Friday, December 18, 2015



Happy Holidays, everyone!


Just a reminder, the farm is closed from December 18 through December 27, as we are taking a winter siesta, and a little break for ourselves for family time!

See you soon!







Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Awesome new lamb recipe

I found some old lamb stew meat hiding in the back of our freezer. It was from 2011! (This is a testament to how well Arapahoe packages our meat, 4 years in the freezer and no freezer burn! Meat tasted awesome.)

Anyhow, I am a big fan of crock pot cooking these days, especially when the weather is cold. I love putting food together when I have time, and having it warm and ready when the family is hungry.  I also had some veggies I wanted to use up before they went bad, including potatoes and carrots.

I will say, when I opened the freezer, in the middle of making this, I did not have peas, but did have corn I prepped this summer, so I swapped the peas with corn. I will probably use both next time!

Anyhow - this was a last minute recipe I found in an attempt to use this stew meat in the crock pot.

Could NOT believe how much the family loved this! YAY!

Here's a link, and we also added this to our recipes page!


Rustic Lamb Stew




I figured I would include a random picture.... And as a weird segue way, here is a picture of Peppermint Patty and her lambs, Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake.  Totally unrelated to the above, Pumpkin Cake (on the right) got caught under a piece of the hay feeder one day. We weren't sure how long she was caught, but it was a cold day, so we brought her inside to warm up. In the process of being trapped and well as being inside, she broke her bond with her mama. She's trying to sneak milk off her as well as other mamas, but we have had to intervene and bottle feed her. She's taking the bottle well now, but the cows are hoping for a piece of the action, as they have been weaned for a few weeks now. She's going to do fine, but in the meantime, big brother is growing fast, as he has access to 2 lambs' worth of milk from mama, while sister is getting hers from a bottle.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Post-Thanksgiving Thank You!

This is a little belated, but truthfully, still trying to recover from turkey processing weekend. We did have a lot of volunteers, but today's shout it is specifically to our bestest friends at WiMo Farms!
 
They are a farm about a mile from us the way the crow flies. They run a raw milk dairy, raise lamb, duck, chicken and turkey as well. We complement each other (all my ice cream comes from their raw milk!). We share resources. And Turkey Weekend is one when we all come together to get stuff done for both farms!
 
Larry and Mo bagging up a turkey

Turkey Processing volunteers getting stuff done!!

Mo and Kristin trying to stay organized. Look at all those labels!

This is the whole Long Shadow and WiMo crew - minus baby Declan who was with grandma.


This is my big thank you and shout out to WiMo for our friendship, our partnership and all our collaborations we have together throughout the year. Funny... I met Mo from a Freecycle post giving away white boards, and it turned into this great friendship!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It was a long weekend, but all turkeys were processed. Saturday was pretty darn hectic, but I think I found a bird for everyone this year.

We have plenty of hens left over for breeding for next year, and 2 really amazing toms. So we are looking forward to hatching turkey poults for the coming year.

A few things went a little better this year - I gave other folks time frames on when to bring their birds, so we didn't have a line up of other people's turkeys waiting to be processed. I'll move more people to Sunday for next year, as Saturday was NUTS!

I will no longer agree to sell turkeys for anyone except those farms I already know and love.   I am almost considering not processing other's birds that weekend at all, as we get so  busy every year, and taking time to do other birds meant MINE weren't getting done and my customers sometimes had to wait for a bird to come down the pipeline.

I'll keep accepting volunteers to come and learn the process. However, I will continue with the realization that at least half of them won't show up. That's OK, between Long Shadow and WiMo farms, we are pretty much poultry processing rock stars and can get a lot of work done!

Next year I am going to require all birds be picked up over the weekend. It's disrespectful to our family and work time for folks to not show up, and make me wait around for them for several days after. Besides, I don't always have the fridge space!!  Besides, I have a LOT of accounting transactions to take care of, and that part is NOT enjoyable!! I like to get it overwith!!

Anyhow, we are done for now!! And taking a few days to rest before we get ready for our own Thanksgiving feast!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Poultry processing is booked

We are booked solid tomorrow, and turkey weekend is full. We have no more slots available to process birds for anyone until spring, 2016.

Thanks everyone!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Turkeys are SOLD OUT

We are officially sold out for Turkey reservations. Thanks, everyone! The online system is taking a waitlist, and we will call if we have any extras available.  Thanks, again! Happy November! Let's make it a great November.





Thursday, October 29, 2015

Turkey Reservations

We are getting down to the tail end of our turkey reservations. We usually are sold out by this time of year. Even though we have a few less birds this year than we did last year, sales are a little slow. I know why - we don't have the BIG turkeys this year due to the failure of our double breasted flock.

And now this might be rude, but I am going to do it as I keep getting reservations for large birds. WE ARE SOLD OUT of the big birds. Big, this year, meaning 18 pounds. Our big toms are spoken for, and my fingers are crossed that they will even be 18 pounds. I am having to send emails to folks who are reserving large birds and disappointing them that they are sold out. We are looking at the 12 pound and smaller range. (Hooray for you if you want a small bird! We have lots of those!)

An option if 12 pounds is just too small is to get 2 smaller birds. You can cook them side by side, or you can cook them with different methods! Roast one and smoke the other (yum) or deep fry one or put on on a rotisserie on your grill. ALL YUM!

So if 12 pounds or smaller isn't enough for you, consider getting 2.  That being said, I know it stinks. Believe us, it stinks for us too! We spend over 6 months raising these birds. We want to make our customers happy. BUT I can't make turkeys of certain sizes appear out of thin air. I also can't guarantee the sizes of the ones I have. I won't know their size until I get them cleaned. Believe me, turkeys do NOT stand still on a scale for me!

