The Experimental Acre

So the winner is- drip tape and sweet corn!

Drip systems have got to be the best way to deal with the drought and sweet corn might just be a good crop for us the get the hang of it.  The real test is filtration!  How do you keep those little tiny holes from clogging up with pond scum.  Well, our attempt is to use a swimming pool filter from Craigslist….which unfortunately turned out to be cracked.   There is some good news about this crack….although, it could fail at any minute- the height of the stream coming out of the crack tells us how clogged the sand is.  In other words- big geyser means it’s time to back-flush the filter….little geyser equals clean filter.  I cannot believe our germination rates (lots of thinning ahead).  More soon….right now- it is hay season!

 

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Latest News

I know, I know, stop the spam- please

Sorry for the long delay in the newsletter…some times I don’t know what to say…and then time passes and I think I should have even more to say.  But there comes a time when I just need to sit down and let you know what is going on….that time comes around about every 18 months or so!?!?

Online Store-
We do have plenty of news- so let’s get to it.  First off, we are excited to enter the world of e-commerce and have started an online store.  We have done this for a couple of reasons….the main one is security.  We would like to shift our model from growing to processing then peddling to a new process of peddling first, growing the animals and then processing.  We kicked around the idea of a meat CSA or some sort of subscription system but never came up with something that had enough flexibility for the consumer  and security for the farm.  What ended up making the most sense was a larder system (we still need a better name).  A larder is basically a stock of items that you will use over time.  The thought here is let us know that you will need 20 chickens for your larder and we will have them ready for you.  For example, in a couple of weeks we will announce our first broilers of the season.  The store will list Memorial Day Chickens and you can put a deposit down for as many broilers as you would like.  This way we will know how many to grow, have the deposit money in hand to off set some costs and you will be sure to have the larder you need until the next butcher date.

In order to encourage the use of this system we will be offering much better pricing online.  One of the most disappointing things about farming is the cost of selling.  This is one of the reasons we just can’t make SSM work anymore.  Delivering orders is entirely different…we already know what has sold and bringing it to the Bend Downtown Market or the Salem Public Market will be a piece of cake.  Of course, we will still be stocking both markets with retail cuts- but really hope the online thing works out and becomes our primary outlet.

Right now we have a couple of hog half shares for sale on the site. You can check out the process of reserving a half or whole hog and several ways to have it processed. You can have the butcher do the work, you could take a class and learn the work, or we could deliver your hog whole and you could process it on your own!  Check it out!

Custom Butchering-
We have thought a lot about this.  This is a long, complicated story and I will try and make short work of it.  The Oregon Department of Agriculture has really flip-flopped on chicken processing.  When we were going through the licensing process the ODA had a firm line….to sell a single chicken, anywhere to anyone, you had to have a fully compliant and inspected slaughterhouse.  Recently, the ODA started allowing the folks to process 1000 birds without a slaughterhouse…but all birds had to be sold from the farm that processed them.  Sounds great!  But what about farms that wanted to sell at farmer’s markets but do not have an approved slaughterhouse.  Enter the co-processor.  As a consolation prize to farms like ours who put the time and money in to a slaughterhouse, our license was expanded to allow us to co-process birds for other farms.  Okay….except we don’t want to.  But others did.  Now things got confusing.  Now farms without a slaughterhouse could take their birds to a processor and then to farmers markets.  But the ODA never got around to writing labelling requirements for processing houses.  So regulating what could and couldn’t be sold at the farmer’s market was left to market managers.  So, when a farm applies at a market and plans to sell chicken they just have to say they are using a co-processor and then process at home and there would be no way to tell the difference.  A tough, difficult, and awkward position for the market manager.  And an uneven playing field for vendors.  This is part of the reason we are taking a break from the SSMarket.  So far, we have seen at least three other processors around the state close up shop this winter.  Like I said, messy situation.

In light of all this, we are seriously considering processing birds for other farms this year. While not overly excited about this, it may be the best option to keep the lights on. Let us know if you, or others, might benefit from this service.

Feed- Or what we like to call ‘Rational Rations’
Lots of folks, over the years, have asked about our chicken  and hog food. This year we thought we’d bring pre-ordered bags of feed to the farmers markets. You can order a 50-lb sack of Hog, Layer, or Grower from the website. Those in Bend can order as late as Tuesday to pick up at the Wednesday downtown Bend farmers market, while those in Salem will need to reserve feed a couple of weeks in advance.

The Experimental Acre
Those of you who travel past the farm may have noticed a neatly tilled acre along the highway. We have always had trouble irrigating this spot with its gentle elevations and distance from the source. With flood irrigation, we create ruts for the water to travel by which is beneficial and efficient when growing grass but detrimental when trying to raise plants from seeds. Thus the experimental acre will feature a drip line system that we hope will support a variety of row crops, some annuals and some perennials. Cross your fingers (toes and eyes, too) and if all goes well you may see produce added to the Great American Egg’s offerings. . . . .

Pork Progressions

We just sold a half a pig.  Not big news itself…but the short story behind it- makes our day.

We have a long term farmers market customer that bought lots of pork cuts from us at the booth over the years.   Unfortunately, we don’t carry all the possible cuts for a hog- we try and focus on the ones that sell best (carrying caul fat around for 6 weeks gets old).  This customer wanted more, so took the hog butchering class with Taryn last year.  Now, that half hog mentioned above, is heading straight to this customer’s house for a little home butchering!

Here is the progression- fall in love with pastured pork, learn the skills to butcher one, and then do it!  This is fantastic.  These pork chops went from $7.50 retail to $5.50 with the class to $4.00 at home.  The same chop!!  And guess what we make the same amount on that chop as well.  A happy day around here.

On-line Store?

Big plans ahead for the Great American Egg.  One of our goals this year is to better connect you with our products.  First step, set up a place where you can actually reserve a pig!

Still a work in process….more to come!

Farm Day

Finally! A farm day! Come out to the farm for fresh or frozen chicken, eggs and pork.  Tallulah, the latest dairy calf and lots of turkeys will greet you! Fresh chicken will be available on a first come first serve basis, but there’s also lots of frozen chicken and tasty parts as well:  breasts, leg/thign quarters, wings, soup stock! Bring a cooler and stock up for the winter! See you on Sunday 11/2….11 till 2pm….

Fresh Chicken at the Bend Farmer’s Market

For the first time this year- we will be bringing fresh chicken to the Bend Farmer’s Market tomorrow (Wednesday the 22nd).  We are still- yes, for 5 years now- selling them for $3.50 a pound.  This is 100% antibiotic free chicken fed only locally grown non-GMO feed.  How do we know that- we have it made just for us at a local mill based on our own recipe.  We serve this food cafeteria style- so you can actually see the grains.  We don’t like the pelleting process as it kill enzymes in the feed that help the birds digest the food.  When you are raising all natural birds it is best to use what nature provides and leave well enough alone.

Anyway- see Taryn at the market tomorrow and have a chicken for dinner!

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Chicken is finally here!

Took a while this year- but chicken will be heading to the markets this week!  We wanted to start a little later this year- but then got pushed back even further from the hatchery- lots of folks raising their own these days!

Anyway- we should be stocked from now until October or so….but usually sell out most weeks- so make a plan if you want some birds this year.  Also, we should have plenty of turkeys this year so let us know if you are interested in getting on the list.  

Sugar begets Cookie

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!

 

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