Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Thoughts on Heirlooms

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to heirlooms...one being that they are a culinary delight, and should be prized above all others, the other being that they are, as one farmer put it, “yesterday's favorites for a reason”.  While praised for flavor, these varieties are also often criticized for their low productivity and susceptibility to pests & diseases.   Horticulturists have been improving varieties every year, so why not take advantage of the newest, most productive and disease-resistant varieties available?

My completely biased opinion is that heirlooms are amazing.  I love to think about the history, and stories behind each seed- where it came from, the hands that tended it and passed it down for future generations they would never meet.  Many seeds came to America in the pockets of immigrants...for some it was the only thing of real value they brought with them to an unknown land.  How important those seeds must have been- not only as food, but as a taste of a homeland you'd likely never again see.  I got a bell pepper variety this year because the description stated it was one of the varieties Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello.  History you can touch, grow...how cool is that?  To be a part of the chain that keeps these varieties alive for future generations is literally a way of preserving history, and our country's heritage, and something that resonates deeply for me. 

What about the bad rap as underachievers?  First, there are plenty of heirlooms that are so common & productive, they are often not recognized as such- examples would be Provider green beans, Rutgers tomatoes, or Black Seeded Simpson lettuce.  There is also an essential difference between commercial hybrids and heirlooms in terms of how they grow in different climates.  Hybrids are grown to perform well in just about any part of the country.  That's why you'll find the same varieties at the big box stores whether you're in Maine or Florida, even though the growing conditions are radically different.   Heirlooms, however, were generally grown in a specific region and climate.  Therefore, it's really important to find the variety that comes from a place that has weather similar to your garden.  There are over 5,000 varieties of tomatoes alone available to members of Seed Savers Exchange.  Many of these would do really poorly here at my farm, but others will shine.  And by saving the seed from your own plants year after year, you can actually select for the plants that do best in your own garden!

An overlooked crisis in farming today is homogeneity.  Nearly every commercial farm grows  the same vegetable varieties, or raises the same kinds of livestock to get maximum production- be it bell peppers or beef.  The problem with this way of farming is best illustrated by the Irish potato famine.  When everyone plants the same thing, an entire nation's crop can be decimated by a new pest, disease or climate change.  When you plant an assortment of varieties of a given vegetable, you spread out your risk.  Each year, some kinds will do better than others given the weather and other factors.  

When I came to the farm, Dan helped me order seeds because I had no idea how to grow much of anything, much less what kinds were best, and the choices can be overwhelming.  As I've grown into my role as a farmer though, I've taken over the job of selecting our seeds each year, pouring over catalogs for literal hours each winter, and have been continually experimenting with new varieties, many of them heirlooms.  It's a process that takes years.  Some varieties are great, and immediately earn their spot in the garden on a permanent basis.  For ones that don't thrive, I usually give it another shot the following year, since every year is different in terms of weather and such.  I've found that Riesentraube cherry tomatoes are more productive (in outdoor conditions, anyway) than the hybrids I can get, and that they and an heirloom Roma I grew were the most resistant varieties to the late blight.  But it doesn't always work out-  I've loved the idea of having pink Brandywine tomatoes for a while now.  But season after season, I get very few marketable tomatoes.  The Brandywines are large tomatoes, so a plant produces fewer of them.  But they are also prone to insect damage and cracking, which pretty much make them unmarketable, no matter how tasty they are.  However, I sold some seedlings last year and my neighbors raved that they were the best tomatoes ever!  I think this particular one just needs more TLC than I have time to give it, and may be best suited to home gardeners.  That's OK.  Selecting varieties is a trial-and-error process, not every variety (no matter how cool the back story or pretty the fruit) is going to work for every garden.  I accept that there will be disappointments, and things I won't grow again, but for me, the fun is pouring over the seed catalog, finding something new that speaks to me in some way, and engaging in a yearlong experiment. Even the failures can teach me something.   There are also trade-offs to consider.  For instance, hybrid lettuce just grows more quickly & is ready to cut sooner.  But lettuce, as it matures, gets bitter and inedible, and that happens quickly as well.  I find that, even if my heirloom lettuces take a week longer to reach cutting size, they tend to last 2-3 weeks longer before getting bitter, even during hot weather.  So, if I wait (or plant a week earlier), I end up with much more time where I can market and use that variety.  Early or late, which is better?  I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, just personal preference and business practices.  However, lettuce is one crop I've transitioned pretty much exclusively to heirlooms already.

