Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Last Surprise for 2009

It has been a busy day. I woke up and hit the wii fit first thing before chores. When I went out to the out building I had two lambs. They were not more then an hour or two old. They are two little ram lambs. They are all black with a white spot on the top of their heads. One has a white spot on one of his legs.

The ewe lamb born on Christmas Eve is getting along well and enjoys slipping away from its mother and romping around the larger pen with the rest of the sheep.

Janice and I also made a trip up to Paul's Grains for our local organic flour, organic rice, and local organic oatmeal. We make a trip up to their farm about once every three to four months to stock-up. We have been customers for three years now and we highly recommend them.

We also caught a movie and came home to a quiet evening at home With home-made ice cream. To the folks that read this blog and are curious about us and the progression of Wild Rose Pastures. Happy New Year, eat fresh and eat local in 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Surprise, top that Santa

I just got back from California last night. I trade chores with my neighbor to the south so he has been watching the farm for the past five days. I got up late this morning (jet lagged), cooked oatmeal, and ran into Pella to get my cats from the boarder and to run a few errands before the town shuts down at noon. On the way home, I did my neighbors chores before I started mine.

Needless to say, it was around 11:00 Am before I made it to my livestock. I fed the cows as usual and then I feed the chickens and sheep. When I fed the sheep, I noticed one was acting unusual. She was not eating, she was keeping her distance and bleating. I went to take a closer look and I noticed that she looked suprisingly thin in the flank. I walked behind her and noticed that her vaginal area was leaking a fluid and her teats were full. I called my wife (still out in California) and asked her to google lambing behavior. After I got off the phone with Janice, (I was 90% sure that the ewe was lambing) my neighbor to the north came over to swap some deer jerky for some eggs. He makes some of the best jerky I have ever had. Anyway, he
grew-up with sheep and told me I was going to have a lamb today. We partitioned the ewe off from the rest of the flock and set-up a heat lamp. When we went into the house the hooves were poking out from the ewe. We came back about 20 minutes later (me with a handful of lambing supplies that I picked-up for emergency situations), the lamb was on the ground was on the ground and looking good (no need for the supplies). We waited around to make sure the lamb found the teat and got that first vital stomach full of colostrum.

I have not sexed the lamb, but here are a few pictures of the little one. On the farm it seems that this time of year has something special about it. Our first Christmas (2008) on the farm was when we got our first eggs and this Christmas Eve, our first lamb.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Little Work & a Little R&R

I have been relaxing a bit since we got some snowfall, but I have not been completely idle. I had a very productive Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) board meeting. We are a very small non-profit that is focuses on growing market, producer, and consumer opportunities and capacities on a local community and county level. If you want to know more you can check our website
I will be taking an order in tomorrow to the Iowa Food Cooperative (IFC). I cannot say enough good words to describe what a great set-up the IFC is for producers. The Iowa Food Cooperative represents about 20% of our yearly business. It has the potential to be much more, but that will depend on how lamb and beef sell though our existing customer base and if the membership for the IFC continues to grow. Right now, the IFC is a pretty busy or competitive environment for meat sellers. For consumers, the IFC has some of the best meat selection and variety of local meats that you will find in central Iowa.

On another note, I will be traveling a bit at the end of the week and into next. My neighbor will be helping me out with chores so I have been getting some things ready for him. I have a desire to play around with the tractor before I go. It has not been functional since late July. I have cleared the space for it inside (I hope it fits, because it will be tight) and I would like to protect it better form the elements.

That is all for now. Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow, Snow, & More Snow (Three Day Recap)

The last three days have been hurried and full of coping with the weather. Sunday night was round one of the storm. We only got around 2 to 3 inches of snow, just enough to warm us up. One Monday, I cleaner out the building. I still had brooders that had to be cleaned out and stuff to bring to move inside. I ended the day by buying, transporting, and unloading 60 small square bales into the building.

