Currant events

Blackcurrants are only recently regaining popularity in the United States, after being banned from the early 1900’s through the 20th century. Ribes nigrum is native to parts of northern Asia and Europe, and susceptible to a few pests and diseases, most notably white pine blister rust. When blackcurrant plants were imported to the US, the disease spread to domestic white pine forests, which had a negative impact on the logging industry, and led to the ban.

Blackcurrants have long been a favorite in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, due in part to it’s use as an emergency source of vitamin C  during and after WW2. The German U boat blockade prevented food supplies from reaching Britain, so the government encouraged citizens to grow blackcurrants in their home gardens. Most of the crop was made into syrups and cordials, as the fresh, raw fruit has a very strong flavor, then distributed to children across the UK.

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Our blackcurrant jungle, complete with volunteer oregano plant.

With disease resistant varieties now available, and rising interest in the health benefits of dietary polyphenols and other micro-nutrients, blackcurrant cultivation is on the rise in the US. At Seven Trees Farm, we started with a few bushes, then quickly added more once we fell in love with the funky fruity flavor of blackcurrant cordial.

Mature bushes can produce up to 10 pounds of berries, and ours are just getting into their prime. Unfortunately we planted them a bit too close together, and too close to a neighboring evergreen hedge, but they are still managing to put out about 2 pounds of berries each so far. The plan is to try moving them once they go dormant for the season, but they may not take kindly to that due to their size. Luckily Whatcom county is a major berry-growing region and we can buy overstock plants from the larger farms nearby if we need to replace any. (Lesson learned: always give your plants way more room than any growing guide suggests.)

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Picker’s perspective. Harvesting blackcurrants is fiddly work.

Leaders grasp nettles

“Leaders grasp nettles” ~ David Ogilvy, (Scottish born British military intelligence officer and later top advertising executive, 1911-1999)

While leaders sometimes must metaphorically grasp nettles, the humans of Seven Trees Farm look forward to a brief frenzy of literal nettle-grasping this time of year. We’ve written a lot about the medicinal, culinary, recreational and agricultural uses for nettles, but not so much about the magickal and metaphorical meanings our ancestors attributed to this prickly plant.Urtica dioicaIn 1838, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story about a girl who saved her brothers from their fate of being turned into swans by weaving them shirts made from nettles. She had to gather the nettles with her bare hands, process the fibers with her bare feet, weave the fabric and sew the shirts without speaking.

Unspoken nettles’ seem to be a standard requirement in getting the most efficacy from the plant, whether for magic or medicine. The Folklore Journal of January 1884 recounts this tale: UnspokenNettles also figure in many proverbs:  “If they would drink nettles in March and eat mugwort in May, so many fine maidens wouldn’t go to the clay.”

“Tender-handed, grasp the nettle, and it stings you for your pains. Grasp it like a man of mettle, and it soft as silk remains.”

Old Norse/Germanic belief was that nettles were important to Thor/Thunor, and throwing nettles on the fire during a thunderstorm would protect you from his lightning bolts.

Nettles gathered before sunrise will drive evil spirits away from cattle, according to German folklore, ans a pot of nettle under a sick person’s bed indicated recovery if they stayed green, but death if they wilted.

This old Scottish rhyme needs a little translating, but advises harvesting nettles early in the day, cutting them low to the ground, in shady places, and substituting them for ‘kail’ or greens:

“Gin ye be for lang kail coo the nettle, stoo the nettle

Gin ye be for lang kail coo the nettle early

Coo it laich, coo it sune, coo it in the month o’ June

Stoo it ere it’s in the bloom, coo the nettle early

Coo it by the auld wa’s, coo it where the sun ne’er fa’s

Stoo it when the day daws, coo the nettle early.”

(Old Wives Lore for Gardeners, M & B Boland)

Wikipedia says: Coo, cow, and stoo are all Scottish for cut back or crop (although, curiously, another meaning of “stoo” is to throb or ache), while “laich” means short or low to the ground. Given the repetition of “early,” presumably this is advice to harvest nettles first thing in the morning and to cut them back hard [which seems to contradict the advice of the Royal Horticultural Society].

