Even Emo Chickens Need to Crow

Editor’s note: this post was drafted and lost for a long time.  It was found nearly five years later and published as a matter of record in it’s draft form. It’s not a finished product.

Our fake redcap (or real Americauna) chicken has started crowing in the last day or two. And in our humble opinion, it’s one of the funniest thing that has yet happened on the farm. Join us as we foray into video, turn up your speakers, and enjoy an awkward crow.

It’s as though he’s saying “I’m sad that I’m crowing,” and he does it almost every time he crows.

Now, a crow is an interesting thing, and we shouldn’t be overly harsh on the fake redcap. As we’ve seen before, Little Dick sure pulls an awkward face, too.

Little Dick
Little Dick Lets One Loose

In fact, as most of the roosters were first starting to crow, they all looked . . . possessed. Their eyes bulge a little, they get a really planted stance. Their neck goes taut, the beak parts, and then . . . a sound that you wouldn’t think lungs that small could produce. And apparently a sound that they didn’t think they could produce either, judging by the looks on their faces.

So crow on, fake redcap! Nevermind that we’ve labelled you a fake.

Or maybe that’s why you’re so sad.

Well, whatever the cause, cheer up, emo kid!

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Farming > baking?

Editor’s note: this post was drafted and lost for a long time.  It was found nearly five years later and published as a matter of record in it’s draft form. It’s not a finished product.


What’s worth more to you — produce or baked goods? Right off the top of your head, what are you likely to pay more per pound for, zucchini or cookies? Remember your answer.

We were banking on a combination of both, which is why Allie went through the trouble of having a kitchen inspected so she could sell baked goods at the farmers’ market alongside our veggies. What we found out was more startling to Nick than Allie — baked goods are like saran-wrapped stacks of cash compared to the leafy green rolls of nickels that are produce. A pound of dollar bills gets you further than a pound of nickels.

Now, we never expected to get rich selling vegetables. Despite some friends’ protestations, we’re not growing the more significant cash crops that contain THC or opioid alkaloids. And I’ll also admit that one single week at one small-town farmers’ market is hardly a significant sample size. But consider this the preliminary results on which a much larger thesis may later be based. (Also consider it the end of sentences starting with conjunctions.)

Let’s take a look at what goes into vegetables. We started the plants from seeds weeks ago (many of them months ago), running grow lights 24/7 for a number of weeks. We plowed the ground, added amendment after amendment to the soil, and scraped off the rocks to plant. We’ve watered and weeded, watered and weeded, and set up deer fence. We’ve gotten up early to shoot at the groundhog who’s menacing the tomatoes. We’ve gotten up even earlier to pick, wash, and transport fresh produce to the market.

Baked goods’ turn. Allie’s all over this one, as Nick’s comparatively bumbling in the baking department. Basically, it’s about a day and a half worth of effort to buy the ingredients, put them all together, and bake up some deliciousness. To be fair, Allie also got up early to fresh-bake the scones on the day of the market. Tell me that’s not service.

The result of this labor? The net profit from selling vegetables last week was the same as the net profit from selling baked goods.

It took a little while for that to sink in for me, so I’ll say it again — we made as much profit from a day and a half of baking as we did from all of the labor involved with produce.

What this means is that we can more nearly charge a fair price for baked goods than we can for vegetables. Our bakery prices are set to cover ingredient costs and provide roughly minimum wage for the effort involved. I’ll agree that there’s some upper limit to how much time should go into a cookie, but if you’re not willing to pay someone minimum wage to make your food, you probably shouldn’t be buying it prepared. Allie’s done tons of practice batches and is plenty speedier at making a few dozen cookies today than she was when we were thinking about starting.

As we were sitting behind our booth during a slow hour at the market, were were contemplating our veggie prices. Another vegetable seller showed up this week, and they were undercutting us on zucchini and cucumbers. We worried briefly that we should drop our prices, but decided against it. Luckily, we’re in the position where we can eat or preserve nearly all of what we don’t sell at the market, so if it didn’t move, we weren’t really losing out. We barely make minimum wage for the time we spend at the farmers’ market, let alone the time put into growing everything.

