EGG WASHER!!!

Introducing, our new egg washer:

For two years, we have washed every single egg by hand. At our peak, that was something like 150 dozen in a week. Nick does almost all of the washing – I did at the beginning, but when carpal tunnel syndrome set in and prevented me from sleeping through the night, Nick took over. It’s as tedious and as time consuming as you can imagine. Egg after egg, episode after episode of whatever Netflix show, for 10-15 hours a week.

I’m often asked why we bother wash them at all. It is true that fresh eggs will keep unwashed and unrefrigerated for a couple of weeks. And, some say, if the chickens are kept the way they should be, on a small farm with caring farmers, the eggs will be clean already, with the intact cuticle protecting the precious goods inside. Why, that’s how the Europeans do it…

My response to this: poop. Anyone who keeps chickens will tell you that there is a lot of poop involved. And chickens are not particularly concerned with it. They leave it wherever they go – in the pasture, thankfully, but also in the coops, in the nest boxes, even in their waterers and feeders. There are practices and equipment to help us deal with it – we move the coops and fences around the pasture, and have ways to prevent them from roosting on the waterers, and as we work towards getting our own farm and making more capital investments, we’ll make it so the birds can’t sleep in the nests, and get roll-away nests so the eggs stay clean. Until then, we know that our eggs are exposed to chicken poop, and we know that chicken poop carries salmonella. So, we wash all of our eggs to ensure that we don’t send any of it into anyone’s home. Even though all of our eggs are distributed within the week they were laid, we are confident that they will last at least a month in the fridge. We’re proud of the high quality eggs our farm is producing – it’s important to us to consistently present and preserve that quality for our customers.

Thus, the long awaited egg washer. We’ve been anticipating this purchase for a while – we researched all the options, considering what would be the best machine not just now, but as the farm grows. We landed on the Gibson Ridge Farm Egg Washer, made by a small farm in Ohio who designed it after a simple egg washer from the 1950′s . It’s a relatively small machine that we can use now and in the certified egg-washing facility we hope to build. Using just a small amount of hot water and big soft brush, it is gentle and effective. Time will tell whether it was worth the price, but this week’s eggs took about a third of the time to wash…that works for us.

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Farmers Market Schedule

We are excited to announce that we are now attending farmers markets weekly!

WP_20150502_002Old City Farmers Market at the St. Augustine Amphitheater:

1st & 3rd Saturdays, 8:30am-12:30pm

Riverside Arts Market in Jacksonville:

2nd, 4th & 5th Saturdays, 10am-4pm

Come early to make sure you get some of our fresh, pastured Non-GMO eggs. Check our Facebook page for cancellations.

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We’ve arranged with our friends at Cognito Farm to attend these markets on alternating weeks, so if you miss one of us, the other will be there with eggs for you! We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with other small farms in the area who share our dedication to healthy animals and land, quality Non-GMO feed, and transparent, honest farming.

See you soon!

Summer CSA Season Available Now!

Sign up now for our Summer CSA Season to get in on 6 months of the freshest, tastiest, most healthful eggs in St. Augustine!

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Choose between weekly or biweekly pickup to get the eggs you need between May and October:

Full Share: Weekly pickup, 26 dozen, $156

Half Share: Biweekly pickup, 13 dozen, $78

Pickup available at the farm, at our home in St. Augustine, at the KYV Farmstand in Switzerland. We’re also working to confirm additional pickups in both downtown St. Augustine and Jacksonville.

Contact Katie today to reserve your share! ruffledfeathersfarmfl@gmail.com

One Year Later

So, it’s officially been a year since we’ve updated the website. Shameful, I know.

A lot has happened in that time: we’ve completed two CSA seasons, raised a new flock of laying hens and said goodbye to the old ones, harvested our second batch of turkeys, introduced our first broiler chicken CSA…not to mention running off to get married!

This year has been the most difficult we’ve faced yet as new farmers. As our old flock aged, we limped through the year with minimal egg production (read: minimal revenue) while we waited for our new flock to become productive. When our new flock was ready to lay, we dealt with a scary outbreak of fowl pox that threatened to be ruinous; thankfully, the birds were healthy and largely unaffected. We took on the challenge of offering a meat CSA for our broiler chickens, committing to provide members with fresh chickens every month for a 6 month season…no small task between just the two of us. On top of it all, we had a big decision to make: what next?

