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Footsteps Farm Journal, Page 7

June 22, 2006

So much has happened since my last journal entry that I don’t know where to start.  Thank goodness I have been blogging (aka web logging) so I'm not too far behind!

So here it is.

Business is holy smokes great, we just can not keep up with everything, we have had the year from hell and yet the year from heaven.

I finally built another turkey tractor and have that full and on pasture. We have the materials to do another but I just have not had time. We have another 25 turkeys ready to be moved into a new tractor—as soon as I have time to build it, that is.

Lucky, the young boar pig, finally went to a good farm. We had tried to get rid of him as he could not be put in with Perry our big boar (Lucky is one of our first Tamworth Hogs born three years ago to Perry and Olive). Perry would kill him and in fact did open a 12-inch gash on Lucky’s neck. We had separated all the pigs but left Lucky and Tammy, the little spoiled sow, together. I got a call from a man looking for a Tamworth Boar so, long story short, we gave Lucky to the family and everyone is happy.

The Denison Farmers Market has been going for 3 weeks now and grows every week. It is a huge success, way to much work but very worthwhile. The public is ecstatic with the market and the crowds get bigger each week. We are without question the most advertised farm market in CT.

We blew our chicken plucker the second week we tried to process chickens this summer, so I drove 5 hours one way and bought a new professional plucker and a professional scalder.  The first time we tried to use them I couldn’t get the scalder working and so the plucker would not pluck. We had 40 birds to do and 6 people to help, so we plucked by hand…6 hours to do 13 birds. Then my brother Cody says… "Dude, the scald isn’t hot enough." We scalded last year at 170 degrees; I argued, because 170 degrees would cook the bird, but we came to find out the thermometer was bad. Once we raised the temp to 170 on the bad thermometer, all was well and we finished the remaining birds.

As I said, business has been great: we are sold out of pork for 2006 already and we have finally found a USDA certified slaughter house that does pork. The only thing is, it is in NY, 2 hours and 21 minutes away. Our first trip will be near the end of July. They will process, cryovac bag, and label all our pork. This will allow us to sell bacon and sausage, which is what we have wanted to do for some time. After our sausage-tasting party, we really nailed the banger (tube sausage) recipe and want to supply them locally.

We had an interesting thing occur last Sunday. A lady came to our tent at the Farmers Market and asked if we sold turkeys. We do of course, but only at Thanksgiving time. She told me that some people with AB blood types can’t eat chicken due to something in the chicken that reacts to their blood clotting abilities (and whatever that is, it isn't in turkeys). I asked if anyone had ever tested pastured poultry for this problem and she said no, so we will be donating some birds to be tested to see if pastured poultry could possibly solve the problem, which would allow people with AB blood type to eat chicken as well as turkey. In the meantime I have ordered 25 broad-breasted white turkeys just to try them out to raise to about 4 or 5 pounds to help these folks—if they don’t want a large Thanksgiving-sized turkey perhaps we can get to where they can buy a roaster-sized bird as a regular part of their diet. You can read more about this issue at Eating Right for your Type.

Thanks to Jim McLaughlin for all his help and concern to get our processing back on schedule. He runs Corner Stone Farm and I got our new scalder and plucker from him at Cornerstone Farm Ventures.

We have built a new but still temporary processing area with real professional kill cones, a raised floor on wooden pallets, more hoses and spray nozzles, shackles for eviscerating, a roof to keep us cool, another eviscerating area, magnetic strips to hold our knives etc., more hemostats to get our birds cleaner inside and the whole area is under shade trees. It worked out really nicely this past weekend.

The porta-huts for the pigs have worked out well and we need to get more but first I need to save up about $3,000.00 for the winter’s supply of hay and that is going to be tough to do.

Our pastures are filled with Black Swallowwort weeds (you can read about this at The Nature Conservancy and TNC's Invasive Species Initiative, and at the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture) and the only way to get rid of them is with herbicides, which I refuse to do. We also have a lot of poke weed and milk weed. Someone suggested using a flame thrower, but even that would take way too long to do every pasture. I have noticed that wherever the chicken tractors have been, the grass comes back but the Swallowwort does not come back as thick as it was before.

We have been moving pigs around and now that the small lot between Curt and Cody is clear of piglets, my nephew Wyatt will be hired to pile up all the wood in that lot so that Curt can spread the buckwheat I purchased for it. Curt says the bees really love the buckwheat and that we can get three cuttings from it, so this will be a good thing for not only the bees but also the cows and pigs we put in there.

