Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sif, Gefjon, Thor and Baldr

Sif and Gefjon, sisters and daughters of Cindy were born earlier this month. Little cuties, they are!  Gefjon is supposedly the Norse Goddess of ploughing, and Sif is a Norse goddess associated with Earth, and in some stories it is told she is married to Thor (and has golden hair the represents wheat). They seemed like proper goddesses for the farm!


 Here they are today, Sif on the left and Gefjon on the right.

 This morning, Shirley had her little lambs, two ram lambs, named Thor and Baldr.  That's Thor in the foreground, and Baldr checking out mama's hay.

Here's little Thor being curious about me and my camera.  Cute little buggers, good job mama Shirley!
Shirley is our oldest ewe, and one of the original two sheep we bought to start the farm. She's now 9 years old, has bore us 14 lambs, and is a calm and wonderful mother. I was really hoping she'd have a ewe this year we could keep, but we do have Peppermint Patty and Sharon, who are her daughters, and Peppermint Patty's daughter Clarice!

Still waiting on Angel to give birth, and hope she has a girl so we can keep a Skadi or Freyja!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Changes on the Farm...

So lots of change in the air on Long Shadow Farm..

Finally, over the weekend, we completed the "harvest" of all of our birds.  We did this to eliminate a mycoplasma outbreak that we found on the farm several years ago. You can read more about mycoplasma on the post I wrote here.  In a nutshell, it's a bad sinus infection, it reduces egg production and growth in meat birds, and secondary infections can kill young birds. It's been devastating for us emotionally and financially. So this was the year we planned to eliminate all birds, that has been completed. We'll go all winter bird-free in the hopes of not reviving the mycoplasma on the farm.

I plan to start with turkey poults in the spring, watch for signs of the infection, and then continue with a batch of meat chickens once I know we are clean.

It will be a slower ramp up into production than normal. We will be eggless for some time, though I am considering starting with a batch of juvenile birds from a hatchery that is NPIP certified and mycoplasma-free, to get a jump start on egg production.

There is another snag in our plan. The farm work, for the next year, is left to me, as Larry has taken an assignment that will have him out of town most of the time.  For now, I am left with the sheep, and 2 llamas (who are looking for a new home.. any takers?) It's not a lot of work at the moment, though it is freakishly quiet around here.

But when spring rolls around, with a full time job, an almost 5 year old, and just me - the amount of time I have towards farm chores may be limited, so I may not be able to handle the same amount of birds that we usually have on the farm. Eggs may have to wait. I refuse to scale back on turkey production, and hope to continue running some meat chickens. But I don't know how much I can handle - which brings me to another plan I have - a volunteer program.

I am hoping to spend part of December researching some ways to structure this, and rolling out an organized volunteer program for the weekends so that folks who want to get farm experience CAN, and I can get a few extra hands to help get projects done.  I won't lie, shovelling poop will sometimes be on the agenda, but some fun things will be in there, too - like planting seeds, and setting up brooders for the baby chicks.   Keep your eyes open for a new tab up top that says "Volunteer"and the details will go there.

In the meantime, stay warm!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving at the neighbor's house - the dogs lined up on the fence waiting for us to come home. 

Just a few pics from around the farm.

This is a heavily pregnant Angel sheepy...

And this is Dancer

Here are our llama friends, a temporary addition to the farm...

And my Ferdinand cow...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The freezer is full!!

We now have plenty of stew hens available, as well as big broilers! Come on by for some chickens...

And I think I have a new masterpiece to my ice cream collection - Apple Pie!  Chunks of baked cinnamon apples mixed into ice cream. SO yummy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Turkeys are SOLD OUT

I am taking a waiting list, and will notify the waiting list on Sunday, November 24 if there are any available.  Send me an email with your name, email address and phone number if you are interested in getting on the waiting list.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


The only exception is that we have a few spots left for anyone interested in a turkey that is 6 pounds OR LESS. Email me if you want a small bird.

If not, we can hook you up with chickens or duck for your holiday meal.

Thanks to everyone for placing your reservations, we look forward to meeting everyone prior to Thanksgiving! Don't forget we'll have a stash of canned goods, home made ice creams, chicken and duck available for purchase with your holiday turkey!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Athena - 1998 - 2013

Before we started the farm, our family looked like this. Larry and I both brought 2 dogs into the marriage. We have Athena, Hobbes, me, Ditka, Larry and Grish. The 2 mutts were mine, the two Shepherds were Larry's. They are all gone now.
We are saying goodbye to Athena today.
Larry should be writing this, as Athena was HIS dog. And HE was Athena's favorite person.

Sure, Athena tolerated me. She usually got up and wandered off when Shannon came by. She wasn't one for playing around. At least not with toddlers and other silly people. She loved to play fetch, and would eventually destroy any toy, if you left her to her own devices. It was hard to play fetch with her, as she usually only gave up a ball or Frisbee for Larry. She'd bring it back, but you'd have to wrestle it out of her mouth. She would chew the fuzz off tennis balls and then wreck them. This blue ball lasted the longest, and we bought bunches of them to play fetch with her.