Nicholas Culpepper, in his classic work Complete Herbal and English Physician says that Mars governs nettles. ” You know Mars is hot and dry, and you know as well that winter is cold and moist; then you may know as well the reason nettle-tops, eaten in the spring, consumeth the phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man, that the coldness and moistness that winter hath left behind.”

Danes believed nettle patches marked the graves of elves, and Scottish Highlanders thought they marked human graves. Archaeologists know that nettles can mean ground that was disturbed by settlements, and where to start digging.

Gravestones among nettles

One last quote to keep in mind when you’re out harvesting your own nettles: “He who is afraid of every nettle should not piss in the grass” ~Thomas Fuller (British Clergyman and Writer, one of the most prolific authors of the 17th century. 1608-1661)

For more herbal folklore, check out these sites:

The Herb Society – Nettles

Nettles – Weeds or Wonders

The Practical Herbalist

Growing season

Mid-July is generally when the weather sticks on the medium-hot setting, we get a few weeks without rain, and plants & animals start to take off. Watering plants and keeping animals supplied with fresh drinking water takes up a lot of our time, no matter how much we try to streamline things.

Hildegard is getting bigger, and learning how to be a good farm dog. She starts puppy class next week, and will be adding some social skills to her repertoire . All the dogs love splashing in their pool with assorted toys. Can’t wait to see how Hilde takes to swimming in the Nooksack, Birch Bay or Lake Padden, our favorite canine watering holes.

Since PNW summers usually involve more rain than sun, we no longer set up to water our potato patch. This year was hot and dry, so the Carola vines are already dying down, with the Desiree and Maris soon to follow. If the blight spares us, we’ll let all the vines die naturally, and the spuds cure underground for a couple of weeks. But if we get a blight-inducing summer rain, we’ll cut & burn the vines, which will stop the spuds from growing larger but allow them to cure without getting infected.

This is our fifth year of growing out our own seed garlic, Chesnok Red and Kettle River. Even though softneck varieties like Kettle River are touted as being better for storage, we’ve found the Chesnok, a hardneck, lasts until the new harvest is in. The Kettle River also seems to have problems coping with too much rain in spring, and we lost a lot to assorted ‘rot’. This fall we’ll plant more Chesnok, and look for a new long-storing hardneck to trial.

Our pantry & freezers are still overflowing with tomatoes and peppers in various preserved forms, so we just planted enough for fresh eating this year. The mini-hoophouses are holding up well (with plastic cover renewed as needed) and provide extra warmth plus protection from rain which can activate blight spores and splash them onto tomato leaves.

The mini-hoops are very susceptible to the strong winds we get during fall/winter/spring though, so we are hoping to get sturdier cold frames built by fall. The greens we want to grow through winter need to be started now through August, and also need to be protected from hungry birds. Too many times we have set a flat of newly-sprouted plants out for some sun and water, only to find them clipped off by our ‘resident’ doves. A scrap of bird netting seems to ward them off.

The sheep are doing well on our existing grass supply. Now that the rains have stopped, the regrowth is slower and not as lush. We hear a bit of complaining (they also yell for their pelleted sheep treats) but haven’t needed to water the pasture yet. The idea is to see how these three do with low input and minimal labor. If we like the results and the grass holds up, we’ll stock more than three next spring.

The last peeps of the year have hatched. We wanted a few more high quality Ameraucanas to replace our previous Am roo, Schwartz, plus some better conformed hens than our current ones. But the perils of shipping eggs via USPS took their toll, and we ended up with two tiny peepers. Hopefully they are both handsome, personable roosters.

After eight years of keeping a paper farm log, we’ve switched to an ipad journal app called Day One. This lets us add pictures, tags and searchable text for each entry, making it easier to add up any particular crop’s harvest totals. Like strawberries. Our unruly 4 x 25ft patch yielded over 100lbs. of wonderful fruit, and we still might get a small late crop from the everbearing varieties.

No rest for the weary, as the saying goes, but well worth it 😀

You are what you eat – Eggs

cagefree The eggs these hens produce are legally labeled ‘cage free’. Is this the image that pops into your head when you look at egg cartons in the store?

freerange Or is something like this what you think you’re paying premium prices for? Happy chickens scratching around a run or barnyard with room to engage in natural chicken activities….