As I write, I realize how very much there is to say about this. I’ll hold back a little for future posts, but the upshot is that it feels like Americans, as a society, greatly undervalue their whole foods. Maybe that’s generalizing about the herd based on one single cow (is that a common metaphor? eh, I’m going with it), but I’ll challenge any of you to provide a counter example (outside of the typical foodie cities). This isn’t really news for us, and it may not be for some of you. But if you’re reading this blog, and if you aren’t up on food politics, I hope you’ll think about it.

I usually try to have an improvement in mind when I set to complaining about something. If I’m complaining that my burger doesn’t have enough cheese on it, I’ll scheme about how to get more condensed dairy protein onto that sucker. So how can we get more cheese into farming? We’ve got a shortlist that we think would help.

  1. Health insurance. We simply couldn’t afford it if Nick didn’t have a consulting gig on the side. Heck, we can only afford what amounts to just-better-than-catastrophic coverage as it stands. There should be some kind of farmers’ union that we could join to get in on a group policy. I’m willing to wager that farmers, on the whole, are some of the healthier members of society, so the insurance companies should make out alright on the deal, too. Say what you will about Obamacare, but in the absence of such a union, some of its provisions may very positively impact the small farming community when they go into effect in a few years.
  2. Student loans. Teachers, firefighters, and other public servants are eligible for loan forgiveness. They work for about five years, pay their loans over that time, and are eligible to have the balance forgiven. If we could get in on deal like that, not only would it make more financial sense in the long term, but it would actually help attract people to farming, which is incredibly necessary in light of the fact that over 40% of farmers are over 55 years old.
  3. Education. More people should understand what we think our current customers do: high quality, responsibly produced local produce is worth the money. Rather than being afraid of cooking, it should be embraced by more people. This is a more significant cultural shift away from junk food to healthy food.
There’s plenty more that could be done. Subsidies? Who needs em? Apparently corn and dairy (among others). Food prices should reflect the true value of the food. Want to help people who can’t afford it? Revamp WIC or foodstamps.

Snowy close out

Cabin in snow
First snow of the year: October 27

Well, here we are at the end of the season. It’s been a great run, and it’s a little exciting to end on a snowcapped note.

The first snow of the season officially came on October 27, but the bigger guns were pulled out yesterday, on October 29. We got about six inches of snow, enough to flicker the power a few times but not cause any serious damage. Continue reading “Snowy close out”

Somewhere to Lay

New Laying Boxes
New Laying Boxes

Today we put together some brand new laying boxes for the hens. If you’ve got a similar eye to me, you’ll immediately notice that they’re just a little bit slanty. That’s because the two support beams were made from scrap wood, so they aren’t exactly the same height. Hopefully the hens won’t mind one or two degrees of incline. Continue reading “Somewhere to Lay”


Flood-made stream

It’s raining again today. Tropical storm Maria this time. She follows  up tropical storm Lee, who followed hurricane Irene. Maria should be pretty calm, but the other two dropped about six inches of rain each on the farm. That’s a foot of rain in about two weeks. We made it through in one piece, but our neighboring communities were not so lucky. Continue reading “Flooding”

Disaster Strikes the Bees

Knocked over hive
Bears. It's always the bears.

Bees are supposed to live in a hive. When they are not in the hive, it is generally safe to say that something bad has happened. They could have swarmed and left the hive. There could have been a disease. In this case, a bear happened. Continue reading “Disaster Strikes the Bees”

Of markets and melons

Ceci n'est pas un honeydew
First melon of the season!

