Lately, I’ve been letting my flock of sheep stay out later, the afternoon sun warming their backs as they graze those last bits of lush green pasture before getting locked safely into their pen for the night. They meander up when the time is right, some kind of biological clock telling them the long day is over and that it’s time for a warm bed of hay and rest.
On one night in particular, the girls headed straight for their favorite spots, all in a row, one by one. They reminded me of elephants walking head to tail, each one holding onto the tail in front of her. Behind them were the six lambs, following along as if they, too, knew it was time. The moms began settling in nicely, easing themselves into wind-down mode.
Suddenly, as if someone turned on a switch, all six lambs did a 360 and raced right back out of the pen. They ran to one side and just stood there, bunched up and leaning against one another, and I swear they were smiling. Then, from a completely still position, the two biggest ones leaped straight in the air, did a half nelson, and landed back down with very pleased looks on their faces. Like a bunch of 5-year-olds, they stood there as if to say, “We’re not ready for bed yet.”
All I could think of was the times when, as mothers, we’ve called our kids to come in from playing in the garden and have gotten the “Oh, Mom, just five more minutes” reply. I might have thought it was time to close the gate, but the babes had other plans. As I approached, they took off like a shot, ran down the pasture, did a complete once-around and then headed straight for the pen. Neither I nor their moms were in charge. “Teenagers,” I said to myself. “They’re like a pack of adolescents, feeling their oats.”
Once the babes were back in the pen, each one found its mama and then, when and only when they were ready, they started settling down. I’ve been told that, when you’re around animals long enough, you’ll come to learn that you’re not actually the boss. For me, giving up control is a good thing. I’ve always thought I was in charge, but farming has taught me otherwise. Once again I’m reminded that I’m there to keep them safe and to tend them, to feed them and to enjoy them, but really, they have their own nature. I’m learning to respect that and allow them to be, well, sheep. More than that, I’m learning to enjoy it.
I had a great experience recently in selling my first lamb, a sweet black ram who went to live on a farm in Houlton, Maine. I’m not a life-long Mainer, and I’m still learning how big this state is. When I got a call from a gentleman who wanted a black ram for wool, I asked him where he was. Houlton, he said. Since my trips generally keep me within a 50-mile radius of the midcoast, I had no idea where that was. Almost to Canada, he told me.
I was intrigued—and a little leery of how we were going to connect from there to here. He told me he is 80 years old, still farming, and has an all-black flock. We planned to meet at noon on a Saturday in Searsport to make the exchange. At 1:30 I was still waiting and feared he had gotten lost somewhere along the way. As I sat in my Volvo wagon with the babe quietly munching on hay in the back, I began to have reservations about selling this little one. The man had admitted he was getting up there in age, didn’t get around too well, and, frankly, seemed a little confused about things. But when he arrived, my reservations vanished.
He was upset that he was so late and that I had been waiting so long. He had gone the wrong route and stopped several times to ask the way before finally figuring it out. Turns out someone gave him the wrong directions, or maybe he heard them wrong. Doesn’t matter. The way he put it was: “I don’t think most people know where they are on this earth.” He was wearing—I swear—a starched pair of jeans. I know they were a lot cleaner than mine, with big suspenders holding them up. His big farmer hands rested on the steering wheel of the pickup as we talked for a few minutes, and then he made out a check for the babe. He brought out a big wooden box, a beautiful thing someone had made for him to transport a pig. He also brought a blanket to cover the lamb, “in case the wind was too cold.” He said he didn’t want the little guy to get the sniffles.
I almost cried. I did on the way home.
People amaze me. I was sitting there, annoyed that my carefully planned day was getting taken up with delivering a lamb to a man who couldn’t find his way out of Houlton. Now I’m just grateful the lamb found a home with a farmer who will tend this little guy as he becomes a daddy to his own flocks. We parted with the farmer inviting me to come visit. He said he’d even clean up the house. I told him that, when the season was over and before the flakes flew, I’d try to do just that.
I feel so lucky when I meet the greatest people and they happen to be farmers. I wish that everyone, human and animal, could have warm blankets to keep the sniffles away and somebody’s big, warm hands to guide them through life. In the meantime, I’ll keep watch over my own peaceable kingdom—a partnership of the simplest kind.