She was thinner and more agile than her big "brother" Grish. Both were very well trained dogs, but Grish was more stubborn. Athena LIVED for Larry. Waited on baited breath just for him to tell her what to do. She was athletic, and always on edge to be ready for what was next. On a single word, she could bound over picnic tables, and waited, hoping for the word that she could chase a squirrel at the park. Larry taught her how to skijor, and her and Hobbes would pull him around on his skis. Hobbes added some extra umph, but Athena kept them on pace and on track. She loved it.
Grish was her bestest companion. They would play tug-of-war over toys sometimes. By the time we said goodbye to Grish about 4 years ago, Athena was already slowing down.  She had given up on the sheep, after Gertrude butted her into a fence. We couldn't take her swimming for very long, because she would tire herself out. Her fetch sessions got shorter and shorter.
Within the last year, her hearing has gone. It wasn't too much of a concern, as she stopped wandering very far, either. You had to keep an eye on if she followed Larry out to the pasture, and then got too tired to come back in. She has spent the last several months really not moving from her bed very much. Her hind legs have given out on her, just as they did to Grish. She's much lighter than he, and has been able to compensate with her front legs for a while.


I have a better picture I need to post of her, but it's on another device. I'll find it. This is one after we moved to the farm, but before we were able to remove ALL of the barbed wire from our fencing, and Athena got tangled in it. She didn't even act like anything was wrong. She just wanted to know what Larry wanted her to do next.
It's true, I never bonded with her like I did my own dogs, all Athena wanted was to be with Larry ALL the time. She was a wreck if Larry ever went out of town, just looking at me as if the lights had gone out. She would shake with excitement when he came back home. If there is a special place for pups, then Grish is waiting for her there. Goodbye, Athena. We will miss you.



Friday, November 1, 2013

Turkey Reservations (almost) Sold Out

The links for reserving turkeys are temporarily disabled. We have reserved a LOT of turkeys so far! I have put the reservation link on hold until I get a good count of how many turkeys we actually have. It's pretty hard to count turkeys, especially when they now associate me with pumpkin seeds and pumpkin skins. Every time I walk outside, they think they are getting treats, so they swarm me. I tried last night while they were lining up for bed, and got counts of anywhere from 75 to 93, so I need to try again and see what I can come up with.  If and when I do put the links back up, there are 2 things to keep in mind - still, I only have a handful of reservable birds left AND I am not going to reserve 100% of the birds, which means we MAY have some leftover at the end of turkey weekend. I'd rather have leftovers than not enough for all my reservations, so that's the scoop. I'll post again here when we are sold out.  We raised more turkeys this year than last year, and we sold out even more quickly. We'll up our turkey production AGAIN next year, to keep up with our growing customer base!  Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkeys

We still have reservations available for Thanksgiving turkeys. I do want to let folks know that if you have mailed in a reservation form, and want to make sure we've received it, keep an eye out for an email from us. I sent the first one just the other day, so if you didn't get it, check your spam folders just in case. I'll try to send a notice again in early November, and certainly the week before Thanksgiving to remind folks who have reserved a bird to come and get them!

If you haven't reserved your bird yet, but want to, we still have spaces available. Check out the form on the left, that's it, right over there!   Now we just need to keep the coyotes at bay a little while longer.  We had 100 available just a month ago, and I keep finding feather piles in the neighbor's fields, that does NOT make me happy.  (anyone who wants to do some target practice, come on over!)

Anyhow, get your reservation in soon. I'll take the link down to the site once we are full on reservations... 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bird Processing, October 5

Regardless of the weather, we are still on for bird processing on Saturday, October 5.  If you planned to bring them, we are still working. If you change your mind, you can reschedule with us for another time. Rain or shine, if we schedule a day to process, we will still do it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Heimdall, Mist, Skogul and Skeggold

We had 4 lambs born this weekend. I'll start with the newest, born on Sunday. Betty spent most of the day in labor, but eventually we heard the sound of brand new lambs. Betty is the daughter of Laverne, and she's a good mama, but she wanted to be left alone during labor. She's let me pet her since.  With her are her ewe and ram lambs. Facing us is Mist, her ewe lamb. Not facing us is Heimdall, her ram lamb. These two are already jumping about and acting like healthy little lambs. Their mama is attentive and wonderful.
This brings us to Saturday's lambs. Trouble gave us 2 ewe lambs, Skogul and Skeggold. Both Valkyrie names. Trouble's 2 lambs were born with birth defects, the first time we've had this. The rest of this post might be informative to you, it might trigger sadness or other not happy emotions, so scroll down if you'd like. Move on, if you want happy news.
This is Skogul, Larry and Squeazy call her "Spaz".  Skogul might have a condition called "wry neck" or possibly a deviated spine. She can walk, we try to get her to nurse, but her mama has since rejected her. She can't control her head very well, and shakes it about, looking a lot like Stevie Wonder in the middle of a song he really enjoys singing. She has a hard time controlling where she walks, because she can't see, as her head is sometimes off to the side, sometimes bent backwards against her spine. She can drink from a bottle, and has gotten some milk straight from mama, but mama has turned her back on her, so she's ours to feed now.

