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Footsteps Farm Journal, Page 6

Fall 2005: End of the Season Newsletter

“Unbelievable”, that is the only word to describe this past season.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every one of you for supporting us in this our actual first real year of selling products.

About this picture up above: The road that leads to our driveway is Prentice Williams Road, named after my Great Grandfather, our pastures and lots have all been named by my ancestors, our driveway I named after my Grandfather and Grandmother, so after Jaime was killed this summer, my brother Cody and his family felt it fitting to name the road that leads to Jaime's final resting spot, and the place where my parents' and my ashes will be in the woods, should be named after Jaime.

I would susspect that other members of our family will also want to have their ashes spead in our special spot so that we can always be here where family can continue to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.

Chicken News

Chicken TractorWe were sold out of Pastured Poultry by Sept 1st even though we still had 75 in tractors still growing.

The chicken processing team of my sons Jeffrey (15) and Kevin (12), and nephew Avery (12) have really come together and do a professional job of getting the chickens ready for me and then helping with bagging etc afterwards. It is their printing you see on our labels. This coming weekend neice Melody (12) will be learning the trade and will take part in the weekly task of preparing your birds for you.

All of our bird processing is done here and we have learned a lot this past year, made too many mistakes and still have some fine tuning to do but we are getting faster at the task. Our mechanical plucker (the infamous Whizbang Chicken Plucker) will at times break a leg or wing and while this does not take away from the taste it does distract from the presentation. Ever wonder why you can buy “Parts”? The big boys break legs too but have enough chickens to sell them in parts. We have considered doing this and will decide that before next season. The price for chicken breasts would be much higher though, probably $6.00 to $7.00 per pound for boneless/skinless.

Our layers are finally all in full swing with 2 dozen eggs being laid just for you each day.

We do supplement the feed with flax seed which increases the omega 3’s. The other day my Brother Cody told me that his son Hunter didn’t like the supermarket eggs anymore because “They taste like water.”

We have been reusing and reusing old egg cartons and are now about ready to order our own special cartons that will be easily recognizable to all of us. As a reminder to our egg customers: we have established a place for me to leave your eggs, so please leave your empty carton with $2.00 in it at this same location. When I come by in the morning I will just swap the cartons. PLEASE do not leave money or cartons in our mailbox. It is illegal and we can be fined for it.

Our older hens (5 to 6 years old) who no longer produce are now being processed for the soup pot, there just is no better bird for chicken soup than an old girl. When they are available, the charge for a soup chicken is a flat $15.00

We  have been saving all the chicken feet and make our own chicken broth from them. Most people are too squeamish to use the feet but let me tell you, you have not had GOOD chicken broth until you have tried using the feet.

In 2006 we intend to almost triple our flock of Pastured Poultry (to 800 birds) and we invite you to get your orders in right after the first of the year. We hope to have birds ready May through November and the price will remain the same for 2006.

This winter will see us busy making at least 4 more “chicken tractors” and probably 10 more “turkey tractors.”

We will also be trying a Heritage Breed chicken called “Delaware.” These will take much longer to come to weight but we feel the taste will be worth the wait.  We have already added these wonderful birds to our layer flock and we love the eggs!!!  Another chicken coup is in the: “Do you think we should?” stage, and we are also contemplating a egg mobile… I have an old jeep truck that doesn’t run and that could have a chicken house built on top so the whole thing could be “mobile” and moved around our pastures. This would require some special electrical netting fence but would provide Pastured eggs.

We are keeping a close eye on the avian flu issue and are prepared to destroy our whole flock of chickens, turkeys, peacocks and guinea hens if necessary. It will be a sad day indeed but putting a human life at risk is not even an option.

 

Turkey News

Our Bourbon Red Turkeys were all spoken for months ago. We had some born here on the farm but we weren’t fast enough to separate the new mom and her poults from the others and all but 2 were killed.

2006 will bring at least 3 different varieties of heritage turkeys, Bourbon Reds, Narragansetts, and Slates for a total turkey flock of 100.

Kevin gets one readyNovember 2, 2005 update

We had no idea that a couple of phone calls would lead into more publicity for us, we thought that the woman was from out west and was doing a story on heritage turkeys.

The November issue of Connecticut Magazine had a nice by-line about our turkeys and in the past ten days we have had to turn away over 50 people.  We hope they will be in contact by phone or with our web site and order their turkey right after Jan 1, 2006.

