Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2013 Turkey Shares

After last year's disappointing lesson regarding not counting our turkeys before they hatch, we hedged our bets and ordered turkeys from 3 sources this year. This plan seems to be working in that 10 mixed color heritage turkeys are living in a brooder in our front room. Better than that? They are nearly all resold already! We'll be raising them up for those family, friends, and neighbors who ordered them. Then, when they are grown, Sean has the unenviable task to bring them to the butcher.

I thought this would be easier for me. I thought that by selling them to the recipients immediately, banding them to indicate to whom they belonged, and knowing from day one that these were destined for dinner I would be able to not get emotionally involved. I thought wrong.

I picked up these first chicks on Thursday morning. I was unprepared for their cute factor. When I held one later in the day, it shocked me when it began to shake in my hand until it calmed down with my petting and fell asleep. I buried the little pang and went to call a reputable local butcher to discuss pricing and find out how all this worked since this would be our first time raising any kind of meat at the homestead. I left a message when no one answered and went on with my day, creating Turkey Share Contracts to protect all the parties in this venture. The moment that I knew I was definitely in trouble? 2:17pm, Thursday afternoon. I was sitting with a couple chicks nestled in the collar of my shirt while I was typing up contract information when the butcher called back. Discussing the method of their demise, payments, and reserving dates was a bit "real" for me. It was at that moment that I knew Sean was going to have to handle that part of this deal. It was going to be too much for me.

And, that is okay.

All of this is preparation for our getting our breeding stock. Sean and I have been quite comfortable being a "no-kill" homestead. But, we aren't vegetarian. We eat meat. And, we hatch cute little chicks for other people to add to their flocks, knowing full well that most folk will "retire" their older hens and their roosters into their soap pot. And, we have been fine with that decision. Our intention is to keep the nicest tom and the 5 nicest hens to supply us with chicks to sell to those who want to raise
their own heritage breed turkeys. But, we are a year later than we wanted to be with this aspect of our farming business, so after much discussion, we decided to raise some birds for customers here, in addition to getting and raising our breeding stock. The hope is that these customers will be happy with their experience and come back to purchase birds next year when we are hatching them ourselves. And, maybe, they'll be so happy, they will tell their friends about us, too. And, that helps... somewhat. Knowing that I can bond with, raise up, and love on a group of turkey birds that will live out their natural lives here on our farm is a little spot of sunshine. It also helps to know that the turkeys we are raising for our customers will have had a very good life here; plenty of food, room to run, and a clean coop to roost in. And, as morbid as it is, a quick end. I have spent a good amount of time looking into how "the deed" is done. It was unpleasant to be sure, but it is important for me to know that when the time comes, they won't suffer or be mistreated.

It is not my intention of scaring off potential customers with my candor. This site has and will always be a real, honest look at what is happening here. Sometimes we have much joy; other times, we are full of doubts and worry. That's just the way it is.

With all that being said, I was just contacted by the neighbor who hatched this set of turkey poults for us and she has had another 20 hatch successfully. If you are local and interested in our raising a heritage breed, organic turkey for your family's dinner, please feel free to contact us to order yours now while we have them available. If you are wondering why we feel so strongly about eating organic, heritage breeds and why you should be, read on HERE. Click to read our Turkey Share Contact.

Thanks for visiting with us this evening, friends. We're sure glad of your company.
Sonja ♥

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Let's Talk Turkey (Again)...

I have to update our TURKEY SHARE page in preparation for this year's venture, but I do not want to lose the record of last year's thoughts. As I reread the entry, I once again felt the excitement of raising turkeys and beginning our breeding program here. Last year, things did not work out as I planned for one very basic reason: THERE WERE NO TURKEYS. Our supplier had a rough run with her incubator and simply put, could not supply us with the heritage breeds we desired. No harm, no fowl, but lesson learned.. do not count your turkeys before they hatch, either.

