What’s the Difference Between Brown and White Eggs?

In the bad old days, eggs in the big cities mostly came from the Midwest. Farmers would collect eggs and leave them, unrefrigerated, until they felt like going into town. They’d sell the eggs at the general store or the feed store, and the merchant would hold them, unrefrigerated, until he had a large enough lot to ship to an egg wholesaler.

The eggs would work their way towards the city, unrefrigerated, by slow freight. Eventually, they’d arrive in the store, where they would be set out, unrefrigerated, for the consumer.

read more...

I Love Farmers’ Markets

When I was a kid, my parents owned a campground nestled into a redwood forest. This gave me a pleasant outdoor summer job every year, which was great. But the best thing was the customers. By the time they got here, most campers were at least two days into their trip and had left most of their stress behind. A beautiful, quiet setting and the knowledge that they were hundreds of miles away from their troubles put them into a great mood. It was a pleasure dealing with them.

The local farmers’ markets are just the same. They’re full of happy strolling shoppers who are enjoying a little time off from the stress of their day, ready to please and be pleased. It’s life-affirming for all involved.

read more...

Chckens vs. Tall Grass

Chickens like short grass and do poorly in tall grass. I can see this as I mow the pasture, because the chickens get excited about the foraging prospects of the newly mown swath, rushing around excitedly looking for bugs and yummy young plants revealed once the tall grass has been cut.

Grass has few calories but lots of vitamins and protein. Chickens can only digest grass if it’s young and it still bright green. Once it starts to fade, they lose interest.

Physically, tall grass is an impediment to them, preventing them from going where they want. It also triggers annoying behaviors like laying eggs in the grass rather than in the nest houses, and encouraging them to hunker down and hide rather than run when frightened, raising the possibility that they’ll allow the tractor to run them down. I’ve only ever killed one chicken with the mower. That was enough.

read more...

Hooray! The Regular Farmers’ Market Season Has Begun!

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional opener for farmers’ markets. Here in the Corvallis area, we open about six weeks earlier than that, but still, there’s a big upsurge in both customers and vendors over Memorial Day.

Saturday’s market was a tremendous success, with swarms of people taking a relaxed amble through the market on a beautiful spring morning. The Corvallis Saturday Farmer’s Market is set in Corvallis’ Riverfront Park, which is a wonderful setting, at the edge of Corvallis’ old-fashioned downtown.

read more...

The Fire-Hose Trick for Towing Vehicles

What do you do when your tractor is stuck in the mud and any vehicles that you use to pull it out is likely to get stuck, too? Put the tow vehicle on relatively dry ground and use an extra-long tow strap! We used a hundred-foot coil of old fire hose (1.5″). This stuff is lightweight, immensely strong, and not too inconvenient to use.

Actually, when I say “we,” I mean “my neighbor,” who appeared with two sons and a pickup truck to rescue my tractor. They loaded the pickup with some of my firewood for extra traction, and plucked out my tractor from the mud. It was nicely done! That tractor was dug in so deep that the wheels were grating on pagodas in China.

read more...

Price War!

We’re dropping our prices this week. There’s no more room in the refrigerator, so we need to drum up some extra sales. Since there are other egg vendors at the Saturday Farmer’s Market, undercutting their cheapest eggs with our cheapest eggs ought to draw in some bargain-conscious customers.

Setting prices is a screwy business. Most farmers are too insecure to do it well, and end up setting their prices too low, increasing the odds that they will fail. Just the concept of, “What’s the right price?” is pretty much an imponderable: a question with so many ramifications that your mind can spin around in tight little circles forever.

read more...

Tractor Stuck in the Mud

My tractor is stuck in the mud. Now what? (To skip ahead to how I got it free, read this follow-up posting).

How did I get stuck? Well, I lost some hens to predators. I figured that the thing to do was to fire up the tractor, mow next to the fence while keeping an eye out for game trails through the grass, and then move the fence slightly. It’s just a couple of strands of aluminum fence wire on step-in fence posts, so moving it is easy.

That would deal with the grass that’s shorting out the fence and perform a reconnaissance that might reveal where the predators were coming from. On the tractor, I sit up high enough that I get a better view than if I’m on foot.

read more...

The Grass is as High as an Extremely Short Elephant’s Eye

It must be spring. The grass is getting way out of hand, but it’s too wet to mow. This happens every year.

Chickens on free range like short grass. Back in the Golden Age of scientific poultrykeeping (roughly 1910-1960), this sort of thing was researched. Chickens did best on grass that was 2″ high. Once it reached 6″ it became a barrier to foraging. If it gets even taller, the chickens are confined to a few paths through the tall grass.

Tall grass also shorts out electric fence and can conceal predators. A field that is kept short has a lot of succulent, green regrowth, and bright green grass is the only kind that provides any nutrition for chickens. This nutrtion, by the way, consists of more vitamins than you can shake a stick at, some protein, but no calories.

read more...

Feeding Random Stuff to Chickens

Okay, so someone has given you some exotic ingredient you’ve never heard of, like okra tofu, or banana seeds, or worm legs. Should you feed it to the chickens, and, if so, how?

The general rule for feeding miscellaneous stuff to chickens is to feed it in a separate feeder, while continuing to give them all the ordinary chicken feed they want. The chickens are pretty bored with the same old chicken feed and are sure to take an interest in anything new. They’ll eat as much as they want.

The trick is to avoid trying to make them eat more. Chickens are quite good at figuring out whether feed is good or bad, and how much is good for them. In fact, they’re better than you. So never starve them in order to make them finish off their yummy dish of politician’s hearts. Just take away what they don’t eat.

read more...

Tires for Rural Use

My 1993 VW Eurovan needs new tires. We had a flat, and while we were changing the tire we took a good look at the ratings printed on the sidewall, and realized that the tires that were on the vehicle when we bought it (a couple of years ago) are inadequate to the load.

We live two miles up a gravel road, and this is hard on our tires. We get a lot more tire damage than we did when living in the city. Whenever possible, we use six-ply commercial tires on our vehicles. And we do this the other way around, too, preferring vehicles for which six-ply commercial tires are available. I ordered a set of appropriate German-made tires, which of course no one has in stock and won’t arrive for a few days. They cost over $200 each. Ouch! This is the penalty I pay for choosing an obscure imported van. Commercial tires for more popular vehicles are cheaper.

read more...