The Farm January 2005
 

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Footsteps Farm Journal, Page 4

February 18, 2005

A newspaper reporter coming Sunday at 12:30. A piglet is going to be processed at 10:00 on Sunday. We are tapping trees for maple on Saturday. I finishing up the final brush clearing so the lyme guy can spead 8 tons on Thursday. We are running out of money, and need snow BAD!! so we can get some cash plowing. I ran a temporary fence line in the ox pasture and will finish that Saturday, and have to move everyone in there before the lyme gets spread. Steve's been busy cutting wood. I talked to the guy who owns Four Mile River Farm in Old Lyme, and he LOVES our web site!!

 

April 1, 2005

Lots has happened over the past three months.

The Mystic River Press did a nice article on the farm in their March 10 issue. They have since asked me to write a monthly series on local farms, which I have agreed with reservation to do at no cost to them.

I have been contacting local farms and gathering information for the article. The first of the series will list the farms, contact numbers, web addresses, and most importantly what products they sell.

After a very long and snowy winter we are now in to spring and full blown mud. Luckily we got 6 tons of lime put down in the House Pasture during a frozen time and then the boys and I spread 175 pounds of grass seed. Two days after we got it spread it snowed again. Now with the weather warming up some, I think I can actually see some sprouts starting. We purchased 20 pounds of turnip seed this week, and I kind of wonder how many turnips will come from that much seed but we will plant some in May and some again in August.

The House Pasture looks great, all cleared and clean, all mucked up by having the animals in there for most of the winter. Now they are all in the Ox Pasture waiting for the grass to reach about 8 inches so they can start their rotation. (These links are to the farm "tour". Please be sure you have turned off any pop-up blockers, as this tour uses pop-ups.)

Baby PigletThe peep frogs are singing their spring song and it is a delight to set a spell on the front porch and listen to their voices.

Pearl the pig had her piglets in the West Paddock on Easter Sunday. I had let her out of the farrowing house in the early morning so I could clean it, and by the time I walked to the house to turn on the hose and got back she had already started to deliver her first piglet. Four survived and are doing fine now.

Yesterday when I came home at lunch time she (Pearl) was asleep and laying so as to face west; her rear-end was pointing south and all her babies were stretched out side by side sunning themselves.

Olive the pig is happy in the East Paddock. We moved her very easily as the rest of the pigs were busy with fresh grain and hay in the opposite end of the Ox Pasture. She had 6 piglets on Tuesday morning (March 29) and they are all doing fine.Six piglets with mom

Speaking of hay, we have 2 bales left and I know that won’t make it through until the grass is 8 inches high. While visiting the grain mill at CCC Farmers Co-op in Manchester, Arm the night manager told me about citrus pellets and peet pulp pellets. We may buy just enough to get by IF money will allow it. Money is VERY tight right now with no income due until June when we start selling our broilers. (Thank goodness for all the snow in March and the extra income from snowplowing.)

Egg sales are full bore, with us being at the limit of customers we can service. New layers are growing in a box in the coop and after we get the forecasted 3 inches of rain on Saturday, I will move them out in to the chicken tractor I got from Wade Stoner. (Wade is a long-time reenacting friend. He made the tractor for his own chickens but doesn't need it now, and has donated it to Footsteps Farm. A good friend indeed.)

The 50 broilers in the box in the basement are now 3 weeks old and we have lost about 8 for reasons unknown. They will go into the new chicken tractor hoops houses right after I get back from Syracuse the second weekend in April. We have 100 more broilers coming this Sunday and 18 Bourbon Red turkeys coming next week.

George the Bourbon Red Tom Turkey and his two wives have produced two big nests on which the ladies are sitting. Hopefully, we will get some poults from them. George gobbles from sun up to sun down and is ALWAYS strutting.

Jeff, Kevin, and I spent last weekend making cattle panel hoop house chicken tractors. We decided to go with those as they are high enough to stand in. The design we used for our hoop houses came from from the site www.plamondon.com/hoophouse.html. The design that Karen came up with is perfect, but we “tweaked” it somewhat. We have taken lots of pictures and have some dimensions et., that  we will eventually put somewhere here on our site so that others can find it a bit easier to make one themselves.

Hoop house chicke tractor

Our range feeders and  automatic watering bowls came last week and once we get them put together we will be ready for Pastured Poultry. We will have two tractors for broilers and one for turkeys. The small one we got from Wade will hold our new layers until we can build more hoop house tractors.

The fences need to be mended SOON, such as this Sunday if I can do it. The winter with falling branches etc. has really taken a toll on the wires. We can’t move the hoop houses in to the pastures until the fences are hot once again. We turned them off for the winter, with the exception of the House Pasture, Paddocks, and Ox Pasture.

