News and blog

Four Fields Blog
Posted 6/5/2015 9:25am by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.



Hi Everyone!

Sorry to have dropped off the radar for the past few weeks- we've been quite busy!  Between getting married, buying a 120 acre farm down the road, getting ready for our first CSA delivery, chores, and getting a wickedly bad head cold we're lucky we know which way is up right now!

Some exciting things happened around the farm as well.  We've moved the lambs to graze around their first Christmas trees, and we haven't seen any nibbling yet.  We are very pleased with these results because it means that we don't have to spray herbicides to kill the weeds that will choke out a young Christmas tree sapling.  While a more common practice in Europe, using sheep to mow around trees is rarely used in the States but can be very effective so long as there is plenty of food for the sheep to eat- you can't simply leave them in one area, or they will start nibbling trees once they have grazed the good grasses.  That's what the white net in the background is for- to be able to move them around to different areas that need mowing.

The pigs are growing incredibly fast- we knew that growing to 250 pounds in 7 months was an impressive feat, but it's truly something you have to see to believe!  We have rotated them through a few different paddocks we've set up int he woods, and they are very happy piggies, especially now that the forest is lush with Spring growth.  We have been keeping them in a paddock for 2-3 weeks, then moving them out to give that section of forest a chance to regrow and recuperate from all the pigs' rooting, chewing, and tree trunk rubbing.  Pigs love a good scratching!

We hope you're well and enjoying the spring, and there will be more to follow about the new farm after we close on the property in a few weeks!

Ryan & Liz

http://www.fourfieldsfarm.com                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 5/5/2015 4:22pm by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

As you guessed it, the advent of warm weather means there is a LOT going on at the farm!  

The pastures are growing like crazy- which is a good thing, because we have 6 hungry lambs to feed.  We found a great local person who raises Katahdin hair sheep, and picked them up 2 weeks ago.  "Hair sheep?" you say.  The hair sheep breeds, of which there a dozen or so, do not have the traditional wooly coat which requires shearing each year.  Rather, they have a hairy coat, much like a dog's, which they shed twice a year- a thick one for winter, and thin for summer.  Hair sheep tend to have a stronger resistance to parasites, and perform better on pasture (don't require grain feeding)- plus we don't have to wrestle them for shearing.

We also have been putting our meat chickens out on pasture in their protective, mobile pens when they turn three weeks old.  We wait until the birds get their first set of feathers, which means they can regulate their own body temperature and no longer need to be under a heated brooder.  We actually processed our first batch of chickens this morning, and the birds are looking great and ready for your next BBQ!

Our turkey poults (poult is a baby turkey) are also on the farm, and the personality difference between them and the chickens is striking.  The poults are very curious and bold little things- they come running when we add food and water to the brooder, whereas the chicks scatter and hide.  Turkeys are much slower growing than the chickens, and won't be ready for life outside the brooder on pasture for about 7 weeks.  We opted for two heritage breeds- The Bourbon Red, and the Midget White.

Our first CSA delivery is just a month away, so be sure to signup soon if you haven't already.  As always, contact us if you have any questions at all or want to stop by for a farm visit!

Ryan & Liz

http://www.fourfieldsfarm.com                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 4/21/2015 7:38am by Ryan Lacz.

With the recent arrival of spring, we were able to put the finishing touches on our woodland pig fencing.  We spent quite a while clearing brush, wild rose bushes, and fallen trees to get straight fence lines, dug in and built the corner braces, pounded in smaller support posts and stretched 3 stands of electrified high tensile wire.  You can see the fence just next to the trailer.

Since pigs can't jump very high, the fence doesn't need to be tall, only 24 inches, but it does need to be strong.  The high tensile wire we used has a breaking strength of 1600 pounds, and is stretched to 250 pounds of tension.  Run 6,000 volts through that, and you have a very secure fence!  We use a portable electric twine to section off smaller areas of the pig yard, allowing ample time for previously used areas to recover from the pigs' rooting.

The pigs were very excited indeed with their new digs, and went straight to rooting and exploring.    Agador was also very eager to jump the fence and get some play time in!

 

Posted 4/11/2015 7:36am by Ryan Lacz.

It's not just a mushroom anymore!  If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here...

As you know, we raise our laying hens on pasture, rotating them through different parts of the farm as needed.  We move the eggmobile, their portable coop, every few days in order to ensure their manure and scratching get spread out evenly over the fields.

We keep them safe from predators by using portable electrified fencing- keeps the chickens in, and the foxes out!  The coop door gets closed every night for two reasons- more predator protection, and so that they are contained in the coop should we need to move it the next morning.  Chickens do get up at sunrise after all...

The contraption you see hanging off the back of the coop is an access door to their nest boxes- the whole reason of putting so much effort into the eggmobile is to collect eggs!

Conventional eggs, which account for the vast majority of eggs laid in the US, 225 MILLION eggs every day, are not produced under these conditions.  There are numerous articles highlighting the abhorrent conditions the conventional egg laying hen is subject to her whole life in a factory farm- I'll leave it to you to look further into that if you wish.

The difference between a conventional egg and farm fresh, pasture raised egg is plain to see.

Conventional, store bought egg on the left, one of our pastured eggs on the right.  The conventional egg had very little flavor, soft rubbery texture, and an extremely watery white (an sign of staleness).  Our egg was flavorful, firm whites, and a yolk that was richer and creamier.  Numerous studies have shown that pastured eggs have better nutrition than conventional ones:

Pastured Vs Conventional Eggs

Happier hens make better eggs!

