Braden’s Chicks

April 3, 2018

DSCF2944

 

I rode with Braden last week to Abendroth Hatchery to pick up his chicks.  Braden got a couple hundred broilers and some red pullets for layers.

They are off to a good start, although its been cold this first week of April.  Braden plans to build movable pens and start them on pasture as soon as the chicks are big enough and the weather moderates.

We have a butcher date for May 22nd, so we plan to have chicken available at the Dane County Farmer’s Market on May 26th.

Danielle has started vegetables in trays in her apartment.  She says they are off to a good start as well.  My young partners are excited to start farming!

 

DSCF2948


Red-winged Blackbird Returns

March 12, 2018

Red-winged Blackbird Eggs

 

My old friend, the Red-winged Blackbird, has returned from his winter home, March 11, 2018.  There is usually a male who sits in the apple tree in my yard as I practice my disc golf putting.

While he probably isn’t the same bird, there is a chance, as the longest living wild Red-winged Blackbird was nearly 16 years old when scientists studied him.  If he isn’t the same bird, I’m sure he’s kin.

The photo above was taken in June or July, five years ago.  You can read more about Red-winged Blackbirds on my blog, here,  and here and here.


Winter 2018

February 4, 2018

DSCF2906

 

Winter 2018, mild, mostly frozen, animals and people doing well.  Above is one of the hogs exploring, and below are some of the cattle resting on their bedding pack, with hogs exploring at the left of the frame.

I wrote that last week.  Winter has decided to come back hard in February, with below zero wind chills and several inches of snow last night, February 3rd.

DSCF2903

Thank you to everyone who has purchased meat, or boxes, or halves, this winter.  Your business is appreciated.

I added several new products, (Brats-links and patties, Breakfast sausage patties, Cottage Bacon, Canadian Bacon, Ham Hocks).

I also tweaked the Classic Pork boxes.  Check them out and let me know if something interests you.

 

DSCF2916

I am farrowing several litters in one of the hoop barns with farrowing huts.  The sows get to choose which hut to farrow in, and also make their own nest inside the huts.

When it is this cold, I never have any trouble with a sow choosing to farrow outside of a hut, which can be a problem in the warmer months of the year.

I haven’t lost many piglets, even though its been colder than I would prefer, (below 20 F).

Except for one very big Landrace sow who chose to carry way too much bedding into her hut and farrowed on a very cold night.  All her piglets died.  My theory is whereas the other sows made a nest with at least a little room for the piglets to nurse, see photo below, this sow was so big with so much bedding, the piglets were simply unable to start nursing due to lack of room.

DSCF2915


Denizens of the Night

January 20, 2018

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

 

The idyllic farm of daytime turns into the stuff of nightmares when the sun goes down.  If you are a chicken who missed your farmer’s shutting of the door, you’ll have to search for a safe roost to spend the night.  But beware, some of these creatures climb.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

I noticed a deer carcass, so I put up a trail cam and captured these images one night last week.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

What’s interesting is the times recorded on the trail cam.  It looks like the raccoon came out early in the evening and the coyote stayed until after daybreak.

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA


Giving Thanks for Turkeys

November 30, 2017

The turkey adventure is almost over, (we have a few frozen ones left).  I’m calling it a success, because we are getting great feedback from our customers, and we received an education.  Turkey-directed learning is underrated!

About six weeks before our processing date at Twin Cities Pack,I decided to call and make sure everything was lined up.  The owner said no, someone called and cancelled our appointment.  I was able to reschedule for the week before Thanksgiving, but this meant that the turkeys would be frozen.   

I was in shock, because I knew that many of our customers expected a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, and may cancel if we no longer offered that option.  I was depressed for about a half hour, but then I realized that we could still offer fresh turkeys if we processed on-farm, and customers traveled to the farm to pick one up.

I checked with an Amish neighbor who had the necessary poultry processing equipment, and yes we would be able to rent it from him and he would also provide his expertise.  The last poultry I butchered myself was about 20 years ago as a character-building exercise.

So we offered two options: a frozen turkey from a state-inspected facility, or drive to the farm for a home-butchered fresh turkey.  A few people cancelled, but most stayed with each option split about equally.

I took some of the turkeys to Twin Pack and then picked up the birds the next day and delivered to a central point.  It went fine.

