We've been quite busy this spring already. The cows are off winter hay and back on grass and enjoying it. Now that its warm, grass is growing fast and we'll be ready to make hay later this week.
They have also been busy calving. We have had three so far. There isn't much more fun than finding another calf bouncing around the cows! Our rotational grazing is well under way now and the new calves learn quickly from their mothers what's expected of them.
This guy is part of our biological mowing team (bmt). He'll be joined soon by two sheep. We started this last year as a way to cut cost and replace fossil fuel with a natural alternative. Its quite simple. All it requires are a short length of rope, a halter for the animal and a bucket of water and then move them every day or two.
This mower will be used to mow what our bmt's can't keep up with. We bought this Huskee garden tractor a couple years ago without a mower deck on it to pull around a small trailer. After we sold our way too big (and unhandy for our yard and for Jen to use) Farmall A mower tractor, we needed something else to take its place. We found a mower deck off of a Cub Cadet sitting in a friends salvage yard (A+A Recycling in Hartford, MI).
I thought it would require quite a bit of fabricating to make it work seeing the tractor and deck are two different makes, but as it turns out they use the exact same mounting system. The rear brackets and lift arms fastened without modification and the front bracket was simple to fabricate out of angle iron from an old bed rail. Add some paint, drill some holes and we have a heavy duty mower for about $180 including a new drive belt for the mower deck.
Here is the Farmall. It was a great tractor - just not suitable anymore for what we needed for mowing or tractor duties.
We replaced it with this Case 530 CK loader tractor. It will need some work in the future which allowed us to get a great deal on it. It's built extremely well and should serve us well for moving the egg-mobile, feeding the cows hay in winter and other farm duties such as planting crops etc. We used it to plant small plots of experimental crops this spring. We are experimenting with "pasture cropping" in the hopes of growing some of the feed used in our chickens feed ration instead of having to purchase the non-GMO feed.
In a nutshell here's how it works: You take a pasture you would like to plant grain in. Normally in the world of agriculture the pasture would have to be be killed by chemicals or tillage. Neither of which are good for the soil and soil life. Instead you take livestock (in our case our cows) and graze it really hard. Overgrazing long term is detrimental as well, so you want to graze it just hard (once in the spring or the previous fall or both in some case) enough to temporarily set it back and slow its growth. Then plant your grain - we are trying corn as we can harvest a small plot by hand and don't have to invest in an expensive combine just to try this out. Once your crop is harvested, the under-story is growing and recovering and won't require replanting. Crop yields will likely be less with this method, but without the harmful effects of tillage or chemicals and the expense of tilling and reseeding the pasture.
We've also been busy with our first batch of broilers this spring. The ones in the picture are about a week from being ready for processing.
We built a scalder for processing this spring. In lieu spending excess of $3,000 for a scalder, we opted to build our own commercial unit. We built it with a bunch or recycled stainless steel metal, electric motor/gearbox, hydronic pump, ect. What we built is a partially automated scalder. The water temperature is automatic and the tumbler is operated by a simple on/off switch.
We bought some started pullets to replace some of our older laying hens and to expand a bit. We've had a hard time keeping up with demand for eggs this spring. These guys should start laying right away. We will also butcher some old laying hens soon. These make great soups and stews. We still have some available. Call us for details.
Butchered and ready for the grill! Our first batch of the year is done and the next batch shows up this week. Put in your orders now for summer chicken!
On the soaping end of the business, we made some silicone liners for our soap pans to make Jen's life a lot easier. Lining pans the old way with paper was quite time consuming.
Make sheets of silicone by mixing and pouring liquid two-part silicone, cut the pieces to size and weld them together and this is the finished product.
We also made a LOT of soap to prep for the summer farmers market and craft show season. We brought back our seasonal summer scent Lemon Poppy Seed and just introduced a new floral scent Spring Showers.
We are now in full swing with both the Granger Farmers Market and Skips European Market and the first craft show (Regatta) of the year is next Saturday (May 31st) in St Joe, MI.
We had a long winter of not doing much. We are making up for it now. We've probably missed some things in this blog and there will certainly be more to come! Stay tuned.
Okay, so this isn't farming exactly, but as homesteaders/do it ourselves'ers we thought you might be interested in how to turn a plain, unpractical bathroom into this...
...and this. I can hear it now...you can't possibly remodel a bathroom to look like that for $200. Okay, I may be blurring the lines of cost a little, but here's how we did it.
Step one: start with an old claw-foot tub in decent shape. We used it for several years, but it just wasn't practical as our only bath tub.
Two: Sell the tub and a excellent vanity with a granite top that was given to us (but was to big to fit our bathroom).
Three: buy an antique dresser at a resale shop and a new sink and facet on ebay for less than what the vanity sold for. I don't have any pictures of our old vanity, but it was quite literally ready to fall apart.
Four: install new tub also given to us.
Five: close up old window with recycled lumber, scrap insulation, and leftover (matching) siding.
Six: design and install tile surround.
And voila! Sometimes life is about working with what you have. We hadn't really planned on re-doing the bathroom this spring, but when the tub was given to us and winter refusing to give up we thought now would be a good time after all. It turned out very well and as soon as the grout is fully cured, it should work great too!
Are your eggs Organic? Do you wash your eggs? What make your eggs different? These are some of the questions asked of us on a regular basis. Hopefully this post will answer those questions and more!
