Monday, August 1, 2011

We've changed our name!

Well I mean really, if there are no longer any critters that say "neigh" around here the name Cluck-n-Neigh seems a little odd. Plus, it's still a sad memory for me to have had to give them away. Since I'm dedicated to compassionate living and generating positive karma and merit for the welfare of all beings, the new name makes more sense. Especially since I'm talking about the actual definition of karma as opposed to the strange non-Buddhist notion that karma is some sort of mystical judgement, scale to measure good and evil (and payback), or an "vibe" you "send" out to someone.

So, without further ado, we are now calling ourselves The Karma Farm! Though I do feel for the wonderfully talented JJ Tracy who created the hysterical logo for Cluck-n-Neigh. Sorry, JJ! So...uh...(feet shuffling)...wanna do another one? ;)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Give up? Me??

Everybody together....AAWWWWW!!!!


Yeah, I know I'm standing in my own food, but there's always room for naptime!

Do you ever feel...

Like everyone

Just runs...

Right over you??

Friday, July 15, 2011

So You Wanna Live on a Farm?

So's been awhile, huh?

Okay okay, but in my defense, I've been overwhelmingly busy. It's been so hot (and it's no joke, it was 109 the other day with a heat index of 130) I've had to start working in the overnight hours. I've also been traveling back and forth across the state monthly to prep our home in Gatlinburg to rent it to family and close friends. I've also been driving with the hubby back and forth to Washington DC in order to find him some real medical care for his chronic Lyme Disease at Jemsek Specialty Clinic. Top that off with some naughty masked bandits (aka raccoons) munching down on 5 of our chickens and yet another heaping healthy helping of human sick-minded bandit variety and our happy little flock of 80 is now....20.

...and...and...THE DOG ATE MY LAPTOP!

Okay, maybe not that last part. But the other stuff is 100% true. At first, I considered just packing it in and moving to Baltimore. Or maybe to some other big city featured in critically acclaimed yet popularly unnoticed television shows based on the premise of the slow death and decay of American culture due to poverty, selfishness and greed. Then I took a nap, and what do you know? I felt a little better. Rather than rent that U-Haul I sent out a mass email to our clients, friends and family explaining what had happened to our flock and soliciting their promise to help support us in whatever way they could, either by paying a little more for eggs or finding me enough clients to add in the fall that would make an attempt at raising another clutch affordable for us. They came through in spades. 

...oh, whoops! Speaking of being incredibly busy, I just got a call from the post office that our shipment of 25 chicks has arrived. Should they all survive and all be pullets like I ordered (it's never 100% accurate, though Ideal Poultry has an excellent track record for me so far) we'll be up to 50. That's our original number when we first started the business. I wish it were more, but for the time being we have to be sure our new security is working and/or school is back in session so the "little darlings" who had oh so much fun letting loose our birds to be scarfed up by dogs (most likely theirs) will have less time on their hands. So, I've gotta boogie to get the babies! That always brightens my day. Perhaps I'll continue this post while in the brooder. As I said before, I live just like Laura Ingalls Wilder, only with high speed internets and a generally bitchy attitude. 

Before I go, let me put a bug in your cyber-ear. While Michael is gone (about 8 months), I'll be looking for a roommate who can help with farm work, house work or both in exchange for lodging. But for now, it's baby time!

Okay, I've returned from helping the new babes settle in and work on imprinting. So...on to my finding a roommate/farmmate while Michael is gone. Or at the very least a part-time employee and farm sitter. I've placed an ad on a website called and so far have had some interest. So, if you're interested in gettin' your farm on, you've come to the right place!  Below are the details of the note I put on our Facebook Page:

Small pay-as-you-can egg farm needs farmsitter/roommate/housekeeper to assist one owner while the other undergoes medical treatment out-of-state. We operate under permaculture ethics to maximize sustainable and compassionate living.