It is my hope, and a long-term goal, to transition more towards heirlooms.  I love the idea of  improving our self-sufficiency by saving our seeds, which in turn reduces our yearly expenses.  Saving more seed than I need could also lead to sales of seed packets in the spring, or even offering hard-to-find heirloom seedlings to our customers.  I also think it's just a natural extension of what we're already doing- preserving the historic buildings here, utilizing antique machinery in the fields...it isn't much of a leap to choose historic varieties of plants & livestock, either. I think it adds to the beauty of what we do here, and I look forward to my heirloom experiments for years to come!
 
 

Family Jewels

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you've probably picked up on the fact that we treasure old things here- heirloom plant varieties, heritage livestock breeds, antique farm implements, traditional ways of working the land.  As a general rule, I'm happier with vintage anything than brand-new.   There is a wonderful feeling in bringing home something old and putting it back into real use, in rescuing it from oblivion.

 I also love to cook, and collect cookbooks to the point where Dan thinks it may be a problem.  Used, new, cooking magazines, I love them all.  But with these, too, I have a special place for the old stuff as well.  So many of our modern recipes call for pre-packaged, pre-chopped, pre-wrapped, pre-cooked whatever, so we can eat in 30 minutes or less. But convenience and REAL food seldom go hand-in-hand, so it's wonderful to have recipes that utilize whole foods and emphasize using the whole thing (like making soup from the carcass the day after your roast chicken dinner).  

This is the way our grandparents and great-grandparents cooked, and since I have a pantry that is stocked more like it's out of the 1910's than the 2010's, these are the recipes I often treasure most.  And, like so many other things, I think our family recipes, our personal food traditions, are too often being lost as well.  So I am always extremely grateful when such treasures find their way to me.  Last summer, an older gentleman who lives nearby offered me his wife's recipe for bread & butter pickles.  This was something I had already hoped to add to the farm stand lineup, so I was very excited.  I was touched, however, when he handed me not a copy, but a yellowed piece of notebook paper written in his deceased wife's hand.  I was honored when, after giving him a jar in thanks, he reported that they tasted just the same, except mine were sliced a bit thinner.  

This past month, my grandmother passed away just a few weeks shy of her 95th birthday.  At the viewing, we were blessed with baked goods from friends & family.   The next morning, I had the most  delicious zucchini bread I have ever tasted.  Turns out, it was baked (with love, of course!) by my grandmother's older sister.  Aunt Kay is 96, still lives alone in a multi-story home, and still does the polka in her living room when it comes on the radio on Sundays "as long as no one moves my furniture"! So I asked this incredible lady if she would share the recipe with me.  I was very excited when, a week or so later, a small, handwritten envelope appeared in my mailbox.  Inside was her recipe, hand written, of course.  She had dated it and signed "Good Luck and enjoy! Aunt Kay."

 It is now tucked safely in my recipe box, and I'm anxiously awaiting the summer day when I've got zucchini on hand and see if I can make it taste as good as she does.  These things are truly heirlooms, like family jewels, to be treasured and passed on.  I encourage everyone to ask their relatives for the secrets to treasured family flavors;  too often, our elders are only too willing to share, but no one asks, and that is how jewels get lost forever.

