Tag Archive: farming

Happy Independence Day

1840 Farm FlagI grew up celebrating Independence Day with sparklers and barbecue. We lived in Kansas and didn’t really need the guise of a holiday as an excuse to eat barbecue. Fourth of July parades and celebrations seemed to be as ubiquitous as sunshine on a summer day during those years.

There were opportunities for fun everywhere I looked. Children ran through neighboring yards while flags flapped on front porches. As darkness enveloped the neighborhood, fireflies were caught in jars and held just long enough to marvel at their luminescence before releasing them back into the humid, warm air. Those Independence Day celebrations were filled with family, food and the pride we felt in being Americans.

These days, I celebrate the Fourth of July with my family in New England. Our geography has changed along with the way I view this holiday and commemorate its meaning. Living in a farmhouse that has seen so much of our nation’s history has strengthened my connection to this day.Isis Candy Cherry Heirloom Tomatoes at 1840 Farm

In my opinion, every chicken keeper celebrates their freedom each time they collect an egg from their coop just as every gardener celebrates with each tomato they harvest fresh from the vine. Choosing to raise your own food rather than simply purchase it at the local grocery store is an epic decision. Every meal that consists of fresh food personally raised, harvested and tended is a celebration of an independent spirit and the determination to hold our food supply close at hand.

I don’t take my freedom to make this choice for granted. Instead, I celebrate the opportunity we have been given to live on our farm and learn the real value of the food that graces our dinner plates. Generations ago, Americans learned that lesson by working on their own farms. They had firsthand knowledge of the amazing effort required to raise a baby chick to the day it laid its first egg or tend a crop and bring it to harvest.

Chickens are an integral part of our nation’s long history. When our nation celebrated the first “Anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America” in 1777, it was more notable to be an American who didn’t keep chickens. Chickens were easily accessible to the colonists and critically important to their daily survival. They were equally important to our Founding Fathers and the settlers who came before them.

BerthaChickens arrived in the New World after long voyages to Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth Rock in 1620. Those chickens helped travelers endure long journeys at sea and set down roots in their new communities in the New World. In those settlements, a chicken was a prized possession and held the promise of the incredible ability to produce food for your family.

In the early 1800s, chickens were a common sight on large plantations, estates and even the yards of modest homes. They were likely to be seen strutting through the streets of the early cities and towns looking for food. In those days, chicken was rarely seen on the dinner plate of average citizens.

Chickens were instead kept for their egg-laying capabilities. An egg-laying hen could supply a family with many meals compared to the single meal a chicken dressed for service on the dinner table provided. The lacking nutritional quality of the bird’s diet was also a contributing factor. Instead of carefully formulated, complete chicken feeds, chickens were fed diets consisting almost entirely of kitchen scraps. While today’s chicks can mature to table weight in as little as 8 weeks, back in the Colonist’s day it could take as long as six months.

At that time in our nation’s history, chickens were kept by Americans of all classes and backgrounds. Slaves were often allowed to keep a few hens at their quarters to supplement their diets or to trade or sell the resulting eggs. Poor families kept hens loose in their backyards to help dispose of kitchen waste and to assist in turning manure piles. Only the wealthy could afford to house their birds in decorative coops within the confines of their manicured gardens and lawns.

Care of the family flock fell mostly to the women in the early days of our country. It was lighter work than tending to the larger livestock and a chore easily managed by a woman and her children. Even the youngest child could gather fresh eggs and bring them into the farmhouse kitchen.

George Washington kept Dominique chickens along with other heritage breeds of livestock at his estate, Mount Vernon. By all accounts, he was captivated by animal husbandry. In fact, he longed to leave both the military and the presidency to return to his beloved farm. Washington carefully selected the breeds of livestock kept on his estate and endeavored to make use of every single product and byproduct of their life cycle.Necessaries at Mount Vernon

Most notably, he aimed to incorporate their manure as rich fertilizer in the cultivation of his gardens and crops. In fact, he didn’t only collect fertilizer from his farm animals. He also constructed and located his “necessaries” within the aesthetic design of the grounds at Mount Vernon. Years ago, when I visited, I noticed these impressive, elevated structures with brick foundations and even photographed them. Only after reading Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners did I learn that they were in fact the outhouses purposely located in the ornamental gardens at Mount Vernon.

Our second president, John Adams’ relationship with chickens was slightly different. Like Washington, he saw himself as a farmer. He returned to Peacefield in Quincy, Mass., after losing a bitter election to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. While he hadn’t left political life willingly, he consoled himself with the work of his farm and lived there happily until his death in 1826.

His wife, Abigail, so loved her chickens and ducks that she tended to their daily needs herself. In fact, she remarked to Thomas Jefferson after living in France and England as a diplomat’s wife that, “I seldom meet with characters so inoffensive as my hens and chickens.” She much preferred the company of her hens to that of the dignitaries in St. James’ Court.

