Wednesday, September 30, 2009
they end up costing you around $10 each.
Feeding the turkeys isn't that expensive, but I've found that turkeys, unless closely penned, tend to kill themselves at a uncomfortably fast pace.
So last year (2008) I purchased some turkeys, and hatched some turkeys, and watched my costs and decided that this year (2009) I'd keep a breeding flock and hatch my own turkeys.
So in February I was on schedule. I had 60 turkeys here, which given the laying rates I'd experienced, would produce me around 600 eggs a month during the high laying season, which I figured would allow me to sell some, and keep enough to be able to fill about 300 turkey orders come thanksgiving and Christmas.
The first problem I had is that free-ranging turkeys are very good at hiding their eggs. So good, in fact, that I didn't find most of them. I'm still finding turkey nests with rotten eggs here and there, 6 months later.
The second is that a turkey will not get off its nest for any reason. So I started loosing turkey hens to coyotes. This was actually pretty bad -- worse than I thought. Since the hen was out somewhere in the field it'd usually take me most of a week to notice the feathers, and by then, I couldn't even salvage the eggs she was sitting on. the cold and wet killed them after the hen was taken. I lost a good half of my birds to coyotes. I started shooting the coyotes, and I penned my remaining birds, but once in the pen they went off lay. I can't say how frustrating this was.
The third problem I had was with the incubators. It turns out that one of my five incubators I got never ever hatched even a single egg. I still do not know why. So 20% of my eggs didn't hatch right off the bad, and the fertility went way down when they hens got penned, and overall, I wasn't a happy guy. Since eggs take 3 weeks to hatch, noticing that one of my incubators was killing all its eggs took me 8 weeks to notice. I was throwing out buckets of turkey eggs. 5 gallon buckets of turkey eggs.
Finally, during this whole thing I had birds disappearing from my farm. Some got killed by dogs from the dog park, i think. I'm guessing that because the coyotes come from the back of my property, and the dogs come from the front, and I'd find feather trails leading from my main farm yard, where the turkeys hang out, towards the front gate and through it. When the coyotes take a bird they go out to the woods in the back to eat it.
The second thing that I believe was happening is that people would come by, see i wasn't there, and just take the birds. They're hand-tame, and I have a base of customers that buy live birds, and taking a bird saves them some money. I had several neighbors report people stuffing turkeys into their cars and driving off. I finally installed a security system, and so I can verify a bird being stolen, but this was the icing on the cake for a tough turkey year.
So I'm doing a post-mortem here. These are my notes for next years turkey crop:
1) Breeding turkeys need to be securely penned in turkey-comfortable coops during the entire laying season. I'd like to maintain the free-ranged part of my farm, but I've got to be realistic -- I'll never be able to produce the quantity of poults that I need in any other way.
2) I need to get serious about my coyote control program. First step is to improve my fences to deter them, but the second is to have the dogs out there every night watching the farm, and the third is to use the security system to keep watch every day for coyotes, and remove them as needed.
3) I will keep records of hatch rates for each incubator from day 1 and use chicken eggs to make sure that everything is good prior to the turkey hatch season. I also need to keep records on which egg came from which flock or even down to which hen -- because I suspect that some of the hens never produced a fertile egg.
4) I need to keep the production birds away from the road and driveway to help deter thieves.
This years turkey crop was pretty much a complete failure commercially. I'll have a couple of turkeys I can sell, but I'm pretty disappointed. This coming year I will be purchasing poults again, and I'll try hatching again. I'm going to maintain the goal of my own breeding flock, and hope that the change in husbandry makes the difference between success and failure.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
That's amazing. It's a pretty fundamental change to the dairy business. Huge.
You'll find the article here.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Couple of things you should notice about the next photos. First, there's actually grass and pasture that the pigs have. Most pig yards are mud and rocks, or concrete. Nice to see someone give the pigs a chance to do pig things. Patrick is about to exhibit pig judo. He's going to throw that 200lb pig.
It's happened so quickly that the other sows haven't even responded. So he's going to the next sow to throw it. This is a bigger sow, but doesn't take long...
Thursday, September 24, 2009
on my farm is illegal.
My court case is March 16th, but between now and then I've got the opportunity to ask questions and depose Paul Anderson, the ecology biologist who cited me and apparently believes that mulching is wrong and evil.