Mark is doing a GREAT job cutting cord wood in the Ox Pasture. He has taken some time off due to the mud season. While he waits for things to dry out he is performing preventative maintenance on all his equipment. You wouldn’t believe the difference in the Ox Pasture now. We can actually see all of the stone walls now, and never in my lifetime have I been able to do that. Jeff, Kevin, and I went through and marked all the trees we wanted to save. Once Mark is done, we will fence off another area and then move the animals in there to finish cleaning things up. I had hoped to get it done sooner but since Mark is doing such a good job I am willing to wait. He even piles up all of the limbs etc. from what he cuts and it is saving me MONTHS of work.

Jeff and Kevin have really come in to being fine young men who work hard on the farm, and the most important thing is that I can count on them to do a good job and I no longer have to feel the need to continuously check on what they are doing. Jeff is 14, strong as an ox and a hard worker. He likes the piglets and enjoys farm life.  Kevin is 12, very interested in everything and he has the ability to keep one step ahead of me while we work on these many projects. I hope he will continue his farm education at Ledyard High School in their VOAG program.

Sheryl has really put up with a lot this winter, with all the mud and snow getting tracked in the house. Some times she will go in to take a shower in the morning only to find chicken watering cans in the tub thawing out. Keeping the outside hoses clear of ice has been a real task as has keeping the drinking water containers all thawed.

We did 40 maple tree taps this year, but decided that because of the work load, we would limit out sap boiling time to just one weekend. We got about a gallon of syrup and it is sooooo good.

We processed our first pig that was born on the farm. We used Marice’s Meat Market in Canterbury and it was a very pleasant experience. The bacon and sausage is far superior to where we were taking it before. We ended up with about 170 pounds of meat.

My parents bought us a sausage stuffer, so now we can do our own sausage more easily than with the attachment we had for the Kitchen Aid mixer. I have given away a lot of sausage and bacon to the family, but I feel it important to take care of family and those who have helped us.

Our business is now ready to really be a business and starting with the next pig to be processed we will finally be a true farm with a steady supply of pastured pork and chickens.

On a sad note we learned that Stafford Springs, where we had intended to have all our beef and pork USDA processed, is temporarily closed due to financial problems. I don’t know where we will go from here. We can still direct market but must sell the animal alive to the customer and then have them contract us to get it processed. This becomes a problem in that we must wait until we have enough people to go in to each get a quarter (4 buyers) or a half (2 buyers) of a pig or cow.

The next cow to go will go in November. We won’t sell him as we want to test the meat for flavor and tenderness before we sell anything to others. I don’t believe our pastures are at a sufficient level to produce 1.6 pounds of grain per day in order to get good marbling and tender meat, but time will tell. I won’t sell something I wouldn’t eat myself and I am pretty particular when it comes to food and great taste.

We have added links to the farms that will be included in my first article so that if we don’t have a product you want, you can easily go to someone else. While we hope you will do business with us, we feel a certain responsibility to other family farms to help each other where we can.

We have two new places to find farms etc., which you should check out:

www.localharvest.org

www.eatwellguide.org

It seems that almost daily we hear from someone who has visited our site and is especially pleased with how it looks, and  I know I have said it before but this is all thanks to Sarah and the job she has done. In fact she is already planning for a complete site revamp this fall to put our product up front and personal instead of the presentation that we have now. She promises it won't be a big change and people who know the site will still be comfortable with it.

We received the paperwork from the Certified Humane people in Virginia. To us, this "beyond organic" certification is far more important that being “organic” or anything else. It will take us some time to get through it all as they have a separate set of paperwork for each species. It was nice that THEY contacted US.

So in closing, GET YOUR ORDERS IN early for chickens and turkeys, they are going fast and the season is only so long. Frankly we won’t be full bore in the poultry project until next year, when we will have built 3 more chicken tractors and a nice processing station.

Remember that how your birds are processed is probably more important than what they eat and whether they are “Certified Organic” or not. We do ours all by hand so there is no fecal soup nor need for chlorine baths. If you haven't read about Pastured Poultry and our "beyond organic" focus, please do.

 

May 25, 2005

On May 5, one of our Highland Cattle, Sarah, gave birth to a new baby. We named him Max. New babies are great, but we need some girls!

I've been busy finishing making the Whizbang Chicken Plucker, we've tested it, and it works great! This is important as we are getting a lot of orders, and need to process a lot of chickens. This is a home-made machine and you can get easy instructions to make one yourself, by visiting here or here. I'll have pictures of mine here soon.

We are getting a lot of orders, people getting on the waiting list, which is wonderful!

 

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