Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Functional Free-ranging at Cypress Hall Farm

 

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Not many people have bragging rights that they have turkeys at backyard pets! During the Eastern Triangle Farm I was able to see that Cypress Hall Farm has earned that right and decided to go free-range. The definition of free range according to the wonderful research resource we call google is: “Livestock and domestic poultry permitted to graze or forage for grain, etc., rather than being confined to a feedlot or a small enclosure.” Free range animals are happier and healthier which means we will be happier and healthier if we consume them. We tend to trade healthful food for quick and snappy meals or fast food. In the long run organic food products are cheaper because we have fewer doctor visits and feel better. Paying a little more now will reap paying less for health in the future.

http://www.cypresshallfarms.com/

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Chicken tractors are nifty and are what allows pasture raised animals to be successful. They keep the chickens safe from predators and can be moved around to supply fresh grass. During various farm tours, I noticed that the turkeys liked to hang around the chicken tractors. Maybe they are just being friendly or like to stand guard of the chickens.

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Cypress Hall Farm raises heritage breeds of chicken.

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This is where the chickens are taken before being ready to sell. It is done in the most humane manner possible.

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Attempting to pet a turkey.

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My brother discovered the meat rabbits.

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Even the rabbits have their own domain. All the animals receive adequate space and quality care. I enjoyed my family’s tour of Cypress Hall Farm and recommend scheduling a visit.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Turtle Mist Farm on Eastern Triangle Farm Tour

 

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More and more people are caring about the food they eat. It is becoming more about what was used during the processing of the food than what its appearance is. An apple can be crisp and a golden color, but if it has been laden in pesticides its effect on the body will be detrimental.

The Eastern Triangle Farm Tour happens once a year and is an opportunity to see the local farmers in North Carolina who are applying sustainable and organic practices. Turtle Mist Farm was the first farm we toured. Ginger and Bob Sykes are the proud owners of the farm.  After 30 years of being in the corporate world they decided to step out in faith purchasing a farm that could be used to educate those around them about what goes into producing good wholesome food. They raise heritage breeds of animals and gave a market garden that raises unique and unusual breeds. Their animals are raised without antibiotics, hormones, or steroids and the same care is taken with the vegetables by only using organically approved pesticides and natural herbicides.

Check out their website: http://www.turtlemistfarm.com/

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The chickens at the farm are pasture raised laying hens. They have Amerucana and Cuckoo Maran chickens that lay green, tan, dark brown, and pink eggs. I was surprised to read that there are chickens that can lay pink eggs! These must make Easter a more festive occasion without needing to use dye.

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The chickens do have living quarters and below is where they can go to lay eggs.

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Chicken tractors are portable and can be moved around daily to supply fresh grass. I think “Sustainable Mowing Device” might also be a fitting title. What could be better than a mowing system that doesn’t require fossil fuels?

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Mallard and Muscovy ducks are raised on the farm.

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The picture doesn’t do these hogs justice! The big one must have weighed at least 600 pounds.

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This is a Bourbon Red turkey and the photo on the right was photographed in the middle of doing the famous “gobble” noise.

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My brother was absolutely mesmerized by the bunnies. He takes care of the bunnies we have on our own micro-farm.

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Turtle Mist Farm also has Guineas, quail, and peacocks. The other non bird animals are cows, sheep, horses, goats, and a donkey.

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Turtle Mist Farm gives pony rides.

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During the event the owner of BeeClean Soap had a booth set up. Here is a link to see them. http://www.carolinabees.com/store/beeclean-soap

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Well, that concludes the tour! I’ll be posting more farm tours in the upcoming weeks.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Flowers and Butterflies at Sarah P. Duke Gardens

 

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The focus of this blog entry is on what brings a garden alive; flowers, butterflies, and bees. I wanted to let the pictures speak for themselves. Pictures are worth a thousand words they say and though a thousand seems a bit extreme, I find truth in those words. Gardening is an act of love and if you were to ask me the secret to gardening I would tell you patience (lots of it) and the rest of it is perspiration. Nature will run its course. Bugs will dine on your favorite tomatoes you were just getting ready to harvest, but you know what it is all part of the journey. I was having to remind myself of this once again yesterday as my heart sank at all the summer pests I’m dealing with. If you plan on starting a garden don’t get discouraged, but be encouraged for there is always another season to try try again! Be blessed and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Isaiah 58:11 “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Learn more about Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University on their website and plan a visit! https://gardens.duke.edu/ 

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Bumble bee diving in head first for a scrumptiously delicious meal. I don’t blame him!