 
 

Taking Inventory

The first real winter storm has hit the farm.  It's cold out, the wind is blowing and I can barely see the woods line from where I type, meaning visibility is not good at all.  It's a good day to take on indoor tasks, and after I finished sweeping up the mud on the kitchen floor again, I needed another project for the day.  Strangely enough, seeing all this blowing snow gets me excited to start thinking about the 2012 garden.  I enjoy sitting on the couch or near the woodburner, perusing the seed catalogs with a highlighter and a pen and notebook to begin creating a wish list of plants I'd like to grow, plus lots of price & volume comparisons.  It's a major undertaking, but it's always enjoyable.  

But before I start planning our seed purchases, I need to find out what is still here, meaning an afternoon of sorting through seed packets which have been stored away since planting stopped.  I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of the types of seeds I have, both what vegetable and what variety, plus the quantity on hand and when it was purchased or harvested.  I've been trying to do better at saving seed from our own garden plants, which is only possible with older, heirloom plants, not the modern hybrids.   We do use some of the modern varieties for disease resistance or productivity, but we've been steadily incorporating more heirlooms each year.  So in addition to seeing how many small white packets of commercial seed are in the box, I also have an assortment of envelopes and brown bags, each carefully labelled "Chives"  or "Christmas Lima" or "Pink Banana Squash".  It's exciting to see how much of our own seed we can preserve, which in the end results not just in a smaller bill come spring planting, but also should produce plants that are most suited to our particular climate and location.  

Once all the packets have been inspected and inventoried, I'll put the boxes back in their cool, dry space in the pantry.  Then I'll get out the highlighter and notepad and the gorgeous assortment of seed catalogs that have arrived and start dreaming of the possibilities of spring! 

 
 

Spreading The Word

I've always been an avid reader.  Dan is too, an so we subscribe to a number of magazines.  The latest National Geographic came in the mail on Saturday. I love reading about the exotic places, cultures and animals inside, but in this issue, one of the stories was very close to home.  On the cover, I spotted "How Heirloom Seeds Can Feed The World".  The actual article is entitled "Food Ark".  It begins by discussing Seed Saver's Exchange in Iowa, where we buy many of our garden seeds.  The two-page photo spread feature of uncommon chickens featured a dozen breeds of chickens, and out of the hundreds that could have been used, two featured (Orpingtons & Phoenixes) have been hatched in our incubator here at the farm.  The selection of potatoes, showcasing unusually colored and shaped tubers, included the blue that I enjoy growing.  Of course I read that article first, and found that it introduced quite a few concepts that are familiar to me but not for many Americans: heirloom seeds and heritage livestock breeds, and the fact  that they are in real danger of extinction; why reliance on a few high-yield varieties is dangerous; and that knowledge of traditional farming techniques is also slipping away as farming, like everything else, becomes increasingly mechanized.  While mud huts in Ethiopia are much more in line with the expectations of this publication, much of what they said could have easily been written here too.  Although I know I lead a far from mainstream life, I never really though of it as exotic enough for National Geographic!

Of course, I knew all about he concepts they were introducing, and to do more than touch on each of them was beyond the scope of the article.  But I was really excited to see it because it reaches out to such a wide scope of people.  Plenty of information is out there, but if you're not keeping up on agricultural or food-centric publications and websites, this might be totally new to you.  An article in National Geographic certainly reaches beyond those niches.  Hopefully, it will get even just a few more folks to really question where their food comes from, how it is grown, and maybe even inspire them to stop by a farm sometime.

It was also neat to see something I do featured so prominently in a national publication.   Not only are we dedicated to growing, selling, eating and preserving heirloom seeds and heritage breeds, we're doing our best to conserve farming knowledge, too.  Using the horses in the fields isn't some sort of gimmick, it something we truly believe in doing.  To many, it seems like the hard way, and it does take more time to do many tasks, as horses need to rest, unlike a diesel engine.  But to be on one of the horse drawn pieces of equipment, and many of them are antiques, with the lines in your hand, and the horses moving on your command is something powerful, something amazing. I know it's sustainable.  I know it's healthy for the farm, the environment, the food and the eaters of that food.  And in a very real way, I feel like I'm touching history.  And by touching it, I'm keeping it alive, bringing it forward through time to share with my customers, and here online with the world.  That is something really large, and surprisingly easy to lose when you're so focused on the day-to-day tasks at hand.  