In 2011, United Egg Producers forged an unlikely partnership with The Humane Society of the United States in an effort to push a uniform, national cage production standard for the U.S. egg industry. In return, HSUS agreed to drop state-level poultry welfare efforts. Even though the proposed changes were to be phased in slowly (18 years to change the cage-free space from 67 square inches to 124 per hen), agri-giants of all livestock industries had a major freak-out. The fear was that this approach would open up the door for animal welfare guidelines be imposed at the national level for other species. So the “Egg Bill” was dropped, and “Even though the federal bill is all but dead, HSUS will not be reviving any of its anti-cage ballot measures as they previously claimed.  Nor will HSUS seek to have enforced any ‘cage-free’ measure already passed,” said Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association (HFA).

Industry lobbying group, Protect the Harvest, frames this as a victory, blocking the Humane Society’s “efforts to increase egg production costs, which would have forced farmers out of business, and left American families with what would have amounted to a hidden food tax.” I guess they missed that whole animal welfare part of the proposed standards. They are now working to prevent the state of California from enacting Proposition 2, which would prohibit “the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs”. These standards would also apply to any eggs sold in California, no matter where they were laid. The law is set to go into full effect on January 1, 2015. batterycage

So many choices to make about what we eat, and how the animals we use for food are treated…. Education is a good place to start, especially when money is tight and the grocery bill takes bigger bites out of the paycheck with every shopping trip.

Animal welfare claims on egg cartons are currently unregulated in the United States, enabling producers to use phrases such as “animal-friendly” or “naturally-raised” even if those eggs come from birds confined inside tiny wire cages. You might be paying top dollar for eggs that don’t deliver on the happy chicken egg carton imagery. Here are some brief definitions from The Humane Society* to clear things up a bit:

Certified Organic

The birds are uncaged inside barns, and are required to have outdoor access, but the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is undefined. They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. De-beaking and forced molting through starvation are permitted. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing.

Free-Range

While the USDA has defined the meaning of “free-range” for some poultry products, there are no standards in “free-range” egg production. Typically, free-range hens are uncaged inside barns and have some degree of outdoor access, but there are no requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. Since they are not caged, they can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. There are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Certified Humane

The birds are uncaged inside barns but may be kept indoors at all times. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density and number of perches and nesting boxes. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Certified Humane is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care.

Animal Welfare Approved

The highest animal welfare standards of any third-party auditing program. The birds are cage-free and continuous outdoor perching access is required. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density, perching, space and nesting boxes. Birds must be allowed to molt naturally. Beak cutting is prohibited. Animal Welfare Approved is a program of the Animal Welfare Institute.

American Humane Certified

This label allows both cage confinement and cage-free systems. Each animal who is confined in these so-called “furnished cages” has about the space of a legal-sized sheet of paper. An abundance of scientific evidence demonstrates that these cages are detrimental to animal welfare, and they are opposed by nearly every major US and EU animal welfare group. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. American Humane Certified is a program of American Humane Association.

Cage-Free

As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns, but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. They can engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting and spreading their wings. Beak cutting is permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Free-Roaming

Also known as “free-range,” the USDA has defined this claim for some poultry products, but there are no standards in “free-roaming” egg production. This essentially means the hens are cage-free. There is no third-party auditing.

Food Alliance Certified

The birds are cage-free and access to outdoors or natural daylight is required. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. There are specific requirements for stocking density, perching, space and nesting boxes. Starvation-based molting is prohibited. Beak cutting is allowed. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Food Alliance Certified is a program of the Food Alliance.

United Egg Producers Certified

The overwhelming majority of the U.S. egg industry complies with this voluntary program, which permits routine cruel and inhumane factory farm practices. Hens laying these eggs have 67 square inches of cage space per bird, less area than a sheet of paper. The hens are confined in restrictive, barren battery cages and cannot perform many of their natural behaviors, including perching, nesting, foraging or even spreading their wings. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited (rations and lighting are altered to induce weight loss and reproductive tract regression), but beak cutting is allowed. This is a program of the United Egg Producers.