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Can you spot the hummingbird?

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Two birds checking out the scenery.

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My first photo of a Hummingbird Moth!

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Note: If anyone knows of a good venue for selling photography or someone who would be interested in my work please contact me or leave a comment! I’m a young lady with a passion for writing, photography, and gardening looking for a way to get more of my work published. Thanks!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Raising Butterflies Made Easy

 

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Have you ever wondered how something so tiny can turn into something so beautiful? A butterfly starts its journey in the humblest of ways. It starts out as a tiny egg that with the naked eye would be easily missed. In that egg resides the genetic make up for what will one day be a butterfly. We all have to start somewhere, right?

Butterfly raising is a journey. It can be frustrating at times, but oh so delightful if you stick with it. Like a caterpillar, you devour books and information to care for your precious soon to be butterflies. The metamorphosis takes place as you apply your knowledge and then that knowledge allows all those once distant dreams to take flight.

Gulf Fritillary laying eggs for book

What came first the egg or the butterfly? Well, in this case it all starts with a fertilized egg from a mother butterfly. This female Gulf Fritillary is curling up her abdomen and depositing a egg on her host plant passionvine.

passionvine

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For starts with butterfly gardening you are going to need flowers and lots of them. Be diverse and imaginative. Be observant. And lastly, learn to be flexible because butterfly raising can be unpredictable.

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Next, you are going to need host plants. A host plant is what a female butterfly will lay eggs on. Each butterfly has specific plants she will lay eggs on. For example a Monarch (pictured below) will only lay eggs on Milkweed (pictured above). There are more than one kind of Milkweed that the Monarchs will lay on. The variety above is tropical milkweed that will grow happily in Florida and in the north can be grown as an annual. Milkweeds also make great nectar sources for a large number of butterflies including the skipper which is pictured above. If you are keen on going native, Common Milkweed is native to much of the eastern United States, but be fore warned that it does not transplant well.

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Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. How exactly do you raise a caterpillar into a butterfly? For starts you are going to need a “home” for your just hatched caterpillar. I’ve used everything from peanut containers to salad containers. Caterpillars need to breathe so to solve that I cut a rectangle in the lid and then glued window screening over it. Just be sure the holes are small enough so the caterpillars don’t escape.

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Caterpillars need food and lots of it! Be prepared for some mega munching machines. These Black Swallowtails will gladly dine on parsley, dill, fennel, and carrots which have given them a bad name. They have been called “The Parsley Worm.” I scrunch my nose at such a name. They are butterflies thank you very much! That “parsley worm” turns into the beautiful butterfly happily resting on my face below.

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Butterflies in their teenage stage (caterpillar) are sure to make you smile from time to time. This is the rear end of a Black Swallowtail caterpillar that has a surprising resemblance to a frowning face!

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When the caterpillar has reached its full size and guzzled up a lot of food, it will find a place to hang and make a chrysalis. This Monarch caterpillar has attached itself with silk to the lid of my rearing container. 

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The caterpillar sheds off its exoskeleton and underneath is a gem known as a chrysalis. Inside the caterpillar will turn into a butterfly. It will stay inside 10 – 14 days, but this can vary by species. Ten to fourteen days is the average length for a Monarch to emerge.

Monarch chrysalis diagram

I’ve labeled for you the cremaster which is attached to the silk piece that the caterpillar spun before making the chrysalis.

Monarch emerging 

And then one day, you notice a change. You see crystal clear the pattern of butterfly wings! The chrysalis can no longer hide the butterfly that is waiting to burst forth in a glorious display. All that remains is the rays of sun to heat up the chrysalis and give it energy to push open the chrysalis “door.”

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And there you have it. A beautiful Monarch butterfly!

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I hope you loved this how to style entry on how to raise butterflies. Check back in a couple of weeks to read more of my adventures. My life is an adventure so who knows what I will write about next.

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To support my work you can purchase a copy of my book or simply click the “like” button at the following link. In my book you will learn about the life cycles of 10 common butterfly species through pictures and facts. You will also learn more about how to raise butterflies plus several butterfly garden and conservatory tours. It is a great resource for teachers and includes activity pages that can be copied for classrooms. https://www.createspace.com/4083202 

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