  • Couples or singles welcome, but please no children.
  • Located 1 & ½ hours from Memphis.
  • Farm and/or housework experience a plus, but not required. Training provided.
  • No dogs. A dog would upset the balance of our pack of four. Extreme weather conditions, on-site donkeys and wild coyotes present extreme danger to “outdoor only”dogs.
  • No pet birds (due to possible disease transmission).
  • Absolutely no drugs of any kind.
  • Alcohol is permitted off-duty.
  •  Dates flexible. Stay a week, a month, or the duration.
  • Room/board
  • Gas for farm errands run.
  • Share in profits (after farm expenses) of egg deliveries made on behalf of owner.
  •  For every week of satisfactory work, receive complementary 3-day stay at our creek-side mountain cabin just outside of Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Time may be banked for up to a full week stay at a time, a $1400   value.
General Requirements for Applicants:
  • Tetanus up-to-date and be able to provide that documentation
  • General good health
  • MUST be in good physical condition
  • Able to lift and carry 50-60 pounds easily
  • No animal allergies
  • Prepared to work in all weather conditions
  • Must understand compassionate farming sometimes means making emotionally difficult decisions such as sending stray dogs to the local  kill shelter, killing a bird who is injured, culling roos, etc.
  • Must be willing/able (after training) to successfully and satisfactorily complete daily farm chores alone 2x per week
  • Must be flexible in work schedules and how to prioritize what is to be done. Farm work is completely unpredictable at times, and there are no time cards or guaranteed "off" times. They do happen, but one must be flexible and be ready to get back to work in an emergency.
Specific Daily Tasks for the Farm:
  • Assist owner in animal routine for 40 chickens, 2 donkeys and 4 dogs. This involves feeding, collecting eggs, cleaning nest boxes, providing fresh water daily, changing water frequently during hot days to ensure cold water, etc.
  • Assist owner in maintaining/repairing fence lines
  • Learning our business model well enough to answer questions should you make any deliveries
  • Grounds maintenance: Using weed eaters, riding mowers. Being present while owner uses tractor for bush-hogging (a safety issue)
  • Running general farm errands, possibly making egg deliveries on occasion to established clients
  • General maintenance/repair where needed (carpentry experience a real plus)
  • Occasional house/farmsitting for up to a week
Specific Projects for the Farm:
  • Clearing fence lines section by section for installation of cattle panels and field wire (as materials can be afforded)
  • Putting together guinea house for next year
  • Cleanup/Maintenance of garden around farmhouse (weeding, mulching etc)
Living Arrangements (General):
  • I have no objection to differing religious affiliation (if any), color, sexual orientation, political ideology, etc. I expect the same understanding of a roommate. Well okay, maybe I do object to one personality type. Absolutely no racist homophobes will set foot in this door. Other than that, it's all good.
Specifics on Living Arrangements (in a nutshell, life as a roomie):
  • Share in household duties (cooking, cleaning etc)
  • Share in errand running (groceries, etc)
  • ABSOLUTELY NO DRUGS. ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NO DRUGS NEVER EVER EVER...just in case I'm too subtle here, let me reiterate. NO DRUGS.
  • Alcohol is permitted so long as you aren't a "knee walkin' drunk."
  • Men are welcome but if you dip and drop a spit cup on the carpet,  I. Will. End. You.
  • Vegans are welcome, but if you can't handle flesh in the fridge this is a deal-breaker.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

I don't want to use that now infamous phrase about the avoidance of projectiles that have been released through firearms, because it feels like it would be akin to using the name of the Scottish play in a theatre. And of course, we all remember what happened after they declared the Katrina crisis over right after the storm passed but before the levies broke.

But so far we've had no calls for sheltering horses, and the Agri-center in Memphis has been able to handle their load. The mighty Mississippi crested here a day earlier, so we are now just in the "wait and see" phase where the levies are concerned. I'm relieved, as I have not finished the paddock. Yesterday we had the worst dog incident we've ever had when a starved pit bull wandered on to the farm. She was older, and had a collar on. But apparently she had been either a breeder or a bait dog. Honestly I can't even describe it. She was so lame and weak from starvation that she could barely move, but the moment I approached her, she wagged her nubby tail at me weakly.

