Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Birthing babies

The last several days have been busy.  Two calves born, and lots of baby lambs.  In fact, the triplets we had are now being bottle fed.  So, if I have not been posting, you now know why.   Ill be out taking photographs today now that the sun is out and it looks to be a beautiful day.   The weather has been just awful of late.  The sheep are looking forward to the pasture.

We still have lots of lambing yet to come, but Im going to let them lamb on pasture now, and get them out of the barn.  The mommas can come into the barn with their babies if I think they need some time alone, but the weather looks really nice for the next couple of weeks.

The baby bunnies are starting to wean themselves off of mom.  They are eating food and hay and drinking from the waterer now.  Not much longer until we have ourselves a nice fricasee!

The baby chicks that we found in the barn are doing well.  Its also time to get our broiler birds out onto pasture.  Lots to do this weekend.  Lots!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lambing Time!

Lambing officially started on Tuesday with 2 ewe lambs (girl lambs).
Tonight we had triplets (2 boys, 1 girl) and then to our surprise 1 more very large boy from momma #3.  Mike assisted with the third triplet and thank goodness all seem to be nursing just fine so no bottle babies yet.  The count is at 6 lambs so far.  If you like to make a guess at how many lambs we will have by end of April-- place your bet.  I am going for 42.  We've got about 24-26 mommas with a few new moms.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Conventional versus Organic

There is a decent article in the Chicago Tribune today about the differences between conventional and organic.  Ill have more to say about it but I thought that this point was the most salient in the article:

Cotton and coffee are two of the most pesticide-intensive crops in the world. Pesticide residues have been detected in the cottonseed hull, a secondary crop sold as a food commodity. It’s estimated that as much as 65 percent of cotton production ends up in our food chain, whether directly through food or indirectly through the milk or meat of animals, according to a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation. Conventional coffee production also has contributed to the deforestation of the world’s rainforests.

The bottom line: Pesticide residues are generally removed during the processing but the chemicals can have a huge impact on the local land, biodiversity and the health of the workers involved. Though buying organic can help preserve environmental health and support farmers who use ecological methods, “it’s more important to focus on the circumstances of growers and farms versus the product itself,” said food writer Corby Kummer, the author of “The Joy of Coffee.”

Cotton and Coffee.  Hmm...I do enjoy a good cup of coffee, but I will definitely be looking for ONLY organic and free trade coffees from now on.  And how do we rectify our love for cotton?  Organic cottons only?  Synthetic fibers made from fossil fuels?  I mean, no one wants to see me naked, not without committment papers anyway.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

ONIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My mom asked me if I wanted to plant onions, of course I had to agree. We were out planting more than 1,000 onions. It took almost one hour! When we were getting close to the end my mom said " I ordered some more onions today." I groaned.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekend work

2 1/4 cups of flour + 4 eggs = the best egg noodles you've ever had.  I have a pasta maker to help roll the dough, but you can just use a rolling pin (you'll get a workout) and a knife to make pasta as well.
It is time to plant the tomato seedlings.  I did the first batch last weekend but this is the big, big batch!  I will not say how many tomato seedlings I will start as my husband will again give me a lecture.  
Although seriously, how can you only grow 1 tomato plant of a variety.  What if you love it so much that you then wish you had really grown 2-3 plants?    I mean-- I have the land to plant thousands of tomato plants!  I even have Vegetable CSA members to eat them all and the pigs and chickens love them as well!  
I just need the labor to trellis, weed and harvest.  :)


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Possibilities

Tomatoes, pepper and eggplant seedlings start this weekend.
If the ground holds up, onions, shallots, peas, snappeas, snowpeas will go in as well!

For those who follow the blog from my childhood state and don't do facebook- if you want to buy some meat or eggs-  I will haul it cross country in dry ice and will deliver when I visit parents.   I have 1 cooler left that I can fill and bring.

Some people make New's Years resolutions and set goals in January, but my clock always seems to kick in when spring begins.  How can you not think about life and all the possibilities, when you see little Norman below?  The kids named him Norman from the Little Rascals (my husband has made it his job to train them in all things music, tv, soccer and baseball).  Norman is going to make a great Belted Galloway Bull and have a long line of offspring.


Before Alina asks about the tag, 53 is his mother's number and 10 is when he was born.  It looks so big on him right now but he'll grow into it.  We have to have tags to keep track of each animal.  We technically don't have to do this but it's good record keeping and to register him if we ever want to sell him we do need to properly tag him.