We’ve known since we started that our time at KYV Farm was limited, as the land is leased. And the lease ends this year.  We’ve considered every possible scenario: joining in to purchase the land, continuing to lease if KYV purchases the land, finding other land to lease, buying land elsewhere, shutting it all down…as I said, every possible scenario. The insecurity of our situation weighs heavily on our hearts and minds, as well as on the farm itself. The lack of secure land tenure has limited our investment in the growth of the farm – permanent infrastructure that could save labor and allow for an expanded market has been out of the question. We managed to grow despite this, but it has felt like a year of stalling. We’re done with stalling.

We know for sure that we’re not interested in shutting it all down. We’re pretty sure that we’re not going to continue to farm at KYV – while we hope KYV is able to purchase the property and continue to farm there, it’s not exactly suited to chicken farming, and in a high-development area like NW St. Johns County, it’s pricey. We’ve talked to a few people with small holdings they would let us use, but that feels like wasting time and money.

We want to buy a farm. We think we know which one. It feels like it was meant just for us, and we’re deep in the midst of making it happen. We’re really excited to share everything about as soon as the deal is done. Cross your fingers for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Farm this Sunday, April 13!

We’re thrilled to be on the tour this year! We’ll have our broiler chickens and stewing hens for sale, as well as eggs from our new farm partner, Eden Farm.

Come by between 12-5 to see the Ruffled Feathers and KYV Farm. In addition to the farm tour, we’ll have The Floridian, Café Atlantico, FCTC’s Culinary Arts Department, Alex’s Russian Bakery, Minorcan Datil Pepper Products and Terk’s Acres Goat Farm onsite with goodies to taste and buy.

Please remember to wear sturdy shoes, and bring cash for purchases.

See you Sunday!

Baby chickens!

Our first batch of broiler chickens and new layers arrived a few weeks back. They’re thriving and, if the weather would just cooperate, ready to leave the brooder for bright green pasture. These birds will be ready to harvest in time for Tour de Farm – more on that soon. For now, photos of cute baby chickies.

Summer CSA shares are selling fast. Follow the link below to the last post for details, and let us know if you have any questions!

 

Now Available – Spring Mini Season and Summer Season CSA Shares

Sign up now to reserve your eggs for the Spring and Summer! We have lots of options available for current members, KYV Farm CSA members and new members. Visit our Member Products page for more information and to sign up!

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Also, we’re expecting 250 baby chicks this week! 50 of these are layers, the first of 300 we’re bringing to the farm this spring to increase the size of our laying flock. The other 200 we’re raising for meat; they’ll be ready for harvest starting in March. Stay tuned for lots of cute baby chicken photos!

Settling In

September has been a busy month.

On August 30, following my last post here, we drove the two hours to Macclenny, Florida to pick up 300 of our laying hens from Twinn Bridges Farm. Nick had outfitted a trailer from KYV to transport the chickens, I had written the check, and we were finally ready to take the birds off of Scott and Denise’s hands. The plan was to load them into the trailer after they had gone to roost for the night, so we arrived at 8:00pm…to a torrential downpour. We didn’t want to risk the birds getting sick, so we left the trailer behind and drove home with plans to return on Sunday.

We left earlier Sunday, and arrived around noon to find half of the birds already loaded in the trailer. Come to find out, Scott and Denise had stayed up til the wee hours the night before loading all of the birds. Unfortunately, they woke up to the bottom half of the trailer emptying through a small hole in the wire! We spend an hour or so getting them loaded back up, then got on the road.

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Well, that was one of the scariest drives of my life. Not realizing that the birds would stay towards the back of the trailer, Nick hadn’t put any divider walls in the trailer to help distribute the weight. At least 5-8 lbs. each, the 300 chickens added over 1500 lbs. to the back of the trailer. While the truck did alright pulling the weight, the trailer fishtailed the whole way back to the farm. Hills (even tiny Florida hills) were scary. The thought of having to cross the high-and-narrow-3-mile-long-Shands-Bridge-which-people-fly-over was terrifying. We drove the extra hour to Palatka to cross the river there, where the bridge wasn’t so daunting. We made it back to farm safely, made sure the birds were secure, and came home to get some rest. We introduced them into their half of the coop the next morning. They settled right in, eating and drinking, laying eggs in the nests, and testing out the roosts.

