Saturday, December 24, 2011


Now there is a farm puppy!

Happy Holidays from the Booth Boys Barn!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Egg Sorting

Cartons all lined up
nested one inside the other
Since we're now getting about a dozen eggs a day, I have a new daily task! Sorting & cleaning eggs.

When you're selling from home/farm-gate you don't need to size or grade your eggs, but I find it's a lot easier for customers. We have 4 carton sizes

Jumbos: +72g
X-Large: 64g+
Large: 57g+
Small & Medium is anything below and I don't sell anything less then about 45g.

I also don't sell anything more then 80g, I just find they are too big and break too easily.

We don't wash any of our eggs. I only remove any stray feathers or small amount of dirt with a dry cloth.

Little bit of dirt on this egg
Using a commercial egg wash, or a bleach solution is good for cleaning eggs but it also removed the natural 'bloom'. This is a thin layer on the outside of the egg that prevents water loss and bacteria. So un-washed eggs last longer.

If you'd like to clean them you can wash them as soon as you get home with a bleach solution = 15ml/4 litre standard household (5%) bleach.
Sand paper marks

Most of the eggs come out of the coop clean, those that have a tiny bit of dirt or dis-colouration I just take a bit of sand-paper and remove that.

Anything that's really dirty (like an egg laid on the coop floor) becomes a lovely treat for the dogs. In fact they are so into the eggs they follow on my heels as soon as I leave the coop until I'm finish grading eggs. I've had a few eggs stolen out of my un-attended baskets as well!

It's a good idea to give your eggs a quick wash with water or dish-soap before you want to eat them. I generally don't, depending on what I'm using them for.

Natural Speckles
Our eggs are fertilized, at least they are supposed to be, we have a lot of hens for two roosters! That does not change the nutritional value or taste of the eggs in any way. The eggs are collected several times a day so they never have a chance to develop.

Once the eggs are all cleaned up & weighed it's time to candle them. I do this with a flash light and a little stand I made from a toilet-paper tube. You can see the egg in the picture is beautiful! You want to make sure the egg is fresh (no large air pockets) and is free from internal spots. Sometimes a little bit of blood or protein gets inside an egg as it's forming, they are fine too eat, but unsightly so I try very hard to make sure none of customers end up with any of them.

If you're unsure if your egg is fresh or not, place it in a small glass of water.
If it floats chuck it out! 
If it sinks, it's good to eat.
Mother Earth News did an egg study a while ago showing you could keep unwashed fertile eggs on the counter-top for 6 months and still eat them. Please don't do that!! But our farm-fresh eggs should be good well past the time it takes you to eat them up.

Our house carton is always interesting, it's full of the largest, smallest, wrinkly, speckled, ugly eggs.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chickens 101: Lights in the Winter?

Some backyard chicken keepers feel that the practice of keeping lights on in the winter to "force" the chikens to lay is cruel. I asked my birds, they don't seem to agree.

I believe most organic standards (at least in Canada) say you can not keep lights on for more then 16 hours a day, and you should only need 14 hours to keep them laying. You can't keep the lights on any longer that that because chickens are pretty simple creatures. Light on means you should be awake, light off means you should be asleep.

The COS (Canadian Organic Standards) also say you should fade the lights on & off, and while I think this is a nice idea, haven't quite figured out how to do it in our coop. I think the best way would be having two separate sets of lights on different timers. I've never found it to be necessary as our chickens all seem to know when lights out is and they settle down long before the lights go out.

During the winter we have our lights turn on around 6 in the morning, then turn off around 7:30 when the sun comes up. They turn on again around 3:30 (when I do my afternoon check) and turn off around 9pm.

This has had the added benefit of switching most of the chickens from mid-afternoon layers, to at least half the eggs being laid before noon. Our spoiled chickens also get checked on 4 times a day and eggs collected pretty soon after their laid.

The weather seems to dictate whether or not
they actually go out.
The chickens are let out first thing in the morning to roam around, then come in the coop in the evening when it's dark out, and eat and socialize for a few more hours before they settle in to go to sleep.

Chickens, like people, only have so many eggs in their bodies. So once they've laid them all, they can't make any more.

