The Yellow House Farm Conservation Intiative
After more than 2000 years, will these little White Dorking chicks survive the next decade? They went to Britain on the heals of Julius Caesar, living off scraps. They survived the Middle Ages, when sustainable agriculture was the only agriculture and thrift meant survival. They were the first chickens brought over by English settlers to New England, filling an essentail need in the lives of early Americans. They provided tasty and nutritious food for us and our families before peak oil and the invention of industrial chicken product. Will they still be here after peak oil, when all of the industrial and unnatural chickens are dead and gone?
ONLY IF WE SAVE THEM!!
As the interest in raising poultry surges in our area, it comes time to consider more deeply what it means to homestead. In an eggshell, homesteading is about reestablishing relationaship with our local ecology: working with the earth to procure what we need, and enjoying the joys of independence bred of creativity and hard work. It is at once romantic and highly practical. When done right, it is a small victory for evironmental sustainability, making it a gift to self, neighbors, and the whole of planet Earth.
Assuredly, the raising of poultry fits neatly into the plans of a full homestead. Chickens, ducks and geese are excellent additions, when one procures appropriate birds for one's homsteading goals. This is the realm of heritage fowl. Modern hybrids have no place here. Homesteading poultry should be capable of foraging for a large portion of their own food, if given the chance to range. They fill the kitchen with eggs and the freezer with healthy and delicious meats. Moreover, when properly composted, poultry manure is a homesteader's best friend as natural fertilizer to the building of rich soils. There is no need for chemical fertilizers when poultry manure-based compost is on hand. The feathers of ducks and geese are traditionally the stuffing of homemade pillows, quilts, and comforters, being extremely good insulation against the cold winter night's chill. Ducks and geese are excellent producers of eggs and meat, and geese give meat, down and delicious goose grease with little more than a good lawn to graze. No homestead is complete without them.
Relationship is the key to good homesteading; it is now, and it has always been so. Indeed, practically every breed of traditional farm animal is the product of a regional relationship between an area's farmers and their animals. Before the post WWII era brought us a facile illusion of comfort that led individual to compete ruthlessly against individual, country life tended toward deep cooperation in the clear and simple name of survival. Farm cooperated with farm such that all could see a new spring. Because of this, homesteads were able to support each other.
In the keeping of farm animals, this is essential. As years pass, a farmer sees the need to import new blood into the barnyard in order to insure against the dangers on inbreeding. Knowing that one's neighbor is in the same boat, it become logical to exchange breeding fowl, thus renewing the flocks of both farms. In order for this to be truly adventageous, however, it is essential that flock owners breed their birds with like goals of utility. Otherwise, the needed swap can cause more damage than good, another clear need for farmer cooperation. Over time this interaction leads to an outstanding level of uniformity among the fowl and farm animals of a region. Like reproduces like, and a breed is born.
The latter half of the 20th century witnessed the general breakdown of the whole of homesteading and rural life. Breeds fell like flies as homes no longer depended on them for their meat and eggs. In some cases, breeds that dated back through centuries, and even millennia, were reduced to marginalized minor populations, barely holding on. Corporate agribusiness rejected this rich bio-diversity for the marketing uniformity of a few breeds, bred into new and unnatural forms, guarded behind closed doors. Slowly, their grip has become like a vice over traditional rural life and the food supplies of both rural and urban centers.
Still, as a culture, we appear to be beginning to reawaken from this metal nightmare. For some breeds it is and will be too late. Their numbers are so reduced that they shall never rebound and will slip unsung into oblivion. For others, though, there is still time, and we shall be able to reclaim them from the ravages of neglect, if we are only willing to work together for their, and subsequently our, greater good.
To this end, we announce the Yellow House Farm Conservation Intiative, the goal of which will be the establishment of a network of homesteaders and farmers dedicating their efforts to specific breeds. As we do so, we will witness their strengthening and rejuvenation. They will enrich our homesteads with their many products and services. It will connect people of like mind and goal, and slowly refresh, in some small way, the general community.
Upon purchasing hatchlings from Yellow House Farm, customers will be encouraged to join the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. The SPPA provides member farmers and homesteaders with the a national Breeders' Directory. Thus, as time passes and there is a need to refresh bloodlines with acquisition of new stock, breeders will be able to consult the SPPA Breeders' Directory to contact other area homesteaders and farmers for a traditional "rooster swap". Moreover, Yellow House Farm will continue its commitment to helping new breeders master the arts of poultry breeding and selection such that each year's hatchlings will mark a new step in the development of heritage breeds whose utility meets and surpasses the echo of yesteryear.
Moreover, membership in the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities allows for fraternizing between breeders. In our busy schedules, we often need support to make things run smoothly. The SPPA connects breeder to breeder and opens doorways of support and mutual benefit, i.e. we're all in this boat together.
As a community, we shall be able to reclaim our food system from outside suppliers of unsavory menu items. Instead, we shall enjoy excellent food as nature intends it. Consider beginning your breeding program this year. Check out Yellow House Farm School. It's fun and not at all difficult. Indeed, it represents what was for innumerable generations a basic skill of everyday life. Join the Yellow House Farm Conservation Initiative!