Category: Farm

Pet Chickens? You bet.

About this time last year I sent my friend Mary Beth home with 2 dozen hatching eggs and one of the roosters from the group made into Cooking Light’s Fun issue and not as an entrée! And if you are considering a backyard flock, but haven’t taken the plunge yet pick up a copy of this Cooking Light and read Mary Beth’s article. You can get a sneak peek here.

The top dog at Moss Mountain Farm is not a dog at all but a rooster named Amos. Amos is a Buff Orpington you’ll find strutting around the front lawn with his entourage. I like to think of them as the welcoming committee.

Amos is one of my favorite characters at the farm. I would even go so far as to say he’s a pet, which will not come as a surprise to those who have raised chickens. Their plucky personalities can be very endearing. In fact, some folks treat their poultry with as much love and devotion as the family dog.

Thanks to products like chicken diapers birds can live indoors and special leashes allow Foghorn Leghorn to join his person on a stroll around the neighborhood. I even hear tell of chickens wearing sweaters and scarves to protect them from the cold.

Now, I adore the poultry at the farm, but I think we are all better off not being roommates. And Amos probably prefers life in the buff to wearing anything that would cover his beautiful feathers.

What about you? How do you pamper your chickens?

A Treat Toy for Chickens

The girls love this treat ball from Manna Pro.

How do you pamper your pet chickens? The Chicken Chat community weighs in.

I asked members of the Chicken Chat community to share pictures of their beloved roos and hens. Click on an image to enlarge and read about the chickens.

Ohio National Poultry Show

I first fell in love with poultry when I was a kid and my mom was my biggest supporter. Mom would load the station wagon down with birds and off we’d go to the poultry show with my little brother in tow. She was kind of like a pageant mom without the sequins and she facilitated a passion that has never faded. That’s why it’s important to me to do the same for other youngsters who have been bitten by the poultry bug.

Poultry shows are a fun way to encourage a child’s interest in poultry. It’s a great venue for learning solid breeding practices, discovering heritage breeds and finding a community of peers. Over 100 years, let’s them compare their birds and breeding practices with others. It’s like an art critique allowing breeders to get insights from more experienced breeders and learn how to improve their birds.

I recently returned from The Ohio National in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an event that is considered the Westminster of poultry shows where breeders show the best of the best. This year there were close to 6,000 entries including chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and even pigeons.

Frizzle Cochin

White Crested Black Polish

White Leghorn

White Crested Black Polish

Tobunt Polish

Blue Ameraucana

Dark Brown Leghorn

Dark Brahma

I was at the Ohio National representing the Heritage Poultry Conservancy. The Conservancy gives prize money for winners in youth competitions.

Good to Know

The American Standard of Perfection is the poultry bible for poultry judges and entrants alike. It explains how each breed and variety should look from the angle of their tail feathers to the color of their beaks. It’s a great gift for young poultry enthusiasts. You can purchase the latest edition of the American Standard of Perfection from the American Poultry Association.

 

News from Moss Mountain Farm

Close to 98 percent of U.S. farms are family owned.Arkansas farmers aren’t the only people talking about soybeans in spring. For the second year in a row we’ve held two events at the Moss Mountain Farm Garden Home to help spread the word about the importance of agriculture and soybean farming in my home state. Both events were born out of my partnership with the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board.

Soybean University
First up on the calendar was Soybean University. Students from the Brinkley FFA and Arkansas 4-H visited the farm to learn about careers in agriculture and soybean farming.

More than 30 students attended.

Rhonda Carroll lives on a soybean farm with her husband Jim. She showed the kids how to make soy milk with raw beans. If you don’t have soybeans growing outside your back door like Rhonda you can purchase them from a feed store, a health food store or online.

Students then test tasted soy milk with soy nut cookies. Get the recipe.

We walked up to Poultryville to discuss the importance of soy in animal feed.

Moose was in heaven.

As were Smudge and Squeak.

Ben Thrash, a student at the University of Arkansas is an Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board Fellowship recipient. He spoke with students about careers in agriculture, the impact of agriculture in Arkansas and his background as part of a farm family from Conway, AR.