On Tuesday, I moved the sheep and cattle down from the hill into glen sheltered by cedar trees behind our house. I removed all the temporary electric fence on the hill (6 sections of 164 feet each) and reset-up 4 sections of fencing . I drug our two port-o-huts (somewhat portable livestock shelter) out into the new pen set-up. I pulled down the waterer, removed the extension cords, adjusted the reel that feeds the electricity to the fencing, and made dinner. As I was headed to bed, Nermal (our tabby house cat) was staring out the window and when I joined him, I saw the sheep in the front yard working through the now trying to eat grass. All you can really say at that point is "crap". I suited back-up, grabbed some corn as bait and brought the sheep down to the coral. I then threw then a bale of hay and headed up to see where the cows were at and find out what happened to the fence. Luckily, the cows had bedded down in the port-o-huts and the sheep wiped out 15 feet of the fence. I set it all back-up and went to bed. In the picture, the cows are in the sheltered grove with waterer (left), hay (center), portable fencing (in front), and port-o-huts (just to the right of the heifer).

On Wednesday, I had to deal with the sheep being way out of position in an area that does not have the best shelter. I decided to move the sheep indoors. In essence, I reworked the insides of the building to accommodate the sheep and dug paths to the garage, cattle paddock, and between the buildings.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Racing The Snow

It is coming, round one is here. We got 2 inches on the ground and 4 to 6 more on the way tonight and over the next few days. I took a few pictures yesterday of the situation before snow fall. I spent much of my time finishing the installation (tamping dirt around the base) of 5 remaining posts along a stretch of boundary fence and picking things up that are tying around (there is way too much stuff lying around).

I have sheep and cattle way to the north of the property. I have around an 1/8th of a mile of extension cord running from the side of our house to a water tank defroster that allows me to keep the livestock up there.

Today, I will be buying hay and cleaning out our farm building. If I have time, I will run some wire on the section that I finished with the posts yesterday. There is so much to do, and much of it will not beat the snow fall. Despite the complication that snow creates for me, it is lovely outside I hope to share a few pictures of the outdoors soon.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ram is Back & Busy

It has been a busy couple of days building fencing and traveling. Monday went largely to beginning the process of reorganizing the house for the baby, on Tuesday I was at a fund raising workshop representing the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture ( where I serve as the board chair, Wednesday Jim from Pella came out to help and a lot of fencing got worked on.

The sheep continue to graze the north part of the farm along with the cattle. It is getting more difficult to keep the livestock up on the north part of the farm as the water sources are freezing up and need to be broken-open several times a day right now. The ram came home today. Wow, he is big and he wasted no time getting to know the ewes. He has been rented out for a month and now home to earn his keep. Here are a few pictures of our ram.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ramping Up Egg Production

We have been getting around one-and-a-half dozen to three dozen eggs a day. Assuming an average of two dozen per day, we get 28 dozen per week, so around 112 dozen eggs each month. Local demand is around 9 dozen per week. That means we have have more supply then demand by about 76 dozen per month. We need another outlet to unload supply. We sell through the Iowa Food Cooperative, but in order to sell eggs through them, I need to have an egg handlers license from the State of Iowa.
This process requires me to submit an application, and pass inspection. In order to have inspection I have to have certain supplies and go through some laid out procedures. I just dropped $250 on more supplies, license applications, to be able to pass inspection and handle our current egg output. We have had to get an egg candler and we will have to inspect every egg to make sure it is not developing (it should not if harvested promptly), a special wash solution must be used that is 5 percent chlorine, and an egg scale has been purchased to prove that I can grade eggs. I also ordered 500 cartons. They are sitting in the middle of my living in a huge box waiting to be unloaded.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Priming the North Pasture

In the spring there will be a lot of things going on. For one thing I will be a father in late April, broiler chickens will arrive about that time as well, we will have our first lambs by mid-May, but one thing I am really looking forward to is improving the north pasture area.

We have been farming here for almost two years now and I have yet to do much of anything with our north pasture area. It is the largest piece of the farm (probably 17 to 18 acres of our 40 acres). It is a rugged place and the highest and part of the farm. We have really worked over the south end of the farm this year as it was adjacent to all of our buildings and some of our most level ground. The north is still a wild area, but for the last month I have started to work it and prime it for next year. My 12 ewes are up there being rotated every other day to a new section ground. The area is so large that they have only scratched the surface, but they are breaking down the rank thatch, opening up the soil to more light, and removing the bark from some of the smaller Chinese Elm trees (hopefully killing some of them) encroaching on the pasture. I have a few pictures of the area. The top picture is looking down one side of the hill at the sheep. The sheep are the line of little bumps underneath the large cotton wood tree. They have just been moved into a new paddock and have to their faces to the ground like good sheep eating whatever they can find. That is good sheep behavior, a bad sheep will pace the paddock expecting to receive some food from you, my sheep have figured it out this year and I am glad for that.
In the top picture, you can also see our poor crop land seeding from June. It is the long line of yellowed grass located down where the ground starts to level out. It was a mess of annual grasses and weeds. I will burn it off this spring to remove the vegetation so light can get to the soil and hopefully give the little seedlings a chance before they have to start competing with weeds. This area was mowed around by my neighbor, but the tractor he was using could not make it trough more then the edges of the pasture. This mowed area will help serve as a fire break. If no seedlings show themselves, we will consider replanting the area.

