Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Egg delivery protocol and egg facts...

In the Barn

We have been working to identify a corona virus safe system for egg deliveries.  I think we have identified a way to keep everyone safe and get their eggs!  
If you want eggs, we will need a physical address (where you want the eggs delivered), email address and phone number.  Send me an email at remarkablefarms@gmail.com to get on the egg list.  

We will send out an email on Wednesday to ask if you are interested in purchasing eggs.  Let us know by Friday at noon, what your order is.  The sooner you respond, the better chance of getting your order filled.  The eggs will be delivered on Friday afternoon.  

Make sure to leave a cooler on your front porch by 3:00PM on Friday afternoon.  Put cash (we are looking into maybe a PayPal payment but do not have it set up yet),  your loyalty card, and any empty egg cartons in the cooler.  If this is your first order, you will receive a loyalty card with your egg order.  A hard sided, nonporous cooler would work best, such as this...
We will take all precautions and use hand sanitizer before handling any cartons.  Once the eggs have been placed in the cooler, you will receive a text message stating that your eggs have been delivered.  If you think you might not be able to get to them right away, it may be a good idea to put a small ice pack in the cooler. 

This delivery system is a temporary situation.  Once the Moscow Farmer's Market begins, we will be selling eggs at the Market every other week. 

Storage of Eggs

Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I am asked if eggs need to be refrigerated.  When a hen lays an egg, there is an invisible bloom, or cuticle, around the egg that protects it from contaminants like Salmonella getting in the egg.  HOWEVER, we wash our eggs and this removes the protective coating.  Therefore, the eggs need to be refrigerated.  According to the USDA, refrigeration also increases the shelf life of the egg from 21 days (at room temperature) to 15 weeks from pack date.  For the best quality, use eggs within 6 weeks of their pack date.  We stamp the inside of the container with the pack date.  In other countries, hens are vaccinated for Salmonella and; therefore, they can store eggs at room temperature.  Here is a nice article about proper egg storage, if you are interested.

Egg Sizes

When hens and ducks start to lay eggs, the eggs are smaller.  As the poultry continue to grow, so does the size of the eggs that are laid.  
Initially, the eggs you will be getting will be small sized.  (We keep the peewee sized eggs).  We are giving an extra punch on the loyalty cards for purchasing the small sized eggs.  Hang in there...the eggs will get bigger each week!  In fact, many of the eggs we packed yesterday (3/29/20) were already in the "medium" size range.

Here is an egg size substitution chart.  For example, if your recipe calls for 2 large eggs, use 3 small eggs.

Fun Fact - Double Yolkers

As a pullet (young hen) starts laying eggs, her reproductive system is still maturing, which means a glitch, such as a double yolk, is more likely to occur. It is usually much larger than the other eggs and will contain 2 yolks.
Pullet egg on top and double yolk egg on bottom.

In young hens, the odds of producing a double-yolk egg are one in 1,000.  In the Wiccan belief system, a double yolk is a herald of good fortune for whoever cracks the egg.  Bring on the double yolks!  Double yolkers are also symbols of death and fertility (twins)...no thank you.  I like the idea of having good luck!

What is that in my egg?

Sometimes you will crack open an egg and see a small spot of blood.  Blood spots, also called meat spots, are the result of the rupturing of tiny blood vessels in the hen’s ovaries or oviduct. This area is full of tiny blood vessels and occasionally one will rupture during the egg making process. Eggs with blood spots are fit to eat. You can remove the spot with a utensil (or just scramble it up and eat).

One last note, Henry wanted me to make sure that you know that the duck egg shells are thick and can actually be challenging to crack.  The thicker shell increases the shelf life of the egg.  Getting that egg cracked is worth it because duck eggs are so great to bake with!  Here is a great article on Everything You Need to Know About Duck Eggs.

Have an eggcellent week and stay safe!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Stress Management on the Farm

Stress Management on the Farm

When I attended the Women in Ag conference in January, we talked a lot about self care and stress management.  I had been wanting to write up a blog post about the topic.  Now, with the growing Coronavirus pandemic, it seems that everyone is feeling some stress so I figured that this might be a good time...