Dyan Redick describes herself as “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Her farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney-cross ﬂock, goat milk soap, lavender, woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Bittersweet Heritage Farm is an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food source, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the Earth.
Photo - Bittersweet Heritage Farm
Well, the title is not quite accurate. We did share our first snap pea more than a week ago (from a single flower that I nursed through the snow and multiple frosts at the end of May); a steady harvest, however, is still a few weeks away. As to the ticks, this may be pure optimism. My ticks-pulled-off-per-day ratio is certainly declining. Nonetheless, as much as I hope that this day may just offer the final find, the ticks clearly have their own schedule. Well, OK, so be it.
On the subject of firsts and lasts, there are others to share as well. We've had our first nasturtium leaves mixed into our salads, the first rosemary harvest, our first stevia plant growing large enough to transplant to a bigger pot ... Our youngest blueberry bushes are flowering and setting their first fruits; I've just hilled our massive potatoes for the first time, we've enjoyed our first picking of wild strawberries, and are gingerly tending our first chamomile, horseradish and sage plants.
While unclear where the first actually was, we now have sunflowers, lupines, calendula, nasturtium, cleome and zinnia popping up in fits and starts all around the homestead. There have been more than a few surprises as we watch flowers emerge from nooks in which I had forgotten I'd tucked seeds into at all.
As to lasts, the final few of my transplants (some smaller cucumbers) were put out this week. By the time this is published, we will likely have eaten the last of the fresh rhubarb for the season, and will certainly be done with the occasional fiddlehead. Hopefully, cautiously, we have also seen the last of snow, and the last of the chilling temperatures.
Looking through some history on New England weather, however, Ryan found late frost events extending into the second week in June on occasion, and the latest snow date on record to be June 16, 1964. History may not have to repeat itself, and here's an extra hope that it doesn't. The crop calamities that such weather events caused are tragic footnotes in New England history.
So here's to optimistically moving towards summer. For the handful of sweltering days we've had, we've also had quite a number of cool days and cooler nights. The basil and tomatoes in particular seem a bit lost for all these 50 degree days, but the kale, potatoes and beans are flourishing. We wish, as always, for ideal weather. Or, at least, that if we can't have a larder stocked with tomato sauce, we’ll have a cellar full of 'taters.
For ecological garden design and maintenance, or weeds pulled from your garden or landscaped house front, please contact Beth via email@example.com.
There was excitement in Jeremy Barker-Plotkin’s voice when I spoke with him about his western Massachusetts organic farm. They had just been putting seeds in the ground that day at Simple Gifts, the farm in Amherst he co-owns with Dave Tepfer. Jeremy and Dave have been farming in Amherst together since 2006, but plans to farm together had been in the works for awhile after the pair met at The Land Institute in Kansas.
Jeremy had been farming about 5 acres in nearby Belchertown, on land managed by The New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI). The 100 or so acre parcel, as Jeremy estimates, serves an an incubator for small start-up farms in western Massachusetts. The tillable acrage was split between several farms when Simple Gifts lived there, and is now part of The Pioneer Valley Grain CSA.
Simple Gifts had an eye looking for a new place to farm, when Jeremy and his wife Audrey were driving down Pine Street in North Amherst and saw Don Gallager pounding in a sign that read “Save this farm.”
Don was then co-President of the North Amherst Community Farm (NACF) initiative. NACF was then a group of citizens who had come together to raise the $1.2 million needed to buy the Dziekanowski farm, one of the last working farms in North Amherst.
The roughly 35-acre plot is situated just a mile from The University of Massachusetts down heavily trafficked North Pleasant Street. It is surrounded mostly by student housing complexes. Without NACF efforts, the land almost surely would have been sold and developed to match its surroundings. “We never would have been able to afford the land on our own,” says Jeremy.
Even NACF wasn’t able to come up with the full amount. NACF took advantage of the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program (APR), a program designed to encourage land-owners to preserve farmland by offering a $10,000/ acre sum. This sum is exchanged for an easement agreement that keeps the land permanently safe from development. They were also benefited by the state-funded, but town operated Community Preservation Act. Another large chunk of money came from selling small parcels of the property.
Even so, the collaborative was only able to come up with about half of the $1.2 million mark. They took out a mortgage on the remainder.