Skeggold seems to have a partially cleft palate, as well as some spinal issues. Her spinal issues are not as severe as her sisters, and she has a better time with walking and trying to nurse. However, she does have some muscle control issues with her head, coupled with a lack of an upper lip - she struggles to latch on to mama. If we hold her still, we can make it happen, but she can drink from a bottle. Both lambs require their heads to be held during nursing to keep the nipple in their mouth. They are hungry, they are fighters. If their spines or neck muscles can get under control, we think they will be fine. Skeggold does have an upper palate, so it is likely she will be able to pull grass when she is older. If she can't feed herself, her future looks grim. We are considering the long term health of these lambs, for now, we are hoping that time and strength from feedings will help them gain control of their muscles, and hopefully bring a bright future for them. We don't want to discuss the other option, but we know we will exercise it if it's the best for the animal.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Brynhildr, and a little lesson on Norse Mythology

So another little lamb was born last night. We named her Brynhildr.  In order to start understanding our naming scheme this year, I am going to give you a very brief and slightly academic lesson on Norse Mythology.

I named our first two lambs Odin and Frigg. Many of you will recognize the name Odin. He's the All Father, sometimes recounted as the ruler of Valhalla, the God of the Gods. Thor is his son. Odin, Woden, Woten - he has many spellings. He has wolves and ravens at his disposal and there are great stories around all of this. He even hung himself from Yggdrasil do gain the knowledge of the alphabet, which he passed on to humanity. He fights Jotnar, and like the rest of the Gods, waits for Ragnarok. I always hear WIll Ferrel's voice in my head, from Ron Burgundy, saying "Great Odin's Ravens!" as an exclamation. I love it.  So fitting that we named our first born, our first ram, Odin.  Frigg is his wife (I know, my lambs are brother and sister, get over it).  Frigg can see the future but can not speak of it.  Are you yet seeing some similarities to Greek and Roman mythology?  You'll see more, wait until I tell you about Baldr, but not until I name one Baldr!

So to keep this brief and not get into the entirety here, I just wanted to discuss the names I have already chosen. The lastest is Brynhildr. Norse Mythology has a group of women named the Valkyries. There are bunches of them.  The Valkyries decide which warriors survive battle and which don't.  Half of the ones they choose get to join Odin in Valhalla. (The other half join Freyja in Folkvangr - more about her later). There are scores of Valkyrie - and I shall be using many of their names for our ewe lambs.. so get ready.

Brynhildr means "Armor Battle" - clearly the name of a warrior.  Our little Brynhildr was born to Peppermint Patty - who is quite protective of her little warrior.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Odin and Frigg

Mama Alice had udders the size of a basketball. She was definitely ready for her little ones to greet the world. On Monday, we welcomed little Odin and Frigg. They are big lambs already, but mama is definitely prepared to feed them! Alice is one of our older ewes, in the grand scheme of things. She's always been a good mother. Last year, she had an eye infection shortly before lambing and couldn't see from her left eye very well. It made it hard for her to see her babies, and one of our young ewes actually stole one of her twins from her. But this year, she won the race to be first, and doesn't have to share her lambs with anyone.

It's highly likely that we will keep Frigg. We are looking to build our flock back up a bit, and we always try to keep one or two ewes from each lambing to keep the age of our flock young. We love Alice. She's always been gentle and kind, and is a good mama. She is now 6 years old, and in those years, she has given us 9 lambs. She averages 1.8 lambs per season, and her average live weight on her lambs is 111 pounds! That's pretty good!  Being an enginerd, I have devised a calculation that sort of gives an apples to apples comparison on our sheep and their productivity. It's the lamb weight to lamb # ratio, and Alice is in second place, behind only Shirley (who sometimes gives us triplets).   We haven't yet kept any of Alice's lambs, likely because she often has rams. So here are Odin and Frigg, and their proud mama.

 Mama Alice and baby Frigg

 Alice, Odin and Frigg  (Odin in the front, with the sleek coat, and Frigg in the back with the curly coat)

 Our little lamb with Frigg

Our little lamb with Odin

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Canning Season is starting on Long Shadow Farm

I recently completed my first batches of dill pickles and bread and butter pickles. My cucumber plants have taken over the greenhouse, so I suspect MANY more batches of pickles to come. I am picking up peaches, tomatoes and pears in the next few weeks. That will produce peach ice cream, canned peaches, peach preserves, and peach pie filling as well as a very intriguing carmelized pear ice cream, and pear jam. We'll see what happens with the tomatoes, most of them go to tomato sauce for my own family, and we are on our last jar from last year, so I need more!

Either way, lots of good canned items and ice creams to come, so don't forget to pick some up when you stop by for chicken!

Friday, August 16, 2013


It's August- and already people are thinking about their holiday turkeys. I usually wait until September to start taking orders, but people are anxious, and excited.  Of course, my mind is on getting my nugget off to school! But others are contemplating other fabulous holidays, like Thanksgiving! So, to kick off your Thanksgiving planning, here is the deposit form for Turkeys.  Like always, we can't promise an exact size, but we really do our best. For reference, they generally state that you need 1 pound per person eating. Realizing that some of the weight of the bird is going to be bones and such, so that doesn't mean each person is eating a pound of meat, though I know a lot of folks could! You can round that up or down based on how many leftovers you would like to have.