But, why did we want to begin raising turkeys? And want it badly enough that I contacted several breeders this year to accommodate our hopeful needs? Well, let's revisit that old TURKEY SHARE page to whet your appetite for a page update detailing this year's program:

"Of course, you want to buy the best (i.e., freshest, healthiest, ethically raised, etc.) food possible for yourself and your family. That makes sense. No genetically engineered, hormone injected, artificially flavor enhanced, or cruelly processed turkeys for your family! But, perhaps you wonder, how much can you expect to pay for an organic raised or all natural turkey? The short answer is that the price really varies widely. As I was doing research for this page, I came across many comparisons listing last year's (2011) prices. For example:


       Costco: Organic Free Range Organic Turkeys $2.69/lb. This price may vary by location.

Whole Foods: Organic Turkey $3.99/lb. This price may vary by location.
Sprouts: Sprouts had organic turkeys last year for $3.49/lb. Natural turkeys (meaning not "certified organic, but pasture fed and grain fed) were priced at $1.49/lb last year.


        D'Artagnan: Organic Free Range Turkey 12-14 lbs & up, starting at $84.99+ shipping. (This is around $7.08/lb.) Order on their website: HERE.

       Wise organic Pastures: Whole Organic Turkey 14-16 lbs, $100+ shipping. (This is about $7.16/lb.) Order on their website: HERE.

       Organic Prairie: Organic Whole Young Turkey w/Giblets 14 lbs, $69.49+ shipping. (This is about $4.96/lb.) Order online HERE.

My sister called me this week to let me know a local Hannafords had whole turkey on sale for .59¢/lb. You may be used to seeing similar sale prices in your neighborhood. Why such a vast difference in price? Well, really it comes down to getting what you pay for. A genetically-enhanced, white breasted turkey common to your grocer's freezer takes only about 14 weeks to raise, from start to finish, whereas a natural turkey may take 24-30 weeks to reach the desired weight... Add to that, the time and care that must go into providing fresh pasture, housing, and water and the cost of feeding high-quality, organic feed, and you begin to see how the price can grow.

This year, we went ahead and ordered six heritage Bourbon Red poults, intending on some of these becoming our breeding stock for hatching future turkeys to sell beginning next year to folks who are interested in raising their own turkey bird for dinner. (You can read about that decision and subsequent post HERE.) Before we can figure out what we must charge to raise them for some one's dinner in coming years, we need to actually do it, see what the cost involved is first-hand, discover how good (or -hopefully not- bad) the meat tastes, and resolve other questions about our raising them. So, that is why we have decided to purchase several more as the "trial run", so to speak. For this year, we will acquire 6-8 additional turkeys of the same breed to raise until they mature to the desired weight, hopefully closer to the 24 week mark than the 30 week one. We will keep strict watch on the cost of feed and any other expenses to track our cost. One reference work estimated that it takes about 84lbs of grain to raise a tom to 30lbs. (It did not state whether the tom was strictly grain fed, the kind of grain fed, or other factors that could have a bearing on the final result.)

I have been (understandably) asked by several would-be turkey purchasers, how much the final price will be. The answer is, I don't know. What I can say is, we intend on taking the best care possible, feeding up the turkeys well with the best food we can offer them. When they reach the right size, we will take them to the butcher for processing. We will divide the total cost of raising the flock by the amount of turkeys available for eating. That will be the cost. We are not making any profit off this venture.

For our part, we will not charge you anything up front for your turkey, (since we have no guarantee that they will all survive). We will give them the very best care we can. We will update you regularly with pictures, posts, and video of this turkey adventure. We will be candid about how much the process is costing as we progress, so you will have some idea of what the end cost might be. (We would be thrilled if we can hold the cost to no more than $2.50/lb.) We will attempt to have your turkey ready for you by mid-December (if the good lord is willing and the creek don't rise).