Anyhow, still interested in a smaller bird? Reservation link is right here.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

The homestretch for the turkeys

It's getting to be the final stretch for most of our turkeys. With the weather turning cold and wet, we moved our double breasted birds into the greenhouse. Spoiled little birdies! I did this last year with a huge cold snap that hit in November. These guys are too big of idiots sometimes for their own good. They were provided tents, with heat lamps, to go under when it rained, or when it got really cold. But they never used them. To beat them at their own game, we moved them to the greenhouse last year to FORCE them under shelter.

But it's perfect! They still get bugs and grasses, and other plants. It's a super lush paradise in there! And it keeps them out of the rain and snow. One of the more difficult things about raising birds this time of year is that the cold weather stunts their growth. They spend all their energy staying warm, and not growing larger. That's fine for a full sized bird, like our egg layers. But, especially since my turkeys are younger this year, I still need growth even in this cold season.

Just one month to go, boys and girls! Stay dry and warm, and eat eat eat!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lambs!

Fall Lambing season has begun. We have five little lambs gamboling around on the farm.


This is mama Freyja, and her ram lamb, Discord. I had my eyes on Betty to drop first, but Freyja surprised me. She's a first time mom, just over a year and a half old. She is the daughter of Angel, and Jason Stathram.  She is a great new mom, super attentive, and stays close to her little one. He is doing great!



Next, we have Betty's Lightning Streak (standing) and Rainbow Dash (laying down). Betty is a veteran mom. She is 6.5 years old, these are her 9th and 10th lambs. Betty is the only ewe we have from one of our original sheep, Laverne. She's not a friendly sheep, but she's an amazing mom.

Also, say Hi to D-Day ((left) and Otter (right) who are also in the photo! Hi Mooey cows!





Next we have Clarice and her ram lamb, Big Mac.  Clarice is the daughter of Peppermint Patty, granddaughter of Shirley, our other original sheep.  Clarice is almost 5 years old. She has only given us 3 lambs, and only gives us one at a time. Big Mac looks possibly like an exception, but typically her lambs are very small. She's doing a great job with this little guy, but mama is still on our cull list. Once this little man weans from her, she'll be sent away.



The most recent addition is Dancer's Tank. Dancer is also almost 5, she is the daughter of Jan, who is no longer with us, and the only kept offspring of Jan. She has given us 8 lambs since she's been with us. This little dude is thriving with his mommy. 



So you may wonder about the weird lamb names. Yup, I pick a theme each year - I've had themes like cartoon characters, Greek and Norse mythology, TV characters and even holiday cartoon characters. This year, we are Bronying up and using names from My Little Pony. I need to analyze some of the mamas whose offspring I want to keep, and save the good names like Pinkie Pie and Applejack as the ones I want to keep. That being said. male characters in My Little Pony are hard to come by, and creativity and stretching are going to be par for the course. And yet, Weird Al Yankovich has a cameo appearance in a show (which is hilarious, by the way) and his character name is Cheese Sandwich. I will be using that name!!  A little easier to pronounce and spell that Skeggold, that I had to use during the Norse Mythology phase, so I am looking forward to some creative and interesting names.

More lambs are to come, almost everyone is visibly pregnant. I have my bets that Judy is going to give birth next, so let's see... Hoping for most of them to drop before the temperature does.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lambing Season has begun!

 
Lambing season has begun! The mama's all appear to be rather pregnant, and are much more vocal, which is typical. I had, as usual, been watching them for weeks, looking to see whose milk is coming in, to know who was going to drop first.
 
This is Freyja, she surprised us by going first. This was her first lambing, and she dropped a beautiful baby boy, named Discord. As a new mom, with a single lamb, her utters didn't get to the size that most moms do. She was closer to volleyball sized, instead of full basketball size! She is a super attentive mom, which is a great for a first time mom. She's amazing, and the little guy is doing great!
 
 

 
 
Betty was my bet to go first, because she is sporting a basketball-sized utter. But, she went second. Dropped perfect little ewe and ram lambs, both seen here on top of an old pile of hay (with the mooey cows).  Lightning Streak is the little guy on top, playing king of the castle. His sister Rainbow Dash is laying down beside him. Great job, Betty! (Betty is our only descendent of Laverne, one of our original two sheep)
 



This is Clarice, with her little ram lamb, Big Mac. We thought she had twins, but just this big guy came out. Clarice, unfortunately, is on the cull list, but we want to wait until this guy gets weaned first. She's doing great with him, but historically, she has skipped lambing seasons, she always births singles, and they are smaller than most. Though Clarice is the granddaughter of Shirley, she's not cutting it like the others, so this is likely her last lamb.   Notice the photobomb in the front from Dolph Lundgram!




Sunday, September 6, 2015

More Turkey Talk

OK, I'm laying out some details about this year. It isn't good!  We had a rough spring and early summer. It took us a while to figure out one of the problems - a bad batch of feed. If you recall the post about my rangers with splayed leg?  We were able to resolve that issue by supplementing with vitamins. We have 2 TONS of that feed, and are more than halfway through it. Thankfully.

Once the birds get outside, they seem to do much better, as they get some vitamin D from the sun, lots of extra nutrients from foraging grasses, weeds and bugs. However, they are still growing more slowly than their organic friends.

Here's the difference. The bad feed gave the chickens splayed leg. It was slowly killing off our turkeys. With no symptoms we could see, we simply had no idea. We kept changing the temperature in their brooder, we gave them vitamins in their feed and water, but it wasn't enough. The first batch we lost, we really had no idea - until we brought in those baby chicks and they developed splayed leg.

So we got more, but it's much too late in the year for broad breasted turkeys to get to 20 pounds. Or more, as we have had in the past. Right now, they are so small, I am struggling to judge their size by november. SO I have set up the reservation site to take turkey reservations, I only have 50 available this year. SO FAR. as the little ones start to get bigger, I'll add more reservations. It should be closer to 70 or 80. But I won't add them in until I see they'll be big enough. I am concerned I won't have anyone top  out over 18, and that's relying on heritage toms to be on the top end of the spectrum.

