Category Archives: Chickens & Eggs

Build Your Own CSA Share!

Don’t want beets in your box? Wish you could have potatoes this week? Now you can check on the contents of your weekly CSA box and add or remove items each week!  You can also cancel a week if you will be gone and have those items credited to your account!

We are very excited about this season and our plan to allow members to have more choice in their weekly boxes of fresh, clean, certified organic produce. You will also soon be seeing a NEW WEBSITE when you check in with High Meadow Farm.

To see how the program works, try our DEMO!

To sign up now, CLICK HERE!  To learn more about our share sizes, CLICK HERE.

 

Open Farm ~ Indoor Market Day November 19, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm!

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There is an Open Farm market day coming up Saturday, November 19, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm!  Stock up on produce for the holiday season and beyond.  We are finishing our field harvesting this week before the snow flies and you have the opportunity to enjoy the sweetness of fall greens, roots and other storage vegetables.

Salad mix, spinach, kale, collard greens, arugula, cabbage, brussels sprouts, potatoes, onions, squash, pie pumpkins, carrots, micro-greens, daikon radish, leeks, sweet potatoes, parsnips, kohlrabi, broccoli and fresh eggs are some of the things to look forward to.  Stop in and have a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee!

Happy Chickens

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They have had a good life at our farm and now they are are ready to become top quality, pastured, organic and soy-free chickens for the table.

We raise meat birds for market in the fall and because of popular demand, we raised a few more than we usually do this year! Due to spending their days outdoors eating grass, bugs and soy-free feed, they remain healthy and happy.  As a result, their meat is tender and delicate and high in the nutrients and benefits that prevail in pasture-raised meat and eggs.

Our birds are processed humanely, by us, and at our farm.  They are available October 16 – 24, fresh OR frozen, after that they will be available frozen only until they are sold out.

Visit our Chicken Page for more information.

Email or call to reserve: highmeadowfarmcsa@gmail.com.  920-699-3658.

Our Thanks to a Rooster

We have had the good fortune this spring to have housed a fairly nice rooster that has now left his legacy in our 17 adorable, fluffy chicks.  Although it is always fun and rewarding for us to raise chicks from our own hens, we usually make a point not to have a rooster available in the spring to make this possible.  This time it worked out well for us!

Big, bad Mario.

Big, bad Mario in 2008.

I learned the hard way that roosters don’t make good pets.  I still have the beak-shaped scar on my arm to remember the day that I tried to talk to my “pet” rooster, Mario about his rude behavior to our guests.  He was not in the mood.  It was spring.  He had only the hens in mind and scoffed at my perceived friendship.

As we stared at each other in contempt, I wondered what I was thinking.  He is an animal that acts instinctually.  Of course he would be nice to me in exchange for food during the off-mating season.  He even let me pet his pretty feathers.  I remembered how my mother once made “pets” of some wild raccoons that were vandalizing our garbage cans nightly.  They completely turned on us when the Ritz crackers ran out and Mom had to call the animal control people.

That was years ago, when our flock was small.  Since then, I rarely keep roosters past 5 months of age.  I don’t befriend them either, preferring to keep them a bit leery of me and other humans.  Mature roosters will challenge visitors and small children and can be very aggressive with our dog, Leo as he simply goes about his evening chores of herding the chickens into their housing.

However, last fall, as we sorted the roosters from the flock, we apparently had one that was left behind due to his remarkable quiet, hen-like behavior (and hence; disguise).  His breed (Cochin) and slower development played out in his favor.  He was allowed to spend the winter months with our young pullets* that had not started laying eggs yet early in the season and that worked out just fine.  In February, the pullets began laying eggs and the rooster became sexually mature which resulted in the majority of these young hen’s eggs being fertile.

Our incubator filled with eggs for hatching.  Not all will be viable; they will be candled to check for development about a week after they start incubating.

Our incubator filled with eggs for hatching. Not all will be viable; they will be candled to check for development about a week after they start incubating.

The development of the embryo doesn’t start until the egg incubation temperature is brought to around 99°f; the temperature that a hen will keep them at when she begins sitting on the eggs.  That is why a hen can lay several eggs in a nest over a week or more and then have them hatch 20-22 days after she begins setting on them.  As an alternative to a setting hen, we us an incubator.   When our rooster found a new home last month, we set an incubator’s worth of eggs aside to hatch.  With no rooster on the farm now (except perhaps in the brooder right now!) none of our eggs are fertile anymore and there is no chance for them to ever become chicks.