The second shot is looking back up the large hill at an area where the sheep have been. You can see the white spots on the bark of the trees where the sheep have done there handy work and the grass in the foreground is much thinner then that in the background (an area I have not grazed yet).

I will be frost seeding in Ladino Clover in late February and early March. It has worked well for us in other places on the farm (turkey, cows, and sheep loved it), so I will be doing it on the north pasture and expanding the area I seeded on the south pasture. Clover is a legume and it seed is very small and round. Frost seeding is broadcasting the seed on the ground in late winter when the ground will still freeze and thaw several times before spring. The freezing and thawing lets the little legume seed work into the soil. It is best to do this when you can hit a period with no snow on the ground in late winter. Since I do not own much for equipment, I will be using my little lawn spreader to apply the seed. It is a good workout coving that much area, but it worked last year so why mess with success.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Turkeys "fly" off the farm, cattle walk off, before returning

Turkey sales have been very brisk. A little too brisk. We are sold out of frozen turkeys. We still have very few smoked turkey halves (pictured). We had our first cured smoked turkey last night and it was good. It is very similar to a mild ham and you will once again be surprised by how many you can serve off one bird. Sunday is our Picket Fence Creamery (Woodward, IA) Sample Sunday delivery. It will be a big one.

On Thursday, I distributed turkeys to the Iowa Food Cooperative in Des Moines, and filled Ames customers' order. I got home pretty late and was very tired so I just sealed-up the turkeys and collected and washed eggs before bed. Friday, I went out to move the cattle and they were gone. Usually when the cattle get out, they come into the house yard and graze the yard until I put them away. This time they must have selected a very different course, because they had vanished like smoke. The cattle showed-up this evening and are now contained within our small barn. They will move back out to pasture tomorrow. The cattle could have been on our farm most of the 50 hours they were missing, as there some thickets and steep places that I have trouble getting to. After talking with a neighbor, I think they may have gone as far as 1/2 away from the property, before returning home. This belief is based on some very large deere tracks that a neighbor saw. Anyway, the cattle are home and I am glad that is behind me. I am racing to get fence in before winter and time spent looking for missing cattle, is time not spent building the fence to keep them in.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Processing Day this Year, and Thinking About Next Year

The last processing day is now behind me. Twenty-hours awake is tough, but not as bad as the last one. All 84 turkeys (we sold two) are freezing down right now. I got a call this morning, saying that our smoked turkeys are ready to go, and we are careening toward next week, where we will have three deliveries to make and all of our orders to sort.

It is good to be this close to payday, because I am pretty broke. Processing charges went up again this year and it is now running $7 to $8 per turkey. I left the locker over $600 lighter (plus I had to drop $75 on gas to get out there). This all has me thinking, home processing equipment would set me back about $3,500 and it is looking more tempting with the passage of time. It would bring new challenges like hiring some assistance, compost handling, and dealing with some regulations, but it would save the rough 2o hour marathons, those crippling butchering bills, transit stress on the birds, and I could keep the carbon that I am currently loosing in the poultry parts that stay at the locker (if composted on-farm, they can be used to build the soil). One limiting factor, would be that I could not sell 0n-farm processed poultry through the Iowa Food Cooperative. The cooperative represents about 10% of our business, so we might consider still processing a limited number of chickens and turkeys through our existing channels and the rest through on-farm processing. I have spent over $1,500 on processing this year with gas and if I raise the 180 turkeys and 440 chickens that I am looking at next year, then I will spend $2,150 on processing next year and at least and additional $375 on gas doing it. There will be some labor expenses, but it does not take too long to begin to rationalize the whole set-up. I will have to continue to examine this during the off season. I already help Galen Bontrager from time to time with his processing, but there are some things that I will need to improve my proficiency with before going down that road.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Final Push & Looking Forward to Next Year

Things have been moving right along. As I write this, 86 turkeys are loaded in the trailer ready to to go at 2:00 AM in the morning to the locker. This is the last trip of the season to the locker and I am so happy to be done.