Some info about our birds - we raise 2 types of birds. One is called "Heritage" which means they come from a long line of registered breeds that can breed on their own, and have some traceability back to wild turkeys. There are 6 recognized breeds by the American Poultry Association, and we have a few of those on the farm - Bourbon Reds, Black Spanish, White Holland, Narragansett, Blue Slate and Royal Palm. We have bred our own birds this year, from a few small hens and toms we kept last year. I don't segregate my breeds, so mine are mostly mixed breeds from those few. But they are the same size and quality as a registered breed. Since we also have a resident wild tom that I am sure has been successful in breeding, many of our hatches might have him as their father. If a heritage bird is what you want, keep in mind that the hens are usually 6-11 pounds in size, and the toms are typically 12-18 pounds.

The other breed of bird is called a broad-breasted, or double breasted turkey. These guys are genetic hybrids, just like our chickens, bred specifically to grow an extra breast muscle. These are the big turkeys that have that big round chest and look great on your holiday table. I struggle with getting the size just right on these guys. Two years ago, they grew way too big, and no one wanted 30 pound turkeys! Last year I overcompensated and got them way too late, and most never topped 20 pounds. I got them a bit earlier this year, and am hoping the toms will come in around that perfect 20-25 pound size that a lot of people want. It's too early to tell, as they are still quite small, but they grow so much faster than their heritage cousins.  If you want a bird between 9-12 pounds, I will have plenty of them. Every turkey is going this year, and last night, I tried my best to count them and counted at least 100. So we have more to sell than I thought!

If you want a holiday turkey - we process them the weekend before Thanksgiving, so you can pick them up fresh, and not have to defrost it!  If you want one for a subsequent holiday, we can freeze them for you, and you can make arrangements to pick them up.  If you are interested, there are two ways to sign up: online or print out and mail in this form

Monday, August 12, 2013


The Flock becomes a Flerd again. Not that my sheep really want it that way.
Meet Ferdinand. He's a little Jersey bull calf that we bought from a nice 4H family in Wyoming.

He's just getting used to being on the farm and away from his mama.

The sheep weren't too sure about him. So they tried to send Dancer over as a special envoy to broker a peace deal with the new species. However, when Dancer got close enough, Ferdinand leaned in for a sniff, and she ran off. I guess there won't be a peace deal.

The dogs, however, found him quite interesting. He's pretty small, almost the same size as my Moose.

They all came over to say hi and check out their new charge.

He's a calm little guy, he's really gentle and my nugget seems to like him a lot.

He's a sweetheart, he'll be with us for a bit over a year. I know, we swore we'd never do cows again. But the freezer is looking pretty empty and it's time to get some beef back on the menu.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Ingredients" Join us in Berthoud for a night about food


The local food movement takes root.
Berthoud Local Food Event
When: Friday, August 9th at Pioneer Park from 7:00 PM to 10:15 PM
What: Local food, music, and an outdoor showing of the movie
INGREDIENTS is a journey that reveals the people behind the movement to bring good food back to the table and health back to our communities.
Time: 7:00-9:00 PM: Food for sale, music, tour Pioneer Park Community Garden, meet people and play in Pioneer Park
9:00-10:15 PM: View the movie, “Ingredients”
Why:   Raise awareness about local food, support local food and businesses and fundraise for Pioneer Park Community Garden
Donations: A suggested donation of $5.00/person will benefit Pioneer Park Community Garden (shed and composting structures). Bring your own lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray.

For more information go to Facebook: Pioneer Park or call 303-588-9701, contact Tracey Long if you want to participate as a vendor
Thank you to our current partners and sponsors; Town of Berthoud, Pioneer Park Community Garden, Berthoud Area Chamber of Commerce, Berthoud Weekly Surveyor and Poppin Kettle Drum.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Egg Production and the Effects of Predation

OK folks, I put together the data I had to show what's going on. I am losing about 4 chickens per day to our wonderful coyote. I know that folks have asked me to coexist, or have it trapped and removed. I've coexisted with the coyote pack since 2007. They've always done some damage, but this is the worst by far. Due to a neighbor that likes to complain that my dogs are too loud, I've had to take measures to keep them quiet, including keeping them in our yard for stretches of time. This has allowed the coyotes full access to my pasture during the day, which we didn't think was a problem. Until another neighbor (who has lost chickens, too) saw the coyote at noon grab a chicken from our coop.  I have been finding piles of feathers and carcasses in the field daily when I collect eggs.

Anyhow, below shows our annual egg production. Some of the data is sketchy, we weren't as good at collecting data a few years back, so long stretches of straight lines mean we weren't collecting data. However, you can see a trend in production. A jump up in March that continues to a high point in May, then a slow decline until October when it starts to drop more quickly to a minimal level in mid November that stay lows until the next march.

The data below is shown from Jan 1 through Dec 31 annual. Colors indicate the year:

2010   2011   2012   2013

You can see that we've slowly increased production year to year, which is a good thing. Looking at 2011 and 2012, you can see the standard trend that we were expecting to see again this year. NOW there is one other factor that will attribute to a quicker drop off for 2013. If you read my last post, you'll know that we are butchering all birds this fall, that means we did NOT raise any new egg layers this year. Typically, as the older hens start to slow their production, the new birds are first beginning to lay, sort of filling that void for the fall. We don't have those birds this year, so the drop off will be quicker. However, the drop off you see below for 2013 is much more drastic than expected, and this is attributed to the coyote kills. We are already down to 2010 levels, and we had less chickens that year than we planned to have this year.  Because we are already butchering everyone this year, at some point their feed consumption will outpace their egg income and it won't be economical to keep them. We were expecting that timing to hit in October, but it looks like it might be close to September or even sooner, depending on if we can take care of this coyote.

