All hens begin with pullet eggs. But why don’t you see them at local grocery stores? Well here is the scoop.
Pullet eggs are from chickens who are just getting the hang of laying eggs. These hens are around 20 to 26 weeks in age. These eggs are noticeably smaller than regular eggs and can even occasionally be quite tiny. Some small eggs do come from miniature hens (bantams), but likely the ones you would find at the farmers’ markets are pullet eggs. Whereas bantams always lay small eggs.
In 2011, U.S. egg farmers produced 79 billion table eggs from a laying flock of 282 million birds.(Congressional Research Service). This is a commercial value and does not reflect local and farmer’s market eggs. But this is a tremendously large amount of eggs and each of these hens initially produced pullet eggs. Then where are they as they never are at grocery stores? All commercial pullet eggs go to processors to make powered eggs and or other means that turn up in processed foods.
Pullet eggs from your local farm are delicious and are often snatched up by pastry chefs-in-the-know for their richness. Some say that the yolks are bigger, or that they are almost all yolk. But they are proportional with yolk/white just as large or other sizes are.
If you do purchase pullet eggs just note that if you are baking you will need to measure the pullet eggs. Most recipes call for large eggs which are approximately 1/4 cup. Therefore you will need to measure the pullet eggs to equal 1/4 cup.
Keep in mind that after hens lay for a while they no longer produce pullet eggs. They gradually work up to medium, large and extra large. With most hens producing large. So if you want to try pullet eggs NOW is the time.
From a genetic standpoint, peaches are classified by flesh texture as either melting, non-melting or stony hard. Melting flesh peaches become softer as they ripen and will actually “melt in your mouth” when they are fully mature. Most people prefer this type for fresh eating out of hand. Non-melting flesh peaches remain firm in texture when fully mature and never become melting. The texture of these has been referred to as “rubbery” or “chewy”. Non-melting flesh peaches typify most peaches that are used for commercial canning. Some “freestone, melting” types are canned but they represent a very small proportion of canned peaches. The stony hard flesh type is very firm, even crispy when fully ripe.
Most of the peaches on our farm are melting flesh. There are both freestone and cling of this classification. Currently around Labor Day we have both non-melting(cling) and melting. [But keep in mind that this years harvests have ALL been 2 weeks early] Our favorite family peach is a non-melting Amber Jam and the Baby Gold. The Amber Jam variety froze this year where we are currently picking the Baby Golds. Great tasting! Great tasting! We hope you stop by and ask for a taste of the Baby Gold.
Michigan State University’s article on melting and non-melting follows. Keep in mind that MSU Experimental Stations are geared up for the canning industry -that we (state) once had! They only have been working on categorizing market (fresh) peaches for the last 10 years or so.
Melting flesh peaches (left). Melting flesh peaches have flesh that become soft over time when canned. They tend to have ragged edges when sliced during processing. Melting flesh types can be clingstone or freestone. (The pits of freestone peaches are easy to separate from the flesh).
Non-melting peaches (right). Non-melting peaches remain firm after canning. They are selected to have orange flesh color with no red, and a distinctive taste a little like apricots. Most commercial canned peaches are non-melting types. Non-melting types are less subject to bruising during harvest than other peaches. All non-melting types are clingstone, meaning the flesh adheres to the pit when ripe. There are many intermediate types between melting and non-melting types. Peach breeders have been utilizing a genetic characteristic called stony hard. Fruit with a stony hard gene are very slow to soften or even crunchy.
There has been too too too much dryness this year! This is a picture of Red Clover. It was taken three weeks ago. This patch happens to be next to a bee hive. This and other flowers around dried up. The bees were not able to collect nectar and pollen. I have been forced to leave the honey in the hives to allow the bees “their own groceries” to live off.
As you can see today, July 26, s012, one lone flower has emerged. This is the same grouping of plants as above, just after a few shots of rain. As a botanist, I can tell you that all plants even under severe stress will try and produce a flower-seed. NATURE IS GREAT! I am sure the bees are happy.
Fall? Spring? What’s Up
I know a lot of people have either a raspberry shrub or two or they remember raspberries when they were younger. I thought I would take this blog post to explain the difference between June Bearing or summer red raspberries and Ever Bearing red raspberries. Most of the United States are used to the June Bearing varieties – those that ripen late spring or early summer. (Not including the super market ones that come all year from all over the world!)
The summer or June-bearing type that produces an abundance of fruit on second-year canes (floricanes) within a relatively short period in early spring to mid-summer are the ones which have a strong raspberry flavor and wonderful aroma. They are somewhat sweet. If you need berries for the winter, I recommend these varieties for freezing. The varieties that I raise are:
- Boyne – sweet and the earliest to harvest
- Prelude – super flavor and next to harvest with good yields
- Killarney – best aroma and flavor
- Lauren – large berry with excellent flavor
- Nova – firm and bright red berry with strong flavor
- Encore – good flavor large berry
- Octavia – first year for raising these. Not sure on flavor. Latest floricane for season. This berry bridges the floricane season with the primacane ones.