We have been told over and over again that we are not charging enough for our turkeys. At the pastured poultry conference I attended, they said to ask $9.00 to $15.00 per pound, and the Heritage Breeds Conservancy people say we don’t charge enough. So with that and the length of time we have to feed them (they grow slowly), we will go to $6.00 per pound.  This will help pay for the extra tractors at about $135.00 each for materials.

In 2006 we will offer when available Bourbon Red, 3 month old poults, $125.00 for hens and $100.00 for toms.

Here is the article as it appeared in the magazine. Many thanks to Lisa Anderson Mann for doing this story.

A Breed Apart

Farmers and foodies are joining forces to save heritage turkeys.

Remember that turkey you drew in grade school ? You traced around your hand, added a wattle and eyes on the thumb, a couple of stick feet at the wrist, and you colored the fingers a glorious blaze of bronze and red and brown. Those richly colored birds can still be found taped up on first grade chalkboards, but not on farms. That turkey is endangered.

Over 90 percent of the turkeys raised today in the U.S. are a single variety, the Broad Breasted White. Broad Breasted Whites have been bred to live in cramped conditions, produce white pin feathers, and to grow a large breast quickly. The disproportionably small legs and absurdly deep breasts of the Broad Breasted make it impossible for them to mate naturally, fly or even run. Each year millions of them are produced through artificial insemination.

A handful of small farmers, like Craig Floyd of Footsteps Farm in Stonington, are part of a growing movement to save the quintessential American poultry-heritage turkeys. Heritage turkeys are the ones our grandparents raised-rare breeds like Bourbon Red, the Narragansett, the Blue Slate and the Standard American Bronze-robust, flavorful birds once found on family farms across the country.

“We raise heritage turkeys because of the superior taste and their ability to withstand the elements and forage for themselves’” says Floyd, who raises Bourbon Red turkeys on land that has been in his family since 1712. “God made these birds the way they are for a reason.”

And unlike supermarket gobblers, heritage turkeys are bred for flavor. They are smaller (have you noticed that our holiday bird, pictured at right, is a bit smaller than what you’re used to seeing?), moister, and contain a greater percentage of dark meat. “It has an unbelievable texture and an intense turkey flavor,” says Todd Wickstrom of Heritage Foods US.

“It’s the difference between eating a week old donut, and one still hot from the pot,” agrees Floyd. “People have no clue what turkey should taste like because they’ve never had the real thing. You have to baste and brine a bland supermarket turkey to give it any flavor or moistness. Not so with the historic turkeys.”

That flavor has its price: Floyd sells his turkeys direct for $4.00 a pound, and Heritage Foods ships heritage turkeys for about $10.00 a pound. But serving heritage turkey isn’t just a taste-good choice: it’s also a do-good one. “The best way to save these rare turkeys is to put them on the table”, says Wickstrom. “You have to create a demand for them. We eat them to save them.” And since the heritage turkeys available today are raised on small farms, your purchase can help support small family farms as well. When was the last time you could stuff yourself to save a species?

Hog News

Pig bathOur Pork is all spoken for until late spring or early summer 2006.  Remember we don’t push our animals so it does take longer for them to come to market weight.

Three pigs are headed to that special place on December 4th, and then we will be done till next year. Two have been put in our best pasture which has an abundance of clover, they are indeed happy pigs. One pig has been cleaning our asparagus bed and will soon clean the chicken pen area for us to reseed, then he will also head for the clover patch.

Our new piglets for 2006 started to be born on Labor Day and thus far we have 21 little footballs running around playing and doing what piglets like to do.

Perry the boar is now in a paddock by himself so we won’t be having any piglets born in the winter. The gestation time is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days.

 

November 2, 2005 sidebar

Well the idea of keeping Perry in the paddock was a good idea but….I forgot to put the fence handle from the electric fence back on the metal gate, sooooo Perry lifted the gate and now has gotten (I am quite sure) the “ladies” all pregnant.

We did move all the pigs except “Olive and Pearl’s” piglets in to the oxpasture, then we moved the three “Teenage” pigs that will be harvested Dec 4th in to our main veggie garden so they can clean that out before they go.

We have not been registering our new piglets but will from now on, we also will up the selling price for registered feeder pigs to $150.00 each.

 

Cattle News

Some hard decisions were made this year due mostly to the drought and the poor conditions of our pastures.  It was about the middle of August when we took the cattle off pasture and slowly started working in grain to their diet.