So if there's any question that you can think of that pertains to ecologies viewpoint on farmland, I'd like to include it so that it can be answered by Mr. Anderson as sworn testimony.
This is an opportunity to ask any question you'd like to to an enforcement officer of the washington state department of ecology. I'll post the answers as I recieve them.
Here's some of the questions I'm considering:
What detectable pollutants do wood chips emit?
The washington department of ecology encourages the use of wood chips and hog fuel as animal bedding. Why is that use allowed and encouraged, but this use as mulch cited and potentially fined?
Snohomish county uses wood chips for paths and walkways through all of the wildlife areas that they manage, in up to 7' depths. Why is ecology not enforcing this statute in that case?
The army corps of engineers allows the use of wood chips and other soil amendments and mulches as exempt from any permit. Why does ecology want to ban these uses here?
Have you ever cited anyone else for the use of wood chips?
I'm open to suggestions. There is no limit to the questions I can submit, provided they are pertinent to this case. You can post them here, or email them to me at email@example.com
This blog entry is about winter pigs. From a profit perspective, winter pigs make a little more money than do summer pigs, based mostly on the price you can purchase the weaner pigs at. A typical weaner pig price varies from a high around march to a low around December, and then repeats. That's because if you buy a pig in march or April, the bulk of the time you have the pig it's relatively easy to care for. The picture above is of a batch of weaner pigs I've purchased socializing with a litter of pigs that I had born on my farm. The mother of the brown and black spotted pigs is visible in the lower right hand corner. you can see her ear.
I'm aiming at having enough sows on hand to produce the number of piglets that I need, but I haven't reached that point yet, so I have to purchase pigs from other farmers from time to time to supplement my own breeding. Winter prices are an attractive time for me to add to my herd.
Pigs are very social creatures, and if at all possible I try to buy a whole litter, or out of a whole litter. If I mix pigs from different producers or litters they spend quite a bit of time fighting each other to figure out what the pecking order is. When you buy a little and keep them together you don't have much fighting -- the pecking order has already been established. In this case there were 8 pigs available for sale. 5 of them looked good, 1 had good weight but I didn't like its posture (I'll talk about that in a bit) and two were underweight. Since the seller said that they're all from the same litter, I'm going to assume that they've all had identical access to food and water.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
My truck refused to start when I was picking up lunch, and I was stuck in a parking lot. I figured it was probably the starter motor -- but I didn't have a starter motor, and I didn't have my tools, and I was in the middle of this parking lot.
So after putting the truck in neutral and pushing it over to the side, I spent a little time looking for some easy solution, and there just wasn't one. I'd have to either get a cab down to my farm and get the tools and then a cab to the auto parts store for the part, and then hope that I didn't forget anything, or I'd have to have the truck towed to either a dealer, or my farm.
If I went to the dealer, I couldn't see myself getting out of there for less than $600. And since I figured it was the starter motor, and we're talking about 3 bolts here, i was pretty sure the fix would be simple. hmm... tow truck it is. I chose American basically at random, and I was glad I did.
The rate quoted over the phone was $85, based on my 4x4 truck, and mike appeared in minutes. When I explained that I had a driveline disconnect, he said "oh -- we'll charge you the 2wd price". I was more than willing to pay the quoted price, and he won big points with me here. but then he said "oh, it's the starter motor? If you want, I can tow you to my yard; there's an auto parts store on the way, and I can just leave you hooked up to raise the truck so you can work easier. ". Wow. I explained that I didn't have any tools, and he upped the ante, "looks like you need a 9/16 and maybe a couple of sockets and an extender; i can lend you them. ".
And it pretty much went as planned. except that I'm an idiot and didn't tighten the 3rd bolt enough so that the starter wouldn't engage, so the replacement took me a total of 90 minutes to complete.
1) He appeared in minutes and my truck was hooked up and under tow in minutes. Professional, prompt, perfect.
2) He charged me less than I was more than willing to pay
3) No charge for waiting at the auto parts store, or for the use of his truck in helping me replace my starter.
4) Stayed after closing so I could fix my own mistake.
Mike is a sole proprietor, and while i was laying under my truck he and i talked about starting businesses, and he told me that he'd worked 337 days as the sole guy at his business because of a loss of contract -- sleeping with the phone near his head 24 hours a day, responding to calls.