So, the folks looking for birds between 6 and 12 pounds, we'll have TONS of little ones. I am hoping the double breasteds and a few toms will start to fill in the 12 to 18 pound range, but no guarantee we'll have any big ones this year.

OK, reservation link has been sent out to my CSA members and my email list. It'll be posted to the facebook page in a few days, and here as well.

Want to get first notice on fun things in the future? Check out our facebook page, or sign up for our email list.+

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Talking Turkey

UPDATE:
Turkey reservations are now open. More turkeys will be made available as I see they are getting large enough to be sellable for the year. Also just trying to get a head count at all can be tricky!  We will be thin on the super large turkeys this year, but will have plenty in the small and medium size range, so if you want a 25 pound turkey, this might not be the year for it... we still have almost 3 months left to grow these babies...but what we get is what we get. Stay tuned for when I release the reservations for non-CSA members.


I am getting a lot of questions about holiday turkeys. I promise, I will start taking reservations soon, but for NOW....

I am working on counting how many birds we will have available, trying to estimate their finish weight, getting all my spreadsheets and interfaces set up so that I can start taking turkey reservations.

Take a look, if you are on the main website, look to the top, left - you'll see turkey info. For now, all we have available is the sign up to volunteer with helping to process! I will post the reservation forms there soon, too, and some more information about our birds. Hold tight, the info is coming!




Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sheep Statistics

OK, fine, I am a BIG NERD when it comes to data. There are a lot of calculations behind this graph to normalize output, take into consideration lamb age at time of weight, etc. But basically, this is the chart I use to help determine who my good mamas and bad mamas are. Of course, there are also behavioral considerations, like lamb abandonment and temperament that sometimes outweight the data. Three strikes and you are out, so it might be one still born, the next season you abandon AND you like to head butt small children? DONE. So I've been looking at a lot of data over the years - average number of lambs born, average lamb weight, normalized weight based on lamb age, etc. etc. I finally put it all together, and using Shirley as our gage stick, this is what I have. Bear with me. First of all, Shirley is a superstar, and no one compares to her. Secondly, she's the oldest, has the most data and has been the best performer. Therefore she is our gage stick. This chart shows 3 things, the RED bars show the actual output of the ewes we have. This is how much lamb weight by averages, they have given out over their life. Now, comparing their age to Shirley's age, using their average output via # of lambs and weight of those lambs, the blue bars show me the POTENTIAL they have left in them, by the time they get to Shirley's age. SO, lambs showing all blue are young ewes that have no yet lambed. The yellow line is Shirley's gage stick. If their actual output PLUS their potential future output can come close to that, they are keepers. We have one who has surpassed, but I suspect another lambing's worth of data, and she'll drop down. Sharon had triplets her first time out, so her average lamb output looks like 3, when it's unlikely she'll do that every time. She also happens to be Shirley's daughter, and so is Peppermint Patty. So is Persephone. Clearly, you can see who my obvious next 2 culls will be. Clarice, ironically, is Shirley's granddaughter, Peppermint Patty's daughter. She has skipped several seasons and I'm wondering about her fertility. She might go, as I can't afford to feed a ewe who doesn't produce anything for me. Judy is relatively new, although, she is almost 4 years old and has only lambed once. It doesn't fare well for her, either. Gertrude, who isn't the worst performer, is all around a grumpypuss, she likes to head butt the dogs, and just has more attitude than sense, and doesn't perform great, either. Those might be our next three mutton potentials. Which is fine, as we may be bringing in some more Katahdin blood from a friend's farm. Getting rid of my poor performers gives me room for new genetics, and hopefully build a more fruitful flock.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spraddle Leg

We are dealing with a new adventure on the farm right now. Good news, there is a happy ending here.

For the first time, we have had an outbreak of Spraddle Leg on chicks that are over 2 weeks old.  Spraddle Leg is more common in baby chicks, typically due to slippery surfaces in their incubator when they hatch.  We see this more often in baby turkeys.


 
It does require some Physical Therapy, and they can recover. As baby chicks, you just need to stabilize their legs until they can grow into them a little.
 

 
 
A little bandaid around their feet to stabilize and they will be right as rain. I usually keep towels down in my incubator to prevent this, but some turkeys still just hatch a little wonky, and need some help straightening out their hips. I can't blame them. I, myself, was born with a dislocated hip and had to wear a special brace as a baby, until my hip could stay in alignment on its own.
 
We have a different issue here - our birds are 2 weeks old and just started showing signs of Spraddle Leg. There are 4 main causes of Spraddle Leg - slipping of the feet from being on smooth surfaces, neurological damage, vitamin deficiency, and slipped tendons.
 
 
Our guys are in our brooder with wood chips, and have been since we received them. This is not the issue. They were originally all brooded in one brooder together, and fed organic feed, until I had enough room to separate them.
 
I left a bunch in the organic brooder, and moved some out for conventional feed. Their organic friends show no issues, and as a matter of fact, all got moved outside last weekend.
 
This tells me it isn't neurological, either. Nor is it slipped tendons. It wouldn't happen to so many, and it wouldn't be isolated to the conventional feed, either.  So we have a deficiency in our feed. We buy in bulk, and have been feeding our meat birds this conventional feed for many weeks. We did recently receive a new delivery, but we butchered conventional birds just a few weeks ago, and have another batch outside, eating the same feed, and getting ready to be butchered in another couple of weeks. We can only assume that the nutrients missing in our feed are available in the bugs and grass the outdoor birds are eating.
 
