Thursday, July 12, 2012

Apricot Lane Farm Has Happy Chickens

I might have mentioned that I have chickens.  If I haven't, but you know me, you have heard it from my children, probably several times...Maybe even more than that, with details like names, breeds, eating and laying habits.  (Consider this my apology for all of that.)
It doesn't make me an authority on chickens by any stretch, but it does mean I have done some research about what they need and what it looks like when they are "happy".

Molly and John, over at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, CA, are making their chickens- and cows and sheep and goats and WWOOFers and doggies- happy.  (The pictures on Molly's blog are really much better quality. Or check them out on Facebook.)

On a Thursday in early May, Molly was kind enough to give us a tour of the property that they have been working for just about a year.  I gotta say, I seriously can't WAIT until they are producing more food to sell.  I am so completely jealous impressed with everything they have going on over there!

Molly was hauling us around on a golf cart, perfectly sized for my troop, with her sweet sweet dog Todd in the front seat, sprawling across my lap.  Her husband John joined us about midway through the tour and shared some of his passion for the farm.

"I have never seen him happier." Molly said of John and this past year.  And it shows.  You could see the love for the land and the animals all over his face as he spoke.

While I told my children to pretend be well behaved while we were there, (so that maybe we would be allowed to come back), they soon took over the direction of the tour with their sweet respectful humble persistent requests demands to see the chickens.  Even the cute little baby goats could not distract them from their purpose.  Why in the world, when they can hold chickens every day, would they be so focused on seeing someone else's fowl?  I still have no idea, but it was unanimous.

We got to see two areas  of chickens.  One where they are already laying, only about 40 birds there.  And another where there were teenaged birds, likely to be laying in the next couple of months.  Both were in areas of pasture where the cute little chickies get to roam free and far, after a rotation of sheep and cows have been through.  They have access to lots of grass, bugs, worms and space.  We even saw one of them taking a dirt bath on the edge of the field, a favorite happy chicken pastime.  Based on my own experience, these are the things that make the egg shells nice and thick, with a strong inner membrane, and the yolks a rich, deep nutrient dense shade of orange.

This is a candid shot of Molly and John, after putting away the lone chicken that snuck out when we left the pasture.  Molly caught her with grace and ease, claiming John's words in her mind helped, "You have to WANT to catch the chicken."  I LOVE that.  

We did stop for a minute to see the gorgeous Scottish Highland Cows, including baby Flora, and had a fairly entertaining conversation about breeding practices.  Flora was right near the road when we pulled up but quickly got spooked by our presence and bounded across the pasture to hang out with her mom, Firefly.  I just have to say, it is something special to watch a young animal run.  They were really meant to have room to play and it settles something in my spirit to see it in action. (Again, check out Facebook for much better pictures!)

 We also stopped to check out the sheep and meet Basil and Sage, the friendly guard dogs. While we were there we got to see a group of dedicated people free a lamb who had gotten tangled in the fencing.  The lamb was fine.  And it was a moment of realizing the non-stop nature of farming, especially when you are doing it right!

The land seemed to go on forever, with the beautiftul orchards that the Chesters are expanding, but the tour ended way too soon.  There is such a peace on the farm that is just not present in the city.  It is like entering another world, for just a moment in time.  (Feel free to break out in song here.)

Our tour ended at the main house, where we had parked, but only after we got to see the former horse barn that has been converted to a multi animal housing unit.  It was all just stunning!

Roses in front of the main house.
I'll leave you with the rest of my insufficient photos and the reminder to go check them out on FB or on Molly's blog.  (Links above).  Also, if you ever have the chance to try some of their eggs, do it!  The yolk is the most beautiful dark orange.  I look forward to more real food coming from Apricot Lane Farm in the near future!
Front door. 

A picnic set in front of the main house.  Love this!
From the car, parked in front of the main house.

Little E loved the flowers by the farm office.
Pretty sure this is a canna at the barn. Had to look it up for John!
Gorgeous wisteria near the farm office.