Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring tasks

Here's a list of the things that are happening on the farm in the next month: 

Apple tree winter prune - go over the trees before they start waking up, thin them and shape them.  

Plant more trees:  purchased another 10 fruit trees; prepare the orchard area, level it, prepare the soil,
lay the orchard organization out, and then plant the trees.   I'm planting nectarines, apricots and cherries.  

Order bee packages for pickup april 2nd or so:  Going to order 5 new packages today to replace
winter loss and add another 2 hives to my bees for the 2017 year.  

Order personal garden seeds; I love homegrown tomatoes, so some heritage tomatoes.  I like to
eat fresh carrots and beets, so a decent quantity of both of them.  Carrot seed in pelleted form because  the seeds are sooo tiny!  when they arrive in a few days I'll get the tomatoes started immediately.  

Prep a barn for a new concrete floor; my 100' x 30' calving/farrowing barn has a mix of dirt and concrete floors, and I'd rather have a sloped concrete floor, so sand, gravel, dirt, compaction and then laying out a slab and ordering the line pump and concrete.  And gullible relatives.  :)

Final grape pruning, and grape arbor fertilization and cultivation.  placement  of compost/manure between the rows and then rototilling it into the ground to kill the weeds and mix the compost and manure into the ground, and then a cover crop between them.  I'll be running chicken tractors down the rows, so I'll plant something that chickens like to eat.  

Fencing inspection, repair and construction:  I'll be walking the entire perimeter fence to make sure that it's in good, servicable shape after the winter storms and floods, repairing what needs it and then making some changes for utility.  I'm going to start to rotate the cows through various areas of the farm, so I'll need some cross fencing and an aisle to make that easier, so that's on the list.  

As far as animals go I'll be selling last years calves for feeders in a month or so - I wait until people have grass to feed the steers, the price gets better.  I will retain one of them for personal beef, and the rest go to market.  

I'll also be culling 20 to 30 sows based on their performance as mothers, leaving me with around 100 productive older sows, and I'll select 20 piglets as replacement sows.   Our piglet production this year needs to be around 2000, and I may make it with the sows I have on hand.  we've hand some challenges with weaning numbers in the winter, but it usually improves as the weather improves.  This has been a cold, wet, windy winter.  Looking forward to some warmth and sun myself.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sugar Mountains' butcher shop project - year 9 and counting

Just a note - if you're a farmer, and you want some free money, kickstarter seems like a great place to get it.  Here's why I say that:

The project money is offered basically with no, or not many, strings.  That is, if your project is late or has a delay, or just doesn't get done at all, there's very little recourse your backers have.  So from the perspective of the person receiving the money, it's a great deal. 

The idea was to build and operate a meat processing facility on the farm where the pigs were - and by doing so capture some of the money that would normally be spent transporting the pigs to slaughter and then picking up the processed pigs at a later date, and the fees that would be charged for that. 

The basic thinking is that instead of the revenue going to some other organization that it would be retained on the farm.  For any farm, the prospect of getting more of the retail dollars spent on their product is appealing, and the second benefit is that having more control over your process would
allow better and easier scheduling.  You could process when you had orders.  No downside.  

Walter Jefferies also had the goal of " sourced demonstration of how a family can bootstrap their own USDA/State inspected meat processing facility. "

The risk with kickstarter projects is that the average internet user isn't used to evaluating risks and challenges of a small business, and isn't usually given any tools to do so.  when you go to a bank and ask for money they may ask for a business plan, tax returns, revenue forecasts - past and future - and other documentation that shows that you've done your homework and that at least on paper the venture pencils out.  

In this case one of the first things that Walter did was buy a scalder/dehairer for $40,000, which he duly noted as having arrived, but what's funny about that is that there's no mention of that machine for the next 5 years.  No pictures of it installed, no pictures of it in use.  Near as I can tell the machine has been sitting there, in its factory packaging, for the last 5 years.  

I've scalded and scraped more than my share of pigs; takes about an hour per pig for one person do
do a good job, and with the volume of 20 pigs a month that walter claims he's doing, that would cost roughly $400 (figuring labor at $20/hour for 20 hours) per month. 

Which means, on a labor saving basis, that machine will pay itself off in... well, never.  But I understand wanting new stuff myself.  

Here's the latest schedule from Walters website:

I've asked Walter on the kickstarter page if he ever plans to complete the USDA portion of this project; and two weeks after asking no reply.  

Walters kickstarter backers have been complaining about the schedule for the last few years, but as mentioned previously, there's not much recourse.  He'll either complete it (or not) and if you get anything he promised you, well, that's a bonus.    

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Eagle kill

I was out working in the barns when I heard a ruckus going on.  It sounded like the ravens, and they sounded pretty mad.  I walked out of the barn and started towards the fuss, and I couldn't see what they were diving on, but it was something.  

The last time that the ravens got this upset it was a bobcat that was traversing my property.  I could see that this time it was an immature bald eagle or a golden eagle - not sure which.  both of them are kind of brown from a distance.  the bald eagles don't turn black with a white head until maturity.  

 When I got close enough to see I could definitely see that it was a golden eagle.   I've never seen one around here, and it's a pretty impressive bird.  And it had caught a pretty impressive lunch!  I made the identification because of the leg feathers.  Bald eagles have different leg feathers even when immature.

 The eagle spooked before I got close, and so I walked over to take a look at its kill.  A young canadian goose, maybe 12 or 13lbs.  Probably less than a year old.  Considered taking it back to the house because goose is just delicious, but decided that I'd let the eagle claim its prize - if the ravens allowed that!
 Bird was warm and limp.  The kill appeared to be through the back of the bird.  No marks on its head; all of the talon wounds were in the middle of its back between the wings.
 In the picture below you can see the eagle watching me to see what I'll do.  When I retreated the eagle came back and resumed its lunch.  the eagle is on the tallest tree, on the second big branch down from the top.  Looks like a little black dot.  Maybe 500 yards from where the kill is - far enough to be safe from any danger, but close enough that the eagle eye can keep a good watch on me.