Craig and CalfThe advice to do so came from our friend Nat Joslin who really knows cows, he told me we would notice a difference in their disposition in a week. Nat was right. This year's calves are being sold as they are all boys. hopefully Newt the bull will give us some girls next year so our herd can increase. Nat says a deficiency in manganese will cause a bull to have boy calves.

We purchase wheat middlings in bulk that cost me about $42.00 for 1000 pounds, then I bought a bag each if Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Feed Grade Salt, and Dairy Vitamins and minerals. I mixed this in specific proportions so that I end up with a mixture from which I fill an 8-ounce tomato paste can. I then mix this full can in with one 5-gallon bucket of the wheat mids. I feed four buckets in the morning (about 17 pounds per bucket) to four cows, one bull and four calves.

We will revise our website and put beef on hold. We hope to be able to purchase at least one Red Devon heifer to mate with Newt, as I think a Highland/Devon cross would be worth investigating.

Oxen: Two of our calves which are being sold would have made a gorgeous pair of oxen if I had the time to train them. Hopefully once I retire from the Postal Service I can try an actual hobby that is farm related. I would enjoy going to a couple of local fairs with this special breed.

We have sold all of our calves because they were all boys, but in the future we will be sure each one is registered and we will sell bull calves for $500.00 and heifer calves for $750.00.

General Farm News

Mark is all done cutting cordwood in the ox pasture and has harvested about 100 cord. Now here is a guy who you want working for you, he never stops and is a man of his word. All of our brush have been piled by Mark and his new equipment and the pasture is ready to be fenced in to 10 paddocks, of which 7 will house sows and one for Perry, and 2 paddocks will always be in some stage of re-growth so that the pigs have grass and other good stuff to eat.

We fenced in another 2 acres of the Ox Pasture and have moved the cattle in there to start the clearing process. We can see all the way across the 10 acres now and warn any chicken-seeking coyotes that lead will be the only snack they will get here.

There is still a lot of brush that needs to be cleared in the South Five-Acre lot and especially the Four-Acre lot.  I wish I had more time so we could get this done and FINALLY be on the down hill towards getting our pastures in shape.  Lime is needed again this fall and next spring but money does not allow that, instead we need to concentrate on turkey/chicken tractors and having enough reserve to place our bird orders for 2006 while maintaining ample feed for the critters that we do have.

If money allows this next year we will finally be able to buy all new metal hoop houses for our pigs and stuff the houses with straw. As it decomposes it provides heat all winter and will prevent some of our crushing loss to the piglets. The Swedish farmers are the ones who developed this method.

I had a nice phone call on October 13th from Mark Sturges.  I had been on a quest to find dung beetles for our pastures. These little creatures are natures dump trucks and drills, they help break down the manure and then bury it in holes they burrow in the soil, thus aerating the soil and allowing moisture and nutrients to get deeper into the sub-soil. Since we are tryingto re-establish our pastures in a natural manner we were excited to have found a source for the beetles.

Unfortunately the cost was just more than we could afford, as the shipping from Oregon for a 60-pound bag of beetle-filled compost is more than we could afford. To my surprise and delight the phone conversation was a humbling one, Mark likes what we are doing so much he is sending a small package of the beetles to us as a gift.

What can I say to such kindness except "Thank you."

Now it gives me the idea to seek a SARE grant to further study the beetles and what they can do to the soil. More importantly we need a program for all of the northeast on how to re-establish them here. Worming meds, herbicides, pesticides, etc. will all kill the special little creatures, so a farm wishing to employ them must be free of such things.

Since we use the animals in Nature's circle to help us and to help each other we believe the beetles to be the perfect choice for our operation.

Anyone interested in the Dung Beetle can contact Mark at

Mr. Mark U. Sturges
Chili Nervanos Farm
P.O. Box 475
Bandon, Oregon 97411

According to his post card he “ships organic compost, nematodes and dung beetles to thirty states. Rather than concentrating on thermal composting or composting with worms, as many composters do, Mark encourages the greatest number of creatures possible to inhabit his compost.”

I have enjoyed writing a monthly article for our local newspaper The Mystic River Press. This is called The Mystic Farm Journal and runs May through November. This experience has allowed me to visit many local farms and learn heaps that I didn’t know about farming.

