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Agriculture Links Animals Chickens

Tereza & Xena

We have two hens who are mothers to chicks (two more are still brooding, as are two muscovite ducks). For the first few days they moved around freely until we moved them together with their nestboxes into the electric-fence perimeter. We have inspired, educated and entertained watching them and their chicks. Our hens did not go broody so both hens are on loan from our neighbors. Both are mothers to a small number of chicks due to an egg fertility problem we had.

Xena is a relatively thin, dark colored and featherless-necked hen. She is fiercely protective of her 3 chicks.

Tereza is a puffier, tan & white colored, full feathered hen. She is a more soft, rounded mother. In the first few days we chicks sitting on her and later she was the one we saw with just the head of a chick sticking out between her feathers.

Xena was the first to leave the barn with her chicks. She would find a quiet spot and just sit outside with her chicks rather then sitting inside the barn. One time she chose a location that is on a “path” that leads away from the house. The dogs were alerted to something and darted on that path. We saw trouble coming but couldn’t respond fast enough. Indy jumped over them, Loui tried to do the same but he is a smaller dog. It was amazing to see the relatively small bodied Xena attack him and push him away from her chicks and back towards the house. Loui was very confused and we were very proud … both of Xena and her protective instincs and of Loui who submitted to her (we had to train him to not attack or attempt to eat members of our flock).

Xena and Tereza stay fairly close together though Xena gives Tereze trouble. If Tereza ventures too close to Xena, Xena will lash out at her, give her a good bite and then chase her for quite a while … even after Tereza has backed off and tried to open distance between them.

Xena keeps her chicks busy throughout most of the day. Tereza can be found sitting peacefully with her chicks around or under her.

Once, when we closed them for the night, chicks got mixed up … 5 ended up with Tereza and 2 with Xena … all chicks were warmly embraced … yet in the morning one of the chicks with Tereza lept out and joined Xena. Apparently the chicks do know and prefer to be with their mothers 🙂

Both mothers are exceptional at feeding. They constantly scratch and point out food to their chicks who follow and eat diligently. Sometimes we wonder if and what the mothers eat? When we gave them corn they didn’t touch it … they don’t approach anything that is not suitable feed for the chicks (the corn is way too large for the chicks).

The chicks gradually expand their circle of security … that is how far and how long they can be from their mother on their own. Their confidence grows every day.

Both mothers and chicks have already explored the mobile shelter. When it rains they find shelter in it, when it stops they resume their travels. The chicks look healthy and vital, they’ve discovered their wings and we can see them jumping longer distanced in growing arches 🙂

The chicks eat very little feed (we usually make available to them in the morning and in the evening). They get most of what they need directly from the (currently poor) pasture. We have already witnessed both mothers and chicks ignore feed, preferring to explore what the pasture has to offer.

We have some predatorial birds who take an interest in the chicks. Both mothers are extremely protective. They get very loud when a bird is anywhere near them … even if sitting on a high power line). They get very aggressive when a bird makes an attempt at the chicks. However the most impressive behavior we have witnessed has been a collaborative effort. Tereza, the puffy hen, took all the chicks in under her while Xena went on the offense. Each mother went to her forte and the predators didn’t stand a chance.

This morning we left the mothers and chicks closed in their nestboxes because it is a fairly damp and cool morning and we don’t want to risk the chicks catching cold (they are very vulnerable when they are young). We heard Xena and Tereza shuffling around wanting to get out but decided to wait and see how the day evolves. Well, they didn’t want to wait and in what we can only assume was a collaborative effort mananged to topple the front cover that blocks the entry to their adjoining nest-boxes. They are now freely ranging in the moist day. We are confident the chicks will find all the warmth they need with their mothers 🙂

Here in Romania, most chicks (and chickens) are kept in some form of captivity. Even if they have some free ranging space it is usually not very green (usually over grazed for years) and there are too many of them on it. Most require (expensive and labor intensive) feeding all year long. Chicks particulalry, are kept for many weeks in confined and sheltered spaces with their mothers and live entirely off supplied feed. Yet our chickens and chicks, who require very little feed from spring to fall, are healthy and, as others have pointed out, larger then typical chickens. We have been asked numerous times for eggs for other broody hens because “our chickens are larger”. Our explanations that the chickens are larger because off lifestyle rather then genetic have fallen on mostly deaf ears … and … ironically our eggs were not very fertile (due to too many males residing over too few hens).

 

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Blog Cutia Taranului

Dear Cutia Taranului Members

We are nearing an exciting time. We are preparing to send you notifications that your first boxes will soon be arriving. Up until now you were anonymous people who filled out a form on a website … that is about to change 🙂

Did you notice that we refer to you as “Members” and not as “Customers”? Customers simply pay for a service or product. Cutia Taranului is a product and a service and more. It is about a healthy, collaborative relationship between peasants and … well … you. Relationship implies a caring and conscious effort on both sides. We have been speaking to peasants about their part. About growing food responsibly, packaging it effectively, delivering it reliably and learning to appreciate the wonderful qualities of this new relationship with … well … you 🙂 Your part in this new relationship has the potential for more then just trading a few bills of money for a box of food.