Vegetarian-Fed

These birds’ feed does not contain animal byproducts, but this label does not have significant relevance to the animals’ living conditions.

Natural

This label claim has no relevance to animal welfare.

Fertile

These eggs were laid by hens who lived with roosters, meaning they most likely were not caged.

Omega-3 Enriched

This label claim has no relevance to animal welfare.

*Virtually all hens in commercial egg operations—whether cage or cage-free—come from hatcheries that kill all male chicks shortly after hatching. The males are of no use to the egg industry because they don’t lay eggs and aren’t bred to grow as large or as rapidly as chickens used in the meat industry. Common methods of killing male chicks include suffocation, gassing and grinding. Hundreds of millions of male chicks are killed at hatcheries each year in the United States.

……………………………..

The next time you head to the grocery store for a dozen eggs, why not reconsider buying into a system that charges you extra for a ‘happy’ label while continuing to mistreat animals? Take some time to look for local egg producers and tour their farms. Our county puts out an annual Farm Map which lists farms selling eggs directly to the public. Maybe your county has something similar. Or try asking around at your local Farmer’s Market for egg producers. Many backyard/urban flocksters sell eggs via Craigslist. Not only are the hens kept in better conditions, but we’re helping keep food production local and in the hands of real farmers instead of agribusiness. Not to mention eggs from barnyard hens taste so much better than any you can buy from the store!

Want more info? Check out Egg Industry for an in-depth look at egg production and this editorial about one man’s search for humanely-produced eggs.

 

Baa, ram, new!

Well spring grass has come on like gangbusters here and it seems such a shame to just chop down beautiful green pasture now that we are horse-free, letting it all go to waste! But what to do, what to do?

Since one of us is still coming back from a shoulder injury and surgery, any grass-devouring animal addition couldn’t be too large. We aren’t quite ready for pigs again, and figured out previously that goats were not our favorite milk or meat.

At some point we recollected a further away neighbor who had talked to us about her family raising Katahdin sheep. She shared some lamb chops with us after butchering time, and they were the absolute best we’d ever eaten. Melt in your mouth tender, flavorful, yet mild and not at all gamey. What if we could find some of those lambs close by to eat grass down and raise for fall butcher?

Before we completely committed to anything, we did a little research on sheep and the breed. One of the first pluses we discovered were that Katahdins are a hair sheep that require no shearing or tail docking. They were developed to be hardy in a grass-based forage situation with good across-the-spectrum weather tolerance. Many places called them the best “all-around” hair sheep available in the United States where they’d been developed in Maine, by Michael Piel beginning in the late 1950’s.

While sheep are unique and can have their own particular issues, they definitely seemed like something that should work very well with our existing structures and fencing. All we had to do was find some Katahdin sheep! Luck would have it that there was a breeder quite close, raising Katahdins, who had several ewes for sale with one to two lambs at their side.

The breeder was a definite help as we set about this endeavor, showing us his own set up and letting us admire his flock in a lovely, drool-worthy, state of the art barn he’d built. After lengthy discussion as we looked over the stock he was selling, we finally settled on an ewe with 2 lambs – a ewe lamb and castrated ram lamb or wether.

The best way we felt to get them home safely was in a large dog kennel that neatly fit in the back of J’s Subaru. This vehicle has now hauled pretty much every known farm animal or feed.

Subaru farm jitney.
Subaru farm jitney.

 

We discovered that the ewe who was called Nell, was a supreme master in passive resistance. After we’d carried each of her babies into their new digs, we jury-ed up one of our old calf halters to fit her. She allowed us to lead her perhaps half way to the destination, when she pretty much collapsed first to her front knees, quickly followed by a full rear leg failure. Nell decided she was not moving further despite her babies calling and being within sight. As stated earlier, with one of us still a tad out of commission, we were forced to lay her on her side so we could as gently as possible, push, pull and drag her the rest of the way. When we finally got close enough to the babies, Nell’s legs thankfully reactivated and she proceeded into the barn under her own power.