Still, it was enough to get Simple Gifts on the land in 2006. “They closed in July, and we started farming in April,” laughs Jeremy. “I guess we didn’t really know if it was going to work out, but it turned out okay.”
That first year they grew about 9 acres of vegetables, enough for a market and a 100 member CSA. “We kind of colonized a small part of the land, with an abandoned farm all around us.”
Once NACF had officially procured the land, there was still a lease agreement to be worked out between the trust now responsible for the farm’s mortgage, and the farmers, newly responsible for the land’s production.
The lease agreement was set up as a kind of series of phases, Jeremy explains. “What we’re working towards is a 99 year lease, where we own all the buildings, but not the land itself.”
The interim lease agreement started with phase one: a renewable 5 year lease where the land trust (NACF) owns all the buildings. The initial agreement was that Simple Gifts’ lease payments would continue to pay the mortgage, leaving the farmers with a hefty $2300/ month rent. Presently, through the help of non-profit group Equity Trust, the monthly rent is now $900. The farm owns any buildings or improvements they make to the property.
The plan is that this payment will do down once the 99 year lease is put into action. “The idea is that in phase two, our phase one lease payments will go retroactively towards buying the existing buildings,” explained Jeremy.
The original buildings include four barns, in various states of functionality and the main farmhouse. Jeremy and Dave each have a house on the far end of the property, where they live with their families. These buildings are not part of the lease agreement, and are fully owned by their respective families.
Today, Simple Gifts has a little over 15 acres in vegetable production, as well as an expanding livestock operation, including chickens, sheep, pigs, a herd of beef cattle and a pair of oxen. They have Dave oversees the livestock and plans cover crop rotations while Jeremy runs the veggie side of the business.
Brooke Werley is a farmer and writer living in Northern Vermont. Her blog is thisgrowingup.wordpress.com. She also writes farm profiles for Agrarian Trust, a new initiative working with the issues faced by next generation farmers and new agrarians
More than once in my life, I’ve interfered with a plant, critter or bug I was unfamiliar with instead of first doing my research.
Many years ago, after growing up in Wisconsin, I was unacquainted with a twisty sort of tree flourishing beneath the power pole at my new home in Virginia. The house had been vacant for some years before I arrived, so I reasoned the untamed vegetation spread on its own.
A full 8 months pregnant, I marched right out there with my pruning saw, hacking each 15-foot tree off at ground level. I figured it was better to sacrifice the young trees before they grew into the electric wires and before I fell in love with them.
Pleased with my day-long effort to cut, drag and stack the brush, I was atop the huge pile, stomping it into a manageable mass to burn, when a neighbor – a fourth-generation Virginia tobacco farmer – happened to stop in. I assumed his perplexed look centered on my precarious position and safety.
Oh, it’s OK, I said. My doctor says me and the baby are perfectly healthy. This is not stressful, I added, hoping he would not consider me frail or reckless.
“No, I was wondering,” he asked, “How come you cut down all your dogwood trees?”
So, the flowering trees, growing no more than 20 feet or so, were intentionally planted there, bursting with white blossoms in springtime and bright red berries all winter. And I murdered them.
In the eight years I lived there, I kept hoping a few would sprout back, but they never did. Although I felt awful for a long time, I had yet to learn a lesson.
Then, when moving to the Ozarks, I was pleased to meet the lovely catalpa tree. This beauty grows to about 90 feet with heart-shaped leaves as big as a pie pan. To top it off, the tree showers us with sweet-smelling flowers in late May.
Whoever first thought of scattering flowers on the lawn for June weddings surely had a catalpa tree in the yard. The display and aroma go on for weeks.
So, you can imagine my alarm when black-and-yellow striped caterpillars showed up by the thousands overnight chewing voraciously on three front-yard catalpa trees. Their munching and accompanying droppings can be heard 30 feet away on calm evenings. I’ve seen many wonders in my life, but never anything such as that.
I did what I thought any all-natural gardener would do. I mixed up a batch of cayenne pepper and crushed garlic for the garden-hose sprayer.
Once again, I jumped right in, shooting that hot stuff straight up into the trees, splattering the fiery red water everywhere, even soaking the soil beneath the fully grown trees. The caterpillars rained down. I stepped on them and sprayed them some more, until there was not a live caterpillar anywhere.