So I spent the day side tracked trying to find her some help while attempting to report the situation to the sheriff's office as a case of animal cruelty. But the only way to do that would be to have called Animal Control, where they would have taken her to the hell hole they call a "shelter." There's a strict policy of not adopting out pits who have been fighting, even if they were bait dogs, so she would have had to go through all of that stress and fear and pain only to have a needle shoved in her and her body thrown into a mass crematorium. I took her to the vet on the off chance that she was chipped and perhaps lost from the Arkansas tornadoes, but there was no chip, and she had so many old wounds that whoever owned her didn't deserve to have her back anyway.

So instead, I sat in the grass with her, fed her and petted her. She gave me sweet little kisses as she tried to sit in my lap on numerous occasions, but her pain was too great. Finally she would give up and lie beside me while I continued to stroke her and call her a good girl. It was probably the first time in her life she'd ever had that experience. Michael was once again the strong one. We dug her grave together, and I recited the Mani mantra for her. Then I put on my headphones and walked away, turning them up so high that my ears are still ringing. I never heard the shot. She's now lying in our little pet cemetery, surrounded by other victims of humankind's thoughtlessness. At least for one day she got to experience a full belly and a loving touch, and she left this world with someone to mourn her passing and cry for her. This is one day I will carry with  me for the rest of my life. I put a video of her on our YouTube Channel, but fair warning on how horrific it is. I almost deleted it, but came to the decision that she deserves to be seen and cried for.

I pray that those who were involved in her torture somehow find their way out of the suffering they have created for themselves. Because anyone who would do this to any living creature has a darkness in their hearts that is incalculable to me.

As for you, sweet innocent little dog who only wanted a lap to sit in, I pray for your swift and higher rebirth. I can't think of any creature who deserves it more.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Where's my Ark???

I know I've been off for awhile, and believe me when I say it's been CRAAAZZZEEEEEE out here! But we're doing our best at the moment to get our farm prepared for the flooding. So far we are out of the zone, but we are mending fences in case we need to take in evacuated horses.

So for the time being, twitter might be the most up-to-date I get. Come follow me on Twitter! And of course, my twitter name is BahGAWK. ;)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hosting Our First Workshop

With warm temps come my annual attack of chickenitis (the insatiable desire to see fluffy baby chicks following their clucking moms). Since we lost so many hens due to the theft that translated into a humongous financial loss, I decided to let nature take its course rather than order from a hatchery. Besides, it's more fun anyway, and I don't have to put those poor little ones through the stress of hatching and being stuffed in boxes headed for the mail.

Since I've had many people ask about workshops or just coming to visit us, I thought I'd make a day of it with a workshop for potential chickenthusiasts on starting backyard flocks. I put it up on our Facebook page in hopes of generating interest and spreading the word.

The workshop will be from 10 am - 3 pm on May 14, and are suitable for people ages 12 and up (provided anyone under 18 is accompanied by a legal guardian).  

If you are in the Midsouth area and would like to join us, please email me at to reserve your spot as they will be limited.

Monday, February 21, 2011

So Far, So Good

Though I'm disappointed the person(s) responsible for such a devastating loss to the flock never took us up on our offer to help, I'm at least relieved to say that since we put the note up and padlocked everything that involved critters there have been no  more losses, and our egg production has quadrupled. Though it's not definitive proof that we were dealing with a predator of the H. sapiens variety rather than wildlife, it certainly could lend credence to the theory. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, we're on to bigger and brighter things. First up is doing what we can to follow through on making "Fort Chicken" as impenetrable as possible. And of course there's a lot of clearing up of brush from the winter's shenanigans to get working on. So we'll keep on keeping on, as they say. We won't be replacing the hens we lost this year, but will instead let nature take its course. If a hen decides she might like to take on the responsibility of raising a few babies herself, we'll let her go for it. The market will just have to wait another year for us, and that's just part of accepting that farm life is full of setbacks and unexpected losses. But we're not giving in, not by a long shot.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Strange Things are Afoot at the Cluck-n-Neigh

We've had a massive setback here on the farm, and I don't mind telling you it's downright discouraging. Last night I had a light bulb moment, and not of the pleasant kind. I had been wondering why our egg production seemed to be so poor. I had been blaming the wacky weather, but once it became less wacky I assumed production would go back to normal. There had been a few odd tickles at the back of my mind that seemed odd, but none taken alone were enough to raise suspicion. First it was an empty roost pole, but the hens had taken to roosting in a corner, piling up like a litter of puppies. There had been a few feathers here and there by the coop door, but I it looked like someone was molting more than anything else. Besides, I was doing my animal routine in the dark that week due to being in Memphis all day long.

