when your tank runs dry
and your hens stop laying,
you haul discoloured
garden water in big pots,
saving every drop,
and you gather half empty crates of eggs
careful not to crack a single one
all spoken for, needed –
when your livelihood depends
on the length of the day,
able back, rain drop –
when you fall short
why is it so easy
to take for granted,
a farmer told me once
to hold everything lightly,
I think he was saying
things will come and go,
everything grows –
am I beholden to my generation
defining my worth
in what’s done or earned,
how my peers see me –
or am I free
to care most about
how we do a thing,
the discipline and faithfulness
to look back and remember
not what I did, but who I was,
learnt, loved, worked, rested.
A question we are often asked is what our “pastured eggs/chicken” means and how it differs from “free-range” labelling. It’s a confusing business. The words “free-range”, together with most egg carton and meat labels invoke images of lush, pristine, green grass pasture – ethical, wholesome, healthy… but the reality is sadly disappointing.
In typical big “free-range” egg operations, chickens are kept in the thousands in large sheds – they have just enough space to move their wings and can “access” through a door or “pothole” the outside world – which, if the chicken can physically get to the door, is unlikely to resemble green grass. The chickens often have their beaks clipped and their grain feed is cheap and genetically modified, possibly even imported. No wonder cartons of “free-range” eggs cost little more than cage eggs…
Our “pastured eggs” are quite different. They are produced by small batches of chickens that live on real grass pasture – in the open air, with space to move, peck, dust bathe and forage, they move to new fresh pasture on a weekly basis, they experience changing seasons, with freedom to lay where they please, a home free from chemical cleaners and bleach, a diet of garden scraps, insects and bugs, and grain feed that is wholegrain, not genetically modified and Australian-grown. In short, they are beyond free-range and free to express their chicken! These photos are genuine representations of our chickens.
As it stands, there is no legally enforceable definitions for egg production systems in Australia – other than the consumer’s rights to honest labelling – but if you don’t really know what a label means how can you demand transparency? We are advocates for “certify your own” – there is no better way to know how your food is grown and raised then when you are able to connect with the farmers and producers themselves. And the easiest way to do that is to find who your local producers are and support them.
You can buy our pastured raised eggs through Watts Fresh, Kyneton, Health on High Street, Lancefield and at our regular farmers’ markets. You can also preorder our pastured meat birds through Watts’ or directly by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When dinner has long since been eaten and dishes are cleared away. When the babe is laid down to sleep and it’s still light enough to read a book or potter in the garden beds or trace the lines of a fallen tree. We head out for a walk in the open. We greet dusk with nimble steps. We jump over puddles on the earthen road, slowly drying up.
We stop by the dairy herd and far off across the landscape we see the steers, all contented on green grass, chewing cud. Next we check on the broiler chickens madly scratching their grassy bare-footed enclosure. Then we make for the pasture…
The grass has been freshly cut for hay and stretching out across the fields are windrows of drying stalks. I take my shoes off and feel a portion of it with my soles. Dry, faintly warm and crunchy. Every so often we come across a round mass of thick grass, still damp underneath. A remembrance of what was once there… A mobile hen house and its five-hundred or more residents, gifting the ground below with scratch and poo – the grass growing bigger, richer accordingly. I am reminded of the season, the cycle of things here. The many faces of the landscape; the creature that provides for us so well, provides for the land that provides for other creatures. Begin again. Because this pasture is managed intentionally, organically – we have lush grass for grazing, long grass for hay which nourishes the cows in the winter months, hay for the hens laying boxes. eggs for our breakfast. meat and milk for our savouring. organic matter for the grass, fodder for the worms underfoot, cover for the grasshoppers, beetles and tiny marching ants.
We walk, hop, jump and skip over the soon to be hay. We lie down and make angels. We try to outrun our furry friend. We capture with lens and breathy abandon.
Night closes around us and we make for home. The horizon is shadowed with indigo clouds, laced with terracotta underthings. Far off lights of the nearby town. The red buzz glow in the direction of the big city. The rocky outcrop of mount macedon. Ahead I see my lover, hands full of dried grass, how handsome he is the half light, worked hands, gentle heart.
I love how summer turns us into dusk explorers.
We are almost two weeks into life here at taranki farm, and firmly in love with our new outlook of windswept hillside, grassy pasture, bush forest, myriad ponds, garden, and farmyard creatures. It is stretching us too – the cold and windiness; the 6am chores tending to hens, chicks, ducks and pigs; the temporary accommodation in a tiny converted garage; the toddler’s lingering cold and wakeful nights…. stretching and refining us to take hold of the day and enjoy all it has to offer – frost, sunshine, sideways rain, juice from your own orange tree, greens from the garden, farm-raised meat from the freezer, fifth change of clothes for said toddler, mud baths, nose bleeds, blossoming orchard, lively dinner conversation, squawking ducks, calves wriggling in their mama’s bellies, eggs still warm in the hay… Part of me feels so new it all, part of me feels like it has always belonged. More soon…. Emily xx