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Let talk Chickens

Since I always stress the importance of knowing your food. Today, I would like to talk about chickens.

Barred Rock Hen

The breed has survived at large for about 8,000 years—rare for a wild ancestor of a domesticated animal.

It is thought that the nearest relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex is a chicken.

This bird was probably first domesticated for the purpose of cockfights, not as food.

Over 9 billion chickens are raised for food annually in the US.

With 25 billion chickens in the world, there are more of them than any other bird species.

Chickens doing the hunt and peck for bugs

Chickens are omnivores. They eat seeds and insects but also larger prey like small mice and lizards.

Chick
A pullet (Take note that the comb is small and low to the head. The wattles are also tight to the beak.)

 

 

 

 

Baby chickens are chicks.

 

 

 

 

 

Female chickens are pullets until they are old enough to lay eggs and become hens.

Laying Hen (Note the larger comb and wattles)
Rhode Island Red Rooster

 

 

 

 

 

Male chickens are called roosters, cocks or cockerels, depending on the country you are in. A rooster announces to a flock of chickens that he’s found food with a “took, took, took.” But the hens don’t pay attention of they already know there is food around. Roosters perform a little dance called “tidbitting” in which he makes sounds (food calls) and moves his head up and down, picking up and dropping a bit of food. Researchers have found that females prefer a male that often performs tidbitting and has a larger, brighter combs on top of his head. Scientists think that the rooster’s wattle—the dangly bit beneath his beak—helps him to gain a hen’s attention when he is tidbitting.

Chickens aren’t completely flightless. They can get airborne enough to make it over a fence or into a tree. The chicken can travel up to nine miles per hour.

The chicken was the first bird to have its genome sequenced, in 2004.

In Gainesville, Georgia, the chicken capital of the world, it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork.

Alektorophobia is the fear of chickens.

The egg-laying process for a chicken begins in its eye. Chickens lay eggs only after receiving a light cue, either from natural sunlight  or artificial light illumination. The light stimulates a photo-receptive gland near the chicken’s eye, which in turn triggers the release of an egg cell from the chicken’s ovary.

A hen must eat about four pounds of feed to produce one dozen eggs.

A chicken will lay bigger and stronger eggs if you change the lighting in a way to make her think a day is 28 hours long.

Some farmers add marigolds to the feed of their chickens to make the yolks of their eggs a darker yellow. A diet rich in corn will also make the yolks darker in color.

Most eggs are laid between 7 and 11 am.

Eggs are a good source of lutein, important for eye health.

The waste produced by one chicken in its lifetime can supply enough electricity to run a 100-watt bulb for five hours.

Agricultural researchers have found a carbonization process that converts ordinary poultry manure into granules and powders that can mop up pollutants in water.

Researchers have found a way to turn chicken feathers into strong, plastic composites for products as varied as car dashboards and boat exteriors.

Researchers at NASA are testing a new jet fuel made from chicken fat.

Feathers make good paper, even for filters or decorative wallpaper. They work best combined with wood pulp to increase the number of times the fiber can be recycled.

The superfine size and shape of feathers make them well suited to filtration needs.

Chickens also require space. They will need up to 3 ft. of floor space in their house per bird. They also require lots of ventilation.

Nest boxes should be a minimum of 1 ft. wide by 1 ft. deep and be at least 1 ft. tall.

Chickens like to roost at night. They require up to 8 inches of space per bird while on roost.

Chickens consume approximately 3 grams of fat per day. Yet, the average egg yolk contains approximately 6 grams of fat. Much of the fat found in yolks comes from synthesized carbohydrates and protein.

2.5% of the fat found on a chick in located on the abdomen. Low-fat whole chickens sold in the supermarket have had this area removed.

Chickens have a focus range of 20 diopters, twice that of a 20 year old human. It vision is considered the finest of all animals.  They have both monocular and binocular vision with a 300 degree field of view.

To predict egg color, look at the hen’s earlobe. If it’s white, then the egg will most likely be white. If it’s red, the egg will most likely be brown. This works about 75% of the time.

Eggs will last up to 5 weeks in the refrigerator. To check the freshness of your egg: fill a container with at least six inches of water. If the egg drops to the bottom, it is still a good egg. If the egg floats to the top, get rid of it.

 

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Need a Confidence Boost?

People aren’t born sure of themselves.

