Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monday apples

It is late September and it is apple season!  Two weeks ago I bought a couple peck bags of McIntosh apples from a local grower that sells at the farmer's market in town.  Monday was my day off of work and my day to put the apples to good use.  One of the things that Mike LOVES is home made applesauce.  I usually use free apples from our own wild growing apple trees, but this year we had a late freeze that killed all the blossoms.  Oh well.  That just gives my business to a local farmer.  Apple sauce is one of my favorite things to make because it is so easy.  Normally the task is made so much simpler by the good ol' apple peeler/corer/slicer.  It is a wonderful tool that no apple lover should be without.  Unfortunately, I forgot how soft McIntosh apples are especially after they sit for two weeks in the house.  They would not peel cleanly at all without gumming up the peeler.  I even tried to put them in the freezer for a bit to firm them up.  No luck.  So I peeled them by hand and then ran them through the corer/slicer.  It still was about twice as fast as doing everything by hand.  I love that little contraption.

After slicing, I just load everything into my slow cooker which holds about 20 cups of sliced apples.  Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 cup of water.  Cook on low all day long.  Stir.  Pack into pint freezer containers and off to the freezer so we can enjoy fresh apple sauce all winter long.  That 20 cups of apples cooked down to 5 pint containers.  Not a lot, but it is so easy to do that I don't mind doing a second batch when I get some more apples.  I will probably pick a firmer variety next time so I can run them through the peeler too.  I have used so many different varieties of apples to make apple sauce that I cannot remember them all.  They all seem to work just fine.  Maybe I'm just not picky.

I had 7 apples left over after filling the slow cooker so what to do?  Make apple crisp!  I used a new recipe I found that uses real maple syrup as the sweetener.  Boy was it ever an easy recipe to put together and it tastes great.  I found it on the web site and it is called Maple Apple Crisp.  I read some of the reviews and used 1/2 the butter it called for and just a little less maple syrup and it turned out great.  We buy a 1/2 gallon of maple syrup every year from a local dairy farmer that has a sugar house and makes and sells his own maple syrup.  I LOVE real maple syrup.

 With the slow cooker doing its job, I turned my focus to the chickens.  I had enough whole chickens frozen from July's batch so this time around, I cut up 8 chickens and put them in packages.  4 packages of 4 boneless skinless breast halves, 4 packages of 4 thighs/4 drumsticks and 2 packages of 16 chicken wings.  Our freezer is filling up and looking much more respectable.  Yes I am still lamenting the loss of all our frozen food during the death of our last freezer in July.  I'm getting better now.  All I need is some venison and everything will feel normal again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

With a little help from our friends

This weekend was filled with friends helping us out.  It all started on Saturday when Mike and Steve packed up and headed home after working at the Howe Meadow Farmer's Market in Peninsula.  They were only a few miles down the road when Mike and Steve noticed the trailer they were pulling was vibrating.  Turns out one of the tires on the trailer had blown out.  Knowing that Dan Greenfield of Greenfield Berry Farms was right down the road that is where they headed.  Dan is one of the other vendors at the Howe Meadow market.  I met Dan when I went to the market with Mike a few weeks back.  Mike always introduces him to me as "this is the guy that makes maple syrup from hickory trees".  Well he does make a type of syrup from hickory trees, but obviously it's not maple syrup.  I need to try some sometime because I just find that totally fascinating.  Mike has tried it and said it is very good.

Back to the tire story.  Since Dan lives local and Mike and Steve were 70 miles from home, Dan brought out a local phone book and they found a tire store that was open and had a new tire the correct size.  So they took the tire off the trailer, loaded the blown out tire and rim into Dan's car and the three of them headed off to the tire store.  Then Mike, Steve and Dan ate lunch at a little mom & pop diner while the new tire was mounted on the rim.  About an hour later the new tire was ready to be picked up and they headed back to Dan's house to put the tire on the trailer and finally headed home.  So a BIG thank you to Dan for helping out.  What a truly nice guy.


Sunday morning on the farm was our second of two butchering "parties" that we host each summer.  It's not really a celebration type party, but more like a gathering of friends to do a job that is made so much easier with many hands involved.  I wrote about our last butchering day back in July.  This one was pretty much the same except the weather was a lot cooler and it did not rain.  That made the entire morning much more enjoyable.  The first chicken was killed at 8:10am and everything was scrubbed clean and put away or at least spread out to dry at 11:06am.  We butchered 48 chickens this time around.  I'm going to put up some pictures to show the process, but be warned that some of these are very graphic.  If you don't eat meat or even if you do eat meat and you want to be blissfully unaware of how meat gets from the pasture to the table, then don't look at the pictures.  But before I get to the pictures, a quick story.  One of the young ladies that helped at the last butchering day could not be here on Sunday, but she wanted to buy two of our chickens.  Her friend told me that she will not eat chicken that comes from the large factory farms.  But when she came to our farm the last time and saw how humanely our chickens were treated, she had no problem taking a few of them home for her freezer.  That made me feel good because the whole reason I raise chickens to eat is so that I know exactly how they are treated their entire lives and also how they are butchered and handled all the way to the dinner plate.

So I'll start off with the first group of chickens after beheading.  We hang them to bleed out.  Seems like most people who do a lot of this used killing cones and slit throats.  We did that one year and it was a lot cleaner process, but the guys that do this job decided that liked the quick work of the ax better.

Next the chickens are taken to the scalding area.  We use two turkey fryers to heat water to 140 degrees F.  The chickens are dunked in the hot water for about 30 seconds to loosen the feathers.

Then they immediately go into the chicken plucker where they tumble round and round.  Inside there are rubber plucker "fingers" that pull off the feathers.  The hose is sprayed on the tumbling chickens to help wash the feathers out the bottom of the plucker and onto the ground.

 And in about 30 seconds, two chickens are plucked nearly clean except for a few tail feathers.

Then it is off to the evisceration table where several of us finish removing any feathers that didn't come out in the plucker.  Then we remove the feet and all the internal organs.

From there, the cleaned chickens are put into a large container of ice water to start chilling the birds.  After they chill for a bit, two of my friends that do the kitchen work are up next.  They take the cleaned and chilled chickens into the kitchen where they remove the necks, check for any left behind feathers and rinse the body cavity.  Then they bag them and put them in the refrigerator.

 When they are all done, the chickens look just like one you buy at the store, but without all the unknowns on how they were raised and killed.


Today I spent a couple hours in the afternoon cutting up chickens for the freezer.  But I think I have blogged enough for today so I will leave that for the next blog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

T minus 1 day

The last batch of meat chickens this year will be butchered in the morning. I love raising chickens, but by the end of summer, I am not sorry to say goodbye to the chore of driving feed and water out to the meat chickens on pasture every day. It is especially challenging now with the days getting shorter and my work hours at the clinic staying the same. This is one chore that HAS to be done in daylight and it is a rush in the morning to feed and move pens and then get ready to go to work and then a rush to get home in the evening before it gets dark.

I did not have to do office hours today at the clinic so I actually slept in. Until 7am! That is an amazing feeling! I had so much energy when I finally got up. The morning was spent doing town chores: calling a couple clients with lab test results, post office, recycling center, feed store, grocery store. Then home for lunch and my required post lunch power nap. I cleaned house all afternoon getting ready for company coming tomorrow. Then after taking care of the laying hens, I moved all 48 meat chickens into the barn. My crate only holds 8 chickens at a time so that was 6 trips out to pasture and back to the barn. It was well after dark when I drove out to get the last group of 8 chickens. Thank goodness the chickens are white or it would have been hard catching the last few in the dark. But all are inside tonight and that will speed up the process tomorrow morning.

I mustered up enough energy afterwards to make double batch of blueberry muffins using frozen blueberries from our garden. That will be a nice surprise for the butchering crew when they get here tomorrow morning. Of course the fridge is stocked with beer for afterwards. Going to be a cool, but dry day tomorrow which will be better than our last butchering day in July when it rained most of the morning. Time to say goodnight.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brownies and a Big Bus

Running a little behind the times with this post, but I wanted to put in a journal entry about this past weekend.  About a week ago, Mike told me that Trevor from Fresh Fork was putting together a farm tour for their CSA members and our farm was one of the stops.  "When is this tour?" I asked.  "This Sunday." said Mike.  Oh great.  Now I have to get the farm spruced up and looking good in short notice.  Thursday it rained.  Friday is premarket day plus I had a pre-wedding reception/pig roast that I needed to stop by Friday evening.  Saturday morning both Mike and I had to work.  So Saturday afternoon and a little on Sunday morning, I finally got around to picking up all the accumulated "stuff" around the barns, mowing 1/2 of the lawn and weed whacking around the buildings. 

Since lawn mowing is good for thinking, I decided that I wanted to have a little thank you for everyone who came for the tour on Sunday.  Plus I wanted to promote the farm a bit.  What I came up with was that I would make some whole wheat brownies made with wheat grown on our farm.  Last year we raised soft red winter wheat.  Most went to the feed mill, but we held some back and then this year after it dried, we took some of the wheat to an Amish man that has a commercial grinder and he ground it into wheat flour.  Soft red winter wheat is low protein flour so it makes what is known as pastry flour.  Not good for making bread, but works great in brownies (and the pancakes I make with it are pretty yummy too!).  I also like using this flour because I prefer to use whole wheat flours whenever I can.

Now somewhere along the way Saturday evening, my brain disconnected.  I usually cut brownies in an 8"X8" pan into thirds which = 9 brownies.  I decided that might be a little large for an afternoon snack after lunch so I divided the pans into fourths which somehow my brain managed to translate into 12 brownies per pan.  Therefore I would need 5 pans of 12 brownies to make enough for 51 people.  It wasn't until after I pulled the 5th pan out of the oven that I came to the realization that I had made 5 pans of 16 or 80 brownies.  I sadly broke the news to Mike that I made too many brownies and we would have to eat the extras.  He was so so sad.  *grin*

I've had a few requests for the recipe so here it is.  I actually took several different recipes and combined them into one, changed this, changed that and this is what I came up with.

Whole Wheat Brownies


1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

  1. Lightly grease an 8"X8" pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Combine melted butter, sugar and brown sugar.  Mix thoroughly. (I use an electric mixer here. You want the mixture nice and smooth.)

  3. Stir in cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and vanilla. (Again I use an electric mixer for this step and then I throw it away.  OK, just kidding about throwing it way, but I hand mix everything after this step.)

  4. Add eggs.  Stir until well mixed and smooth, but do not over beat.

  5. Add flour.  Again, stir until moistened, but do not over beat.

  6. Fold in chocolate chips

  7. Bake approximately 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with wet fudgy crumbs.

  8. Some people think these taste even better the next day after the whole wheat flour has time to absorb some of the moisture, but I like them any time, any way.

Sunday afternoon the tour bus rolled in around 3:30-4pm.  It's not everyday that a tour bus comes and parks in your driveway.  OK, I guess I am amused by small things, but I thought having a big bus parked in the driveway was cool. 
Mike walked everyone back to the fields for the tour of the 20 acre "garden".  I may be biased, but I think Mike is a great farmer.  He absolutely loves what he does and is very passionate about it.  He got to talk about why we have not chosen to go the organic route.  What it comes down to in a nutshell is that some vegetables will need to be sprayed for fungus or insects every once in awhile in order to save a crop.  Most vegetables never get sprayed with anything at all, but some will need it from time to time.  Just because something is natural doesn't mean it is safe.  Because we work in the fields and eat the vegetables ourselves, we want to use the safest chemicals possible.  That might be a natural product that is approved for organic use, but it might not be.  Mike showed the effects of downy mildew on the cantaloupe crop.  All dead.  We did get some harvested and sold before the fungus hit and killed the plants, but there is probably $1000 dollars of melons rotting in the field.  Downy mildew used to be a fungus that didn't appear until late in the growing season when the spores would come up from the southern states.  That was until farmers in Canada started putting up lots of greenhouses to grow vine crops.  In the spring they open up the greenhouses and the wind carries all the fungal spores south and so now we have to deal with downy mildew from the very start of the season.        
Mike did a great job talking about what we do and what challenges farmers face.   Challenges ranging from the weather to government regulation.  This is a subject I will be more vocal about on future blogs.  I loved how he talked about how farmers need to be able to let things roll off their backs.  A fungus kills all your melons.  Oh well.  A late freeze kills all your tomato plants.  Oh well.  It's too wet or too cold.  Oh well.  I spent most of the tour trying to distract Molly the crazy Brittany from getting in the way plus I was feeling a little under the weather from day 1 of the attack of the head cold.  I felt bad about not being more chipper and talkative, but that is how it goes when the virus strikes.
I hope everyone who visited our farm learned something about us and how and why we do things our way.  I know they had started their day at 8am and still had 2 more stops to make.  Bless their hearts.  Actually, I would have loved to have been on the tour with them.  I love seeing how other people do things and learn about farming methods for crops and animals we don't raise ourselves. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The bean sorter

Mike and I flew through yesterday like two Energizer Bunnies.  There is no doubt that things are at peak on the farm.  All I know is that both of us were up and running a little after 5:30am.  When I went outside at 6:30am to feed and water the chickens, Mike was busy packing up some green beans to take over to the Middlefield auction.  The farm had an order placed for 475 pounds of yellow wax beans and more bushel boxes were needed.   We buy those in Middlefield so Mike packed up some green beans to sell to offset the cost of the fuel needed to get there and back.  I think he left for Middlefield somewhere around 7am.

Meanwhile I was off to work at the clinic at 8am.  What a day.  I really don't know what happened.  At one point in the afternoon, Amy came back and said she had never seen the waiting room so full.  Oh my!  I hate making people wait, but it seemed like EVERY pet that came in was REALLY sick.  Those cases just took time.  I had a few routine appointments at the end and fortunately everyone was really in a good mood and understanding.  Most people really do understand that the really sick animals need to be seen first.  But at the end of the day, I think all our heads were spinning at the whirlwind of patients that we saw.  Wow!

I got home about an hour later than normal with my head still spinning.  Mike told me a few tidbits from his day like how the bean picker broke and he thought it might end up a major repair, but it held up for the final 150 pounds of beans that needed picked.  Whew!  Also he mentioned how hard it was to run the bean sorter all by himself.  After we said a few hello's, I headed outside to tend to the meat chickens still out on pasture and Mike head back to the field to pick more produce.  12 more days and the meat chickens will be butchered.  I was thinking about how I dread doing this chore when I get home from work.  That is until I actually get out there with the chickens and then all the dread goes away.  I really really do love raising chickens.  They are friendly and entertaining.  It is a satisfying feeling being able to raise our own chicken to eat from day old peeps all the way to the freezer.

After chores, I started dinner while Mike continued working in the field until just after dark.  When he got into the house I told him that after dinner, I would go with him and help him run the bean sorter.  So we ate and headed over to Covered Bridge Gardens to sort beans around 8:30pm.  This was the first time I have seen the bean sorter in action.  Basically it takes the beans, stems, leaves that are picked by the bean picker and helps sort out the beans from everything else that gets sucked up into the bean picker.  I worked at the start where the beans feed through a brush-like screen.  My job was to pick out large leaves and stems and make sure everything was feeding through the first part OK.  Mike worked the second part where the beans vibrate down a corrugated metal tray and he picked out leaves and stems that the first screening missed.  Then the beans fall into bushel boxes where they are packed up and ready to ship.  We worked until just after 10pm.  Here's a few more shots of the bean picker.

Bins of beans picked earlier in the day by the bean picker are lined up at the start.  You can see there are a lot of leaves and other debris that the picker picks up along with the beans.

The presorted beans are dumped into the starting area.  This is the area I worked after Mike dumped the beans for me.  OK, I am a weakling.  I freely admit it.

Mike worked the area where the beans would vibrate down the table to the waiting bushel boxes.  As you can see there are not very many beans going down the table.  This is because everything was getting gummed up at my end because I was trying to take a picture.  I must say that Mike was very patient with me since I really didn't know what the heck I was doing at first.

At the end of the day, Mike had picked and boxed the Fresh Fork order of 475 pounds of yellow wax beans, 900 purple bell peppers, 10 bushels of eggplant and 4 half bushels of squash.  Our farm is also supplying our own CSA's this week with cauliflower, white eggplant and golden zucchini.  Plus of course all the smaller pickings for the farm markets.

All I can say it was a day that was go go go from 5:30am to 10:30pm.  That is how things go during peak season.

Oh, and sorry Mick.  I broke your broom while cleaning up the barn.  Oops!  *grin*

Monday, September 13, 2010

Greenie Beanies

More food preservation today in preparation for winter.  Today was all about green beans.  I used to blanch and freeze them then one year I got a pressure canner.  I'm not sure if we just bought one or if I got one for Christmas.  My bet is on Christmas as Mike does like to get me presents that make me have to work.  Like the hand crank grain mill or the juicer or any of numerous skillets or the best was the year he bought me a zero turn mower.  OK, the mower does cut the lawn mowing time in half so I guess that leaves me more time to use my various skillets.  Anyway, the year I got the pressure canner I canned green beans.  We decided we liked them better than the frozen ones and the fact that they free up a lot of freezer space is a big plus as our freezer always seems to be packed full.

Since I did play a little in the woods yesterday.  OK I played a lot in the woods, but I did get a quick picture of some turkey hens and poults on my way back to the house.  I love every turkey sighting as I think they are just the coolest birds.  Benjamin Franklin liked turkeys too (or so I'm told) so I am in good company.  Well, the only thing I was able to get accomplished yesterday evening just before dark was getting a 5 gallon bucket of green beans picked.  That is about a 1/2 bushel give or take a bean or two or three.

After a leisurely morning, I set forth to canning the green beans. Step one: grabbed a chair and my bucket of beans and set up in the shade of a maple tree next to the house.  The weather was PERFECT for sitting outside and preparing the beans.  Still smiling thinking of how pleasant the weather was this morning.  Good thing the weather was so nice because snipping green beans is one of my all time least favorite jobs.  It's just that it is so very very very very tedious.  Most years, Mike helps out by doing this while he watches t.v..  Two mindless activities combined can turn into something productive.  But today I was on my own.  As I was sitting in the yard snipping merrily away, I couldn't help but have flashbacks to my college days when I worked for one whole semester in the dining commons making toast.  Two hours, five days a week.  Putting bread in the toaster, taking bread out of the toaster.  Thankful for the money, but seriously had an issue with toast for quite awhile after that.

So what is snipping?  Well it is just the removal of both ends of the bean pod and then breaking the pod into smaller pieces that make it easier to fill the canning jars.  This is all done by hand.  It took me 30 minutes to pick a 5 gallon bucket of beans and it took more than 60 minutes to snip them.  I've often wondered why we call it snipping?  I think snapping would be better since that is the sound the fresh beans make, but I guess snipping works too.  When all was said and done the beans filled one side of the sink where I then ran several changes of water through them to wash the beans.

Then onto loading the jars and cranking up the canner.  The only thing that I don't like about the pressure canning part is that I really need to stay close to keep an eye on things.  First the canner needs vented for 7 minutes.  Then it needs to be brought to 10 pounds pressure.  That takes about 5 minutes.  Then the stove top temperature needs adjusted so the pressure vent doesn't go off too much or too little.  Then the canner has to run for 25 minutes.  Then it has to come off the burner and cool down naturally to zero pressure and that takes about 15 minutes.  So there is never really enough time in between any step to do another job.  But when it is all done and over, the sense of preserving more fresh veggies from the garden to enjoy in the winter is all worth it.  Oh and if anyone ever tells you that you can't pressure can on a smooth top range they are lying.  Well maybe the manufacturer of the stove tops doesn't like such nonsense and maybe there is a good reason, but I've been doing this for over 10 years.  No problems yet.
In the end, I now have 14 quarts of green beans to put on the shelf plus a little left over for tonight's dinner.

Oh and the other thing I did today was preserve some peaches.  This is my FAVORITE fruit/veggie to preserve for winter.  Get ready for the directions.  Take peaches.  Place in Ziploc bag.  Put in freezer.  Done.  Yes, it really does work.  I tried it last winter.  When you pull the peaches out of the freezer, run them under cold water and the skins will loosen right up and come off.  Then make sure (and this is VERY important) to slice them before they thaw completely or they will turn to mush.  I made peach cobbler last winter from peaches preserved in this method and it was VERY YUMMY!  I love things that are so easy peasey. 

As far as the rest of the farm goes, we had all three boys over here working this afternoon and Ed was here both morning and afternoon.  I know Ed picked some green beans that Mike loaded up and took to the Middlefield auction.  MIke had to buy some more produce boxes there so it is always nice to drop off some produce to sell to cover the gasoline for the trip there and back and hopefully the cost of the boxes too.  I think this afternoon, the boys worked on picking cherry tomatoes.  Dang, I hope they left me some.  I could use some for dinner salads later this week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Brocco-lee, Brocco-li, Brocco-lum

Combine two college grads who are old enough to remember when Latin was taught in high school with heaping bins of a vegetable with a name like "broccoli" then throw in a little silliness on top and you get two farmers who walk around conjugating the verb "broccoli".  Brocco-lee.  Brocco-li.  Brocco-lum.  Easy.  Ok we really do know that broccoli isn't a verb, but that's the kind of thing that happens when you pick, sort, pack, eat and breathe vegetables all summer long.

This week another big (for us) order rolled on out of the farm.  450 heads of broccoli, 200 red cabbage and 30 1/2 bushel boxes of summer squash.  Mike and Ed were busy busy boys getting everything ready.  Plus of course they had to pick for the CSA's and the markets.  Mike said they picked close to 1000 squash during the week along with everything else they picked. 

I came home from work Wednesday evening to find three large bins of broccoli hanging out in the garage.  These are the same sized large cardboard bins filled with watermelon that you sometimes see sitting on the floor in the produce section of the grocery store.  That's a lot of broccoli!  It looked so good too.  Perfect maturity.  It took all my willpower not to snatch a few heads out of the bin and go make dinner.

