Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nature's Harmony Farm School Business Class (Saturday, July 24)

We've been getting more and more excited as the time drew nearer for our Farm School Business Class at Nature's Harmony Farm in Elberton, GA.  Now that it's over, I'll try to share a glimpse of everything we learned in two PACKED days from our hosts, Tim and Liz Young.  They are an amazing couple who left the corporate rat race and began farming three years ago with some acreage, lots of enthusiasm, and not much else.  Today they have a successful, bustling farm that provides grass-fed beef, poultry, eggs, lamb, and turkey; farmstead cheese; and woodlot pork to the Atlanta area--all in a natural, harmonious setting where cows eat grass, pigs wallow in mud, and chickens peck and scratch like they were meant to do.
We began with breakfast at 7:30 on Saturday, then divided up to do chores with the two apprentices and two interns.  Herb worked with Dan and began by taking up electric fencing and posts, then moving them to build a new temporary grazing paddock for the "intensively managed" rotational grazing system.  We can't quite replicate the intensive part, which involves moving the grazing animals every day at the same time, but we are figuring out how to at least use rotational grazing to restore our pastures.  We have seen the results first-hand at Nature's Harmony Farm and are convinced it is better for the land than continuous grazing.
Next Herb helped Dan turn the compost piles.  I snapped this picture of him as I went by with Kerry between pigs and chick brooders.  Over our delicious lunch, Herb told me enthusiastically that he learned a lot about compost and wants to completely redo our "method," which pretty much involves dumping stuff willy-nilly in a pile!  I'll save the new "Method" for a future post when we actually get it started.
After a chance to closely examine the "chicken tractors" (mobile chicken shelters that allow the chickens to be moved to different areas of the pasture, taking their water and shelter with them), Herb and Dan moved to the vegetable garden where they squashed squash bug eggs and bugs, smashed tomato worms, and harvested this enormous bin of tomatoes--many of which we ate over the weekend!  I came along after finishing my chores just in time to help throw rotten tomatoes to the chickens.
I'm glad I ended up with Kerry, because most of his chores were ones we could only observe, so I ended up learning alot without having to work nearly as hard as Herb did!  I did get a brisk long walk, though!  First was Fat Albert who got a cooler full of whey, the only food he gets besides grass and, later on, acorns and plants in the woods.  In fact, Nature's Harmony bought a herd of Jersey cows, started milking them and began making cheese just to have the whey to feed the pigs!  Having tasted their cheese, I can tell you, it was worth it in and of itself!
We spent quite a while in the cool, shady woods where Dante, a Jersey calf, needed a sore foot tended.  It was quite peaceful there among the cattle, sheep, and donkeys, and I could have spent all day--until we moved to the farrowing paddock to feed the sows and their piglets more whey.  Then I didn't want to leave at all, certainly not without a piglet or two!  But I'll save those pictures for another post.
Finally, we opened windows at the brooder building where they hatch out and raise all their own chicks.  Like most of the animals at Nature's Harmony Farm, they are a heritage breed, once commonly raised by farmers somewhere in the world, but now endangered by the mass-production demands of modern commercial farming.  These are Poulet Rouge chicks, funny-looking little things that are more commonly known in our area as "Nekked Necks."  In France, they are the gourmet "Label Rouge" chickens, highly coveted for their flavorful taste even though they grow more slowly than other commercially-raised breeds.  We hope to raise a batch of our own, although nothing like the hundreds at Nature's Harmony!

I won't try to summarize all the material we received during the classroom part of the school.  I'll just say that it was extremely helpful to us, and that--like cows--we will be chewing our cud for some time to come as we digest and assimilate it!  Here's a link, in case you'd like to check out Nature's Harmony Farm yourself:

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