Farming (and life, in general) is stressful. There are a lot of the parameters that are outside our control...weather, financial worries, disease issues, regulations, weed or predator pressures, the list goes on and on.

Farming is a unique situation in that home and business happen all in the same place.  Failure not only affects the farmer but the farmer's whole family.  For smaller farms, the production of seasonal products can make it difficult to meet expenses in the off season.  For larger farmers, they can be at the mercy of the ever changing commodity market. 

Farm stress is rarely talked about but suicides among farmers are 1.5 times higher than the national average, and could be higher because some farm suicides could be masked as farm-related accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Some universities are now starting to address the issue of farm stress.

The University of Minnesota also has a set of Cultivating Resiliency Webinars offering tools to help in dealing with the stress.  

Michigan State University started a research project called Managing Farm Stress to determine if text messaging can help to alleviate farm stress.  

At the Women in Ag Conference, one analogy that was used is the 3 legged self care stool.
The 3 legs are:
1. Relational - having healthy connections with others
2. Cognitive - change negative self-defeating talk to empowering talk
3. Physical - eating/drinking right, sleep and exercise

On a Personal Note

I thought farming with Mark would be so carefree...we would just apply for funding and hire someone to build the coops for us and life would be peachy.  If you have been following along on our journey, that is not exactly how things have been working out for us. This has been stressful.  

Mark's funding was denied and we had to get a non-attorney advocate to help us fight this decision.  After working for months on this issue, we heard in February that his plan was going to be approved but we still have not gotten the funding (any day now, we are hoping!).  

Our contractor said he would be starting to work on the coops the end of August 2019.  We still have no coops. I could not sleep last Monday night because I was so upset that the coops have not been built!

Okay...try to stay positive...empowering talk...  

Because of LOTS of generous donations, we have been able to make ends meet financially with the chicks and ducks AND they have started laying eggs so we will finally have a product to sell (income!!!) 
Another positive is that the concrete finally got poured last week.  The chicks and ducks seem happy in the barn for now.
I am taking steps to manage my stress.  I think it's best if you work every day towards reducing stress but it's always best to have a "go to" plan when things get overwhelming.  My "go to" is praying.  I pray a lot to St. Rita, she is the patroness of impossible causes and hopeless circumstances because of her difficult and disappointing life.  I know prayer is not for everyone.  Find something that works for you.

I exercise most every day.  I found an app on my phone that goes through 5 minutes of full body stretching and I do that everyday.  I am making it more of a priority to meet up with friends.  I try to eat healthy.  I am getting better at evaluating priorities.  Also, I rant on this blog!  LOL!  Thanks for listening!

One last resource...North Dakota State University has a website with lots of great information about Farm and Ranch Stress.  Here is some information from their website:

12 Tools for Your Wellness Toolbox in Times of Farm Stress 

Individuals in farming can experience stress from multiple sources. Stresses can be managed as individuals use practical wellness strategies to reduce stress and improve wellness.

1. Exercise 20 minutes or more daily (walk, swim,ride a bike, etc.). Physical activity enhances feeling good.
2. Get a medical checkup with a local health-care provider. Stress can cause or add to physical challenges.

3. Spend 10 minutes to plan your day and priorities. A few minutes of planning reduces stress and helps you stay focused.
4. Take regular five- to 10-minute breaks in your day to relax and recharge. Doing this multiple times a day renews your energy.

5. Write down three things that you are grateful for daily. Conscious gratitude calms your mood.
6. Share concerns with a counselor or other professional. A listening ear helps lift your burdens.

7. Take 15 minutes each day for uninterrupted conversation with a spouse or family member. A few minutes of planning reduces stress and helps you stay focused.
8. Get involved or stay connected with a friend or group of friends. Doing this multiple times a day renews your energy.

9. Discuss needs of the farm operation but do not let them occupy all other aspects of life. Plan other daily work tasks to shift your focus.
10. Seek constructive feedback on your farm operation and ways to grow or improve. Others can share ideas or assist in new ways.