We separated the immobile birds and put them into a separate brooder. I gave them the vitamin pack that typically comes with baby chick deliveries. I also tossed in some lamb kidneys and hearts. WE got a chance to head to the store, and did find a vitamin supplement to give to the birds. We switched their feed to a bagged game bird feed, super high in protein. And they all seem to be recovering fine now.   Not everyone is back to good condition, but we will be moving the very mobile birds outside this weekend, and continuing the vitamin feed to the ones that are still doing the splits.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Farm to {Picnic} Table Dinner in Berthoud


Farm to Table Picnic

July 25th Fickel Park 3:00 - 6:00

Come one come all!! You are invited to the Farm to Table Picnic Dinner July 25th at Fickel Park, Berthoud CO

We will be roasting a whole pig, accompanied by fresh greens, vegetable medley, and lots more (based on this weeks harvest!).
There will be Live Music by the Firing Line String Band, City Star Beer, Wine from Sweet Heart City Wines, Spirits from KJ Woods Distillery, and More...
You get two drinks included with the price of admission, and there will be a cash bar available as well...This is a family affair so bring everyone. Kids under 5 eat free!

Dress will be uber casual. You can even bring a blanket to lay on the grass if you would like.

Supporting events like this helps Berthoud Local sponsor other events through the year. We hope to see you there!!

Follow this link to get your Tickets!  http://berthoudlocal.org/product/fickel-park-farm-to-table/

For questions contact :
Jason Reiff
970-988-4200
jason@pixelsandpress.com

Thursday, July 9, 2015

New Additions to the Farm

Bonus points to the folks that know where these names originated from, but we are welcoming our 3 newest additions to the farm: Blutarsky, D-Day and Otter:











We have so much grass on the pasture and around that we felt we could feed these gentlemen up to a nice size in a year or more. So it won't be a quick turnaround, but probably in the fall of 2016, we will have grass-fed beef for sale as well. Since we only do this every year or so, and this year is an exception, we'll be taking deposits in advance for these guys, for halves or wholes. We won't be selling these retail from the freezer. But for now, we are enjoying bottle feeding and bonding with these goofballs.

There are actually 3 of them, it's hard to get all three in the picture together. They don't stand still much unless they are sleeping, and often they are not all sleeping in the same spot.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Understanding the different types of meat chickens

OK, there are a variety of chicken breeds out there, and I am not going to go into detail on specific breeds and characteristics of different breeds. But, we do put "types" on the different birds we sell, so I wanted to give a little lesson on what it means to the meat consumer.
 
Cornish Rock Cross
The most common meat chicken is the Cornish Rock Cross. This is a bird that has spent decades being cross-bred to select for fast growth. They are a hybrid of a White Rock and a Cornish.  The White Rock brings the white feathers and pale skin, the light colored feet.  The Cornish brings the size.

   Image result for plus sign   

   Image result for equals sign
 
It's a little more complicated than that. The two strains of birds have to be selected to produce the best of the bigger breeds. We don't breed our own, because we'd have to feed a flock of females and a few roos that consistently give us these big hybrids, and we frankly just don't have time to be chicken geneticists. A common misconception is that these birds are "genetically modified". No, the DNA is not edited in a lab. This is pure hybridization, and it's happened over generations and decades to bring us these big birds.
 
We've had several customers this year pick up some chicks at their local feed store, to end up with this huge 8-9 lb birds they thought would be egg layers. Some key things to notice, especially if you have mixed birds - by the end of week one, you'll see these chicks outpace the others in growth dramatically. You'll also see that their hip structure is much farther apart. They need to have wider hips and bigger legs to hold up all that weight. As they get older, you'll see their mobility slow and they don't attempt to perch, where smaller, egg laying breeds surely will. These birds get to full butcher weight in 8-10 weeks. They are pure eating machines, and don't have much of a personality, as they focus solely on food. This is what you find in the grocery store, raised by the 10's of thousands in large structures for the poultry industry. We also raise these birds, but after 3 weeks in the brooder, they get to go outside, in our garden or orchard to enjoy sunshine, grass and an occasional rain storm.
 
 
Rangers
Rangers are another hybrid meat bird. Depending on the hatchery, as they all have their own formula, they may have different names: Red Broilers, Black Broilers, Rainbow Rangers, Red Rangers, Pioneers, etc.  Credit is often given to the French for pioneering this more mobile, but large breed of chicken for meat production.   We raise these, too. They say they take 12-14 weeks to get to size, we see more like 16 weeks. They are more mobile, still don't have the tendency to perch, are certainly nicer to look at.
 
 
They will grow larger than almost all standard chicken breeds. If raised for meat, they won't make it to maturity to be bred for replacements, but it's an interesting concept for us to consider. We've had mixed luck with these birds, as they do not tend to get to the same size as the Cornish Cross. But we raise them due to sentiment that the fast growing Cornish Cross birds are not "natural". The taste, however, is no different.
 
Heritage Breeds
 Heritage are just your standard chicken breeds. Not all chicken breeds are alike, from bantams, that are mini-chickens that lay mini-eggs, to your average White Leghorn (the best of the laying breeds) to fancy frizzles and fuzzy-footed birds. We raise Speckled Sussex and Rhode Island Reds on our farm. The extra roosters get to grow to a decent size and then get butchered for meat. The spent hens also get butchered for meat.   Even a giant breed, like the Jersey, can't really compare to a Cornish Rock in size. Some of the roosters can still get to 3 to 4 pounds, tops,  but it takes them 6 months or more to do so. Most hens are 3 pounds or less. Most of the fancy breeds weigh even less, and bantams are hardly worth it at 1 pound give or take a few ounces.  Not very economical for a meat producer to spend half a year waiting on meat products. These guys will perch, they will also become sexually mature, and if you have too many roosters, that can start to cause aggression.
 
 
Since they take so long to grow to size, their meat is tougher. Not so great on the barbecue, but they have much more flavor. They make great soup stocks, stews, braises and smokers. They require a longer, slower, moister cooking method, to help break down the meat and make it softer and more enjoyable to chew.  But it's still great meat!
 
So, what's the point?
The point is that everyone has their own tastes. If you want a good, large, tasty bird, the Cornish Rock is just that. If you still want that big bird, but are concerned about a bird growing SO fast, that it isn't fair to them - the rangers are a nice option.  If you prefer that your birds are natural, can breed true, and live a full life, than the heritage breed might be for you.