That was two years ago. Last year, no worms returned, and still none this year.
Two weeks ago, however, a smaller tree that was not among the group in the front yard bloomed for the first time. The 20-foot tree is now coated with caterpillars. But, instead of getting out the pepper spray, I did some online reading and discovered – to my horror – the catalpa sphinx and tree have coexisted for thousands of years.
Like many things in nature, the tree and worm depend on each other. The host catalpa tree is the only plant the worm eats, which it can devour to naked branches without harming the tree. According to Stephen L. Peele, curator of the Florida Mycology Research Center, catalpa trees are sometimes completely defoliated three or four times during a single summer, yet survive. No other tree could withstand this.
“They always come back. They always look healthy,” says Peele. “I have tried to understand the possible symbiotic relationship between the worm and the tree. There surely must be one.”
Fishing enthusiasts even propagate the trees just to harvest the worms, which grow to 3 or 4 inches and are considered the best natural catfish bait. The worms can be frozen for months to use for fishing.
“One worm could be cut into 3 to 4 sections to make as many pieces of bait,” Peele wrote in an article about the trees’ and worms’ decline in America. “The worm’s skin is pretty tough, so it is not easy for the fish to just ‘peck’ it off the hook, like they can a cricket. Fact is, you catch several fish on the same piece of worm bait.”
Another benefit: The worm dung fertilizes the tree – and everything else under its canopy. One of my tomato plants within worm-dropping distance is now a foot taller than its brothers.
I noticed this morning that the worms are retreating underground to pupate as only about 1/4 of the tree leaves remain. Without my meddling, the catalpa tree will return to its full vigor and another generation of worms will be born.
Peele is gathering information on the status of catalpa trees and worms in America, which may be disappearing unnoticed. He says they may be approaching “endangered.” I feel somewhat responsible.
If you have knowledge concerning the status of catalpa trees and worms in your area, Peele would like to hear from you. Have trees been cut in your area? Did there used to be trees? Did there used to be worms? Please send whatever information to: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or, FMRC, PO Box 18105, Pensacola, FL 32523.
Photos by Linda Holliday of catalpa blossoms, young worms and worms one week later.
Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.
This is the time of year when everyone loves the mountains because of the profusion of wildflowers. On our property there are so many various species of wild flowers that it is impossible for us to count them all. That is one of the things we will miss when we sell our home and move from here. We have an abundance of wild roses, columbine, lupine, Indian paint brush, violets, daisy and monk’s hood just to name a few. They tend to bloom for weeks and months producing a carpet of wildflowers. Walking through the property with all the wild flowers is one of the special advantages of living in the mountains. It is not just the varied colors and species but the profusion of flowers and flowering weeds that transform and carry you into a special place.
As I walked our property this morning the birds were singing their songs, getting a drink or bathing from our two streams or in search of food, plus the wild flowers were every where and the ground was like a green carpet mingled with a host of color. The chipmunks and ground squirrels seemed to notice the beauty too as I observed several sitting on stumps seeming to enjoy the time of year munching on a dandelion flower or some piece of food. Yesterday we went to cut up some downed trees but when we arrived at them there were three deer bedded down chewing their cuds so we decided not to disturb the deer and leave the cutting for another day. They feel so safe and secure here that they didn’t even get up even though we were within 30 feet from them. These are the things we will sorely miss when we move to a more comfortable and compatible environment that will not be as difficult to handle with aging body joints.
This time of year is one of those times that makes living in the mountains so special - like being reborn all over again each year and experiencing new life (except for sore joints). The elk, deer and bear have their babies, the woods are various shades of green splashed with a variety of colors from the wildflowers and it seems that life starts new from here. Fall is also a very special time in the mountains with the aspen and mountain oak changing colors and the smell of hot pine needles with the full aroma of fall. Both of these seasons either follow or proceed the harsh reality of snow season which in itself is a fun time, albeit a lot of physical work. Our summer in the mountains where we actually use a circulating fan to keep cool lasts about two weeks. Other than those two weeks the temperatures are very comfortable and the cool at night is excellent for good sleeping just by leaving the windows open.
