What We Saw – Heirloom Expo 2014

Ray and I went to the National Heirloom Expo on Tuesday and Wednesday last week and had a wonderful, educational time.  The festival is held in Santa Rosa, California and this year was it’s fourth.  Last year we attended one day and found that one day just isn’t enough time to see or hear everything, so this year we went for two days.  I think next year we will go all three days!

On Tuesday we spent the couple of hours in the Vendor’s Building and met the Brite Tap Waterer guy!  We had a fun conversation, and after actually holding a Brite Tap Waterer in our hands, we know that this will be a definite must have for our future chicken coop.

What we saw at the 2014 Heirloom Expo

We also met Dave and Tina from Luv Nest.  These folks sell organic herbal blends for chickens.  We were given a sample of their Layer Blend, which we happily accepted for our future chickens.  I cheated and opened the sample – it smells so good and fresh!  You can visit their website here:  www.luv-nest.com

What we saw at the Heirloom Expo

We also visited the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds booth, DripWorks (where we get all of our zero-pressure battery operated water timers), and hundreds of other vendors.  When we got to the Smart Pot guys, they were so informative!  They took the time to explain to us how Smart Pots work and then gave us each a sample – mine is a 5 gallon pot and my husband got a 3 gallon pot.  Cool!  National Heirloom Expo 2014

Then, of course, there were the speakers!  We attended a speech given by Heidi Herrmann about Seaweed: Ecology, Nutrition and Use.  Though Ray and I aren’t necessarily thrilled about the taste of dried seaweed (think v.e.r.y. salty), we know it can be composted into a wonderfully rich compost full of nutrients, or it can be made into a liquid fertilizer simply by putting it into fresh water and letting it decompose.  You see, this is the best excuse I know for us having to vacation by the ocean every year!

We also attended a very informative talk given by Dr. Rajiv Kumar Sinha about Organic Horticulture by Vermiculture (earth worms). Through his heavy accent (he hails from India), we learned a lot about how earthworms help the soil which, in turn, nourishes trees and plants.

Wednesday found us looking at all of the different livestock and organic/non-GMO fruits and vegetables.  Since we are getting chickens soon, a lot of time was spent in the poultry barn.

What we saw at the 2014 Heirloom Expo

Doesn’t she have just the most beautiful feathers? I’m not sure what type of chicken she is, but I think she is one gorgeous gal!

2014 Heirloom Expo, Santa Rosa

These beautiful ducks seemed fairly calm, considering all of the commotion going on around them.

What we sat at the Heirloom Expo

The turkeys were so popular because they were continuously gobble-gobbling, which kept the kids (and adults) entertained.

And there was just about every kind of melon, squash, or fruit on the planet displayed here – except for the nasty GMO kind!

Tower of squash - Heirloom Expo 2013

One guy we talked to says he does this same display of squash every year at the expo! He said he only had two avalanches this year while he was building it!  😀

The Food Alley offered a various smorgasbord of organic, non-GMO based foods from the local area.  Vegan to non-vegan, snacks to full meals.  We ended up having delicious black bean tamales with salsa and corn chips!  We almost got the Pad-Thai, but the plate was so big we weren’t sure we would be able to eat it all. I wish I had a picture, but then, I don’t want to make you jealous! 😉

We also attended more talks and workshops on Wednesday.  We saw the last half of a talk by John Jeavons about Food for the Future, and saw Bob Quinn when he gave his speech about Comparing Ancient and Modern Wheat.  Of all the talks/speeches we attended, I think we learned the most from Mr. Quinn.  We are now more motivated than ever to grow our own wheat crop using ancient wheat.  Did you know that all you need is a 30′ x 10′ piece of land to grow wheat, and you will reap enough wheat to make one loaf of bread every week for a year?  So, if I stretch the wheat using my 1,2,3 flour (acorn, almond, and wheat flour), I should have enough wheat to make 1 loaf of bread, 1 batch of cornbread and at least 1 meal of pasta every week for one year!

2014 National Heirloom Expo

This was Bob Quinn giving a talk about ancient versus modern wheat. Sorry the picture isn’t better, but it was dark so we could see the slide show.

