Blog

Strange Things!

You guys know the struggle with the hawks we’ve been having here on the farm right? Well the first chicken enclosure was completed and we moved the birds into their new home as planned last weekend.

We thought we would give them a couple of days to get back to laying since they had not been doing so well with all the stress from the attacks and being on lock down. Plus they needed to get acclimated to their new environment.

I had set out their old nesting boxes, but they weren’t adhered to anything. This meant pine straw and the boxes were all over the place. It also meant empty egg shells in the coop and only a few eggs. My first thought was oh no….we have an egg eater on our hands! Then I thought well maybe they’re flipping the boxes over and cracking them then eating them. Either way, it had to stop!

I  needed a solution! Since they WERE laying, I needed to be quick about my business. It was easy to see from the colors that just about everyone was laying. So what was a chicken lady to do?

We happen to have a million, well ok not that many…. but a bunch of totes that we use around here. So I decided to use one of them to make a “temporary” nesting box. Of course I enlisted my favorite helper, Joshua and he and I set it up.

The next step was to watch. In the event that there was an egg eater, I would just keep my eye out to see who went in there when, and what the outcome was.

So throughout the day I kept checking ……

ADD4303E-8E82-447D-BAFF-DF4DDC8308FA

TWO girls in the box at the same time……that’s strange. Chickens like privacy when laying and if they’re disturbed they will let you and EVERYONE else know that they don’t like it.

Well I will just give them some time……

80863D0C-433A-4AF4-A6ED-510FC2285B10

And I thought….wait are these two going broody? No this breed has never gone broody. I will check back later……..

3402FE14-0597-423C-B9B3-2CDCA0CDF3A2

THREE hens in the box?!?! This is too much. These girls haven’t been eating their eggs. They were waiting on a nesting box so they could lay them in a safe place. All the cackling and box sharing was because there was only ONE box.

So what was the outcome?

E6A83A04-0F2A-47BA-B88E-0CF1C17C6EBF

EGGS! Lots of them!!

That is great news and it is also good news is that we have no shortage of totes!

The bad news is that I’m not sure if we will eat these eggs, sell them, or incubate them. I will have to keep you guys posted on that one.

One thing for sure is this “temporary” set up may become a permanent one! I will be making more tote boxes er um…nesting boxes tomorrow. The eggs are back and we could not be more thankful! The girls are safe. They’re comfortable and the laying season has begun.

 

 

Spring Starts!

This year, just like every year around this time our local stores stock up on Spring plants. You’ve seen them and they look so perfect! There was a time when we as home gardeners even purchased these plants! Yes, it’s true. We didn’t research. We just went with what everyone else was doing because we were interested in growing our own garden. Thankfully, we have educated ourselves on plants, seeds, and the importance of soil health. There is no way we would touch those plants now….even if they were free!

We have found that more and more people are educating themselves on how what they feed themselves and their families affects their health. If you’re one of those people then this article is for you.

Many of you ordered compost from us over the winter and now that Spring has nearly sprung it’s time to get those gardens going. But where do you start? Well for us, Spring planting starts in the Winter. Each year we learn more about the weather patterns here in Alabama, what to plant, and when to plant it. These things are so important!

The health of all plants begins in the soil. Can you honestly say that you know what type of soil is used in those plants that are mass produced? You may know the name, but what about the history? Is it really safe? So many news reports would say no.

Here’s what we do: Our plants are always started with an organic soil mixture. There are no chemicals in our soil. We always use true seeds. Those that are organic means that we’re saying no to GMO’s. In order to stock pile our seeds, we’ve had to purchase many, but having done this over the years, we are proud to say that quite a few of our plants are growing from seeds we’ve saved.

If this matters to you. You have options! Last year we purchased some of our plants from Gaucho Farms and those plants were beautiful. In fact, we even saved some of those seeds too!

So this year, we along with our sister Farm, Bain Home Gardens decided to not only start some for us, but for YOU TOO!

As of today we have a variety of tomato plants, herbs, peas, and a few perennials, but be sure that we will be offering even more as the season goes on. Grab one, grab two! Grow your own garden and enjoy the satisfaction of eating something you grew for your family! It’s so worth it!

 

Hawks!

After living in our house for over 3 years, we never had one single hawk attack until recently. We’re not sure, but we believe that it is just one who continues to come back looking for its next meal.

Our chicken area is under tree cover and our birds are mostly various shades of black, brown, red, etc. They pretty much blended in with their surroundings, even when the trees were bare. So we’ve never had a problem. We used to let them have use of just about the whole property, but as our organic produce offerings grew, we had to section them off.

Our first hawk attack happened on just a regular day. I looked out the window as I often do and saw a strange bird perched on the coop. I went into the kitchen and upon further inspection I instantly knew that this bird was a hawk. I then had the sad realization and sinking feeling that we probably lost some birds.