11. Create a family budget and seek to live within your means. This helps give you a sense of financial control.
12. Select three healthy habits you will try to practice daily. Start today!

Take a deep breath and have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Barn cat and new house cat!

On the Farm

I love cats!  I have pretty much always had a cat.  So, it's really no surprise that we would be getting farm/barn cats!  We have been waiting because of the coyote pressure.  Now that we have the dogs, I am hoping that it will be safe to release some cats on the property (as long as they stay on the property, I think they will be okay).

There are many benefits of keeping cats on the farm but the biggest benefit is critter extermination!  We have enough voles, pocket gophers, weasels and mice to keep the barn cats fed and fat.  

I knew we wanted to get some cats this spring so I started looking around.  One of local animal shelters, the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter, has a Barn Buddy program.  Taken from their website:

Barn Buddies are cats that are independent, self-sufficient animals.  They are also known as "mousers" and "rodent managers."  They typically prefer to live outdoors, seeking accommodations in a barn or shed with a steady supply of food and water.  Some Barn Buddies, with patience and kindness, will learn to trust over time and become affectionate and loving companions.

Sometimes rescue cats, for various reasons, can not live as indoor companion pets.  These cats become part of our Barn Buddy program.  They are in desperate need of a home on a farm, horse stable, warehouse, or other suitable outdoor location.  This program offers them a chance at a safe life that is best for them.

Candidates in our Barn Buddy Program include:

Friendly cats with litter-box issues
Friendly cats that have spent their life outdoors and can not adapt to indoor life
Semi-feral adults too shy and fearful of people
We consider our Barn Buddies to be "outdoor pets."  They ARE NOT just turned loose to live off the land.  These cats will depend on you for basic care for their overall health.  Their welfare is our foremost consideration and we work hard to find qualified barn homes for Barn Buddy cats.

There is no adoption fee associated with barn buddies.  All Barn Buddies go to their homes spayed or neutered and are current on rabies and distemper vaccinations.

I called and got put on their waiting list for the month of March.  Then, our house cat, Buster passed on February 13.  We had him for about 13 years.  This left a huge hole in our family.  I started looking around for a new house cat and then I found a cat at the Humane Society of the Palouse in Moscow, ID:

Meet Cider
Are you looking for a loving barn kitty to keep a handle on rodent population? I am definitely the girl for you!  My name is Cider, and I am one sweet girl! I am roughly 3 years old, and I would make a great outdoor kitty.  I was surrendered to HSoP because I was having litter-box issues. The staff at HSoP took me to vet clinic and had a few tests ran on me to make sure I was healthy and not suffering from an underlying medical problem. I had blood work and a urine analysis done, and both came back completely normal! This is great news for me, but this also means that my litter-box issues are not due to fixable medical issues. I lived mostly outdoors in my previous home, and when I was brought inside I began to pee outside of my litter-box. The staff here thinks that I should either be a barn kitty, or maybe an indoor-outdoor kitty.
I was living with two other cats, and I liked to keep my distance from them. We never had any issues, but I was not super cuddly with my friends. We all respected each others boundaries!
Relocating feral and outdoor cats is not as easy as physically placing them in their new outdoor home. Cats are very territorial, and if you simply place them in a new location, they will try to find their way back to where they came from.  Fortunately, feral and outdoor cats can be acclimated to a new territory fairly easy and in a short amount of time.

We got a large kennel and put it in our barn.  Put the food, water and litter box near the door for easy access.
Here is our set up for Cider in our big barn
After 2-3 weeks, we will open the cage door.  We will keep food and water both inside and outside of the cage. We got Cider on February 18th.  That means that this coming Tuesday (March 3) will be 2 weeks.  She seems super happy when we visit her each day.

Here is a video of when we brought her home:

We still needed a cat for the house.  All the cats I had ever owned were strays that someone was trying to re-home and they were all great cats.  I had always wanted a calico cat and there was one available at the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter.
Her name is Beck!  She came home on February 18th too.  We were told that she goes "psychotic" when she sees other cats which is fine because she will be an only kitty in the house.  Mark picked out a toy for her and here is a video of them:
Both cats have settled in to their new homes well.  So, we went from one cat, to zero cats to two cats..that is good cat math.  I am really excited to release Cider soon!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Reasons to LOVE Eggs!