MonticelloA discussion of our nation’s history of farming would be incomplete without mention of Thomas Jefferson. He loved agriculture and believed that its advancement should be our primary national endeavor. His affection for gardening and farming included an affinity for chickens. While living in the President’s House, Jefferson exchanged letters with his granddaughter Ellen regarding a pair of bantams he had sent her. It was his hope that she would have the opportunity to experience the joy of chicken raising.

By the time Jefferson left the President’s House to return home to his famed gardens at Monticello, America had been celebrating its Independence Day for more than three decades. The landscape of the country was expanding, as was its agricultural knowledge. Agricultural fairs began to gain popularity and provided an opportunity for farmers to learn about new techniques, show their prized poultry and livestock, and spend time with other members of their local farming communities.

1840 Farm has stood for more than 170 Independence Day celebrations. This year, we’ll mark the occasion by spending the day together at our farm. The flag will wave from its perch on the front porch as our day begins in the quiet of the barn and garden. There will be homemade food to enjoy for family dinner as dusk approaches.

We’ll attend our town’s fireworks display and then return home to put the farm to bed for the evening. In the end, it will be a celebration filled with family, food and the immense pride we feel in being independent American farmers. Somehow, I think it’s exactly what the Founding Fathers would have wanted.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2015/07/independenceday/

Traditions Old and New

Jennifer Burcke at 1840 Farm on The Daily Meal

A few months ago, I was asked by The Daily Meal to share the story of my oldest family recipe.  They went on to ask if I had created a dish that could become a new family tradition.  I couldn’t wait to answer both questions with a single answer:  berry pie.

A homemade berry pie has the power to transport me to my paternal grandmother’s humble kitchen.  My grandmother was a wonderful cook and baker, but pie was her specialty.  Her schwatzenberry pie was my favorite.  It would not be overstating its power to say that those berry pies forever changed my life.

My grandmother’s homemade berry pie taught me that food had the ability to feed my soul. I now know that it also holds the incredible power of transcending time and space, bringing back memories of a grandmother long gone, but known by my children who never had the opportunity to meet her in person.

Instead, they met her memory with the first bite of berry pie savored while listening to me share my fondest memories about her. Every summer, we carefully pick the schwatzenberries from our garden and look forward to the day when we have gathered enough to make the season’s first pie.

Now my love of berry pie has been shared with the world thanks to The Daily Meal.  I’m honored to be mentioned in the same story with the likes of Michael Chiarello, Carla Hall, Marc Murphy, and a collection of other chefs and bloggers who also shared their favorite dishes.

You can see the entire collection in the Kikkoman Tradition Exchange Slideshow.  The collection was assembled and used to introduce The Daily Meal‘s readers to an amazing new documentary, Make Haste Slowly: The Kikkoman Creed.

The documentary from Academy Award nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker tells the inspiring story of the Kikkoman brand.  The mini-documentary traces the evolution of a brand that was started over 300 years ago.  The film also focuses on the bold decision by The Kikkoman Company to begin producing their products in the United States in the 1970s, partnering with Midwestern farmers and local communities.

The film is beautiful and treats the subject with the respect it deserves.  I was particularly taken with the profile of Art Anderson, a retired farmer featured prominently in the film’s narrative.  I challenge you to listen to his personal story without being moved by his dedication and pride.  I was taken with his story and by the fact that he was a dairy farmer before he began his employment at Kikkoman.

Today, I am renewing the traditions of my family’s past and find myself milking our dairy goats in the quiet of our circa 1840 barn.  Apparently, I have more than one family tradition that will be continuing for several years to come.  Luckily, those traditions will ensure that we have homemade berry pie to enjoy with a fresh glass of milk at our family table.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2013/01/traditions-old-and-new/

Happy First Birthday, Zinnia!

A year ago today, we celebrated a milestone here at 1840 Farm.  We woke up to find three newborn Nigerian Dwarf baby goats in the stall of our barn.  When we first saw them, they were minutes old.  In those first few moments of their life here on our farm, we officially became dairy farmers.  It was a moment that connected me to my Great Grandfather and the dairy farming life he chose over 50 years ago.

A year has passed.  We have collected over 300 pounds of fresh, raw goat’s milk and enjoyed drinking every last drop.  The two bucklings have made their permanent home in Vermont with a wonderful family.  The doeling captured our hearts.  By the time Christmas arrived, our two children made little Zinnia the top request on their wish lists.

Zinnia is a year old today.  She has an incredibly sweet disposition and would spend the afternoon sitting in your lap if invited.  She’s a momma’s girl and spends her days following VIolet and emulating her every move.

In a few years, I hope that Zinnia will have her own babies here on our farm.  I look forward to the morning that we discover her in the quiet of the barn with her newborn kids.  It will be another milestone for my family and I can’t wait to share the whole experience with all of you.

Happy Birthday, Zinnia!  To share the celebration with you, we’re offering a 15% discount on all purchases from The 1840 Farm Mercantile Shop on Etsy this week!  Simply enter coupon code “celebrate” during the checkout process to save 15% on your purchase.

