Monthly Archives: April 2013

To Wash or not to Wash, that is the Question

beautiful, natural eggs with the bloom intact. Notice the monster egg!

Now that my spoiled baby chicks are laying eggs I have been introduced to yet another interesting topic of natural farming.  How does one  wash the eggs?  Here is what I have gathered thus far.  Eggs are laid with a special antibacterial coating referred to as the “bloom”.    Many natural farmers I read say they just wipe off any feathers or poop with a dry cloth or touch of sandpaper in order to not disturb the bloom.  If that stays intact eggs will stay fresh for 1-2 months without refridgeration.  This explains why so many of my friends from around the world stored thier eggs in the cupboard.  I always wondered about this.  Once the protective coating is removed the eggs have to be kept cool.

A couple of other facts about eggs- they are not laid “dirty”; a special flap called the “cloaca” seperates the vaginal canal and the intestinal tract when an egg is being passed.  Eggs become dirty from the nesting boxes themselves- therefore we keep ours full of fresh mulch and check them daily.  It is also said for long term storage (few months) in the fridge to store the eggs pointy side down.  There is a small airspace in the rounded end, so keeping that end up helps retain moisture.

If you suffer from OCD and just must wash those eggs for peace of mind, do NOT wash in cold water and do NOT immerse them in water.  The cold will open up the shell’s pores and drive bacteria into the egg.  The best practice is to wash with warm, running water.  Of course the food industry adds a bit of toxic bleach to the end of a torturous, unnatural egg production line and warns the natural backyard chicken farmers about food safety.  Makes me want to sing the old Amy Grant song, ” you got to know who to, who not to listen to”.

Here is an informative article about egg storage

If you have ever had a melt down because your boiled eggs won’t peel ( I am not naming names here) this article can explain your pain


March Update

It’s spring time!  We have the lambs, eggs, piglets and bugs to prove it!  Here is a brief report regarding the month of March.  In order of the cutest first:)

Pumpkin had his first vet visit.  Can’t say he appreciated the rude rectal thermometer experience- or the jabbing needles, but he is now officially dewormed and vaccinated.  I think we had killed off the tapeworms using our natural DE, but the round worms were still there and his tummy was bloated.  Now he is finally  picking up weight.  He needs a set of boosters soon and we will then schedule him for “fixin”.  Why is it called that anyways?  Lately I catch him fishing in the tilapia gutter garden.  He also enjoys irritating the chickens until the chase him away.  Yep- he is a teenage boy!

“The girls” and Maria the rooster are all grown up now- laying eggs and crowing respectively.   A local gardener shared her uncle’s explanation for the noise the hens make after laying an egg.  Laying an egg can take a while, so when the job is done the hen wants to know where the flock is, so she calls out for them and they answer her.  Not really necessary in a coop, but instinct takes over.  I don’t know if this is true, but I do enjoy hearing them and knowing another omlete has been born.  The whole egg laying process is amazing when you think about it! My children are suddenly conscious of the eggs they eat (and the oldest does not really want to eat them now cause she sees how much work it is for a chicken!)   I am also studying about the process of crushing eggshells for a homemade calcium supplement.  We feed them to the chickens but now I am thinking “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” regarding our own calcium supplements.  check out this site

the incredible egg- check this out

Students painted the sheds and chicken coop.  I so very carefully inspected the paint cans to ensure there were all the same color.  It wasn’t until 3 days after the last coats were applied that I noticed all three structures were a different shade of brown!!  Not two, but three different shades.  Guess I don’t need to go into detail about why I am not an interior decorator.  Audrey even shared some of her artistic ability along with my favorite verse.


The failed amaranth plot was converted into a popcorn and zucchini garden.  There had once been huge volumes of zucchini planted here and because of bugs it has not been tried for a while.  Corn has also had the experience of drawing bugs in.  So I am going to use this patch to experiement with our natural bug spray.  I have been soaking our chili peppers in oil, then straining it and adding some dishsoap to make a concentrate.  That is then added to a spray bottle of water.  This is an old and popular natural plant bug spray.  I plan to apply this solution 1-2 times a week to half of the plants and see if there is a difference.  Will keep you posted on results

here is more information on soap/oil spray


Still no obvious black soldier fly activity.  I have placed 9 mongoose in the bins the last couple of weeks and there are lots of flies, but not the ones we want.  Once they do appear they will take over the territory and we will have some great fish and chicken food!


My  campaign to get rid of the white cabbage moths is working.  Last week I brought homemade brownies during work duty and gave them for a donation of 2 dead white moths each.  We all won- me, the students who snacked on the brownies,  the chickens that snacked on the moths and the plants which were tired of being snacked on!  The word has gotten out amongst the children on base that I pay a dime a moth.  I have yet to catch one myself ( they are really hard even with a net!!) but there are some super coordinated kids who have made a few bucks this way:)

sweet baby lamb being held by Grace

Artist Audrey

some more experiemental bucket wicking planters. Half with pvc pipe to fill and half with holes in side of bucket for filling


pumpkin helping clean up the shed

Bottle Garden

This last quarter I was blessed with Tammie, a Crossroads DTS student who has a true mother’s heart and made us all feel loved and cared for.  She also revitalized our failed bottle garden.  In our first attempt we didn’t know much about potting soil and the need for drainage.  Our raw soil does not drain and the tiny roots suffered from lack of aeration.  This time around we added some perlite and peatmoss to the soil and it worked much better.  This little garden consists of 5 rows of 5 bottles.  The top bottle is upside down and has the bottom cut out and holes in the lid so you can water from there and it trickles down to all the other bottles.  The bottom bottle is right side up so the left over water can be collected and reused.  March 13th Tammie planted forget me nots (who would ever forget so sweet a person anyways?!) kale, cilantro, basil and cammomile.  The cammomile did not germinate so I planted cypress vine 3-31.  Here is a picture from April 4th, about 3 weeks later.

bottle garden above wicking bucket garden

close up of the bottle columns




here are some fun hanging bottle garden sites’Bottlenical’_Garden

African Sack Garden

African Sack Garden

Garden in a Sack!

