Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Monday, February 21, 2011

Virtually Free Protein

Yep, there's one form of protein that really is damn near free. Good fat from oil in the nuts too. Our farmhouse is surrounded by 90-year-old pecan trees. And, mentioned more for their aesthetic appeal than their protein, they draw in some beautiful birds, from northern flickers and pileated woodpeckers to kestrels and bluebirds. Quite an avian parade really. Oh, and fox squirrels! Sorry I don't have a picture of the fox squirrels, but they are really wonderful, and regular visitors too. The tree in the foreground of this photo is sporting a branchful of resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides - always loved that Latin name - and they make me feel so at home, back on the coastal plain after all these years of wandering.

Speaking of a protein source that just keeps on giving, here's an update photo from the oyster mushroom post back in November. We've been getting flushes of oyster mushrooms at least weekly for a couple of months now, maybe a pound at a time. Not enough to go commercial yet, but we haven't bothered to modify the climate for them either. We just wait until a humid spell in the weather comes along, and like clockwork, they flush a couple of days later. And man, are they ever delicious! We eat them with scrambled farm eggs for breakfast, in spaghetti sauce over spaghetti squash "noodles," or just sauteed in butter for a snack. A note of caution about indoor cultivation of oysters though: they are extremely aggressive colonizers of just about any biological substrate, including wood. Hehehe, sounds like a doozy of a story coming, doesn't it?? Well, it wasn't me this time, but a permie friend of mine told me he grew an oyster tabletop kit in his bathroom to benefit from the regular humidity, and boy did they ever! They sporulated and colonized his bathroom vanity and fruited from the countertop! I don't think that's what the mycological dealers had in mind when they called it a "tabletop" kit...

Oh god, here comes the ASPCA...I once spent a good couple of days defending urban farmer and author Novella Carpenter's honor from the bunny-huggers. And to be honest, not everyone in the US thinks of rabbits as dinner. Most people in this country are so spoiled on a few prominent meat animals that they've lost all connection with the myriad other things we used to eat in healthier times. Rabbits being one of the main ones! This is Timothy, our new Belgian lop x Flemish giant buck, named after one of his favorite foods. He's a cool cat; I like Timothy. And that's OK, because he isn't food. He's a pet, and both of my children love him. They feed him weeds, chard, and turnip greens, and carrots, and apple cores, and...he's a bit of a piggie really. But big, and I expect he'll throw big babies too. He took over the small chicken tractor, which was really built for him. Or with him in mind anyway. He eats the bermuda grass, the split-leaf cranesbill, the wild mustard, and really loves the henbit.

Which is only right, because Henbit is his first wife, and a pretty darn sexy bunny if you ask me. She's a New Zealand doe who had two fine litters of 8 and 12 kits, sired by Timothy, before we got her. You can see her nice little nesting box in the back of her cage in this photo, but I'll have to work on a more attractive rainfly than that Rubbermade cargo lid bungeed overhead. Neither of these rabbits had ever touched the earth before they arrived at Small Batch Garden (take that, ASPCA!), but now they fill their days by munching on fresh greens, getting some dappled sunshine under the pecans, and scratching cool little spots in the earth to lay. Oh, and having crazy bunny sex. We bred them today, after a week of settling in - once at breakfast, once at lunch, and once at dinner. Doesn't take them very long. You put Henbit in Timothy's cage, he mounts her, has an epileptic seizure, and a full 6, maybe 7, seconds later he's lighting up a Camel and scratching another notch on his headboard. Meanwhile, poor Henbit's mostly annoyed, completely unfulfilled, and waiting for a ride back to the casa, where 32 days from now she'll pop out a clutch of bouncing baby bunnies in the aforementioned nesting box, with nary a penny of support from ol' Timbo.
But talk about cheap protein. Those kits will spend 8 weeks on the tit, and a full two more in the larger chicken tractor finishing on pasture, and will dress out at 4-5 lbs apiece, ready to fricassee. Add some fat to that fricassee though, because they are really almost too lean. That's what the ducks are for, but we'll get to that post later. Their orchard is still under construction, and the Welsh harlequin and blue runner ducklings won't arrive until the end of March. But I've got some cool ideas for stacking functions with ducks in the orchard and gardens to show off when the time comes.
Eventually we'll tie every animal and every plant in our system together, in multiple loops that build redundancy and resilience in the system. In permaculture-speak, "every element serves multiple functions, and each function is supported by multiple elements." It's the exact opposite of modern agriculture's dominating and prescriptive cookie cutter style, where "this is the way, and nature be damned." I'll show you some useful ideas, and maybe you can show me some too. Why else would I be going to all this trouble?! Why, to sucker you into giving up your secrets, of course!
Till next time, all our best from Small Batch.


  1. delightful post. i can read the happiness of such a beautifully integrated lifestyle in your words. what does rabbit taste like. (dont say chicken). I was taken to a fancy restaurant in ATL on my anniversary and rabbit was on the menu. I just wasnt in the mood for a food adventure. If it tasted good I could probably do it, but beating down a bunny sounds hard. Chopping a chicken neck was hard - thats why i had my knave do it for me.

    Im about to plant carrots and radishes. probably too late for onions. I dont even like summer foods that much. i hate cukes. ill just do some squash and maters...a few beans. spring is too short in georgia -it gets too hot for all the things i like: leafy greens and root veggies.

    so loving the new posts. please keep them coming. Ozone said to tell you hello. Hello!

  2. Thank you, Ande! That's the reason I read your blog and Novella's (Ghost Town Farm). Genuineness.

    To be honest I've had rabbit but it's been so long I can't remember. I understand wild rabbit is sort of gamey, but that domestic rabbit is absolutely delicious. And not like chicken. Jess has had it recently and raved about it. A cassoulet I believe. Actually, that was at Novella's book signing dinner in Spokane a year or so ago.

    Knaves, I love your use of knaves around the farm;) No, chopping chicken necks is not that much fun, so I'm anxious to see how I do with rabbit "processing." It's supposed to be a lot easier than dressing chickens at least. I'll send you home with one when you come to visit. Living or dressed, your choice.

    Tell O3 to come say hello his damn self!

  3. Tripp, those trees are sure a blessing. I've heard you can get the dust from brake shops and sprinkle it under pecan trees. Makes 'em bigger, but some say it's all shell.

    I prefer native pecans, just because. Hardiness I guess. We have walnuts around here too. Most of my neighbors let 'em go to waste.

  4. MD, I can't tell you how glad I am to have those trees shading our house and garden. We have a few "seedlings" around too; the one between the kitchen garden and the market garden is about 40' tall, and its nuts have a superior flavor, although they are smaller and harder to shell than the so-called "improved" varieties. The grove is old, so I'm beginning the process of planting new ones around the old ones, and working in the seedlings where they lay. You know me, I'd rather have the diversity, for resilience sake. I'd also like to leave some spots open for adding to the food forest. I've placed my fruit trees, blackberries, and grapes to mimic a forest edge, where they would naturally grow, treating the pecan grove as the forest matrix. Now we need some diversity within.

    But better news than any of this, the permie friend mentioned in the post is successfully growing American chestnuts! No problem with blight. I'll probably be adding some of them in too, over time. And trying to re-establish black walnuts in the southeast should be a priority for any ecologically-minded person.

    I think I'll probably just leave the brake shop dust where it lies...thanks for stopping by!