I recently asked a customer if he would be interested in writing a guest blog about why their family choose to buy chicken from us and how they go about preparation. I first met this gentleman a couple of years back to turn over some table birds. It was the very first time someone had purchased chicken before speeding away on his motorbike.
I’m always pleasantly surprised at how informed today’s consumers are and very thankful for people like D.S. who go out of their way to help out the small farmer. I’m speaking of the local small grower community, not necessarily just us.
Here is his blog:
"I've been purchasing Grade Eh Farms poultry for almost two years now. My wife and I like the fact that we can support a local farm, not only keeping our spending in the community, but hopefully helping to encourage and promote food security through breed diversity. We've all heard of examples over the years of crop/line failures due to mono-culture practices in larger farming systems. While understandable from a purely economic point of view, it makes little sense when such inbred crops/animal lines are much more susceptible to pressures from disease due to a lack of biodiversity. Family farms like that of the Nelson's help us retain biodiversity in our food systems creating greater food security. Good stuff!
If you are considering supporting this type of food secure farming, kudos! You're helping your community and farming in general. There is, however, something you should know: throw all that you think you know about cooking chicken out the window. We're talking about cooking chickens that live like chickens; rather than a life in a pen for a bird that has been bred for little more than breast meat, you're about to prepare a bird that has been running around in a field and has the legs of a sprinter. Yes, there's less breast meat but it's not the prime meat. Dark meat is where it's at. That's where the flavour is. That's where a good chicken recipe transforms into a great one.
Why should you think about how you cook one of these Grade Eh birds? Because these birds actually are out in the world getting exercise and feeding on the grasses, bugs, and other foods available. This means that the meat is denser than the gelatinous mass you see in the grocery store. You need to consider more than just cooking it through. Think about how you cook ribs or a brisket. It takes time to cook this type of meat because of the amount of collagen in the meat. That's the connective tissue in the muscle. Collagen needs time to break down under consistent heat so that it can covert into a soft gelatin, making the meat tender. So changing the time and temperature is where we're looking. Think low and slow just like ribs and brisket.
It did take me some time to get it right for these chickens. The first couple of times I just didn't go low and slow enough. I was always worried about drying out the chicken like what happens with those store-bought birds. The thing is we're breaking down the collagen to gelatin which stays in the meat, keeping it moist. Also, starting the chicken off at a high temperature for a short time, 10 to 15 minutes, helps sear the skin to keep juices where they should be, in the meat. With this in mind, it's rather easy to cook a truly free-run chicken with some real meat on it's bones. I take a bit of a lesson from Lyn Hall's cookery course and advice from Amanda at Grade Eh Farms on cooking these fantastic birds. For a great bird like the Heritage Line here is a simple yet satisfying recipe to use (thanks to Lyn Hall for this one):
Cooking the chicken on its side allows the juices to run into the breast to keep it moist. It also exposes the dense meat in the legs to the heat of the oven. Adjust cooking time depending on the size of the bird. The jus is a thin sauce with an intense flavour made with stock and the juices from the roasting pan.
I hope this all helps with your foray into truly farm fresh chicken. Play with your existing favourite recipes a bit and see what you can come up with... then share. I'm always looking for great ideas for roast chicken!
DS from Vancouver."
It's hard to believe almost 10 years ago I was president of a company that taught others how to be business leaders through sharing my successes and my failures. At that time in my life, I wasn’t big on emails and had never even read a blog. Oh my, how life has changed! I am now a solitary chicken farmer, my arsenal is the World Wide Web. If you’d asked me 10 years ago, I'd never in a million years dreamed life would take me to where I am. My conversations now are with my family, friends, chickens, and on occasion the farmers who struggle alongside me. To think, I walked away from the "good life" to be with my family and foster the land. But, that's another story.
