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Every now and again we're amazed by one of our animals. This time it was one of the Bourbon Red Turkey hens. She appeared with two chicks beneath her last week. These aren't turkey chicks, they're chicken's chicks. Apparently she found a nest of chicken eggs in the back of the hayloft and she's been sitting on them. A very distinct peeping sound was coming from underneath her. Among the broken eggs were two newly hatched chicks and a few who didn't survive. This is unusual for two reasons: 1. We don't keep roosters. 2. We were wrong about reason number 1.

new chicks
new chicks

During the summer months our chickens follow the cattle and sheep through the pasture. They eat plants, seeds and insects. Among this group of hens was a Barred Rock rooster who we separated and moved into the timber. Later in the summer we were given a Buff Orpington rooster who was also moved into the timber. Late in the fall we brought the Buff Orpington rooster to the barn but he's been kept separate from the hens. We couldn't find the Barred Rock rooster, figuring that he'd become prey to an owl, eagle, or coyote, we dismissed his absence. When we were cutting wood a couple weeks ago we spotted him scratching up grain along the side of the road. He'd survived predators, freezing temperatures and a blizzard. One of our neighbors spotted him and tried to catch him. It was impossible and she declared him, 'Too independent for capture". A few days later Keith discovered him in the barnyard, strutting and crowing. When our son was on his daily run the rooster followed him but then turned into the timber. A few days later he was back in the barnyard again. This back and forth must have been ongoing. He's been making regular visits, or at least regular enough to court our hens. The turkey, acting as a surrogate, seemed very surprised herself.

There's something about getting up at 5 a.m., feeding the stock and chickens, and milking a couple of cows before breakfast that gives you a lifelong respect for the price of butter and eggs. - Bill Vaughan

 There's one major problem with a turkey hatching chicken's eggs; she's too big for the chicks. They need to be able to free themselves from their shell and be kept warm without suffocating. A turkey hen is too heavy. She's designed to hatch her own eggs which are larger. Her poults are heavier. Also, the hayloft isn't the best environment for new chicks. They need food, water, and safety from falling out of the loft. The turkey is mad that we stole "her" chicks (but they're safe now). The turkey bonded with these chicks even before they hatched. While still in the egg the chick peeps through the shell and talks with the hen. When they hatch the chick recognizes the hen as it's mother. These conversations go on for about three days before hatching. If you ever have the opportunity to hatch chicks you'll be overjoyed to hear the soft chirps and peeps coming from the egg. It's a beautiful sound.

The pheasants, ducks, and geese all knew.  Even the domesticated farm birds knew a large storm was heading into Iowa. Many hunters and farmers, however, were caught off guard. It was an unseasonably warm day for November. A few ducks floated on the Mississippi River but as the morning progressed more and more waterfowl landed. At first by the hundreds, then thousands, and by late morning, tens of thousands of ducks had arrived. Inland the farm fields were full of wild geese. They gathered and called to other chevrons circling above.  Armistice Day, November 11, 1940, Don was thirteen. He and his younger brother were excited to have the day off from school. They spent the morning doing chores in their shirtsleeves, it was above fifty degrees outside. They could hear geese calling in the fields. The trees along the timber had pheasants roosting in them.

Around noon a friend stopped by, he'd heard the river was full of ducks and wanted the brothers to go hunting with him. The mass landing of waterfowl had hunters and farmers grabbing their guns and rushing out. Don's mother 'had a bad feeling'. Her boys had to stay home. She instructed them to get the chickens inside their coop. Instead they began playing ball. A short while later their mother came out and pointed to the trees in the chicken yard which were filled with their laying flock. The flock's behavior was alarming.

The boys started climbing after the chickens. As they climbed the birds moved higher into the top branches. The 300 laying hens were handed down, one at a time, to their two sisters and mother who waited below. By the time the hens were locked into the coop gale force winds were rushing out of the timber bringing cold rain. Soon it turned into ice. By mid afternoon heavy snow was falling, visibility was near zero.

Throughout Iowa snow drifts twenty feet high buried thousands of cattle and killed countless poultry including over a million Thanksgiving turkeys. Unprepared for the temperature plunge, hunters sought shelter on the islands along the river. The waves were too dangerous and too strong for them to get safely back to shore. By the next morning more than one hundred-fifty duck hunters had frozen to death or drowned. Hundreds more lost digits or limbs to frostbite.