 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Saying Goodbye Never Gets Any Easier


This is Nina. We adopted her from Cayleb's Kindred Senior Rescue in Denver in 2013. They specifically work with senior dogs that shelters have a hard time placing due to medical issues. Some dogs go to forever sanctuary homes to live out their lives in a loving home. Some of them, like Nina, get placed for adoption, have their surgery and get to finish off their lives with a loving family who adopts them as their own.

Nina had mammary cancer, and a tumor on her back. She had surgery to remove it all, and was just fine. She's a German Shepherd, so being away from her family was hard for her. But they could no longer care for her. She came to us in December, 2013.




It was just a few months after we lost Athena, another female German Shepherd that we had. Nina was confused, but attentive. She eventually attached to me, and was my little shadow around the house. She followed me everywhere, always wanted to go for car rides.

 I tried hard to work with her on her herding instincts on the farm, she was often too aggressive with the sheep. It was, though, at times helpful to bring her out to give the sheep an extra nudge to get home, especially when they escaped our yard completely.



But she was a good surrogate mom to our lamb Hattie. She kept her company in the house when she had to sleep inside, and always alerted me if she hopped out of her box during the night.

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She came with us on Shannon's first day of Kindergarten, and helped see her off on her first time riding the bus. She would even pull Shannon on a sled down the street on really snowy days.


 She was also a surrogate mom for Hercules, and slept with him in his crate his first night home so that he wouldn't be so sad being away from his mother. She kept him in line and always had the patience to play with him.


She was protective, a family dog through and through. She was the epitome of what they mean when they speak of companion animals. She was my shadow, my pain in the butt, but was always there to help me round up sheep, chickens, turkeys, or just come with me on my daily chores, so that I was never working alone. And she slept every night by my bed. I loved brushing her long coat, or just hugging her and petting her in those rare moments of downtime. She was quirky, as shepherds can be. The yard is strewn with her toys, and she loved to play, but I think her favorite game was "keep away" as she loved to fetch her toys, but didn't quite like to hand them over for a second throw. She loved stuffies, and there are many shredded ones throughout the yard. She also loved to carry around rocks, which was bad for her teeth, but difficult to get her to stop.


Sunday morning, she woke us up with incredible whining. I got out of bed to see what was wrong (thinking the dog door was closed, and she needed to go potty but couldn't). Then I saw a trail of vomited water all the way down the stairs and across the front room.  I went outside, and saw her with an obvious look of discomfort on her face. At that point, I feared the worst - bloat. Bloat in a dog is when their stomach twists, and closes itself off. Whatever is in there continues to process, creating gases that now have no place to escape. Dogs tend to try and drink a lot of water - probably in the hopes to make their tummies feel better. But since the water has no where to go, they vomit it back up. She is so furry, it was hard to see the obvious swelling that is typically on one side of their body. We've been through this with Sergeant. We know there is no time. We rushed her to the vet. 

They took us straight back without even checking us in, and though on first sight they agreed with our assessment, they wanted an x-ray to be sure. X-ray confirmed that her stomach was twisted. The vet said she was in a rapid state of decline and we would need to make a decision right away.  (With Sergeant, who I think was 7 at the time, they told me I had an hour to decide).  So Nina was heading downhill quickly. By the time they brought us back for the x-ray, her breathing was labored, her eyes were bugging out, and she didn't even acknowledge that we were all there. 

Though there were definitely financial considerations here, it was more about how much damage may have already been done (Bloat puts pressure on other internal organs) and her ability to recover from this trauma. The vet said that they could do the surgery, but encouraged our decision to say goodbye. It was not specifically said, but I could tell the implication was that she was in such a bad state that the surgery alone might have taken her life. Everything happened too fast. They put her on a blanket on the floor, and I snuggled up next to her, so that she was not alone. She fell asleep quite peacefully. My arms were wrapped around her. We said goodbye.   Even though she never met Ditka, Grish, Hobbes or Athena - she will be greeted by them wherever it is that dogs go when they leave us. We now have more dogs underground than we have in our home. 


I hate goodbyes. They never get any easier. But I would never forego the love of a dog for the pain of seeing them leave. It just got a little too quiet around here, and a little more lonely.

We love you Nina, we miss you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Some Changes on the Farm

OK, for our regular customers, I suspect this isn't going to change much at all. But it is going to change our work load on the farm. It's been a while in the making, and for the sanity of our family, we need to do this.

We are ratcheting back our egg production. This isn't really a huge deal. We had a restaurant as a customer, that we have no longer. Originally, that was the Wayside Inn, in Berthoud.  Those of you in Berthoud may remember them! Shortly after they closed, and we were donating eggs to the food bank (like we are now) we wondered what we were going to do. Another restaurant came along - they more than picked up the slack, and we stayed in the egg business.

I believe Larry encouraged me to cut out the eggs last year, when we were egg free for a year due to a respiratory illness. We have successfully eliminated that from the farm, and I ramped up our egg production to meet restaurant production.

But the restaurant is no longer engaged. We switched to organic feed, due to what we thought was market demand. But the price went up with that.  And the customers aren't responding.

OK, that's not 100% true, we have many of our regular customers buying organic eggs, and we thank you for that! But we don't have enough demand for the flock of 100-120 chickens we have out back.

SO, we are going to pare that flock down by a BUNCH. They are less than a year old, so we can sell them to folks looking for a backyard flock. This will reduce our daily workload to something more management, and hopefully restore some family unity that is much needed.

This shouldn't effect our meat production in any way, except that we will have fewer stew hens available. This will allow us to continue hatching our own flock (making us more sustainable) and selling baby chicks, just in smaller quantities. This was the first year we have sold homegrown chicks, and we were surprised at the demand and the success!

