Posted by: A Part of the Solution | March 18, 2010

Pastoral Enhancements on the Way

My mother grew up in the country on various farms. She was Montgomery County Farm Queen more than fifty years ago. If you ask, she’ll say she shoveled manure more handily than the other girls. I’ve seen the newspaper clipping. I think she might have won on the cute-and-wholesome ticket.

My father spent summers at the family farm in Garrett County to build his health so he could survive the other nine months of the year in the Bronx. His aunt and uncle kept cows, guinea fowl and turkeys. His uncle was a locally noted Turkey Man–as he excelled at handling this difficult and disease prone livestock crop.

This is all as much to say that though I am from the suburbs, I do not harbor a bunch of sentimental notions about farm animals. However, I do spoil and indulge the house pets. Of course, I never reproduced so they’re all the sub-literate company I’m likely to keep in my home. But I don’t confuse those two classes of animals: farm and house.

Therefore, it is with some trepidation that I await the delivery of the chicks next week. I had a hand in deciding the breed we wanted. I have a fondness, bordering on mania, for all things ‘Heritage.’ I believe many of the old agricultural ways were better for the health of those on the farm and the products created there.

I chose the Wyandotte chicken for our meat-and-egg provider. Down the road, I hope we’ll be able to add quail (again for eggs and meat), guinea fowl and even a few turkeys–those largely for holiday tables of our CSA member households.

Chickens make more noise than folks in cities and suburbs are prepared to hear at every hour of the day (and night). They’re smelly in confinement and slightly verminous under any condition. Depending on early conditioning and where they’re at in personal cycles, they can also be aggressive. I hope we’ll be able to work out a viable pasturing model for those chickens. Their flesh and eggs will be tastier for a varied diet.

The pigs, Tamworth-Old Spot crosses, arrive in late April. We are acquiring three barrows (castrated males). I envision two of them living until the Autumn of 2011; then they’ll be shipped off to ‘summer camp.’ The breeds from which our piggies are derived have reputations as excellent foragers.

I want our swine to feast, not to say gorge, on beech nuts, hickory nuts and acorns. Why? Because Spanish pigs raised in upland oak forests across two Autumns have cholesterol REVERSING fat, i.e. tons of all the good fatty acids and Omegas. What wouldn’t you pay to eat pork products which contributed to your health? And what if they were tastier than the jejune corn-fed varieties as well?

Yes, pastured animals run off. Yes, they’re in greater danger from predators. Yes, they cost less to feed and taste better on the table. It’s a great trade-off. Plus, they look so darling in the middle distance ambling in meadows and through the forest verge.

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