On a normal year Octavia would be harvested late July and early August. Of course with every harvest earlier this year I have only a guess of the berry season. Also when I choose varieties not only do I look at the final consumer enjoyment but I am concerned with all of the agricultural characteristics also. Growth habits, winter hardiness, disease resistance and adaptability in the Midwest climate are just a few.
The second type double – or “ever” -bearing plants (primocanes) are harvested in the late summer and fall, as well as the summer crop on second-year canes. I actually mow these plants down in spring so as to force a late summer or fall harvest. If this is not done these plants will have fruit all summer with only a small harvest at a time. The entire yield when mowed is greater then having them bear all summer. These berries are definitely sweeter then the June bearing varieties. But they tend not to be that super “I AM A RASPBERRY” flavor that you get from the June ones. They are also larger than the June ones. The varieties that I raise are:
- Autumn Britton – large and good flavor
- Caroline – good flavor and large
- Heritage – Heirloom variety, good flavor, color and size
- Jaclyn – dark red sweet berries
- Polana – large flavorful berries
Watch for the next blog on peach varieties!
There is a lot “up.” Since the early March’s burst of summer like conditions, most of the fruit crops will be earlier this year. In fact, we have been picking sweet cherries for two weeks and red raspberries for a week. But the downer for us farmers is that it is super dry! The bushes and trees NEED more water then what nature has provided. In fact our sweet cherries are definitely smaller then what I would like to see. But the flavor is great! As for the red raspberries, the bushes have been regularly irrigated.
Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium L.) Varieties that we grow are:
A. Dark Red with white flesh varieties (listed by harvest time or ripeness)
- Sam a softer fruit but great early cherry
- Bing the old standard we have raised for years. Great all around cherry
- Ulstar Great quality, firm and great taste
- Hedelfingen Firm fruit with high juice quality, great taste. Can soften due to hot weather
- Hudson Our last ripening cherry
B. Yellow flesh with a pink outer blush (listed by harvest time or ripeness)
- Royal Ann
- White Gold
We do have for harvest this year Sam, Ulstar and Hudson, plus the White Gold varieties. But each one due to frost will have a different yield. They might be smaller (lack of water) or even have little scars from the frost. But we “keep our fingers crossed.” And each week at market we will harvest and bring fresh cherries to you and your loved ones.
I cannot believe how long it has been since I have kept you up-to-date about the farm.
Many have inquired about honey. I am always concerned about the bees more then the honey. The bees were very active in March during that hot burst. They were very busy for about one week. Apricots, early peaches, plums and cherries were out in full bloom. Then the weather turned frosty –or actually normal. Most of April and a bit of May were cooler and cloudy.
The bees did a wonderful job and were “busy” at that early burst. They produced quite a bit. But with the long stretch of cool and cloudy weather they ended up using the honey as reserves –food. They also stared brooding or laying eggs, hatching, etc. That uses up a lot of honey. Sorry the bees come first and not honey for human consumption.
So where are we now? Nature has a funny way and not our way. The bees are pretty much back to normal. And honey is being “pulled” or extracted this week. Some was pulled in May, but I stopped. I felt that there was not enough to maintain the hives. And I was uncertain of the future of the weather at that time. I wanted to give them what they needed—to be healthy.
After the work done this past Monday, it seems that the honey supply is about right. The bees are happy and healthy. And soon all of you will be happy with this years honey. Yum Yum!
Last week I choose not to post about the farm. There was too much looming in the air. We did get down to 30°. In the low area where the asparagus is growing I had to mow it down. Once frosted it turns black. It is better chopped up into small pieces then to decay slowly and bring disease. The rest grew up fine and I had an excellent harvest for Saturdays market.
But everyone has asked about the fruit. The blueberries are in pink stage and should blossom this week and up to 14 days, (different varieties bloom at different times). So far most tree fruit seems to have survived. There will be less of a harvest all around– I feel enough for markets and the restaurants. The grape vines have seen the most damage so far. There will be some……will not know for a while though. Annually we often experience a frost and damage on some part of the farm. The consumer usually does not even notice as it is minor. But this year I do know that even once harvested the fruit remaining might have some visible damage.
Had a great time actually showing a friend about the science of hot air rising and cold air sinking. In a low apple orchard (not on the main farm) he could see where the cold air sank down the hill and backed up onto the golden delicious. You can see the brown flowers on the lowest part and nice white bloomers further up the hill. Why did the cold air back up. This farm has been separated by the adjoining farm by pine trees. The trees are upwards to 30 feet tall and go all the way to the ground touching each other. The cold air could not travel past these enormous blocks. Even though half of that orchard is a complete loss there still lies the marvels of nature even though subtle:
- (esp. of a change or distinction) So delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe.
