Breeding cows is an art. Well at least knowing when the cow is in heat is tough without a bull or steer around is. When the cows are in heat they push noses, lick, and jump on each other- so you are pretty sure one of them is in heat- but knowing which one is the trick. I am telling you this because we didn’t really want a December birth- but we got one. Mainly because we could never get the timing right on when to breed her. Last Sunday morning, with temperatures around 20 below, Sugar gave birth to Cookie. Anita found her around 6 in the morning covered in a thin sheet of ice where mama’s saliva had frozen to her fur. Her ears were so frozen we couldn’t bend them.
We spent some time drying her off in the corral that was filled with a couple feet of straw- but her temperature was not coming up. So we brought her into the house which was a balmy 45 above (another story). We parked her on Hazel’s lap wrapped with towels, blankets and a heating pad. Lillian ran back and forth to the dryer to refresh warm towels. Cookie was calm/frozen during all this. The good news was she warmed up and was holding her heat. So back to Sugar, we packed her, to try to get some colostrum in her. She fumbled around and I shot plenty of milk up her nose but she was doing alright for only being a couple hours old. We let mama take over for the rest of the day.
That night she slept in the bathroom….and the next night, too. Now she is running all over snow covered fields with mama. All is well with both Sugar and Cookie. We are also getting plenty of milk out of both Sugar and Maisy (the ladies produce way more than the babies can drink). So we have a new member on the farm- welcome her!
Too soon for another chicken day? Never! Send us a note about how many whole birds you would like to have for the fall and we will have them ready for you between 9 and noon on Monday. Birds are $3/lb and you can pick them right from the chiller. They will then be bagged and labeled and ready for your freezer. The weather is cooling down – but still remember to bring a cooler to take your goodies home.
This season has gone very fast and smooth! Can you believe that the last batch of broiler chicks comes in this morning? That means the last chicken butcher will be around Halloween for us- so stock up now. Hope to see you and happy Labor Day!
The Team at the Great American Egg
Hazel putting on the finishing touches!
The Wednesday afternoon thunder storm took out one of our Super Doops. Luckily, we never have floors on any of our shelters- so losses were minimized. The fault was timing. I was loaded up with feed and heading home to hang these ballast bags on the hooks on the side of the hoops. Ten minutes from home the house was airborne- cleared one house, bounced off another and landed about 100 feet from the origin. Fortunately we had a spare billboard and the glu-lams were not badly damaged.
Now onto the lemonade. We changed the roost design which is now to be suspended by chains…this will add some adjust-ability that was difficult with the parachute cord. We also want to play around with the pecking order and try different angles for the roosts. Next, we extended the channel for the wiggle wire to hold the hoops onto the beams. This is minor, but should add some strength. The bags and ballast remain the same (hopefully, the hooks will always be full before a storm). Last improvement will be the nest boxes- the all new style. (I should do another post on the nest boxes…someday)
On a side note…the billboard was for auctioning off homes. Hopefully, this is a thing of the past.
Sold out for the farm day this weekend and the last class filled up! Thanks all for the patronage!
What a difference a passing season can make. We are starting the 2013 season with renewed confidence after a rough 2012. We believe in our charter of providing factory-free staples at a price that excludes as few people as possible- but we really had to think about how to do that without going under. I think we have come up with some great ideas for this year that we are excited to tell you about.
Our hens look fantastic! The girls are producing eggs at the best lay rates that we have ever had! We are very happy with the rations, the new nest designs, the year-round rotations- but mainly, the condition of the hens. We are also happy with the shell quality (which had dipped) and the flavor of the eggs themselves. There is so much to consider when cooking up a ration for these birds and we are really grateful for the patience and dedication from the folks up in Culver for working with us. Today, I can’t imagine buying feed from a store. The guys at Round Butte, now Helena, like what we’re trying to do and tolerate my constant tweaking of the recipes. They could have easily said, “No, we are a seed company not a feed company,” but they didn’t. Instead they said,”Neat, let’s give it a try.” And the rest is an unequivocal, closed-loop, local victory for sustainable food. We are also working on getting this mix into a retail product- a ways off- but maybe someday our layer feed might be available in a retail package.
We plan to butcher twice a week from June 8-9 until Halloween this year. Expect many more farm days this year. The feedback last year when I asked if folks like getting their chickens this way was overwhelming. One person said that coming out to the farm to get chickens was the highlight of their summer! We really enjoy these farm days both personally and financially. Last year it was difficult to know how many birds we’d be processing each week as the growth rates were so random. To address this, we ran a new ration late last year that showed some promise, but it was so late in the season we were not confident that we had it right. So far this year, it looks like we are close as the chickens are vigorous and relatively consistent in weights. The second change was with our hatchery. For three years we were getting our birds overnight out of Santa Cruz, however, last year it started taking two, sometimes three, days to get the birds. This year we have been getting the birds from the valley and we are receiving the birds sometimes within 12 hours of hatching. Both of these changes seem to be working and we are hopeful for a good 2013 season.