I want to start off by sharing with you why we eat pastured chicken. I love chicken; I'm certain that without meat I'd die. No amount of tofu could replace the 6-8,000 calories I burn per day. But, first I should explain how much my instincts conflict with killing when we are not growing it for ourselves. I dread butchering day, especially when my chicken’s head is on the block. You know, the ones that I nurture and watch grow into amazing colours with attitudes and unique personalities. Back in the day, I could sit down and unrepentantly devour 2 Costco chickens in one meal and still fit in a baked potato, side of KD, and a beer. I’d been reprogrammed to forget the taste of fresh eggs and the chicken of my youth.
I can’t eat store-bought chicken anymore. Now into my 40's, those same 2 Costco birds will be harder on the waistband of my pants and unfulfilling. I love pastured chicken because the birds are filling. One bird can last us a work week! That means, in one week we save 9 birds from slaughter and lessen our environmental impact by doing so. The fact is that the pasture bird lived a life running in the field unencumbered by walls. This is something that industry in North America is unwilling to risk. This gives us the upper hand to act now before industry advances and starts raising truly amazing chicken. If you need good breeding stock we have your back. Need a mentor or a partner? We will walk alongside you as time allows. Now here I am, driving this pastured chicken train like I stole it. Watch out, good things are going to happen for the small growers of crops and birds. Strength comes in numbers.
My job is to preserve, my intention has always been true to that. My preference has been to sell breeding stock. But in order to be sustainable we need to do a little bit of everything. I enjoy the genetics, and the people we meet. We've turned down some very very tempting offers to raise our birds in volume in free range poultry barns. As well as supplying butchers and restaurants with hundreds of birds per month. But, I don't want to butcher every month! It was never my intention to do so! My heart can only handle the abattoir every 3-4 months. When that feeling stops I'll know I've traded my soul for cash and it will be time to open another chapter. I don't tell you this because I want to guilt you into a vegan lifestyle. (There are enough vegans out there to tell you how horrible you are for eating meat) If God wanted you to eat toilet paper and hemp all the time, he certainly wouldn't have made dinosaurs... I tell you this because it's what's on my mind tonight. I'd rather eat a bird that has flavour and texture than one that was born in the lab and lived in and died in a building a mere 4 weeks later. I think it’s great people are eating organic, but they are missing the point. Organic doesn't mean anything to the bird. The revolution is upon us and our fine feathered friends. It's time to remove the corporation stronghold and farm again like our lives, our chickens’ lives, and our consumers’ lives depend on it. Because they do.
Lest we forget: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
This is a time to give thanks to those who have made every sacrifice and those who are currently serving. It's a time for reflection and remembrance. It's a time to look at the world around us and realize how fortunate we are to live in North America. We salute our former as well as our current service members for all they do and the integrity they uphold.
We've chosen this symbolic day to release our
Grade Eh Farms' Peace Poppies
We've been working intensely with poppies for over half a decade now. The original seeds I started with were black seeded papavar that were brought in from the Middle East in the 1960s and merely served as decorative art. The story is actually quite long and one day in passing maybe I can share it with you. I was generously gifted a few heads and was able to revive them. I set out crossing with other poppies we raise to get the genetics we have now. I've finally accomplished my goal of a large white flowering white seeded poppy. Don't be fooled by this gentle giant, this white poppy is soft on the eyes and silky to the touch. It makes a beautiful addition to any garden. Under a full moon with a slight dew to the air you can see these poppies mimic the illumination of that bright orb in the sky. On a hot summer day the heads will ooze a milky sap as if they are perspiring. Flower heads will reseed and grow the following year with very little maintenance. The dried heads make a beautiful addition to floral arrangements. If you are a prepper we strongly recommend this addition to your stockpile.
By far, this is one of my favourite flowers and they are produced on the West Coast of Canada by our small holding from our locally produced heritage and rare plant and seed collections. If you intend to keep this line of our flowers we ask that you state that they originated from our farm as Grade Eh Peace Poppies. The seeds will breed true and have not been genetically modified. Some variance in poppy head shapes and size may occur due to non selection of that trait and your soil conditions. Our seed germination is around 90% under controlled conditions. You can expect germination to be much lower when scatter planting. Can be challenging to transplant. I suggest container gardens with support already installed.