So while we will miss all these aspects of mountain living at 9,750’ elevation we have concluded that living here full time for 16+ years will be memories we will always cherish and someone else can enjoy it in the future. Bodies get older making it hard to continue to fully enjoy this small area of paradise. We don’t know how long it will take to sell our homestead and this lifestyle but until that time happens we will continue to enjoy the ideal life and let things evolve on their own.
For more on mountain living with Bruce and Carol McElmurray go to: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com, and if you are interested in our mountain property go to: www.coloradomountaincabinforsale.blogspot.com.
When I first heard the term chicken saddles, the whole idea seemed absolutely preposterous to me. Hearing the word, I immediately pictured a miniature horse saddle strapped around one of my chickens. It made absolutely no sense. Even a rat would be hard pressed to ride a chicken, let alone something bigger. Of course, this is not at all what a chicken saddle is actually used for. Although a chicken saddle is placed on their backs, it is actually used to protect a hen's back when roosters get a bit rough during mating.
Having two roosters in my flock, this became an evident problem for one of my hens in particular as my chickens matured. By spring, her back was bare and laden with scrapes and scabs. She happened to be one of the smartest chickens in the flock, always seeming to find a way out of the fence and into the garden. For a long time, I puzzled over why she always separated herself from the other chickens. I worried that a hawk would find her easy to snatch. I then realized that she did this to stay away from the roosters. As I watched her to confirm this fact, I found that she was miserable. When I was working in the garden, the hen would hide behind me when a rooster neared her. I knew that a chicken saddle would be the easiest solution.
Unfortunately, at the time, my sewing machine and fabric was lost in an overwhelming pile of boxes. I needed to find a way to make a no-sew chicken saddle with materials that I had accessible to me at the time.
Being a farmer, most of my clothes are stained from paint, grass and dirt. I found such a pair of jeans that I wore when I was doing especially messy jobs, such as painting the barn and building the chicken coop. The jeans were small on me and never very comfortable, so I decided to use them to make an emergency chicken saddle until I could make I more substantial version.
Starting at the bottom of the pants, I cut along the middle of the seam on one of the legs, working my way up. I chose to cut at the seam to prevent the fabric from fraying. I stopped when I reached about a foot up the pant and then cut across to sever the material from the rest of the jeans. You may want to adjust this length depending on the size of your hen. I always prefer to start much larger than necessary just in case a problem arises.
At this time, I checked the length on my hen to ensure the size correctly matched the hen’s back. I normally measure this by holding the fabric against her back. The end of the saddle (the seam on the bottom of the jeans) should fall about a quarter over the hens tail maybe a little more. The front should rest at the bottom of the hen's neck. Shorten if necessary, but do so sparingly. If the fabric is shortened too much, it will fray quickly and eventually fall apart.
On the top of that saddle, about three inches from the edge on both sides, I cut a slit for the wings to go through. Keep the slits as small as possible because this is what secures the saddle to the hen. If the holes are too large, it is very likely that the saddle will fall off frequently. Before cutting these holes, you might benefit by measuring the space between the bases of the wings. The space between the slits should be identical to this measurement.
Finally you can try the chicken saddle on your hen by gently working her wings through the slits. Be careful not to damage her feathers. I often find that the slits for the wings usually tend to be a bit small so I slowly adjust the size using scissors. Do not tear the fabric to increase the size of the holes. This will encourage fraying and additional tearing to occur.
Although this is by no means a permanent option, this is a quick effective method to help keep your hens happy and safe!
I am a young farmer and photographer committed to growing organically and protecting the environment.
Our farm is home to rare breeds of poultry, including Dorking chickens, Ancona ducks and Narragansett turkeys. Having offspring each year is essential to our mission of helping to save these rare breeds, but hatching and caring for chicks presents different challenges each year. We purchased an incubator four years ago to give us more control in getting consistent hatches; it has done well with both chickens and ducks. However, this springtime has shown us that we have a lot more to learn when hatching out turkey eggs—and that sometimes having chickens as a back-up still works best. Here are some of the pros and cons we’re finding with an incubator versus a broody hen:
• You can plug in an incubator anytime, but a bird will begin to brood only when she is ready. Last springtime was a warm one, and there were two Narragansett turkey hens that were willing to sit and brood in March. Heritage breed turkeys take a long time to grow, and beginning in March worked out perfectly to having turkeys for our friends’ Thanksgiving tables. Although turkeys had begun laying eggs in this year’s cooler spring, no hens were yet broody. Being “broody,” or being willing to sit like a “Buddha” on eggs for four weeks, is essential for a successful hatch. That is why we collected eggs in the root cellar, at 55 degrees F., until we collected 15 eggs to put in the incubator.