I immediately went outside to asses the damage and once I got closer the hawk turned its entire head around to stare at me. It was eerie and fascinating at the same time. It then flew into a nearby tree.

I was definitely too late. It had attacked one of our newest birds. We raised this bird from a chick, but it, along with its siblings were just integrated into the flock. This new batch of birds are mostly white with a few brown feathers here and there. We think their coloring allowed the hawk to see them as literal fresh meat. I was so sad!

Thankfully, my son came home at that exact moment and rushed out to see what happened after he heard my screams. He then put all the chickens into a caged area that we normally have at the ready for meat birds who have reached their harvest. I didn’t want to lock them up, but they were safe.

Fast forward to the second hawk attack….we were outside working  and decided to let the chickens roam. We both went inside and thought the birds would be safe for a little bit, but almost immediately there was a commotion and this time the hawk took out one of our original layers! I was just so angry! I posted up with a bebe gun at the ready to dispose of the bird the minute it came back. I didn’t know it at the time, but hawks are protected by federal law. So it was a good thing that the bird never returned.

There was one more attack, this time on a rooster. I am happy to say that he is fine, but as you can imagine to keep the birds safe they have been on lock down. If you follow our Facebook page then you’ve seen the work being done to ensure the safety of our birds. We know other farmers who free range their birds and as such thought we were safe. In actuality, it seems that we have been very fortunate to have not suffered a hawk attack before now.

We have some really good friends who raise chickens as well and they gave us some wonderful advice about how to protect our birds. Since this happened I’ve spent some time thinking about hawks and really whether it’s one or four, they’re just doing what their God given instincts tells them…..hunt and eat!

The layers were already getting a new coop. We just had to revamp it and make sure it included aerial cover. The sad thing is that they don’t like being cooped up so they’ve almost just about stopped laying eggs. They’re just not getting the sunlight they need and being in a new surrounding is stressful to them.

The good news is that our projects are nearing completion. The coops and runs are in their final stages and this means all birds will get back to what they do best. Work should be completed this weekend!  Then everyone, including us can enjoy fresh eggs again!  Well we hope……you guys know our chickens are pampered and so they may hold a slight grudge.

Growing Now! (March)

It’s that time again! You know when the weather warms up and the rain comes. Wait….did the rain ever stop? Maybe a little, but you know there is always more. Anyway Spring is upon us and that means lots more vegetables are on the way. If you’ve signed up for our Kith & Kin CSA, you’re in for a real treat. If not, then tomorrow is the last day.

Here at Hawkins Homestead Farm along with our sister farm, Bain Home Gardens we make it our aim to grow a variety of produce that you would not normally see in Alabama. Of course we all need our staples like cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. So we do grow those, but both farms have and will continue to offer things that are new and exciting.

Last year we started an Asian Garden and the feedback we received was wonderful. Bain Home Gardens had a Thai Garden and they’re doing it again this year, plus there will be so much more. So please stay tuned.

Ok I know you’re waiting on what we have growing right now right? Well the real question may be what don’t we have growing? For starters we got our potatoes in the ground earlier than last year and we are prepared to succession plant them during the entire growing season.

SURPRISE! This mean you get potatoes. YOU get potatoes! POTATOES for EVERYONE…..in my Oprah voice and we are happy to report that they have already began showing their lovely heads through the soil.

In keeping with our Asian theme we are growing this beautiful garden green that we hope you will love as much as we do. It’s a keeper for sure!

New for us this year will be onions. We have grown them only for our family in past years, but this year we’re growing them for everyone. We are constantly researching, learning, and growing. Thank you for being right there with us!

img_3489

Carrots are in season and you can see their beautiful tops in the photo below. If they’re half as pretty on the bottom, we’re in business!

721EF7D3-022D-4E35-930E-4997E2578DCC

We have started tomatoes, peppers, and a few herbs, like our basil. This basil has become a customer favorite and it will be ready a lot earlier this year. First to our Kith & Kin members, then to all of you.

Be on the look out for our announcements as we are filling up our calendars and can’t wait to meet new faces and see familiar ones again.

Be sure to check out the “For the Garden” section in the next few weeks. We will have something to help all of you home gardeners get a head start on your growing season. In watching the weather we may be in for at least one more freeze so we will keep it under wraps until after the last frost date, but I think you may be able to figure it out.

For those of you who pre-ordered a turkey. You are in for a special treat this month. Brandon (husband) fractured his foot a while back, but he is all better so poultry orders are being filled now. Thanks everyone for your patience!

All in all we have a busy Spring and Summer season planned. Sorry though we we can’t tell you everything. We want you to be as excited as we are! So see you again next month.

 

Growing Now! (February)

It’s February (well tomorrow) and that means Spring is on the horizon here in Alabama. We have a few more cold days to go, but overall we are pushing through to warmer weather and Spring produce.