To share with you what more you can do to make this relationship healthy we feel the need to share with you a bit about what we’ve learned about the peasant families who will be appearing at your door. They are caring people that, for the most part, do what they do with a sense of purpose and appreciation. They work hard (sometimes too hard). Yet they have been cornered into a difficult position that forces them to sell their products within constraints that make it very difficult for them to make a decent minimal living … despite the caring hard work. As a result they feel unappreciated and cornered. Being cornered makes them doubtful, untrusting and fearful.

Most peasants have reached out to us after hearing about Cutia Taranului from others … and yet they were doubtful. They were trying to understand what were we not telling or even hiding from them? Would they have to sign a contract that traps them somehow? (no, like you, we prefer relationships based on faith and trust). Even when they were holding the first members lists in their hands they were doubtful. Even after they spoke to you and found encouraging and supportive voices they continued to be doubtful. They were and continue to be afraid they would lose “customers” if the price was too high or if the contents of the box were fixed (which we asked them to create to keep things simple and feasible for them) instead of “bending to the will” of individual paying customers customer.

Even now, when they are about to bring their produce to you, who have demonstrated to them that you really do care, they are afraid of doing anything to lose you as a customer.  They are afraid because they have reason to be. Over the years they have been losing customers and finding it harder and harder to make a living. They are coming from a world of distrust and often abuse and we are inviting them to an embracing world of trust and appreciation. They are afraid because Cutia Taranului is a challenging mental and cultural shift for them. Its a lot for them to take on.

What ultimately opened up their minds was not us but you. When you filled an online form it was an act of pure good will and faith on your part. When you answered them with enthusiasm on the phone you offered them encouragement and support. What remains for you to do is … to keep on doing what you’ve already been doing. Embrace them. Let them know you do care about and do appreciate their efforts. When they’ve made you happy let them know. If there’s something you don’t like, let them know too … share your thoughts and feelings with the same supportive care you do when you are happy.

Please be responsible and fair in you relationship with them.  Creating and maintaining new, healthy and hopefully long-term relationships is going to take conscious and caring effort from everyone. If at any point you find it difficult to continue making this effort on your own please reach out to us so that we may try to help.

In our (Andreea and Ronen) hearts and minds, you and the peasants are making a difference. Cutia Taranului is so much more then growing and consuming food. We believe that your good will and faith in each other is both proving that Romania is already a better place than most people make it out to be (so many locals and foreigners like to put Romania down as a backwards and corrupt country) and at the same time making it an even stronger, resilient and healthier place to live in. We are awed and inspired by you.

We wish you delicious food and inspiring transformation 🙂

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Blog Inspiration

To Find Our Place

“One of the most joyous things we can do is to find our place, the land where we belong. Having found our place, we snuggle into it, learn about it, adapt to it, and accept it fully. We love and honor it. We rejoice in it. We cherish it. We become native to the land of our living.”

Carol Deppe

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So despite soap making plans, today was a day of butchering. We had been planning for some time to get rid of excess male presence and energy in the flock (both amongst the chickens and the muscovite ducks). Today we finally went ahead and did it. We also slaughtered one hen that was showing signs of illness … we had been monitoring her for a few days and she wasn’t getting any better … so to we culled her (as food for the dogs). Then we went ahead and butchered one of our two roosters … I thought he would be harder to catch (he was very aggressive) but it turned out he is more bark then bite. Then we went on to slaughter two of the male Muscovites. I did the killing and Andreea did the cleaning and hacking.

The ducks were much harder to handle then the chickens. They are really strong and strike out with their short feet like crazy. They also took much longer then the chickens to die. The first one managed to get free from Andreea’s grip … splashing the bowl of blood mostly on Andreea and a bit on me. Andreea looked like a character out of a Rambo movie. We got a much better hold of the second one (Andreea his body and I his head) and managed to create a much calmer experience for everyone. The duck feathers were also much more difficult to remove … at one point Andreea gave up and skinned them … removing skin and feather leftovers together.

We cooked a chicken soup for the dogs with the hen-parts. We cooked an amazing chicken soup for ourselves. Despite my vegetarianism I make it a point to taste from the meat of every animal I participate in butchering. However the Muscovite meat that we baked in the oven was a rare treat and I had a decent helping of meat … my first in a long time (at least 12 years).

It was interesting to feel killing in my gut … not as an emotional or physical sensation … I was completely at peace doing the killing. It was an experience of energy …  of taking a life.

All of the water heating and cooking took place on the outside twin-rocket stove we re-assembled this morning. Summer is here. It was great fun being outside almost all day and feeding the rocket stove as work was coming along.

 

In the early afternoon hours two tractors appeared and finally laid the 2nd layer of gravel (on top of the first layer of larger stones that we put in last year) on the last 200m+ of road that lead to our property.

 

Sabine and Ina have been with us for the past few days …  in the background of the day Ina baked a fantastic bread. So we just came in from a late night snack of fresh bread and jams while watching a fantastic thunderstorm (my first one … so up close and personal).