Students planted Arkansas Kirksey Edamame seeds, which were developed as a part of an ASPB research project and are now grown throughout the river valley region of Arkansas.

We ended the day with an ice cream social featuring soy ice cream and candy-coated soy nuts.

Bean2Blog
Mid-May the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and I put together a day of workshops focusing one of our state’s most valuable assets – the soybean. All the attendees were Arkansas women bloggers so we got to celebrate a talented group of women too.

The bloggers heard from West Higginbotham, Vice Chairman of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and an Arkansas farmer, about soybean uses and farming life.

Tamara won the Bean2Blog ticket giveaway on Facebook and arrived at the event looking for ideas for the farm she recently purchased. I think the highlight of the day was holding Amos.

Once again Moose was the center of attention.

Lockstars was on hand again this year to demonstrate how to make soy candles.

I demonstrated how to make edamame hummus.

We asked each of the bloggers to come up with a new catch word for soy. Soy-licious, soy-tisfying, soy-percalifragilisticexpialidocious, soy-ragious, soy-lovely, soy-izzle, and soy-tastic are just a few of the creative words they suggested.

During a round table discussion we got to learn from the bloggers about their industry and receive feedback about the day’s events.

Everyone took home edamame seeds to plant.

The 2013 Bean2Blog group!

Here’s a list of the participating bloggers with links to their blogs.

Clever Chicken Coops

For more information on raising chickens read my column in this month’s AY magazine.

If there is one thing that people know about me, it’s that I love chickens! Buff Orpingtons, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Black New Jersey Giants, I couldn’t pick a favorite if I tried. It’s important to have safe and stable housing for our feathered friends and there are so many alternatives to the standard chicken coop. Let’s take a look.

Here is a custom chicken coop that I built. The design of the coop makes it a pleasure to look at while providing a great home for my friends.

Beautiful and fully functional!

You never know when your environment may change; here is a mobile chicken coop I have at the Garden Home Retreat that can go just about anywhere because it is built on a trailer.

Take your coop with you wherever you go!

Here is one of my favorite chicken coops, the Chicken Tractor. It weeds and fertilizes your garden at the same time while providing great housing for your chickens.

This chicken tractor serves several important needs around the farm or garden.

I saw this coop at my friend Jerusalem’s (JollyGoodeGal.com) house. Her husband made it from old doors and windows.

Use your imagination! A chicken coop can also be a focal point in your garden

I hope these chicken coops inspire some great ideas for your own homes and gardens! For more information on unique chicken coops, visit my website at www.pallensmith.com.

Hobby Farm Dreaming

I was delighted to receive a copy of Julia Rothman’s book Farm Anatomy, The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life from Storey Publishing. You may be familiar with Julia’s illustrations, wall papers, notecards and pattern designs. She has been featured on the blog Design Sponge (DesignSponge.com) and in magazines such as O At Home, ReadyMade, and Domino.

This book is right up my alley. Not only does the subject matter interest me, but it’s a visual treat. Whether she’s discussing plants to use for natural dye or how to plow a field, Julia relies on illustrations with just a bit of text to convey the information. This makes otherwise complicated topics pretty darn easy to understand. Makes me wonder why other books aren’t written this way.

Of course, the clincher for me is the spread on heritage turkey breeds. How can I not love a book that includes heritage turkey breeds?

So how about a copy of Farm Anatomy for your library? Post a comment about what you would raise on a farm for a chance to win Farm Anatomy. I’ll pick a winner Monday December 12, 2011.*

Check out more of Julia’s illustrations online at
http://juliarothman.com/ & read her book blog at http://www.book-by-its-cover.com/

Adventures of Smudge and Squeak: The Vet!

This summer, Smudge and Squeak went on a series of field trips to the vet for their puppy shots. It’s a big job to choose the right vet for your furry friends, but after getting several recommendations for one doctor and then seeing how he got along with Smudge and Squeak, I knew we had found the right guy for the job!

The girls seemed pretty content to head towards the big city for an afternoon.

But, as puppies will do, they dug their heels in and didn’t want to head inside for their second checkup. It took a little pleading…

…and a little bribing.

…but eventually we got them inside

And once we got them inside, we started to learn a lot about them and their health.

