We have only been on our new farm for
approximately 5 months now, we have accomplished quite a lot in this short amount of time! We purchased some laying Buff chicks, two out of the lot ended up being roosters, not too bad. One will be re-homed.
We built a chicken house back in late June.
The chickens were temporarily contained until we finished the parameter fencing. They are FREE now!
These laying birds will live up on this end of the property permanently to cruise under our heritage apple tree orchard that is being planted in the month March 2017. We have a heritage winesap apple tree that we are working to preserve with both seed and grafting.
Happy free roaming Chickens!
We will be adding 25 mixed laying breed chicks (my list of breeds is in an earlier blog) in early Spring that will go down in the bottom pasture to free roam for both insect control and egg production.
I am encouraging the growth of fungi, microbes, protozoa and tons more healthy bacteria in my compost piles! I have been diligently working on my no till beds and market garden fields.
The semi-dwarf Peach trees were planted in late June, they have done exceptionally well and have grown A LOT since planted!
My mulch piles are looking very healthy!
The dairy goat permanent fencing for rotational grazing is in place and they have been rotated 3 times already! They have constant, clean pasture and housing. I am growing fodder for all of the livestock and chickens this winter, it is packed full of nutrients that they really enjoy through the winter months along with their free grazing.
I am currently working on the NO-TILL market garden field, building soil for Spring.
Around 700 gourmet garlic bulbs have been planted for the 2017 harvest! I was a little late getting them in, but they should do fine. We are almost finished with the main cabin remodel. The guest cabin was completed. More photos and posts coming soon!
O.K., you can't live in the South and not eat biscuits!!! Here is a healthy (not)! biscuit recipe with a twist~ organic ingredients...
BTW, I LOVE these biscuits!!
Super easy and deliciously healthier biscuits
Experiment with whole grains too!
1 1/2 Cups Organic self-rising flour
3/4 Cups Organic Milk
2 Heaping Tbsp. Organic Mayonnaise
pinch of Sea Salt to taste
Mix and drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake at 450 Degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden! YUMMY!!
Here at Orchard Creek farm we implement permaculture design for a healthy and balanced ecosystem. To achieve our goals of healthy, balanced soils our hand tool of choice for our no-till farm is the broadfork. This tool is a hand tool used to break up and aerate the top soil without turning it under. A rototiller for example destroys the beneficial microbes and living organisms by tearing up and turning the soil over with blades. These organisms live with, in and between the soil particles. The pH balance, moisture content and soil pore size create different habitats for these living organisms, known as the "soil food web". This "soil food web" is made up of a multitude of living organisms; earthworms, bacteria, fungi, arthropods, nematodes and protozoa. Basically all soil life that can be eaten and broken down, makes up the "soil food web" cycle.
One of the best known good fungi for example is Mycorrhizae . We encourage the healthy growth of mycorrhizae. The broadfork is an excellent tool to use that will not destroy what we are trying to maintain, it also helps to suppress weed seeds that lay dormant under the soil, when rototilled these weed seeds come to the surface, a broadfork will keep the majority of the weed seeds dormant by not allowing them to come to the surface.
The broadfork uses your body to operate, and it is a workout like no other! I personally would much rather have the broadfork body workout and save my living soil than get vibrated to death and destroy my living soil with a machine.
Furthermore we spend no money for fuel or machine maintenance, which is another sustainable plus.
To maximize the roots and health of your plants and trees the soil needs to be aerated for nutrient and water penetration.
We can't wait till Spring to use the mighty broadfork again!.
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
All Veggies available from our farm in 2017.
Taste The Difference!!
Butternut Squash (6 Cups Cubed)
¼ C. Chopped Onions
¼ C. Chopped Celery
2 Cloves of Garlic
4 TBSP Real Butter
4 C. Chicken Stock (use from FRESH chicken from one of our CSA participating farms) :) So Delicious!
3 C. Water
2- 8 oz. Packages of Cream Cheese
Sea Salt and Pepper to Taste
Optional: Serve with a garden salad and crusty warm bread!
Picture above of our hogs in NE AZ. They foraged pinon pine nuts, limited grass, roots and grubs.
When I was growing up on our farm we always had pigs. The pig is my Dad's favorite farm animal, second to our cattle and at one time he ran between 30-40 hogs on 80 acres.
I started showing pigs in 4-H when I was 10 years old.
Pigs are very intelligent and inquisitive animals, they can actually be trained fairly easy to sit for a treat!
We have raised pigs both in large pens, rotated hot wire pastures and in the woods. There is no question in my mind after 35 plus years of caring for pigs, that the later is the only way to raise pigs.
Raising pigs in woodlots or on pasture is not a new concept. Hogs were being raised this way long before commercial, cemented floor confinement barns, farrowing crates and stinky unhealthy manure lagoons ever existed.
The key to raising these intelligent animals in the woods or on pasture is having enough space for intense rotation. One must be willing to move the hogs every 3 days, to achieve a healthy soil ecology.
