Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Life and Trials of Sir Stinky...Or Was That Mr. Pink???

I'm riding on the back of the four-wheeler the other day just looking around and thinking how pretty everything is looking on the farm. My stream of consciousness went something like this: There's our beautiful garden where Marissa has just done some fall planting and we picked hundreds of tomatoes from this morning. I can't believe that it used to just look like a jungle there! Oh look at all of our baby chicks...they're teenagers now! I wonder if we'll have enough firewood for the winter. Oh and there is one of the pigs with his little curly...pig? PIG?!!!? So Boom (our sweet little border collie) goes after him and I see them run off into the woods. I stand there and call them for a while and look for them everywhere in the direction they ran off in, thinking they're in the woods somewhere. Finally I give up because I need to continue with the afternoon chores and head over to the pig pen where I see all five pigs looking at me in hopes of something delicious to eat and little Boom laying near the pig pen keeping a close eye on his charges. Sneaky little pig!!! We have a theory that the other pigs send him to do the dirty work and let us know that they are hungry. We just consider him a "free-range pig", which seems a lot better than "the pig we can't seem to keep in his pen"!

We have five pigs, the original Sweet Peeps piggies, Truffle Scruffle and Locks 'n Ivy (very well behaved as far as the fence goes) and the three younger pigs Mr. Pink, Sir Stinky, and Dr. Porkchop. I keep calling the rogue pig Sir Stinky (because I think he is a stinker!) but Marissa tells me it's actually Mr. Pink. We are all especially fond of these last three names because of the story behind them.

Back in the beginning of the summer we were invited to bring some of our animals to the Library Summer Kickoff party. We had a blast and our mini petting zoo was a huge hit with all the kids! The best part is that we had a "Name That Pig" contest where all of the kids entered their favorite names and we chose the top three. I have to say that variations of "porkchop" and "bacon" were probably the most common followed closely by "Wilber". That's pretty much the two ends of the spectrum as far as meaning of pig names go! "Wilber" is sweet but I think "Bacon" is more accurate. Lots of people ask us how we feel about the thought of eating our pigs. Honestly, for me it is a little bit hard to think about but I really like what a farmer friend of ours, Tom Ward says that "every day of these pigs lives is amazing and good until one day they have a bad day". And it's true, you never saw such happy, healthy pigs...especially our free-ranger!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Bucket List - Guest Blog by Ben Karp

Over these past couple of months we've had lots of visitors come out to the farm. We joke around that you can't come to the farm without working...except it's not really a joke. We have loved having all of our friends and family and have SO SO appreciated their hard work. Our most recent (and seriously loved) guest was Ben Karp and he has written about his experience at Sweet Peeps Farm.

As many people now know a couple months back Gypsy John Post decided to pack up his Nag Champa incense along with his patchouli oils to settle on a farm in Dyke County Virginia.  Now that a couple months have passed and the locals have almost accepted the pink barn, I couldn’t think of a better time to visit the Sweet Peeps Farm!

    I departed Albany, New York on a 12 hour train to Charlottesville, Virginia. The trip down was a brilliant cultural experience. As the cities started to disappear the Civil War reenactments flourished.   After a 30 minute wait John pulls up and exits his vehicle to greet my arrival.  At this time I am beginning to notice a lot has changed since I left my friend in Asia.  For example, John’s previous Cambodian motobike is now a flatbed Ford, his krama is now a cowboy hat, and his Australian skinny jeans have been replaced by ass-less chaps (which I’m still not convinced are actually necessary for farming). 

    Knowing John well I knew that this change was for good reason.  It soon became apparent to me that full cultural assimilation would be necessary if I wanted to survive in these parts. John created a Gypsy farmer bucket list of essential activities that would help smooth my transition.  The list is as follows:

1)    Clean up chicken poop in a cowboy hat.
2)    Tackle a loose goat and return to barracks
3)    Fire a gun (target optional)
4)    Bush hog a field
5)    Hike Old Rag Mountain barefoot at night
6)    Bareback ride a stallion
7)    Go to a local bar dressed head to toe in farmers gear and talk intelligently about chickens for five minutes.

Tolerance and adaptability is essential in life to create a true experience.  So when in Rome….

What I learned:
1)    As romantic as life on the farm sounds at the end of the day you still have to clean up a lot of chicken poop.
2)    Goats act like 3 year old children except with balls the size of grapefruits.
3)    There is nothing funny about guns (unless you are being shot at by a clown).

4)    Bush hog is farmer lingo for cutting grass. So as awesome as it may sound if a farmer tries to put it on your bucket list it just means he wants you to mow his lawn.

5)    It is not a good idea to hike Old Rag barefoot at night, especially with a Gypsy farmer on a highly Paleo diet.
6)    A stallion named ‘Rocket’ was probably given that name for a reason. Whether the name was given for his wild nature or for a more "Discovery Chanel" situation, it doesn’t matter. Still not a good idea to ride this stallion with no previous experience.
7)    No matter how big your cowboy hat, you can't fake a bar conversation about farming with a real farmer.