Chickens kept under lights in the winter will start laying around 6 months, starting with very small eggs and working their way up to a large. Then after a little less then a year, they'll stop and start moulting. Depending on breed they may moult for 12 weeks to a few months, then start laying again. Once they start laying for a second time they will lay less often, but much larger eggs.

If you don't keep the chickens under lights they'll go through the same cycle. They'll moult in the fall as the light changes, and depending on the breed may or may not continue to lay over the winter with out extra light. (Breeds like Barred Plymouth rocks will keep laying)

If you don't use extra lights your chickens will lay for "longer" but they will not produce any more eggs then if you keep them under lights. If you're going to keep chickens as pets there really is no reason to waste the electricity unless you want eggs during the winter too. 

You can freeze eggs for use over the winter, I've heard they aren't great for breakfast but fine for baking.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ah! Winter...

 The best way to convince goats to come in the barn... lock them out!

We had a bit of freezing rain all day so the horses are in the barn warming up, it's also supposed to rain again in the next few hours then clear overnight. So they'll stay in until about 10pm then they can go back out.

I let the ducks out, but the chickens stayed in the coop all day & I can't believe how much warmer it is in there! Because we only have people & not "chicken" doors, the doors stay open most of the day & the chickens go outside & running around. Looks like I've got really good reason to keep them in on really cold days (when they don't really want out anyway). It's nice our coop is so big they can still run around when locked in.

 The de-icer that got left here by former owners works great! This thing was frozen so solid this morning I had to get a rock, about 2 hours later & it's clear! Beautiful, saves me from having to buy one.

This hose on the other hand... is not coming out until Spring. It was really muddy and warm one day (and one of the cows must have stepped on the hose, it's DOWN there!) and then froze solid the next day. I've tried buckets & buckets of boiling water, but it is stuck

The Joys of Winter...
At least all the mud is gone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Looking for a Horse for Christmas?

While the decision to add a new horse to your farm should never be taken lightly (they are big, expensive, though beautiful & amazing creatures). If you're already in the market please check out:

Need You Now Equine on Facebook

Tracey Thompson-Hoogeveen is purchasing horses from a local feedlot in hopes they can have one more chance and finding a great home. The horses come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from youngsters not even halter broke, to ex camp horses dumped off, to well broken oldies.

There is an endless stream of horses from across North America going to slaughter for as many reasons as there are different horses. From inconsiderate breeders to premarin farms to families who struggle & try there best but just can't afford to keep their beloved animal any longer.

A member of the group recently reported her trip to the Ottawa Livetsock Exchange she saw everything from mini-ponies to yearlings to trained horses go for cents on the pound. 

Tracey re-sells for the same price the feedlot wants, so you can find a new riding partner for around $500. If you're in the market for a new horse, have the experience or help to give one a second chance check out Need You Now Equine. 

And while you're on facebook, it'd be much appreciated if you can give us a 'like' as well
Booth Boys Barn

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cook: Beef Jerky

Jerky's in the oven!
 Long story short, I had some top sirloin steaks de-frosted that were very lean, too lean. So they're sitting in the fridge while I try to wrack my brains about what to do with them. Right when I'm thinking I'll marinate over-night and bbq the next day, I think, marinate, what else have I marinated meat for? JERKY!! I haven't done this since the last time we bought a 1/4, and it's been awhile.

Now, I'm no expert, AT ALL, in fact this is the 3rd time I've ever made it. We were given the smoker by my lovely in-laws because they don't use it very much in GTA Toronto. The first attempt at jerky was a nasty salty disaster, the second was a little better, this time I think I've done it!

If I could change the name of this
vaguely racist product I would....

I used a really simple salt, sugar & water recipe for the marinade. I've got to reduce the salt again for next time, or just remember to rinse off the meat before smoking... which I always forget.

I know there is a little bag of hickory chips floating around the house somewhere, but unable to find it & unwilling to drag the kids out to Walmart, I improvised. Using just hardwood firewood we already had, I got a better smoke, and even though we don't have the flavour, the jerky is great! Maybe for next time I can just buy a log of hickory or something?

So I'm feeling a little more adventurous now, perhaps even enough to try smoking salmon again, or even a whole chicken! Stay tuned for further smoker developments...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wheeee! Space to run!

Love that Megs like "com'on Maddie! Let's run" and Maddie is like "no... I'm going to eat"!

He did go for a tiny boot before I got the camera out, but it wasn't much.