The storm's aftermath forever changed farming in western Iowa. Before November 11, 1940, Iowa was a leading apple producing state, second only to Michigan.  Winterset, Iowa was the birthplace of the Delicious apple. The original apple tree that produced the 'delicious' apple, originally called the 'Hawkeye' apple, propagated more than ten thousand saplings which were sent around the world for orchard production. The Armistice day storm devastated orchards in western Iowa when tremendous ice and winds brought down limbs and knocked over trees. The declining economy and threat of war made it difficult for farmers to borrow money to replace the trees. Apple trees were expensive and production would take years to return an income. Instead their ground was turned into row crop production. Corn replaced apples and fruit. By the spring of 1941 only 15% of the orchard trees in western Iowa remained.

The original 'Hawkeye' apple tree was split in two during the storm. The following spring a new sprout grew in the middle of the split. The sprout was propagated and remains in Madison County, Iowa today surrounded by a fence and a commemorative plaque.


Last weekend our pastor and I took a group of confirmation and high school kids to Minneapolis to attend the ordination of three new pastors at our mission church, Ebenezer Oromo Evangelical Church. Since it's an Ethiopian congregation, the service was in both Oromo and English. Everything about it was different from our quiet congregation in St. Olaf. There was singing, swaying, dancing, praise, whooping, and celebrating. There was also a wonderful spread of Ethiopian food including lamb, chicken, beef, greens, and rice. It was a wonderful day.
Some of the kids had never been in the city before so we took a walk. In the park there were people playing football and Frisbee, riding bikes, walking dogs and picnicking. In one backyard the men had a TV on their picnic table with an extension cord running through the window. They were grilling and watching the Vikings play. On our walk one of the boys commented on the pollution. He was referring to some trash along the curb; a bunch of papers, a few wrappers, and a couple of bottles. They probably fell out of a garbage when the trash was collected. I started to explain that this was very easily remedied. We picked it up. I went on to tell them there's far more insidious pollution where we live. I explained how runoff from farm fields affects the water supply. Bees are dying from unknown causes but the finger is pointing towards pesticide treatment of seeds. Nitrogen toxicity and contaminated manure full of antibiotics and hormones is spread over fields. Cleaning up this pollution isn't as easy as bending over and picking it up. Cleaning up the rural community involves reeducation and a commitment to land stewardship. It includes changing how animals are raised, what they're fed and what we, as consumers, find acceptable in our food supply. There won't be any volunteer organizations walking the roadsides with trash bags cleaning up the pollution coming from some farms. That will take a much greater effort.
Warmest wishes and food for thought,



At an Irish wedding the priest said, " Would all the married men please go and stand next to  the one person who has made life worth living?"
The poor bartender was nearly crushed to death.


Join Andy Fritz...Eat the Sun!
The following video, How Andy Fritz Ate the Sun is one of my favorites. I remember seeing it on Sesame Street when our boys were little. If you want to 'Eat the sun' follow Andy Fritz's diet idea. Cows, pigs, poultry, and sheep who eats the sun are the healthiest!
It's not just what you eat that matters but what the food you're eating ate, as well. This doesn't just include meat by the way. Plants feed through their root system. Applications of herbicides, pesticides and feedlot manure is taken up by plants, some of which are your veggies.  High grain prices have cattle producers turning to cheap alternatives.  Gummy worms one more example....
*Thank you to both Hannah and Traci for sending those links.*
Follow the Money Trail who opposes Proposition 37
Not very surprising the opposition to Proposition 37, on the November ballot in California, reads like a who's who of big ag. The list of donors with names in the organic and natural food market include:
Kellogg's (Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms)
General Mills (Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar)
Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave)
Smucker's (R.W. Knudsen, Danta Cruz Organic)
Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla)
Kraft (Boca Burgers, Back to Nature)
PepsiCo (Naked Juice, Tropicana Organic, Tostito's Organic)
Proposition 37 is the 'Right to know' labeling issue to identify products made with genetically engineered ingredients. The labels won't be exclusive to products sold in  California they'll be nationally distributed.
10 week old Bourbon Red Turkey
Turkey Facts
The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed 86 pounds, about the size of the average third grader.
Turkeys originated in North and Central America, evidence indicates that they've been around for more than 10 million years.
Mature turkeys have more than 3,500 feathers
The flap of skin that hangs over the turkey's beak is called a snood.Forest Hill Farm raises Bourbon Red heritage bred turkeys that are fed non-GMO grains,and free range over our 85 acre farm. 
Thank You!