Fencing made some huge leaps and bonds forward. I got assistance from Jim Stumo for several hours and we strung several stands of wire and set some posts. I have an evening picture of a section of fence we finished today. I can say one thing, Jim is much better with a hammer then I am. I hope that come with time. I must apologize for the dark picture, the sun sets so early now.
I have also cleaned the retail space and added a freezer and repaired a second. It looks much better in there. I had wanted to get get the walls painted before winter, but I am not sure that is going to happen. I am at least glad the place is tidied up for right now.
I order lambing supplies for next year and the tags came. they will be numbered 1001 to 1020 s0 the 10 in the first two digits will be the year and the second two digits will be the order the lambs are born. One the back they say Wild Rose Pastures. I think the tags are cute and I can just see the little lambs running around with those tags next spring. My ram is still being rented out and I am glad to hear that he is doing his job. He really is a gentle giant and I consider myself fortunate that I got my hands on him. I will post pictures of him when he comes home after Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cast of Characters: Super Dog

I figured I should introduce you everyone to our crew. Maya (our 3 year old mild mannered beagle) is almost always by my side or watching me from the shade of a tree.

The main reason, I wanted to mention Maya was that she averted a disaster the other day. Two days ago, She was going ballistic in the house (this is quite unusual) and so I final let her outside. To my surprise, 15 turkeys were parading down the road. I rushed out there and they came strait to me and followed me down the drive way and back into their pen. Janice was trying to find the camera the whole time. She described me as the Pied Piper of turkeys.
Maya is also our official greeter. She has never shown aggression to other animals, just curiosity. The first time she met the sheep, she rolled over on her back in front of them expecting tummy rubs. She tried to do the same with cattle, but through better of it (scared the crap out of me though).

Maya loves children to. I have had her jump in customers cars following several children and have to be extracted by me. The other thing Maya does is go all over the farm yard area. She leaves her sent where ever she goes. This giver raccoons and opossums the impression that a nasty predator liver here and they tend to keep their distance. The only time I worry about predators is when Maya is largely out of action because she has bad pollen allergies. August and September are her bad months. In the winter we do get a few predators because of food shortages, but we set some traps up in winter that take care of our problems.

So here is to Maya, super dog.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Turkeys' Sunset

It is rapidly approaching that time for the turkeys. We will keep our three Bronze Turkeys, but the white ones will grace the tables of our customers. I will admit that I grow a little attached to them, but they are expensive to keep around (they eat a lot right now), and turkeys represent around 2/3 of our business. I am at least glad to see that the weather will be warm, dry, and pleasant for their final weekend. I am still scrambling to get some additional freezers up and running to hold the turkeys before they go out to customers.

I wanted to share a picture of the turkeys getting at a nice new piece of pasture. I have been very pleased with kura clover (a large leafed white clover) as pasture planting. I frost seeded it in March and you can just see the turkeys attack it in the video.
I moved the cattle into a paddock the other day and they came to a kura clover spot between their new fencing and their old fencing set-up. I could not get the two to budge off that spot, they we so intent on eating every little piece. I ended-up just extending the new grazing system temporary fence around them. They were not leaving that spot.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Rush Before Thanksgiving, Winter, and More

With the crispness of the air and the littering of the ground of a collage of leaves, comes the haste of autumn. The squirrels are hoarding the fallen walnuts that have ripened to the point that their husk is easily removed. All of this haste continues through me.

Our turkeys are in their closing two weeks on the farm and are eating more and more every day. With the turkeys going into the locker, I will need to bring additional freezers in to make sure that we can handle the additional load. We have to shore-up our orders as they are now coming at a rate of a couple per day. The floodgates will open this weekend and so we are now ready.

Winter is closing in on the farm. The Cobett waterer in the field is an improvement, but it needs rock around it to make sure the livestock do not tear it up. Our retail space is also a bit torn-up because we intend to paint it before winter, and the landscaping and awning over the entry way need to be completed. When the turkeys move out of the barn, where they have been spending nights and rainy days, the whole thing will need to be cleaned out and some organization reinstated along with bringing the tractor inside, and making room to put some small square bales inside. The garage/old shop and new shop need to be reconciled and organized because they are both a bit messy and quite unorganized.

