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Friday, September 21, 2007

Late updates

September 20, 2007

Our apologies for not keeping up with this, there just is no free time.

In no particular order here is what we need to pass on to you all:

1. We have had some turkey losses and will have to write some of our customers to notify them they will have to look elsewhere for their bird. Nature being what it is some were lost to who knows what (2), rollover of the turkey tractor (3), weasel(2).
2. We have had some chicken losses, we got a batch from our normal hatchery who was supplied by a different hatchery then we normally get our birds from. Out of 150 chicks we have 4 left. They replaced the birds and we have lost about 15.

These birds will grow slowly due to the decreasing sunlight so we may be in to November before we can fill all of our orders.

3. We have to ask the SARE folks for an extension, due to:
a. Our volunteer help has left us to another state. We sorely miss his company and his tireless help around the farm.
b. Business has boomed. Thanks mostly to Faith Middleton and CT Public Radio’s ”Food Smooze” we have had to order more birds and by seasons end we will have surpassed last years numbers by over 400.
c. We lost the Teenage help we had last year for chicken processing so now less people are doing more work.
d. We received a Grant from the Ct Dept of Ag and that grant’s work has run in to delays and cost overages but we are almost done. This grant has a year limit where the SARE grant is longer but still not long enough.
e. Because of the increased number of birds we have to process each Saturday and the reduction in help I have not had time to work on the Air Chill system, I did not want to take the chance of loosing a refrigerator in the middle of the season, should have thought of that before but figured I could be done processing before noon instead of it taking till after four PM.
f. The Farm Market also take about all of Sunday which is the other day I could have been building the system, something else that I didn’t figure in to the length of time it would take to do this.
g. So I will ask to be extended until Jan 2009, that will give me this fall/winter to build the system and write the how to book, test next spring and summer and write the final report in November.

4. Tomorrow morning the Dept of Ag is coming to blood test our pigs, I AM NOT HAPPY because I believe they way they do this test is not as Humane as it could be.
a. They first called in Feb to set a date, I was told I needed a confinement area which of course I had no time to build nor any budget for it.
b. The test needs to be done since we are registered breeders of Tamworth’s and sell piglets to other farms.
c. So they called again last week and said they would be here on the 21st.

(1). We have spent almost $1,000.00 to build the confinement area
(2) We have spent the entire week building the thing and I will post some pictures here to.
(3). I intend to film this blood drawing and look for a better more calm way to get the job done.
(4). I had to arrange time off from my day job at the Post Office.
(5). Shawn spent the better part of four hours hauling all the stone out of this area which used to be our garden area. 97 feet long and 37 feet wide with 13 raised beds of stone.

5. The State Dept of Ag grant progress has, as I said been slow, the road building took a lot of time and all other work in that 10 acres had to stop, animals kept out of their and so the fence overgrew and broke down.
Many hours of weed whacking and fence work now has all the old paddocks in the ox pasture back in shape, a road down the middle and the old paddocks split in half as per our grant.
The two concrete pads are done thanks mostly to Curt. Our chicken processing area is at a standstill with a 300% improvement in what we were using, we now have a ROOF !!! even if it is a blue tarp and the ducks love to roost on the top peak.

Speaking of ducks…I am having a hard time killing them, we have 48 left as I have done just two. Jonathan Rapp a well know Chef in Chester has asked for 25 for a special dinner. Ducks also take a long time to process, I do a chicken in under 7 minutes which in itself is a long time. We demand the cleanest chicken possible so we take time to insure clean birds inside and out. But the paraffin wax method of doing ducks take about 45 minutes per duck, not good.

I do love the ducks though, and have released a number of them, Sheryl keeps noticing the number of free ducks increasing . They fly all around and love to roost on the top of my tractor which I don’t mind except they poop on my instrument panel…

6. I am very honored to have the WCR folks coming to the farm the first weekend n November, then I am one of the three panel members who will discuss: Heritage Breeds and how they benefit the chef. This is a BIG deal as they are nation wide and are spending big money to come to Newport thence our farm and one other. MANY THANKS to Maureen Pothier for arranging this, I truly had no idea how big of a deal this is to be.
7. Not happy with our latest batch of sausage and in fact I called the processing facility in NY and asked what I did wrong. We had the whole pig made into 4 kinds of sausage and it just is not right. The first batches we did were without question the BEST sausage we have ever had, now it will be uncased and re-seasoned for our own use, but a lot of sausage can not be sold due to unsatisfactory flavor and that equates to a big financial loss.
8. We have one feed bin done and full of grain it holds 4 ½ ton easily, two more to build and then that part of the grant is done.

The new chicken tractors have been done for a while, the brooders are all done and worked very well so we are about set on the expansion grant.