Cute little chicks all dried off and into the brooder to keep warm and safe.

Cute little chicks all dried off and into the brooder to keep warm and safe.

Although there is little difference between a fertile egg vs. a non-fertile egg other than a cloudy spot on the yolk or in the white, our fertile eggs have been used for our home use or sold to customers that ask for fertile eggs.  We do this for consistency in our egg quality; non-fertile eggs will keep longer than fertile eggs and sometimes, even the cloudy spot causes some concern to people that are not accustomed to farm fresh eggs.

The High Meadow Flocks

We have and still do raise several different types of birds on our farm. Different breeds will meet different goals when we are raising chickens and the same goes for turkeys and ducks.  We like to have some diversity in our laying flock, but the majority of our laying hens are Rhode Island Reds or a similar breed.  Although Rhode Island Reds can get broody* at times, this trait has largely been bred out of the breed, but they are prolific egg layers.  The ones that do choose to set on eggs often have very short attention spans for the task and may end up abandoning their eggs before hatching.  Other breeds that we have in our laying flock are Auracana’s; bearded ladies that lay blue and green eggs, Dark Cornish (pinkish eggs), White Rocks (white eggs), Barred Rocks and Delaware (brown eggs) and Lackenvelders (small, white eggs).  All of these, with the exception of the Lackenvelders are nice dual purpose breeds, meaning that they are good for both egg laying and as meat birds.  We also raise a few flocks of Cornish Cross chickens that are raised entirely for meat.

Our flock sizes more than double in the warmer months as the chickens have access to outdoors and are allowed to forage and graze, but the flocks are never so large that the hens are stressed, crowded or more than our farm dog, Leo and I can enjoy caring for or manage to round up in the evening.  In the winter, we reduce our flock size, bringing a smaller percentage of our laying hens into the barn with access to the outdoors when weather permits.

"Mother" our old Banty hen who is at least 12 years old. Mother laid 5 eggs in this nest last week.  Because they were not fertile, I switched them with some that had been saved (not incubated) from our incubation clutch, but they are about a month old.  Oh well, they'll have a better chance of hatching than her little un-fertilized eggs.  We'll see what happens in a few weeks!

“Mother” our old Banty hen who is at least 12 years old. Mother laid 5 eggs in this nest last week. Because they were not fertile, I switched them with some that had been saved (not incubated) from our incubation clutch, but they are about a month old. Oh well, they’ll have a better chance of hatching than her little un-fertilized eggs. We’ll see what happens in a few weeks!

Some of our hens are acquired through mail-order as chicks or from a local hatchery.  They are raised organically from the time they hatch, allowing their eggs and their meat to be certified organic.  We usually order straight-run* which provides us with a number of roosters in the mix.  As the chicks grow, the pullets will join the laying flock and the roosters will become meat birds (before they become mean birds!). If we do decide to keep a rooster for breeding, we often hatch our own eggs in the incubator.   We also will switch a hen’s unfertile eggs with fertile eggs if she is broody and we believe that she is up for the task of setting on her clutch* for 21 days. Usually the hen that we depend on the most to hatch a clutch of chicks is Mother, our tiny little Banty hen who is 12 years old and can still lay a nest full of eggs when she is in the mindset to hatch them.  She is the best mother chicken that I have ever known and we love her very much.

These eggs were collected April 17.  I'd bet on the one on the left having a double yolk!  (The rooster is NOT actual size.)

These eggs were collected April 17. I’d bet on the one on the left having a double yolk! (The rooster is NOT actual size.)

The best time to collect eggs for hatching (if you have a rooster) is in spring, when the grass is green and the days are getting longer.  It is also a time when you can notice the greatest change in the yolk color and flavor of the eggs!  The chickens are busy and happy and all of this is reflected in their eggs.  The eggs get larger in spring, too; often resulting in eggs with double yolks!

If you are still curious for more information about how the chicken got into the egg, there are more egg facts and a few definitions if you click HERE.

To see what a fertile egg looks like click HERE.

To see a nice chart on the developing stages of an egg, click HERE.

Corn Tortillas; the root of many a good breakfast and lunch! Oh, and dinner.

2013-03-02 2013-03-03 001 012We use a lot of corn tortillas around the farm.  We also love eggs. With little time to bake bread to have on hand for sandwiches during the growing season, corn tortillas have become a staple.  Each of us has our own preferred assembly of them although they usually involve a fresh egg as the base protein.  To mine, I will add  a fried or hard-boiled egg, ½ of a frozen jalapeno (thawed and blistered along-side the egg while it is cooking) a little cheese and a large handful of greens, raw or cooked.  Others go heavier on the cheese and lighter on the greens, some add salsa and refried beans if we have them.  At any rate, it almost always starts with a tortilla.