They get that way by learning from mistakes and giving themselves a boost when they need one. Self confidence is not something you’re born with. It is something we develop.

Self confidence does not come from succeeding in everything you do. It’s learning to live with mistakes and knowing you have the power to make things better next time.

Here are ten steps to confidence:

1. Set and meet a new goal. Instead of huge, long range goals, set goals you can reach on a regular basis, such as completion of certain tasks ahead of time.

2. Accept compliments. The next time you’re complimented, just smile and say thank you.

3. Surround yourself with supporting people. When you’re than good about yourself, remind yourself of your good qualities and you will always feel better.

4. Don’t compare yourself to others. Take pleasure in who you are, not who you’re not.

5. Become really good at something. Excelling at something, (be sure that it is legal and honest) will make you feel good about yourself.

6. Find a role model. Seeing someone you admire cope with problems similar to yours can give you a big boost.

7. Take care of yourself. Quick! What makes you feel better – throwing on jeans and a t-shirt and rushing out the door, or taking time to put on a nice outfit and fix your hair and makeup? The answer is obvious.

8. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Tell yourself it’s okay if things don’t go as planned, “cause I can handle whatever goes wrong.”

9. Keep learning at every age; it is especially important to keep up on information that relates to your job and family. Being in the know can do wonders for your confidence.

10. Be your own booster. Whenever your confidence laps, it usually is because you’re worried about what other people will think of you. When that happens, remind yourself of all the things you’ve done well.

I have lots on this list that I can work on becoming better at! Simple one’s like accepting compliments, which kind of goes hand in hand with surrounding yourself with supporting people. Support is the greatest form of a compliment.

Being my own booster was a difficult one, but I feel like I am finally becoming more independent and less dependent on someone else to tell me what to do, when to do it and how to do it! I have also been an independent woman buried under the hurt, pain and bitterness of childhood abuse. Which causes SEVERE lack of confidence, especially when you were constantly told thing like “You’re a worthless piece of s@#t.” “You will never amount to anything” and many more. Probably another reason why it is difficult for me to accept compliments too…especially about my work.

I HAVE gotten really good at rolling with the punches of life. I don’t let too much get to me anymore. Yes, I am passionate and get rather  vocal at times, but I don’t go all kinds of crazy. And….here is the biggest improvement: I can actually talk openly about my life and all the ups and downs without shedding constant tears or feeling like I am being singled out as some form of punishment! Chalk it up to old age!

Setting goals, something I never did before three years ago, has become a regular part of my life. I set goals for projects, on the farm, at work and even with the “crafty” things I do. Working on small projects that develop into something bigger provides such a great sense of accomplishment! Today, I don’t do much without a to-do list!

The areas where I really lack are: taking care of myself~I mean come on, I work around cows….they don’t care if I wear makeup and would probably poop or pee on my feet if I wore dressy shoes! EWWWWW! But, I do have an idea on that!

I used to dress up for work, take off on my lunch break and be found in a local stream with my skirt tied up gypsy style, sporting a pair of hip waders while my heels lay on the bank!!!!! Oh, the memories! So, in taking that train of thought…maybe I will dress in slacks and a nice sweater but instead of hip waders…Coveralls and a Carhardtt coat! HAHA! NOT a chance! I will gladly stick with my ball cap, hooded sweatshirts and flannel lines jeans along with my grubby barn shoes (which by the way are hand me down sneakers!).

I don’t need to worry about comparing myself with others. No one has the life I want to lead, the hairstyle I want, the jewelry or the car I want to drive. I am content being the unique individual me with many difference talents and ultimate contradictions (like my fetish for girly high heeled shoes I never wear).

The one thing on this list I really wish I did have was a roll model. I have never been the type of girl to ogle over movie stars, singers or other celebrates (although, I do have a HUGE fastination with Josh Duhamel…He reminds me of my dad in his younger years for some reason). I have never really had another person other than my dad that I looked up to. I respected how he treated people and how he acted. I have yet to find someone else that I want to be more like. Maybe that’s just because I have accepted that I walk to a different beat and half the time it’s my own drum!

There you go…my deep thoughts of the week! How to become a better person? To not get down? Wait, I think I got it!

LAUGH AT YOURSELF, WITH OTHERS AND OFTEN!

