Spring brings lots of changes to the farm…except the spring weather this year. While temps at the farm are still hanging in the 30-40 degree range, we were gifted a few blessed days of 50-60 degrees and sunshine in the past few weeks; and, I think we accomplished more in those 2-3 days than the last 2-3 months of winter! Barns were cleaned out, bedding freshened, doors flung open and sunshine and fresh air enlivened everyone. It was glorious!
And then…winter returned with snow on the ground, the whipping cold wind, and the animals were more than slightly confused. We also made the difficult decision to sell our small flock of Shetland sheep. We had bought a ram and 2 ewes in 2011 to learn a bit about livestock and enjoyed it immensely – we learned how to rotationally graze, shear, and lamb in the spring. But, we were not raising them for meat (they are a very small breed with little meat yield) and are not interested in fiber production. Our little flock grew last spring from just the ram and 2 ewes to 4 ewes, all of whom are pregnant and due to lamb in the next few weeks. While lambs are amongst the cutest farm animals you will ever have, they require more work and feed than we knew we were able to provide them with at this time.
It turns out, in life (and in farming) we face tough decisions and the flock of beloved sheep had to go so we could devote our time, energy, and funds to farm ventures that actually bring money back to the business. The sheep were pets, no doubt about it, and we needed their land and hay for steers, pigs, and poultry.
So away they went, though the lull in life was only for a few hours as I brought home 150 broiler chickens on the same day! These guys were hatched on Easter Sunday at Townline Hatchery (a West Michigan hatchery) and I picked them up on my way home from work two days later. Only one did not survive the treacherous journey – hatcheries will typically send extra to account for shipping losses – and we nursed two sorry-looking chicks back to health by the warmth of our wood stove.
They will stay warm and cozy under their heat lamp until all their adult feathers arrive (along with some warmer and sunnier spring weather!) Then, they will be moved to their chicken tractors on pasture, where they will forage to their hearts’ delight on grass, grubs, bugs, and seeds. Yum!
We have some chickens still available for the June 1st slaughter date. You can read more here if you’re interested. We have had several requests for the giblets, neck, and feet to be kept for the customer (in a separate bag) so please let us know if you would like us to do the same for your chickens. These parts make for excellent and nutritious broth and we will have extra bags of those parts available on pick-up day.
The other new addition to the farm is our to-be-named pig. We bought her from another small farm and they believed her to be pregnant, due in April or May. We aren’t so sure she’s expecting but we’re happy to have her anyway! She’s half Durock, quarter Old Spot and quarter Berkshire – all are excellent heritage breeds that do well on pasture and are known for their particularly flavorful meat. If she does turn out to be pregnant, we could have a few more piglets available, otherwise we are planning on buying more feeder piglets.
As requested by some friends, here is the Crock-Pot Chicken recipe I use for cooking whole chickens. The meat just falls off the bone and is incredibly flavorful – leftovers are perfect in other dishes, like casseroles and pot pies. 🙂 Enjoy!!
Whole Crock-Pot Chicken
- 1 Whole 4-6 lb chicken, giblets removed
- 1/2 T Black Pepper
- 1/2 T Thyme
- 1 Clove of Garlic, minced
- 1 T Onion Powder
- 2 T Paprika
- 2 T Kosher Salt
Take the whole chicken and rinse it inside and out with water. Pat dry and set aside. Mix together all of the seasonings in a small dish. Place chopped potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery as a bed in the Crock-Pot. Place whole chicken on bed of vegetables and rub with seasoning mix. Cook low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Voila!