May 15, 2015
Our roosters are acting up again. Charlie, our adolescent farm collie, broke up a fight between Gonzo and Stranger. Gonzo turned on the collie for a moment, then saw our German Shepherd coming to see what was up. The rooster opted for the better part of valor, and pretended he had something important on the ground to peck at. It's a sign of the season—as egg production increases, roosters start fighting over the hens.
"In season." I think we've gotten to the point at which most people understand that tomatoes and bell peppers in the middle of winter are a modern aberration, something our great-grandparents never would have dreamed of. But we forget that, just as fruits and vegetables have a season, so do staples like eggs and even meat.
Late fall to early winter is the season for beef, when the frost tenderizes the grass, kills the flies, and so helps cows fatten up. Fall is pork season too, when fallen apples and acorns give pigs extra heft. Ham, smoked or salted to preserve the meat, is still traditional for Easter. It stems from a time when there was no fresh meat in spring—except for whole, young lambs, which were now just big enough to eat. Milk, too, is seasonal. People today are of course used to picking up a carton whenever they want. Indeed, we had milk year round even before the advent of factory farming. But time was most of us only got milk in the Spring, when the cows or goats were raising calves or kids. Cheese is how you consumed milk the rest of the year.
Another sign of the season is that egg productivity in our hundred-hen flock is up again. For a while there, it had fallen to lows we haven't seen in our little hobby farm's seven-year history. We'd been getting less than an egg a day for a while—not even enough for our own use, let alone to sell.
Egg production goes up and down with the sun, decreasing with the length of day in the winter and picking up again as spring brings longer daylight. Now that we're back to getting a dozen or so a day it's nice to be able to keep our customers in eggs.
Spring is also meat-chicken season. All those eggs give you the opportunity to raise some animals for meat.
Mind, I'm not entirely dissing modern technology and the global food trade. I can't imagine life without coffee, or chocolate, or lemons. And while we’ve been learning to smoke and salt meat—with traditional methods of preserving—we also depend on freezers.
Many people think of fruits and vegetables as having seasons. And us? Well, the farm has a way of imposing animal seasons on us as well.