**originally posted in Sauce Magazine
If you asked us last year where we thought we would be this spring, our answer would’ve included sheep and pigs. However, as some of you may well know, starting a small business – especially one that relies on nature – can be quite the changing game. Throw in having to take the farmhouse down to studs and having a baby, and, well, you can quite certainly place our lives in the “too busy to sleep” category.
Last season, spring’s torrential rains thwarted planting, and we were late getting the plants in the ground. Thus, we ended up only doing a small plot of tomatoes and vegetables for friends and family. We had big hopes for this planting season – along with the hope of having sheep grazing on the pastures by now and heritage-breed hogs clearing the oak groves of all the acorns they could find. Sadly, we are not where we thought we would be. The issue of pasture erosion has reared its ugly head. Along with our partners, we decided to forgo sheep and hogs this season and bring in some professional help to give us a hand with the erosion in the pastures and planting fields. Are we sad? Yes. But what’s the point of trying to create a sustainable farm if we just harm the land with our plans to have animals grazing it? So, for the moment, things are on hold.
But not all plans were a bust! With the bad often comes the good, and I’m happy to say that our pasture-raised hens and turkeys are thriving. We are now in full egg-laying mode, and both the turkeys and chickens are producing a bounty of eggs! We get upwards of three dozen fresh chicken eggs a day along with four turkey eggs.
The chicken eggs arrive in beautiful shades of blue, green, brown and white. (That is the great thing about raising Ameraucunas; the eggs come pre-colored for Easter!) The turkey eggs are larger than chicken eggs – tan with delicate, brown speckles. We do have both a rooster and a tom (male turkey) out on the pasture with the hens.
One of the turkeys has gone broody on a nest of eggs, meaning she has decided to rest on top of the eggs, keeping them warm in order for them to hatch. Fingers crossed that we will soon have some baby turkeys to put in the brooder, a heated enclosure to keep the chicks safe and warm once they are free from their shell. Our hopes are to have enough turkey production this spring and summer to supply our friends and family with delicious, free-range heritage breed turkeys this upcoming holiday season. We also hope that the rooster plays his part and that we can begin to increase our chicken production as well, as we are starting the plans for raising some chickens for meat production. As you can see, things are getting pretty exciting on the bird front.
Because of the issues in the pastures and planting fields, our garden will again only be large enough to supply our family and friends with its bounty. We were hoping to have things further along at this point, but as we are coming to find out, the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men often go awry! This journey has proved to be a wonderful learning experience. Not a day goes by where we don’t find out something new about farming as well as raising chickens, turkeys and children. We continue to learn the business of starting a business and all of the ups and down associated with life on a farm. With spring comes a gentle sense of renewal. We look forward to the future and continue to work towards our family’s goal of having a sustainable farm to feed and nurture our family, friends and community. We continue to be thankful for the bounty the land has already provided both our birds and us.