News and blog

Four Fields Blog
Posted 2/1/2015 5:21pm by Ryan Lacz.

Just a quick update to say that our first piglets have arrived on the farm and are settling in well.  

We found a local breeder who works with heritage breed pigs- ones that might grow a little slower than your modern commercial breeds, but make up for it in flavor, and do better on pasture.  We had in mind to get only 2 of them at this time, but couldn't resist the temptation for a third.  The heritage breed names are fabulous: Tamworth, Large Black, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Berkshire...Seems like England was the place to develop great pigs!

 

Ours are out in the barnyard already,rooting through the snow that is as deep as they are tall with no problem at all.  Once they grow up a bit and have learned the perils of the electric fence, they will be moved to their large fenced off area of the woods to eat acorns, grubs, and what ever else they can dig up (in addition to locally sourced grains...).

 

The chickens were also moved into the greenhouse, and are happy with the news digs as well- scratching around on the soil that we plowed last fall.  The greenhouse is performing wonderfully despite the 2' of snow we've received in the past two weeks.  The peaked roof design allows the snow to simply slides off- which makes for a bit of shoveling, but that sure beats a collapsed roof!  What little sun we get in the winter does its job to warm up the space quickly & the ground is beginning to thaw a bit already.

Posted 1/24/2015 8:55am by Ryan Lacz.

     Here is our new member survey. It should only take a few minutes to fill out, and will help us offer you the products you want as well as pick the drop off locations. Feel free to pass on the survey link to anyone that might be interested in some tasty, locally, and responsibly raised meats.

TAKE THE CUSTOMER SURVEY HERE

     Hopefully this note finds you well and having some fun with the newly fallen snow. We certainly are, as we just picked up a used quad the other day and are eager to test out the snow plow! Ripping around the driveway on a quad sure beats trying to shovel a hundred yard long driveway.

     It's been a very busy few weeks on the farm- the electric fence is set up and works -ask me how i know that ;) The fencing for the pigs in the woods is nearly finished, and we took advantage of the relatively warm and sunny day yesterday and covered the greenhouse with it's plastic skin.

 

     Anything less than 40 degrees, and the plastic is too stiff to work with, so we had to work quickly before the sun started setting & luckily we had an extra hand (Thanks Dad!) for the task. The laying hens will be moved to the greenhouse in the next week or so- giving them more room and warmth, and they will give us fertilizer for our summer growing season. The birds will also pick out some weed seeds and bugs from the soil.

  

     Join the mailing list to get more information on the upcoming season and products.  Email us if you have any questions or comments, we'd love to hear from you. The snow is tapering off, so we're going to suit up and go play in the snow!

Ryan & Liz 

Posted 1/14/2015 4:10pm by Ryan Lacz.

Eeeewwwwwwwwww. Not the nicest thing to see when you first wake up.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for winter, and love it, but this is getting a bit ridiculous!  

One of the hardest things about taking care of animals in the winter is getting over the inertia of staying indoors where it's toasty warm.  Then, you think of the fact that they are outside and waiting for breakfast, so you pack on the clothes and get going.

It's easy to make a plan in September, when it's still warm, with actual daylight, but things certainly changed when winter came along that early.

One project that we did recently accomplish, was installing our electric fence charging system.  This included a lot of walking around the property and planning, running wires all over the place, pounding in 6' grounding rods, precariously leaning out the hay loft window to get a wire across the driveway- and we've only just begun!

The reason we are using electric fence is to keep animals both in and out of the fence- we want the sheep and pigs to stay in, and the bears, foxes, coyotes, neighbor's cat, raccoons to stay out.  There's nothing like a quick jolt of a few thousand volts to keep you from touching the fence ever again- and, having experienced this myself, it truly is a memorable experience!

The main type of fence we're going to use is a portable netting- it consists of plastic twine, woven with a few strands of stainless steel to conduct the electricity, it gives us a flexible and easy to move fence so we can easily rotate animals through different sections of pasture.

The chickens were extremely excited with our progress on the electric fence because it means they got to venture outside for the first time!  The smaller mesh of the electric plastic fence  prevents small predators from entering, and the young hens from escaping.  While the fence won't directly protect them from hawks, you can set it up in narrow runs where the hawks and owls will be less likely to fly into.

While timid a first, it only took one of them walking the plank, hopping onto the ground and start pecking and the rest of the ladies piled out.  

OK- I'll admit that the initial adventure was not nearly as graceful as you might imagine.  She didn't so much 'walk' down the ramp as get blocked by her friends looking out the door, 'hopping' was more of a tumbling off the edge because of her friends pushing her, and the rest of the them 'piling out' was more of literal pile than an organized single file line!

They are staying close to the safety of the barn for now, and are free to go in and out to take a break from the real world and warm up whenever they choose.  As they get more comfortable, they will range the whole are that we fence off.

 

Posted 12/23/2014 9:35am by Ryan Lacz.