Their is additional urgency this fall. For those who do not know, Janice is pregnant and due in late April. Given that I will be at home taking care of a child and running a farm, I am eager to attack several of the farm projects that will make my life easier. The water system is functional and needs a few finishing touches, the fencing system is still a long way from complete. Much of my winter will be devoted to fence building and felling trees to put fences and posts in when the ground is workable. The last thing the eagerly eats at me is a need for functional livestock handing system and corral so it is possible to work sheep and cattle.

In side our 900 square foot home, major reorganization has been planned. Three of four living spaces are getting changed up to make room for a child. The place will be quite different when it is all done.

That is how things are shaping-up around here as turkeys season is escalating, winter is coming, and a child is one the way.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More & New Products Coming


I am always trying to push the envelope a little bit so I can be ahead of other producers. I want to have unique products that help differentiate our business and keep people coming back. On Tuesday this week I went over to the Milo locker and brought them 10 of our turkeys that I had processed two weeks ago. They will be smoked and sliced in half and will be ready for Thanksgiving. They will be $6.25 per pound and will likely run 6 to 9 pounds per half. Milo locker has won several state wide awards for their smoked turkey so soon you will be able to get our pasture raised turkeys with Milo's great smoking experience. Once major advantage is these birds will not have to be cooked for serving, just heated as they will be a precooked product.

As an accidental quark of the bad weather (cold wet weather=slow/no weight gain), we have some very small chickens for sale. If you have been wanting small chickens around 2.1 to 2.9 pounds we have them. As usual, I was very impressed with how they dressed out, despite there petite size. If you want very meaty tiny birds, drop us an email.

One major stumbling has been that we have struggled to keep our eggs in stock for just our most local customers. Now, we finally have enough layers up and running that we can offer them our wider customer base. $2.50 a dozen large, and $2.00 a dozen medium. The picture above is one of our recent days collections of eggs recently.

Lamb will be a major new product next year. I have purchased a ram this past Saturday when I was out there helping Galen Bontrager ( process some of his pasture raised turkeys. I would have some pictures for you, but the but the big boy is being rented out right now by another farm in our area. He is a big ram, weighing around 350 pounds and is 100% registered Katahdin with RR traits. The RR traits breed Scrapies resistance into a flock of sheep. Scrapies is a neurological wasting disease, not too unlike "mad-cow disease". I am not worried about Scapies in my flock, but it is a way to add value to ewe lambs that might be sold as breeding stock in the future.

Anyway, this ram is 4 years old and has some beautiful lambs on the ground at his earlier home. I will get him back around Thanksgiving time or just a little after that and we will begin breeding with a target lambing date of mid-May. We should have lamb for sale for customers as whole and half animals, as well as retail cuts by late 2010.

I also picked-up a steer calf two weeks ago and so we will be experimenting with grass-finished cattle this year. There will be a very limited amount of beef available late next fall either as half or quarter animal.

Water System Step 3-Pump install, & well hook-up

This project is just about done. I still have to put rock around the cobett waterer, because the livestock will tear that area apart. On Monday Sully Plumbing showed-up to start the last few steps in the process and they finished on Tuesday. The last steps included running pipe and electricity up to the well from the cellar, which will serve as the well house for the pressure tank and the home of all the shut-off valves, installing one last water hydrant, and reworking some issues we have had with our rural water line to the house leaking. There is a lot of exposed earth in a few spots now, because the last bit of pipe installation was open-cut with a backhoe. Next spring, there will be some major smoothing out of earth and some seeding to get cover back on those areas. I am glad this is done and am getting used to actually having water where I use it, or at least very close to where I use it. There are only a few things I regret and that is the loss of several bushes that the guys dug-up in this last stage and that the pressure tank got put in front of the builders signature in the root cellar. It says the builders name and that it was built in September of 1910. Our home dates back to 1868 and the farm has been involved in some level of farming for almost this entire time. When you dig, you turn-up a bid of history's junk quite easily.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fantastic Weather Dampened by Swarm