In all seriousness,
Although I am not sure I will ever meet the criteria to be a true farmer the experience I had at Sweet Peeps was influential. It is so inspiring for me to remember that although there are so many great places in the world you can still have a cultural experience here at home(Merica!). 
John, Steph, Bryce, Marissa, Kat and Blue continue to sludge through the mud (literally) on their new adventure, addressing every new challenge with a smile (and lots of high fives).  The work they are doing is that of purpose which is very laudable. My cowboy hat is off to these six wonderful Gypsy farmers!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Little Bit of Gypsy in Us All

"Compassionate Adventurers" is the term John and his fellow teammates of The Modern Gypsies use when referring to themselves. Our very own Gypsy Farmer is a little bit famous these days as his team The Gypsies keep proving how amazing they are as athletes and as people on the new reality TV show Expedition Impossible. We at Sweet Peeps are so proud of the mustached team as we watch them both on the show and in real life while they work to truly make a difference by inspiring the compassionate adventurer in us all.

We have had a lot of fun cheering them on every Thursday at The Standard (an awesome local restaurant where they strive to serve local foods including our delicious chickens). We have been letting our creative juices flow by coming up with a different crafty party favor every week from purple mustaches on a stick all with their own unique name to mustache straws. We have also all been wearing purple, The Gypsies team color and conveniently my favorite, and those of us who can are rocking some sweet staches!! Check out a couple of John's interviews about the show and the farm at crossfit journal and Cville Local News.

Just in case anyone is wondering, we did today's WOD for the local ABC news.
5 rounds for time of 5 pullups, 5 burpees, 20 double unders, 50meter feedbag carry (50lbs). Good times as usual!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Farmfit in Action

I know it's been a while since my last post and I'm sorry. We have had so much going on...all the more reason to be blogging of course. That's how the blog thing goes! Well, I could make excuses but I don't really believe in excuses. The important thing is that I'm making a commitment now to all of you that I will post at least once a week. Now to the good stuff!!

A little background:
We at Sweet Peeps have been involved in some sort of CrossFit for about three years now. For those of you who don't know, CrossFit (in my own words) is an intense type of workout that uses constantly varied, functional movements. It will kick your butt, make you feel great, and most importantly is a blast!! Don't be overly intimidated. The beauty is that it can be modified to fit any level of experience or fitness. (I strongly encourage anyone who is interested to learn more about CrossFit.) The best part about CrossFit is the incredible community that has been created around it and we got to see some of that today. Since we've been out on the farm we have been following the WODs (workout of the day) of two of my favorite gyms, CrossFit East Decatur, and Charlottesville CrossFit and have tweaked them to create what we call FarmFit so we can do them right here out of the barn with whatever fabulous mode of torture we can find. We have been having so much fun FarmFiting about a great team building experience!! I love that on any given day any one of our friends might show up with sneakers ready for a workout. We always come through!!

The fun part:
We're out on the farm working very hard at living as "primal" of a lifestyle as we can. We grow our own food and workout right here on the farm (and I'm talking about in addition to the daily farm work that could probably be considered a WOD in itself!). Today Mike came out from CrossFit HQ and interviewed us and took some videos around the farm and of the animals. A few of our fellow CrossFitters from northern VA and from Cville CrossFit also came out for a FarmFit WOD. We all had a blast and really hope to make the CrossFit community proud!! While I'm on the topic of community, last night we also got to meet a really neat paleo/crossfit family who drove all the way from Greensboro to show their support. We are definitely feeling the love!! Check out the first interview with CrossFit HQ about John, The Gypsies, and Sweet Peeps Farm. The next video will be even better!!
Clover counts reps for John.

Today's WOD: Morning Chores
For time. Teams of four must collect the following while the fourth teammate completes farmer carries. Only one person may collect each movement at a time. One teammate must be doing the farmer carry at all times.
300 burpees
300 feed bag squats (50lbs)
80 pullups
Then 50m tractor push (We have to make use of the one that "almost works" somehow!)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yard to Skillet

Huge thanks to Tom Silliman for sharing his time and vast knowledge with us and our friends at the Yard to Skillet workshop!! Although I have to admit I don't think I'll ever consider killing the chickens to be enjoyable, I find it incredibly satisfying and empowering to truly know my food sources. I love knowing that our chickens led happy, healthy lives. They were able to enjoy fresh air, sun, good food, and clean grass every day of their happy little chicken lives. I now have an even bigger appreciation for the food I choose to put into my body and gratitude to the animals who's lives provide my food. Yesterday we joined our friends Aaron and Heather, who also attended Tom's workshop, for a BBQ. They were clearly proud to serve up their delicious Sweet Peeps chickens they processed themselves. Heather claims "I will never buy conventional or cut-up chicken again". We couldn't agree more!!

If you missed Tom's workshop this weekend don't worry, we'll have more in the future!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Secrets of Sweet Peeps

The pond, lovingly named Chocolake actually has fish in it! On Saturday Josh and his boys went fishing in our pond and proceeded to pull out bass hand over fist. They didn't keep any to eat but had a blast! Bryce and John also went for a pleasant afternoon swim and reported "it's deep!". They may or may not have been referring to the mud at the bottom.

