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On-Farm

In honor of the passing of Ms. Juanita, I am posting this photo of the beloved bird and Adam Spaulding-Astudillo, our very own 'chicken whisperer'.  For more info on Juanita, see the blog post link below. 

Thank you Juanita and Adam!

Warmly, Tom Spaulding

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For a moment you could have gotten Easter and Thanksgiving confused this past weekend at the Learning Center. “I found an egg!” a third-grade Girl Scout exclaimed excitedly. Together I was with a group of 12 girls and a handful of parents as they were meeting and learning about chickens and their role on farms and in our food processes. Their excitement heightened when they found out that they could hold or pet the chickens, something many explained to me that they had never had the opportunity to do before.

 

Girls from second to seventh grade gathered around tables...

Miss Juanita Chickie

We said goodbye this week to one of our colleagues. Miss Juanita Chickie was a nine-year old Araucana chicken, and a fine host indeed for our education programs.

 

She was raised by young Adam, who carried her pretty much continuously when she was a spring chicken. Thanks to his attentiveness and care, Miss Juanita was by far and away our most amenable chicken to handling. Nary a squawk if a first-time chicken holder would lift her from the ground.

 

Consequently, thousands of children (and quite possibly hundreds of adults) had their first up close and personal experience...

On a beautiful September Sunday, people gathered from near and far for a hands-on (and feet) learning experience building an earthen oven.

 

The events started with introductions and presentation by Randy Mermel and Judy Speer on the hows and whys of building with cob, which stimulated many great questions and conversations. We tried to keep the presentation to a minimum so we could get outside and get busy with the cob. Before the potluck lunch, we built the brick oven entrance, laid the fire bricks for the oven floor and prepared the sand form that would act to hold...

Building a Cob Oven

Many visitors who have come to the farm in the past 2 years have enjoyed fresh baked bread and pizza from our unique oven.  In addition to learning about the process of artisan baking, they have also had the opportunity to learn about this form of sustainable building.  This earth oven is made from cob.  Cob is one of the oldest building materials.

 

It is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw; making it simple to source locally.  There is no need to ship in building materials. A variety of groups have utilized the earth oven,...

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The picnic bench at the farm was filled with goat milk ice cream, black raspberries and mulberries, and three plates of brownies filled with “mystery” vegetables. Campers in our cooking day camp had baked brownies, each group with a secret ingredient from the farm. A blind taste test revealed that the favorite dessert was made with...beets!

 

One of the campers said, “When I told my mom what our secret ingredient was, we were both kind of grossed out because we don’t like beets, but then, it was my favorite cake of all!”

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In our closing circle, the twenty-five third graders shared highlights from the three days they spent at the farm.  I was impressed and a bit awed by the diversity of answers from our intrepid group of young campers.

 

“Milking goats.”
“Walking in the creek”
“Carting hay to the compost”
“Whacking weeds”
“Helping stir and spray the Biodynamic compost”
“Planting in the garden”
“Being able to look up the hill and see the tree and the skyline and the clouds.”
“Going up in the hayloft”
“Hearing the roosters in the morning.”
...

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A group of (people) kids joined us this week to welcome our newest (goat) kids to the farm. Overnight on March 23, goat goddess Thalia gave birth to two beautiful, healthy doelings. When we found them in the morning, the kids were up: walking, nursing, and ready to explore!

 

Meanwhile, we have a dozen children here for our first week of Kids with Kids Day Camp. The (people) kids are all assigned to their own goat mamas, and have the responsibility this week of checking the moms for signs of labor. Our junior farmers give frequent reports, “I...

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Last fall, I was sent a link to an article describing European farmers who have set up vending machines for fresh foods straight from their farms.

 

It seemed like a good idea, perhaps, for our on-farm education programs.  I was ruminating on this as I headed out to feed the animals.  Then it struck me—a vending machine has a lot in common with a chicken nesting box—the same boxy dimensions, made of many chicken size compartments and filled with delicious treats.

 

My mind started spinning:  Why not just skip the egg carton altogether,...

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A family recently returned to the farm for the first time since 2004, the year when Sylvia, the three-legged goat, was born.   Their young daughter was so enchanted by Sylvia’s sweet disposition that she insisted that people address her as Sylvia, and, eventually, her parents made Sylvia her middle name.   This child growing up in Chicago had a goat as an important childhood friend!

 
Thousands of people visit the farm and Learning Center every year; I believe that the most powerful aspect of their visits is not the skills or information that they return home with, but...

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