It is fantastic outside. It is in the 60's for the first time in weeks, and yet I am spending much of my day inside. Why you ask? Well the swarms of Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridis) are awakened from several weeks of slumber. I would like to put extra emphasis on two word in that last sentence; swarms & awakened. That is right folks I walk out the door on they will be one me in seconds. In fact the shear act of opening any door to the house is bound to let in at least a dozen into the house I just cleaned this morning. Then you go to flick them off you face or glasses and they spray there nasty smelling gook on you. Even the chickens won't eat them.
This species was introduced to help reduce aphid populations in soybean field, and that job they do well. They do it so well that they multiply into a swarm and when the bean field dries up the swarm looks for a new place to go (aka the small farmsteads that still have green yards in the otherwise brown or barren late fall row-crop agricultural landscape. Needless to say, I don't plant row crops so my fields still have green grass in them and have very large population of swarming, gunk spewing, inedible little monster bugs in them. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go check the masking tape I put around my front door seal, I see some bugs have found a way past it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Poultry Processing Day & Getting Cattle

I am never a fan of processing day. They are always a huge burden on me and they have spill-over effects into all the days around them. Processing day was Friday, but it begins Thursday. I figured I would walk you through the process.

Go to town to get cash and dry ice. Once I get home, I load a special old dead chest freezer (without a compressor) into the back of the truck along with towels, several coolers, dry ice, cleaner spray bottle, and straps to keep the freezer closed. The I hook-up the trailer and begin loading birds. We loaded 19 of the biggest turkeys but had one major hick-up and that was that the truck (my Grandpa's old, but very low miles, 6 cylinder, 2wd, 20mpg) could not make it up the wet sloppy drive way. I can't really blame it because of how steep our driveway is and how
wet it had been. If the tractor was running, I could have just pulled it up the drive with it, so I had to borrow a neighbors truck to get the trailer up the drive. On the plus side, I picked-up some chicken crates at auction this summer and they made loading 103 chickens so much easier then using the old rubbermaid containers I had used in the past. Next, try to get to bed and be ready for the early starts on Friday.

Wake-up shortly after 2:00 AM and try to get out of the house as soon as possible. By 2:50 AM I was finally on the road. I arrived at the locker by 5:45 AM (that is late though). Turkeys go in first as they take the longest to chill. By 7:00 Am, all the birds were dead and chilling. I drive back into town and try to take a nap and later get some work done at the local cafe. As usually, neither of these went too well. The truck cab was cold, and another truck pulled up behind me a dropped of a steel trailer which woke me up (it does not matter where I park, this stuff always happens). I also got chatting with the locals a bit at the cafe, which limited how much work I got done. By 10:30 AM, I headed back to the locker and check in. Then I got the truck ready by
cleaning and wiping out all the coolers and the freezer and place the dry ice in them, put a towel on top of the dry ice, and load the birds. By 11:45 AM I was headed home.
To add some complexity to my day I saw an add on craigslist for several calves in Earlham (right off I-80 on the return trip) and I responded and bought two Belted Galloway Calves (one a steer and one a heifer). I arrived in Earlham around 1:00 PM and had had the calves loaded and ready to go by 1:45 PM. I got home by 3:30 PM and got the calves unloaded and trailer unhooked by 4:30 PM. I came inside for food, water, and to see Janice who just got home. I was back outside by 6:30 PM and check on the remaining 75 turkeys before I started getting the current freezers ready to receive birds and reorganize the space. By 7:30 PM I started unloading birds. I like to weight them, label them with their weight, and double bad them, right away as opposed to putting that off, because it will never get done that way. Anyway, I bagged and tagged birds until 1:15 AM. Then I checked and watered the remaining turkeys and was in be shortly before 2:oo AM Saturday.

All and I it was a very rough ordeal on me, but the one nice thing is that I have fewer birds to take care of here. One more processing day is done, with only one more to go this year. The turkeys were larger then I was expecting, but many of the chickens were tiny. We have a large shelf with around 24 chickens that weigh less then 2.5 pounds, If you want small chickens we have then, lots of them. Birds that small will barely, if at all, cover their cost of production. I am planning on going down to the Milo to take 10 processed turkeys down to their locker to get them smoked and split in half as an experiment. They will be on the Iowa Food Cooperative as soon as they are ready. Another processing day is now done with one more this year to go.

Water System Step 2-Dun & Dusted

This has been a crazy week and I have several things I want to share about this week, but they will be spread out a bit so I don't have a single massive blog posting. We will start with the water system.