We also attended a very informational class about Biodynamic Composting, given by Colum Riley of Malibu Compost.  He gave us several tips to help our compost reach at least 131 degrees for 8 days – which is necessary to kill weed seeds and pathogens – so it will be safe for the vegetable garden and ultimately the dinner plate!  Our first purchase for our compost pile will be some aeration tubes!

I wanted to stay for the Rooster Crowing Semi-Finals, but we were exhausted and had a long drive home!

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Mandarin Farm

Morse Farms Mandarin Farm

This Satsuma Mandarin tree is absolutely LOADED with fruit. The mandarins will gradually ripen to a deep, vibrant, golden orange color in November

In the foothills above Lake Oroville in California is a small, sustainably run, family oriented citrus farm – Morse Farms.  The owners, John and Glenda Morse, are native to the Oroville Area and began this five acre Mandarin Farm about twelve years ago.  Their main crop is the seedless Satsuma Mandarin, but they also have lemons, oranges, grapefruits and Minneolas.

We were privileged to visit the farm during the Sierra-Oro Farm Tour, and were treated to samples of meat balls with their Mandarin Jalapeno BBQ Sauce and also a wonderful Mandarin Sheet Cake.  The BBQ sauce is excellent – spicy and tangy and sweet, all at the same time.  We had to buy some!

Morse Mandarin Farm Tour

After tasting this BBQ sauce, we just had to buy some! And that beer – soooo good – even at 10:30 AM!   😉

Morse Farms also partners with the Feather Falls Casino Brewing Company to make their Emperor’s Mandarin Wheat Beer, and we were given a generous sample, even though it was only 10:30 in the morning!  Oh well, it was 5:00 PM somewhere in the world, right??!! It was really good, but this beer is a specialty, and rightly so isn’t brewed year round. We are just going to have to go to the casino to get some more before it’s all gone!

We took a tour through their mandarin orchard and were able to see the trees absolutely laden with fruit!  I was actually surprised that Satsuma Mandarins would survive and do so well at the elevation of this farm, but Glenda explained to us that these Mandarins are of the Owari variety with their rootstock being Tri-Folia, which means they can withstand some frosty temperatures.

Morse Mandarin Farm

A smudge pot from the old days.

The farm no longer uses smudge pots like the one in the picture on the left.  These were used in the old days (they are polluting and didn’t really work very well) and now just turn on sprinklers when the temperature falls below 27 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ice forms around the leaves and fruit and actually insulates it from the colder temperatures!  I am so glad to know this because I have a Tango Mandarin and I wasn’t sure if it would survive where our future homestead will be!  It’s in a large pot, so I was assuming I would have to bring it inside for the winter – but maybe not!  It rarely gets below 27 degrees where we will be building our house, so I suppose if I leave it in the pot and put it on the front porch (the pot is beautiful, and so is the tree – it’s a dwarf), then I should only have to protect it on the coldest of nights!

The farm is sustainably run: Morse Mandarin Farm

You can click on the picture to read it better.  I am so glad to see that they are careful with their use of water for irrigation.  Wells in the mountains and foothills are not at all like wells in the valley – and are susceptible to being pumped dry.

 

Morse Mandarin Farm

Mandarins are good for you!

On the tour through the orchard we saw several signs just chock full of information, such as this one to the left.  According to this sign (it’s true, I looked it up on other sources) one Mandarin is only 45 calories!

I like mandarins because they are seedless, easy to peel, and taste great!

 

When we got home from the tour, one of the first things we had to do was cook with the Mandarin Jalapeno BBQ Sauce.  Ray had just recently caught another salmon (yum), so we decided to try marinating it in the BBQ sauce for a few hours in the refrigerator, then grilling it on the BBQ.  Words cannot describe how good this was!

Morse Mandarin Farm

Salmon marinated then grilled with Morse Farms Mandarin Jalapeno BBQ Sauce. Mmmmm good!

As a final note, I would like to share with you the recipe of the Mandarin Sheet Cake that we sampled while on our tour of the Morse Mandarin Farm.