- (of a mixture or effect) Delicately complex and understated.
This was a great definition and fits what I see daily.
Well I was going to post a recipe but basically we (Suzanne and Christina) just made omelets and threw a whole bunch of farm market goodness into them. They were delicious and picturesque. I guess if you don’t know how to make an omelet you could just google it…thats what I did before I realized my sister was so good at it.
~Christina….who loves to photograph food!
Everyone has been so concerned and kind over the past few weeks knowing how hard this weather has been on MI fruit crops. In the Traverse City region there have been killing frosts. Heavy cherry losses.
So far Berrien County has missed those but tomorrow, Good Friday, the predictions are not favorable. All of the apricots, plums, and most of the peaches have already bloomed. Sweet and tart cherries and pears are almost done. Our favorite apple, Swiss Gourmet, is in full bloom with other varieties trailing. Just caught the glimpse of a few “king” blooms in the early strawberries. Grapes, berries and blueberries are filling out leaves but the shoots are still tender with fruiting buds just a few cells underneath.
The numerous forecasts out range from 28° to 30°. I hope you have had a chance to look up the MSU site on fruit damage I posted in Facebook a few weeks ago. It has all of our fruits, color pictures, and temperatures/damage. For most fruit in blossom and even fruit set 30° would cause 10-25% fruit loss. Lower temps would cause 75-90% damage. BUT it does not end there. All of the fruiting and leaf buds are in this years branch for NEXT year. ( I guess all of my grey hair will appear next year! as it is just waiting for damage this year just under the skin.)
Our topography will help many in our area. Heat rises and cold air sinks. A quite a bit of our farm is on a hill. But a hard heavy frost, one that goes on for hours, will most definitely take a toll.
We are in an excellent country. Numerous soils, climates, topography all help to bring numerous and bountiful harvests to the table. And every year somewhere in our country farmers lose out to weather—-hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, floods, frosts, hail. But farmers throughout every year still farm, still are drawn to the land, get tired, but still farm. We do have a different life and we do love it no matter what.
Since last week the farmers in Southwest MI knew that either Sunday night or Monday night a chance of frost was possible. There is not much one can do but worry, keep one’s fingers crossed, pray …..did I mention worry. There are some practices available. I thought I would describe them to you. First two older practices are:
- smog pots- these were banned but were somewhat efficient. Smog pots were metal containers which contained oil. They were lit sometime in the evening of the predicted frost. They had to be maintained all night. I cannot remember how many pots per grouping of trees, but in the morning the entire region was covered in smoke. The idea was that the heat generated would keep surrounding material warm- heat would rise type theory. My Dad along with others would come in about 7am covered like a coal miner. These are no longer used.
- irrigation- applying water all night long to cover the plant material. This has been used successfully in strawberries. What this does is create ice over the plant. Water freezes at 32° and forms a layer over the blooms. Water must be kept on until the frost layer melts. In our community farmers would take “watch” and notify others when the temp would get to the starting point and then you would hear the irrigation pumps start up all around. In the morning they might still be on or you would see water standing in the patches.
On Monday and Tuesday morning I arose to NO FROST. I was extremely worried Monday night. The conditions were all there for the frost to occur. Temps low, no cloud cover and no wind. I was actually out in the cherry orchard at 9:30 pm just watching the sliver of a moon, no clouds and not even a blade of weed grass moving. Oh yes I prayed for all of us farmers. Sometime after 10:30 the clouds rolled in. I still did not know if that blanket would hold in whatever heat was left. I went to bed. When I awoke I looked at our own weather lows and I consulted the MSU Environ-weather stations ( I use three very local) and the lowest hourly temps recorded were down to 34.5°. Well above freezing. Driving around the upper county I did notice a few other techniques.
- low covers of plastic sheets pulled down row
- disc-ing up orchard floors (can gain a degree or two) if done at the right time. A disc is a series of round metal blades that when pulled with a tractor cuts through sod turning it over to bare ground. The radiant heat in the soil thus moves upward to heat the surrounding area. If this is done too soon in the day the heat is lost. I do NOT subscribe to this method as I value the soil and keep it covered.
- Straw around strawberries. DO NOT DO THIS, we do not. The practice of “tucking in” berries with straw to keep them warm actually pulls the frost downward. The studies show that this can decrease the temperature enough to cause damage. When to use straw is before picking so berries rest upon the mat. It helps them to keep clean.
For now all looks well. Thank you for all of your concerns and finger crossing. There is an entire month of this-maybe into May.