FREEDOM RANGER MEAT CHICKENS
The Freedom Ranger brand of meat chickens are active and robust. well suited to life in our open-bottomed, moveable pasture pens. When the chicks are in the brooder (a protected, draft-free, heated environment) set within the pasture pen, our chicks start eating greens immediately. Along with their certified organic feed, the chickens grow well. Chickens are omnivores; they relish the greenery underfoot and bugs that venture into the pen. As they grow, we increase the frequency of pen moving to keep fresh grass under the birds. Adding the pastured poultry to our fields has resulted in more dense stands of plant life with more variety.
The meat produced under Lilac Hill's management plan, which includes a varied diet and exercise for the chickens, is firm and flavorful.
When choosing a sheep breed for meat I was drawn to the hair breeds. Having had a couple wool sheep, I knew that the cost of shearing and the added labor associated with producing a high quality wool was beyond the scope of my interest. I like the look of the Katahdins with their undocked tails and bits of color to differentiate ewes. Breeding stock is locally available, the ewes are attentive mothers and Katahdins thrive on pasture. Although they are not the largest breed of hair sheep, their smaller stature and gentle nature allows for easy handling. Their medium-sized frame muscles well and produces a lean, mild meat. Honestly, I am a recent fan of lamb meat, I did not care for the strong flavor of earlier lamb dishes but I find our pastured Katahdin meat delicious.
cream legbar CHICKENS
Beyond meat and eggs, chickens labor for the farm. Fenced chickens at the edge of the garden, turn weeds and kitchen scraps into dark compost. Using electric net fencing to enclose the ranging hens and protective rooster, the hens turn the windrow of last year's barn bedding and clear garden beds for planting. Using the same electric net fencing the hens and egg-mobile rotate around the yard and fields, focusing on the areas most in need of the rejuvenating effects of scratching and manuring. Together with the Katahdin sheep, the hens target pests in the apple orchard too.
In 2017, I will hatching out three breeding lines of Cream Legbar chickens so I can improve our flock's hardiness and egg production. Like the heritage breeds I have kept in the past, these birds active foragers. Unlike the breeds of the past, female and male Legbar chicks look different right after hatching. After feathering, I will be able to raise the pullets (female) separately from the roosters, providing extra nutrition for my future egg layers.
Driven by Maria Spivak's TED talk highlighting massive honey bee losses, I decided to add bee hives to the farm a few years ago. Keeping bees seems to be a positive action in the face of a multifaceted environmental problem.
I was surprised that I find bees as fascinating as my sheep and chicken flocks and I was energized by the support and strong scientific bent of our local bee group, Beekeepers of the Susquehanna Valley. And finally, I was delighted to discover that I love dark honey.
For me, soap making is fun kitchen chemistry without the lab report. Rendering beef tallow (from a nearby farm that raises pastured beef since we no longer raise cows) and making soap seems a sensible way to utilize an otherwise wasted by-product of raising meat. A bar of Lilac Hill Soap, made from a blend of tallow, coconut oil, olive oil and scenting or essential oils, cleanses well without drying the skin.
Murphy the donkey
Why a donkey? Because compared to a guardian dog, a donkey is pretty quiet and he eats the same diet as the animals he is guarding. Donkeys have a natural aversion to canine, both wild and domesticated. Even though I have rarely seen or heard coyotes, the flocks need safeguarding. The sheep especially need protection from dogs, who love to chase sheep to the point of exhaustion and death. Although Murphy is a mini, his bray is a loud deterrent to predators and his ears pinned, teeth bared charge keeps dogs away from the animals in his care. Although purchased to guard the sheep, he loves attention from us.