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That evening, it was time to pick up the birds from KYV. A small storm threatened to thwart us again, but it stayed away, and Nick and Francisco made quick work of loading up the chickens. I took inventory as they went – 297 birds, 9 different breeds, 1 duck. We got them all safely back to the farm, again leaving them to sleep in the trailer. We were there first thing the following morning to let them out into the coop, where they settled in just as the first flock had. We quickly found out that the divider wall was useless – as it was only 8 feet tall, they could easily jump from one side to the other from the top of the roosts. Taking the wall down made it much easier to work in the coop, and we were happy to see the flocks integrate without any trouble. It also allowed Nick to set up the automatic waterers right away, saving us from having to haul five gallon buckets of water out to the coop. 

After a few days of getting acclimated, we let the flock out onto pasture – that was when they really started getting comfortable! Nick’s been working since to get them into a routine – he arrives each morning, opens up the door, and spreads a portion of the feed out on the pasture. Most of the birds follow right behind, while some await the feed they seem to know he’ll be bringing into the coop. After everyone’s had a little to eat, some get right down to laying an egg, some forage, some dust bathe. The roosters prance around, find tasty bits to share with their favorite girls, and look out for shadows from above. Nick rotates them to a new pasture every Saturday – they’ve been out for almost three weeks, which means he’s moved them twice now. We’ve been really glad to see the pasture already improving from the manure they’ve spread. We’re going to start spreading seed to diversify the forage available, starting with purslane. Chickens love it, and it will make their eggs rich in Omega 3s!  At the end of each day, Nick returns with more feed, and they all follow him back inside, where he collects the day’s eggs and locks everyone up to roost for the night.

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We’ve begun to make the switch to Hiland Naturals Non-GMO feed. Nick picked up the first shipment of two tons two weeks ago, and has been mixing it with the conventional feed the birds were used to. We have always read that mixing is smart when you’re switching birds over, as not to shock them into a molt (which would prevent any egg laying!), and our previous feed supplier had a stock of conventional feed that we needed to run down. Nick’s slowly increasing the ratio of Non-GMO to conventional, and expects to have them on straight Non-GMO by mid-October. Just as with the turkey feed, we’ve been very pleased with the freshness and quality of this feed, and can see the birds preference for it. I’m excited to see the quality of our eggs improve as we make the switch and improve the pasture – these are going to be some really tasty eggs! We’ve been happy to sell a few bags of feed to backyard chicken owners too! It’s impossible to find this feed in feed stores, and we’re glad to have these folks as customers even though they don’t need our eggs.

All these chickens at the farm means we have, at this point, over 1200 eggs to each week…and that number is going up. We’ve been getting settled into our new routine of handling them all and getting them to market. Once Nick gets the eggs home, we candle and wash them before packing. Candling involves setting the eggs, one at a time, a top a high-power flashlight. The light shines through the shell, so we can see if it’s cracked or if it was fertilized by one of the roosters. We pull these aside to eat, or feed to Pocket or the pigs. Nick usually does the candling, then loads them into flats for washing. I wash the eggs using a solution of 110 degree water, a drop of Seventh Generation dish soap, and chlorine bleach at 100ppm (a solution of 100-200ppm is recommended). While I never even washed the eggs from my backyard chickens, washing the many dozens coming from the farm is a necessity; while we’re making adjustments to make sure most of the eggs come out of the nest clean, there will always be some dirty ones, and we want to make sure we get rid of any chicken poop, feathers, pine shavings or dirt before packing them for market. They go into the cartons clean and pretty, and then into the fridge, then out to markets within the week!

