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Dec 13 / Michael

Bull to the Butcher

We took our 1½ year-old bull to the butcher today. Our friendly farm neighbor helped transport. He’s an angus-belted-galloway-dexter cross and had a white face and black body. Here he is in his stall with his momma waiting to be loaded.

Bull to Butcher

And on the trailer.

Bull to Butcher

At the butcher.

Bull to Butcher

Bull to Butcher

We’ve enjoyed his company for the last year and a half. We’ll be picking up the meat right before Christmas.

Dec 1 / Michael

O Christmas Tree

We have a tradition in our family to get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday!). We’ve been doing it for as long as I can recall, and it probably originated from when we were traveling for Christmas more than we do now. We’d want to get a tree up early and enjoy it before leaving for a week around Christmas. In the last several years we’ve been staying home for Christmas, which has been nice, but we haven’t given up our post-Thanksgiving tradition.

Christmas Tree 2015

Since we’ve been in Canterbury, we’ve gotten our trees from Ingall’s Tree Farm in Brooklyn. Sadly, when we got our tree from them last year they told us it would be their last year in business — no one in the family to take over, or something like that. This year, I was in a panic on Thanksgiving because I didn’t know where we’d be getting our tree.

As it so happens, I’d learned online the the Post family purchased the original farm (60 acres plus another 40 they lease) and now operate Laurel View Farm from the same location. When we were there, I spoke to Gary and told him how happy I was that they’d take over and that our family tradition could continue.  They’ve built a new shed and parking area and seem to really be enthusiastic and know what they’re doing.  We’re wishing them all the luck running the business for the future.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!

Nov 11 / Michael

“That one was definitely alive”: An undercover video at one of the nation’s biggest pork processors

This is simply horrible. As reported by the Washington Post today:

The pigs are not all right.

An undercover video taken at one of the nation’s largest pork producers shows pigs being dragged across the floor, beaten with paddles, and sick to the point of immobility. By law, pigs are supposed to be rendered unconscious before being killed, but many are shown writhing in apparent pain while bleeding out, suggesting that they weren’t properly stunned. “That one was definitely alive,” a worker says.

The video also appears to show pigs with puss-filled abscesses being sent down the line. Others are covered in feces.

“If the USDA is around, they could shut us down,” says a worker, wearing a bright yellow apron, standing over the production line.

The accompanying video is horrific.  Please watch only if you must see what’s going on first hand.  I imagine the workers in this factory suffer through these abuses, too.  In this particular case, the issues appear to be driven by a desire to run the lines faster and faster and process animals more quickly.  Maybe we should be slowing things down instead.

Pigs are highly sociable and probably the smartest animals that humans raise for meat.  For the last several years we’ve been raising a pair of pigs over summer, bonding with them during the process, and having them processed at our local butcher.  We honor and respect the sacrifice they make to feed us and work to ensure they suffer as little as possible, like we do all the animals we raise for meat.

Pigs

What can you do? Because the factory farm system is so opaque it’s really hard to know. You may want to start by supporting local producers where possible or just by eating less meat.

If any creature deserves better, it’s them.

Oct 24 / Michael

First Chestnut Harvest

We planted two chestnut trees in early Spring 2009: a Colossal Chestnut and a Seedling Polinator.  This is their sixth growing year and the first we had a decent harvest (though we had one or two chestnuts last year).  Both varieties ripen in late September, so we began collecting the fallen chestnuts during our waits for the school bus in the morning.

Chestnut harvest

Chestnut harvest

Most of the chestnuts were ripe and the husk could be pulled off easily, but some of them were a little underripe and needed assistance with some pliers.  Still others were not ripe enough to be used.

Chestnut harvest

If you’ve never seen a chestnut husk in real life, it’s got the most painful arrangement of sharp spikes on a protective husk.  That husk must be removed to expose the nuts — usually two or three per husk.

Chestnut harvest

Our next project will be to do something delicious with our harvest.

Chestnut harvest

Sep 29 / Michael

Poor ducks

Due to lack of rain and drought conditions in Connecticut (not nearly as bad as elsewhere), our pond is at the lowest point we’ve ever seen it.  It’s pretty much a muddy wet spot.  Our ducks aren’t so happy at the moment.  There’s a storm forecast, along with several days of rain, so hopefully the situation will begin to reverse.

Nearly Dry Pond

Sep 3 / Michael

Finished Goat Skulls

After a couple of weeks in the hydrogen peroxide solution, the goat skulls, horns and random smaller bones were basically finished.  They’re looking pretty good.