Now this is how the sheep are supposed to look out on pasture!  No more snow and out of the barn!!!  They were so happy to be on grass again and not have to eat dry alfalfa all the time.  Lambing season is just around the corner.  We think we've got at least 24 that are pregnant.  So that means we'll get around 40+ lambs this year.  

Asian greens popping out of the garden.


The kids had an impromptu picnic on the hill after school.  Dogs, chickens and cats joined them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Roller Coaster Farm Life

Having a diversified farm is like riding a roller coaster all day long, every single day, every single hour, every single minute.  I only live it on weekends and before and after my bring home the bacon job but Mike deals with it all day long.

Most of what I write about in this blog is the upside as you have to stay positive or else you'll go into a deep dark hole.  In that hole are thoughts like:
 "what were we thinking?"
  "and we thought we could actually break even and/or make money with this farm"
"hmm-- there are no books that talk about the burn rate of a farm before it's profitable"
"how exactly do you find customers?"

When you have your own extremely small business, you need to learn to be the CEO, the CFO, the accountant, the marketing manager, the sales director, purchasing manager, distribution, credit and collections, etc.  All that along with vet, botanist, carpenter, mechanic, gardener, etc.

What WERE WE THINKING!!!!  Ah, now I remember, we had the American Dream, own our land and live off it.  And while we are at it- provide great food for about 75-100 customers.

This weekend was a roller coaster ride.  Trees were knocked down due to the wind and blocked one entrance to our house.  Hmmm-- hadn't planned on getting out the chain saw today.  And then later on -- a good moment.  Baby Norman our first calf of the season.  He's a red bull calf at that and that's a good thing.  This means he's likely going to be in high demand and we'll either keep him or sell him and he'll have a nice long life as a bull.  Plus he's adorable, independent and already today running around the pasture without mom.

We ended up missing the actual birth and saw Norman when he was on the ground probably 1 minute after he was born.  But we watched in awe at the process that Mariah went through for the next 2 hours.  It was so amazing.  Like the nature channel in your backyard.  Did you know that the mother cow will lick the calf's bottom and this in turn causes them to want to nurse?
Our kids thought this was hilarious-- of course Mike also had to give them a mental visual - what would you do if someone licked your butt (anus to be exact)?  Stand on your tiptoes and arch your head upwards. (and now YOU'VE got the visual as well)  If you were a calf you'd then look up and see an udder full of milk.  The look on the kids faces was priceless.



Then in the middle of the rain storm at 10:30pm, Dot got disoriented and lost in the dark and we had to drive around and try to help her find her way out of the forest.  Doesn't help that she's a Border Collie that doesn't bark.  You have to listen for her quiet whining- through the wind and rain and pitch black night.

And then we come to a bright spot again!
A big thank you to all our customers out there.  YOU are the reason we still have a farm and didn't have to scrap this idea 3 months ago.  YOU are our part of our sales and marketing team through your referrals.   YOU have helped us shape our CSA offers.  Last week we were wondering how we were going to sell the meat in our freezer and just today we had 2 returning customers coming back with orders for more of everything and 6 inquiries about the meat CSA. How cool is that!!!  YEAH!  We know our product if fabulous but you kind of need customers to pay the bills and reinvest in the farm.  Thank you customers!!

The ups and downs and the emotional roller coaster will continue (panic, happiness, dread, joy, sorrow, surprise,disappointment, gratitude, delight, love.....the list is endless).
What I can tell you is that I've never felt more alive in my life.  
I can imagine Clarence telling me--- Annette, you really had a wonderful life....  
And I'd agree....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meat CSA

Meat CSA offer is now available!

This is what we've heard from folks. 
 "I don't want to buy a  whole or 1/2 a steer or 1/2 a pig or a whole lamb, etc. " 
"I don't have a lot of freezer space." 
"I'm not well versed in meat cuts-- I really want to learn the different cuts of a steer.  My grandma/mother sure knew how to use all the different cuts but I guess I never learned."

So, if you want to buy into this fantastic local grass fed movement without buying a freezer and learning about all the cuts of a steer, a lamb, along with pig and chicken, then this is the offer for YOU!

The meat you will be buying is grass fed and/or pastured.  Great for you as well.  If you want the details on why it's better for you I can forward you links.  The cattle take 2.5 years to grow to maturity while a corn fed cow is about a year.

