Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seeking Help

OK, this is difficult for us to do, but we've done it. I was raised with a work ethic that if you want something, you work for it. We work are arses off on this farm. We invested in some great equipment in order to process poultry. Over the years, we have discovered that poultry processing is becoming a dying art. So we started butchering for other folks, too. We started lending out our gear for others to rent, folks who might not afford the equipment to purchase or even see the benefit of owning it when they only need it once a year.

It was a sense of community, of teaching and sharing that lead us to expanding our poultry processing to others. To help folks be able to raise their own meat, to keep us all with a little more food independence and more local options.

Over the years the gear has had a workout. We were able to afford the original purchase, assuming it would pay itself back, and it has. Now we know our scalder and plucker are essential pieces of equipment for our farm. Worth every penny, and they need to work when we need them to work. We thought they were indestructible!

A few years ago, we started having issues with the scalder. A friend used an air compressor and cleaned the carbon build up off many of the burner orifices. I replaced the thermocouple and it started working again. The year after that, out of winter storage, issues were happening again. A new thermocouple fixed the deal again. This year, I pre-emptively replaced the thermocouple right out of winter storage.

The first renter couldn't get it to light. Again, cleaning the orifices, fumbling with the thermocouple, it hobbled along for a bit. Came back from the next renter, and the thermocouple failed again. The last renter - it never worked at all. Now, with an ignition switch busted off, some piping bent, and a propane leak in the pilot assembly - the scalder may be down for the count.

Keep in mind, each time we discovered it wouldn't light, which has been at least 6 times this year alone - this is happening at 3AM when trying to prep for the day. Not getting it functioning until 7AM sets the entire process back 4 hours and makes me a very grumpy person. Having plans to start butchering at 7AM to be done by noon or 1 is common. Not getting started until 11AM, and not being done until 5PM? That's a rotten day for me and we've had many disappointed customers as well.

Again, it's difficult to ask for help. But in the year of flying solo on the farm, I've gotten better at it. We are a community, and I am reaching out to the community. The farm is not in a financial situation to be able to afford this purchase right now. But it's needed. We are looking at putting up hay for the winter, and filling a grain bin with organic feed to get us to spring. Finances are already tight for us to be able to do that. At the end of last year, I assumed my investment in the scalder would be an extra $15 each year for a new thermocouple. We hadn't planned on 4 thermocouples, a new pilot assembly and the possibility that even with those repairs, she won't light again. We can't butcher turkeys without our scalder. We have at least 100 turkeys this year, plus another 100 meat chickens - and without a scalder, I'll never get through butchering them.

So, with that long, piteous story, here is our plea: any bit can help. With a fresh scalder, we can continue to provide our community with home grown pastured chickens. We can continue to teach others how to butcher their own birds. We can help other farms butcher their birds. It's not just for us, it's for a lot of folks - from those with 1 or 2 roosters, to other farms with 100+ chickens. We want to keep processing.  If you can help, it'll keep us running through this fall and beyond. We really appreciate those who already have contributed and anyone who will. Humbly, I thank you.