Goat Skulls

Goat Skulls

Goat Skulls

Goat Skulls

Goat Skulls

The next step will be to finish the cow skulls, but those needed longer in the water to let the bugs and microbes do their work.  We’ll post that as soon as they’re ready.

Aug 20 / Michael

Finishing Cow and Goat Skulls

Almost two years ago we got a bull to breed our girls.  Turned out that one of our girls (“Bossy Mama”) was mean to him and nearly ran him off, so she ended up at the butcher that very week.  (You can read more about that in our Where’s the Beef? post.)  When we got her skull back, we hung it in the woods with a couple of goat skulls.

First, a bit of eye bleach, some recent spoils of the garden.

Spoils of the Garden

We realize that some of these images may be disturbing to our visitors, so we’re making the “worst” of them hidden by default, click to reveal if you wish…


This is the fresh skull, with skin removed.

Hanging in a tree.

The rest of the images aren’t too bad, so we’ll go ahead and show them.

After two years it looked like this and we needed to figure out something to do with the skulls.  We decided to clean and whiten them.  We’d thought about using chlorine bleach, but then after some research decided to use hydrogen peroxide, as described on BoneLust.

Cow skull after 2 years

Cow skull after 2 years

Here’s the cow skull with the three goat skulls we were also processing.

Cow and goat skulls

Jamie sorted through the random bones (jaws, etc).

Sorting the cow and goat bones

And M helped with the water.

Filling the bucket

We’re going to leave them to fester in a bucket of water for at least a couple of weeks. Then we’ll finish them in a hydrogen peroxide bath to whiten them.

Random cow and goat bones

The whole skulls are in a big blue bucket, with the top sealed by a garbage bag. I can only imagine the foulness in there.

Cow and goat heads stewing

Check back in a couple weeks where we hope to show the finished skulls.

Here’s another “cute” image, our resident garden spider.

Spider in the Garden

Jul 25 / Michael

Ducks Finally Back on the Pond

Last year, we got some ducks for the pond after a couple years without any (bad winters and predator issues), but they didn’t make it.  I didn’t do a good job acclimating them to their new house and the pond.  It was a difficult loss.

This year, I decided to put things right.  I got some ducklings and raised them in an enclosure.  When the time came to put them on the pond, I made an another enclosure off the back of their house so they really couldn’t go anywhere.  At the very start, the front (by the pond) was closed, so they only had the house and the run.

Duck run

Once they’d figured out that they could go back and forth into their house, which took a couple weeks, I opened up the front side with a ramp down to the water. Last time, I didn’t contain the ducks well and teach them where their new home was, so this time I was very cautious. I made a fenced area in the pond. They could get down to the water and back up to the house using a ramp.

Ducks on the pond

After another couple weeks, I removed the fence from the water, and the ducks were on the pond and knew where their home was.  They were so happy and we were happy to have ducks back on the pond after a couple years without.

Ducks on the pond

Note: the water is pretty low here.  When the pond is full, the water will go to just under the house and the ramp will mostly be submerged.

Ducks on the pond

Ducks on the pond

Also, last night we had a gentle rain come through.  It created the brightest, most gorgeous double rainbow we’d ever seen.  It hovered over the orchard and was so beautiful.

Double rainbow above the orchard

Jun 14 / Jamie

Growth

It is the middle of June and one of my most favorite times on the farm.  We have so many new creatures and the garden is really coming to life.  We have been eating fresh greens for weeks and even had a few cherries today.  It is just a small sampling go the bounty that is to come.

First, we have to tell you about our amazing new kitten, Willow.  She is sweet and playful and lovely.  She is an indoor-only cat for a while but soon enough we hope she is hanging out with us outside on the farm.

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We also got our pigs last weekend. The are named Ham and Bacon and seem to be enjoying the pigs life. Laying in the sun, rooting in the dirt, and eating everything that goes in their trough.

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We have baby chicks and baby ducks and baby rabbits and they are all doing really well. Our little lamb Snowflake is outside full time and has been weaned from her bottle. She still hasn’t joined the sheep flock yet but that’s okay.

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One of the best parts of June is all of the plant growth. The greens are in full-swing and many of the end-of-summer crops are just beginning.

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May 2 / Michael

Spring Blossoms

Flowers and our orchard are blossoming and the pollinators are busy at work.  The dwarf apricot trees (Stark® SweetHeart™) are some of the earliest and prettiest.  This is one of my favorite times of year.

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers