Chicken, Lamb, Goat, Pork, Eggs
Since 2007 we have been transitioning our business and property from retail nursery & landscaping to a farm where we grow healthful food of all sorts. The nursery component still offers many unusual perennials, shrubs & trees like many of you have come to expect from us, but our focus is largely on plants that produce food. We still offer the same comprehensive landscaping design and installation services including rock walls, patios, paths, and decorative & edible gardens, but now you will find us incorporating more edibles that provide beauty as well as home-grown treats! We raise chickens for meat and chickens for eggs as well as sheep for meat and wool. We raise a couple of pigs twice a year and typically have the pork available in the spring and autumn. We are currently building up a goat herd for meat production. All of our goats are Boer or Boer cross-breeds and produce very tasty and healthful meat. We have small crops of berries, fruits and vegetables that will be available seasonally at the Proctor Farmers Market. We started down this track because we wanted to know exactly what went into the foods we eat. As it turns out (not surprisingly) most of our customers want to know this too. So...we grow good things for life, for you and for us. Enjoy! Click here to shop for our meats
About our Chickens -
Our egg layers (casually referred to as 'The Ladies') are truly free range birds. They have a 1/4 acre of hillside pasture to roam through, nibbling all the grass, blackberries, and bugs they can find. Periodically throughout the year, we need to let the grass recover and grow up a bit so then the ladies are restricted to a 1200 square foot 'heavy use area' for a few weeks. We feed them a standard mixed grain food designed for egg laying chickens as well as lots of produce from our garden and other farms. We are very careful to lock our ladies in their hen house every night to protect them from predators (Jill has even been known to tell the younger ones stories once they are all in bed). As egg production is daylight dependent, we have a light on a timer to give them a full 16 hours of light each day, which helps with production in the winter. Nothing is as effective as the real thing, though, and the summer months are the peak season for egg laying.
Our meat chickens are a breed called Cornish Cross. It is the prevalent breed you will find as meat in any grocery store. The difference is in our raising techniques. Starting with day-old hatchlings, they graduate through a series of pens in one of our out-buildings until they are big enough to move to the main chicken coop where they get to roam freely throughout the property (to be fair, they really don't wander very far), foraging for grass, weeds & bugs. They also get a diet of mixed grains designed to keep them healthy as they grow quickly to about 5 pounds. This coming year, we plan to experiment with another breed called Red Ranger. It is the primary breed grown in France and is slightly hardier, though it takes longer to reach full size. Click Here for Recipes.
About our Sheep -
Our sheep flock consists of at least seven different breeds that we are constantly refining, adjusting, and combining to end up with healthy, durable, multi-purpose animals that suit our property, climate, and production needs. We raise the animals primarily for meat, but also for wool. One of our earliest breeding rams was a Jacob Sheep and much of our flock has some of his genetics in it. The brown, white and black sheep in the picture is one of his daughters. The mother was a Shetland. We have some breeds with outstanding wool such as Wensleydale, Icelandic, Jacob and Shetland and others with more ordinary wool like Suffolk and Romney which are great for meat production. In general, we expect most males that are born to our flock to become food in about a year. Most females will be bred and thus we increase our flock. We keep two breeding rams around, one younger and one older. Every few years we bring in a new breeding ram so our genetic lines do not become too inbred. In doing all this, we are always selecting out the animals with the best characteristics for health, growth rate and size, and wool quality.
We allow our male and female animals to live together full time so their breeding occurs naturally. Different breeds or individuals will be ready to breed at different times over about six months, so we get baby lambs showing up from January into June. Unlike most sheep producers, we like the birthing to be spread out. It gives us a wide range of animals to pick from for meat production throughout the year and, for us, it's easier not to be inundated with babies all at once. Just two or three each week for us, please! We also like the idea that the animals are living a more natural life by being allowed to breed at will.
During the spring, summer and autumn months our sheep graze on grass pasture. Periodically we will give them a snack of mixed grain pellets which they think of as candy. We can bring them in from the pastures in a heartbeat by rattling the 'candy' bucket. In the winter months, we feed more grain along with baled hay and alfalfa. At some point in the autumn, we take them off the pastures to give the grass a chance to grow again in the spring.
We are constantly striving to make the most use of the animals we slaughter for meat. We feel it is disrespectful to the animal if we don't try to use it and appreciate it in every way possible. In 2011 we started having the hides tanned and will continue to do so as long as we are able to sell them. Because our flock is made up of such diverse breeds, each tanned sheep skin is unique and incredibly beautiful. They are machine washable, and can be used as rugs, throws, baby blankets, or seat cushions. We sold one to a customer on a chilly day at the Proctor Farmers' Market recently who wrapped it around her shoulders like a shawl and walked happily home! We also render the fat after butchering and use it to make bird suet cakes. We typically combine the fat from the sheep, goats, and sometimes pigs for this. Click Here for Lamb Recipes.
About our Goats -
Our goat herd is relatively new and we are growing it as fast as we can. Seven of our does are pregnant and we should start seeing baby goats bouncing around in the next month. All of our goats are Boer or Boer crosses except one, who was a rescue animal (we named her Angel Cheeks) and is an Alpine breed. Many people wonder what the difference is between goats and sheep. One answer is that sheep, for the most part, are content being sheep (except for a few big personalities). Sheep live in a mostly 2-dimensional world. They walk on the ground, sleep on the ground, and eat grass growing from that ground. Goats, on the other hand, get ideas. Big ideas. They climb trees (see photo) and are willing to eat nearly any kind of plant. Goats are adventurous and curious and think things like, "hmmm, I bet the world looks realy cool from on top of that stump!". This not to say, however, that goats are smarter than sheep. They each possess a great intelligence in their own way. Sheep think from the perspective of being in a comfortable group with a couple of leaders. Goats think from the perspective of "me and maybe one or two buddies".
The goats live in a pasture area adjacent to the sheep and follow the same basic breeding and feeding plan as described for the sheep. The big difference is that the goats are raised almost exclusively for meat, though we do get a tanned hide occasionally as some of our mixed-breeds produce long, thick, soft, lustrous hair. Also, the fat is rendered for suet and we save the horns for various crafting purposes. Click Here for Goat Recipes.
About our Pigs -
We raise three pigs twice a year, in winter and in summer. They have a little pig house built under a huge douglas fir tree to give them protection from the weather. Pigs are omnivores but tend to eat a vegetarian diet. We give them free access to a mixed grain pelletized pig food and we give them lots of day-old bread, bagels, and occasionally doughnuts, for extra carbohydrates. This is especially helpful to them in the winter when they are burning more calories staying warm. We also give them lots of culled vegetables and fruit from our friends in the produce department at Stadium Thriftway in Tacoma. Bananas, squash, and avocados are particular favorites. It's hard to believe until you've seen it yourself, but it is amazing to watch an animal using nothing more than one cloven hoof and sturdy nose (as if they were a fork and a spoon) split open an avocado and snarf up the flesh while leaving the skin and pit perfectly intact. If I hadn't watched it, I'd swear they had a cutting board and knife stashed away somewhere.
We start out each time with weaner pigs that are about 8 weeks old. We do not have the space or the inclination to breed our own, so we purchase them young and grow them on from there. We raise our pigs to a live weight of about 275 pounds, which they achieve in about 6 months. Besides all the standard cuts of meat we get from them, we try to respect the life of the animal by not letting anything go to waste (as much as possible), so we also render the fat for lard and bird suet, we dehydrate the organ meat for pet snacks, and so on.
Scientific Name = Gallus domesticus
Hen = a female chicken older than a year.
Pullet = a female chicken younger than a year.
Rooster = an adult male chicken.
Cockerel = a younger male chicken.
Hens do not need a rooster to lay eggs. A rooster will help produce fertile eggs for making more chickens, but the hen will lay eggs regardless.
Most breeds will lay about 2 eggs every 3 days, or two thirds of an egg a day.
Chickens are omnivores. They eat anything they can catch and fit in their mouths - grass, flowers, berries, seeds, worms, flies, even mice!
Scientific Name = Ovis aries
Ewe = a female sheep.
Ram = a male sheep.
Wether = a neutered male sheep.
Mutton = a sheep older than two years. Generally used to refer to meat rather than the live animal.
Lamb = a sheep less than one and a half years old. The definition of this term varies from grower to grower.
Hogget = in Australia and New Zealand, a hogget is a sheep from one to one and a half years old.
Polled = naturally without horns.
Scientific Name = Capra hircus
Doe = a female goat.
Buck = a male goat.
Wether = a neutered male goat.
Buckling or Doeling = goats less than a year old.
Kid = a baby goat.
Scientific Name = Sus scrofa domesticus
Sow = a female pig that has had a litter.
Gilt= a female pig that has not had a litter.
Boar = an uncastrated male pig.
Barrow = a castrated male pig.
Swine = pigs in general.
Weaner pigs = young pigs just weaned, ready for sale to grow up elsewhere.