Posted 4/4/2015 2:32pm by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

Just a quick reminder that our 10% Spring discount ends tomorrow, Sunday April 5th.  We know you're busy, so don't delay and miss out.

We're busy up here at the farm too, getting 700 Christmas tree saplings into the ground as well as our daily chores caring for all of the newly arrived chicks (100 of them!), collecting eggs from the eggmobile, and preparing to move the pigs into the woods next week.

As always, if you have any questions about signing up or our about the farm, let us know and we'll be happy to help.

Sign-up Today!

Ryan & Liz

http://www.fourfieldsfarm.com                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 4/1/2015 9:42am by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.


Apparently Spring is playing a bit of an April Fool's on us, as it snowed 3 inches last night.  Just as soon as we were getting used to seeing grass again, winter reached out and pulled us back!

In honor of the slight blip in Spring, we are extending our 10% off Spring sale until this Sunday, April 5th.  Sign up for our June-August CSA or bulk chicken season, and receive 10% off when you check-out.  Sorry, the sale doesn't apply to our bulk lamb or pork orders.

 

Receive 10% Off Today! 

Ryan & Liz

http://www.fourfieldsfarm.com                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 3/30/2015 1:39pm by Ryan Lacz.

In celebration of the melting snow and upcoming Spring, we are offering a 10% discount on your order when you sign up for our June-August season. The discount will run from Wednesday, March 25th to Wednesday, April 1st.

Your 10% off will appear when you check out, discount doesn't apply to bulk pork or lamb orders.

Sign-up Here

Ryan & Liz 

Posted 3/12/2015 2:45pm by Ryan Lacz & Liz Balchin.

After much planning, testing, and re-testing our website, we are ready to begin signups for our first season.  You can read about the different meat shares, eggs, and bulk purchase options we offer in the newly added sections of the website here.

We will have three different pickup options to choose from during the signup process.  There is a search feature during signup to help you select which is closest: simply enter your address and the website automatically tells you how far each pickup is from your home.  

Don't hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have, as we know this is probably new for many of you.

If you are ready to signup as a CSA member, you can SIGN UP HERE!

Thanks for supporting locally, we look forward to the seasons ahead.

Ryan & Liz

http://www.fourfieldsfarm.com                Contact Ryan                     Contact Liz

Posted 3/7/2015 4:32pm by Ryan Lacz.

So, I wander out to the greenhouse to check on the hens this afternoon, and what do i find lurking in the corner, but the official first egg of Four Fields Farm!  Agador, the wonder pup, was certainly impressed.

The girls have been really pleased with the recent upturn in the weather (as are Liz and I!).  The greenhouse has been warming up, sky rocketing into the 60's even!  We were all beside ourselves,  there was lots of lounging, dust baths, and scratching around for worms (the chickens, that is...).

This is just in time too, as we just finished our mobile coop.  We will raise our hens out on pasture, giving them access to sun, grass, and what ever critters they are able to catch.  They will be kept safe from predators by using a portable electric netting, and the girls will be moved to a fresh area of pasture every few days.

The hens will follow our lambs' pasture rotation: this method puts the hens to work for the farmer as they scratch out the fly larvae & pests from the sheep droppings.  They simultaneously spread the sheep manure more evenly and help control pest populations.

Their housing resembles an art car that you might find at Burning Man, and designed in the depths of a cold winter night, this is what we came up with: our egg-mobile.  This staple of many a pastured based farm, the egg-mobile provides safe shelter and nest boxes for the hens as they rotate through the different pastures.  

We found some branches for nighttime roosts, and it features a mesh floor, allowing the chicken droppings to fall through and fertilize the pastures (eliminating the lovely chore of mucking out the chicken coop!), ample ventilation, and nest boxes we access from the outside to collect eggs.  They will move out of the greenhouse and live with the egg-mobile for the summer as home base as soon as the grass starts growing.

 

Posted 2/13/2015 2:10pm by Ryan Lacz.

It's hard, very hard, to believe that it's the time of year to get a jump on the garden!  Nearly 2 feet of snow still on the ground, overnight low of 0F, and the sun still low in the sky...

This is the start of our seedling bed.  

Most vegetable seeds need warmth to germinate in addition to bright light.  Temperatures of 70-80 degrees is required for your average garden seedling.

Other things to consider are growth rate, transplant date, staggering harvest  times, time until harvest...it can be quite complicated when growing dozens of varieties.

The simplest thing to do: read the directions!  I know it's hard to do what your told, but look at the back of the seed packet and do what they tell you. Gardening made simple!

 

One of the challenging, and fun, things about integrated farming, is taking advantage of how things naturally occur on your farm.  In this case, we need warmth to start seeds, so we will utilizing the heat (up to 140 degrees) produced by composting horse manure.  The straw bales provide both insulation and the sides of a potting table.  Once the season warms up enough, we transplant the seedlings outside, and the now fully composted manure and straw will be used as fertilizer.  We need the compost anyway, we are simply planning ahead and using the byproduct (heat) to our advantage.  

Plus, the manure is free!  All we have to do is some shoveling...

The pallets (also free) you see will be used as a table top, and we'll cover the seeds at night with leftover plastic from the greenhouse.  This system replaces the use of fluorescent lights commonly used for smaller scale gardens.  We'd need dozens of light fixtures, and a lot of shelf space and electricity to start as many seedlings as we are going to grow.

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