Fortunately, having the small, dry horse corral attached was perfect, because we were able to restrict them to that the first day or so as they got acclimatized. We used this time to reconfigure some of our fencing, so we could keep them away from some sensitive plantings and to create two separate grazing zones that we can swap them between each week.

 

Wether lamb, mom and ewe lamb.
Wether lamb, mom and ewe lamb.

 

Next we slowly introduced them to grass since they’d been strictly on hay at their old home over the winter. Even sheep can eat too much and bloat, like a horse first turned out on pasture can founder. Eventually though they were out doing the job we’d hoped they would as edible lawn mowers.

Grass at last
Ewe lamb, mama Nell and a suspicious wee wether.

 

They still get a little fresh hay daily, have a sheep mineral block available and receive about two cups of sheep ration split between two pans. The lambs usually eat at one and mama Nell at the other. And of course they have access to plenty of fresh clean water.

There’s something satisfying in having the sheep — the peaceful grazing and the relaxing, chewing cud.

Relaxing with a cud.
Relaxing with a cud.

They aren’t all over you like a goat would be, but still they look to us for care, and give a happy baaaaa, when we come by to care for them. Maybe it’s not so surprising there’s an affinity as sheep kind of run in the family. In Montana we had an uncle who had a herd of sheep at his place and kept a herding dog up until he passed away. Plus some of my father’s first employment was as a sheep ranch hand when he was a young man. Although he is long since buried, I was lucky to be given the sheep shears he used to use so long ago.

 

Shears and bolo
Dad’s sheep shears and 1964 Montana Centennial bolo tie.

These shears are retired, but it’s not like we’d need them anyway with the Katahdin breed. It’s still nice to know as we dabble in this endeavor that we follow in the foot steps of our close relatives as well as those of our more distant ancestors.

Stay tuned for further “hairy” tales about our sheep adventures!

Where the boys are

As all flocksters know (or learn very quickly), girl chickens lay eggs and boy chickens, well, crow. A lot. Unless you are breeding your own poultry, or enjoy the surround-sound farm experience, roosters are often an unwanted byproduct.

Some people ‘solve’ this problem by ordering pullets only from a hatchery. This doesn’t change the roosters’ fate, just moves it up on the calendar and into industrial hands. A quick search on sexing day-old chicks brings up some very graphic and disturbing videos of standard industry practice in culling unwanted male chicks.

Male chick disposal at a commercial hatchery.
Male chicks awaiting disposal at a commercial hatchery.

Like other industrial livestock practices, this one seems to shock and overwhelm people to the point of disconnect. No one wants to be responsible for the cruelty perpetrated on our food animals, but on the flip side, not many want to pony up the cost of ethical meat. Sadly enough, more searching on this topic brought well-intentioned but misinformed claims that buying sex-linked or auto-sexing hatchery chicks would somehow ameliorate the unwanted (I almost said ‘excess’ but nature intends the male/female ratio to be about even.) rooster issue. Sex-linked breeds take advantage of chicken genetic quirks to create cross-breeds where males can be told apart from females at hatching by down color. Feather-sexing is another method used to sort hatchlings, but takes skill to learn.

A chick sexor at Welp Hatchery works to separate the males and females using the feather sexing method.
A chick sexor at Welp Hatchery works to separate the males and
females using the feather sexing method.

Again, while convenient for producers and breeders, this still moves the responsibility for dealing with chick culling to the hatcheries.

Generally speaking, egg-laying breeds and most dual-purpose breeds don’t make the most productive or edible broilers/roasters. They aren’t as efficient at putting on weight as their freaky cousins, the Cornish Cross, but are very tasty when butchered right about crowing age. For profit-oriented producers (including so-called pastured poultry and free-range eggs), feeding these boys, even to this early stage, hurts the bottom line.

But a backyard/small-flock keeper can utilize these guys in a humane and respectful way by planning to raise and butcher them as part of the cycle of responsible, sustainable livestock management.

Four young roos that didn't make the cut as breeding stock.
Four young roos that didn’t make the cut as breeding stock.

