What's happening at Daisy Duke Farm?

Daisy Duke Farm is a small, family owned farm in Mechanicsville, Virginia offering naturally grown flowers, fruits and vegetables. My focus is on heirloom varieties of non-genetically modified plants (non-GMO). I faithfully believe in sustainable growing practices so I save seeds to replant excellent varieties, I don't use pesticides or herbicides and utilize all-natural fertilizers. Yep, this means I work a lot harder at what I grow, but I think this greater effort results in a greater reward in quality, healthy plants and produce. As a gardener for over 30 years, I'm expanding my efforts to grow a bit more than we use this year to be able to sell the extras. Hopefully this will fund future expansion of our 5 acres in the years to come.

We also sell eggs and a few chickens. Our egg layers free range to get the very best bugs and weeds available. This makes their yolks very dark, rich and healthy.

Once upon a time, farmers recycled most things around the farm; they fed their excess or imperfect produce to their animals and recycled manure as fertilizer for the crops. They didn't use bug killers, powerful chemical fertilizers or weed killers. They used leaves and straw to mulch where needed to retain moisture and reduce weeds. They didn't purchase genetically modified seeds, such as those that cross a tomato with a flounder. They grew produce, saved seeds from the best specimens and replanted the next year. Wow, that seems so simple! Now you've got pharmaceutical and pesticide companies patenting seeds, you have to pay the government to use the term "organic" and the FDA is all over farmers. We don't buy genetically modified seeds and I refuse to pay the government to use a word. So let's just say we produce plants, food and chickens the old fashioned way.

Around these parts, Hanover County farmers have been famous for over a century for "selling their best, and eating the rest". We promise to uphold that tradition in everything we bring to market!  Check with us during the growing season to find out what's available.

  

 

ON THE FARM THIS WEEK

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After raining most of the week the plants are looking great! Some of the tomato plants are 4' tall and there's a promise of tomatoes to come! Stay tuned to see the progress of our heirlooms with their many colors, shapes and sizes.

The turkeys, guineas - and most of all the ducks - are getting so big they need new housing. Mike is building them a new coop to occupy while they're juveniles so we can get them out of the barn. I'll post pictures when he's done but we are pretty excited that they'll be moving on out soon. Once they get just a little older we can let them out to range the fenced in chicken kingdom and they'll only need to go in at night for protection.

 

Chicks for Sale

As I expected last week, we've got lots of bantam Cochin chicks hatching this week. About half should be frizzled feathers, and half smooth. Personally I'm obsessed with frizzled chickens with their curly little feathers. Cochins really are my favorite breed; they're gentle and friendly but they're also smart. Dirt Woman and Dot are sitting on silkie eggs. Silkies are my second favorite to cochins; they're very friendly and sweet but just not quite as intelligent as cochins. However, if you want a chicken that's happy to just sit and cuddle for hours, consider silkie chickens! Silkie and cochin chicks are $7 each, straight run (meaning I can't tell the sex of them yet). I prefer to keep them until they're 2 weeks old so they learn some lessons from their mama but at that age you're going to need to leave them under a heat lamp. If you wait til they're 6 weeks old this time of year then they can go directly outside.

We also have some plain old barnyard mixes (BYM's) in the barn and ready for new homes.  These will include some Easter Eggers (mixed breeds that lay colored eggs such as green, blue or pink). These are fun if you aren't persnickety about what your chickens look like or you're not trying to raise a specific breed, and just want some cute chickens to give you eggs. BYM chicks are $3 each.

Egg production is way up. Nice farm eggs from happy, free range girls are $5/dozen or $7 for 18 eggs. I know you can get them cheaper at the grocery store, but our girls are fed on fresh Hanover county insects and table scraps supplemented with high quality chicken feed. Free range eggs have rich, dark yolks and are lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Omega-3's. If you call first, you can visit our farm in Mechanicsville to pick up eggs, or I'll bring them to work with me at Victorian Fireplace Shop (1022 N. Boulevard) and you can pick them up.

We started keeping chickens to have fresh eggs. But now our poultry flock has grown by leaps and bounds! I just can't help it - the more birds I get, the more I want. There's always just one more breed, one more egg color that I think I can't live without. At any given moment we likely have 80 or more chickens plus eggs in the incubators and broody hens sitting on eggs.

Keeping pet chickens is allowed in most areas of the city or suburbs, although on smaller lots you'll be limited in quantity to perhaps 3-6 hens and roosters aren't allowed. I've taken such delight in our chickens and have come to have my favorite breeds, so we're adding more of certain breeds to get better genetic diversity and be able to produce enough chicks to sell.

On a personal note, we lost our much loved tom turkey 2 weeks ago. He was a mammoth bronze breasted and was the last of the 4 we got 3 years ago. When I bought them I was told they only lived 2 years because they get so big their legs can't carry them, but I was determined we would give these behemoths the best life ever and they would only die of old age. I've not known many other turkeys so I don't know if we lucked out or ours turned out well because we were so affectionate with them. They followed us everywhere we went and loved all strangers, even if some visitors were a bit put off by four 50 lb. birds stalking them to see what they were up to when they got out of their cars. When we weren't home they'd get lonely and go visit the neighbors. So when our last guy broke his leg and was unable to move for the last month, we we visited him often, giving him extra bananas and hugs and kisses until he faded away. His absence left a terrible hole in our hearts. So imagine my delight when I found some Blue Slate turkeys for sale a few days later. These little chicks were just the size of a chicken a week ago and now they've more than doubled in size. They're much calmer birds than chickens and just love to be held and cuddled. Blue Slate turkeys are a heritage breed that's still very rare; there were only 108 hens registered nationwide in the year 2000. While we don't raise birds for eating, we're so happy to be raising a historic and endangered breed. If we're lucky enough to have a good mix of hens and toms then we may be able to introduce some for sale next year.

 
 
 

Plants for Sale
 

We have a limited supply of berry bushes and tomato plants for sale now including red raspberry (ever bearing) for $7 each, black raspberry $7 each, thornless blackberry $7 each and small mulberry trees $5 each.

You don't need a ton of blackberry or raspberry bushes to get started raising your own berries! I originally planted 3 of each and as they grew they have multiplied tremendously. Next year's fruit will appear on this year's new canes, and next year they should give you tons of new canes and your first pail of berries.

Get our full list of tips and tricks for growing BLACKBERRIES.

We also have some of those famous Hanover tomato plants $1.50/4pack or $2/6pack and all are from organic/heirloom varieties. I personally like the acidity of a meaty genuine tomato so that's what I grow. Varieties this year include Brandywine, Pruden's Purple, Purple Cherokee, Mortgage Lifter, Hillbilly, San Marzano (paste) tomatoes and some varieties saved from my own seeds from last year which we'll just call "Karen's Hanover Tomatoes". I've also started up a variety of 37 different kinds of cherry tomatoes. Grow them and they could surprise you with red, yellow, orange, purple, stripes and more.

We also have some Rose of Sharon ready to go. This is a member of the hibiscus family that can be kept pruned to a shrub, or it will grow to a tree about 12' tall. The variety you get will be a surprise; they could be single or double blooms in shades from pink to purple to white with red centers. a I much prefer growing these over roses - they're easy to grow and don't have thorns!


 

 

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Here's what our new Blue Slate turkeys will look like in a few months (photo courtesy BackyardChickens.com)