That being said, egg sales are now being eliminated for all customers except our CSA members and our restaurant. I hate to do that, but we have agreements in place for those customers that we need to maintain.

The other piece of this puzzle - we need to deal with the coyote. I know that a large part of our farm is that we raise our animals humanely, and we don't like to see harm come to any animal. This coyote, however, has pushed me past my limits. I don't want to hurt wildlife.  We don't want animals to suffer. However, my chickens are suffering. I have found them with their necks wrung, their heads bitten off, wings torn off, large gashes in their bodies. The coyote has access to plenty of rabbits and prairie dogs, and possibly other birds like pigeons and blue jays and killdeer. But he's terrorizing my chickens. And when I butcher all my birds this fall, and have none left for him to eat - I will have a pasture full of sheep and baby lambs. We have not had coyotes attack our lambs to date, and I won't let it happen. We need the coyote gone, and we are in our legal rights to kill it, since it is killing our livestock. I have contacted the Department of Wildlife, as well as companies that specialize in trapping and rehoming coyotes. None will do it. The DOW suggest radios and squirting them with hoses and spraying with a hot pepper spray to try and deter them. That's just not going to work. It's time for something else. I may well have a coyote skin rug before the end of summer. I know that will offend some, but the piles of feathers in my pasture offend me much more.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Diseases, Dilemmas, Decisions (and Predator Problems)

OK dear customers, at the end of this post, I'll discuss what all of this means to you, but in the meantime, I have some lessons on poultry disease and predation...

First, we'll start with a definition:

BIOSECURITY:  a system of practices used to reduce the spread of disease and illness in an agricultural practice.

This word embodies why we won't take stray animals on the farm anymore, why we need to try to allow our birds to free-range, while also having ways to isolate birds that are ill from birds that are healthy, and how we can try to keep a healthy flock of birds for breeding, laying and meat production. We haven't done this in the past, and are paying dearly for it now.  So, let's go back two years and discuss:

Two years ago, we noticed some of our birds getting sick. It was spread across meat birds, egg layers and turkeys. By the time we saw the symptoms, we did some quick research and started giving antibiotics to the sick birds. We separated them, but nothing was working. We eventually got a correct diagnosis, that our birds have a disease called Mycoplasma.

To be specific, we have both Mycoplasma Gallisepticum and Mycoplasma Synoviae in our flock. We learned that the broad spectrum antibiotics sold at most feed supply stores don't touch this illness. We have to buy a tylosin antibiotic, which is only available from a few online sources. We found it, treated the birds and those that weren't too sick, got better. That year, we lost over 50% of our meat birds, 50% of our turkeys and 30% of our egg layers. The ones that survived were stunted and either didn't grow to full size, or didn't lay as many eggs as suspected. When you are sick, you too, slow down, as your body spends its energy fighting the illness and not doing other things for you.  Our meat and egg production was severely stunted, and it was a tough year on the farm. By winter, when the meat birds and most of the turkeys had been processed, we were left with those birds that were able to survive the illness, we saw no more active symptoms and thought we were good to go.

The following spring, we started again with meat bird production as well as replacing most of our egg flock, with 300 more egg layers. Several weeks after the first batch of baby birds left the brooder, they started showing symptoms. This time we were ready with the correct medicine, and corrected the issue. But what we discovered (that we hadn't learned the year before) is that once you have this illness, much like chicken pox, you still carry it. Those birds that appeared healthy were spreading this illness to my new baby birds, who had no immunity to it. We started the rounds of medication again. This time, our research led us to understand that the only way to rid ourselves of this illness is to eliminate every bird from our flock. Every one of them.  Since I had just brought in 300 new egg layers (some of which we lost to the illness) and it would take them 6 months to start laying an egg, I couldn't butcher them before they even produced a single egg for me, so we decided to wait.

That brings us to this year. We knew we would see the illness again, and we are seeing it now. We also know that this virus does not live outside its host for more than a few days. We have to butcher every bird on the property. Every single one of them. That is going to happen this fall. We will go all winter with no birds. This will give us time to sanitize all their spaces - brooders, coops, egg boxes, etc. It will allow sunshine and snow to clean up the pasture and grassy areas they live in. It will give us a fresh start next spring.

On top of that, our predators have gotten more aggressive this year, too. We have coyotes that are hunting in broad day light, and all night long. I hear them at night all the time, they don't even run when I come by, and due to the proximity of houses and other livestock, we are unable to safely shoot at them. We also have an owl that is hunting our meat birds. That owl gets one bird every single night. We are considering putting up nets to get in his way. But he's so quiet, my dogs don't hear him.  My dogs seem to be very set in protecting our sheep right now, likely because they are pregnant. They sleep near the sheep. The other morning, I heard the coyote on the pond (we have lost a total of 7 ducks this year, 3 of them being in the last week ALONE). So there he was, on the pond, howling away, trying to alert his pack... the pond is outside of our fence, where my dogs can't get at them. Atlas and Goliath had their BACK to him (facing the sheep) and were laying there, silent. Moose, on the other hand, had squeezed out of the gate, and way laying near the pond, also not barking or anything. I have no idea why that coyote was still there. Once I shined a light on him, he took off for home. I have found several piles of feathers at the chicken truck, probably when the pond coyote was howling away, his friends could sneak to the other coop to grab chickens since my dogs weren't budging from their sheep. This year has been a bad year for predators as well.