Is Farming a Sexy Industry

I have to say that this week has been extremely difficult to handle. I am so tired of hearing over and over again how neglected our agricultural bases are.

But then, another person sitting in the same room starts spouting off at the mouth that farmers are making a killing and should be rolling in the dough!

Nothing like sitting in a room full of people who have never stepped one foot onto a farm, had 100’s of animals to care for or had to deal with the nonsense of uneducated idiots. Farming isn’t as simple as some folks want to make it out to be. It isn’t a job that you can call in sick for, take vacations from without weeks or sometimes months of planning, and it is one of those jobs that requires constant research and development.

Some of the folks within my region keep telling me that Agriculture isn’t a “sexy” industry to enter! Wait, what?!?!?!

Let’s just take a look at all the things you need to know to operate a farm.

You need to be a:
Meteorologist – knowing your climate is very important for crops
Agronomist –  in areas such as crop rotationirrigation and drainageplant breedingplant physiologysoil classificationsoil fertilityweed controlinsect and pest control.
Chemist – chemical compositions of soils and forages
Veterinarian – for animal health and welfare
Geography – to understand the land, the soil and soil compositions, and water movements
Ecologist – to know and understand impacts of the environment and wildlife. This also includes pest management
Biologist – to understand what makes plants grow and how they grow, to understand the evolution of life
Geneticist – to understand breeding and reproductive qualities
Engineer – for waste management, flow through patterns of livestock, water irrigation

These don’t include anything to do with marketing, computers, operating equipment (some of which you almost need a degree to operate) or any mechanical abilities. It doesn’t include the bookkeeping, record keeping, feeding or any type of research and development.

So, why is the agricultural sector ignored?

I think many of us already within the industry can answer this question….It is a lot of hard work, dedication and all for a few cents on the dollar. It is a high risk industry to enter.

Oh, I can hear some of you already saying…”High risk. Not it isn’t!” Yes, it is!!!!

The markets are volatile. With feed prices taking a high pitch up, then a swing down low from one week to the next, you have to know how to play the market game. You have to know how to keep input costs down and then get devastated when milk or beef prices plummet.

Agriculture is dependent upon weather. Look at the droughts in the southern region. Or better yet, look at the season we had here….Flooding in the spring. Too much rain made it difficult to get fields planted with corn and too wet to harvest hay. The center portion of the summer saw us facing drought like conditions which stunted the growth of our corn and our second cutting hay. Then to top it all off…this fall was again bombarded by too much rain and more flooding.

Both issues are extremely high risk and neither one is even remotely something we have the opportunity to control.

So how do we get the younger generation to start picking up where our aging agriculture population is leaving off?

I sure don’t have the answers…..I do have a few suggestions but none worth really delving into right now. I would love to hear your opinions of the matter! So feel free to comment away and then we can bring this topic back up for another analytical discussion.

Snowy Days

I have to tell you that I absolutely LOVE the snow! I love the flakes when they start to fall. I love the snow covered ground. I love how it makes the world look.

Yeah, the frozen pipes are a pain….But to get over it, just step outside and look around! Everything is covered in a blanket of white, glittering like diamonds in the sun.

This IS my favorite time of the year and another one of the reasons why, if for some unforeseen reason, if I ever have to move….I want to go where they have seasons, mostly for the snow!

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Preparing to say “So Long…”

It is difficult sometimes to say goodbye.

Watching local businesses that have been part of the landscape here in the area for nearly 100 years shut up part of the product line is heart breaking.

Crowley Foods, which has been in my county since 1915, will be closing down the line that produces such things as yogurts, sour cream and bottled milk. The phone call came yesterday morning. 54 people will lose their jobs and we have no idea yet how many farms this has the potential to impact.

Mr. Farmer has known people who had started their first jobs at Crowley within the Binghamton, NY plant. A few of these folks actually enjoyed working their so much, the worked their whole careers there…several of them retiring just within the past five years.

We see this kind of thing in NY all the time. Third generation restaraunts close their doors. Florist shops that have been in operation for 60 and 80 years. I know, times change. But….I don’t think that is the real underlying issue with what is happening around here.

Taxes are high. Some of the highest in the nation. Land taxes are insane. We have so many subdivisions of multiple government organizations that one always expects the other to complete the task at hand.

