Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Our First Egg! July 16, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Garden Fresh — realfoodmama @ 3:06 pm
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One of our hens laid our very first egg this afternoon! We are very excited about it here at the urban farm and my little man has decided the egg is his and needs to live in his bedroom. Clearly that can’t go on much longer, but it is nice to see that he is as excited as his mommy about what is, ultimately, a rather mundane event.

Our hens are only four months old so the advent of one egg is very possibly the most we will get this week. It is adorably tiny and perfectly shaped, but won’t actually feed any of us. Regardless, it marks a new chapter here at the urban farm, complete with new chores and more space taken up in the fridge.

In addition to the egg, I am also happy to report that the corn plants are taller than my son, the squash plants are covered in abundant blooms and the tomato plants are literally growing out of their cages. All signs point toward an abundance and I am incredibly grateful for all of it, even if it means more yard work and livestock chores for me. I will upload a picture of our new addition (the egg) as soon as I can get my son to let up on his vigil. Until then, happy eating and gardening!

 

Chickens, gardens and goats oh my! April 17, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 5:19 pm
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Tomato seedlings - Black Krim

Things here have just been crazy. So much so in fact that I barely have time to cook, much less write about it.

In the past three weeks we have planted our salad garden, built a chicken coop, welcomed two baby goats and a dozen chickens into our household and have started a variety of seedlings. Things are all going very well with the exception of the eggplant. For some reason none of the seeds sprouted and I admit to being pretty upset about this given that eggplant seeds can take nearly two weeks to germinate and they need to be about a month along before you can transplant them outside. So if we replant the seeds this weekend, the mature plants won’t be able to go out for six weeks which is nearly a full month after the last frost date here.

I am determined, however, to grow them so even with the late start I am hopeful we will get some fruit this season.

On a brighter note, the tomato’s are doing absolutely fantastic and I am hoping another two weeks in the solarium will really get them going. In addition to tomatoes and eggplant, we also did some Ancho chili’s and will be doing tomatillos tomorrow. We will also be planting some new raspberry bushes, since we killed our last year when they got placed next to the potatoes, a grape vine (yippie!) and a couple of new trees, including a peach. We will see how that does here, as it was a gift and not purchased locally.

Our spinach, lettuce, cress, arugala and the first round of peas are all sprouted and doing very well outside, and all of the trees are flowering, although the apricot buds are already blown which is rather bizarre.

Apricot tree

The baby goats are getting enormous and are taking pretty much all the milk mom has for themselves. Any attempt to milk her at this point is met with an empty udder and much exertion on my part. Tonight is the first night they will be separated from her, however, so I am hopefully that tomorrow morning I will get a lot. We shall see…she is incredibly hard to milk.

On another goat related note, my Nubian lost a horn today while trying to prove her dominance and although she is slightly bloody she seems otherwise uninjured. For those of you readers who are not goat owners, she didn’t lose a big horn, she has what the goat world calls scurs, and these are remnants of an improper disbudding or horn removal at a young age. They tend to be less well attached than the real thing. Aside from being kind of gross, she seems unfazed by it so that is good.

As for the chickens, I think we have one rooster and eleven hens. The reason I think this is due entirely to the fact that one of them is getting a very red comb and none of the others are. I could be totally mistaken however, as I know next to nothing about chickens. However, if I am correct, not only will we be getting a huge number of eggs, but we also may have the opportunity to allow the hens to brood, resulting in chicks next spring!

That is pretty much all that is happening here at the urban farm. I am hoping that once the livestock issues settle themselves and we get back into a routine that I will be able to focus, once again, on cooking and eating. Until then however, here is a nice shot of the greenery in my solarium!

Happy Eating!

Plants

 

Spring time is busy! March 31, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Economics,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 11:34 am
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The last two weeks have been very busy here at my pseudo urban farm. One of our milk goats kidded, resulting in two adorable (but sadly useless) male kids, we got our pullets (baby chicks) and have been working on their permanent home – they are currently in my bathroom – and we have been planting and waking up our gardens and trees.

A lot of work!

It has been relatively rewarding, although I admit to being pretty disappointed about the fact that my Saanen doe gave us two boys. I had hoped to keep at least one girl, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. While the boys are cute and quite playful and exceptionally fun to have around, they can’t stay long and I have been having a hard time deciding exactly what to do with them.

