Fall Update 2020: Tired, itchy, and snuggling up with animals.

Howdy Tag-Along Farmers.

Whew.

This summer for us has been intense. The heavy work of sweaty summer mixed with building up infrastructure and slip sliding up learning curves along with young kids and covid and social unrest and everyday life has made us physically and mentally exhausted. Good exhausted mostly. But here we are. Take the temperature of basically any of your local farmers right now. We are all wrung slap out.

But the wind is changing. Thank goodness for quarterly seasons to break up the work in this part of the world. We are still knee deep in work but we can see the break coming. The piercing cry of the hawk is being replaced by the cackling chatting of the crow.

Broilers

Here at the farm we have three butchering weekends left for the year.

Our initial planning for broilers this year was quite small at 300 birds. Intense interest within our community, boosted no doubt from meat shortages in the spring, tripled that number rather quickly.

A huge set back with the meat birds this year has been the overworked postal service. Every small broiler producer in the country has had to contend with it. We order our broiler chicks from various hatcheries, who send them freshly hatched out, in a box, through the mail. A baby chick will naturally have enough energy reserves to last a couple of days (waiting for mama to finish hatching out eggs) which gives just enough time to ship them around the country.

Well, our most appreciated and overworked postal system has struggled to keep up with increased demand, both from all mailing nationally and from hatchery orders specifically. With covid came a huge spike of backyard and small scale increased orders. Not only is everyone in the country sending more things in the mail, but hatcheries are too.

So, as you may expect, the shipments are not going as speedily or as gently as they usually do. This means that instances of severe shipping stress and flat out mortality has been very high. Our first batch of birds for the year, which arrived precisely on my bday, was a big box of  dead baby chicks. Only 20% of our orders have arrived 100% alive and happy all year. And the shipping stress has lifelong health effects. Just as in humans, a trauma endured early in life sets the birds up for increased disease, decreased mobility and rate of growth, and high early mortality. Heart disease takes many of the stressed individuals, usually 1-2 weeks before they’re targeted to be slaughtered.

The good news is, we’ve received our last batch of baby broilers for the year. There was a 20% DOA rate, but what we’ve got is here and this is it. If we can tend them properly for the next 8-9 weeks, we’ll end our broiler season for the year having successfully raised far more birds than we had originally planned.

On that note: the biggest hurdle for our increased scale growing broilers is the need for butchering help. So far it has basically just been us two slaughtering, butchering, and packing all these birds, along with someone to watch the kids. We need some serious processing help if we’re going to maintain this scale into another year. If you know anyone who is interested in helping out, one day (probably a Saturday) a month, please please please have them call me. We love volunteers but we pay our dedicated serious help either in cash or chicken.

Other Notes – Other than the juicy delicious meat birds…..

We have a GORGEOUS new ram and 15 new ewes. Get ready for winter lambies.

Moose the dog, with all the boys (rams and buck), standing next to our new breeding ram.

Ducks and Drinking Don’t Mix.

Pro Farming Tip: Don’t pour yourself a bourbon and start daydreaming about having more duck eggs. Next day you’ll realize you’ve ordered a whole nother flock. Whether you’ve got the housing for it or not.

Breeding chickens is for the birds.

I am a terrible incubator.
Broody mamas don’t lay eggs.
Egg customers really like eggs.
We really need more coop space.
Volunteers needed to help convert old tobacco barn into winter egg laying house.
No. Seriously. You like to eat our eggs? You better get over here and help.

Whining and Sun Tears

If I have to build one more broiler mobile coop this year I might cry.

If I have to pull one more broiler coop up a hill through tall grass in blazing sweat dripping heat I might die. Or just seriously tone some leg muscles. Whatever.
    Side note: my 4 yr old son calls my sweat “sun tears”. I love him.

Blackberry brambles are so bad and so soo good.

They are in every field and in every fence row. They’re cutting up our poor animals who happen to walk through them. But then they make the best waffle topping, so………

Poison Ivy

If you’ve seen me at all this year, you’ve seen me scratching my forearms. We grow lots of wild things around here and poison ivy is one of them. I am meticulous about watching out for it because I’m so sensitive to it. But I just can’t help loving on the goats and the dogs. And that has been enough to keep me covered it in all year. It’s true, we could spray some herbicide. Or we could get more goats. I bet you can guess which path we’re on.

And, Hawks Bane, the Heart Slayer

Chore time + puppy training = Bane does the driving.

Alright. That’s it for now. Yall take care. And come help me when you get bored.

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