Then on top of all that….we got slammed with a major flood from Hurricane Lee. Most of the political officials are working hard to keep “big business” here because it hurts 1,000’s of people, not 54. I don’t know…I guess I am just depressed that one of the agriculture based business within my region isn’t getting the same attention that a corporation like BAE Systems (which operated in an Air Force owned building) who just received an incentive package to stay within the air. Our politicans are also pushing to keep their old building, which is now condemned because of the flood, open for future use.

It is so very frustrating and cuts me to the core. I have always been proud to say that Crowley is right here within my region. Just as I am proud to say that we also have Frito-Lay here as well. But, for some reason when it comes down to dairy products….It kills me to see a company like Crowley go into oblivion. It’s so depressing!

 

On another note, I sat through meetings on both Monday and Tuesday to discuss Bioenergy (specifically biomass) and Direct Marketing for Agriculture.

I am hoping that by the end of this week, I will have my slide show completed to demonstrate the different sectors that Bioenergy, or as I like to call it “Agricultural Biomass”, completed. I will share this useful tool to help those you do not understand the full spectrum of bioenergy potentials. I am always open to conversations or questions, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you would like to contact me.

Direct Marketing for Agriculture is a highly beneficial and profitable way to market farm products. There are small keys to make sure you know before you get started though. I will construct a complete blog article on what you should be thinking about BEFORE you get started. Hopefully, I can have that up no later than Wednesday of next week.

One final note for today….”Everything is subject to change. How prepared are you to adjust and adapt to that change?”

Urban vs. Country Living

I sit here this morning thinking about the post from yesterday and the questions that people ask on why I like farming and living here where I do. It just struck me this morning that the biggest thing is the difference in the way of life.

I am one of those people that could really care less about going to the “city”. I don’t mean just big cities like NYC, Chicago or places like that. What I really mean is going to “town” but I think that sounds a little weird. I am not one for crowds, the hustle and bustle or the overbearing rudeness that surrounds stores and shopping centers.

To explain it all, I think I need to point out the differences in Urban Living and Country Living….

When I want breakfast, I go to my refrigerator and pull out eggs, sausage or bacon and some bread. My eggs come from the chickens across the road, the pork from my son-in-law and the bread which is usually homemade english muffins (with about 1/2 the ingredients from here on the farm).

Now, City Folk (and I mean no disrespect) go to the fridge, pull out store bought eggs (which who knows how old they are), usually bacon that is cured in so much salt to preserve it from going bad, and maybe english muffins. If they happen to be out of one thing, it means a trip to the grocery store…or worse yet, a drive thru window at the local McDonald’s or maybe a doughnut and coffee from Dunkin Donuts!

When I go to work, I step out my front door. Not warming up the car to thaw the snow and ice off the windows in winter. I shovel my way from the house to the barn. If the driveway needs plowing, it usually done with a four wheeler and a snow blade (light snow), a truck (4″ or more) or if we have heavy snow the tractor and bucket. Our road is plowed only for when the school bus is due through in heavy snow. We dress in layers, layers and more layers to stay warm. We buy gloves for their heat and durability, not for their fashion sense.

City Folk on the other hand, will be seen snow blowing an inch of snow out of their driveways and heaven forbid if the roads don’t get plowed. But then, when they do get plowed…people start complaining about the end of their driveways being packed with snow. They start their cars, waste gas to heat the windows and get the interior warm so they don’t get cold in their business suits and argyle socks.

Alright, now let’s just say I need to go out to drive somewhere…Let’s say to pick up parts at Lowe’s for a water line. Out here in Rural USA, almost every driver I pass waves. Not because I actually know them either. It’s just because that’s what has always been done. It keeps up good relations with the community. But…..boy o’ boy does that change the closer you get to the “city” limits. People drive different. They speed up, swerve around cars that are not going as fast as they would like, swerve back in nearly clipping the car they just passed and usually flipping them off as they do….They honk the horn if you take one second too long at a stop light. They whip through parking lots like they just found out their house is on fire. They seem to feel that it is always their God-given right to not give the right of way….Oh the list goes on and on!

So, now that I am in the parking lot of Lowe’s…these idiots take up two spaces for their fancy cars. You know someone might ding it with their door. They park in handicap spots just because they are running “in and out”. And then once you get inside, they run you over with shopping carts.

Now, I know that not all City Folk are like that…but every time I go shopping somewhere, there seems to be more and more of these types of people in the store. They grunt as they pass you. They are rude to the cashiers. They have no respect for anyone, including themselves.