The details:  
$450 offer
what you get :
10 lbs of meat per month @ $7.50/lb for 6 months (just so you know- we always round down- so you'll likely get 12+ lbs but you get at Least 10lbs)
Beef, pork, lamb, chicken -- different cuts of meat each month - each month you'll get some prime cuts, a middle range cut and some lower range stuff.  

$840 offer
20 lbs of meat per month @$7/lb for 6 months 
Same deal as above but more higher end cuts as well.

We are officially SOLD OUT!! (yeah!) for Vegetable CSA shares.  The only way anyone new will get in is if they beg, plead and one of our current CSA members pleads the case for them. Or if you are interested in a total working share.  The job would be 3-5 hrs per week and you would harvest and prepare the shares for pickup.  In turn for your efforts, you'd pick your own share and take it home.  The time to pick is early am - 7am-10am on Tuesday/Thursday.  If you know anyone who has this type of flexibility and might be interested-- send us an email.  


Thursday, March 11, 2010

8 day old bunnies

I have no idea how we'll be able to sell these.  Two more days and they open their eyes.


I have to buy new snap peas as the ones I ordered my have some disease that only infects peas - I like that they do send you a followup note that there could be a problem.  So I'll be hunting new ones down tomorrow.  Was hoping to plant them this weekend but may not get to with the rain.  Maybe next weekend.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eggs

Wow do we have a lot of eggs.  The ladies kicked it into high gear about 10 days ago and we now have more supply than demand.  We think we may have too many hens than we will need for the summer so if anyone needs some laying hens.  $15 each and they are yours.  And if you need eggs - now is the time to get them!  Buy 2 dozen eggs and get 1 dozen free during the month of March as we recalibrate supply and demand.  

It's time for new piglets--- usually they get the extra eggs.  Its funny how you need all the right animals on a farm to create the proper balance.

Moriah (the cool red cow) has been hanging out by herself and acting funny the last few days.  We think our first calf of the season is coming soon.......



Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring is in the air today

In another 60 days, it will look like this again:

Cant wait for green grass. I hope I have to mow it every day.


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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bunnies

I'm afraid to pick up one of the baby bunnies as I don't want to hurt it or have Daisy reject it.  So I took about 100 pictures from totally awkward positions and this is the best one.  Check out the little ears.  There are 6 of them from what we can tell.

Momma Daisy is below.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

rabbits!!!!

We have baby bunnies now!!!! They are really cute! Daisy, my rabbit is doing an excellent job keeping them warm. I'm very happy!

A couple of food related articles today

I found a story about tomatoes today.  About 70% of the tomato harvest in Florida is toast.

http://www.chicagobreakingbusiness.com/2010/03/want-tomatoes-youll-have-to-ask.html

And there is a great article today in the NY Times about rabbits.  Check it out:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/dining/03rabbit.html?8dpc

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Meat CSA

Calling all meat lovers.  For those who are in a vegetable CSA, the concept will be similar. 
Instead of picking up vegetables for 20+ weeks in the summer, you instead will pick up meat once a month.  Mike is going to work on 'the offer'.  The meat will vary but include chicken, grass fed beef, pastured pork and grass fed lamb.  This may work for you if you don't want to buy a large freezer but you still want grass fed and pastured meat.  

So--- any suggestions from the fans out there?
We are thinking of offering $50, $100 and $150 per month packages.  
We will need a minimum number of months for the meat CSA-- maybe 4-5 months?  
Looking for suggestions... bring it on!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chicken Questions


Baby chicks are In the HOUSE!!  Well, in the brooder room.  These little chicks are Freedom Rangers or Color Rangers.  Same bird with different names.  These are the best little meat birds in our humble opinion.  They don't get to 6-7 lbs in 10 weeks like the Cornish Cross but they are best at 3-5 lbs and tasty.  I know it's horrible to think of tasty chicken with these little peeps on the screen.  But oh are they good!!!  

We are taking preorders right now.  This batch will be ready in early to mid-May.  If you want to help process chickens with us you are more than welcome to join the fun.  Just send Mike an email and let him know you want to help out.  We usually process on a Saturday depending on the weather though since we are selling more fresh chickens this year we may process on a Thursday or Friday so folks can pick them up over the weekend.

We will likely process a fresh batch of chickens 4-6 times during the May-Oct depending on the demand.  We'd prefer to sell them to you fresh (6 days after processing they need to be frozen) but we will carry a very limited supply of frozen chickens.