Wednesday, October 19, 2016

On The LIne

We have moved our laundry line about three times. I've even hired a local teenager to do the digging up of the posts. It's been beside the house, behind the shed and now is in my garden, of all places. It's always been something to hide. A necessary, utilitarian part of our existence, but also somewhat of an embarrassment.
But I'm beginning to think of it differently. I may even decide to move it again, maybe right back where it started, next to the house near the back door. Yes, you can see the clothes waving in the wind when you drive up, but today I realized that there is a certain tactile, homey feeling about stepping outside with a heavy basket of wet clothes. Each of those clothespins are placed by my hands. I get to smell the fresh, wet fabric, plus the sunshine and breezes to do all the work and it's totally free! All of these things are good, but the best reason of all is that the whole process reminds me of my grandmother. She used to hang all of her clothes, sheets, heavy towels and throw rugs from the kitchen, even when she had a perfectly good dryer right next to the washing machine. Hanging my own things gives me a chance to visit those memories of Gram again. I think she'd be proud of my wash line, so I can be proud of it too.

So If you stop by the farm to pick up an order, you may see some things whipping in the breeze as you drive up. Don't worry, I'll get them down before it rains, and if I don't, those sheets never smelled so good.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Sausage is Happening!

Bill has found his love. Well, yes, he found me thirty-one years ago, but more recently, he has fallen in love with making sausage. Today it was chicken sausage with Italian seasonings and fresh parsley from our garden. Wow. A whole new way to look at chicken. (and smile)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Artists Decend Upon the Farm

This past Saturday afternoon we were excited to host the artists with the Journey Daybook group. They rolled up the driveway and parked their cars in flying geese fashion upon the lawn. Smiling faces gathered around while I explained the beginnings of Laughing Chicken Farm and then they were off with their notebooks, paints, and colored pencils.

Twelve artists, twelve chairs, twelve different views of the same farm. After about an hour and a half, they gathered in my studio to show and tell what had inspired them. It gave me a whole new appreciation of the beauty that surrounds me every day.

Thank you Journey Daybook ladies!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Still Laughing

Here we are just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving. The farm is a whirl in turkey preparations. Today we will be processing at least 20 turkeys and, hopefully, 75 chickens. It's 7:01am and Bill and I are masterminding our game plan. He is finishing the last few sips of coffee, I'm squeezing in a few lines of typing and watching the blue slate sky out the bedroom window. The sun hasn't come up enough to make anything brighter than the color of a warm grey cat.
I love this part of the day. The time where I get to be quiet, alone, and sitting still. Usually I hide from Bill. He always finds me just to say good morning, but he knows I need this time of solitude, like a medicine and he retreats. We'll be working together soon enough.

Recently, we had our first class here at the farm to teach other inspiring farmers what we do. At the end of the day, Yasuo, a friend and great photographer, snapped a candid photo of us. I love this picture. As tired as we were, we still could laugh together.

Just a week later, we celebrated our 29th Anniversary. The farm held us captive this year, and we were too tired to even go out to eat. But after seeing this photo, I am so grateful to have a husband who is willing to share this crazy ride with me and still smile.

Friday, July 4, 2014

It's been five years!

Lately I've been reading some info on blogging: why people read blogs, what makes a good blog, and finding your voice. I'm new at this. I get all kinds of ideas to share while I'm in the field doing chores.
Up until now the blog seems to have been more of a record of our journey. After all, in the beginning we did feel like pioneers on this odd patch of needy ground, trying to do something new here that had never been done before. The green stripes across the sad, yellow and brown grass made us giggle with delight over what we knew would happen to the rest of our farm as the chickens fertilized and creeped across the grass in their tractors. Every new animal we brought out here has had a different impact on the soil, insects, and wild birds that call this home too. Not to mention the learning curve we've experienced in animal husbandry. I never knew the heartbreak the death of a baby lamb would bring, or the feeling of triumph in having grass the height of my shoulder after the summer rains. Our marriage has been tested, our bodies have been toughened, and our minds have been stretched. And now here we are on the five year anniversary of packing up everything we owned and moving to Trenton.
 I'm starting to feel a shift in the farm. Don't get me wrong, there are always surprises, but I now can say we've learned enough to at least have a routine. Maybe we are ready for phase two. I have no idea what phase two is. It doesn't matter. I didn't know what phase one was either.

Here are some things I'd like to happen in phase two:
1. More time for art. (After all, I now have a pretty good looking studio somebody should be using out there.)
2. More delegation. (In other words, hiring other people to do a few things we can't get to or just can't.) This one has already begun. Our neighbor has finished a fence project and it looks great!
3. Less clutter in my own life. (Oh, this one's a hard one for me. There are so many projects I love to do. Soap making, Spinning, furniture refinishing, yada yada. I'm trying to purge, I really am.) This one is sorta tied to number one.
4. Come up with a better chicken tractor design and more infrastructure to make our chores easier. (It takes so much more energy to move a heavy tractor and drag hoses.)
5. Begin to offer classes. (This is for both art and farming. We'll keep you posted.)