Why eat eggs?

We love our hens and ducks!  We go above and beyond to give them the absolute best care!
There are lots of great reasons to LOVE and eat eggs!

Eggs are a good source of high quality protein (6 grams/egg)

Eggs are full of 9 amino acids which are the building blocks of quality protein.  Eggs help build muscle strength and prevent muscle loss in aging adults.   

Eggs are full of nutrients

Eggs are a great natural source of Vitamin D.  A deficiency in Vitamin D is often linked to depression, psoriasis, and asthma.  Vitamin D is also important in calcium absorption which helps to form strong healthy bones.  Eggs are a great source of choline which is great for your memory!

Eggs keep you feeling full

I eat two eggs for breakfast most days.  I never have to worry about feeling hungry before lunch comes.  The protein in the egg slows the digestion of food in your stomach which keeps you feeling full.  

Eggs can help you lose weight

Because of all that high-quality protein making you feel fuller for longer, you are tempted to snack less!

Eggs are inexpensive

Compared with meat sources of protein, eggs are an inexpensive source of protein.  

Eggs are versatile

Eggs can be scrambled, poached, baked, fried in butter, hard-boiled, & soft-boiled.  They are used in savory and sweet baked dishes.  You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, supper, or a snack. 

So, remember...
~Denise (and Mark)

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Why Duck Eggs Cost More

Egg Pricing

Today's blog is meant to be used as a reference to send people that may ask, "Why do duck eggs cost more?"  I will be explaining pricing, all the options of purchasing eggs, and our loyalty program.

Let's just rip off the band-aid and put the prices out there right away:

6 pack chicken eggs = $3
6 pack duck eggs = $4

12 pack chicken eggs = $5
12 pack duck eggs = $7
12 pack half chicken and half duck eggs (half and half) = $6

18 pack chicken eggs = $7
18 pack duck eggs = $9
18 pack half and half = $8

Okay, take a minute to digest all this.  

1. We are offering multiple sizes of egg cartons:  6 cell, the traditional 12 dozen eggs, and an 18 cell.
2. We are offering a "half and half" of half chicken and half duck eggs.  Duck eggs are excellent for baking but have a more "eggy" taste when eaten cooked (which some people may not appreciate).  I have also read that the way the eggs taste depends a lot on what they are fed.

You may ask...how do I tell which eggs are chicken eggs and which are duck eggs?  Easy...the chicken eggs are brown and the duck eggs are white!  More about egg color in a bit...

3.  We feel that these prices are comparable to prices you would see in the grocery store for pasture raised eggs.  I recently went to 2 different grocery stores in our town and found that one dozen pasture raised chicken eggs ranged in price from $5.50 to $8.50.
I do not want to go into all the differences and benefits of pastured eggs but I found a great article that breaks it all down (cage free vs. free range vs. conventional vs. pasture raised).
Regular vs Pastured Eggs - What You Need To Know

We feel our chickens fall under the pasture raised definition the best.  While they are in the barn this winter, we have been supplementing their feed with green wheat fodder, dried herbs and vegetables and roasted squash.  We are SO excited to finally get our girls out on pasture this spring!!!

4. I think the loyalty program is pretty self explanatory.  If you return 10 of our egg cartons (yes, they MUST be ReMARKable Eggs cartons) to us, you will get a free dozen chicken eggs.  This will help us to re-use the egg cartons/labels to help cut down on costs.  (Yes, we could use other egg cartons that are given to us but we are trying to set forth a professional look.)

Egg colors

We know that it is fun to open a dozen eggs and see lots of pretty egg colors.  Eggs range in color from light pink and white to dark chocolate brown, olive green and baby blue.  So, why doesn't ReMARKable Eggs provide all these fun colors?  Simple...its due to the economics of running an egg business.  