 
 

Grinding Cornmeal

One of this week's projects for me has been making cornmeal.  It's not the bright yellow you may have come to expect because instead of using yellow corn, I use an heirloom variety called Earth Tones Dent that we grow here at the farm.  "Dent" means that it's not a sweet corn to be eaten fresh, but rather an Indian corn type which is not harvested until the kernels have dried out, resulting in a dent at the top of each one when the moisture is gone.  It's an heirloom, open pollinated variety which means that it is not a GMO like the corn used commercially for meal, it's not a hybrid, and the seeds can be saved from year to year.  The ears come in a variety of colors from deep red to a mix of blue and purple.  

 

Once the dried ears have been picked from the stalks, the husks are removed.  We store the husked ears in onion sacks hung from the ceiling to make sure there is enough airflow so it will keep well until we use it.  To make cornmeal, we start by removing the kernels from the cob.  It's a time consuming job if done by hand, but we were fortunate to find a corn sheller at auction last fall.  It looks like a big red box with a large metal wheel on the outside.  A handle is turned until the wheel is revolving quickly, at which point ears are dropped in one at a time through a slot in the top.  Inside, there are large plates with teeth that revolve which separate the cob from the kernels.  The kernels drop out into a bucket or pan placed under the machine while the cobs are spit out the side.  

After that, I grind using a cast iron grain mill in the kitchen.  While this can also be turned by hand, Dan has put a small electric motor on it which powers the grinder using a belt from the motor to the large wheel.  It can be adjusted from a coarse to a fine grind.  The kernels go into a hopper on top, and come out the bottom.  This has not only the cornmeal, but also the hard outer part of each kernel, so the next step is to sift out the usable meal using a simple hand cranked flour sifter.   Finally, I weigh and package it.  We're happy to have it back in stock just in time for Thanksgiving, and are proud to advertise that our cornmeal is grown here, ground here, and hand sifted!

 
 

Turkeys Behaving Badly

If you've been to the farm recently, you've probably seen our flock of (very) free-range turkeys.  Most of them are Bourbon Reds, but we also have a few black-and-white Royal Palms too.   There is even a big white Broad Breasted turkey, due to a mix-up when we got the poults. (he was supposed to be a Palm, oops!)  While we've tried to pen them up, they jump and fly to roost in the pine trees above the run each night and unfailingly jump down on the free-range side of the fence each morning.  When I walk across the yard to get the paper or the mail each morning, I have a trail of turkeys crossing the road with me.  They were content to just roam the front yard until recently.  Now, I can't go outside without being swarmed by them.  They make friendly little turkey noises and strut in front of me, hoping to impress me enough for and extra helping of food.  I can deal with that, but we're about to clip wings 'cause my birdie buddies are spending too much time near the road.  I don't want any harm to come to them, and they simply don't herd well.  Not to mention I look like a fool, waving my arms, yelling "turkeys get away from the road!"

The other place they love to be is my front porch.  They actually jump up on to the back of the porch swing.  They will raise and lower their turkey tails in order to balance as the swing rocks, which has the unique result of actually pumping the swing, just as you did with your legs when you were a kid.  It would be a neat trick I would encourage but a) everywhere is an OK place to do your business if you're a bird (ewww!) and b) company does not like to be startled by a 15 lb bird jumping up behind them when you're trying to visit. So as you can imagine, I have lots of daily interactions with the turkeys.  I'm so glad that we'll be keeping some as a breeding flock, I would truly miss them if they all were processed for Thanksgiving dinners.  Bourbons & Palms are both considered endangered breeds of livestock, brought to the brink of extinction by the dominance of the Broad Breasted White and the consolidation of turkey raising, which now occurs almost exclusively in factory-farm conditions.  