Last evening around sunset, the picture became all too clear when I went looking for a few stubborn birds that for some reason hadn't come in from the yard. When I discovered an empty yard with all the girls safely roosted, it  hit me like a thump to the back of the head. Chickens were missing. I looked more closely. A LOT of chickens were missing.  By the end of the third head count, I realized all too late and with much disgust and anger what those tickles in my mind had been trying to tell me.

Someone has been catching, strangling stealing my chickens. Those feathers by the door were NOT molted, but the result of the heartless method one uses when they "wring" a chicken's neck by whirling it by the head like a bullroarer. Over  30 birds dead.

You may ask, "how on earth would she not notice for a week?" Simple. It happened while I was spending a lot of time in Memphis at Pema Karpo Meditation Center for the Monlam Chenmo (The Great Prayer Festival). I was leaving before dawn and coming home well after dark, doing animal routine by flashlight. So of course I wasn't noticing there were fewer black lumps in darkened corners. In other words, while I'm off the farm for some incredible teachings by Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche on a Tibetan text that has not even been translated into English yet (and might not be in my lifetime) and praying for world peace, some jackwagon has been killing my beloved chickens. For what? A quick meal? A mean prank? An insatiable psychotic need soon to graduate to Dexter-ical proportions? Frankly, all of these scenarios suck equally. Either someone in this neighborhood is so hungry they are reduced to foraging like a feral dog for food, or someone is so disturbed as to find it amusing to kill defenseless animals that do nothing but spend their birdie lives feeding the hungry. Double Yew Tee Eff. Add to that the realization that someone has obviously been watching our comings and goings to know when the best times would be to get up to no good and it's getting creepier by the minute.

But what really bakes the noodle is wondering how many times last week did I walk right by someone standing in the shadows, still and silent with a freshly strangled chicken in their grip?

Last year Memphis was given (and earned) the lovely distinction of being the Hunger Capital of the United States. One area in particular is also one of the worst food deserts in the nation. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a food desert is a community without access to any grocery stores. In other words, if you can't find it in the gas stations, you don't find it at all. Even if you had enough money to purchase fresh food, it is simply not available unless you have both grocery money and a car to get to the grocery stores in other communities. Things are turning around for the area though with the addition of the South Memphis Farmers Market. This humble beginning was even noted by The White House as a positive step in the right direction for a city long overdue. After our tremendous success and support from the community of Collierville, we were out of the red and into the black. Within one year, the generosity of a few made it possible for us more than double the size of our flock with the goal of making it to South Memphis, possibly making us the only provider of fresh compassionately produced eggs in the entire community.  I had high hopes that it would happen this upcoming season. But now? I can't afford to. I am right back at square one. I do not even know if I will have enough eggs left to take to the Collierville Farmers Market without having to cut families in need off. This is the exact opposite of the entire mission of Cluck-n-Neigh, and I will not do it. The actions of one (or a few) have now directly affected an entire community who could have gotten great benefit from the eggs those now-dead birds would have provided.

So for now, we are on hold until further notice. Most certainly we won't be going to the South Memphis Farmers Market this year, and if we lose any more birds we will not be at the Collierville Farmers Market either.  All we can do is hope that a few folks will help us out when and where they can so that we can make some serious upgrades to security out here. We can use help in any way you feel like giving it, be it financial, volunteer labor or ideas. Our paypal link is on the right hand side of the page for easy donations, and I've got a wish list going if you'd care to take a peek for other stuff that would help us get back on track/continue the journey. Until we upgrade to more security, I have posted a simple sign that reads:

We provide eggs to everyone, even if they cannot pay. Many families in need depend on these eggs. If you take or harm the chickens, many families go hungry.

If you need eggs, mark this page with an “X.” I will put eggs out for you in one of the feed cans, no questions asked. If you have no way to cook them, mark the page with a “B” and I will boil them for you.