We're stronger than we thought. Marissa and I are happy to announce we really are pretty darn strong!

The tractor works...IF it's rolling down hill and being pushed by John, Marissa, and I.

John is an amateur carpenter. He (along with the help of Leo) built some really awesome chicken coops for our broilers. It feels so good to go to bed at night and not have to worry about predators getting our chickens. Bonus, they also look really nice!

Nature is out of control!! We find ourselves constantly battling ants, flies, gnats, stink bugs, ticks, rats, mice, roaches, wasps, weeds, poison ivy, thorns and seriously stinky smells.

Secret swimming hole. We have finally started to do some trail maintenance of our sweet nature trails. Along the way we discovered a magical spot in the creek, cleaned it up, and declared it our new swimming hole. Some of us are still refusing to swim in Chocolake. There has been mention of a Choc-ness-monster.

We have lots of medicinal herbal plants around the property...we don't actually know what they are yet but would LOVE to have a naturalist come out and teach us.

Apparently we have 26 layers. It was pretty cool when we were in the coop the other night counting the chickens and counted two more than we thought we had. I think they must really be enjoying their new and improved "ladies only" coop with Christmas lights.

Spring really is the season of love. Horse love, dog love, goat love, inter-species love. What better place than a farm to learn about love? Forget the birds and bees...we're talking mammals!

This movie is accompanied by this week's theme song. If you want to experience what it's like to be at Sweet Peeps just play this song about 25 times a day and dance around and sing along. For the full experience cover yourself in sweat, dirt, and straw, and be sure to have chicken poop somewhere on your body. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Count Your Chickens (or Ducks, or Turkeys) Before They Hatch

Lets talk chickens (because that's mostly what we do around here).

First chicken topic: Chasing the chickens (of course). When we first came to the farm we were determined to get the chickens to sleep in their coop to protect them from predators at night. We had all good intentions as we chased them around the farm and caught most of them. The next day we got a tad bit wiser and tried to corral them and coerce them with treats. It didn't seem to work too well but we were pleasantly surprised and incredibly proud of ourselves as new farmers when the next couple of nights Daddy Roo led his harem (most of them) home on his own. Since then a few of the wild chickens tend to wander and not head home on their own. We still have to be here every night at dusk to lead the chickens home.  We were recently reinspired to keep working with the chickens when the rooster started crowing at 3am roosting in the tree right outside of John's window. Since that night John has really taken it upon himself to be doubly sure ALL the chickens are tucked in inside the coop.

Next chicken topic: our chickeny plans. The farmers of Sweet Peeps had a power meeting a few days ago to come up with a plan. Of course we all had on our power suits! Imagine all of us in our filthy jeans, having just finished shoveling compost, dirt under our nails, work gloves in our back pockets, sitting around a table in Starbucks next to the table of very clean men in business suits. As John picked up his coffee I caught site of his finger nails and thought how dirty and gross he was but when I glanced back down at my own hands they looked just at bad. Terrible! Anyway, the plan is we will get a delivery of 60 peeps every three weeks and we will process 20 chickens every week. It seems like a really good plan but I think we won't really know until we're doing it. One tidbit I find incredibly amusing is that for the first month our peeps will be delivered every Wednesday. The next month however, they will come every Tuesday. John and Marissa claim that there is some secret plan behind this but I'm pretty sure it just happened by accident as John was marking in the calender and turned the page.

Final chicken topic: the peep show. This is actually a chicken/turkey/duck topic. Sweet Peeps recently had our first set of hatchlings We had so much fun candeling them and watching them grow. We had one egg we could see the heart beating in and as they get older you can hear them peep from inside the egg. We started off with four duck eggs, two turkey eggs, and a heap of chicken eggs. We were so excited when the first chickens started hatching. They seemed to be doing so well! We noticed though as the day went on that they seemed to be having a hard time getting out and realized that it wasn't humid enough in the incubator. Marissa and I helped a couple of the chicks out after they got stuck. We got lucky because we learned AFTER the fact the right way to do an eggceriansection. The good news is, we'll know for next time. Sadly, only one of our ducks even tried to peck out and none of them survived. Even worse than that, was our sweet little poult (baby turkey). It hatched with only a little help from Marissa and looked so so strong. It was in a safe, warm place overnight and we thought for sure that it would be our friendly farm turkey. This morning though the report on the poult was "it got even cuter overnight but also died". So in the end, of our many eggs, we have 11 peeps, no ducks, and no turkeys. Now we truly understand the meaning of "don't count your chickens before they hatch". On a happier note, at the same time as the incubated eggs were hatching our wild momma hen hatched six eggs of her own. Those little guys are doing so well!! Apparently natural really is better. Surprised? I'm not.

Farm Vocab Words

Poult: Young turkey
Keet: Young guinea fowl
Brooder: Relates to baby birds, generally refers to the place you keep baby birds
Broody: How a momma bird acts when she's working on hatching eggs. Usually means she's sitting on her nest and probably pretty feisty if you get too close!! Marissa learned this the hard way as momma did a sneak dinosaur attack because Marissa looked at her the wrong way.