Last week, I was taking a short break from the oppressive heat of the canning kitchen, relaxing on the cooler front porch with a nice glass of ice water.  Of course, a few of the turkey came up to see what I was doing.  As I was shooing one back to the yard (he was looking at my painted toenails as if it were a bull's-eye begging to be pecked), that really hit me.  These are ENDANGERED, and I have the good fortune to care for them.  Many, many people never get closer to an endangered creature than the glass enclosure of the zoo, yet here I am doing a small part to make sure that these lovely birds don't disappear from the earth forever.  It was a pretty cool moment.   But I still made the birds get back into the yard...endangered or not, I still am not a fan of poop on my porch!

 
 

Turkey Poults & Vinegar Bottles

I'll be watching the mail carefully, as we've got some exciting packages scheduled to arrive this week!

If all goes according to plan, I'll have my new vinegar bottles and herb jars delivered tomorrow.  I've got a new batch of Blueberry-Basil Vinegar to package, but I've been waiting on our new containers.  I think these salad dressing-style bottles will be easier to use than small canning jars.  I'm also very excited to finally package some of the champagne vinegar.  The mother of vinegar has been working for the past few months, and it's finally ready!  I'm excited to try it in some of my favorite recipes. If you've enjoyed any of our flavored vinegars before (we also sell Dried Herb and Mulled Blackberry) be sure to look for them in the new containers as well.  Once the herb garden gets going, I hope to have some new varieties this year too!

The oregano is growing rapidly, thanks to the warm temperatures and the gentle rain we got this weekend, and I'll be putting some in the dehydrator this week.  I'm hoping to expand our line of dried herbs from the organic coriander and dried basil we offered last year, and oregano seems like a great place to start.

I'm really excited about Friday though, because that's when our turkey poults will be arriving!  Dan and I have talked for the past year or two about getting a starter flock of heirloom turkeys.   While we have raised the regular broad-breasted white before, and will have some again this year,  they are a completely artificial breed.  To satisfy the American taste for white meat, the breasts on these birds grow so large, they cannot even mate naturally.  All eggs are fertilized via artificial insemination.  While I like to think I know my birds quite well, that's more up close and personal than I'm willing to get with a turkey!  Happily, there are a variety of heirloom breeds of turkeys.  While not as fast growing or large breasted, they have the ability to breed naturally, they have the "motherly instinct" to sit on a nest until the eggs hatch, do well in free range & pasture based systems like ours, and are an intelligent, beautiful bird.  The hardest part was deciding which breed to raise.  I quickly decided on the Bourbon Red.  A native of the Kentucky area, this breed is a beautiful reddish brown with edges of white on its wings and tail.  Dan, however knew from the beginning that he wanted the Royal Palm, which has a stunning black and white pattern.  What to do?  Since we just couldn't agree, we decided to order some of both.    Our broiler chicks are now three weeks old and have gone to an outdoor pen, so the indoor one will be cleaned and ready for our little turkeys when we get the phone call form the post office telling us to come pick them up!

 
 

Seeds for the Garden, Flowers for the Outhouse

Despite the snow and freezing rain, spring feels a little closer.  I've started to order seeds for this year's growing season, so visions of tomatoes and zucchini have been dancing through my head.  Planning a home garden takes some thought, and planning a garden you intend to sell from is an even bigger project!  

We start out with the list of what we planted last year and decide if we want to plant the same varieties this year.  There are so many varieties of each type of vegetable, there's no use sticking to one that doesn't do well for you.  I had no idea there were over 70 varieties of sweet corn available until the cover of one of our wholesale garden catalogs came last year!   Our next consideration is how long the plant takes to finish growing.  We have a short growing season this far north, and need to make sure the plant will do what it is supposed to do before the frosts come again in the fall.  Also, if you plant varieties which ripen at different times, you can have that vegetable available for a longer season, both in the stand and in the kitchen.