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So far, we’ve attended the St. Augustine Beach Pier Market and the Beaches Green Market in Neptune; Vivian and Francisco have continued to sell our eggs at the farm stand each weekend as well. We’re excited to have been offered a spot at the Old City Farmers Market at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, held Saturday mornings, 8-Noon. We’re working out the optimal market schedule in preparation for the upcoming CSA season. We’re planning to alternate weekends at the Beaches Green Market and the Amphitheater Market – 1st and 3rd Saturdays at Neptune, 2nd and 4th Saturdays at the Amphitheater. We’re hopeful that with the CSA, one market and sales at KYV, we’ll sell out every week! 

Now that the chickens are settled, Nick’s spent the last week giving the turkeys his full attention. After getting their coops into position and setting up their electric netting, we clipped their flight feathers (because turkeys can fly high, and it doesn’t hurt them) and let them out onto pasture. They’re foraging well, but there have been some unexpected developments. We thought we had a good mixture of toms (males) and jennies (females), but since letting them out of the coops, it looks like that the majority are toms. It seems that the limited space in their coops kept them at peace – to the point of the lower-on-the-totem-pole-toms not even showing their wattle or snood. Now that they’ve got open pasture, they’re all trying to prove themselves! Nick’s keeping a close eye on them and separating any that get too rough. It will be interesting as they continue to grow – we’re hoping not to have to harvest any early! Raising turkeys for the first time has been quite the adventure. They are interesting and beautiful birds.

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It has indeed been a busy month. In addition to everything going on at the farm, I took over as one of the managers at the Back 40, had a birthday, traveled to Charlotte to be at my sister’s wedding, welcomed a few friends’ newborns, and somehow managed to feed us, keep the house from filling up with laundry and dishes and the garden (I mean, lovely plot of bahia grass) from embarrassing our neighbors. Nick has been at the farm every single day for at least the last two months. We’re tired, but we feel good. As momentum builds and opportunities come our way (more details soon!), we’re encouraged to keep going and confident that we can be successful. Thank you for your continued support!

 

 

All that’s missing is the chickens…

Today is the day! We’re finally ready to move the chickens to the farm. We still have some finishing touches to put on the coop, but it’s ready to house the birds from both KYV Farm and Twinn Bridges Farm. We’re driving to Macclenney tonight for the 300 or so ladies at Twinn Bridges, then moving Francisco and Vivian’s birds on Sunday and Monday…Labor Day indeed. Here are some photos – look forward to more once we get the chickens moved in!

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For now, the coop is divided in half. Since we’re bringing flocks from two farms together, we’ll keep them separated for a few weeks while they make themselves at home and get used to each other.

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The white fence on the left is the electric poultry netting we are using to rotate the birds on the pasture. We set up a temporary wire, just inside, as a “training” fence. Since these chickens haven’t been pastured using electric fencing before, we’re using the training fence to establish their boundaries before exposing them to the electric fence. In a few weeks time, we’ll take the wire fence down and reuse the materials for our meat bird coops. The birds will have what is called “rotated range.” This means that their coop is stationary but the pasture rotates. Once the birds are trained on the electric netting, we will move it weekly to the next quadrant around the coop. Each pasture will then have three weeks to regenerate (using the hens’ fine fertilizer!) before the birds are back to feast again.

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I’ll be adding pine shavings to these nest boxes this afternoon, then they’ll be ready for eggs! We’ll also spread some diatomaceous earth to control any potential mite problems.

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The nest boxes are hanging from our huge roosts, which have space underneath (towards the walls) for dust bathing. We’ll be able to collect manure from underneath the roosts – they will drop a lot of it while they’re sleeping at night. Its high nitrogen content makes it the best garden fertilizer.

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The turkeys are doing great! These three Black Spanish toms are the biggest of the bunch – they’re starting to gobble! We’re very pleased with the Non-GMO feed so far.

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They’re not quite big enough, though, to be let out of the coops yet. There are several big hawks around the farm that would love to have them for lunch. Nick moves their coops every day now to give them fresh pasture. The space they’ve already been on is growing back nicely with the fertilizer they applied.

We’re continuing to take reservations for turkeys – there are 18 still available. Make a deposit to reserve yours today! We’ll be at markets with eggs within the next few weeks – stay tuned!

Thanks for your continued support!