Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What a Fathers Day Weekend

I drove our first batch of meat chickens to the processor on Thursday evening. We haul them in a covered trailer to protect from the weather and pack very loosely for comfort/airflow. Additionally, we haul them at night when the temperature is typically cooler. Our processor needs them there at 7am so we usually get there late at night and park in the unloading area. This helps keep the birds unstressed and comfortable. This is always an enjoyable trip, as it is complete farm country and I'm like a kid in a candy store. Our processor is Amish, so we are able to enjoy their community and get to know them. It is a community of wonderfully humble people. This trip, however, was extra special. On Thursday Atticus announced that he was coming with me. Of course, that was ok with me. With 3 kids, one-on-one time is rare. Atticus and I got to have long conversations, laugh, look at farm stuff, watch combines harvesting wheat, visit the Amish produce auction, Visit the tractor store, and have lunch at the old fashion soda fountain. This boy is a true gem. He is a thinker, and I love fielding his questions. It was the best start to a Fathers Day weekend that I could have ever imagined.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Busy Week on the Farm

Let me share this weeks agenda of pretty exciting stuff.
  • We have been looking for another delivery van. It turns out refrigerated vans are in high demand during the summer (who knew). We were able to find a nice used van with low miles, but it is around Ft. Myers Florida. We are now working out who will get to go fetch the van.
  • Broiler Chickens go to the processor on Friday. I should be able to bring some of them home for next weeks delivery. This is the first batch of 2019 broilers and they are currently online for preorder.
  • Turkeys chicks (poults) arrive on Thursday. These will eventually be the beautiful pasture raised birds that will grace our Thanksgiving table.
  • Broiler Chicks that are currently in the brooder will be ready to go out to pasture this weekend.
Whew... I'm tired already. It is a busy time of year on the farm, but we wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Silicone Valley Mantra of Design

I'm a big believer in the Silicone Valley mantra of design, then iterate. By building with the intent to evaluate and improve incrementally, you allow yourself to make quicker decisions. It's easy to paralyze yourself by trying to create the perfect design of a "thing" before you have any experience working with that "thing". When that happens, productivity and progress slow to a crawl. I am more productive when I get a pretty good idea of what I want to do, do it, then refine based on experience.
This Chick Brooder is a good example. I knew we wanted a stacked (4 levels) brooder to make the best use of floor space. We built it and it worked great. Watering was later improved by modifying a commercial drinker line, adding a gravity flow container up top, and suspending the whole system from the ceiling to allow for adjustment as the birds grow. That worked well, but we still had another problem. Summer brooding temperatures were to hot, we needed more airflow. This year we added a 10 inch louvered fan in each level. Now these little guys couldn't be more comfortable. Right now we manually turn the fan on when the temps get to warm for them. However, you may have guessed that I am planning the next iteration. I think we can wire a thermostat and a timer together. If it works we will be able to set the fan to come on 1 minute out of every 10, but stay on if the temp is over our set point.
FYI, all of this work is so that these little chicks can get off to a great start with the proper environmental conditions. They will feather up quickly and be able to handle normal outside temps within 2-3 weeks, depending on the season. In summer they go out to pasture at 2 weeks old.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Vegetable Shares

Veggie Shares ebb and flow. If you are a part of our veggie share, or if you have been thinking about joining, let me try to frame up the best way to get the most from your share. Getting a share of the harvest each week gives you a connection to your local farming ecosystem. In our supermarket/global food system society, we quickly become used to the idea of having any fruit or veggie whenever we want. Tomatoes in February, sure. Of course, it is good business for supermarkets to provide those things, because we will buy them. The negative side effect is that we become disconnected from the natural cycles of the world that surrounds us. By opting into a veggie share program you instinctual learn that greens are prevalent in the spring, but that soon gives way to the more dense summer crops like corn and tomatoes. Eating seasonally is both more delicious and more healthy because the crops are at their peak of both nutrition and taste when freshly picked and delivered. Of course, packing a weekly share of only organically grown local produce can be a challenge some weeks. I'm not sure how others do this, but I keep an internal points system. If I am an item or two short of what I would like to put in the share I keep those points for a future week. Then I use them when there are highly desirable fruits or veggies. For Example: we had a few weeks where share members got 2 quarts of the most delicious strawberries. Other weeks may not be as robust, but you are eating from what the local ecosystem of farms has to provide that particular week. So before you judge positively or negatively if the share system is a good fit for you, evaluate is over the course of several weeks. And lastly, the most important way to make sure you get the best use of your veggie share is to be open-minded and flexible. The people that enjoy the share the most are those that look at it as a way to expand their culinary experiences. They open the share each week and try to be creative in how they can use all that the local farms have provided. If you haven't already, expand your horizons and your palate by clicking here to join our veggie share, you can choose weekly or bi-weekly. You will likely instantly feel more connected to the seasonal growing world around you.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Pasture Raised Chicken

Our chicken houses are finally finished. The 800 broilers are out of the brooder and happily grazing the pasture grass and eating bugs. Notice the path directly behind the houses. We move these houses daily. During that 24 hours the birds will consume any bugs in the area and eat a majority of the grass. Because chickens are not designed to live off of grass only, we also supplement with a high quality, non-GMO, locally grown feed. The grass and bugs end up being around 20-25% of the chickens total diet, but it is the most important part. The grass, bugs, and fresh air creates a chicken with more texture, flavor, omega 3, and beta carotene. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Broiler Chickens

Either today or tomorrow, the small barns in this picture will be the new home for our latest batch of 800 broiler chickens. They have no floor and will be pulled across the ground daily to give the birds access to fresh grass and bugs. The houses will have self-contained water and feed. The beauty of this system is that we can keep the chickens protected from predators while allowing them to live daily on the green grass and breathing fresh air. I'll keep you posted as we get these moved out to pasture.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Chicks, just in time

Brooder number 2 is up and running just in time. We started 800 broiler chicks last week. In another 2 weeks, they will be ready to go out to pasture. We are currently building their pasture shelters. Hopefully, those will be ready "just in time" also. Does anybody else inflict this kind of torture on themselves? This is how the process goes. I know we need to finish XYZ (in this case finish the brooder and pasture shelters) before we can start a project (in this case a bigger batch of broiler chickens). My solution... go ahead and order the chicks. Somehow, with the chicks now one week from arrival the brooder that we'd been working on for three weeks can get finished in a week. Pasture Pens will almost surely be finished in two weeks. I guess it's urgency, or motivation, or (the way my Dad says it) lighting a fire. You probably will not find any business books written about it, but I do find it effective.