First, the reason we have to get rid of them. Adult bucks (i.e. unaltered males) smell terrible and if they are too close to your does, your milk and everything you make with it will also smell terrible. In order to keep a buck you really need about 30 yards of space between your girls and your boys and frankly, I don’t have the room. Secondly, I don’t want to feed them. Even if we altered them and ended up with a wether (castrated male) I couldn’t afford to keep him.

That being said, I am soft-hearted enough to dislike the idea of selling them to someone who may use them in a rodeo (or generally not take care of them) so I have been toying with the idea of hanging onto them until they are about 3 months old and then eat them.

The rest of the family has seriously mixed feelings about this idea and as of yet, it has not been confirmed.

In addition to the goat news, we also have a dozen Barred Rock pullets in my bathroom – not the ideal spot for 12 small chickens! The weather has been too cold at night still for them to go outside so until their coop is completely finished and set up with a light, they will live in the bathroom.

Lastly, the garden is really exciting so far this year. The garlic we planted last fall has sprouted and is doing very well. The leeks I let over winter are also in great shape and promise to be tasty, as do a few onions we missed during last years harvest. Don’t ask how we managed that, but we did. The strawberries weren’t quite as successful. Of the ten crowns we had last year, only seven survived to wake up this spring, but of those they are all doing well. Lastly, our fruit trees have been pruned and given how cold it was this winter I am looking forward to a decent crop.

Suffice it to say, all of this has been keeping me extremely busy and as a result I haven’t had much time to write! However the farmer’s market is really beginning to get jumping with spring greens and I have been doing some pretty fabulous cooking so I am hoping to be able to share something along those lines soon.

Until then, Happy Eating!

This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.

 

The Quest for Organic Chickens? February 24, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Economics,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 1:10 pm
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This spring it is my plan to raise chickens. We have a lot of work to do before we can purchase our birds. We have to build a chicken coop, decide on a breed, figure out how many birds we want, and determine whether or not we will be able to sell any of our eggs come fall.

My desire to have chickens is motivated by the same thing which spurred my desire to own goats: that is the desire to know where my food is coming from, and that it is being treated humanely before it gets to me. In addition to providing the family with a regular supply of eggs (between the four of us we easily go through two dozen a week) I am also hoping that the chickens will supply much needed fertilizer and pest control for our gardens.

The thing I am really struggling with at this point, regarding both my chickens and my goats, is what to feed them – specifically, whether or not to give them organic feed. Now this may sound somewhat ridiculous, but the primary reason for my concern is financial. I can buy conventional feed for both animals, or I can buy organic feed. The reason I hesitate to buy organic feed is the price: for my goats I spend about $20 a bag on their feed twice a month, not including the alfalfa. If I were to upgrade to the organic feed I would be spending $35 a bag twice a month. This is nearly double and frankly ends up with the goats costing more than they are saving us – i.e. I have a very small “profit margin” and purchasing the organic feed pushes me into the red. At this point, we break even if you calculate feed costs and compare them to the amount we would be spending on milk in the event we didn’t have the goats. If I fed them organic feed, we’d be losing money.

So while I am hardly a large industry, I am affected by the costs associated with organic certification. It makes me think that the whole process is yet another way for the big guys to get richer while the small farmers suffer. And while I hardly identify as a small farmer, in a way that is exactly what I am. I own livestock, I grow my own food, and I am placed in a specific financial situation as a result.

This has in no way altered my decision to purchase chickens, nor has it inclined me to get rid of the goats. However it is something I struggle with and I really have no idea how to resolve the issue short of growing my own alfalfa and grain and I just don’t have the room for that. It concerns me because I wonder what is going into my milk, and how it is affecting my animals. Will it increase vet bills? Could I afford to buy the organic feed every other bag? It is easy to rationalize the additional expense when the food is going directly into my body, or the body of my two year old, but I seem to have a harder time with it when it is coming to me second hand.

In either case it is nothing that I will be able to resolve today, and if we are in a financial situation where I can afford the organic versions I will certainly cough up the additional cash. Until then however, the goats and chickens will be getting conventional feed and that is just the way it will have to be.

This post has been my contribution to Real Food Wednesday, hosted this week by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

 

New Year’s resolutions? January 3, 2010

Filed under: Food Activism,Garden Fresh,Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 8:50 pm
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So we are now three days into 2010 and I have moved from holiday planning to garden planning. It is the time to start thinking about seeds and I have a list a mile long…or so it seems.

In addition to resolving to continue buying locally and eating well I am also resolved to have a more successful garden this year than last. As some of you may remember, 2009 was a year of mixed successes and failures as far as my garden went. While our tomatoes did great, our squash were a complete bust, our corn failed to mature, and we managed to kill our raspberry plants because we placed them dangerously close to the potato patch.