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

We’ll talk of many things today. The farm’s been busy, and this tardy post will cover melons, markets, and chickens all in one fell swoop. (Incidentally, has anyone ever done something in two fell swoops? Continue reading “Of markets and melons”

Days of Our Chickens

Pencilled Rock Rooster
HAVE YOU SEEN ME? We couldn't get his picture on a milk carton, but this silver-pencilled rock's twin has gone missing.

As promised, here’s the much-anticipated chicken update. First off, the current count: 23. We had 24 birds as of about a week ago, but we’ve recently gone down by one. We do know who’s gone: a silver pencilled rock rooster. We do not know how he disappeared. He’s either been eaten by something that wasn’t us, or (and this is my preferred theory) he’s gone feral and will eventually return with stories of fame, glory, and fortunes won and lost. Either way, it’s a shame that one of the better looking birds has gone missing.

Fake Campine
Real breed: modern game bird. Previously believed to be: campine. Currently called: Fake campine.

In the picture above, you can see one of our fake campines, so called because they are not actually campines but convinced us that they were for the first many weeks of their feathered lives. Campines are fairly useful birds, scrawny but good layers. Modern game birds, their rather unimaginative real breed, were raised purely for their looks, making them some of the less-useful birds that we’ve got. Note the longer legs and slim body. If aliens were going to impersonate a barnyard animal and take over the world, it would probably be a modern game bird. We’re keeping an eye on them.

Cochin and Americauna Roosters
Little Dick and the Cochin


Little Dick
Little Dick Lets One Loose

In the center/bottom of top picture is Little Dick, so named because of his resemblance to a certain former Vice President early on in his life. The pointed nose and close set eyes made him look like a long-lost feathered brother. He also picked on the other chicks quite a bit, so the name was a nice little double entendre. Little Dick’s one of the more attractive roosters, which will probably keep him off the chopping block for a bit.

Above Little Dick is the cochin, a Chinese breed which should be good and meaty. He’s got feathered legs, making it look like he’s wearing chaps when he gallops. Yes, gallops. He doesn’t seem quite capable of a normal chicken run, but he does seem terribly capable of being delicious.

Cuckoo Maran Rooster
Cock of the walk. Ruler of the roost. Other alliterative/rhyming chicken phrases.

I mentioned previously that there was some drama in the hen house, and this guy is the culprit. The cuckoo maran rooster has really taken over the joint. He patrols the roosts at night, making sure everyone’s in their spot, pecking at chickens that he thinks need to move. By day, he beats up on other troublemakers. If you hear *SQUAWKSQUAWK* during the day, it’s very probably this guy trying to maintain order by latching on to someone else’s neck.

White Polish Chicken
Who has two thumbs and causes a lot of problems? THIS GUY. (note: this guy doesn't really have thumbs.)

The drama comes in around night time. The cuckoo maran has a penchant for kicking people out of the coop, namely the white polish rooster, who can be a little aggressive with the ladies. (I always visualize him running around a la Benny Hill.) The white polish has spent a number of nights outside the coop, either in various trees or under the deck.

(HEADS UP: Vegetarians should skip the rest of this and leave a comment on how cute the chickens are.)

The upside to the polish chicken drama is that it pretty quickly solved a conundrum that we were trying to solve: who gets eaten first? At first we thought the cuckoo maran should go, but then we realized he’s got the traits you want in a good rooster. Or at least we think so, with all of three months of chicken rearing experience under our belts. He keeps eyes on everyone, keeps the other roosters in line, and doesn’t hesitate to protect the hens. But he’s also gentle towards people.

So that leaves an obvious choice: the white polish. He’s got a crow that sounds more like a velociraptor screech, he is constantly in trouble, and the big white mop top makes him an easy target for something else to eat. We figure that means we should get to him first.

That wraps up this week’s chicken soap opera. If anyone’s got experience offing chickens, your advice would be welcome. If you would like to be around for the festivities this week, drop us a line. And if you’ve got any thoughts about whether the cuckoo maran’s behavior makes for a good rooster or a bad one, leave a comment and let us know.