Here on the farm, we’re in the planning phase. We’ve gotten out our seeds along with our journal to see exactly what this years Spring gardens will look like. This is important because in order to keep the soil healthy and focus on being sustainable crop rotation is key. Over the Winter we planted a cover crop so this month it was recently tilled in to add those nutrients to the soil.

We have gotten some seeds started indoors. Produce like tomatoes and peppers having a extremely long growing season so it’s imperative that we start them early and transplant them once all danger of frost has passed.

Our peas have come in abundance. We love peas around here and have succession planted more to be able to offer them for a long time to come. We grow a few different varieties that are delicious and pretty too.

CC97DF16-E4F7-4434-AA8A-699ACAA1CF35

Collards will be back this month along with plenty of lettuce. You can find these in our Winter Greens and Salad Mix. Both are available on our shop page. Collards will also be listed separately later in the month.

In keeping up with our Asian theme we have a variety of greens and cabbages growing that we’re excited to try. The one pictured below is just a sneak peek of what’s to come.

6BDD51A6-F556-4972-968F-0DF774D18099

Last month we shared that with you guys that we’re growing celery for the first time. With the temperatures becoming unseasonably warm we’re hoping to keep it cool and shaded. Here’s a picture of what it looked like a few days ago.

DB823798-A0BA-4D44-B8AF-716DD909B949

There is so much more, BUT we have to keep some things under wrap for now. All in all this month will be one where we work. So much to do, so much to plant. Stay tuned to see all the action as it unfolds. See you again next month.

 

 

The Birth of Kith & Kin CSA

Recently our farm along with Bain Home Gardens participated in a competition for grant funding. As the competition comes to a close we can tell that neither farm will win, but in a way we kind of feel like we have. Seeing the community support, listening to the feedback, and watching how many people shared our posts made us realize just how important having a clean reliable food source is to all of you.

We wish we could list every single voter for every vote. We wish we could name all the people who advocated for us and the businesses along with other farmers who helped us. At last check we had over 500 votes! That may not seem like a lot to some people, but for us it meant the world! So we say thank you! Thank You! THANK YOU!

We want to take what we’ve learned from everyone and give back! How?!? Well although we didn’t win the competition, we received so much feedback throughout the whole month. This was especially true after our story was featured on WTVY. This helped us realize that the idea of a CSA is something we CAN move forward with.

So through many prayers and family conversations, Hawkins Homestead Farm and Bain Home Gardens joined together to create Kith & Kin CSA. Together, we are ecstatic to bring this to all of you. We thank you for your support and we want everyone to know that we’ve listened!

We heard you ask for specialty items. We read the emails and the comments on social media. We even spoke with some of you by phone.

One of my favorite movies is “Field of Dreams.” There is a voice throughout the movie that says “If you build it, they will come.” Everyone thinks the main character is crazy for what he’s doing, but he has faith and his hard work and dedication paid off. Building this CSA, forming this partnership between friends, and bringing you produce from two farms is our way of building “it.” The “it” is the need we heard loud and clear through every single vote, like, share, comment….even some apologies when you missed a day.

Shena Nicole, who manages Bain Home Gardens and I have talked about this for months. Now that we’re here and official, it’s a prayer answered and a dream come true. So we welcome you to the birth of Kith & Kin. We hope you will consider joining our Spring CSA. It is truly our pleasure to see how “what started as food for our family has blossomed into food for yours.”

 

 

Radish and Broccoli Rabe Stir Fry

In the Fall we grow plenty of organic radishes! This year we grew organic broccoli rabe for the first time and have been enjoying eating it. I created a fantastic recipe with the help of a tip from our friends at Bain Home Gardens that was gone almost as soon as I made it that I want to share with you. It is as follows:

INGREDIENTS

A bunch of broccoli rabe (roughly chopped)

3 medium radishes (sliced)

2 Tablespoons of minced garlic (or more to taste)

3 Tablespoons of Olive oil

Bone Broth (or chicken broth/stock if you haven’t any)

Half an onion diced

Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

Pour 2 Tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of a large pan

Add in onions, garlic, and radishes

Cook until lightly browned and the radishes have softened

Add in the remaining olive oil

Add in broccoli rabe by the handful while mixing

Add Salt and allow to cook down.

Once everything has cooked down add about 1 cup of Broth and simmer on low for about 15 mins.

E2673B75-39CB-4224-96B5-EB8C1CA90C0A

Growing Now! (January)

Can you believe it? Tomorrow we will be in 2019! The whole year flew by or maybe it washed away with all the rain that we had. This January marks the official 1 year anniversary of our website and of this segment. We are excited to announce new ventures, sales, and upcoming events.

What will this next year bring? Well we can’t speak for the weather, but we will have ALOT to offer you. For now, here’s what we’re growing in January:

Arugula! If you guys have been following us then you know that I am in love with this peppery green. I often find myself checking it twice….really I’m just picking and eating it. It’s so good!