Not sure if you can make the leap from flock keeper to flock eater? You have options…

With the rise in popularity of urban chicken keeping has also come the realization that most people are far enough removed from our agricultural roots that we have a hard time killing a food animal. Luckily, organizations are stepping up to fill the educational gap with hands-on culling classes. It’s also possible to connect with experienced people via Craigslist or a county extension class.

These guys went to auction this week.
These guys went to auction this week.

At Seven Trees Farm, we are raising some of our extra cockerels for dinner and the freezer. We also take advantage of our local auction yard to sell unwanted chickens without much hassle. Most of these are purchased for meat by bargain-hunting foodies, so it’s not a reprieve for the birds, more of a convenience for buyers/sellers who want to avoid Craigslist shenanigans.

This roo will be around for awhile since he's cute, friendly, and most-likely has the genes for olive eggs.
This roo will be around for awhile since he’s cute, friendly, and most-likely has the genes for olive eggs.

Beefy!

We finally reached the end of the seemingly boundless cornucopia of beef that Doug and Buddy provided a few years ago. Luckily our tax returns coincided with butcher day and we were able to refill the freezer with a side of beef.

Fully-packed 7.2 cubic foot freezer.
Fully-packed 7.2 cubic foot freezer.

Buying meat on-the-hoof, and having it custom butchered, adds a bit of mystery and suspense to carnivorous life. The initial cost of what is essentially a share of a live cow is based on hanging weight – the weight of the dead cow minus innards, head, skin, feet, etc. When you commit to a side of beef, you have a general idea of cost, given the average size of a beef cow, but it isn’t until slaughter day that you know for sure.  We chose to buy from Squaw Creek Cattle Company, based in Everson with Hereford/Angus cross cattle pastured near Lynden. Since some of their beef is butchered under USDA rules (they are also part of the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative) we were able to try some test cuts which were very tasty.

Once the cow (usually a steer) is at the butcher’s, aging for a couple of weeks in their walk-in cooler, you get to decide some finer points of butchery such as thickness of steaks, how much hamburger per package, size of roasts, etc. This is where cut & wrap fees come in. There is a per pound fee charged by the butcher for processing your side of beef into little plastic and butcher paper-wrapped parcels of retail cuts. In our case, Lynden Meats did the slaughter and butchering, charging $0.58/lb.

Where beef comes from.
Where beef comes from.

Many people don’t bother with the offal (heart, tongue, liver, tail) and soup bones from a cow, but we make use of every last bit, and even though these bits & pieces are part of the cut & wrap fee, we will more than get our money’s worth evenutally.  Coming up on our culinary calendar is a day of charcuterie – rousting all those hoarded offal bits out of the freezer, through the meat grinder, and into salted pig intestines – transforming them into delicious braunschweiger and liverwurst.

For the economically-inclined we thought it might be helpful to share the breakdown of just how much meat comes from a side of beef:

275lbs. hanging weight at $2.75lb.

224lbs. in the freezer, including offal and soup bones

  • 47.25lbs. roasts (rump, sirloin & pot roast)
  • 48.5lbs. steaks (sirloin, T-bone, tenderloin, round, rib & cube)
  • 59lbs. hamburger
  • 6lbs. stew meat
  • 5.25lbs. heart
  • 2.5lbs. oxtail
  • 13.25lbs. short ribs
  • 2.5lbs. tongue
  • 12lbs. liver
  • 3.25lbs. brisket (where corned beef comes from)
  • 23.25lbs. soup bones

It works out to about $4.39lb ‘retail’, which isn’t too bad for locally-raised pastured beef.

………….

In other news, the Oliver experiment is coming right along. Tonight we’ll inspect the 50+ eggs in the incubator, culling any that aren’t developing. We took a sneak-peek the other night and were pleasantly surprised at how many of the cross-country-travelling eggs were in good shape. Only 2 more weeks until hatch day.

We don’t usually treat our flock like pets anymore, but one little pullet has consistently made herself known as more than just another laying hen.

Button the Black Cooper Marans/Barred Rock cross.
Button the Black Copper Marans/Barred Rock cross.

Button (because she’s cute as a button) is very friendly and lays a pretty dark tan egg. She also has figured out that sticking close to people means extra treats. Backyard