If this ration continues to hold up we will have a truly closed-loop food system with all our offerings. From seed, to farm, to harvest, to elevator, to mixing, to bagging, to feed, to chicks, to broilers, to butcher, to market and ultimately to table- all under our oversight- all without GMOs – all without corn and soy- all with neighbors paying neighbors. How cool is that?!! Give yourself a pat; none of this would be possible without your patronage and support!
Hogs and Butcher Classes
This is really exciting news. Like I said earlier, we attempt to alienate as few people as possible with our pricing. One of the best ways to do that is find ways to allow you to do some of the value added work. This is like buying whole chickens and breaking them down yourself- a little extra work but the savings are worth it. Well…what about pork? Light-bulb moment here. What if we could get the hog slaughtered and delivered to you to cut up. Perfect; except not everyone knows how to butcher a pig. What if we were to sell a class along with the pig? This is where we are at today. Taryn went off to butcher school, we started compiling gear, and we all started practicing. Earlier this week we held our first class in downtown Bend. And. . . It worked! The process looks like this:
- We sell you a live pig, or share of pig (a half or a quarter).
- We arrange for the slaughter and chill.
- As part of that pig/share you will receive basic butchery instructions.
- You will process you own animal at a central location with our tools and guidance.
- Each cut will be wrapped and labeled.
- You will pack your pork home to your freezer that night.
This process went well. We took over a coffee shop at 5pm one night…brought in stainless steel tables, knives, paper, saws and a couple of halves and went to work. The class took a bit over 3 hours and everyone went home happy! Taryn is a fantastic instructor: calm, understanding, encouraging, and knowledgeable. We hope to set up a page on our website with a few more details but would first like to offer up classes to this group to see if anyone is interested. One quarter will be $200, a half $400. You’ll have at least 100 lbs of meat to work with and take home. We are thrilled with this price! And the class is a lot of fun too! Anita and I joke around that this is the perfect ‘date night’ for foodies.
Sooo, onto the next class. We will have two pigs ready to butcher into tasty packages for your freezer. So if you are interested in taking a class, let us know We are taking reservations for the week of June 17 OR June 24th. Drop us a line telling which week works better for you.
Remember the pricing: $400 for a half a hog, $200 for a quarter, and $100 to watch and learn. We’ll even give those of you who come to learn a discount if you take a class again and buy the hog/ meat .
The Markets and Where you can find our products
You will still find Anita at the Saturday Salem Market every week and there will be someone at the Salem Public Market (located on 12th and Rural) throughout the year. In addition, the Wednesday Bend Farmers market is now open. Drop in and see Taryn there and ask about butcher classes!
And a quick shout out to Rockin’ Dave’s, 900 Wall, Jackson’s Corner, Devore’s Good Food Store, 10 Below, Agricultural Connections, and Celebrate the Season (Off Reed Market and on America Way). They carry our products for resale or turn them into yummy edible creations! Be sure to support those who support your local farm!
I have more to say….but don’t want to have to make a chapter book so I will save some for next time. We hope you are all well and looking forward to a great season.
Justice, Anita, Taryn and the Girls
Grains used at Oregon Spirit Distillery are being shared with the layers today! Brad, at Oregon Spirit, is as dedicated to local grain as we are! The grains are ground a bit, then fermented with yeast to make alcohol- then the alcohol is distilled out and they are left with spent grains. They have a nice protein boost for the layers and they go after them as fast as I can unload the tote. Thanks much Oregon Spirit Distillery!!
Layers going after spent grains from Oregon Spirit!
We have turkeys and chickens filling the brooders and birds are already out in the field.
So far so good this season. We have found a hatchery is able to get the young ones to us within 12 hours of hatching! This has really improved the stock….at 4 weeks the weights are not great but they are consistent and we are optimistic. We also rebuilt the brooders over the winter and compartmentalized things a bit. This has helped keep the heat in and allowed better separation between feeding and sleeping. Downside is the chicks are not as visible. So far, the good out weights the bad- ah, sweet progress!
Well, the market season has officially begun! We will be at the Salem Saturday Market, the Bend Wednesday Market and all year round at the Salem Public Market. The Bend Market starts the first Wednesday in June and the Salem markets are already going…thankfully- as we have had lots of eggs this spring.
Hope to see you there.
Brought half a hog home from the butcher shop the other day. We wanted to experiment with a few new cuts for the upcoming season. Not only was this a great Friday night- but we also have a few new cuts coming up! We just need to cook em up and see if they taste as good as they look.