Cabbage! We have a few different varieties of cabbage growing. It’s one of those versatile vegetables that can be used in so many areas so we planted quite a bit. We’re hoping to try our hand at fermenting by making sauerkraut, we love coleslaw, sauteed cabbage with smoked turkey (which we also have growing now) and cabbage stew.

Celery! This is something that is brand new for us for 2019. We like to call it our “celery experiment.” When we planted it, we weren’t even sure it was going to grow, but we are super excited to see it start. Celery takes months to grow so it will be a long time before we see if our experiment works or not. It loves cool weather like most green vegetables and so figuring out when to plant it was our first challenge. Our second one will be protecting it from the heat come Spring. Hopefully we timed it right!

Cilantro! Our only garden herb for Fall and Winter is cilantro. We have tried to grow it in the Spring, but it hates heat, often going to seed quickly. We had given up when we realized that it had reseeded and voluntarily grew on its own in the same spot where we kept a pot for it. Last year there wasn’t enough to share, but this year it’s growing like crazy, so we hope you get it while it’s available.

EA2AD5B8-27FF-4DA7-8CB1-56D464EFC3D8

Peas! With all the weather changes, Our peas are growing very slowly. We think they’re a bit confused and don’t really know what to do, but they have the most beautiful flowers in various shades  of purple and white. For now we will enjoy the flowers and keep tending to them while we wait on the pods to fully come in.

Of course there is always more……………..

We thank you for keeping up with us each month and as we progess into this new year, we look forward to being your choice for fresh, sustainable, clean produce and more.

Don’t forget! Voting starts tomorrow for Cultivating Change. If you haven’t taken the time to register, please do so here. Remember you can vote daily! Thank you and we will see you next month.

Education- “cage free”

To finish up this educational series originally posted in the Market at Dothan Newsletter, today we’re going to talk about “cage free.

When you hear those words the thought that may come to mind is one of birds who are living their best life. You know outiside, cage free, and happy.

FACT: “Cage free” does not mean outside access.  A label can read “cage free” and simply mean that birds are housed with many other birds in the same space.

You know those thousands of birds we spoke to you about before? They may have access to nesting boxes and even roosting bars, but all be crammed up and live in terrible conditions.

Many farms use cages and other methods for their birds all while allowing the birds to live naturally.

On our farm we use a variety of methods. From complete outside access, to mini coops, hoop houses, and others. What’s important to us is their safety, that they get to be birds the way God intended, and that their quality of life is preserved.

For our meat birds that are ready for harvest, we move them to a caged holding area. This is complete outside access and allows them to still excercise their natural instincts.

D1C98A8F-7D4F-4B69-8714-C6FAA51F31FF

The above picture is one of our hoop houses as a work in progress. We use these to move our meat birds to fresh grass, house broody mama chickens, breeder pens, quarantine new flock members, and also to allow baby poults and chicks who aren’t quite ready to be outside permanently safe outdoor access.

This series applies to ALL growers and producers. Whether you’re a grocery store, farmers market, or a direct farm. As consumers and people who grow and eat these birds and their eggs giving them the best quality of life means that we practice and support a clean, safe, and natural environment. Not just for our animals, but  for those that we purchase from others. If this matters to you, then this education is important.

For example, now is the time of year when local farmers, us included have little to no eggs. So as we branch out to get our eggs from elsewhere, please read the label carefully, ask questions if possible, and choose wisely,

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and found it to be informative and educational. If you have questions or would like more information, we would love to hear from you.

We Need Your….

HELP!

We are almost at the start of a new year and this year has been great because of all of you!

Let’s stroll down memory lane at what 2018 brought us.

We grew food!

And lots of it!

SO THANK YOU! 

2018 was a year of growing for us! We grew more produce than ever. We had highs and lows and even some failures in between, but we grew food. We fed our family and some of yours and we made sure that what we all ate was of the highest quality and chemical free.

So in 2019, we are asking you to come grow with us! How? Well we are participating in a Grant Program that will allow us to grow even more IF we win. BUT…

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

The program is called Cultivating Change and it helps farmers do what we do best, grow food. Our goal is to get clean food out to as many people as possible and if we win, we have the opportunity to do just that.

Our farm has specifically asked for greenhouse funding. This is something that will allow us to extend our growing seasons by starting earlier and producing late.

We are looking into so many different avenues this coming year and partnering with other growers who are growing clean food. We want to fill up the Wiregrass with food that is safe and delicious, but we can’t do it alone. Just as we could not have come this far without all of you, we need you now even more. So we ask that you please vote for us.

By taking the time to register here, you can vote daily for us. We hope you will!

Thank you for all your support in 2018 and we look forward to providing you with even more in 2019.