Home of Apple Cider Molasses
Posted by Carolyn Loveland :: Tuesday, February 11 :: 4:09pm
We tried meat chickens two years ago using Cornish Crosses. Crosses are used in the poultry industry because they grow to harvest weight in about 8 weeks. Wow! Two months and I can harvest a chicken? Quick turnaround time, minimal expense, what could be better? And in fairness to other chicken farmers this was our first attempt.
It was a disaster. They grew so fast they couldn't support their weight and had to sit down; The sitting causes respiratory distress (can't breathe) and also creates raw spots on their breasts so they have no protection from heat or cold. It was a horror movie come to real life.
In my chicken ignorance (having not thoroughly researched the breed)I thought "Well , maybe they will outgrow it." And grow they did. We harvested most of them way too late. The rest ended up becoming fox food or succumbing to diseases. I swore off eating chicken for about 6 months after that..
John & and I remember those tasty Cornish Game Hens that we had for Thanksgiving dinner when we were kids. One hen was the perfect serving for two people or one really hungry teenager. I researched Cornish Game Hens only to find the modern day version is my ill fated Cornish Crosses harvested at 4 weeks of age. I called three different breeders and they all told me the same thing. Cornish Game Hens are Cornish Crosses harvested young. Yuck.
We kept looking and found the chicken of our dreams; the Original Cornish Game Hen aka Dark Cornish aka Indian Game hen. Loves to free range, can actually reproduce (the crosses can not), great mothers, and very protective of their flock. Bingo!
It's grow out period is little longer than the Cornish Cross but I don't have to cringe in horror watching sores, bare spots, and chickens that aren't ambulatory enough to get up and even take a drink. I want healthy, happy chickens. These guys look like the answers to my prayers.
Indian Game Hen aka Cornish Hen aka Dark Cornish
Currently we buy leftover produce and anything green we can get our hands on to feed our chickens. But being winter we still have to supplement with pelleted feed.
But! We are about two weeks away from ditching traditional pelleted feed and converting over to a fodder system supplemented with organic chicken feed. I can't tell you how ecstatic I am! John is putting together the framework this week, planting next week, and we'll be getting new crops every 6 days. The nutritional level of fodder versus grain is almost double. Protein of most fodder is around the 15% mark. Not to mention those great minerals and nutrients that are absorbed naturally by the chicken rather trying to force their digestive system to break down pellets.
Indian Game Hens raised predominantly on fodder? So hoping our "test batch" exceeds my expectations Coming soon to our farm! Stay tuned.
Posted by Carolyn Loveland :: Tuesday, January 21 :: 12:54pm
What is Aquaponics
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (raising plants in a soiless environment). The fish live in a tank of water (or some other type of containment area), the water then travels to the plants, the plants absorb the nutrients that are supplied by the fish and fish food, then the water goes back to the plants. All of this is possible due to the presence of bacteria (nitrosomonas and nitrobacter) that break down the fish waste and turns it into usuable plant food.
Young greens growing in raft aquaponics.
Dr. James Rakocy, of UVI, coined the phrase aquaponics combining hydroponics and aquaculture. Aquaponics exists in nature; think plants growing in a fish pond. It also has been practiced for a few thousand years. The scientific studies, that we are familiar with, started as early as the 1960's then gained world wide acclaim by the studies done at the University of the Virgin Islands. UVI offers aquaponic courses (during non hurricane season) and you can find them on Facebook.
I have been searching for a more sustainable way to farm. We were looking at hydroponic farm systems and they just didn't seem to have (to me that is) that all natural, sustainable appeal that I was looking for. True, the nutrient supplements can be certified organic. But having an organic certification didn't necessarily mean it was sustainable.
We didn't have a strong well on our farm so we were limited to the amount of water we had for terrestrial crops. Then my daughter mentioned it would be really cool to combine fish waste with plants and "why couldn't we do that?" We found out it was already being done and they called it Aquaponics.
Personally, it's been the adventure of a lifetime. Everyday is a new learning experience. It's a combination of chemistry, biology, physics, aquaculture, horiticulture and general mechanical ability. It poses intriguing questions and keeps my mind active. Added bonus is there is no weeding.. Love it!
Pros and cons
Pros: There are a lot of different methods to grow plants. And they are only limited by people's imagination and engineering abilities. The three most popular are the raft, nutrient film technology, and gravel bed. There are many different plants you can grow. Water usuage is about 10% of traditional crop usuage and the plants help (they don't do all the work) filter the water so it can be reused by the fish.There are a LOT of resources on the web that can assist you with a start up system. Be it a small one for your home or something commercial size. Aquapons (people who practice aquaponics) tend to be pretty helpful. One afternoon with an aquapon may be the most helpful couple of hours you could imagine. And best of all, Aquaponics is chemical free. Even organic pesticides used in organic farming cannot be used in aquaponics. It will kill the fish. The fish become the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
Cons: Depending on the size of the system start up costs can be costly. If you plan on designing and running the system yourself you will need a good working knowledge of aquaculture, horticulture, chemistry, biology, physics, and general maintenance skills such as plumbing, electrical, etc. Don't throw the towel in yet.. We started from scratch with no aquaculture skills (and are still learning!!) but did have construction, biology, chemistry, physics, and horticultural backgrounds. We are currently raising yellow perch. I don't know if we'll stay with this fish but for now they are just doing fine. Being in Upstate New York, in order to make this truly sustainable we are looking for alternative energy sources to minimize heating and energy costs.
The aquaponic industry is exploding. There are aquaponic associations, schools, and a wealth of information on the internet. Farmer's markets are starting to carry aquaponically grown produce. It's being taught in high schools and middle schools across the country. There are things that every student can learn from aquaponics. It's teaching our children how to grow food and be self sufficient.The future is bright and best of all, healthy! Bon Appetit!
Recirculating Aquaculture by Timmons
and too many other books to mention here.. :)
Have a super day and thanks for checking in at the Farm!
Posted by Carolyn Loveland :: Thursday, January 16 :: 7:09pm
You are browsing the produce section of the grocery store. Everything looks clean, freshly misted, and wonderfully appetizing. It makes you feel better just looking at all the healthy foods around you. But, take 2 minutes and watch the video listed below. This caught me off guard, to say the least.
This young lady explains, very simply, the effects of herbicides on vegetables.
Now that you've watched the video read the Cornell University fact sheet on Chlorpropham, Trade name Bud Nip.
Unnerving isn't it? Just think if even half of your food was treated with chemicals like that? Makes me want to know where my food comes from. How about you?