<![CDATA[Rusty Plow Farms - Blog]]>Mon, 20 Dec 2021 21:02:42 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Winter Solstice and Chicken Keeping]]>Tue, 21 Dec 2021 05:00:00 GMThttp://rustyplowfarms.com/blog/winter-solstice-and-chicken-keepingWe’ve made it! It’s December 21, the winter solstice. Although I am not a big fan of the shorter day length and winter in general, the dynamics of how our big Earth is put together never ceases to amaze me. Our days will be noticeably longer a month from now and that makes me hopeful for spring.

How Does The Solstice Affect Chickens?

When the day length begins to shorten in the fall, it triggers laying hens to go into a molt where they will shed their current feathers and grow new feathers. All birds molt, and it happens this time of the year so that migratory birds can have a new set of feathers for their long flight to warmer winter destinations.

During their molt, the hens will slow way down or completely stop laying eggs to spend their energy replacing their feathers. They will then take a break from laying until the longer day length triggers them to begin again as we head toward spring.
Eggs Are Seasonal

Many chicken owners believe it’s the colder weather that causes a hen to stop laying. In fact, it’s all about the day's length. Commercial egg producers leave the lights on in the poultry houses around the clock in order to keep the hens laying for maximum production. I personally feel that the hens have worked hard producing all year long, so I am happy to let them take a break in winter. To ensure that we have a least some eggs for our family and customers, I purchase chicks 3 to 4 times a year so that the flock contains hens of different ages. The winter laying hens are the previous spring's chicks and usually begin laying in late summer and lay throughout winter for us.

So if you stop by the farm and find the egg fridge empty in December, please understand that the flock is taking a break!

If you keep chickens, tell me about your experiences when dealing with hens that stop laying in the winter. Have you ever tried to extend the day length to trigger them to lay?
<![CDATA[Spaghetti Squash Pizza Crust Recipe]]>Fri, 10 Sep 2021 01:03:35 GMThttp://rustyplowfarms.com/blog/spaghetti-squash-pizza-crust-recipe
Using spaghetti squash in pizza crust adds moisture and fiber to make a delicious crust that has a great flavor. This recipe will make 4 individual-sized crusts (about 8 inches in diameter). They also freeze well.

3 cups cooked spaghetti squash, drained
3 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 T shredded Parmesan cheese
1 T Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and Pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets each with a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine spaghetti squash, eggs and flour in a large mixing bowl and combine well. Fold in cheeses just until combined. Add spices and mix. Spoon approximately 3/4 cup of the mixture onto the parchment, using the back of the spoon to spread mixture into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Repeat, you should be able to fit 2 crusts onto each baking sheet.

Bake the crusts on the center and center top rack of the oven for approximately 18 minutes, or until the crusts have a medium golden color and appear slightly drier. If using immediately, top with pizza sauce, cheese and desired toppings and return to bake in the oven for another 5-8 minutes or until cheese is slightly melted.

To freeze:
When crusts are medium golden and appear slightly dried, remove baking sheets from the oven and carefully move the crusts on parchment onto wire racks to cool. Once completely cooled, flip the crusts over and peel the parchment from them. To freeze, cut squares of clean parchment and layer between the crusts to keep them separated, then put the stacked crusts in a gallon zipper-seal freezer bag. Will keep in the freezer for up to 4 months.
<![CDATA[Growing Garlic]]>Mon, 21 Jun 2021 15:52:16 GMThttp://rustyplowfarms.com/blog/growing-garlicGarlic is perhaps my favorite crop to grow because its timeline is opposite of most of the rest of the crops that we grow. It is planted in October, overwinters in the ground, sprouts up in very early spring and gets harvested in early July. Garlic levels out some of the workload in the spring by not needing too much of our time. Then when the busy planting season is winding down in early summer, it's time to harvest and cure the garlic. 

To plant, begin by separating each bulb into cloves. Each clove will grow into a completely formed bulb. Cloves are planted about 4 inches deep and about 4-5 inches apart in a row. Each row is about 10 inches apart so that we can get the wheel hoe between the rows for weed control.  We find it easier to dig a shallow trench, line the bulbs up in the trench and then backfill with soil. Then after the ground freezes, we apply a thick layer of straw mulch to the entire bed. Mulching after the ground freezes helps lessen the freeze-thaw cycle of the soil that may cause heaving of the bulbs.

Once you see the first leaves emerging in very early spring, it's time to begin some fertilization. We side dress with an organic granular fertilizer from HyrBrix.

Keep up with weeds in the bed, garlic doesn't like to compete and you'll have bigger bulbs if you keep a weed-free bed.

Hardneck garlic will send up a flower shoot called a scape in early June. We remove the scape, which sends more every to the bulb growing underground. This usually results in bigger bulbs.

It's time to harvest garlic when approximately half of the leaves have turned completely brown. Dig the bulbs by hand using a garden fork, being careful to dig 6 inches or so away from the plant to avoid damaging the bulbs. Shake the excess soil from the plants, then lay the entire plant in a dry shady spot with plenty of air flow. Allow the plants to complete dry out and the bulbs to cure, which takes about 3 weeks.  Once cured, trim the stalks about 2 inches above the bulb. The bulbs can now be stored for several months in a cool, dry and dark location. Save the largest bulbs to be planted the following fall for next year's garlic crop.