I’ve considered the statistics and newsworthy articles that show the remarkable quantities of genetically modified (GM) corn that Americans consume each year, particularly if you eat fast food, processed or industrial food and if you eat meat, eggs or dairy products from animals that have been fed GM corn in their diets.  If you drink beverages sweetened with corn syrup, eat candy or salty snacks, I’m sure that you have increased your chances of having a similar chemical composition to an ear of GM corn.  As for us, I think that we are fairly low on the GM corn consumption list although I confess at times, to turning a blind ear when it comes to chocolate, cheese and some occasional salty snacks.  We had been buying organic tortillas in quantity (genetically modified grains are forbidden under organic rules) but when the supply runs out it leaves us with the choice of no tortillas or tortillas from the local grocery that contained a long list of ingredients that really can just ruin a good appetite after you read them!

So I bought a tortilla press.  It has in return brought us much joy in the form of delicious tortillas that are made with 3 simple ingredients: corn (masa harina), salt, water.  A tortilla press can be easily found at most Mexican grocery stores and if not you can order them online.  Mine is cast iron, works well, is easily stored and it cost under $15.00.

To make tortillas, you need to use masa harina and not regular cornmeal. Masa harina is corn that has been dried and then soaked in a lime solution (calcium hydroxide) and then dried again and ground to use for tortilla making.   The lime soaking is a process that helps to loosen the hulls and aid in the process of creating the hominy (hull-less corn) that is then ground into the flour for making tortillas.  You can also purchase masa harina at the Mexican grocery, however finding out if it is non-GMO corn may be a challenge.  I have been using Bob’s Red Mill brand.  Although it is not certified organic, a call to the very nice people at Bob’s Red Mill assured me that their policy is NO GMO’s.   It is easier to find than organic tortillas and I’ve been very happy with the results so far.

Assemble the ingredients: 2 cups masa harina, 1 1/2 - 2 cups hot water and 1/2 tsp. salt

Assemble the ingredients: 2 cups masa harina, 1 1/2 – 2 cups hot water and 1/2 tsp. salt

The recipe on the bag says it will make 12 tortillas but we have found them easier to work with when they are thinner so we make 15 tortillas from one batch.

If you don’t have a tortilla press, I’m sure that these could be easily made with a rolling-pin.  You may want to try that before you invest in a press.  I jumped right in with the apparatus and I am happy with that!

I highly recommend cutting 2 nice sturdy sheets of plastic to roll the dough between. Most recipes suggest the plastic from a zip lock type food storage bag.  It is heavy and it is washable so that they can be re-used.  I cut the circles to size a little larger than the tortilla press.  If you are using a pin, you probably don’t need to make the circles but I’d still use the plastic.

Mixing the dough

Mixing the dough

To make the tortillas, you will need:

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Put the masa harina into a bowl and add the salt.  Stir in the water to make a good dough that sticks together with a spoon and then mix and knead with your hands for a few minutes until it forms a nice, round and smooth ball.  Cover the ball with plastic and let it sit for an hour or so.Next, pinch off chunks of dough that are about the size of golf balls and shape them into nice balls.  (About 15 of them)

Cover this with plastic and let it rest for an hour.

Cover this with plastic and let it rest for an hour.

Cook the tortillas as you make them, so have your pan ready, warm and oiled.

Set a sheet of plastic on the press and then set a slightly flattened ball onto the middle.  ( I put them just a few hairs towards the hinge because of the way the press shifts them.) Cover with the second sheet of plastic and press until you see the edges coming to the edge of the press.

Set the dough ball between 2 sheets of plastic.

Set the dough ball between 2 sheets of plastic.

Remove the top sheet and use the bottom sheet to gently flip and peel the tortilla into your hand and then set it onto the hot pan for about 30 seconds.  Flip and heat 15 more seconds and then remove to a plate.  Cover them with a towel if you want to keep them warm.  I just let them cool slowly if I am planning on storing them in the fridge.

Continue this process until all of the tortillas are done.  It is easy to just get in a rhythm and press one while one is cooking, etc.  Use them right away or store them in a bag and reheat them in a warm pan as needed.

Next recipe: Spinach Enchiladas!  Yum!

Flatten until it is about 6" in diameter

Flatten until it is about 6″ in diameter

Heat the tortilla for about 30 seconds each side to set the dough.