MANDARIN SHEET CAKE

Cake:

1 pkg white cake mix (or make your own)

1 cup water

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup Morse Farms Mandarin Marmalade

3 Egg whites

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl combine all cake ingredients; beat at low speed until moistened, then beat 2 minutes on medium speed.  Pour batter into prepared (ie. spray with cooking spray or butter and floured) 9 x 13 cake pan.  Also fills two 8″ or 9″ round cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes (check often) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

Mandarin Frosting:

2/3 cup butter, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup Morse Farms Mandarin Marmalade

1/4 cup Morse Farms Mandarin Syrup

1 to 3 tablespoons milk

In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, gradually add powdered sugar beating well after each addition.  Beat in mandarin marmalade and syrup.  Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time beating until of desired spreading consistency.  When serving, drizzle a little more syrup on the cake and serving plate for a wonderful presentation!

For more recipes using their mandarin products, you can go to their website – click HERE.

Morse Mandarin Farm

Ask for the Emperor’s Mandarin Wheat Beer – if there is any left!

If you would like to try out the wonderful beer brewed with mandarins at the Feather Falls Casino, you can get more information by visiting their website – click HERE.

Just FYI – I have not been paid to mention or recommend any of these products or businesses.  The Morse Mandarin Farm was included in the Sierra-Oro Farm Trails Tour,  If you are ever in Oroville, CA, you might want to visit one of these!

I adore any comments, advise or stories you may have – come on – speak up!  I try to answer each and every one!

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Lavender Farm Field Trip

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit and tour the Lavender Ranch, a local farm that organically and sustainably grows a variety of plants and botanicals, then distills them into essential oils.  The Lavender Ranch, Biggs, CA  I have been driving by this ranch for years and have always loved the scent of lavender wafting off the fields in the heat of an August afternoon.  Lavender Cookies at the Lavender Ranch

When hubby and I arrived at the ranch we began our tour at the gift shop, which was located inside their quaint old farm house! When first walking through the door, we were greeted with a gorgeous little stand in the corner offering free lavender cookies.  I don’t know why, but I thought eating the actual lavender would be a bit bitter, but these were delicious!  Inside the shop were beautiful displays, including almost an entire wall of hanging bunches of dried lavender for sale.  It smelled so good inside!  Also on display were lotions, salves, soaps and sachets – all for sale at reasonable prices.   bunches of dried lavender

We were so pleased to hear that they were giving guided walking tours of their lavender fields, and so we eagerly waited the fifteen minutes for the next tour to begin.

As our friendly tour guide gave us some statistics (the Lavender Ranch was started in 1983 and right now has 30 acres devoted to botanicals to make essential oils) and several uses for lavender oils (heals skin maladies, promotes circulation, improves digestion),  I couldn’t help but take deep, cleansing breaths while we walked through the fields. And knowing that they grow sustainably and organically, I was even more impressed!  The tour guide said they even had agreements with local farmers not to spray on windy days, so that there would be no over-spray of pesticides or chemicals on to the Lavender Ranch.  On the highway side of the ranch are signs along the right-of-way stating that the ranch is organic and to please not spray herbacides or pesticides in the vicinity!

Although their name implies that all they grow is lavender, such is certainly not the case.

Flowering Lemon Verbena

Flowering Lemon Verbena

I was in seventh heaven when our tour guide asked us to rub some leaves of the plants in the rows we were standing in……… lemon verbena!!  Oh!  My favorite scent of all scents!  I could bathe in it, sleep with it and eat it!  I wanted to literally sit right in the middle of the row of lemon verbena and take a nap, but I’m not sure the tour guide would have thought too kindly of me doing that!  😉   I love lemon verbena and I wasn’t aware that I could grow this plant myself!  Oh Joy!

And then the lavender!

Somehow, walking through these fields of lavender and verbena, I felt so at peace and at ease!  I know that the scent of lavender is supposed to be calming, but to actually walk in a field of lavender is something you just must do.  An experience of a lifetime!

Blooming Lavender

Blooming lavender

Among some of the other plants they grow and distill into essential oils are rosemary, german chamomile, peppermint, and clary sage!  They even had a 153 year old orange tree that they use to get an orange essential oil!  That tree was massive and is a daughter tree to the “Mother Orange Tree” found in Oroville, California.  What history!