So here is where you come in - what does all of this mean to our customers?

First, it has meant that for the last 3 years our egg production has been lower than expected. That is continuing through this year as well, even though we don't see any egg layers that are actively sick, they still carry the virus. The stoutest birds have endured the illness for more than one year now. Some of the younger birds that hadn't built an immunity have perished. And we have NO NEW egg layers being raised this year. TRANSLATION: Egg production typically slows this time of year, but due to predation and no new layers coming on board, egg production is slowing much more quickly and we will be low on eggs sooner than expected. As egg production continues to drop, we will start butchering birds this fall, probably starting in September (which means more stew hens in the freezer for you) but egg sales will cease at some point in time, sooner than we hoped and we won't have eggs again until next summer.

Continuing the discussion on eggs - duck egg production has been drastically reduced as well. Of the 7 ducks that were taken by coyotes, all 7 were female. Those were all productive, laying ducks. It has left me with a flock of ducks that is about 50/50 drakes to ducks. Drakes aren't laying, and some of the ducks are frightened and don't lay for several days after the loss of one of their friends. I suspect duck egg production to continue to reduce, hopefully not attributed to any more losses, until the fall when they all get butchered as well.

Third - meat production. This illness is partly why our chickens and turkeys have not been able to grow to the sizes we were used to seeing before the mycoplasma. We struggle to raise any turkey past 20 pounds, if any, when we used to regularly get them to 30+.  Turkeys also have an innate ability to off themselves in unique ways, so I am trying to keep them as safe as possible, but we will start getting colder weather, wet weather and other incidents that may endanger the naturally clumsy turkeys. Once they are large enough to perch in trees at night, they are relatively safe. As for that owl, we are not finding turkey remains from its hunting, but it is possible that some of our turkeys are small enough, still, that an owl, eagle or hawk can carry them off with no trace behind.    We are raising 200 MORE meat chickens than last year, but are continuing to suffer losses due to the owl, as well as the illness. We are hoping to stock our freezers to last through the winter, but we might sell out of meat birds early again this winter.

Fourth, let's talk turkey a little bit longer. The illness may stunt their growth, so again, this year, we may struggle with getting birds past 20 pounds. We also have several other factors against us with turkeys this year that will limit the number we have to sell. 1. I moved my incubator this year, and lost about 1.5 months worth of hatching eggs - we would have been rolling in turkeys. I did not realize that this move would effect the temperature and humidity regulation of the incubator, and once I moved it back to the basement, I started hatching turkeys - too little too late and that quickly dropped the number of available turkeys we have for the holidays. 2. We had several batches of purchased turkeys, arrive during storms. We had those wonderful May snows - not so wonderful for baby birds trying to stay warm. Many were brooded inside the house, and still we lost most of our spring baby turkeys. 3. Several batches of purchased turkeys have been cancelled or delayed to me from the hatcheries, as they did not hatch as many as planned. This has already shorted me over 75 birds as well as delaying them to me ensures they don't have the time to grow to the size we want. It's going to be a depressing turkey season. We will have birds, but until September, I won't have a good idea of how many - but I can guarantee, if you want a 6 pound turkey, we'll have lots of those!

Last - what does this mean for the future?  This means several things for the future - we will have no birds this winter. It gives us time to rebuild our brooder - we want to add temperature controls for heat and fans. There are two major issues with brooding - one is keeping it warm enough during an unexpected cold blast (like our May snow storms), as well as keeping air circulating when it gets hot. If we can better automate this, we can make sure birds never get too hot or too cold in the brooder, so we can eliminate the loss during that stage.  We can also ensure that no birds will carry the Mycoplasma virus, and giving us time to sanitize all their coops, brooders, gear and fields - we can ensure we won't get it again. This will reduce loss to illness as well as lost growth in meat birds. It will also reduce the cost of purchasing antibiotics, as well as eliminating the need for them. We will have happy, healthy birds again.

It means that we will not have eggs for probably 9 months. No eggs. Not a one. So our egg customers will be disappointed, but we'll be back up and running eventually.  It won't effect the timing of meat production, so we will still have chicken and turkey available at the same timing that we usually do, and hopefully next year they will be bigger!