The order I just sent out was to Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit group committed to saving rare and heirloom vegetables.  They have lots of things not seen in any of the other catalogs we receive (and we get plenty!) so I always spend a little extra time picking out a few goodies to experiment with.  As an added bonus, I can save the seed to plant next year if they do well!  Last year I fell in love with Grandpa Admire's lettuce, so I ordered lots more of that.  Since it was such a rough growing year, I ordered a few things that didn't do very well last year, but either showed promise or I just can't resist. Normally, we wouldn't be so lenient, but almost no tomatoes survived the summer anywhere, and the weather didn't favor melons either.  However, if I don't get any Delice de la Table melons this year, they won't be on my list next year.  I ordered most of my fun experiments through this catalog.  Hopefully,  I'll find a tasty use for a bounty of ground cherries and you'll be able to purchase mini popcorn on the cob from the stand this fall!  

SSE also carries flower seed.  I love to plant flowers, but I favor hardy perennials that take care of themselves year after year.  I simply don't have time to spend hours on flowers in the spring, but I love having good habitat for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds, and every place needs a bit of pretty, farms included! My mom had her own floral shop once upon a time, so I know a bit about flowers, which is more than I could say for vegetables until recently. This time I decided to give hollyhocks a try- they are big, bold flowers that come back on their own, although planting from seed I won't see flowers until next summer.  This variety is called Outhouse Hollyhocks, which sound like a terrible name for a flower, but they have a charming story.  According to the Seed Savers catalog, "years ago, refined ladies just looked for the hollyhocks and didn't have to ask where the outhouse was."  Being 6-9 feet tall, they hid the building as well.  We still have an outhouse here, although we do prefer the pleasure of indoor plumbing, it is a part of the character of the farm and we have no plans to tear it down.  So it seems fitting to me to decorate it with hollyhocks!

I've been working on the website again, and have plans to start a monthly e-newsletter.  If you'd like to be a part of that, just go to www.pleasantvalleyfarm.weebly.com and fill out your name and email on the form on the home page.  There is a place to leave a comment or let me know what you'd like to hear more about as well.   And when I say monthly, I mean it...I'm too busy to send you spam! I also set up a fun little poll you can vote as well.  Once I get some names, I'll work on a newsletter, but it will probably be late February before it goes out.

 
 

Experimental Chickens

Today was another day of processing chickens.  While it's not my favorite job, I feel ok about it as our chickens, living a life on grass and in the sun, have a far more comfortable existence than those in factory farms.  I feel better about selling & eating it too, as store bought chicken is injected with 20% of its weight consisting of nothing more than salt water.  So not only are you getting more salt from an unexpected source, $1 of every $5 you spend is nothing but salt water!  So I've gotten used to the idea of butchering.  We have until this point been using Cornish-Rock hybrids, the same bird the commercial places use.  They are bred to basically do nothing more than eat and grow at an accelerated rate, mostly in the breast since Americans are so fond of white meat.  They are usually no more than 8 weeks old when processed, a very short life.  They grow so fast that they would literally outgrow what their legs and heart can support and would die before reaching breeding age.  