Do not hurt my chickens. They've done you no harm.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Claire 2.0, Pt 2

Well I finally got around to my first recipe experiment for healthy baking. I had some old bananas that were overripe, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity for attempting a customization of the classic banana nut muffin. I started with the original that I found in my favorite cooking website, The original recipe can be found at this link.

In all honesty, I did not make this original recipe. I figure discretion to be the better part of valor when it comes to food. No sense in making the lesser of two choices health-wise, and tempting my inner caveman brain to say "Hey! This one's better! I can survive all winter on all these calories! Let's make more!"

So, I made a few changes for starters. Nothing too ambitious. I do not use electric mixers or anything, all is done by hand. Worked out fine. The new recipe is below:

Banana chocolate-chip muffins (makes 12 muffins)
1 1/2 mashed overripe bananas
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
6 Tablespoons cold milled flax
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease 12-cup muffin tin. In medium bowl, combine bananas, flax, egg and vanilla & mix well together. Using a serving fork makes for easy mixing.

In large bowl, combine flours, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Stir in the banana mix until just blended. Fold in chips & walnuts. Spoon batter into prepped muffin tin until each cup is 2/3 full.

Bake 15 - 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then remove muffins from tin and place onto metal rack for complete cooling.

So let's compare the nutritional information between the two recipes (drum roll please):

Per muffin (original/new recipe):
Calories: 318/164
Fat: 17.2/5.3
Carbs: 40.6/26
Fiber: 2.4 g/3.8
Protein 3.7g/4.3

Holy MOLY! Look at what just a small change in flour, or using flax instead of oil can do for a muffin recipe! Not to mention it was quite tasty. I don't know if I would have really noticed the difference between the original and the healthier alternative. Viva la spelt flour!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Claire 2.0, Pt 1

There's a relatively new sport known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), that Michael and I enjoy. One MMA organization in particular is called Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). One of their commentators has a catch phrase he uses so often it's become a drinking game in some circles. As fighters stare each other down from their respective corners, the referee claps his hands together and shouts out "FIGHT!" The bell rings, and commentator Mike Goldberg's voice booms out:

"And heeere we GO!"

That's what I imagine in my mind as I start looking into permacooking. In other words, I have no idea what is going to happen. It might end in a healthier me, full of wisdom and sage advice to share about how you too can grow, harvest and pound your own heirloom grains like quinoa, amaranth or spelt into scrumptious breads as healthy and ecologically sustainable as they are tasty and nutritious. Or it might end in tears and bald patches from me pulling my own hair out by the handful. I'm aiming for something along the midpoint of the spectrum of extremes.

So what is permacooking, you may ask? Put simply, it's applying the three permaculture ethics (Care of earth, care of people and limiting consumption/sharing resources ) to how your food gets to your body. Though these ethics are simple, they do require a bit of learning to put into practice when it comes to food prep. There is quite a learning curve when you've been raised on McCorporate food and opening cans I can tell you!

To help other newbies on the road to being permacooking gourmets, I thought I'd share the journey! So here they are, step-by-step instructions on how to get away from the corporate world of ultra-processed, cruelty centered foods of negligible nutrition into the wonderful world of tasty, nutritious and sustainable permacooking!

Step 1: Decide to document with photos. Dig old, stale makeup out of closet and apply due to deceased Steel Magnolia mother's voice ringing in ears about how "every lady needs a little bit of color!"
Step 2: Lock self in bathroom to spare husband sounds of huffing an puffing as attempt to push earrings through piercings long ago closed from lack of adornment becomes increasingly annoying.

Step 3: Come to sudden realization as a farmer you haven't worn makeup in years. Remove makeup immediately.

Step 4: Come to second sudden realization (after about three hours) that "just a quick look on the net about DIY quinoa flour" has now become unbearably tedious. 

So, after all those steps I've come to the following conclusions.
  1. It's just food. 
  2. If no one likes it, I don't have to make it again.
  3. Bad food = good compost, so there's nothing to lose
So folks, stay tuned for the next exciting installment of Claire 2.0!