However, this dilemma also gives us a HUGE opportunity. By eliminating all our birds, and cleaning out our brooders and grain bins, this gives us the change to go ORGANIC next year. We've been feeding our birds non-medicated, but conventional feed.  I won't go into all the details right now (isn't this post long enough already?) but we are working on making the switch. It won't be a 100% switch, but it's going to be tilted more towards organic, with some conventional meat chickens on the side for folks who don't want the price hike.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. The short of it is: Our birds carry a highly contagious bird illness, and the only way to eliminate it is to eliminate our flocks, start over with NPIP registered chicks, and maintain biosecurity on our farm to ensure we don't get the illness back again. It's the responsible thing to do, and it's the RIGHT thing to do, for us, for the birds, and for our customers.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chicken Processing this weekend: July 13-14

It's the middle of July already? How did that happen?  Anyhow, we are almost sold out of the batch of birds we just processed, and we are butchering again this weekend. Now, we are finally keeping up with demand!  We'll have plenty of birds in the freezer after this weekend, or if you want them fresh, come out on Saturday or Sunday to grab your birds!

We also have duck, a few cuts of lamb (we are almost sold out of lamb!), one last guinea, plenty of chicken, duck and even turkey eggs for sale. I'll also have some freshly picked lettuce available, some baby greens, spicy Asian greens and even a little bit of kale available. I'll pick that fresh Friday morning, so if you know you want some, let me know Whatever doesn't sell, gets eaten by us, so I don't want to pick more than we can consume or sell.

We'll be working mostly in the mornings, trying to get done before it's too hot. So if you don't want to see birds being processed, come later in the afternoon, if you DO want to see (we don't mind, we'll even show you how) come in the morning and see how it's done.

See you this weekend!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bird Babies!

Baby bird season is starting to wrap up for the summer, well, at least the ones in my incubator. The Turkeys are rarely laying, so I am selling their eggs now, instead of hatching. I am stiull hatching ducklings on occasion, if my egg stock in the fridge gets too high, I start to hatch instead. Here are some of the baby escapades...
We had a turkey mama hatch some of her own poults. This happened last year, with a hen who hid in our raspberry canes and hatched 9 little turkeys. She quickly abandoned them, so they went into the brooder. We saw a mama this year roosting on a nest, in a safe-ish place in out front yard, so we let her be. We put down water and food for her.

SHe had 9 eggs, and 7 of them hatched. WE we didn't realize was that her nest was on a pile of chicken wire where grass had grown through, so we didn't see it. When her little ones hatched, several got trapped in the chicken wire, and she abandoned them and they perished. Very sad. She had 3 that survived and didn't get trapped. I watched her that first day to make sure she was being a good mama, and she seemed to be. Until the next morning, when I found 2 of her babies wandering far from her, and she seemed none too interested in looking for them. They are now in the brooder. Since then, her third is also lost, and I kick myself for not putting it in the brooder as well. 

Such is reality. I lose a few mamas every year because they attempt to sit over in the neighbor's field, where they and their eggs become coyote food. We're not apt to run a turkey program here by letting the mamas do the work, they aren't very good at it, so it seems.  Besides, the entire time she is sitting, she isn't laying, and after the poults hatch, she isn't laying either, so I lose a lot of hatching opportunities there. I'll stick with the incubator and brooder from now on.

Now, if I had ducks that wanted to sit on their eggs AND be good mamas, we'd be onto something. But, since that isn't the case, I use the incubator on them, too.  We have 5 grown ducklings, that all look a lot like these two from above. It's clear that my mallard has good hatching eggs! ALl 5 are also female, which seems statistically suspect.

I also have 8 more ducklings in the house, this picture was taken before the last 4 were hatched, and there are more in the incubator. Gosh, I love ducklings! I see some more mallard genes in two here, and possibly Welsh Harlequin or Peking in the big yellow one in the back. Surprised to have a beautiful grey-ish looking one, but I sense he might turn brown. It's fun to see what my motley ducks will turn into!
Here's a short video of my mama turkey being a good mama. If only for one day, it was sweet to see them together!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chicken Processing: June 29

We'll be processing chickens again on June 29. Hooray! That last batch sold out quickly, so we're happy to put more birds in the freezer, to put on your table.  You can swing by anytime on Saturday to pick up some birds. If you don't want to see processing in action, we suggest you come by in the evening, or on Sunday!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raising your own Chickens: Planning for Processing

A lot of folks are taking to raising their own chickens these days, whether they are a few backyard egg layers for your own breakfast omelets, or a pasture full or meat chickens to fill your freezer, it's becoming more and more common for folks to raise their own.  I think this is GREAT! We love birds, and knowing someone is raising them in their backyard means it's that many birds NOT put into battery cages - but that's a discussion for another day.

Talk about free range!!

The trick is - whether you are raising for meat or for eggs, eventually you may decide it's time to put them in your freezer. If you only have a few, a stock pot for scalding, a few friends (or kids) for plucking and a good sharp knife for cleaning them out might be all you need. Or someone really well versed in knife wielding can skin one or two for you, and save the energy of plucking all together.

That surprise rooster that the city won't allow you to have... find him a new home, or send him to the stew pot!

But what if you have 20, 30 or 50 birds? What if you named them all, and now you don't have it in you to butcher them yourself?

The options in Colorado are slim. Even the big Butterball plant in Longmont shut down. There aren't many folks in Colorado that do custom poultry processing, anymore.  And we can tell, we get more phone calls every year - sometimes from folks that are frantic and need their birds butchered NOW!

Some meat birds, and young layers hanging out in the summer time

We have 2 options, you can come to us and we'll do your birds, or rent our gear and do it yourself.