As I've learned a lot in the past few years about farming, I was shocked to discover many breeds of livestock are just as endangered as wild creatures.  Other kinds of chickens once raised for meat birds have gone by the wayside in favor of hybrids or other fast growing breeds that can stand up to the confinement of industrial agriculture.  One of the breeds we use here for laying hens is the Delaware.  They are nearly white, with black barring on the neck and tail feathers.  For a time they were the #1 meat chicken in the country, but they don't grow at nearly the rate of the hybrids and have fallen out of favor.  The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, an organization devoted to saving these endangered breeds, puts them at  the critical rating, estimating that there may be as few as 500 of these birds left.  Total.  I feel so fortunate to have a small flock, and this spring decided to keep a few roosters as an expirement, to see how they rate as a meat bird. The ALBC recognizes that to bring these animals back in larger numbers, they have to be economically viable.  So that means in order to save them, we need to get people to eat them!  We butchered one this morning, and I was suprised that it bothered me far more than the usual broilers.  He seemed too pretty to be put to such a fate, even though I have too many roosters and they are starting to beat up my hens a bit, as well as fight with each other.   I was afraid that plucking would be hard because the broilers are bred to grow less feathers, both for easier processing but also so their bodies can devote more energy into making meat.  Although so thick that the feathers were dry near the skin, even after being dunked repeatedly in hot water, they came off with no problem.  (We do this by hand and it's my job, so it's something I noticed readily.)  While a much leggier bird, there was not nearly the amount of breast meat.  It was definately an obviously different bird, even once the whole process was finished and all the birds were in the fridge.  I plan to cook him up soon, and I'll share with you the final result of this experiment!

 
 

Hoping for Heritage Tomato Time

The weather just has not cooperated for us this summer, and it seems like a month since I've been able to garden or make hay.  The plants seem to be loving it though, and I'm just hoping for a bit more sun so all these green tomatoes and ears of corn will hurry up and ripen!  I've got lots of plans for them, and LOTS of people in this part of Pennsylvania have been experiencing tomato blight early this year.  It's a scary thing, by the time the leaves start to turn yellow, there is nothing you can do to save your plants but pull up and burn the affected ones. The only preventitive is to hose the plants down with fungicide weekly, but being organic that's not an option for us anyway.  But I'm crossing my fingers and hoping.  I planted 3 heirloom varieties which I bought as seeds from Seed Savers Exchange- a grape, a Brandywine and a Roma.  They seem to have just as many blooms coming on as the hybrid varieties, I'm really curious about comparing them.  I'd like to switch to more heirloom varieties in the coming years.  Many people don't realize it, but there are hundreds of varieties of plants and livestock that are endangered of becoming extinct.  Agribusiness only cares about the bottom lines of production and storage for transport, so unique, tasty and valuable strains die out because they don't grow fast enough or ship without wilting before they get to Wal-Mart.  Aniamls such as chickens or pigs that can't handle the confinement of factory farms suffer the same fate. So I'm very excited about the success we've had this year, we have a wonderful lettuce called Grandpa Admire's and the squash and other gourds seem to be growing like wildfire.  My goal is to find varieties that will grow well on the farm and help us pay the bills, but also to find ones with history and heritage, because that just fits our horse powed farm.  And watching an heirloom seedling sprout, or seeing an endangered chick hatch makes you realize that you don't have to go to the North Pole or the Amazon to save an endangered species...it really is possible right here at home. 

 
 

More Babies...

After getting home from work, I checked Scotchie's nest box and she had 8 babies after all!  I am so excited that my first-time bunnies have been such good mamas.  Both Scotchie and her sister have raised 8 without any losses.  I am just anxoius to see the new ones hopping about in their pen, they should open thier eyes in a few days.

We are expecting piglets soon too, possibly as soon as the weekend.  Both sows had 7 each last time, and raised a total of 13. But we're hoping for even more this time around!  However, we only keep as many babies to raise up as we have orders for pork.  They just eat too much :(  So if anyone reading this is interested in a whole or half hog please contact me for more information!  

I am so excited, our seed order from Seed Savers Exchange came on Monday.  The packets show such beautiful plants, I can't wait to start them.  I was also impressed because each packet tells you how to preserve seed for next year.  I did some last year, but only green beans and sunflowers, so I appriciate all the information I can get!  We hope to do that this weekend, but first we have to finish a chicken coop & run, as we wintered over our Phoenix chickens and a few Delaware pullets in the greenhouse.  We need to move them before starting the seeds, because otherwise my beautiful seeds will just be expensive chicken food! 

 
 
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