Monday, February 11, 2019

On the Farm

This has been a crazy winter. Partially because we have been expanding our chicken production, so that added extra items to the to-do list. But also because of the amount of rain we've had throughout the fall and into the winter. It would be best if we had corn harvested in October, but typically I am running a bit behind and that rolls over into November. Well, this year November till now it has been very wet. (In addition to a couple of mechanical issues on the combine). I just haven't been able to get into the field to get the corn out. Well, mid-February was the time. I must say I felt somewhat embarrassed taking our machinery to the field this time of year, but you gotta do what you gotta do. The corn stalks have obviously deteriorated some due to our tardiness, but the kernels were still in good condition. Actually, the crop was in better condition than I expected. Even though we fed the wildlife more than we wanted to. We were able to harvest almost half of the acreage. Some are still to wet. I had plans to get up this morning and harvest the rest of the ground that wasn't wet... and guess what.... It's raining.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Winter on the Farm

On the farm, it is extremely wet and muddy. We have just finished the last batch of broilers. All the lambs and turkeys are gone. It's just us, some milk cows, some beef cattle, and about 3000 laying hens. We are in full winter mode now, but it seems like its really late to be reaching this point. The fall/early winter work was a challenge and has drug into the new year. We better catch our breath fast, because planning for spring is just around the corner. In fact, we will be ordering our first batch of 2019 chicks in just a few weeks and preparing pastures for spring grazing. When I was young I remember telling my dad that I was bored (only once or twice). He looked at me as if boredom was a completely foreign concept. He would say "You should never be bored on a farm. Turn around twice and you will see plenty to do." I knew what he meant then, but I really know what he meant now. Please don't take this as a complaint. I love this lifestyle and all that comes with it. But, I always try to share with yall what its like on the farm in a truly transparent way. This week I just wanted to share that even life on the farm can become too busy, filled with undone overdue tasks, overwhelming, and sometimes even a little discouraging. Fear not though, tomorrow we will get up and do what we do. We will pull our boots on and put our head down into the task at hand. We will take care of the animals and eventually work through the winter chores and projects. Then at some point, we will get several warm sunny days in a row, and a green sheen will appear over the pastures. At that point, we are off to the races, and all will be right with the world...or at least the farm.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Swimming with the Manatee's

Before we got ready to start the 2019 grind, the kids had one more Christmas present. Julie and I planned a trip to Florida where the kids could swim with manatees. Some friends from church agreed to show us the ropes and set us up with their favorite guide. I went into this trip not very familiar with manatees but quickly learned that they come to the warm springs when the temperature drops. Our first day we self-launched our Kayaks in rough windy conditions and went looking for these creatures. We met with moderate success. We saw a few at a distance and had fun padding, but no close encounters. The following day though, wow. Conditions were perfect, cold and calm. We met Captain Wyn at 7:30am for an early morning trip. By the time we got to Homosassa Springs, we had already seen several. At the spring we left the comforts of the boat cabin and snorkeled in the surprisingly warm spring water. In no time we were seeing several manatees swim under us. Soon they got comfortable enough to come in for a close encounter. They will literally float up to you and look you right in the eyes, evaluating your spirit it seems. They are extremely gentle creatures that like to play, once they feel comfortable with you. We were all able to have really close engagement with several individual manatees. Kids and adults all enjoyed this family adventure. It was definitely worth spending a weekend away from the farm.

If anyone is interested, we went out with captain Wyn at http://blueheavenrivertours.com/ 




Monday, December 31, 2018

Year of the Bird

Ok, I'm not really into the Chinese zodiac. At Carlton Farms, however, I think this will be the year of the bird. Part of our planning for the coming year is to expand our production of meat chickens, turkeys, and ducks. Thanks to the new relationship we have with the Amish processor we started using this year, we will be able to offer a lot of options including whole birds, cut-up, boneless, ground and sausage. In fact, our first round of ground turkey and turkey sausage is online now. As usual, all of these birds will be raised right here on our farm, fed non-GMO feed, and moved daily to fresh pasture. Bring on 2019... and bring on the birds.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Ducks will be available

We are not afraid to try some new things here on the farm. Most of the time we start small and learn from our mistakes, of which there are plenty. This year our small experiment was ducks. I have never raised ducks, but we had people asking for duck eggs so we decided to give it a shot. Our first documented mistake was purchasing straight run ducks from the hatchery. While it is no great revelation that male ducks do not lay eggs, my mistake in clicking the wrong button during the ordering process has been well chronicled around here. FYI, the duck egg project went pretty well and we intend to expand that flock next year.
Now, what to do with the half of the ducks that will definitely never lay an egg (the males). We decided that we would catch them and process those for Christmas duck. The catching was a challenge, because they had already been turned out on the pond. With some persistence and farm ingenuity we got most of them caught, and soon we were off to the processor. Which brings me to my second documented mistake. Even males from an egg laying breed do not get very meaty. We had ducks posted online for a week before they were processed, and they were advertised at 4-6 lbs. This is what we found was an average through our online research. Remember, we've never done this before, so how would we know what to expect. Unfortunately upon returning from the processor, our ducks averaged around 3 lbs each. So, lesson learned...twice. Order females for laying eggs. Order meat breeds for meaty ducks. For those of you that ordered a duck, thank you for being willing to experiment with us.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thankful

I know, it's a few days late for a Thanksgiving message. What can I say? The holiday season always gets in my feels (I think that's what the kids say) as I reflect on life and the people that surround us. Thanks to all of you that support Carlton Farms on a weekly basis, we are able to do a job that we feel like we were put on this earth to do. The hours are long and the work is often hard, but because of you it is not thankless. Seeing each of you come in or show up on the order list each week reminds me that you support what we are doing. Oftentimes I even get words of encouragement from customers, "Thank you for doing this." or "We appreciate what y'all do at Carlton Farms.". Those things keep me going and wanting to do better each year.
I want you to know that the thankfulness is a two-way street. We as a family are so thankful and humbled by the opportunity to be your farmer. This is a big job with a lot of moving parts. Keeping everything in order and productive doesn't always go perfectly. Sometimes we even run short on milk and eggs, our foundational products. But because you put your trust in us, we will work tirelessly into the future as your farmer. 
As we push through to the end of 2018, our centennial year is upon us. Yes, our farm will be turning 100 next year. We plan to celebrate all year. Several announcements are forthcoming. But I also plan to do a lot of looking back. Id like to pay tribute to those that came before us. In many ways, they had harder work and tougher challenges. I'd also like to tell the story of how you, our current customers, saved our farm and made this centennial celebration possible. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Preparing for WInter

Preparing may be the wrong word. By now we had better be prepared. The turkeys are mostly harvested, although we did hold some back to have processed in a few weeks. Our idea with those is to have a ground turkey and cut-up parts. More on those new products later. I do still have a little corn to harvest hopefully, it's dry enough later this week to do that. When those projects are done, the farm will take a giant collective sigh. We will then go into winter mode. There is still plenty to do, but the pace does slow down a bit. It's not only a time for physical rejuvenation, but also a time to read, strategize, and get rid of some of the mental angst that clutters our minds in a busy production season. I hope you all are able to recharge and reset this winter season. As we do, I will be sharing our ideas and plans for the farm right here.