Through a series of circumstances, I ended up taking on a much larger role in Dirty Dinners last year. Though definitely stressful, I really feel like the experience promoted a lot of personal growth for me and inspired me to think up more events to throw at the Calleva farm. The farm is a very special place, but though Calleva’s camps and Markoff’s Haunted Forest are well known in the area, the fact that we are a working farm with market animals and an intensive vegetable operation comes as a surprise to many people I’ve spoken with. Thus the idea to bring more people to the farm, to experience all we have to offer first hand. This year we will be offering a number of workshops and events for families and individuals from the DC and Frederick areas to try their hands at some homesteading skills as well as some more social events featuring our farm fresh produce.
I’m especially excited for our backyard chicken series. Many of our staff have been very helpful in taking care of our birds on the farm, and have gotten their own chickens over the years. During this workshop there will be a chicken processing demonstration for those interested in raising their own meat birds, or want to know what to do with an old “stew hen” that is no longer laying eggs. To me, this was one of the rites of passage into really seeing myself as a farmer. It’s always hard to take the life of something you see and care for every day, but if I made the decision to eat meat, it is important for me to know what goes into making my meal. That said, my meat consumption since coming to Calleva has gone down a lot. Partially for health reasons, partially because I feel that for the amount if work that goes into producing meat quality has to beat out quantity for me to feel ok consuming it. This concerns the quality of life for the animals and the farmers. The second part of this series concerns egg-layers. We have designed an optimal hen house for a backyard flock of 4-6 hens, which would supply a family with about a dozen eggs a week at peak laying time. We will provide the parts, tools and instructions to put together this kit, and a few coop – ready pullets to start. We will also talk about different chicken breeds and the unique considerations for raising chickens in the Mid-Atlantic.
Another event I’m really looking forward to is another addition to our Dirty Dinner series – the Deadly Dinner. It will coincide with Haunted Forest time and allow us to feature the plethora of fall crops we will have and hopefully create a great haunting atmosphere, different from the forest, but still cohesive. I’m also hoping it will serve to remind people that they are on a farm, and that fall farm season isn’t just about pumpkin patches, corn mazes and hay rides (though that’s all great fun and has been a staple of agritourism for ages).