I had a crazy week too at the clinic and this always makes it interesting when I have to come home and tend to the chickens.  The laying hens are no problem to feed, water and collect eggs in the dark if I get home late.  But I still have about 50 meat chickens out on the grass that are old enough (7 weeks) that they need their pens moved twice a day.  It's just that they are bigger now and they poop a lot more now.  If I don't move the pens twice a day when they are this age, the grass gets too messy and there is nothing that bothers me more than animals that don't have a clean place to lay down and sleep.  The pasture pens have no bottom so as I move the pens, the chickens must walk along inside the pen to keep up.  And chickens won't walk in the dark.  So that means rush home from the clinic, change clothes and get to work on the farm without a minute to sit and relax.  The next two weeks until butchering day are going to more of the same. 

Molly, our Brittany, loves to follow me out to do chores.  She is more than eager to look for a few fresh "snacks" when I move the pens.  What a farm dog she turned into.

I took a couple walks out to the garden this week too.  Not sure how I had time to do that, but there are pictures in my camera to prove I was there and I do remember being back there so I must have a moment or two. 

I believe these are black-eyed peas that are coming along quite nicely.  There are some shelling peas further to the left and lots of nice yellow wax and green beans out of the picture to the right.

And a view of some of the cauliflower that is looking really good.  There might be some cabbage in this picture too.  Can't quite remember.  But then it has been kind of a crazy week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Change is in the air

The summer is passing and there is change in the air. As much as I miss the warm days and the short nights of summer, I do cherish the changes of the seasons. Oh I'll be complaining along with everyone else when the weather turns cold and dreary, but the complaints are only superficial. The cold makes farm chores harder. The dark does too. But when I look down deep, down to the core of my being, I love the change. How can one appreciate the bounty of summer if one never knows the barrenness of winter? And there is beauty to be had in both.

As different as summer is from fall is from winter is from spring, the transition is almost imperceptible until one day you wake up and there it is. One day you are basking in the warm sunshine and the next you are putting on a sweatshirt and a hat to head outdoors. But it's not like someone just went and threw on a switch, the change has been happening every day. The dandelions quit blooming long ago. The goldenrod has become the most numerous flower in the meadow across the road from our house. The swallows have abandoned their nests.  The adults and their young fledglings swoop and dive as they follow the lawnmower around the yard as the mower kicks up bugs into the air for the eager swallows to catch and eat. The blackbirds sit in large flocks in the trees. They were not there a month ago, but they are now.

The chickens are caught up in the change too.  The 2 dozen eggs a day I was collecting in spring, became a dozen and a half in summer and now just a dozen or so eggs are laid each day.  A few of the hens have started their annual molt.  During the molt, the chickens will lose their old feathers and will grow new ones.  Although most chickens will just take on a slight scruffy appearance, a few will lose so many feathers at once that you can actually see the quills of the new feathers as the come up through the skin.  Most of the time I only know they are molting because of the piles of feathers that show up in the yard and the coop. They quit laying eggs during this time as their bodies divert energy from egg laying to growing feathers.  It is a time of reproductive rest that all birds need to do every year.

The fields are changing too.  Mike and Bill have been busy mowing the meadows and the lanes around the farm.  I usually try to keep up with at least mowing the paths in the summer, but this job got away from me this year.  But now that the lanes are mowed again, I was able to take a drive back to the woods yesterday.  The field corn is starting to brown and the ears are just starting to tip a little bit as the corn matures and dries out.  Mike mowed the old patches of sweet corn.  There is only one patch still standing.  The tomato plants are heavy and leaning over full of tomatoes.  The earliest planted cucumber plants have died.  The earliest planted broccoli is fully in bloom with lots of yellow flowers. 

I too am immersed in the change.  The cool air makes the kitchen a welcome place once again and there are the smells of freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and peach cobbler drifting through the house.  Bread baking can surely not be far behind.  As well as the smell of a pot of stew or chili simmering in the crock pot all day long.

The woods are calling me too.  Last night, I took the first walk through the woods since May.  These walks will become more and more frequent as the fall season rolls along.  The weather is cool enough now that the dogs can join me on some of my walks.  Early hunting seasons have begun and with them another chance to stock the freezer with fresh, healthy meat from animals who do not eat antibiotics and do not live in tight confined quarters.  There is so much I love about fall.  I feel truly blessed to live on this farm and all it offers.