• You can “candle” eggs when they’re in the incubator—and that’s a lot of fun! Our candling set-up is merely a box over a desk lamp with a small florescent light inside. I cut an oblong hole in the box, barely the size of an egg, to hold the egg against and get a shadowy picture of what’s inside. Eggs are candled the first week to see if vessels are developing, and later to check the size of the air-sac. I’ve discovered that holding the egg with one hand, while cupping the other hand around the egg, allows me to see the actual movement of the embryo. I think this is as thrilling as a fetal ultrasound! After one week there is the marble-size blob. After two weeks the blob is bi-lobed and moving. After that it’s possible to see a wing or a head move. It takes less than 30 seconds to look at each egg, and leaving the incubator open that long is equivalent to the mother hen leaving the nest for food and water. I love getting in on the miracle of this new life!
• Mother hens have proven more reliable than our incubator this year. We just completed our second incubator hatch of turkeys, and neither could be considered a success. Four poults survived the first hatch and there are only two healthy babies from the second.
There were technical difficulties with the incubator both times that may have been factors - the turning-bar for the eggs wasn’t working for two days on the first hatch and the electricity actually went out during the second brood. You would have enjoyed watching us running those precious eggs out to the chicken house for the broody hens to sit on! The embryos were still alive when tucked back in the incubator and candled later that day. Such drama on the farm!
But the broody hens have also been our heroines other times these past two years. We had so many broody chickens, but no broody turkeys, early last springtime that I put seven eggs under two of the broody hens for the “fun of it.” Because chicken eggs only require three weeks of incubation, I didn’t think they would sit the four weeks that turkey eggs require. But the chickens not only sat, they hatched out 100 percent!
This year we no longer trusted the incubator when we began a second round of hatching. Therefore, when 15 eggs went into the incubator, we also put 12 eggs under four broody hens in the chicken house. The chickns net result wasn’t as good as the previous year because there were other hens who wanted to brood (see below), but eight of ten live poults came from the chickens, while only two poults survived the second incubator hatch. The eggs under the chickens actually began hatching two days before the full four weeks—and the incubator eggs didn’t begin hatching until two days after their due-date. I suspect that some of the poults’ nutritional-reserve may be depleted when they hatch so late and perhaps that’s why some didn’t survive after leaving the incubator.
• Successful brooding usually requires a separate brood house. The problem with letting a broody bird sit on her eggs in the hen-house is that other hens either want to contribute eggs or some hens also become broody and want to sit in the same nest. The original broody-girl quickly has too many eggs to keep covered, or eggs become broken as other hens jostle for position.
It’s best to have a separate place for brooding that’s safe from predators. If you want to move a hen when she’s sitting on eggs, do it in the dark and do it quietly. We have moved hens that have hidden under bushes or behind the woodpile into the “brood house” and they have continued sitting. Once the eggs hatch, we put mother and babies outdoors in a ‘baby chicken tractor” for continued protection from cats and other predators until they are large enough to go to the chicken house with their mother. The other hens accept the new chicks and respect that they are the mother’s to care for.
• The incubator can waste a lot of eggs—but so can the hens. Before this year, when hatching chicken or duck eggs (the latter require four weeks of incubation just like turkeys), we’ve had 80 percent to 90 percent hatch rate with the incubator. Although the hatch-rate for the turkey eggs was dismal this year, we’ve had a couple momma hens who were notorious for sitting on nine to 15 eggs, then waltzing off with five or six babies and leaving unhatched chicks—sometimes still cheeping in their shells! Perhaps this is Nature’s birth-control or her way to choose the strongest genetics.
It will probably take more years of watching eggs in the incubator and under hens to better understand what factors are contributing to each hatch. In the meantime, I will try to enjoy the new life without suffering so much with each chick that doesn’t survive!
Mary Lou Shaw homesteads with her husband on a 13 acre farm near Washington Courthouse, Ohio, where they grow most of the food that they eat. Mary Lou’s book, Growing Local Food, is available through MOTHER EARTH NEWS.