Heat the tortilla for about 30 seconds each side to set the dough.

A nice stack of corn tortillas, ready to use!
A nice stack of corn tortillas, ready to use!

An Egg of a Different Color

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Loving eggs as we do here, I was excited to find this recipe for Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs at the Appetite for China Web site!  I was itching to try making them and I was not disappointed in the least! 

First, you hard-boil the eggs and then cool them.  (Slightly under-boiled is recommended, although mine were pretty much at the hard-boiled and done stage).  And then the fun begins!

*Note: full instructions and even a video can be found here: http://appetiteforchina.com/

Crackle the egg shells evenly with the back of a knife. The shells aren’t broken, just cracked.

2013-02-24 2013-02-25 002 003Put them back into the pot and cover with cold water.  Add ½ cup soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, 1 stick of cinnamon, 5 whole star anise (I didn’t have this so I used anise seed) and 2 black tea bags.

Then you simmer this for 1 -2 HOURS!

The eggs are beautiful and your house will smell amazing.  It smells like someone was baking wonderful cookies.

2013-02-24 2013-02-25 002 010So how were the eggs?  I started these early in the morning and needed to go outside to do chores after about 1 hr. and 10 minutes.  Cooking them longer is said to make them stronger but I don’t think that is a bad thing, the spice is not overpowering at all!  The eggs, as you can see, are fascinating and beautiful!  The flavor is very subtle, slightly sweet and they are surprisingly not over-cooked!

I ate one for breakfast and put the rest in a nice, chubby jar that they fit perfectly into.  I figured they would raise an eyebrow or 2 when my husband opened the refrigerator door and I was right about that; without warning and partly because 2013-02-24 2013-02-25 002 013they are in a clear jar, they look somewhat like a specimen of some sort, but feeling somewhat artistic and proud of making these tie-dye eggs, they are still lovely to gaze upon.  I look forward to lunch tomorrow; mustard greens and marbled eggs.

And my house still smells amazing!

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Easy Comfort Food; Egg Curry

Egg Curry

Egg Curry (click on link below for recipe)

 

 

At a time of year when the barnyard hens of most small farms take a break from egg laying, our hens have apparently not received that memo!  Maybe I am just not that great a chicken farmer…my chickens just don’t listen.   I told them last fall that this was the time to rest up; we’d need their services again in spring.  I guess laying eggs is one way to pass the long winter days when the snow is too deep to play outside, (If you are prone to do those things, that is) and long winter days they have been this year!  I have personally been entertained daily by seeing the expressions on the ducks and chickens each day when their doors are opened to snow, then puddles, then ice, rain, snow, puddles, ice, snow, more snow, wind….although their expressions aren’t so much of surprise anymore as they are disappointment.  After a few warm days of puddle-hopping I think they are ready for warmer days to stay around again.  After all, it is almost chick season!

As for the laying hens, not only are the pros of last summer hard at work, my sweet young pullets have now started to lay their beautiful rainbow eggs in full force.  We have been enjoying eggs for breakfast daily and we have been keeping a nice bowl of hard-boiled eggs on hand for lunches and snacks and in the case of tonight’s dinner; an elegant curry dish that  was perfect on this chilly and snowy night! (Egg Curry recipe)

Duck egg, left- chicken egg, right.

Duck egg, left- chicken egg, right.

Our lovely little ducklings have grown up into egg laying machines too, laying an egg each every day for the last 2 months now.  Indian Runner ducks such as ours have a reputation for being great egg layers.  Ours are also getting a reputation for being noisy.  At least they are entertaining and productive though!  Have you ever had a duck egg before?  They are a luxury that I am getting very used to!

I understand that not everyone loves duck eggs as much as I do.  They are a little different from chicken eggs although not extremely so.  Duck eggs are slightly larger, they have a harder shell, (sometimes taking a little harder tap on the pan to crack), the yolks will remind you of a huge orange sun and they have proportionately less white than chicken eggs.  I think they are creamier and richer.  (They also have more calories and cholesterol, I suppose, explaining why I enjoy them so)  I am told that they also have more digestible proteins than chicken eggs making them more acceptable for people who have intolerance for chicken eggs.  I have also found that duck eggs will make cookies and cakes fluffier which is not always desired for certain pastries, but so far, I have enjoyed baking with them and I have also enjoyed this little flock of our 5 ducks that are almost 1 yr. old!

Our Indian Runner Ducklings; aka Khaki Campbell ducks.

Our Indian Runner Ducklings; aka Khaki Campbell ducks.