Because they’re outside puppies, we have to worry about things like biting fleas and gnats (their ears have already been attacked) and heart worms. Heart worms are spread by mosquitoes, and an Arkansas summer produces more than its fair share of mosquitoes.

Being surrounded by other animals means they come in contact with a lot of germs, so we gave them their last vaccination for parasites.

We also want to make sure we prevent distemper virus from growing, so we took a little medicine back to the farm with us. I don’t know how the ladies will like that…

Even so, I was proud to see that they’re growing fast and look healthy on all fronts- Smudge weighed in at 38 pounds, and Squeak took the lead at 41 pounds.

When we come back in 4 weeks for rabies I bet they’ll weigh 70!

Whatever they weigh, I hope they remain good little patients and stay healthy and happy!

American Farmer: Community Supported Agriculture

When I was growing up, it wasn’t unusual to know where your food came from. I don’t mean which grocery store or restaurant- I’m talking about food that went from the ground onto your dinner table, I’m talking about farms and farmers, gardens and gardeners. I’ve spent most of my life on a farm, but I know that this isn’t the reality for most Americans.

My social media coordinator Anna Claire really cares about food systems- in fact, that’s one of the reasons we get along best. But she didn’t grow up on a farm, in fact she just started gardening this year. During one of our discussions I suggested she take advantage of a local resource – Heifer Ranch, a division of Heifer International. Located just outside of town, it’s a great place to learn about community supported agriculture and pick up a few pointers for her garden. I thought you might be interested in hearing about it too.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a combination of knowing your farmer, growing your own, and going to a farmer’s market… all in one. At its most basic level, a CSA allows a farmer to offer a certain number of “shares” to the public and in return for buying that share, shareholders receive a box of vegetables (or flowers, eggs, bread, or whatever else was produced at the farm that week) each week throughout the farming season.

The model has taken hold across the nation- tens of thousands of families hold shares in CSAs and in some areas there aren’t enough farms to support the demand. It just so happens that Heifer Ranch has a one acre vegetable garden that serves a CSA of about 60 members that each pay $350 a season, or about $20 a week for a basket of approximately 10 items. Some weeks you’ll get more – when Anna Claire visited the CSA drop-off, shareholders were getting 12 items and a $40 value- and some weeks you’ll get less. But each week you know that you’re getting fresh, typically organic produce because you know your farmer and you know your farm.

And that’s not the only advantage- because you receive only fruits and vegetables that are in season, you get exposed to new vegetables and ways of cooking. And the farmer benefits just as much as the consumer – instead of spending a couple of days a week driving to and sitting at a market just hoping that someone will stop in and buy something, they spend time marketing their food earlier in the season so that when the longer days in the field begin, they don’t have to worry about cash flow because the food is already purchased. Therefore, you’re supporting local business, too.

On the flip side, there is a sense of “shared risk” when it comes to CSAs. When a shareholder buys in, they’re agreeing to accept whatever food is offered. Last year, the Heifer CSA had a tough spell when a flash flood left them cabbage-less after months of tending the garden. CSA baskets for consumers were lighter for the next couple of weeks. This year, there seems to be an endless supply of broccoli, so consumers may be getting more of one thing than they like. But there is a sense of community between the members and the farmers that springs from that shared risk.

Heifer International is a global non-profit that I plan to write more about in the future, but the Ranch itself is what I find most fascinating. The average age of American farmers is 57, but to visit Heifer Ranch it’s easy to see that the face of agriculture is changing. A young man named Ryan heads up the CSA and has two full-time volunteers, Brittany and Kenny. They both are giving a year of unpaid service to learn – and teach – about farming. One of the main projects at the Ranch is to offer sustainable agriculture training to farmers from impoverished areas in the US. Right now, the focus is on Hughes, a one-diner town in the Arkansas Delta. The practices that Heifer is teaching this community were learned and perfected on the Ranch.

Another major task involves teaching young students about food and farming. Groups of students on field trips or summer programs will visit the farm almost every day and part of their visit gets the students’ hands busy harvesting beans or other easy-to-pick items. While the extra help is valued, Brittany, Kenny and Ryan also get the chance to share their farming experiences and teach an even younger generation about knowing where their food comes from. For the rest of their day, Brittany, Kenny and Ryan spend long days in the hot Arkansas summers working to produce healthy crops for the CSA and learn enough to run their own farms, and maybe CSAs, someday soon.