The thicker and taller the forage, the more resilient the recovery of vegetation. One of my passions and goals on our farm is to ALWAYS balance with nature. Pigs will root and tear up the soil and can easily destroy trees by ripping out their roots, so erosion control is paramount when rotating hogs on either woodlots or pasture. Here in NE TN our pigs thrive on woodlots of acorns, black walnuts, blackberries and numerous other plant species and grubs in the forest. A good understanding of forest ecology and or pasture stands and the way nature heals itself and protects itself from the abuse a hog can have on them is highly suggested before venturing into raising hogs in this way. They can create a barren and ugly landscape with detrimental effects on other wildlife if not managed correctly. We supplement our hogs with healthy, NON-GMO grains, whey, milk, fruits and peas (legumes), as an added protection to soil health and for the over all health and nutrition that hogs require.
We plant food forests of natural food stuffs as well. A good foundation in hog nutrition requirements is recommended before mixing your own livestock feeds as well.
Raising pigs in open pastures or on woodlots keep the pigs super clean, pigs are very clean animals if given a chance with enough space. We take the stress off the animals with excellent nutrition and lots of space to root, stretch and get plenty of exercise, the pigs reward us with a tasty return. Some folks will ask us, "how can you eat something you raise"? My answer; "Wouldn't you rather know what your animal actually ate, how it lived and how it was treated?" The meat purchased in the typical store, (Unless labeled) has been raised in tight confinement for fast growth to make the fastest dollar, with no regard for the animals well being, pumped full of antibiotics because of the conditions they are kept in, they are fed cheap GMO corn and silage and given growth hormones. So with all that said, I would much rather have clean, happy, healthy pigs that live a good life and that don't require all of the hormones, antibiotics and GMO feeds to make a quick profit. We are interested in biologically healthy food that is grown naturally and slowly for the health of the animals and the humans consuming. Our breeding stock will live longer lives and are quite spoiled. They are given affectionate names and live out long lives with us. We do not breed them constantly either! We are not a pig mill. :)
We breed selectively for long living, healthy swine that have the ability to graze with shorter snouts.
Ecclesiastes chapter 3:1-2
Well here we are at that time of year already! The garden production has been slowly declining and we know the time is nearing to do the sometimes dreaded chore of cleaning out the garden areas and/or raised beds. I personally enjoy every aspect of farming and gardening! I am truly grateful to have reaped the rewards all season and eaten and shared the bounty of our blessings with others.
There is always a silver lining if we choose to see it!
O.k., enough pep talk! Lets get down to the business of cleaning out the gardens.
The very first thing I do at this time of year is to thoroughly check all plants for die back. Plants die back slowly at different rates, so cutting them out should be a gradual process to get the most out of the season. For example, we are still harvesting tomatoes, and the pumpkins are slowly ripening a few at a time and will continue to do so into October. So as you determine your individual needs and/or desire to keep your gardens going think about those plants that are still producing. A simple rule of thumb is, if its brown pluck it out. If it's green let it be.
I also allow my heirloom corn stalks to die and dry slowly in the field for later fall use as to be used as decorations.
A good thorough garden cleaning in the fall will really benefit your Spring plantings and lessen your chances of disease and insect infestations.
When I pull all of the brown plants out of their spaces, I BURN them ALL! Some folks compost these plant materials, I don't. The reason being is that I can not guarantee that insects that have layed eggs on undersides of leaves or in the plants themselves would be destroyed quick enough in a compost bin/pile. That's your call.
After I have cleaned all of the dead materials out, I then put clean added loose mulch layers around all of the "still green plants" to keep the ground from freezing too soon, this will help extend the season a bit and keep your plants healthy and thriving. Don't forget to water them as the days get cooler. Deep watering should be done in the morning, this will also help the plants stay healthy and believe it or not keeps them from freezing!
FOR RAISED BEDS:
On all of the raised bed areas of the garden that have been thoroughly cleaned out I place a 4 in thick layer of mulch or compost on top and I am done for the season! It's that simple.
An essential step for no-till growers and/or non-chemical use growers is the use of polyculture cover crops.
To accomplish this, simply clean out the area, prepare the soil and plant your cover crop seed.
What to plant in our area?
To achieve biomass, which helps to suppress weeds in the Spring and provides rich organic matter I use grains like winter wheat, barley and/or oats.
To provide the much needed nitrogen that is used up and/or depleted by leeching during the growing season I use; small legumes like peas and clovers. This combination mimics a natural ecosystem of self repair by nature if you will.
When to plant in our area?
The optimal time is between mid-September through October.
How to plant?
Lightly rake the area and scatter the seed either by hand or with a grass seed spreader (what I use). Application rates vary, so follow the directions on the bag or call your local extension agent? Rake the soil to lightly cover the seed, if the seeds are small, I water them in. Keep the seed bed moist until germination or wait for the next rain, and let nature do it for you.