Tami the piglet went to Mystic Middle school yesterday (from 11-1) and spent the day as a well-behaved guest, over 150 children got to see her and connect with farm animals. Tami looked quite divine as we gave her a bath in the morning and then a treatment with “Skin so soft” so she would smell good.

During our Maine vacation I did in fact get all of the paperwork filled out to submit our farm for a Certified Humane designation, I just have not had the time to present it to our Vet for his approval and signature. I really need to get this done, perhaps this winter I can catch up with this very important project.

Also I hope to get caught up with all of the “QuickBook” entries I have not made over the past 6 months…man I need to retire from the PO but with two children to consider college, it is realistically a ways off.

 

Special Kids

As you have read on our web site we have some very special family members who really go the extra mile to help out here on the farm. Our processing team has not only helped with that task but lots of other farm work also, so we wanted to reward them with something special and also teach an important lesson in life.

We have offered each of the four oldest (Mel, Jeff, Kevin, and Avery) each a free piglet. We will provide all the grain to bring it to market weight.  They can choose to sell their piglet as a feeder pig and get $50.00 for it within the next month, or they can keep it as a pet, a breeding sow, or sell it for pork.

You should have seen the “wheels” turning as I presented the offer to each one. Their response to the offer is:

Avery (12): Yes, and he will raise it to market weight to be sold as pork

Jeff (15): Yes, and he will raise it as a breeding sow

Kevin(12): Yes and he also will raise it as a breeding sow

Mel (11): No, she will op to get the $50.00 from the sale of a piglet

Not to be left out: Hunter (8) who did help with processing last weekend and Wyatt (8) who would rather not be involved with that process at this stage in his life, both will be given a chance for something special as they mature and become a bigger help with our farm chores.

That leaves Morgan (6) who could be our poster girl with her heart-melting smile.

Jeff and Kevin have really stepped up, Jeff is THE MAN when it comes to scalding and running the Whizbang, he gets the birds cleaner than anyone. Kevin is the overall do-most-everything guy and is always the one to ask to find out where something is.

Avery and Mel have taken over the care of the pastured poultry and turkeys in the evening, and they feed and water all the birds in the tractors.

Morgan, Kevin, Avery

Morgan (L), Kevin (M), Avery (R)

Mistakes

Boy have we made a bunch of them!!! We need to really concentrate on communication better, honestly I have not been too great on returning phone calls. By the time I get home from work and get all my chores done, have dinner, etc. it is around 8:00 PM and I fall asleep on the couch. In some cases people have voiced their phone number so fast we can’t understand it. So some progress is needed in that area.

Orders: when we get calls for products I write it down on scraps of paper, then of course I can’t find the paper in the ever-increasing pile on my desk. We have purchased a special order book and holder which we now keep right by the phone.

Update Web Site.

Sarah, our very talented web master has already approached us on changing the web site to make it more business-orientated. She will still have the items we always have had but the “in your face” will be the business side of the farm. We look forward to seeing what she has planned as we are thrilled with what she has done thus far.

T Sarah is going to set up a “Blog” (short for "web log") for us so I can enter information myself and she may even make it much like a message board which, in my opinion will make helping new farmers, etc. easier and that is a big part of what this site is all about.

 

Word of Mouth

As everyone knows this method is the best advertisement, so we would like to ask for your help in getting the word out about our products to your friends and neighbors.

We are sending each of our customers 5 newsletters in hopes that they will share them with people they really care about so they might consider ordering from us for next year. We have also included an up-to-date order form for your use.

Our Farm Tour days will continue next year starting the first Sunday in May, next year (2006). We will really enforce this, only on the first Sunday and only between 10 and 2. This Sunday will be the last Tour Day we will do this year, we really must spend Sundays clearing brush and just cannot do it with two hour-long tours.

 

Thanks to you

In closing we would like to again say thank you to each and every one of you for being such great customers, our Thanksgiving will be extra special this year for having had you as customers and friends.

The phone calls and e-mails we have gotten with messages of support and praise for our fledging farm have been heart warming and constitution building.

We hope next year will again bring you to the farm with time to visit with us and our animals.

GET YOUR ORDERS IN right after the first of the year. Hopefully by then our site will be updated and ready for 2006. 

If you want to know how our prices compare with others who do about the same as us, we invite you to visit the site that was mentioned in the Connecticut Magazine article that mentioned us. We will gladly sadly send you to them if we can't fill your order here ourselves:  http://www.heritagefoodsusa.com.

 

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