Alexia Allen

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since Jul 23, 2012
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Recent posts by Alexia Allen

Hello all!

I do think animals taste different depending on their stress level at death.  I can rarely find a way to eliminate stress, but we can minimize it.  Not all our roosters are used to getting held, for instance, so that part of the butchering process is new to them.  Still, we stay calm, we don't chase them all over.  I have learned a lot of good tips since Paul's video, maybe we should do a remake!  I have gotten used to eating happier meat--animals who live a content life without fighting stress all the time.  The 3 times I have eaten commercial meat in the past few years, I have had disturbing murder dreams--and I'm not usually a dreamer. Not sure what's going on with that, but I'll stick to home-raised for many good reasons.

We're always looking for better ways for the animals to manage themselves.  Come to think of it, that goes for humans as well as other livestock!  What do these creatures (plants included) need in order to be healthy and happy? That's the central question.  

In case the other link wasn't working, we're at  Philosophical blog there.
1 month ago
BIG yes to soil influencing flavor and nutritional content.  I eat mostly from my garden, and have for years.  I gravitate to lettuce out of certain beds more than others, and the animals have clear preferences too.  The goats make their opinion known--the flavor of food from improved remineralized beds is vastly superior to browse brought to them from elsewhere.  This is why I consider one of the best investments is to understand the soil I eat from and amend it appropriately.  Copper is known agronomically to be important for plant flavor.  Fred Provenza's recent book Nourishment is a fantastic look into the world of flavor and nutrition from an animal science viewpoint.

I make a point of nibbling soil when I feel like it.

As a fellow PNWer and silvopasture manager, I would consider walking around to grab foxglove flowers and stuff them into a trash bag.  I ferment noxious weeds in barrels then pour the resulting slurry on gardens for fertilizer--but the crux is that I can't have seeds in there, so get the flowers young if you choose to go this route.  My neighbors have severely overgrazed pasture (constant sheep presence for all the 17 years I've lived next door) and it's basically mud and foxglove.  So even though foxglove isn't killing those sheep, it's not doing them any good either.  Check out Fred Provenza's book Nourishment for great info about how animals learn to forage.  Animals new to foxglove might overindulge.  Honestly, walking around gathering foxglove flowers is also an excuse to get to know your pasture.  More footsteps is more awareness is more productivity.

Orchardgrass is delicious and productive but does not love shade.  The best way I have established it is by using horse trampling in the winter.  15 years after housing the ponies in one section of pasture over the winter, it still grows the best orchardgrass which we mow for rabbits and goats before running chickens over it.  We get several cutting in a good moist year like this one.  I have never bought seed for it, feeding the ponies orchardgrass hay is enough.  Word to the wise--several other seeds have come in on loads of hay.  Wild amaranth seeds survive a trip through a horse gut just fine!

Buttercup has been a decreasing issue as I have added significant calcium carbonate to the soil over the years.  Adding wood chips, for whatever reason, has served to INCREASE buttercup significantly.  This is Ranunculus repens, Creeping Buttercup.  It tells me about low-drianage low-calcium spots in my land.  I have had success in my boggy areas with Korean nut pines from Burnt Ridge nursery.  Also some hazelnuts cultivars (ones recommended for heavy soils--get blight resistant or -immune ones!), and raspberries grown on chinampa-style berms created by piling up twigs left by our goats and piling dirt on top.  The dirt comes from pondlets dug between the berms, which get used in winter by our ducks.  We get phenomenal crops of comfrey and willow by these ponds, which cycle back into the goat pen as browse when the willows aren't getting used for basketry projects.  

While I have used sheep and goats and horses between trees, my current favorite is our rabbit tractors.  They might be my favorite because another farmmate takes care of them, so all I see is tasty rabbits leaving perfectly mowed and fertilized grass in their wake as they scoot around under the pear, apple, and nut trees.  

Are you getting Katahdins?  If so, I recommend Michelle Canfield in Monroe.  I once heard a sheep in distress in my pasture and found one of my East Friesian ewes firmly lodged in Himalayan blackberry, stuck there by her fleece!
I grow most of the household food, and I want to be doing it for decades yet!  I rarely hand weed. If I have a friend or other volunteer who wants to chat with me, I'll do it.  Otherwise I use a long-handled SHARP hoe with the two-thumbs-up grip I learned from Carol Deppe, so that my back is straight.  It's a motion like sweeping the floor rather than chopping with a baseball bat.  Tending a smaller area of annuals more thoroughly seems to yield more satisfaction than having a huge garden that gets weedy in the blink of an eye.  I use cover crops (summer and winter in my temperate zone) in areas where I don't want to cultivate all the time.  And I tolerate the occasional weed just fine.  I find that gardening with friends makes the whole deal more pleasant.  

My big hint though is this:  As I have balanced the mineral content of my soil, the weeds have changed dramatically.  Adding manure and mulch all the time gave me weed problems from potassium being too high.  Or at least, my potassium levels increased as my weed problems increased.  I used to mulch with woods chips and cardboard but switched to cover crops so that i wouldn't be importing as much potassium into the garden.  I even grew corn and carried the dry stalks away into the forest to remove potassium from that plot.  After adding calcium and other minerals, but no potassium, weeds seem less overwhelming.  Your results may vary, but a soil test has been some of the best money I have ever spent on the garden.  
1 year ago
Hello all,

Alexia Allen of Hawthorn Farm here. I am hosting and teaching a respectful chicken harvest class on August 11 at my farm in Woodinville, WA, 20 miles NE of Seattle. The class will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and include some snacks from the fruits of our labors. We'll go through the entire process of chicken to meal, using every tasty bit of the bird. We will have both meat birds and old layers to work on. $100 per person. Five-person maximum, so that there is plenty of one-on-one instruction. Eating critters is an astonishing and intimate process! Thanks for putting up the "Respectful Chicken Harvest" video. Check it out to get a sense of the content of the workshop--though we'll go more in-depth in person.

This class is great for people who want to start raising their own meat birds or deal humanely with egg hens who are past their laying days. Please call to find out more: 425 286 5640.
8 years ago
Well, I love 'em... and they scare me. Really, do I want to eat something that looks like a cross between a velociraptor and Jabba the Hutt? But they are hard to beat for feed conversion as long as I am willing to buy or grow and then haul feed out to their pen.

Their carcasses look like the chickens people are used to eating so they are a good "gateway butchering experience" for people. They serve my purposes well enough now, on a small suburban farm with lots of pasture and a big freezer.

Without those things, I would be running a small flock of egg layers and eating roosters and culls. Banties have proven their worth as broodies for hatching out fertile eggs. I prefer the taste of stew hens myself.

8 years ago