The Araucana chicken is probably the most common blue egg laying chicken.  One hen can produce about 200 eggs per year.  Many sex link hybrids (Mark has Gold Sex Link) can produce up to 300 eggs per year.  Let's just say for easy calculation that the sex link chicken produces 8 more dozen eggs each year (96 more eggs/year).  Then, multiply that by 70 chickens.  That is 560 dozen more eggs to sell.  We need to have product to sell (eggs) to make the business work.

Why do duck eggs cost more?

Back to our original question, why do duck eggs cost more?


Ducks are messy!  We carry gallons and gallons of water (translate to extra labor) to the ducks every day and they just waste most of it!  We are still experimenting with different watering systems for the ducks.  I will probably make an entire blog post about this subject in the near future...

Because they are so messy with their water, we have to use twice as much pine shavings in their area of the barn.  Pine shavings are not cheap!  We are doing the deep litter method in the barn this winter.  Click on the link to learn more details about the deep litter method.  Basically, you keep adding fresh shavings over the soiled ones all winter long and it starts to slowly compost over the winter.  In the spring, we will clean out all the bedding and put it in a pile to finish composting.  In a year or two we will have some grade A compost for sale!  If you have ever used a composting toilet, it is similar to throwing a handful of sawdust in the bucket after you go.

Duck eggs are larger and more nutritious

Two duck eggs are the equivalent to three chicken eggs. Another way to look at this is that a dozen duck eggs is the same as 18 chicken eggs!  Duck eggs are more nutritious (more Omega 3's, iron, B vitamins, and protein) than chicken eggs but do contain more calories, cholesterol and fat.   Here are a couple of great articles comparing chicken and duck eggs:
The Pros & Cons of Eating Duck Eggs vs Chicken Eggs by Mother Earth News
Chicken Eggs vs Duck Eggs Nutrition by Nature Word

Ducks eat more

Along with drinking more water, they eat a lot more than the chickens and it takes more feed to produce an egg.  I read that a chicken will eat about 4 oz of feed a day and a duck will eat 6-7 oz a day.

The ducks are also crazy loud.  We don't want to hold this against them but it is almost to the point that we need to wear ear protection when we go in the barn!  We know they are just being their ducky selves.  

There are lots of things we also enjoy about the ducks (cold hardy, better immune system, can forage for a large part of their food needs) but we have found that they do require more inputs in terms of labor, feed and bedding.

Guess the Date of the First Egg Contest

A big thank you to everyone that has participated in the Guess the Date of the First Egg Contest!  There are over 50 guesses!  We put the nest boxes in the barn yesterday.   Here is the nest box for the chickens.  It is a roll-away design so they lay the eggs in and then they roll out the back into a compartment that can be easily collected from.
We know this pic is a little dark.  We will make a little video soon of how it works...
We have read that ducks do not care to use nest boxes and will just lay their eggs on the floor in various places (another con for the ducks).  We did read that they sometimes like to have a little privacy so we bought this big, white tote at the Goodwill for $4 and Henry cut out an opening for them to go in and use for laying eggs... 
We will make a Facebook live video on the day we find the first egg!  If you are not following us on Facebook, click here:  Remarkable Farms

Let us know if you have any questions about the pricing!
Have an Eggcellent day!
Denise (and Mark)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dehydrating vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers!

In the Kitchen

I use a variety of food preservation techniques.  One of my favorite things to do is dehydrate things!  I own 3 dehydrators!  There are so many advantages to dehydrating food:
1. It is shelf stable...no need to worry about the power going out and things thawing or needing to have a can opener
2. Dried foods shrivel up so they take less space
3. Flavors are concentrated since all the water has been taken out
4. Dehydrated food retains more of its nutrients since the food is not exposed to high temperatures
5. Low risk of contamination and no preservatives needed

I have been playing around to see what dehydrated foods we like most the past couple years.  Technically, you could dry almost anything but, when re-hydrated, the texture may be a little different (and may be off putting to you).  For example, we use a lot of pumpkin.  You can dehydrate pumpkin into a powder and then re-hydrate when you need to use.  It just seems easier to me to puree the pumpkin and then freeze it instead of dehydrating it and then having to re-hydrate it again.  I tried dehydrating green beans, but I didn't like the texture when they were re-hydrated (now the chicks and ducks are enjoying them!)  