We start by placing our chickens into a natural part of a biological system. During the growing season, they are kept in portable housing so they can be moved to a new area every several days. This spreads manure where it is best utilized – on growing pasture. It also prevents chickens from overgrazing an area. Chickens will eat every living thing if left in an area too long. In the winter we loose house them (no cages) with deep bedding and feed them fresh green sprouts that are grown here on the farm. Deep bedding provides warmth for the chickens and ties up bedding with carbon so valuable manure doesn't vaporize into the atmosphere or runoff in rivers and lakes. Their feed ration year round is comprised of non-gmo grains and natural minerals. Natural systems makes healthy eggs.
Do you wash your eggs?
Sometimes. Chickens lay eggs with a natural anti-bacterial coating. It is best to leave eggs unwashed if possible. As a result, the only eggs we wash are dirty ones. Keeping winter bedding clean and chickens moved regularly in the summer facilitates keeping the eggs clean.
Are your eggs soy-free?
No. Finding a replacement for soy is expensive. One of our goals as a business is to have products that are affordable to the average person. Many families would not be able to afford the price increase that would be necessary if we switched to a soy-free ration. The second reason is replacing soy creates some nutritional challenges. For example, sunflower seed has a high enough protein to be used for feed, but would raise Omega 6's and cholesterol. Lastly, a soy-free ration would force us to choose between local and long distance. Soybeans are grown locally while soy alternatives are generally not. Switching would mean not being able to support local farms. As a result, we have chosen not to switch to a soy-free ration.
Why do your egg yolks have so much color?
Our eggs have a lot of color because we encourage our chickens to eat as much fresh greens as they can.The color of the egg yolk is tied directly to the amount of fresh greens the chicken eats. The more fresh greens they eat the more colorful the yolk. The color will vary quite a bit from one season to the next. Spring with its lush green growth brings nearly orange yolks while a prolonged drought can reduce the color of the yolk to a pale yellow much like winter eggs. Also, in the winter we feed our chickens sprouts grown on our farm. We have found fresh green sprouts aids chicken health, helps enrich winter yolk color and boosts winter production!
Are your chickens fed a non-gmo ration?
Yes. Gmo (genetically modified organism) crops fail the test of time and common sense. They have been touted by their manufacturers as the panacea for “feeding the world” and reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides. In truth, gmo crops are failing miserably on all counts. Production isn't any better then modern hybrids and the use of killer chemicals is up. Weeds and bugs are becoming resistant. Meanwhile, studies are beginning to show diseases linked to the use of gmo feeds. Common sense says we should expect nothing less. Gmo's are not natural. Where else on the planet other than a laboratory do you find a fish getting it on with a tomato? Say NO to gmo!
Are chickens vegetarian?
No. In their natural environment, chickens happily eat bugs, worms, mice – generally anything small. Chickens are a mono-gastric creature designed to eat plants and meat alike.
Are your eggs Organic?
In the truest sense of the word, organic is merely a natural way to grow things. While we use many organic practices, we are not USDA certified Organic. We believe true certification can only happen by the consumer visiting their own farmer/s and verifying with their own eyes. Without personal integrity, the law becomes a moot point. Integrity cannot be legislated. We have an open door policy at our farm, come out and visit us, it is the only way to know for certain how the food you are eating has been grown.
Why do the egg shells look different?
Our chickens have a lot of genetic diversity. We have three to six different breeds of brown egg laying chickens at any given time. Most of these are heritage breeds (Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorp, Plymouth Rocks being the primary ones). As these have not been genetically selected for consistency like modern commercial breeds, they will lay eggs with various shapes and shades of brown.
Why do chickens lay less in the winter?
The amount of eggs that a hen lays is tied directly to the amount of daylight hours and how cold it is. Hens need a minimum of about 12 hours of daylight as a general rule to lay eggs. This isn't a hard and fast rule though; breed type and the condition of winter housing affects production as well. Each chicken will only lay eggs if her energy needs are met. The colder it is, less she lays. If the temperature drops as little as 30 degrees, a 100 hens will eat about 50 lbs more feed every week!
From the Farmers Desk,
This blog is intended to be a more in-depth extension of our Facebook page. While Facebook serves an momentary snapshot into life on the farm, it isn't the time or place for expanded discussions. By the same token, many of the discussions we have with you our customers at the farmers markets and such are delightful, it is difficult have in-depth discussions on the why and how. Expect a wide array of topics. We are small farmers/business owners with a strong homesteading bent. We love making and doing things our selves. We garden and can foods, build equipment and even have fun now and again. (:
Currently part of our farm comprises of a small, growing herd of beef cattle. We are a grass-fed/grass finished operation. Most of our beeves are either born here or arrive as day old calves. Cattle are a natural part of the local biological cycle and through rotational grazing help restore the health of our soils and consequently provide healthful and delicious foods!
Another integral part of our farm is our flock of laying hens. During the growing season they follow the cows around as the resident pasture cleanup crew. These hardworking feathered critters spread manure, eat bugs and once a year or so, do clean-up duty in our garden as well. In return for the fresh air, sunshine and good grub, they gives us yummy eggs!
Also part of our farm are pastured broilers and turkeys. Housed in bottomless pens and only grown during the growing season these birds are moved every day to a new spot for a fresh menu every day and a clean bed every night. Fed non-GMO feed and butchered right here on the farm makes for clean, tasty birds.
Do you know where your food comes from? We are your local connection. Come visit and see for your self!
All that work on the farm requires good soap and body products. We make and sell a variety of hand soap, body butters and laundry products. Our all natural products don't contain fillers, fragrances or fillers and are made without animal products. If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin.
Our home and body products are available online at our website www.ebyfarmsllc.com and at several farmers markets, stores throughout the area and craft shows. We are also available at the farm by appointment.
from the farmers desk
Matthew and Jennifer Eby live on a small family farm in Southwestern Michigan with their three children. They are homesteaders with a wide variety of interests and a natural foods and home and body products business.