We are siding the house and have the south side covered with plywood and tyvec. This is taking a long time, what with everything else we have to do, but once it is done and the red cedar shingles are installed it will really tighten up the house and all will look very nice.

Speaking of looking nice, we have a NOFA tour coming this Sunday (June 25) so we are straight out trying to get the place looking good, get all our chores done and work full time for the Post Office too, sometimes it is just too much… but the tour is very important and we are looking forward to it.

Kevin at the MarketKevin (left) will man the Denison Farmer's Market for me. He sold 35 chickens two weeks ago—he does a great job. We do have an issue with consumer protection, though, and the CT Dept. of Agriculture has yet to answer me. Supposedly I can’t sell fresh chicken at the market, chickens have to be preordered a week in advance, but there is some question that maybe I can sell frozen chickens…too many rules.

Both Jeff and Kevin have really stepped up and do a great deal of chores around here; now that they are off for the summer they will have weekly tasks, one week one boy does pigs and cows, the other does all the birds. This takes each of them about 45 minutes to an hour.

We bought a new water tank that I mounted to a pallet. Bruce installed a valve on it for me and we use a 1” hose to provide water to all our stock tanks. It isn’t as fast as our old method which was (and we still do it from time to time) to fill several garbage cans with water and drive them around to fill the tanks. The problem with this method is that by the time you travel the roads in the woods or down the Laneway, a lot of the water was spilled out, plus when we dump the trash cans of water in to the stock tank it gets water all over the guy doing the dumping. It is, however, much faster than the new tank but this winter the new one will really pay for itself because we won’t get ice all over the truck bed which causes many slips and falls.

We put new covers on our chicken tractors but still have not installed all the new water buckets and fountains that we bought.

Cody and Shawn got the pig roasting pit dug last weekend. I would have never gotten to it and I am really not looking forward to this YRD party. I don’t like the idea of celebrating the first anniversary of my son's death.

Sheryl, Nora and Donna are working on a farm cookbook with the proceeds going to help the farm. It is a good idea (Nora’s) and it has been fun discovering some of our ancestors recipes, poems and notes. I will have to retype one of my favorite stories my Grandfather used to tell me, also the poem my Great Grandmother wrote about an old hen called Granny Hamburg…when I can find the time, maybe October.

Baby Guinea hensAll in all, the farm is growing, we have sold lots of piglets and pork, the pastured poultry business has taken off big time and the turkey orders are overwhelming, people are finally understanding that heritage breeds are the best you can get.  (And our Guinea Hens, right, are growing in number again this spring--can you spot the 6 babies in the dirt?)

The yard looks the best it ever has, due largely to all the rain but we have never limed, fertilized nor spread grass seed like we did this year. It really has made a huge difference.

My son Shawn has been a big help on Sundays and it is so nice to see our grand-daughter often. Elizabeth is so cute with all her curls and she comes running every time she sees me. Shawn helps feed, water and move animals plus any other jobs that need to be done.

The whole family pitched in last weekend when we had the processing fiasco and nothing went right. If it hadn’t been for Kevin, Sheryl, Jeff, Cody, Shawn, Curt, Nora, Avery, Wyatt, and Mel we would have never gotten all those birds done. Donna came in the evening with a wonderful dessert to top off dinner for a tired and hungry crowd.

Cryovac bag sales have been great and it is nice knowing we are able to provide customers with a small order, thus allowing them the premier presentation that they would not get any other way.

We really need someone who can take over our book work, our Quickbooks entries, our orders, our phone calls and our e-mail, but that just isn’t going to happen any time soon so folks will just have to put up with us as we are trying the best that we can.

Any one out there want to donate a new 17 horse-power DR machine to some hippie cows who need their grass mowed???

We got our dung beetles in about a month ago. They arrived from Oregon in 50 pounds of compost. The cost was right at $200.00, so we hope they do their job and integrate into our pastures. The compost was the best I have ever seen but if it were not for the special beetles the cost would not make it a reoccurring effort on our part.

We have had 3 new heifer calves this year, with Penny giving birth on the 21st of this month to a red daughter who will be named Lottie’s Summer after my great grandmother Lottie and the first day of summer, since that is when she was born. Kevin has the wrong date on his camera so don’t pay attention to the dates on the pictures.

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