A wonderful Fire and Fragrance DTS family  was inquiring about working together on the farm for some family time and science learning.  My friend Pat McDonald had recently dropped off a packet of information about African Sack Gardens; this innovative idea allows gardeners to grow food with minimal space, water, soil and time, and repurposes otherwise useless sacks.    The Shocklee family had been in Africa and was excited to give the idea a test run.  They filled 6 chicken feed sacks with a middle column of rocks for drainage and then mixed raw soil, compost, perlite and peat moss to fill up around the columns.   The children planted various seeds such as beans, bok choy basil, okra, parsley, onions, kale, etc.   Germination was only about 50% and the bugs have been chewing on the bean plants, but otherwise it has been a sucess.  They don’t get watered often and don’t appear stressed about it!  We have talked about a few modifications and may plant another batch soon.  Gotta do something with those feed sacks!!

Here is an interesting blog on African Sack Gardens


The Wind beneath my Clipped Wings


Step right up and get your wings clipped for free!!

March 3rd was our first wing clipping day.  It was forced upon us suddenly by chickens jumping the rock fence and exploring the road.  Why did the chicken cross the road?  The grass looked greener, the bugs juicer, destiny calling- who knows.  All that matters to me is the silly chickens stay home.  Lucky for my feathered friends, our Science and Approriate Technology director just happens to be a well renown bird biologist.  Vernon Byrd (yes- ironic name)  kindly came over after church and we had a quick wing clipping party.  The only hard part was convincing them to join our party:)  At least we weren’t serving hot wings!!

Here is a great site that shows how to clip chicken wings

Grain Brain Drain

Here’s a sad little update on my attempts at grain plots.  The amaranth never did germinate.  I knew it did not like our soil type so I did my best to please it by adding compost and mulch before I planted.  The failure could be several things.  Poor seed viability, birds eating the seed (even though I protected it), true dislike for our clay soil, not enough moisture despite my efforts to keep it watered.

The millet germinated very poorly also- only 1 out of 6 beds survived.  I have no idea why only this bed!  It is right next to and just like the other 5.  I kept it covered with birdnetting until last week when I noticed the grain had grown through the netting.  When I got closer to examine I could see the birds have already eaten a good deal of the grain off the heads!!  I have no idea how to protect my grain from the birds.  Even if I could afford to buy that much bird netting- how would a farmer in a developing area do it?  We try to only use methods that are easily reproduced and sustainable.    I am open to suggestions.  These birds are so beautiful and I really enjoy listening to them all day- but they have done a good deal of damage.  I can’t believe I have been betrayed by such wonderful creatures!!  We are in the midst of a community assessment in regards to replanting our African section where the millet is.  Keep posted for updates on that fun project!

The sorghum has done really well!  Great viability and growth with very little tending.  Once it germinated I never watered it again.  So far the birds seem to be leaving it alone.

One of two sudan grass plots germinated and is doing fair.  This will grow up to 7 feet tall and we can cut it continually for green chicken food.  The other plot was eaten by my very own chickens!  The very bird brains I feed and pet and spoil.  The plot was covered with bird netting, but today I witnessed how my silly chicks just hop right on top of it and eat the seeds and grass that manages to germinate.  It will take a true chicken wire fence to protect crops from them.

I am wanting to grow grain to feed the chickens but need to do a bit more research on how to protect from birds- wild and domestic.  Good thing the pumpkins are growing so well- pumpkin pie beats millet porridge anyways:)

sorghum beginning to head 4-4-2013

only surviving millet in keyhole garden 4-4-2013


Oh Happy Day!!

March 20th was just a normal day on the farm.   Pumpkin the spoiled cat was begging for canned food and tripping my every step, the sheep were calling for thier lazy lambs to catch up with them and the birds were dive bombing the garden between songs.  As I was tending to our baby plants (funny how I traded a couple decades of working in a hospital nursery for plants.  It’s much quieter here and no diapers to change!) when one of the chickens began to make a ruckus.  Soon after that the rooster began crowing.  Or should I say, attemping to crow.  He had to suffer a crackly voice changing period like any other adolescent male.  He continued to crow all afternoon long and I remember asking him what he was so proud of!  I thought he was just practicing his wake up call.  When I put the chickens away for the evening I found it.  An egg!  A beautiful shade of brown and oh so perfect!  The girls were not due to start  laying till thier 20th week birthday which was April 1st.  The  next day 2 eggs appeared, then 3 and today  we collected 15.  I am so proud!!  I guess this makes me a grandmother:)  But then, no self respecting grandmother would scramble her grandchildren for breakfast

Someone laid a monster egg!! Ouch