100% guarantee this plant will put a smile on your face!!
Approx 20-25 seeds
Envelope and shipping included
Add on an Imported Scarlet Flanders Poppy to your order for only 4.99 more!
A portion of the profits will be donated to charitable causes.
Raising chicks over winter is probably the most cost-effective way to replenish your poultry breeding stock. Keeping the correct temperatures, feed, and housing are relatively simple. Be ready for spring without feeding adult birds your family's grocery budget!
We have chicks available now for professionals that are ready to replace this year’s birds or try something new.
Our Spitzhauben come in a variety of colours. This is the perfect bird for those of you with a small farm close to the city with a backyard hens market.
We did extremely well this year due to the fact people aren't interested anymore in the common production red or sex link chicken. They still want the bird to utilize the feed properly and lay tons of clean eggs like our Spitzhaubens. But, what they really want is variety and colour, the little fluffy Mohawk option is just a bonus. Rarely the Spitzhauben are found in colours other than silver. We offer the best selection of colours anywhere!
This is the chicken collection that we offer exclusively to backyarders. You will find out at around 16-20 weeks what exactly your laying hens will be giving you for fresh coloured eggs. We do our best to provide you with multi-coloured eggs. Birds from this collection are brooded together so you can expect they will transition into your coop with few issues. Birds are selected for compatibility and same age from stock available at the time you contact us and vary week to week. We select the birds and have yet to receive a complaint as majority of the birds exceed our clients' expectations. If you take a tour of some of Vancouver's surrounding cities like North Vancouver, New Westminster, Squamish; and in Victoria and other Vancouver Island municipalities, you will be amazed at the types of chickens you see in people's backyards.
Majority of the birds we sell for this collection can be shown in poultry competitions. If you are one of the city folks fortunate enough to own chickens, we do encourage you to bring the kids out and show off the hens or become a member of a local poultry fanciers club. Ours is the Fraser Valley Poultry Fanciers. There are some really great people at the events. Come out and show off your Light Sussex, Barnevelders, and New Hampshire hens!
Ages of birds range from 8-12 weeks. You may select one breed that you like best from the stock available and we'll do the rest.
So, they told me you were a rose. You are just a bush. You should be cut back because you'd never become a tree no matter how hard you tried. You aren't as brave, or as big. You didn't have the means to support yourself when the squalls came and the seas churned. They said you'd bend and break with the weight of your flowers if you got too tall.
Then you bloomed, all these years of climbing to reach the sky. You found the support of another and grew in tandem. Together as a team it's easier to reach goals than apart. I ignored the landscaper that wanted to cut you down, you found a tree that had your back. I see your thank you's, your yellow roses as a symbol of our friendship. Keep reaching for the sky, never give up.
Don't listen to those who say you can't.
Let the Easter eggs
Serve as a reminder that nothing can stop you
In reaching for your dreams.
We wish you an extraordinary Easter!
We have prepared some Christmas tree ornaments that you can cut out. Feel free to print them in card stock, cut out and use as tree trimmings or tags for gift giving to family & friends. If you have a small homestead business, these tags can jazz up your holiday product packaging. Kids can cut them out and hang on the tree as something to do during the Christmas eve gathering. You can download the pdf version of the template below. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
We are the first in Canada to offer something this unique for your palate. Our goal is to make this a tradition. Seriously, who is not burnt out on factory turkey anyways? We have selected about 100 of our popular Poulet de Delta (Canadian Bresse) and added a special treat to their diet for the holidays. Pumpkins! But not just any pumpkins and not any normal diet being these are raised as closely to the French standard as possible.
The pumpkins that we raise on the farm are a late 1800's variety of French heirloom pumpkins. It is not a coincidence that our line of heritage Poulet de Delta (Canadian Bresse) is noshing on these. It has taken several years of planning to make this all come together smoothly.
