A Long Deep Furrow

Just a bit of farming being done here in our neck of the woods as we await spring and the melting of snow. Yes, we have begun sowing seeds and working out in the greenhouse, but it will be a while before the first patch of earth is turned over or we see real evidence of spring ephemerals pushing up through the ground. In the meantime, I am re-reading a favorite book of mine, A Long Deep Furrow, Three Centuries Of Farming In New England by Howard S Russell. It is an extraordinary and well-documented account of New England’s farming history, best described by Mark Lapping who wrote this in the forward:
A Long Deep Furrow will be of interest to readers and students of New England history and life, agriculture, environmental studies, and rural affairs and developments. I know of few books which so successfully integrate the elements of biogeography with socioeconomic and cultural patterns within the context of agriculture as a way of life and livelihood. Most of all, the book is a testament to the Yankees who farm the sides of mountains, take gambles on weather and markets like a pack of riverboat cardsharps, and who consistently fly in the face of the “conventional wisdom” which says there is no New England agriculture”.
Aside from this book being a fascinating look into the very beginnings of agriculture and farming in New England, it is especially endearing to me because the diary of my own ancestor, Thomas Minor, was used as a reference.
If you are looking for something to sink your gardening/farming minds into while we await spring and a new season of growth, consider A Long Deep Furrow , I think you’ll like it!

Adding A Bit More Light…….

Picture 406Our laying flock consists of about 30 chickens. This year we added some new layers, and now those younger birds are in full egg laying production. We like to keep our hens laying through the winter if we can. Quite frankly, if we are spending the money to feed layers, we want them to lay eggs. There are two separate chicken coops here that house about 15 birds each. Both coops are equipped with lighting that is set on a timer. This lighting provides ‘artificial daylight’ which enables the chickens to keep up with their egg producing during the winter months. A chickens ability to lay eggs is stimulated by its endocrine system, specifically the glands and organs that produce hormones. As daylight hours dwindle, changes in these hormones affect their egg production. In other words, without their needed 14 hours of light, their egg production lessens. Adding additional light  triggers the endocrine system into action, resulting in winter egg production. We’ve also been lucky with the mild winter so far, and the chickens have had the extended benefit of foraging for vegetation outside their chicken run. The ground has yet to freeze here in Maine, and the chickens are enjoying this added opportunity for grazing. This free range, soil scratching activity also helps to provide them with a well balanced and highly nutritious diet. During the summer when they are scratching around for greens and bugs, their egg yolks are quite dark. We do notice that the color of the egg yolks pale a bit when it is bitterly cold and when the landscape is frozen and snow covered. Chickens are happiest when they get plenty of sunlight and have the opportunity to scratch around their natural habitat. We appreciate watching them parade around the nursery and farm……strutting about, intent on finding some tasty little morsel. We also appreciate their contribution to our own diet….fresh , delicious eggs!