pig fence last weekend. We made great progress – WOO-HOO! We still have a ways to go, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel on that project. Sunday they had to cut down a hollow tree. As it was falling, they heard a screaming noise. There was a nest of baby raccoons in the tree. Mama was nowhere to be found and one of the babies didn’t make it, but two survived. Their eyes were not even open yet. Our son-in-law, animal lover that he is, took them home to try to save them. Here are the grand kids holding them.

20120505-074432.jpg

20120505-074443.jpg

20120505-074514.jpg

The broilers are doing well in the chicken tractors. We’ve got a pretty good routine established for the morning before work to move them. Then there is another round of work in the evenings when we get home. They are now almost five weeks old. The processing equipment arrived Thursday, so we are ready for our first processing experience.

20120505-074717.jpg

20120505-074731.jpg

The biggest excitement of the week came Wednesday night. We were riding across the levy to the barn when the Eggmobile came into view. It looked like it was leaning. We both did one of those head-tilted-sideways looks at it. When we got closer, we realized it was upside down! I watched on radar from work that afternoon as a storm moved through our home area, but I had no idea it had been that strong. The Eggmobile was sitting at just the right angle for the wind to lift it and flip it over.

20120505-075705.jpg

20120505-080003.jpg

It was surreal to raise the door from the bottom and look up through the floor.

20120505-080425.jpg

The doors were all closed when we found it, but there were hens inside. Some of these girls went for a wild ride. We unfortunately lost three hens and the day’s eggs with the exception of two. But I imagine it could have been much worse.

20120505-080619.jpg

We hooked the tractor to it and rolled it back over.

20120505-080722.jpg

20120505-080752.jpg

20120505-080801.jpg

20120505-080809.jpg

20120505-080821.jpg

20120505-080831.jpg

One of the window doors broke off and the gutter is smashed. But other than that, it’s sturdy. We’ve since put some temporary braces on it to keep it from happening again.

20120505-081025.jpg

Last but not least, and certainly well timed, one of our young hens is starting to lay. We found this tiny little egg Thursday night.

20120505-082926.jpg

20120505-082936.jpg

Time to get busy. Those chores wont do themselves. Everyone have a great weekend!

Grass at last!!!

After three and a half weeks of tender loving care in the brooder, our remaining broiler chicks are on pasture! Of the 155 we started with, we have 136 left, plus 10 of the 26 turkeys. ( the hatchery is replacing a number of the lost turkeys because the loss was in the first 72 hours) It’s normal to lose a few and I’m guessing since this is our first time with broilers, our loss rate would be a bit higher than normal. But “The Tragedy” that ensued Thursday resulted in the loss of 10 babies and a sleepless night for us.

Everything was fine Thursday morning. But when went went to check on them Thursday night, we found the dead babies. The bell waterers were too low to the ground and the chicks had kicked bedding up in the trays which weighed them down. This caused them to shut off so no water was flowing in. With a daytime high temp of 85 degrees, the chicks became over heated and some unfortunately perished. We took the ones that were lethargic, which was many of them, and helped them get to water. We propped both brooder doors up to get more air flowing. Within a couple of hours, they were better. We stapled chicken wire across the opening and left the door propped all night. They went on grass Friday and today they look wonderful!

20120428-081920.jpg

20120428-081928.jpg

20120428-081937.jpg

20120428-081950.jpg

20120428-081957.jpg

20120428-082029.jpg

20120428-082044.jpg

We definitely will need to go back to the drawing board with our brooder and tweak it a bit more. The bedding got too hot even without the light bulb. And moisture seemed to come from the ground which made it too humid in there. We’ll have about a month to work on it before our next batch of babies arrive.

What a deal!

We are all about using what we can find for our projects here on the farm and these brooders are no different. We used as much scrap wood as we could. We also look for paint at the big box stores which has been returned to get paint to protect our wood projects. Last week we found a 5 gallon bucket of paint at Lowe’s for $25! What a deal! And the chickens don’t really care if it’s pink, do they?!?

20120418-065518.jpg

The good news is that we are now ready for our quail to move in and for the new egg layers next month. Now back to that pig fence!

This is what chickens do to ant hills….

This was a pretty large ant mound when we first put the chickens on the pasture. Within 4 or 5 days, this is what it looked like. I thought it was cool and decided to share.

20120415-213305.jpg

20120415-213318.jpg

20120415-213330.jpg