Very limited artisan poultry. Giblets excluded.
To know more about our chickens for the table, please visit our newly launched "The Chicken Shop" (meatshop) by clicking on the graphics below:
Fall, it doesn't have to be a four letter word!
Here are some handy tips, so you can keep gardening year round.
1. To avoid blight damage to tomato fruit you can harvest your tomatoes green, wrap in newspaper and place in a container in a cool location of the house. Check every 2 days and pick out the good fruit, toss the bad. Nothing better than fresh salsa from your own fruit in the middle of January. Still has that garden fresh taste too! We also suggest removing pears while green to avoid the marks caused by birds and bruising caused by wind and branches. They will ripen at a later date and look perfect for a fruit basket.
2. Use a cloche cover over rows of veggies as well as black plastic or raised beds underneath to draw heat in for veggies that don't tolerate cool nights. No one likes cold wet feet, especially plants.
3. Seeds planted now should be suitable for fall. Check the amount of time it will take to grow fruit. Look for names like winter density lettuce, January king cabbage, fall rye cover crops, winterkeeper lutz beets....there are many things you can plant in fall depending on your location.
4. Buy a greenhouse or a grow light garden to lengthen the harvest. Do not dig up and bring in veggie plants from the yard to the greenhouse in an attempt the save the last 5 pea pods or the 2 remaining unripe tomatoes. You may unwittingly track in a plant disease or non beneficial bugs that will have a better shot at surviving overwinter and wreaking havoc on your spring veggie starts.
5. Donate excess harvest to your local food bank.
6. Sprout seeds like curly cress, peas, or grow microgreens to stay healthy and busy at home this winter.
7. Sell or give early ripened fruit to those needing to substitute as fodder due to recent hay shortages. We suggest beets as an alternative crop for those who have livestock.
8. Store your potatoes in buckets full of good quality sawdust in cool area for fresh potatoes all winter long.
9. Start listing seeds for next year’s crops. Find a seed catalogue and thumb through it for your spring veggies. It can take a good gardener over 10 years to find the perfect veggie selection. Remember you only have one season to get it right per year! Have a plan to maximize your season!
I suggest open pollinated and non gmo to allow for seed saving with larger gardens.
10. Feeding your livestock doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Almost everything you eat out of the garden your animals will eat too! Did you know that if you feed your hens cabbages they will lay double yolkers? Be careful about doing it too much as it will stress your hens out laying all those big eggs!
11.Plant a child size plot later in the season. Children will be impressed with mini crops. Children should grow along side you. Jack be little pumpkins are a great starter. Corn and sunflower planted later season will reach child size height and they will be happily harvesting mini replicas at the same time as yours in the fall. Children want to be included in what mom and dad are up to. Sometimes we forget our priorities around planting and harvest. A personalized garden will keep them busy for days and give them a great sense of accomplishment. And if they choose to feed it to their rooster friends (as our daughter does) it wont affect your dinner this winter.
12.Be a rebel. Don’t follow planting instruction dates. The seasons have been so unpredictable in recent years. The worst that can happen is that your small investment of seeds won’t grow. Although disappointing, If it does you will be crowned king or queen of the garden! Our planting of pumpkins this year in succession (way beyond recommended dates) has allowed us to have an October harvest while most pumpkin farmers have harvested or are letting pumpkins rot and will turn them under in the fall.
Make rhubarb wine to enjoy next year when once again you are sitting around cussing the return of old man winter!
Thanks for dropping by. I'm Matthew Nelson, farmer of Grade Eh Farms. I post on where my love and passion for life intersect with family, farming, food, & chicken for the soul.
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Below are links to websites that gardeners and chicken owners may find helpful and interesting:
Unique chicken coop for a small backyard:
Best source for backyard henhouses in BC. Locally-crafted chicken coops made of repurposed BC cedar:
Useful information on raising healthy, happy free-range hens:
A portion of our ordering policy was stolen from Legbars of Broadway. Thanks Philip. :-)