So we will still have our lovely egg laying ladies. We will probably switch and have a larger portion of them raised on conventional feed, and a smaller number on organic feed, but we will still have both options. We feel confident that we will have enough to supply our direct customers. We won't be looking for restaurants or distributions points outside the farm for our eggs anymore. It's the lowest profit margin product we have on the farm, and it takes the most work!

So this is a business decision, and we think it's right for us and our little operation.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Food Drive on the Farm

This is a repeat from our mailing list, but wanted to broadcast it everywhere!

At my day job, I am part of the Community Giving committee; each year we are part of the Corporate Challenge sponsored by the Community Food Shares of Colorado. Our farm has donated food items to the food bank, which serves thousands of people in the Boulder area. We've decided to see if our wonderful customers would like to participate.

For every 3 boxes/cans of non-perishable foods you bring to us to donate between May 1st and May 17th, we will give you one free dozen chicken eggs (max 8 per family).

So if you would like to bring some food items for us to donate, we will pay you back in free eggs! We can help our community get some food on their tables, and spread the love of free range chicken eggs as a reward!  We'll match all your donations with a gift of eggs to the food bank, as well! So it's a two-fer all around. I'll put a large box on the porch next to the egg fridge, if we are not home, feel free to donate your items and take eggs from the fridge! Leave us a note to let us know that you donated.


Want to know more about Community Food Shares? Here are some tidbits on their operation and the need in Boulder and Broomfield Counties:
  • There are over 56,000 people in Boulder and Broomfield Counties who are living at or below 130% of the federal poverty level ($31,005 annually for a family of 4)
  • In 2014, Community Food Share distributed over 8.3 million meals. The value of the food was over $14.3 million.
  • Since 2003, Community Food Share has distributed over 64 million pounds of food to those in need of food assistance in Boulder and Broomfield Counties. The value of the food was over $98 million.
  • Community Food Share distributes all food free of charge.
Want to help the campaign with a monetary donation? Click here to donate to the Compete to Beat Hunger Corporate Challenge
You can select a company you'd like to list for your donation, or select mine, Rosemount DP Flow. There are 23 companies competing this year, if you are affiliated with any of them, feel free to donate under their name. This is a corporate challenge, and the competition is fierce! Some of these companies have full time employees who work SOLELY on this campaign every year!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Donating Eggs

 
Eggs have been an interesting journey this year. In 2013, we realized we had contracted a respiratory infection on our farm, and the only way to clear it was to eliminate all our birds and start over. I spent the winter between 2013-2014 bird-free. Spring of 2014, I started bringing in a new flock. We went the entire calendar year with no eggs.
 
In that time, we recognized the demand from the community for organic eggs. We had a large restaurant customer that we thought was interested, too, based on the demands of their customer base. It really started to feel like the shift was taking place at the consumer level and we were ready, and had a clean break to switch to organic feed for our birds.
 
 
 
So we did it. we switched all our egg layers to organic feed. We got ready for our individual customers and our restaurant customer, as well as another farm that is selling CSA shares with our eggs included. YAY!
 
We were so excited. Then, 6 months later, the girls started to lay. We did the math, and put our pricing on them. I posted on that not too long ago.  Everyone was so excited for eggs. Until we posted the price.
 
Now, there are folks that are really interested, and understand that farming isn't cheap or easy. It's what they want, and they are willing to pay for it. Lots of folks are not willing or able. That's everyone's choice. Our restaurant turned out to be one of them. We are getting about 85 eggs a day out of our girls, and probably selling about 40-50 eggs per WEEK.
 
You do the math. So, our fridges were full of eggs, and these eggs need a home.
 
Thankfully, at work, we volunteer with Community Food Shares in Boulder. They love eggs. They NEED eggs. It's a great protein source, and the food banks often struggle to provide protein for families in need.  I took 6 crates of eggs (how many I can safely fit in the backend of our Volkswagen) and delivered them to the food bank. The FDA won't let grocery stores donate cartons with cracked eggs in them anymore, which means they get NO eggs. Mine weren't cracked, mine just didn't have a home.
 
6 cartons, 15 dozen per carton, that's 1080 eggs. We donated them. Every other Friday I am going to do the same thing until or unless we start selling eggs (when the farmer's market kicks in during June, or when the CSA starts selling them in May, we'll see) The food bank is appreciative. I hope the families are too.
 
It's actually making me consider that maybe, just maybe, our farm should be a non-profit that grows food for the food bank. What we sell, like turkeys, would go to fund the operation, so that we can continue to provide eggs for the food bank. Just a thought. Giving back is rewarding, and knowing a family has good food to eat is a great way to end my week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Planning for Purchasing Lamb

There are two ways to purchase lamb on our farm. The first, and quickest is to purchase from our freezer stock. This is already butchered, packaged into cuts (see below for our standard cuts) and available anytime we are home on the farm for you to come and purchase. This still requires a little bit of planning - if you wait until the very last minute, we might not be home to sell you some lamb. But for the most part, we are around on weekends, and in the evenings, if you call, and we are home, you can come by for some lamb - individual cuts or packages of a whole or half a lamb.

The second way is if you want something special. We don't stock whole lamb carcasses in our freezer - we just don't have space for that. So if you are looking to roast a lamb on a spit, you have to plan ahead. And by planning ahead, we mean 2-3 weeks in advance.  The same goes if you are looking for a special cut that isn't part of our standard butcher practice. These also require advance deposits, as we have had folks call for these special items, we get it all arranged, and then they NEVER show up to buy.  That leaves us in a pickle.

So why does it take 2-3 weeks to manage a special cut for a customer? First, we have to arrange to take the lambs to process. Our processor only butchers on Monday through Thursday, so we have to schedule a time with them. If they are booked, you are out of luck. So don't assume we can just pick a lamb and take them to butcher the next morning. Some seasons, the processor gets booked quickly, and I've had to wait over 2 months to get one or two lambs in.