That's it. Five goals for the next five years. I'd love to hear what you think. There is wisdom in many counselors. I'd love to also hear what interests you in a blog. Do you like to hear about the funny stuff and the day to day challenges, sort of diary style. Or would it be far more helpful if I gave it more of a "how to" feel. And then on the other side of things, I can always talk about what's going on inside my head. Maybe not.
Thanks for your time. It means so much to me when you tell me you've read my blog post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Yesterday, in the cool early morning, a visitor arrived at the farm. She had been here before and we greeted each other with a smile and a handshake. Joni's a scientist studying turkey vultures and how they find their quarry. She'd come to collect olfactory tissue samples from the chickens after we had processed them. She explained that the tissue samples needed to be fresh in order to do her experiments, so she came prepared with sterile containers and ice packs. As she got set up, and I finished making the rounds with feed, it occurred to me how many ways our little farm has touched others in our community and beyond.

The week before last we had another visitor. This time it was someone who wanted to buy turkey breast to make into a line of dog treats. We chatted about starting up a new business and she mentioned her connection with a big cat rescue. Later that afternoon I called her up to see if she wanted to take some turkey carcasses to the tigers.

We're almost at the five year mark for our farm and it tickles me to think back on how many different people have come to see what we're up to. Over that time, we've met scientists, vets, entrepreneurs, grandkids, grandparents, cub scouts, homeschoolers, college kids, and of course other farmers. All of them have been interested in one thing - chickens! 

Some very good friends of ours have an orphanage in Haiti. They came to see our farm that very first year and were so excited and full of ideas that they have been growing chicken in Haiti with the kids ever since. There have been at least two other couples who have come out to see how we do our chicken housing and are putting together business models in the islands of the Bahamas and Honduras. Many family flocks in Gainesville have been started on our farm, but one of the most precious is owned by a special needs young lady who is now learning how to care for her new chickens herself.

When we began Laughing Chicken Farm, we had no idea what we were getting into. We thought we'd grow a few animals and sell what we could for some extra income. Wow! God sure has taken us farther than that. When the phone rings I never know what to expect. From requests for semi-trucks full of chicken "paws" to ship to the Orient, to the people in Montana who were having a "Testicle-Festival" and wanted to know if we could ship them turkey testicles.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Turkey Stampede

Okay, so Bill and I get up before dawn on Monday morning, crawl out of bed, and reach for the coffee. Bill looks out the window and says, "Hey, the brooder light is off." It was a cool morning, so we agreed that the youngest ones needed a light. He heads out to turn it on. As Bill is walking to the brooders, he turns his head to the right and sees a flock of large white birds coming his way. There is something familiar about these large white birds. Wait a minute, aren't these the group of juvenile turkeys we just moved into the nets the night before? They aren't supposed to be up here by the house. Yep, you guessed it, the little varmints were out having a great time, probably partying all night long wandering the farm.  

 It's Monday, it's butchering day, and everyone needs water and feed before we get started. I could see the frustration as Bill threw his hands in the air. The turkeys on the other hand were happily picking their way through all the new grass by the house and working their way to the bigger, older flock of turkeys who by this time began to notice what was going on.  (You can see them in the background of one of the pictures. )

 The young group of turkeys obviously didn't want to be in the housing we put them in last night. They had explored that area and now were bored. We had used a single net around a portable laying house, but one electric net wasn't enough. The only other one we had available was shorter in height and had bigger holes. It was currently around the garden to keep the sheep out.

"We have to buy more nets," Bill said.

"Let's try the short one," I said.

"They'll go right through it," he replied.

"Let's put them around the RV. Maybe that will give them enough to explore."

What else was there? We could take a chicken net, but then we'd have chickens everywhere. Bill reluctantly agreed.  He and I gathered up the bigger net and the smaller net and walked them over to the RV. There were plenty of weeds and grass and things to look over and under around the RV. This would make a good turkey place.

The turkeys followed us as we set up the nets, added their food and water, brought up the wiring and hooked it all up the the electric hot wire. We herded the stragglers in and shut the gate. Whew. Done. Then as soon as we walked away, so did they. Electric shmelectric. They didn't feel a thing. Over and under and through the net they came.
(This is a picture of where they're supposed to be. Someone got left behind.)

Okay, now we were ready to butcher THEM today. There was nothing else we could do to contain them. The day had to get started with or without them where they were supposed to be. At least they wouldn't leave the farm. (We'd hoped.)

Evidently, they just wanted to be close to the action. They watched us process 70 chickens and we used the carrying cages as a barricade so they wouldn't come into the actual butchering area. When they started to bed down under the shade tree, Bill decided to try to get them into the netted area again. This time he took off running. They all stood up and started running too. They ran after him and followed right into the enclosure and he shut the gate. Suddenly the food and water we had put there looked enticing. They decided to stay and have lunch. Bill hopped over and carefully walked away.

What goes on in a turkey brain? I couldn't say. Steve, a friend who helps on processing day, said they had imprinted on us. I guess that must be it. I know turkeys are not as dumb as people say they are. So far, they've decided they like the new home. Let's get those new nets ordered fast.