Believe it or not- this huge pile of pipes, clamps, and plastic is a 24' x 48' greenhouse!  The Ikea furniture directions has nothing on the two inch binder of instructions that came with this kit, and you know you're in for it when the first sentence reads "this will take longer than you think."  It's one of the first times that I actually read ALL of the directions before starting!

 

We did some plowing and rough ground work as we won't be able to get the tractor in after the high tunnel is set up.  Technically, this is called a 'high tunnel' and not a greenhouse, as this won't be heated.  The basic construction is bolting cross frames into pipes that we pounded into the ground.

It's easiest to preassemble the frames (as they are huge!) on flat ground, then lift them into place with some extra hands.  And, thank goodness for extra hands!  Just pounding the 6' posts 3 feet into the ground took 3 of us a whole day.  Recall the ridiculous amunt of rocks i plowed up earlier...then try to pound a 2" pipe through that soil!

We plan on growing heat loving vegetables (tomatoes, squashes, peppers etc.) inside, and the plastic should give us a few weeks of extended growing on either side of the summer.  High tunnels also provide added protection from pests and disease.  We still have a lot of work to do, but we're getting there!

Posted 12/6/2014 2:03pm by Ryan Lacz.

You know a chicken is ready to leave the brooder when...

- It has grown its first set of full feathers (now it can easily regulate its own body temperature)

- It no longer huddles under the heat lamp for warmth

- It starts flying out of the brooder!

In just 6 weeks, they went from little yellow fuzz balls, to feathered and flying chickens- well, half sized chickens.  These girls have some growing to do yet before they start laying eggs in another 2 months.  For the time being, they have been moved to a coop in the barn, keeping them out of the winter winds, and giving them more space to romp around and test out their new feathers.

Posted 11/25/2014 4:32pm by Ryan Lacz.

Now that Thanksgiving is upon us, and everyone is thinking about birds, let's show you what our 'lil chickens have been up to.

We ordered 25 laying hen chicks, and received them in the mail (yes, the mail!) in late October.

We chose to get a mix of breeds and see which ones best fit our farm's growing conditions.  Well before they arrived, I first had to build a brooder and chose to use "old" techology: and Ohio Brooder.  This is based on a style of brooder commonly used during WWII at small farms- inexpensive, uses scrap materials, and efficient.  Rather than simply hanging a light bulb, the Ohio Brooder creates a smaller space to heat, and gives the birds a greater ability to self regulate their body temperature as they move in or out of the brooder.  Think of it as a 4'x4' plywood mother hen!

 

 

We also experimented with 'chicken nipples.'  I'll allow you a moment to picture that...

As you recall 8th grade biology, chickens do NOT have nipples, but have a strong instinct to peck at anything!  Anyone that has raised chickens before, knows that the traditional open water dish is a disaster- the birds fling dirt into it as they scratch for food, poop and feathers  are attracted to it like magnets.  The nipple waterer is a small plastic fitting that you screw into a PVC tube, which is attached to a water bucket.  The birds peck at it, and a drop of water dribbles out.

We've read that day olds are unable to water themselves from the nipples, but the birds discovered it within an hour, and everyone was pecking away, getting fresh clean water whenever they need.  This is not only cleaner and healthier for the birds, but also saves drastically on chore time- we fill the bucket once a week as opposed to changing their water bowl at least twice daily.

But, what they have mostly have been doing is GROWING!  Birds naturally grow at an astounding rate so that they can fledge out of the nest and away from predators.  As soon as the sun arrives again (it's due to snow tomorrow), I'll post of picture of the chicks at 5 weeks old- you won't believe your eyes!

 

Posted 11/3/2014 7:08am by Ryan Lacz.

Here we go!

Liz and I have been planning on starting this farm for months now, and are very excited to finally roll up our sleeves, get the tractor running, dusting off the chainsaw and get going.  We have about 30 projects going at the same time, but we are starting to check off some items on a very long punch list.  We aim to update the blog once a week or so, and we hope you enjoy following us on our farming adventures.

One of the first items to get completed was plant next year's garlic crop.  In this region (northern New Jersey), it's best to plant the garlic in the fall, after the first frost.  This gives them a chance to send down roots before winter sets in, giving them stronger growth the following spring, and a larger harvest in the summer.

We chose a mix of hard and soft-necked garlics, and ended up putting around 700 cloves into the freshly plowed soil.

Speaking of which, whoever invented a tractor was a genius!  The lower field hasn't been plowed in ages, so there were just a few little rocks that worked their way up to the surface.

 

By a few rocks, i mean hundreds, and little means HUGE!  One was the size of a mini fridge.    I feel like a rock farmer, ploughing up an amazing crop.  Too bad i'm not a geologist...cause I'd be much more excited!

 

After planting the cloves about 5" deep, I covered the new row with 8" of grass and leaf clippings from mowing the yard.  You can use straw as mulch, but we are trying to be as self sufficient as possible- we have to cut the grass, so we might as well use that organic material. This mulch will help improve the soil quality, feed the garlic, and suppress the newly plowed under grass from re-sprouting.

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