The last thing I have left to do on the State grant is to fence in two more paddocks in the ox pasture, then we can make out the end of project report and finally get paid.
9. The farm Market (Denison Farm Market) where I am the Market Master is doing VERY well, last year we had 7 vendors now we have 18. Bernie Lazier who runs Country Corners Farm has become a very close friend and he has just been so much help. He puts out the newsletter and does a lot of more things to make our Market the best in SE Ct.
10. Old time farmer and friend Whit Davis has had a fall and will not be at our market for the rest of the year, he is sorely missed and we look forward to having him back for next year.
11. Jeff is doing well in Football and the Stonington Bears is off to a winning season. Jeff puts his heart and soul into his game and we are so proud that he really is devoted to his sport.
12. Kevin is happy at Ledyard High School where he is a Ag student. He LOVES it and is doing well. Kevin is always the kid who helps like an adult and knows what my next step is in any project.
13. We are sold out of turkeys and have been since Dec of 2006, we are sold out of Chicken for this year and there is a year wait for pork. Faith Middleton is the one responsible for that, she has gotten chicken,ducks and pork from us and mentions this fact many times over the course of her program. Our web site counter goes nuts and then comes the orders. THANK YOU FAITH !!
14. This years YRD party was great and we will do it again next year. Thanks goes out to Shawn, he really stepped up and got things done. The whole family helped in different ways and it was real nice. We miss not having Shane come up this year but we understood. He will be coming next year and I for one can’t to have all my boys here at the same time.

Shawn and Amie spent countless hours mowing, weed whacking, making garbage piles, burning trash and making the whole place look great for the party.

The fire pit had to be dug again and Cody was a big help to Shawn with that, this winter we will get things concreted in so we can use that pit each year. Having a pig roast the way we do is the greatest. Many thanks to Sheryl who really made the party special with all of her planning and forethought.

15. Avery has really helped this year and is about as fast as I am doing chickens. I made up a list a while ago “Farm Jobs that Pay” and both Avery and Wyatt stepped up, got a lot of maintenance type work done and made themselves some cash too boot.
16. We will not be doing turkeys for 2008, we want to let the pastures rest for a year, BTW no sign of black head this year, note to remember is that I treated the 3 I had last year with Shacklee’s basic G and it cured them…explain that…

We probably won’t do ducks next year either, just chickens and pork. I hope to retire in 2008/09 so we will not necessarily reduce the work load just the ground it all covers.

I have put some thought in to expanding our pigs area so it goes up into the woods where all the oak trees there. Have you seen the price of acorn fed hams in Spain…Maybe when I am retired I can take on the extra load.

17. Many thanks to Art Hiles of Red Fence Farm in Groton CT, he got us a free stainless steel standup cooler when McDonalds left Walmart. So now we have four fridge’s for our processing area and more importantly it gives us another place to store the boxes of pork when we pick them up from the processor and wait for the customer to pick up their order.
18. This winter I will be back on the shingleing project, maybe I can finally finish the house siding. It will be nice to be done and I know a certain person will appreciate not looking at all the tyvec…
19. I have the paperwork done to get our yearly inspection from the Certified Humane folks, just need to get it in the mail. This is such a wonderful thing that they do and it HAS helped our business a lot.
20. Sheryl has been very busy making old cage changes so she can have a different set up for the chickens, a lot of time and work is going in to her project. She has really kept us all on track, is always taking the boys to this or that, being a football Mom and a taxi has kept her busy. The house yard has been really nice this year with ever changing flowers ect. The chickens have been responsible for tearing up what Sheryl has put so much effort into.
21. We have had a lot of fun playing Air Soft with all the guys that have the Air Soft guns here, we’ve played three times since August 1st and we all are increasing our war chest a little at a time. I can’t wait until the chicken and turkey season is over, the Air Chill system is done and I can play more often. I don’t take any time to play or do anything else, it’s all work and we still can’t keep up. Up at 4:30, out the door by 5:30 to do chores, off to work at the PO by 7:30, home and back to chores by 4:45, in for supper at 7:45 asleep on the couch by 8:30.

This old man can’t keep up with the young lads anymore and it takes me longer to get up out of a crawl but I still enjoy it even if I do get killed faster than most.
22. I really have an issue with myself because it takes me FOREVER to answer any phone messages or e-mails, hopefully this will ease up upon retirement.
23. Piglets are due any day now to Petunia, with Tammy and Ethel right behind her, we should have lots of little nickel sized noses around here over the next few weeks. This will be great when the WCR tour comes so they can all see the babies.
24. Sometime in the next few weeks I will submit changes to our web site to our wonderful web master Sarah. We will remove the turkey order form, up date the chicken and pork order forms so they say 2008 and perhaps even add to our journal.

I guess that is about it for this time.

Thanks to Joel Salatin for being who he is, for doing what he does and for sharing his knowledge with us all.


PS Andrew where are you ???