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.

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

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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!

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New baby chicks!

We got our new baby egg layers today along with our replacement turkeys!

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Problem solved…..

No, we didn’t give up yet – I just haven’t had time to post. And my reader hasn’t been working consistently so it’s been hard to read much as well. But, here is an update….

We’ve had problems with the broilers having enough food and water on days we both work. We’ve come up with a double bucket solution for the water. We t’d them off so now they have 10 gallons in the morning and it lasts longer than we need it to.

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They had also been running out of food with just one feeder. So we fabricated our own feeders that are at least twice as deep. Problem solved!

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Our chickens and turkeys are looking really good.

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We will be processing for the first time Monday. We are SO looking forward to seeing and tasting the fruits of our labor!

If its not one thing it’s another!

We went to the barn the other night to feed and found it “flooded”, or at least that was the word we used. So the barn wasn’t really quite flooded, but the automatic waterer in the quail coop was leaking, soaked the ground and running out into the main part of the barn. Then we had a predator to get a few of our broilers. There was just enough of a hole in the ground for them to squeeze between the bottom rail and the ground. We moved it around and left some distinct scents around it. So far so good. Monday we found a nearly drowned turkey and a chicken in about the same shape. We put them in the quail pool, which we now call the infirmary. The turkey survived – the chicken did not. Last night we left the garage door open by mistake. This morning, there were cats in there and no baby quail. Thank goodness it was only a small hatch. This has all been since Saturday!

Rosanne Rosanna Danna comes to mind a lot lately! For you younger folks, she was one of Gilda Radner’s characters on Saturday Night Live back in the 70’s. One of her tag lines was “if it’s not one thing it’s another – I mean its always something!” I’m thinking she must have been a farmer at some point because truly if it’s not one thing it’s another!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

A great piece about a very important topic.

Two Barn Farm

I’m very proud to introduce a Guest Blogger writing an important/must-read piece concerning GMO’s. It’s a fantastic article that could also be titled; Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about GMO’s. Please share with others and leave your comments and questions below, Chris will answer them…..Take it away Mr. Vogliano:

My name is Chris Vogliano and I am currently studying nutrition and dietetics at Kent State University in their Master’s Program.  I am conducting my thesis study on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms related to Dietitian’s knowledge and perception of them.  According to previous research, the public trusts dietitian’s to relay current and scientific information on this controversial topic.  However, as I hope to prove in my research, there is a significant knowledge gap in the perception of what dietitian’s know versus the knowledge they actually hold.

I chose this topic because genetically modified foods is personal and strikes…

View original post 860 more words

If only cats were a cash crop!

As I look around, I was thinking if only cats were a cash crop, I could retire! I’ve got a bumper crop right now!

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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!

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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?!?

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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!