Then the Monday before Thanksgiving dawned, and I did my chores quickly and went and picked up Benny, my Amish neighbor, and his poultry processing equipment.  We used a propane tank to heat the water for the scalder.  The plucker ran off of hydraulics.  I used one of my tractors to run that, but had to change one of the ends of the hydraulic lines, no problem.

We set up and began with me doing the killing and scalding, Braden plucking, my Dad and my Uncle Carl doing quality control, and Benny gutting.  Braden also learned how to gut as he took a real interest in the whole process.

I’m not going to kid you, it was gruesome.  A few customers came before I had a chance to clean up.  I’m amazed they didn’t jump in their cars and drive away as I looked like something out of a horror movie, with blood spattering my face and glasses.

But after I had a chance to clean up I felt better and actually enjoyed the rest of the day as I had a chance to visit with many of our customers and even gave short tours to some of them.  It was a great way to end our turkey project, and reminded me why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.


New Partners, Braden and Daniele

October 23, 2017

 

For mid-life reasons I don’t care to discuss, my direct-marketing partners decided to get out of this gig and sell their farm.  It was a good partnership for about nine years and I was sad to see it end.  I wish them the best.

This summer I upped my marketing since Eric wasn’t active in the partnership.  I sold most Saturdays at the West Side Farmer’s Market and I made many restaurant deliveries.  I fully intended to take over the business and buy out my partners’ shares in the LLC.

I guess we should have talked price earlier in the process, as when we finally did, we were so far off it wasn’t even worth negotiating.  I’m glad I didn’t buy them out as I knew I couldn’t do it all on my own, and I wasn’t thrilled to think about managing employees.

So when my disc golfing buddy Braden mentioned one day that he and his significant other, Daniele, would really like to have a small farm someday, and raise chickens and vegetables, the idea germinated that perhaps I could find some new partners.

I’ve been reading and rereading the Joel Salatin books on business and marketing.  He says that if you are in your 40s or older and there is no one younger in your business, your business is dying, or something to that effect.

So I approached Braden and Daniele about partnering with me.  I could give them access to land and a market and a few years experience which I hope has been distilled into wisdom.  They could give me youthful energy and help marketing.  Each offer other skills as well, (Braden is an electrician.  Daniele is an elementary teacher).

To their credit, it took them a week to get back to me.  Because I feel a bit like Tom Sawyer as this opportunity I’m presenting them, to quote Thomas Edison, is “dressed in overalls and looks like work!”  But that’s what most opportunities look like, and I think by the end of the first year they will at least know if this is still a dream worth pursuing for them.

The first thing we did as partners was to go to my old partners’ farm sale.  We ended up making a bulky purchase of chicken crates, which we will need if Braden raises broiler chickens as he plans.  After we made the buy we had to figure out how to get the crates home as we only drove a truck to the sale.   I said I would go back to my farm and get my cattle trailer.  They could stay at the sale and bid on a couple more items we were interested in.

When I returned, the sale was over.  By myself I would have been stressed gathering up all the purchases and loading and unloading the trailer.  But they already had our purchases gathered in one spot.  We loaded quickly, drove back to the farm, and unloaded quickly.  I understood what Joel meant by youthful energy.

I like to strike when the iron is hot, and even though I am not ready to sell meat under our new name as we don’t have labels, etc.  I thought it would be good to check out our spot at the Dane County Farmer’s Market at the capital.

We could have just drove up and walked around, but we got on the ball and gathered up some fall decorations to sell.  Daniele made a sign and business cards.  Our stuff didn’t sell very well, but we made some more contacts for Thanksgiving turkeys and started getting our new name out there.

Even though it was a long day with an early start, Braden and Daniele seem as enthused as ever.  I plan to document this partnership with this blog and video, the new medium I’m exploring.  I made a slide show of our first market.

 

 

 


Turkey Update, 1st Youtube Video!

October 11, 2017

 

The turkeys are a great addition.  An earlier post described my movable pen and cattle trailer which I used to lock them up at night and avoid predation.  They quickly outgrew that idea.

So I put them in our old dairy barn and left them locked in for a couple of days to acclimate them to that space as home.  Then I opened the door and watched.

 

They are avid foragers of greens and insects, roaming now at nine weeks over approximately ten acres.  Oddly, they are attracted to humans and vehicles and really anything novel.

They started a bad habit of coming up on the back porch and lounging, especially if people were sitting there.  They weren’t bothersome, except for the prodigious quantities of excrement they produce.

So I made a hillbilly decision and put a fence around my back porch.  The turkeys are free-range, but the farmer is confined!