So to Mike, I appreciate the dedication you show to running your business, and your kindness in helping me out of what could have been a pretty serious pickle. Your help allowed me to get back on the road and off to do my stuff, and I really do thank you.
You can reach Mike at 425-355-7212 or at his website
Monday, September 21, 2009
When Al goes to a farm to do a farm kill of a beef, the hide is usually kept by him as part of his compensation. He turns around and sells it to local tanneries and folks at the end of his day. For instance, in the last few days he's butchered 45 beef.
As I finished each hide I laid the next hid on top. Tomorrow I'll take a skinning knife and scrape off the odd bits of fat and meat on the hide, throw some more salt on it, and Wednesday I'll ship it off to the tannery.
I don't really have a plan for the hides; they're about 4'x6' each. One has no holes in it, the other two have one or two holes. The hair appears to be in pretty good shape. I'm a little curious to see how they'll turn out.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
These are Peking ducks, a meat/eggs breed. I'd guess they weigh in at 10lbs now. I'm curious to see how they lay, and how duck eggs compare to goose and chicken eggs.
Brooding and raising the ducks isn't the part that I'm really concerned about. It's how difficult it is to sell them, and to pluck them. I've had 2 or 3 people ask me about duck, and in that same timeframe I've sold about a thousand chickens. With no demand, I probably won't keep more than a few. I like eating duck -- and duck confit is one of the greatest things on the face of the earth, but that's just me. For my immediate friends and family I haven't been able to find anyone who's eaten a duck in the last year.
I broke the basic philosophical rule of my farm with these ducks: Only animals that I and people I know eat. I forgot to poll the other folks.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Sorry Ram. Soon.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Serves 2 or 4:
1lb brussel sprouts
2 pieces bacon
1/8th cup maple syrup
Fry bacon until crisp in a large frying pan
Cut sprouts in half and add to bacon and drippings in pan
fry for a few minutes until some softening is observed
Add maple syrup, toss until covered
Serve warm with a sprinkle of kosher salt
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Here's a white leghorn hen next to an meat chicken of the same age. the meat chicken weighs in at 6lbs live weight. the leghorn is around 2lbs.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
My reasoning behind sheep is from my overall philosophy on the farm: Only animals that I eat. I love lamb and mutton, in curries and stews, and have eaten it for years. I chose this particular breed because they shed their wool every year -- you'll see in the picture there's a patch of wool on the rear leg of the brown ewe; they've shed the rest of their coat.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
A test batch is a smaller-than-normal batch that you make to experiment with different tastes and methods to see what actually works for your own personal taste.
There's also quite a bit of random prohibitions out there about what you can, and cannot, can. Some of them are based on food safety -- like pressure canning meats, seafood and poultry -- and some appear to be based on preference or appearance.
Today I did a test batch of canned pork. I did one half-pint jar of each of these:
1) raw Ground pork, plain.
2) raw Ground pork in chicken broth
3) browned ground pork plain
4) browned ground pork in chicken broth
5) raw ground pork with chopped raw garlic
6) pork roast, plain
7) pork roast in chicken broth
8) pork roast in mushroom soup
9) pork roast with ground cloves
10) pork roast with curry powder
What I'd like to come up with is a couple of different variations on canned pork that would be good on top of rice for a quick meal, or as an ingredient for a quick meal. Open a jar, throw it into the microwave, eat.
Of this current test batch, the pork in mushroom soup, the browned pork, pork with cloves and the pork roast in chicken stock are the favorites. I'll do another batch tonight with some more candidates.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I lucked into some local fresh silver salmon (coho salmon), gutted, but with head on, for $2.00/lb, provided I bought 50lbs, which ended up being 6 fish. I filleted them, but after thinking about it for a bit, decided that it was good quality fish and it'd be pretty tasty canned, so I canned the salmon.
I can my own fish because I like to know where my fish is coming from, and the ingredients, and because i can pack it to my own specifications, I know it'll taste better than what I can typically buy.
For canned fish I've settled on a half-pint wide-mouth jar as my preferred canning size. It's pretty close to what I typically consume in a day or two. I've done larger jars in the past, but I always ended up refrigerating the jar after I opened it for a week. Smaller jars work better for how I eat the fish.