Half of Heifer’s shareholders are new this year, so it’s likely that they’re learning about or getting involved with a CSA for the first time. One new share holder got involved because a close friend swore by it, and now looks forward to trying a new recipe with seasonal vegetables each week. Another woman loves the convenience of the CSA, but also loves that she knows her farmers and is supporting a good cause. It may not be the best option for everyone, but I think a CSA is a great way to support a local food culture and eat well throughout the year.

American Farmer – Soybeans

One benefit of the increasing interest in where our food comes from is the resurgence of the American farmer. Invisible through much of the 20th century, this important player in our history is making a comeback. I say hoorah! There’s a lot we can learn from our farmers.

I am proud to be part of this country’s agricultural heritage. My family has been farming in America since the 1690s and my childhood memories of farm life are reflected in what I’ve created at the Moss Mountain Farm Garden Home. Farming culture taught me about the importance of family and community ties and stewardship of the land. I was recently reminded of this while attending the spring livestock show in Little Rock.

In Arkansas we have close to 50,000 farms and 13.8 million acres of farmland*. There aren’t many degrees of separation between the people and farming here. Our three “king crops” are rice, cotton and soybeans. While rice is still our number one producer, soybeans hold their own. Almost 50% of our cropland is planted with soybeans, which contributes a billion dollars to our economy annually.

Soybeans are a relatively new crop for Arkansas. Early in the 20th century they were planted as a forage crop plus soybeans replenish nitrogen to the soil. Thanks to George Washington Carver, he discovered the value of soybean protein and soybean oil so then planting soybeans became more popular all over the U.S. However, it wasn’t until after WW II that farmers here started taking them more seriously. The attraction? Soybeans are a low risk crop with a good return. They grow well without irrigation; are a useful rotation crop that adds nitrogen back to the soil; and don’t require as much fertilizer as rice or cotton.

Right now we’re in the middle of soybean planting season in Arkansas – mid-April through the end of June. On a typical day farmers get out in the fields right after sunrise and come back in after 7 p.m. It’s a 12 hour a day, 6 days a week job during planting season. I don’t envy them the work. How about you?

As with any crop, timing the planting is important. Soybeans are day length sensitive. As soon as the required hours of darkness are reached the plants will begin to bloom. You can almost set your clock by it. Sow too late and the plants will be too spindly to support the blooms.

Back in the day farmers planted ‘Larado’ and ‘Jupiter’ soybeans. Today ‘Maturity Group 4′ soybeans are the norm. The name isn’t as fun, but they produce more with less water and pesticides.

Throughout the fall farmers will be out in the fields harvesting. Soybeans are allowed to dry on the plant before harvest. Seed fields are left longer so the beans can go through cool autumn temperatures.

The next time you cook with vegetable oil or apply lip balm, think about the guy or gal who sowed the seed that grew into the plant that produced the soybean that made that product possible.

Talk Like a Soybean Farmer

Dry Land Acreage – Fields without irrigation. Soybeans are better suited for dry land acreage than rice and cotton.

Maturity Group – Based on latitudinal lines across the U.S., maturity groups indicate with a soybean will flower. The lower the group number (i.e. maturity group 4) the sooner the beans are harvested.

Plant Behind – A crop that follows another when rotating crops. Farmers plant soybeans behind rice and cotton because soybeans add nitrogen to the soil and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

Seed Field – Soybean crops planted for seed production. Usually planted later in the year so the beans can experience the colder fall temperatures.

*http://www.agclassroom.org/

The Chicks are Hanging Out

Spring is the season of adorable out at the farm. This week the chicks get first prize for cuteness. They are about 4 days old and starting to show some sass. Jersey Giant, Buff Orpington, Dorking, Wyandotte and New Hampshire are the breeds we’ve hatched.

These pictures beg for captions don’t you think? Well, the folks in the office sure thought so and spent a good deal of time emailing choice chick words; some with visual aids. Check out their suggestions on our Purina Chicken Chat Facebook page.