Thursday, December 15, 2011

winter meat birds and radio blitz

Tomorrow morning I will be getting a call from the Cambridge Post Office letting me know that 30 Freedom Ranger chicks will be waiting for me inside the warm walls of their Head Quarters. This is a new enterprise, winter meat birds, and I'm trying it as an experiment with my friend and coworker Steve. Steve and his girl Molly approached me with the idea of them buying the birds, and I raise them. The deal being I get to keep half, so they get 15 naturally raised birds in winter with having to do anything but punch in a credit card over the internet, and so do I. The chicks will start indoors and move to a haybale, lamp-lit, corner of the barn for when they are older. We'll see how it goes, this is after all, an experiment.

So the post office will call here around 6AM, and soon as I return and have all of the birds happy and content in their brooder, taking the first steps in their lives as Cold Antler Poultry: my radio tour starts.

What the heck is a radio tour, Jenna? Well, you might ask! I am new to this, but I am fairly certain I sit by the phone all day and every ten minutes from 7:27Am till 4PM radio stations from all over the US call for live interviews with a crazy 29-year-old day-job slingin' farm girl and to talk about Barnheart. I'm excited, and a little daunted. These are all live broadcasts, from Minneapolis(KTOE) to Nashville(WRLT) to Denver (KFKA-AM) to Los Angeles (KKZZ). Talk about a day of promotion.... I think I'll need a glass of water and a shot of whiskey by dinner time. Whew...

Outside meat birds and the book tour, there is a lot happening here at the farm. My evening and morning chore times are the longest in this farm's history. I would gather 3 hours a week day are now dedicated to time outdoors just keeping the basics running, and 6-8 hours a weekend day. With the horse, pigs, and wood stove alone morning chore time is doubled, and without hoses or extra hands, just moving buckets and hay can be a workout that makes Jillian Michaels look like.... well okay, it's nothing compared to her workouts, but it still gets my heart racing.

While the winter-farm work is tough, don't read my words as complaints, they couldn't be farther from them. YEs, the work is all-consuming, and some weeknights I am so exhausted I get home, eat, and crash soon as everything with paws, claws, and hooves is satiated. But nights like tonight, before a radio tour and with a promise of a morning fire in the wood stove (not lit when I am leaving for the office for ten hours) fills me with that same ol' feeling of joy I started feeling back in IDaho when homesteading went from bookshelves and directly into my veins. Yes, the work is everything now, but it is wonderful, and it is bringing me a freedom and sense of worth so thick, authentic, and real I sometimes think if I fell to the ground my own energy would make me a magnet, hovering 6-inches over the muddy ground.

So no pity for this girl when she talks about buckets and chores. I am alive, in love, and singing out.

My focus on losing weight is holding steady, not losing much more, but not gaining any either. I am down ten pounds with 25 to go. I am not making stellar progress, but I consider starting a wellness program a week before Thanksgiving and losing ten pounds by Christmas success. I am drinking green juice, lean meats, and cutting out (but not avoiding totally) carbs. I dropped a jean size. I feel lighter, happier, stronger. It is good.

The webinars seem to slowly be gaining some footing, sold a few passes and am inspired to do even more. The next one will be shorter, and just about rabbit harvesting and storing (not raising rabbits, that will be in the spring), but I think it is going to be good to know. Someone suggested a DVD CSA, which I think is great. If you want to sign up for the whole year of web tutorials, email me at and you can get a DVD or Data Disc with all the webinars saved for your viewing pleasure whenever you want. You'll get the DVD after this season, but be able to watch them online as they are filmed. (The Dulcimer tape will be finished this weekend and emailed to subscribers!)

Hoo! That is plenty for tonight. I'll check in tomorrow with chick pics, radio stories, updates, news, and more. Right now I am going to head outside and feed the crew before I return to my stack of mail (so many cards, thank you!) and some down time.

photo from


Blogger Jamie said...

Sounds like you are plenty busy! Good luck with the radio tour exciting! Will you be on any Philadelphia/Delaware stations?

December 15, 2011 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Morning Edition, NPR I think that is national? but that is taped, so i don't know when it will air.

December 15, 2011 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Louis said...

I encourage your experiment, and I am curious to see what the results will be. But if they are being raised indoors, how is that natural? What would be the advantage of Freedom Rangers over the Cornish Cross? Not saying you shouldn't try it, just wondering what the goal is... I'm sure you'll keep us posted.

December 15, 2011 at 9:28 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

the birds won't be in cages or cramped into a space they can't stretch, scratch, and socialize in. They will be indoors, sure, it's winter. but indoors on straw and in a warm barn, with free-ranging anywhere they want inside and outside a door.

They bought these birds, it was their choice what they bought. I am raising. I never raised them before so I am excited to raise/eat them.

December 15, 2011 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger pjo2179 said...

Just wondering, but who's butchering? In WNY everybody shuts down by November and they usually don't start up again until May/June. My friend raises these and absolutely loves them. Good luck!

December 15, 2011 at 11:36 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I did Freedom Rangers this summer. They take a little longer to be slaughter ready but they don't have the health issues of the Cornish Xs.
This time of year, a lot of their food intake will go to helping them stay warm as well as grow. Be careful with the hay and brooder lamp as many a barn has burned because of them. If you could, a hoop house would be ideal for them.

December 16, 2011 at 5:45 AM  
Blogger daisy g said...

Have fun with your radio tour! You're really in the big time now, huh? ;0)

December 16, 2011 at 6:03 AM  
Blogger Dancing shepherdess said...

You need to address the water lugging situation. Eventually your shoulders will give out. Been there, done that.

December 16, 2011 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

We've had good success raising broilers in cold weather (in fact, that's when we often prefer to do it, so we're not butchering in 90+ degrees). They're really quite hardy once they're past the brooder stage, and that's pretty quick. Just one point - prepare yourself mentally for how much you'll be cleaning up after them, and how much feed they'll burn through if there's no forage. In our experience, broilers eat and poop a tremendous amount and well, I've seen the size of your barn - 30 of them will crap it up in a huge hurry. If you do intend to let them outside some of the time, that will help, but if you're used to raising them strictly outdoors, the mess might shock you. Just out of curiosity, will your friends help you with feed costs? Other than more cleaning for you, though, I would think they'd do fine. And you won't have to worry about flies at butchering time!

I'm going to look online to see if I can catch your radio broadcast here - congrats!

December 16, 2011 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

The last batch of broilers (CX) I raised were later than normal for us, and they were ready to be processed around late Oct if I remember correctly. I'm in MD and noticed a significant increase in the length of time and feed it took to get them to size, and we actually ended up processing them when they were smaller than normal because they were eating so much. They were in the barn for the last few weeks because it was so chilly, and it was a mess. Good luck!

December 16, 2011 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Patterson said...

I was wondering if you are planning to do deep bedding with your chicks. My understanding is this is a way of helping to keep them warm as well as to generate quality compost. The warmer they are the more food goes to growth.

December 16, 2011 at 6:46 PM  

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