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/10/happy-first-birthday-zinnia/

Farmmade.com Q&A

1840 Farm was selected to be Farmmade.com’s Featured Farmer this week.  As part of the process, I completed a Q&A.  Yesterday, the answers were shared with the Farmmade Community on Facebook.  In case you missed it…

Farmmade.com’s Featured Farmer this week is Jennifer Burcke of 1840 Farm! Jennifer and her family produce as much of their own food as possible on their 3.2 acres suburban farm in Dover, New Hampshire. Thank you Jennifer for taking time out to share your farm story with the FarmMade community of farmers and friends!

FARMMADE: WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND 1840 FARM?1840 Farm Independence Day
JENNIFER: The original farmhouse and barn were built in the 1840s. At one time, the farm encompassed over 100 acres of farmland. Over the years, it was subdivided little by little. By the time that we purchased the farm in 2005, the farmhouse and barn were situated on just over three acres. Over a decade ago, three generations of my family made the life changing decision to move from our home in Kansas to the Seacoast of New Hampshire. A few years later, we purchased what was then an abandoned farm and began the difficult work of bringing it back to life. It’s no coincidence that it is located a mere 100 miles from the dairy farm that my great grandparents proudly called home.

I spend my days living and writing about my passion to embrace the traditions of my past. I wasn’t raised to be a farmer and I would have never imagined that I would feel the gravitational pull to live a country cottage farming lifestyle. Yet here I am, living on a farm with my parents, husband, and two children. Today, it is hard for me to imagine living any other way.

JENNIFER: I was inspired to become a farmer by my family past and present. The memory of my grandparents and great grandparents inspired me to dare to attempt to become a farmer. The daily encouragement and support of my husband, children, and parents motivates me to continue to improve my skills and develop my craft. My goal is to raise food for our table while raising two children who will always hold their food supply firmly within their grasp.

JENNIFER: We keep a flock of 17 heritage breed hens, three Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, and a French Angora rabbit on our farm. We also tend a large heirloom vegetable garden as well as blueberry and raspberry fields. Last winter, we made our own maple syrup for the first time, collecting 123 pounds of Maple sap before boiling it down into syrup. During the last year, we have collected over 72 dozen eggs and harvested 300 pounds of fruits and vegetables from our gardens. Following the birth of our first goat kids last October, we officially became dairy farmers and have since collected over 40 gallons of raw goat’s milk.

JENNIFER: I love living and working on our farm with three generations of my family. The work of producing our own food and tending our farm feeds my soul and produces delicious food to be shared while gathered around our family table. The fresh, homegrown food on our dinner plates is the most meaningful reward I can think of for a job well done.

How about biting into a piece of warm 1840 Farm’s Berry Pie or freshly baked Blueberry Gooey Butter Cake? Jennifer shared two delicious seasonal berry dessert recipes in last Friday’s FarmMade newsletter. Check out yesterday’s post for those recipes and enjoy making one (or both!) of these summer time treats in your kitchen for dessert after dinner tonight!

Meet the farm animals of 1840 Farm and see what’s growing in the garden. JOIN US TOMORROW FOR A TOUR OF 1840 FARM!

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/08/farmmade-com-qa/

New Community Chickens Post: A Playground for Chickens

Read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

A Playground for Chickens (click to continue

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/08/new-community-chickens-post-a-playground-for-chickens/

Product Review: Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder

Read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

Product Review:  Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder (click to continue)

Click to continue

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/07/product-review-brinsea-ecoglow-brooder/

New Community Chickens Post: How to Prepare for Successful Chick Brooding – Part One

Read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

How to Prepare for Successful Chick Brooding – Part One (click to continue)

Click to continue

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/06/new-community-chickens-post-how-to-prepare-for-successful-chick-brooding-part-one/

New Community Chickens Post: How to Keep Your Flock Cool This Summer

Read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

How to Keep Your Flock Cool This Summer (click to continue)

Click to continue

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/06/new-community-chickens-post-how-to-keep-your-flock-cool-this-summer/

New Community Chickens Post: Necessity and Invention

Read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

Two Essential Chicken Keeping Tools:  Necessity and Invention

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/06/new-community-chickens-post-necessity-and-invention/

New Community Chickens Post: A Year In the Life at 1840 Farm – Month One

Read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

A Year In the Life at 1840 Farm – Month One

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/06/new-community-chickens-post-a-year-in-the-life-at-1840-farm-month-one/

New Community Chickens Post: Coop Planning

Click to read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

Coop Planning:  Five Features to Incorporate in to Your Coop

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/05/new-community-chickens-post-coop-planning/

New Community Chickens Post: The Best Breed of Chicken for Your Flock

Read my latest post on the Community Chickens  forum from the publishers of Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine:

The Best Breed of Chicken for Your Flock

(click to view the entire post)

Permanent link to this article: http://1840farm.com/2012/05/new-community-chickens-post-the-best-breed-of-chicken-for-your-flock/

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