The lamb is not available the day it is slaughtered, either. For a whole carcass, they still require 2 days to hang the meat to age it and dry it properly. That's the same with a butchered carcass. They still hang the carcass for 2 days at least before they start the cutting process. It can be up to a week after we deliver a lamb before we are able to bring it back home. So if you want a special frenched rack tomorrow, it won't happen.

We've had 3 customers back out on us at the last minute the last few weeks. I know that folks were trying to make last minute arrangements for special Easter celebrations. And that's great. We had one customer who contacted us early, came out to the farm to meet his lamb with this family, felt good about everything, we arranged the slaughter date to align with the date he needed to pick up, he paid a deposit up front, and all went well after that. It was a great experience all around.

The others, called in a hurry, begged for a lamb in the next 2 days, and then never paid their deposit and we were a no-show at the processor. That embarrasses me, messes with THEIR schedule (they could have filled those spots with someone else!) and I promised them it would never happen again. So we are asking 3 weeks notice on special cuts, and a 50% deposit before the lamb even gets loaded in our truck. It wastes our time, the processors time, and cuts into the bottom line for us both. And that's not OK.

We are happy to arrange special cuts for folks. We've done Hallal butchering on the farm, we've had lambs processed with a full French rack, we've kept special organs, even entire heads for a customer. But we have to plan ahead for these things, so ask that you try to plan ahead, too.

Long Shadow Farm standard cuts
These are the cuts we stock on the farm, pretty much year round.

Leg
Whole Leg or Short Leg

Loin
Chops

Foreshank and Breast
Shank
Riblets

Shoulder
Square Cut Shoulder (labeled "Shoulder Roast")
Shoulder Steaks

Other
Stew
Ground
Neck


Friday, April 3, 2015

Why are Your Organic Eggs SO Expensive?

I've posted on Facebook before, and in here, some links where other folks have done the math for the price of pastured chicken. But now that we have switched to organic eggs, I see and hear folks who don't like the pricing. Let me remind you that we switched because so many people kept asking for them, we thought it was time and that the market was ready.

So I thought I would share with you the math behind our pricing, that will show you the costs of feeding an organic hen, as well as what ends up being the profit for us. You'll be surprised at the result. And basically, no, we are not gouging you and no I don't have the answer for how to bring prices down. The organic feed cost, end of story, has to come down. It's still a niche product, at least for us small farmers. I could get a better price if I was buying hundreds of tons per year.

Let's put that a bit into perspective too, possibly there are other areas of the country where organic feed prices are lower, but in Colorado, I have two options for bulk organic feed. Ranchway and Fehringers. Fehringers delivers in one ton totes. Their price is lower per ton, something close to $800/ton vs $1000 per ton at Ranchway (I've also heard their feed isn't as high quality, but I don't know). It's trucked in from Nebraska and I don't know the delivery fee, so the cost difference may be negligible  The totes don't work on our farm. They are still at risk for mice getting into my grain, and since we don't have any equipment to move that tote, it may also be at risk for sheep exposure. Chicken feed is poisonous to sheep, so having grain on the ground is a big no-no my farm. That leaves me with Ranchway, who will deliver feed to me, and put it in my grain bins. That keeps the feed off the ground, no sheep, no mice, and makes it easier to fill my wheel barrow for weekly deliveries out to the chicken feeders.  Any mill in California, Iowa, or any place else is too far away to deliver one or two tons of feed to my little farm. The delivery price would be more than the feed.


Tonnage price:  $1009
One ton consumed: 6 weeks
Annual feed cost: $8745
Chicken life span (on our farm) 3 years
Cost to feed my flock for their life: $26,234 
That's like a new VW for me every 3 years!

Estimated average eggs laid per day over the live span of the flock: 57.5
Number of weeks they lay over their life time: 130
(they don't lay for the first 6 months, but I still have to feed them, next estimation also includes winter down time, as we don't force them to lay)
Average eggs laid by my flock over their life span: 53013
Someone better start making omelets!

Cost of feed per egg laid: $0.50
Selling price per dozen: $6.50
Sale price per egg: $0.54
Profit per egg: $0.04  - PENNIES per egg comes back to me in profit.
Daily Profit: $2.32
Annual Profit: $848.50
Profit over the life of the flock: $2108.71


That's a pretty tight margin. We're not making much money, Not even enough per day to buy a meal for a human on this farm.  The other thing it does not take into account is water for the birds, as well as the labor included in feeding them, filling their water, cleaning their coops, collecting their eggs, cleaning their eggs, and the cost of cartons (which, at the lowest cost by buying 20,000 at a time, they are $0.21/carton - so no, I am not buying new cartons, but reusing old ones). It doesn't include much money to cover equipment - waterers, feeders, brooders, and keep in mind, we don't see any income until we have eggs to sell, so we are spending 6 months buying them expensive feed, before we even have a single egg to sell. It also doesn't include the cost of obtaining the chicks, and the electric bill to run their brooder to keep them warm as babies. That tells me we aren't making a profit at all, but hoping we are just breaking even.

We almost got out of the egg business, and are considering it again. It is the highest labor item we have on the farm. We HAVE to collect eggs every day. We have to wash them, package them and store them. And it takes 6 months before we see a profit. We'll keep our girls for 3 years, but I'll be honest, we aren't selling many eggs, and I believe it's due to the price, which as you can see, we can't reduce. If organic feed prices don't go down, we may have to ditch the egg layers OR put them back on traditional feed.

As a comparison, that same ton of feed in traditional feed (which may contain herbicides, pesticides and GMO grains) it costs me less than $400. Yes, it's the only difference between my organic and traditional eggs. It's just the feed. They get the same water, live outside in the sunshine.  I won't do all the math again, but the ANNUAL profit on my traditional eggs, is higher than the 3 YEAR profit for the organic eggs. The organic feed is 3 times as expensive as traditional feed. This is purely supply/demand pricing. We need more folks to want organic feed, which will hopefully encourage more folks to grow it, and start seeing some cost reductions based on efficiencies in growing, transporting, milling and marketing these grains.