In fact, the Lavender Ranch is only a part of the larger Bayliss Ranch which is known for the rice they grow, commercially marketed as Lattitude 40 (the approximate lattitude where the ranch is located).  We got to try some of the brown rice and it was wonderful – nutty but kind of fruity at the same time. The area where the Lavender Ranch is now sited used to be part of a large walnut orchard within the Bayliss Ranch.  With the use of drip irrigation and a lot of mulch, they now use only 10% of the amount of water that was once necessary when the land held walnuts!

But back to the Lavender Ranch tour.

Lemon verbena and Lavender

Lemon verbena (in the foreground) and Lavender

Our guide told us that it takes about 800 pounds of lavender to make 1 gallon of essential oil.  They use a steam distillation process with both a water phase and an oil phase.  The lavender that is grown at the ranch is a proprietory variety developed with UC Davis for a higher camphor content.  They propogate their own lavender in greenhouses right there at the ranch because each lavender plant is replaced at about 15 years of age.

A distiller for essential oils

A distiller for essential oils.

The medicinal uses of lavender are many.  Of course, I am not a doctor and don’t claim to be any type of a medical practitioner, but you can find so many resources on the internet and in books in your local library that hail praises for lavender.

In fact, I found a couple of websites and blogs that have a lot of information about lavender – just click on one of the links below and through the magic of technology you will be whisked away to their website!  No worries, though – you will be able to come right back to mine!   🙂

This one is great and has a lot of information:  How to make and use lavender flower extract by Frugally Sustainable,  and if you want to cook with lavender (who knew? not me!) you can click on this one:  Desserts using lavender by The Kitchn,   For the final fun site involving lavender, how about a recipe for home made playdough scented with lavender at The Chaos and the Clutter.

I hope you enjoyed coming along with my hubby and I on our field trip to the Lavender Ranch.  I just wish we were able to send the wonderful scents of all these botanicals from our computer to yours!

Thank you for all your comments, suggestions and questions – I try to answer every one!

 

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Why Heritage Chickens?

Last week hubby and I attended a lecture at The National Heirloom Festival about choosing heritage chickens given by Jim Adkins, an international poultry judge.

Jim Adkins - Heritage Chickens

This is Jim Adkins, who gave a very informative lecture on why heritage breeds of poultry are superior and should be considered for every flock – either backyard or commercial.

We certainly learned a lot of valuable information and I would like to share a bit of what I learned.

The first thing to know is the difference between heritage and heirloom.  Basically it’s the same thing, except heirloom usually refers to plants, and heritage refers to animals.

So, what is a heritage chicken?  According to Jim, there are four points to consider:

Jim Adkins - Heritage Chickens

Look at the pattern on her feathers! She is a beautiful example of a Wyandotte, a Heritage Breed.

1.  The breed must be recognized by the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection, which is a set of different qualities recognized in each breed of chicken, standardized before 1950.  For instance, a “perfect” chicken from one breed may have very wide feathers, which would allow that breed to survive colder conditions than another breed with thin feathers, having been bred to live in more temperate regions.  In other words, each breed of chicken is supposed to have certain qualities specific to that breed.

2.  The bird must be able to naturally reproduce.  I didn’t know this, but most of the meat birds purchased in grocery stores today are Cornish Cross hens.  These birds are not sustainable because they cannot reproduce!  They have been bred to be grown indoors and wouldn’t know how to forage for themselves, cannot reproduce and would probably not survive past the age of 6 months if not butchered at less than half that age!

3.  The chicken must be able to live a long and productive life outdoors, and should be able to live and adapt to their environment.

4.  The bird must grow at a slow growth rate.  Cornish cross hens are butchered at an average of 37 days of life. That’s just 6 weeks and a day, folks!  A Heritage chicken would need about 16 to 20 weeks to grow to the same size and stage of life.  In fact, according to Jim, slow growing birds taste better and are actually more nutritious!

Heritage Chickens

Isn’t he a beauty! His feathers were so shiny and irridescent!

Further, all breeds listed in The American Standard of Perfection are dual purpose, which means they are good for both meat and for laying.

