Laying Hens and Herbal Teas

I am working at a farm this summer and fall! This is something I’ve been wanting to do for going on 10 years now, ever since I travelled down the west coast on a bike tour meeting farmers and other people who care about agriculture. Yep, so finally it’s happening. I just finished my first week of work up here and so far so good. I’m on a small-ish size family farm in Turtle Valley, B.C. There’s two generations who live here, lots of different animals, an acre market garden and tons to do! It’s been hot ever since I got up here, hovering over 30 Centigrade (that’s 86F). I’m on the edge of the B.C. Desert up here, a much different climate than on the coast which is more of a northern rainforest.

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As you can see this mountain is actually a large sleeping lizard-like creature.

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Some newly laid row covers and irrigation. Under the covers are radish and carrot seeds.

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Jen my co-ordinator and Natalie the other apprentice at the farm.

I’m enjoying how many different jobs there are to do up here. I did a ton of seeding this week (more than 1600 seeds went into cells in the start house the other day), as well as helping the sheep get vaccinated and ready to go out onto pasture (catching sheep was fun. I like the sheep in general). My animal chore is to take care of the laying hens. There’s about 138 of them which includes a few roosters. First thing in the morning I go down and let them out of their wagons. There’s two large chicken tractors that they live in. These tractors get moved about every day. They’re in one of the pastures and are part of the fertility cycle of the fields. Then I feed them and give them water, try and keep an eye on them to see if anyone’s acting strange or has a gash from the roosters and collect the eggs. They’re producing about 90-100 eggs per day at this point. Most of them are in their first year so have good egg production. There are some older hens who have slowed down a bit and who’s eggs are usually a bit smaller. Most of the eggs are really big though and several each day are double yolkers. I also wash the eggs, put them into cartons, stock the egg fridge and write down how many eggs were produced that day. We wash the eggs because they may have bedding or animal matter on them still (read: poo). The eggs are a little shinier before they are washed and afterwards they have that classic matte “eggshell” look that we’re all used to. Jen, my co-ordinator, told me that if they were just keeping the eggs for house consumption they wouldn’t wash them off like this because when you wash the eggs you’re also washing away a natural protective layer on them that helps them to keep for a longer time. When you wash this off, it reveals a more porous layer of the eggs. Interesting, right? We have to wash them off though because of the health board and… well I guess people like clean eggs?

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My favourite rooster. So handsome!

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Later in the afternoon around 4 I go to check on the chickens again and collect any last eggs that may be there. There’s usually about 10-12 at that point, most of the laying happens first thing in the morning. I give them more water usually because it’s so hot (they are usually hanging out in the shadows cast by the wagons or any trees at this point). Then finally at twilight I go and close them up into the wagons for the night. If I go out late enough they are already all inside so this part is quite easy. It just requires timing.

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Sheepies! In the back you can see the chicken tractors.

Herbal tea has started to be very appealing to me living out here as it’s one of the tastiest drinks readily available. Also the other apprentice here, Natalie, is quite knowledgable about the different plants you can use to make herbal tea and so I’ve been learning new things. I’ve been really enjoying anise hyssop tea. It is delicious and the flowers are beautiful and purple! They’ve been dried from last season. As you can imagine it tastes a bit liquorishy which is a flavour I very much enjoy. The other new tea that I’m sipping as I write this is danelion tea. It’s more earthy tasting than I would expect from a flower tea. There are just heaps of dandelions in bloom here right now. How you make the tea: You just pinch off the flowers of dandelions, enough to mostly fill the pot you’re using. Pour boiling water over. I’ve heard that steeping herbal tea for 15 minutes is the way to get the medicinal properties from the herb and not just the flavour. I’m not sure if this is true but why not. Also I don’t know the medicinal properties of these teas and I don’t have super easy internet access up here so you tell me!

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Dried anise hyssop from last year. So good!

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This will soon contain fresh dandelion tea.

Some pictures of baby animals to look at while you’re drinking your tea:

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First day ever for these guys on the grass. Oooohhhhhhhh……

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About Big Sis Little Dish

This is a blog run by two sisters. Erin is the big sister who lives in New York, and Silvi is the little sister who lives in Vancouver. They both love to cook! They created this blog to share and store recipes for the food they make.

8 comments

  1. Beautiful pictures Silvi!!!!! It looks so very blue and green there! Oh the baby animals! Oh the pigs! So cute. The tea looks just magical. Yay!

    xo
    Erin

  2. Muriel Williams

    What a wonderful and refreshing post. The photographs are brilliant. I have rescue hens at home. Keep writing as it is wonderful to see a farm in another country. X

  3. Now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have weeded all the dandelions out of the paving stones this afternoon… :D

  4. Glenda

    Lovely! Have fun getting your hands dirty!!

  5. Super, insanely cute, SIlvi! Sounds like you are having a great time. So proud of you. Farmers who work like you guys are, are American heroes! Food Warriors!

  6. Baby Sheep! Sooooo cute! Looks beautiful! Cheers to a wonderful summer!

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