All in all, not a huge success!

So in an effort to combine my gardening resolutions with the aforementioned “buying local” I have decided to purchase seeds from local sources as much as possible. One of the suppliers I am most excited about is Native Seeds SEARCH (Southwestern Endangered Aridland Resource Clearing House) While they are located in Tucson, AZ (not all that close, frankly) they carry seeds that are region specific. Things like the Chimayo Chili (Chimayo is a short 24 miles NE of my home in Santa Fe) and New Mexico bolitas (a dry bean grown for centuries in the northern sections of the state).

Of course I will also be purchasing seeds from Seeds of Change, a certified organic seed company with offices in Santa Fe and farms throughout the state.

My primary goal is to start several things from seed this year that we purchased in plant form last time…mainly tomatoes. Secondary to that of course is to improve upon last year by planting earlier, paying more attention to companion planting, and generally trying to improve my food stewardship.

In addition to my excitement about our garden, I am also anticipation several significant events regarding livestock. One of my dairy goats is pregnant and is due to deliver her kid9s) in March. We also have planned on getting chickens this spring (for eggs, not meat) and will need to design and build a chicken coop before May.

In either case, 2010 promises to be an interesting year and I am hopeful that I can continue my education about all things food.

 

Animal husbandry in the City Dipherent June 27, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 5:11 pm
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I recently bought a house in Santa Fe and have been trying to convince the people I live with that we should expand our family to include some livestock.

It was easy to convince everyone to get chickens, however what I really want is goats. Why do I want goats? Primarily because I want my own milk supply and am a little afraid of dairy cows. Those things are huge!

Additionally, I simply don’t have the room for cows, even if I were desirous of a bovine friend. However, I do have plenty of room for goats and chickens, and due to some rather agrarian legislation here in the city dipherent, I am legally entitled to have any type of livestock I want on my property as long as they are kept clean and healthy and don’t annoy the neighbors (overly much).

So, in that spirit I decided to do some research about milk goat care and found a fabulous web site which provided all kinds of information about raising goats: Mother Earth News

After reading several articles I concluded that I would probably want to get some Nubian goats and would no doubt be forced to hire someone else to do the disbudding. Luckily for me, my local goat milk supplier actually uses Nubian goats for her milk, and since she is currently awaiting several kids from her recently bred does, I might actually be able to get some goats this fall! And as an added bonus, she has offered to disbud all future kids.

The responsibility of owning livestock has been weighing heavily on me, disbudding or not. The thing about real food is that it nurtures a relationship between the human and the food. When this relationship is kept simple in the form of a garden, were there really isn’t a whole lot of give and take (unless you have talking carrots. I don’t.), there isn’t a whole lot of sacrifice. Thinning your veggies is about the extent of it (R.I.P tasty beets). However, as soon as the search for real food leads us to animal husbandry, the relationship suddenly becomes much more complex. Pastoral images of happy chickens and cows aside, there is an ugly side to raising livestock for foodstuffs.

Most people’s relationships with animals are limited to house pets, creatures we anthropomorphize and treat like members of the family. The extent of inflicted pain usually a) happens at the veterinarian and b) tends to involve anesthesia. It is the first issue, however, which is decidedly more significant. While we love our pets, we hoist responsibility of all the bad things upon someone else – namely the evil veterinarian. But frankly, animal husbandry requires that we take back some of this responsibility, and I’m not all that sure I’m prepared.

And to be honest, chickens kind of freak me out. I mean, they’re so…twitchy. But I can deal with them in exchange for their delicious eggs. And ultimately, that is where animal husbandry really differs from most other modern relationships. They are quite Machiavellian. There is (ideally) no intimacy. The chickens are there to give you eggs, the goats are there to give you milk. They serve a purpose and should be respected for such, but they aren’t your friends. They shouldn’t be made your pets (what if, god forbid, you ever had to kill and eat Mr. Clucky your chicken friend?).

It is a serious business, and I think, perhaps, explains a fundamental lack in our current cultural view of food. We tend to, as a group, have a hard time facing the fact that the cute little cow we just saw is eventually going to become dinner. And I, personally, think this lack of connection is partially responsible for our lack of respect for food. We take it for granted, we ignore where it comes from, and as a result we have lost our connection to it and therefor our appreciation for it.

So while I may be squeamish, nervous, and unconvinced of my ability to refrain from naming my goats and chickens, I take the step towards raising my own food with my eyes open. And I think I will be a better person for it.