While acres and acres of farmable land lie fallow..

Many of you know we moved to Pennsylvania for Tripp’s job. We chose Bucks County because it is in the middle of the two offices at which he will be working over the course of the next few years. As anyone who as been here will tell you, Bucks County, PA is beautiful. Rolling hills, 150+ year old farmhouses on literally every road, and I don’t know how many miles of the Delaware river. However, due to its proximity to Philadelphia (45 mins) and New York City (less than 2 hours) it is expensive! We were lucky to find a home to rent because even just a few acres in the area will cost you over a million dollars. That’s right. Even though the place is plum covered up with historic and not-so-historic farms, estates, and homes on any number of acres, if you don’t want to live in a cookie-cutter subdivision, you’re gonna have to spend some serious dough. (Don’t misunderstand me, typical suburban homes are expensive too).

New Hope, PA
photo credit: tripadvisor.com

I say all this in an attempt to illustrate how completely and totally out of place I feel here (as a wanna-be farmer). I love the quaint villages sprinkled across the countryside, and the Pennsylvania Dutch barns are certainly lovely, but to see all this land just sitting here… “Lawns should be turned into food production places…all that land going to waste…around rural residential estates just to provide a place for people to drive lawn more tractors around.” (Joel Salatin, You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise) I was very used to seeing lawn maintenance trucks and “lawn mower men” in my old neighborhood in Athens, but I saw one today, on a quiet country road, miles and miles from town. Why did they move out the country if they’re not even going to mow their own lawn??! Then it dawned on me – Bucks County may be rural, but it is by no means country. I keep thinking I’m going to see chicken houses in every backyard, but I’ve only found a handful so far. The vast majority of folks in this area are not living here to live off the land; they’re living on the land.

One of the amazing things about the book I reviewed yesterday, The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, was how Essex Farm got started. Mark and Kristin had a dream to create a full-diet CSA and for 9 months they searched for farmable land. A friend of a friend heard they were looking and offered them 500 acres in Essex, NY. The owner had been holding on to the land for years, hoping to use it recreationally, but his busy job as an attorney in NYC made it impossible for him to spend any time there. So, he called them up and said they could farm it, however they wanted to, for free. Yes, for free. A few years later they were able to purchase 80 acres and now reside there permanently. What a great deal, right? Joel Salatin mentions a similar scenario in his book as well; a former intern of his at Polyface did exactly the same thing. There are programs out there to link wanna-be farmers with landowners or farmers that want to retire but have no children or whose children do not want to become farmers. Check with your county extension agent, too, s/he is sure to have an idea of who is looking to sell/lease/lend their land.

While I am pretty sure Bucks County, PA is out of reach for my family’s long-term farm dreams, I am still hopeful that we will find what we’re looking for someday – we just have to know where to look, and let people know we’re looking!

Homesteading in the 21st Century

I have been struggling for months to establish my farm philosophy. One thing I often consider is how to incorporate technology into my life, without allowing it to take away from the non-technical aspects. Whether to purchase paper books, or e-books is an issue that I think about a lot. And this blog, for example. I want to share my farmsteading experiences with people all over the country (and the world!), and in this era, blogging is the best way to do it. I can write about what we’re doing, share pictures, resources, whatever! And I get to hear the feedback from my readers,

I have watched this video quite a few times over the past year, and twice again last week. I’ve been roasting whole chickens for a few years now, but I’ve never been able to get more than one meal out of each bird, so I thought parting the bird might help me extend the investment. So I was inspired to give it a shot! I got my whole chicken from Athens Locally Grown and after it was completely thawed, I was ready.

21st Century Chicken

I had to pause and rewind the video a few times, and I regret that my knife was not truly sharp enough, but I got it done without any real problems. We’ll be eating the chicken breasts & tenders with spinach and noodles tomorrow night and I put the rest in the freezer.

The result!

The most important thing I learned from the video, other than how to part the chicken, of course, is WHY and when to do it, when selling chickens off the farm. Birds that weigh less than 5lbs after being butchered, should be sold as whole birds. Carcasses over 5lbs can be parted because you’re likely to get at least one pound of chicken breast from each one.