Growing up, if I had acted even half of the way some of these people do…My grandparent’s would have throttled me! My family ensured that I had respect for ALL people, that I was to be giving and forgiving and that I had to work hard to get anything I needed. No one was going to provide for me but that I should provide for others in need. I learned to respect myself. I learned to eat good wholesome foods, to take care of myself and to “do no harm” to others.

Yes, I grew up on family, food and religion. We said thanks before each meal for the simple things in life. Things like herd health, good food, family and friends. I don’t ever remember sitting at my grandparent’s table without a group of at least 10 people. These were meals that my grandmother spent most of her time fixing….no one helped her out, nothing came from a box…and she asked nothing in return! Not a penny to help purchase more staples like flour or sugar. NOTHING!

But, when push comes to shove and someone is having a rough time….the way that my grandparent’s lived, also known as the country life…I can promise you this: It is the country folk that will band together and will provide for those in need. We seem to accept without question. We would give the shirt off our backs if it meant keeping a neighbor warm.

Country living isn’t about fancy cars or clothes like our Urban cousins think it is….It is about family, friends and community! To all of you Urbanite’s out there….who would you call if you had a problem with something at home? I bet every person that reads this that lives in the country can quickly answer that question….It’s our friends and our neighbors. One phone call draws a crowd!

I know this blog is rather opinionated and some of you may think it’s flawed…but this is what it is like where I live….four hours North of NYC. So please forgive me if I am in no rush to go to NYC or any other metropolis. I like the slow pace, hard work but relaxing way of life I lead here with my close knit community.

My day off…Well, maybe not

One day on the weekend, I usually get time off from all of the farm chores and such…

Too bad I never know enough to stay in bed or even relax for that matter!

Today has been no different. Still up at the crack of dawn, having my coffee and thinking about what to do. I decided that today would be a great day to make some cheese. So, I started thinking about what variety to start with first.

Mind you, we also needed to go to the butcher shop to pick up the two steers that we had taken up for the freezer…that meant I need to carefully plan it all out.

I knew that I wanted to make mozzarella. I have a recipe that takes about 30-45 minutes. Now that I knew I wanted to do mozza, I figured…what the hell, I might as well make Ricotta and fix lasagna for dinner. But, in the meantime, I also had another batch of butter to make. Not wanting anything to go to waste, I decided to make buttermilk cheese too!

At 7 am, I started the mozzarella. By 7:45, I had shiny balls of cheese to go into the fridge.

Prepping the curds
All formed and ready for storage

Then I made up a batch of butter, saving the buttermilk off to the side to make the buttermilk cheese…which needs to hang in muslin for about two to three hours (just the right amount of time to go pick up, deliver and store away the beef from the butcher shop)

Since I have already had several requests on how to make the Buttermilk Cheese, here is the recipe:

Fresh buttermilk…drained from after processing heavy cream into butter.

  • In a pot, directly heat the buttermilk to 160 degrees F.
  • At that temperature, the curds will separate from the whey. If not, increase the temperature to 180 degrees.
  • Line a colander with butter muslin; pour the coagulated buttermilk into it. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 3-4 hours, or until cheese reaches desired consistency.
  • Place the cheese in a bowl, salt to taste. (I knead mine to mix in the salt or other flavorings. It also gives it a much creamier consistency.)
  • Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Leaving the newly formed curd to drain, we took off to the butcher. Then delivered two half to customers, loaded our freezer full of awesome cuts like delmonico steaks and then returned to finish up the cheese.

I hand mixed the buttermilk cheese and pressed into a bowl. I allowed the small bowl to chill, while I prepped to do a batch of ricotta.

While the ricotta was draining, I got out the buttermilk cheese for a snack with crackers and pepperoni.

Buttermilk Cheese and Pepperoni

When I was done fixing the plate of goodies for Mr. Farmer, I now needed to take care of the ricotta.

Yummy Snack

I am looking forward to making lasagna tonight with the ricotta and the mozzarella cheeses! Hmmm, it is going to taste delicious with that homemade, canned spaghetti sauce I have in the pantry. Maybe I will even get ambitious and make a loaf of homemade bread to go with it, slathering it in fresh butter and garlic from the garden!

Finished batch of Ricotta Cheese