Until then, organic eggs are expensive. How are the grocery stores getting them less expensively than we are? They likely have contracts directly with a feed mill who delivers 100s of tons of feed per year instead of a dozen tons of feed. They likely raise THOUSANDS of birds in an airplane hangar, and possibly in an area of the country where grain prices, in general, are lower.  I have a hundred birds right now, not thousands. I have only 2 grain options, and neither are budging on price.

This math just isn't adding up. And I can't lower my prices, or I'll lose money, which eventually means I lose the farm. Tight profit margins like this also mean we both have to maintain our off farm jobs to pay our mortgage and feed our family. And yes, I pay for every egg we eat, full price. Sometimes, in the course of the week, it's the only eggs we sell. So the price is certainly a problem.

I don't see us producing organic eggs for very much longer...

Friday, March 20, 2015

A lesson on Turkeys

I finally found some turkey eggs this past week and starting sticking them in the incubator! I am so excited to hatch some poults this year! So I decided to talk a little bit about turkeys. We get a lot of questions about them, here are some answers.
 
 
First, just relatively, here are the sizes of the eggs we see on the farm. We don't raise guineas anymore, but here are the comparable sizes of some eggs. Guineas and Chickens take 21 days to hatch. Turkeys take 28, so we have to wait a whole 4 weeks to see if these eggs are ready to go! The shells are thicker, so they are harder to candle. Ducks, well it depends on the breed. We won't get into that, since we are talking turkey today.
 
 
 
So folks often ask me if I sell turkey poults or turkey eggs, and the answer is no. I still haven't hit the ceiling on raising turkeys for meat production for Thanksgiving. So I need to hatch all the eggs I can (so I don't sell them as eggs) and I need all the babies I hatch to grow into meat birds for the fall.
 
 
Turkeys lay very sporadically, and they are very picky about where they lay. We lost some hens every year because they wander into a neighbor's field to lay eggs in a big clump of grass or some bushes. If they are outside our fenceline, our dogs can't protect them. They get eaten by coyotes, and their eggs get taken by anything from owls to snakes to foxes. They only start laying right around the start of spring, and they'll quit laying by July.  Very unlike chickens, who can lay year round. Turkeys are very much driven by biology, they only want to lay when it makes the most sense to hatch their babies and raise them.



We usually incubate all their eggs. It allows us some control over the process, it ensures the eggs are safe (doubt a coyote is going to get into my house and unlatch my incubator...) AND it keeps those ladies laying for their whole season. If a mama stops to hatch, she also stops laying. We have had some mamas wander off and hide in our raspberry bushes and successfully hatch some babies. We even let this nice lady keep her brood, until a few of them disappeared. She wasn't protecting them from predators, so we had to take her babes away and raise them in the brooder. We just haven't seen these turkeys be as bright about where to hatch and how to raise their babies.

 
Having baby poults outside with their mama, they are ripe for being picked off by airborne predators, which are very difficult to stop. They can also get themselves into trouble. So we'd love to have a mama raise her own babies (we had a chicken do it once, and it was so wonderful). But if the babies don't survive, it isn't worth it.


 
So turkeys have a short laying season, which doesn't make them ripe for egg production to sell. We only get a limited time for them to lay, and we need to hatch those babies. Also, compared to a chicken - to purchase baby poults from a hatchery for heritage turkeys, they can cost $9/poult or MORE. Baby chicks, depending on the breed, can cost $1-$4/each. So turkey poults are way more valuable than turkey eggs for food.




 Another big difference is that meat chickens take 8-10 weeks to get to size. We raise multiple batches of meat birds throughout the year, filling our freezer several times. Turkeys take much longer. Double breasted turkeys take  14 weeks to get to full size.  So, yeah, we could have turkey available in summer if we raised double breasted birds in the early spring. However, these guys don't breed naturally, so it's not what I am talking about here.
 
Heritage breeds take 28 weeks to get to full size. That's more than 6 months my friend. So let's do the math, they don't even start to lay until late march, early April. 28 weeks later, we are looking at mid-October before they are ready. Now do we see why turkey is so popular at Thanksgiving? I have another month to hatch eggs that will be able to grow to size by Thanksgiving. Another month after that to have them to size by Christmas. And after that, the younger ones will be too small, and get to stick around as my breeding stock for next year.  

 

 
The biggest trick has been keeping them home, and keeping them laying in their own coop. Because they would rather do THIS, than go where I want them to go!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Baby Chicks!





We've been hatching a ton of chicks. Partly because I haven't had eggs to hatch in over a year. Partly because we aren't selling eggs fast enough (I know, I know, this will just cause more issues down the road), and partly because it's fun! The weather is the WORST for this endeavor, so they have been living inside the house for the first 2-3 weeks of their life, then moving to the big brooder in the barn. When the snow melts, these guys will get to go outside. For now, inside it is!



But with such successful hatches, which is rare this time of year, usually my fertility rate hangs out with average temperatures, so that colder days mean less hatches, but these have been doing great. We are going to see if anyone wants to buy any baby chicks. Lots of folks hate the idea of buying from a hatchery, and having these poor babies shipped in a box. Not only that, but hatcheries, especially for laying breeds, sell mostly the females. Some even give away the rooster chicks. And the rest - honestly, you don't want to know.

So we are going to sell some chicks. I am hatching plenty for our own use, and I can hatch more. So I'll be putting that out there. For the first time since the beginning of the farm, I have essentially one breed on the farm, so my chicks hatch to a true breed. I don't get mixes of unknown egg rates. We have primarily Rhode Island Reds, an all around robust little bird. Great feed conversion to egg output, they lay year round (we're getting over 70 per day, which is unheard of for us in the winter!)

So here's the dealio, let's see if anyone else wants a few chicks!

Day Old Hatchlings are $3.00/chick
1 Week old chicks are $4.00/chick
2 Week old chicks are $5.00/chick
3 Week old chicks are $6.00/chick