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!