Boring the water lines finished-up on Wednesday afternoon of this soon to be past week. I then had one night with the backhoe to finishing digging the holes that needed to be made bigger and backfilling all of the holes. Wednesday night was a late one. I remember questioning my occupation, but being a little excited about advancing such a large project, that night when I was working at the bottom of a five-foot pit by the light on the back hoe. It had started to lightly rain and I was struggling to light a butane torch that kept going out so I could heat the water pipe and slide it onto the fittings that the pipe connects to.

Despite the challenges and the many times I hurt my hand while working on it, the water system is on huge step closer to being a reality. We have over 800 feet of waterline in the earth and it is all hooked-up except for two places that are waiting for step three (installing the well pump and pressure tank, and doing final hook-ups). Attached to all of this water line, we have four hydrants (water facets in the field that do not freeze-up) spaced out along the waterline . We will also have a frost free livestock water access from Cobett (a small central-Iowa company). It uses ground heating to keep the waterer access from freezing up. There should be a picture looking down the inside of the tube, as I have not yet installed the basin that goes on top. I owe a special thanks to Vermeer for helping to put this waterline in despite numerous challenges with sandy soil that makes almost any project a pain.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Water System Step 2-Boring the Water Lines

We started about a month-and-a-half ago with the drilling of the well and now it continues with the boring of the waterlines. Vermeer (my wife's employer and all around awesome company) will be boring the lines. So it will take 4 bores and 6 big holes in the ground to put in the water lines and get everything ready for step three (pluming the well and final hook-up). The challenging part is making sure I have everything here and ready to go because when the drill starts tomorrow we will be moving very quickly.

On other news, we had to pull the turkeys up to the building and bring them in at night. This fall has been cold and wet since mid-September. It is very hard on the birds and hurts the rate of gain. We are dealing with the weather as well as we can. Unless the weather dries-up and the night temperature comes back into the mid-forties, then we will continue to bring the turkeys inside. There are 100 broilers out on pasture right now with their pens providing enough shelter to get them through. A trip to the locker is scheduled next Friday, with the 100 broiler chickens and 20 turkeys going in. It is going to be a busy couple of weeks and I am just planning on rolling with it and making it through.

Monday, October 5, 2009

First Customer Workday

I am going to admit that I was a bit skeptical about how this would go, but it went great. The weather on Saturday was pretty dismal, with a few glints of sun and a a few spells of rain, after two days of drizzle and light rain.

Anyway, with our fist plan large scale fence building out the window because of the weather, we turned to two projects that had languished for a very long time. So I one group of three Me, Dee, and Mark attacked a pile of boards, tin , wheels, and took an idea (mobile turkey rooster) and made it a reality (picture included). It is a roost with a roof on wheels. Janice is skeptical that turkeys will use it, but I have more faith in it. I plan to move it out to pasture today and I will report back how the turkeys take to it.

I also had Andy, Katie, and myself working on laying some concrete. I had started to lay concrete in front of the retail building to help with drainage and to help with to create a much better looking building. None of us had done that much or any concrete work so we all learned a lot and after a few trips to town to get additional concrete, we were good to go.

Leah helped Janice pull out a casual lunch and a fantastic dinner along with a few town runs to buy supplies. It was a great feed and was the best meal I had had in several weeks.

All and all, the day was a big success. We got two projects that had languished for a a long time done and a good deal of good food and stories were shared. The only thing that would have made it a better days is if the Cyclones had pulled it out (we listened on the radio). Thank you to all the folks that came and helped out. I hope they enjoy the chickens, learned a few things and had a good time.

Thank you,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Farm Auction and a Piece of My Past

Yesterday, I went to Corning, IA to go to a farm auction. This farm was called the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Farm or the Adam's County Research and Demonstration Farm. It was managed by a non-profit, the Southern Iowa Forage & Livestock Committee (SIFLC). I know, that was my last really long name followed by an acronym.

This farm was a series of three demonstration rotational grazing systems and the location where I conducted my master's research for two-and-a-half summers. I had some issues with how the farm was laid out and how it was run, but it was a good example of what is possible and I believe it will be missed. The land is going up for sale and will in all likelihood be converted into row-crop production. I dropped a bit of coin and came back with a truck load of useful supplies including one of the unique white mineral feeders that they used to have out there.