You don't really have to fillet salmon to can it. Commercial canneries just hack the salmon into hunks, stuff it into a can, and the heat and cooking of the canning process softens the bones and makes them part of the salmon. I actually wanted to eat some of this salmon now, so I BBQ'd the backbones I removed and ate that as a snack. The fillets, with the skin on, are what I canned.
Canning process summary:
remove jar lid from boiling water bath and screw top on hand-tight.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
These are the first cows I've ever owned; they're my $5 calves. I've written about them before, here, here and here. They seem to be doing well so far; putting on weight; glossy coats and healthy.
I bottle fed them from day-old, and the drawback to that is that they're hand-tame and friendly. Which is kinda cute when you've got a 20lb calf, but a little scary when you've got a herd of 600lb steers running at you to say hello. I really should have polled their horns when they were small. They really don't know they have horns and when they swing their heads around to lick at a pesky fly bite you'd best be alert or you'll get clocked.
The biggest problem I've had with them is that they will get out of the pasture at any opportunity. So I've had to padlock my gates so that random folks visiting the dogpark don't open them to get closer to the cows, and I've had to chase them a couple of times when they've discovered a weak area in the fenceline. The electric fence works pretty well to keep them contained, and I use it to rotate their grazing. As you can see from the pictures, they really haven't made much of a dent in my grass. It's still 2' tall over most of my pasture.
I'll probably butcher one of these this November; as near as I can recall I purchased these in March of 2008, so they'll be 20 months old in November. I'll keep the other two steers until next year and probably butcher one at 32 months, mostly to see for myself what the difference is in size, meat consistency and yield. The folks I've talked to about holsteins say that holding them 2 or 3 years gets you the best yield in meat because they don't fill out their huge frames until the 3rd year.
I'm going to see if I can get another 4 or 5 of them to add to my herd this coming spring. The prices for these calves is still depressed -- dairies are being offered less than the cost of production for milk and quite a few herds are being slaughtered right now. Consequently, even the market for proven milk cows is down.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
If you'd like to have a whole pig for BBQ, I'm happy to supply.
Special thanks to Heath Putnam of woolypigs.com for the referral!
They purchased a BBQ pig from me, live and on the hoof, and prepped it for their BBQ themselves. Gutting, scraping, mounting it on a rotisserie -- they did the whole thing.
They sent me a note about their experience, you'll find it below the pictures.
They rented this electric rotisserie from millers rent-all in Edmonds for $25 a day -- having it automatically turn is a great thing!
(sorry, I couldn't figure out how to rotate this picture because I'm a klutz. )
Golden brown and delicious!
Here's his note:
Thanks so much for the pig!
It made for an awesome party. Short story: We stopped just as we pulled onto the forest service road to reskewer the pig so it would fit better on the spit before we got to camp for some people that might get squeamish.
We stuffed it with garlic and rosemary, sewed him back up, bound his legs with wire and the whole body with string. We carried him victoriously into camp to cheers of excitement, did some touch up details on the body and started up the spit.
We got him on at around 2pm and he cooked for 7 hours until the hams got done right around dark. Everyone was crowding around as we took it over for carving.
The skin was golden brown all over and moist throughout. Everyone raved about how good it tasted. We had about 25-30 people at the party--all dressed up in goofy viking hats and clothes and drinking beer at this great spot about an hour from the farm near the Mt. Pilchuck trailhead. We had about 15 pounds of leftovers which we divided up between the birthday boys and about 10 pounds that others took.
Just thought I would send a note. It was a great event and we really appreciated your help through the process!
You're welcome, Christian. Glad you and your friends enjoyed it!
Monday, September 7, 2009
I've been a fan of fat for a while, and I do that for the taste, but it turns out that animal fat, far from being the demon we've been led to believe, is actually not as bad as the most-common forms of vegetable fat.
Here's a couple of articles comparing animal fat and vegetable fat.
That said, as with any food, moderation is the key.
Now for the process: How to render lard
When I slaughter a pig and have it cut-and-wrapped by someone, I ask them to save all the fat trim. They'll discard it by default, so I make sure I'm clear that I want them to save it. It usually comes in 25lb bags, frozen.
I always label stuff with the date of production/slaughter/cut and what it is. You can see that the overall color of the lard is pretty close to paper white. The 48lbs of lard produced from the original 60lbs of fat will last me this coming year.