Another differentiation between terms regarding poultry are Organic and Natural.  Organic poultry may not have antibiotics and must be fed certified organic feed.  Natural poultry may be give antibiotics, doesn’t have to be given organic feed, and isn’t necessarily open ranged, though it is usually cage free.  In other words, natural really doesn’t mean anything – it’s just a fluff word.  However, is a chicken is labeled as organic, is must be to receive that certification.

Heritage Chicken

I think this is a Buff Orpington – one of my favorites. They are known for their docile temperment and are good layers.

One sad fact that Jim revealed to us was that in 1950 there were 1.6 million farms in the United States that produced about 580 million broilers.  In 2007 there were only 27 thousand farms producing 8.9 billion broilers.  Billion.  Do the math.  That means that in 1950 each poultry farm produced about 363 broilers.  In 2007 each poultry farm produced 329,629 broilers!  Wow!  Big difference.  No wonder it’s hard to keep quality control under control.

The second half of the lecture was to give us a quick overview on how to select birds for either good meat or laying production (or both).

What to look for in a meat bird:

1.  Wide skull, because if the bird has a wide skull it will generally have a wide body.

2.  Heart girth (the width of the body between the wings), should be wide as possible.

3.  Body depth, which is the area from the top of the back to the belly, the deeper the better.  Both the heart girth and body depth lend itself to a bird of substance – it will be heavier.

4.  A wide, flat back.  I didn’t understand this part.  All I could picture was an old nag with a sway back.  But I don’t think chickens can have sway backs, do they?

Heritage Chicken

“Don’t look at me – I’m having a bad hair day! Drat this foggy weather!”

5.  Breast bone (keel bone) should be long and straight.

So, when looking at a laying hen you should consider all of the above plus:

1.  There should be a wide spread between the pubic bone and keel bone.  These bones are together in a pullet.  When a hen starts laying these bones spread apart.  The further apart these bones are, the better the egg production.  These bones should be pliable and the ideal layer has a 3 finger width between her pubic bones.

2.  Moulting – birds hatches in the Spring of 2013 should not moult until the Fall of 2014.  You want the moult to be as quick as possible because a hen devotes all her energy (protein) to feather production and not egg production.  The moult should last no longer than 6-8 weeks.

3.  The hen should have a soft abdomen.  When a hen is in production, it’s like she is pregnant every day!  Really!   😉   Can you imagine being pregnant most of your adult life?  Kind of makes me have more respect for that hen!

4.  Her vent should be open and moist!  Okay – here’s the PG rated version – the vent is the area of the chicken where the egg comes out.  If her vent is puckered and dry, she isn’t laying.  Also, the vent will bleach out (become almost white) when she is laying, and so will her legs.  So, if you have chickens and it seems that you aren’t getting enough eggs for the number of hens, you might check their vents to see who isn’t laying anymore!    Then wash your hands!   😀

Heritage Chickens

“Did you say you saw a ghost!!??!”

His final suggestion was that if you are just starting your flock and want heritage chickens, go to a breeder that breeds Certified Flock so that your birds will be true to the breed. This is important because many of the “big” breeders are not necessarily interested in selective breeding and may even allow birds that are inferior in qualities of their breed to reproduce.  This may produce undesirable traits, such as aggressive behavior in males.  Unfortunately, these big breeders are interested more in quantity than quality.   He suggested that anyone interested in heritage chickens visit his website:  Sustainable Poultry Network , click on Flock Certification, then on Certified Flocks (by state).  This will tell you where to get certain breeds of heritage chickens in your state.  It is also a great website if you want to raise heritage chickens for profit (become a breeder) and have your flock certified as well!

After finding out which heritage breeds of chicken are in my state (California) and reading about their traits, I think we have decided to get both Delaware and Chantecler Chickens when we begin our flock, from The Natural Trading Company, a breeder of heritage birds in Newcastle, California.  If you have had either of these birds, please let me know how you liked (or didn’t) the breed.  Apparently they are supposed to handle cold weather without skipping a beat in their egg laying.  So, if you have had experience with these, or if you really like the breed you have (Orpington? Wyandotte?) tell me about it!  Thanks.

Heritage Chicken

The End

No, really, the end.  🙂

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