One thing that I like is dehydrating cut up celery and then using it in soups all winter long.  I also dehydrate mushrooms.  A new thing I tried this year is beets.  I cut beets to the size of french fries and dried them.  Then, you re-hydrate them and fry them up like french fries (I know, not the healthiest recipe).  The beet fries were a hit and it's not like we are eating these everyday.  
Dried beet "fries"
Another thing I experimented with is zucchini.  I shredded some and I cut some in long lengths and then I could use them as lasagna noodles.

If you have a cherry tomato plant, you know how prolific they can be.  I made "sun-dried" tomatoes with the cherry tomatoes.  I made so many of these that we are now feeding a good amount to the chicks and ducks too!

I also like to dry flower petals.  Since they are so dainty, I don't even bother with putting them in the dehydrator.  I just let them sit out on a screen.  I use the flower petals to make tinctures and healing balms.  Also, we feed them to the chicks and ducks (boy, the chicks and ducks are really spoiled...)

This past fall, Mary came to the farm to work.  One of her main duties was to dry herbs.  Here she is drying some yarrow leaves.  We are now feeding these leaves to the chicks and ducks.  She also dried kale, comfrey, anise hyssop, catnip, echinacea, sage and bee balm.

I ended up with a nice variety of dried herbs/flowers that we are now feeding to the chicks and ducks each day!
There are many benefits to feeding herbs to your chickens.  There is a great article about this at Timber Creek Farm.  Here is one of their images showing some of the advantages of herbs for chickens:
You can also dry fruit.  I dried some cherries last summer and yesterday, I put some frozen currents in the dehydrator.  I think most people have eaten banana chips or dehydrated apple rings.  These are convenient, go-anywhere snacks to take when you are on the run.  The possibilities are limitless on what to dry and consume!  Consider dehydrating for a great food preservation technique!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Christmas visit to see Joshua

Visiting Joshua

We got up early on Christmas Day and headed for the airport.  One short flight later, we were in Salt Lake City.  Mark was excited to go to see Joshua.  In early December, he kept saying, "Airport, airport" and when I asked who he wanted to see, he said "Josh"
Mark waiting at airport to get on our plane.
Henry's mom flew out from Philadelphia to meet us and visit with Joshua.  We were so happy to see her because it had been almost 2 years since we were able to visit her.  We went to see a movie and then headed to the Macaroni Grill for dinner.  Although we had made reservations, it was still about an hour until we got seated and then another hour before the food came but that just gave us a lot of time to talk and catch up.
Linda, Joshua, Mark and Henry waiting for our Christmas dinner.
The next day, we went for a train ride in Heber Valley which is about 40 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
Joshua, Denise, Linda and Mark waiting to board train.

Denise, Joshua and Linda on train.
The best part of the train ride was that we saw some swans on the lake!  Joshua seems to be really fascinated by swans lately and kept asking for pics of swans to put in his room.  Did you know a baby swan is called a cygnet?
Denise and Mark on train.
On Friday morning, we had a family therapy session and then headed out to the Great Salt Lake.  This time, we went to Antelope Island.  You can drive out to it on a causeway!  The entire island is now a State Park but it used to be ranched in the late 1800's up until 1981.  The Fielding Garr Ranch homestead is open for people to walk through.  It is the oldest Anglo built house on it's original foundation in Utah.

Henry and Mark walking around the Fielding Garr homestead
Denise and Mark walking out to see bison.
There is a lot of wildlife on the island including mule deer, big horn sheep, antelope, and one of the largest herds of bison.
Bison grazing at the base of "mountain"
We spent our Saturday doing some shopping, bowling, going to another movie, eating ice cream and pizza!  We left on Sunday and headed back to Idaho.  

A big THANK YOU to Joe for feeding the ducks, chicks, dogs and cat while we were gone!