Formerly,Bar None Ranch, of Berlin, NY, we are now Climbing Tree Farm, of New Lebanon. We raise PASTURED POULTRY, LAMB, GRASS-FED BEEF, and WOODLAND/PASTURE-RAISED, MILK-FED PORK. We keep our animals true to their instincts- letting our pigs dig, our chickens range, our sheep graze. We feed rotationally graze on pasture and silvo-pasture (in the woods). We work with a local dairy to feed our pigs Jersey milk. We are conscientious stewards of the land, and our animals.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Christmas Eggs

Our First Chickens

We started with 25 hens. For weeks we checked their nest boxes for eggs to no avail. One day there were, completely out of the blue, eggs! Those eggs felt like fragile little miracles, they were so perfect and pure and tiny (pullet, or young chicken eggs, are about half the size of a regular egg and get larger as the birds age). For several years every time we reached into a next box it felt like reaching in to a stocking on Christmas morning; a precious gift from mother nature, or Chicken Santa. Those first several years we delighted in fuzzy little pom-pom-like chicks. Our son played with them for hours, driving them around in toy trucks, and building them block houses. It was wonderful.

Chicks, wonderful chicks!

People like fresh, local, pasture-raised eggs (because they're delicious and super healthy). As the years went by our flock grew to fill the egg market. We wanted to make everybody happy; to fill everybody's breakfast dishes with eggs. From twenty five chickens we went to one hundred. From one hundred to two. This past year we had 400 laying hens (quite a few for the way we raise them, but ridiculously few in terms of commercial egg businesses). Our five year old son cried and said "we already have enough chickens" when we picked up a batch of a couple hundred birds last spring. With this many the eggs no longer felt like gifts, but rather a burden that required scrubbing and boxing and lugging. As fall drew near our chickens naturally laid less, and in a bold sanity-saving act, we sold the birds (all but two who were too smart for us and whom have lived the whole winter with the pigs!). Our farmer's market customers were disappointed. They wanted their eggs. It felt terrible to disappoint people.

Eggs, Eggs and MORE Eggs!

This winter we have taken a break from birds. We have not had to collect eggs three or four times per day to prevent frozen eggs. We have not had to fiddle with water heaters. We have not worried about birds during windy, sub-zero nights. We have not washed a single egg. It's been fantastic!

Many people have asked if we will have eggs again. Yes, we will. While we have enjoyed our chicken-less winter, the time away has helped us to remember how puffy and sweet the chicks are, and how collecting eggs once felt like a bountiful personal miracle every day. We won't be selling eggs wholesale this year (that won't happen until we've forgotten what it's like to have 400 layers!). But, we will have a hundred or so birds scratching around (chicken-scratching is important on the farm, because it breaks apart the other animals' droppings which helps spread nutrients on the grasses in the field, and because the chickens eat bugs out of the sheep and pig poop, which helps keep the farm less buggy).

Our good friends come to visit and remind us of the "Christmas Egg" phenomena.

Our family will be a lot happier with 100-200 layers than we were with a larger flock, and we'll have Christmas morning here each day again. The question is: Will the eggs taste better when they're raised by happy farmers? Probably. You'll have to see for yourself.

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