chickens grazing
chickens on pasture

Hats off to Both Maryland and Georgia

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a bill banning arsenic in poultry feed, making the state the first to have such legislation. The law specifically mentions two Pfizer drugs that contain arsenic: Roxarsone (which the company voluntarily withdrew from the market last year) and Histostat (which is currently on the market). The new law prohibits the use, sale or distribution of commercial feed containing arsenic, the law takes effect January 1, 2013.  Read more
In June Georgians celebrated pastured poultry week. Georgians for Pastured Poultry (GPP) spread the word about the important virtues of pastured poultry. Restaurants in Athens and Atlanta helped spread the word by promoting pastured poultry on their menus. Georgian Chef, Shaun Doty demonstrates how to cook a pasture raised chicken

Antibiotics in animal feed is in the news again this week...

Chickens routinely fed antibiotics to fight E. Coli bacteria are creating a superbug that's resistant to antibiotics to treat bladder infections. Amee Magnus, epidemiologist at McGill University found that E. Coli responsible for bladder infections closely matches the bacteria found in retail chicken - and those bacteria have a high level of resistance. She went on to say, "They (the chickens) are getting drugs from the time that they were in the egg all the way up to the time that they are slaughtered." Forest Hill Farm chickens are fed non-GMO grains and never given antibiotics. Hormones are illegal to feed. You won't find them in any poultry or swine feed. Both beef cattle and dairy cattle are routinely injected with FDA approved hormones to increase milk production (in dairy cows), and to promote growth in beef cattle. Our livestock is all antibiotic and hormone free!

Forest Hill Farm pasture raised chicken

Yesterday I cleaned up the garden, I had helpers. The fence that protects the garden from the chickens and sheep had only been down for a few hours when the word got out. The hens took over the garden. They came to follow the rototiller, forming a conga line, dancing, and scratching.    The remnants of the summer’s harvest are gone.  Lime has been spread. The blueberries have pine needle mulch to add acidity to the soil. I miss fresh tomatoes already. I miss peppers, green beans, and zucchini. What happened to summer?  Hopefully the first seed catalog will get here soon. It’s never too early to plan for spring.  Next year I have intentions to put in rain barrels, a small pond, and arbor. What was the road to Hell paved with?

Garden cleanup


©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

The FDA announced that a drug fed to chickens will no longer be sold in the U.S.  Pfizer subsidiary Alpharma will discontinue sales of 3-Nitro.  Chickens are fed this drug to increase their appetites.  The FDA found that chickens fed arsenic had traces of the drug in their meat, primarily their liver. Pfizer will stop selling the drug in 30 days, after animal producers have had time to find new medications.  3-Nitro, a.k.a. roxarsone is the most common arsenic based animal drug, but similar drugs have been approved for poultry and pig feed.

The poultry and pigs at Forest Hill Farm eat non-GMO grains and grasses.

The FDA announced that a drug fed to chickens will no longer be sold in the U.S.  Pfizer subsidiary, Alpharma will discontinue sales of 3-Nitro.  Chickens are fed this drug to increase their appetites.  The FDA found that chickens fed arsenic had traces of the drug in their meat, primarily their liver. Pfizer will stop selling the drug in 30 days, after animal producers have had time to find new medications.  3-Nitro, a.k.a. roxarsone is the most common arsenic based animal drug, but similar drugs have been approved for poultry and pig feed.

Forest Hill Farm pasture raised chicken

Forest Hill Farm pasture raised chicken

A nation wide study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN), drug resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus are present in meat and poultry from United States grocery stores at unexpectedly high rates. Nearly half of the meat and poultry samples (47 percent) were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, more than half of those bacteria (52 percent) were resistant to three classes of antibiotics. This is the first national assessment of antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus in U.S. Food supply.  Researchers collected and analyzed 136 samples (80 brands) of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey from 26 grocery stores in five cities: LosAngeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff, and Washington, D.C.Click here for more info

And now a possible solution....

Animal Feed Lawsuit
source:  Iowa Farm Today, June 4, 2011

A New York lawsuit seeks to force the government to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal feed.  The basis of the suit is evidence that antibiotics in animal feed diminished the effectiveness of the drugs to treat people.  The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan Federal Court on May 25, 2011.

The suit accuses the Federal Food and Drug Administration of failing to protect human health.  The FDA, in a 1977 study, concluded that feeding animals low doses of certain antibiotics was potentially harmful to people’s health.