In the Spring you can cut the cover crop down with a mower and let it decompose, then plant!
Happy FALL Cleaning!
THIS IS OH, SO DELICIOUS, FRESH FROM YOUR GARDEN OR YOUR CSA BASKET!!
5 Medium Golden Yukon or Russet Potatoes
10 Medium Turnips
2-3 Tablespoons REAL Butter or Olive Oil
2 Cups Heavy Cream
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and peel the potatoes to 1/4" thick, place the slices into a bowl of cold water.
Peel the turnips and slice into 1/4" slices, butter or oil the sides and bottom of a baking dish or casserole dish. Drain the potatoes and pat dry. Layer the potatoes and turnips alternating the layers, season each layer to taste with sea salt and pepper.
Pour enough heavy cream, or to cut the fat, use 1/2 Chicken stock, to barely cover the potatoes and turnips. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes. Rotate the dish half way through cooking for even browning.
ENJOY THE BOUNTY!
I have been extremely fortunate to have grown up on a farm and I owe this deep gratitude to my parents, especially my mother. I love you Mom!
My mother had an affinity for her flock of chickens that carried over from the live birds in our farm yard to the walls, curtains and décor in my mother’s kitchen! She loved chickens both as her egg laying pets and as kitchen décor, and I mean serious chicken addiction!
There is not a time in my life that I can remember that we as a family did not keep chickens, my mother enjoyed all breeds of chickens, including the fancy feathered bantam breeds.
As a very young child we would go to the coop and gather eggs, take them back to the kitchen and she would instruct us each time in how to wipe them, being careful not to “wash” them, she would tell us that washing them would disrupt the special outer coating and would cause the egg to become susceptible to bacteria. We would then be instructed on how to place them in the carton properly, she would say, remember “pointed side down”, it wasn’t until years later that I asked why? She told me that there is an air sac in the egg and if left “pointed side down” and the blunt larger rounded side up, it will keep the eggs fresher, longer. The blunt larger end should always be what you see when you open your egg carton. She was absolutely right! My mother knew an amazing amount about chickens in general, so I truly had a fantastic teacher.
As an adult and later on my own farm and after more research and of course my mother’s help and suggestions I chose to raise a mixed flock of heritage breeds for several reasons,
The first and most important reason is a personal one;
I truly have a deep and conscious desire to preserve breeds of livestock that are endangered and/or threatened; they became endangered and/or threatened due to industrialized factory farms that want the same type or breed of high producing egg layers. If we lose these AMAZING heritage breeds, we risk wiping out the genetic makeup from a species, and possibly losing critical genes that could save the poultry industry one day if the high production breeds fall susceptible to illnesses such as avian bird flu and other diseases.
More reasons I keep heritage breed chickens is for their amazing ability to forage naturally which has astounding benefits in a whole system biological way of growing food the way we grow food here at orchard creek farm, without the use of chemicals. They scratch and tear up the soil surface to eat bugs, weed seeds and weeds; they are the cleaning crew, I call them “pasture vacuums” for our fields and small orchard, eating ticks and a myriad of other insects, which keeps our insect ecology in check.
Our chickens help us in our mission to decrease waste and waste entering our landfills; they accomplish this by consuming vegetable and fruit scraps and gleaning the garden after the growing season is over.
We utilize their bedding materials and manures as a valuable resource for our compost piles. We also use ALL of the egg shells crushed and mixed into our compost.
There are too many benefits to mention in this article about the important roles our heritage chickens play on our farm. I am just truly grateful to have heritage breed chickens.
The breeds I have chosen for our farm here in NE Tennessee were chosen for specific reasons, they are as follows;
These breeds were chosen for excellent forage ability and their ability to disperse heat and humidity through their large combs and wattles.
Food for thought;
Did you know a mother Hen turns her eggs more than 50 times a day? Chickens are truly AMAZING!
Fair trade is a social movement to protect farmers in developing countries.
It gives the farmers a fair price for exported goods that they grow such as tea, coffee, and cocoa. It also protects artisans in disadvantaged countries.
This movement protects the environment,
promotes sustainability and improves the living and working conditions for these farmers.
Coffee, the second most traded commodity
in the WORLD! Farmers grow coffee in over 70 countries and export it worldwide.
Coffee is one of the oldest traded commodities in the world.
Do you still have squash producing? It is August and my plants are still going crazy, and its a good thing, because one of my favorite side dishes (whole meal), is sauteed zucchini and yellow straight neck squash!
Here is my recipe;
2 medium Zucchini squash
2 medium Yellow Straight Neck squash
1.2 C. FRESH GRATED Parmesan Cheese
wash and dry your squash, slice into ¼ inch slices (set aside), heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, add your squash slices, cover for approximately ten minutes on medium heat. Remove lid and saute until golden on each side. Sprinkle your 1/2 Cup of fresh grated parmesan until melted. Remove from heat and serve.
Pairs well with beef, chops, grilled chicken or fish!
Courtesy of Orchard Creek Farm