The trick is to plan ahead, either way. We have limited time to butcher birds - we both work jobs off the farm, have livestock and plants to tend to, and frankly, I don't want to butcher birds every single weekend, sometimes we need a break, too! 

Planning ahead and trying to schedule when the birds arrive to you and when they should be ready to butcher is key. We've had folks call us in January, with their birds ready to go, just to find out that our processing is outside, and we can't do it in freezing weather.  Or to find out that the day they need butchering, we already have 200 other birds scheduled and can't possibly squeeze in another.  PLanning ahead means we can save a date for you, or suggest one that isn't already booked, so you can get your birds at a time when we will be able to process for you.

Turkey weekend is our busiest processing weekend all year, and it takes all winter just to recover!

Wait, what was that you said? You don't butcher in winter? Nope, we sure don't. We've done it in the past and it is MISERABLE and just no fun for anyone involved. The hoses freeze, the birds freeze to the wet processing table - it's no fun. So if you are thinking of getting rid of some old egg layers, get them in before winter.  And whether you bring birds to us or someone else - plan ahead and schedule ahead with whomever is helping you. It's no fun to see that your birds are ready to go, and then discover you have no place to take them!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Farm Party

It was fun having our friends and customers over for a party on the farm last weekend.  Thanks to those that came. I was too busy to take too many photos, so here are a few...

Kids always manage to find the trailer to run around on, pretty sure my daughter started that!

 And Alpine find some canine refreshment of his own, though he didn't realize that pool was for the ducks!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Farm Party Sunday

I messed up the date on my last email, our Spring Farm Party is on Sunday, May 26 from 4-10PM.

You can check the details and RSVP here.

Hope to see you Sunday!  We are cooking up a leg of lamb, some burgers and rotisserie chicken, we'll have home made desserts, salad with lettuce from our garden and local beer from City Star Brewing!

See you Sunday!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Lesson in Bird Hatching

OK, I wanted to put a post together to  talk about eggs and hatching. There are a few things that strike me about hatching our birds on the farm, so let me show you!
First, here are the 4 types of birds I have successfully hatched on my farm. Well, yeah, it's all the birds we raise on the farm!  It took us a while to find guinea eggs, Larry actually put a chicken egg in the incubator, thinking it was a guinea egg, until we started to see the egg shown below. They are strikingly different than a chicken egg, and much smaller. I used a mid-sized chicken egg for this picture, we get them much smaller and much larger than what is shown.  The turkey egg below is on the small size, but the largest I could find last night for the photo, and the duck egg is typical for us, but my friend Mo, who raises Muscovies thinks these are teeny tiny. We raise smaller ducks, so they lay smaller eggs.  All the eggs below have a 28 day incubation period, except the chicken, who incubates for 21 days. 

 So now you know what the egg looks like, let's see what comes out of them.

Below, I have images of baby birds of each breed and an adult bird, so you can see what they grow into. The baby and adult pictures are not the same bird, so the feathering patterns aren't indicative, but you can see how their size and shape fills out as they grow, and how those cute little fuzzballs may or may not be so cute when they get bigger.

These are day-old guineas, which are called keets. They are the most ridiculously cute baby birds I have ever hatched. If you have ever hatched eggs, you will know it is addictive. Who wouldn't want to hatch more and more of these adorable little birds?  But what amazes me - these cute little fluff balls grow into....

These... these are adult guineas. I am still not good at determining their sex from the nubs on their heads. They are NOT born with those ridiculous nubs on their heads, they wouldn't be so cute if they were. These are the noisiest birds (aside from pea hens, which are really loud.)  We are actually butchering every one of them this year and never raising them again. They fly, they wander all over the neighborhood, and that's it. We just don't need them. They really are so loud.

OK, onto the next little fluff ball...
These are baby chicks. These guys are almost a week old, this is the meat breed version, and at a day old, they look like teeny little tennis balls with feet, Round, fuzzy and wiggly.

They grow up to look like this. This is Friend Bird (she passed away this year) but not after giving us 2 roosters and a hen (who is named Friend of Fang).  She hatched her own, they all grew up to be black, they didn't get her Hamburg speckles.  Chickens are not necessarily attractive as adult birds, but better looking than those guineas!

Which brings me to turkey babies. AW!!  Look how cute they are, too! Their feet are a little creepy, but who cares. They are adorable, and we hatch some every day! Not as cute as those little guineas, but amazing that such a small little thing can grow into this...

OK, so guineas grow nobs in their heads... turkey toms grow snoods, waddles and beards and really big tails. And they can turn their face blue when they feel like it. Incredible.
Which brings us to...

Ducklings!!  OK, I still think guinea keets are the cutest out of the shell. Ducklings at a day old are very awkward, with a big round belly, and a big beak.  But in a week, they take the cake, as their body fills out, their neck looks less wonky. Ducklings, for the duration, and the cuteness winners. When they get big enough to swim, like above, they are unbareably cute. And they stay fluffier longer, as it takes a long time for them to put their feathers on. And when they do...

They retain beauty and poise that the other birds do not. They are quieter, no silly nobs, snoods or combs on their heads. Yeah, they walk funny, but they swim with grace and poise. I love all my birds, but ducks are my favorite (except when it comes to plucking... but that's a story for another day!)