For your part, you will be vested in the food on your table, sharing in both the risk and potential reward. You can enjoy the advantage of knowing where your food come from, how it was raised, and what it was fed; with or without the challenge of raising and caring for your turkey yourself. You will feel proud of buying from and supporting one of your local, small family farms, helping to sustain your neighbors and your friends. So, if you are interested in taking this adventure with us, the deadline for ordering your all natural, heritage turkey is June 18, 2012. (This will allow the turkeys to be 27 full weeks to our goal date of December 17th.) You can message us to add your hat into this venture.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Lally Broch Farmers,
Sean & Sonja Twombly♥

I am sorry to report that there will be not turkeys available from Lally Broch Farm in 2012. For those of you still interested in ordering a turkey for your family, our friends over at Wolfe's Neck Farm have naturally, pasture raised turkeys still available for purchase. You can visit them at the webpage HERE. They are selling their turkey's for $4.50/lb and the turkeys will be available for pick up on Wednesday, November 21st."

What has changed? Well for one thing, this year, we contacted several breeders early in the year. For another, we waited until we got that all important phone call of "Your turkeys are hatching." before we called potential customers to take reservations. I picked up 10 turkey poults this morning. THERE ARE TURKEYS IN THE HOUSE!!!

I will be working today to update this year's TURKEY SHARE page. If you are interested in our raising a heritage turkey (or two) organically for your family, you will want to check back for those details later.

Thanks for visiting with us today, friends. We're glad you came.
Sonja ♥



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Despite the Rains...

The skies opened Sunday night and it has been raining off and on since. The ducks and geese are in heaven with the soggy situation, everyone else: not so much. Myself included. I have things to do outside and this rain is helping neither my mood nor motivation. In addition, the wet ground creates a very nasty scent and makes the chicken coop really unpleasant to be near. Sean and I spread some hay to cover the muddy mess. This made it more pleasant for the chickens walking about and also had the added benefit of eliminating the foul odor. At least, temporarily.

While caring for chicken chores on Sunday morning, I had quite a surprise. Amidst the cacophony of 2 geese honking, 13 ducks quacking (including Gillie, who takes her breed of Call Duck quite seriously), and nearly 60 chickens clucking, I heard a tiny, single, little "peep, peep, peep" emanating from somewhere. At first, I thought that the last chicken egg hatched from our first clutch of 10 eggs, but then, I remembered that I had Sean dispose of the last un-hatched egg the previous evening. There were no goose eggs being set upon any longer, either. This meant only one thing, either one of the chicken eggs (being set upon my some confused ducks) hatched out or the duck eggs were finally hatching. I called Sean over to help me investigate. Sure enough, one of the Black Swedish ducklings hatched. We decided to leave it with the broody duck caring for it until after we returned home from Sunday worship and could properly situate the new one into our brooding box.

The ducks are still stubbornly sitting on multiple nests. We have five nests full of eggs being set upon right now by broody ducks. Besides the nest of the only duck to hatch any ducklings so far this year, two ducks have laid claim to a HUGE nest of 20 or more eggs and they are sharing incubation duty. One duck began a nest outside, in the corner between the duck house and the fencing. And, Caitlin (the goose) scared off the last broody Momma duck and claimed her nest for herself to sit upon. As long as the eggs are being incubated, this would not necessarily be a problem, but she is systematically expelling developing eggs from the nest each day! Sean and I candled the eggs Caitlin pushed out of her stolen nest and put any that were developing and still warm under a broody hen. This cannot be allowed to continue and makes removing Caitlin and Justin from the chicken yard a priority! To summarize: We have a broody goose sitting (and expelling) duck eggs, we have a broody duck sitting on both chicken and duck eggs, there are 2 ducks sharing nesting duties, and a broody chicken sitting on rescued duck eggs! I guess it is really true that it takes a village! With all this craziness to track, I just hope some ducklings actually hatch since I have orders pending and only 1 duckling so far to fill them!

We settled the sole duckling into the brooder with the 2 goslings and they were immediate buddies. When the goslings drank water or ate their grain, the duckling followed along and learned to eat and drink from the containers, too. They are very sweet to watch and snuggle with, for sure!

Also, on Sunday night, we were able to find a home for Reddy Roo and the last Partridge Cochin Rooster with a family from a neighboring town. They lost their rooster of 4 years over the winter and had been looking for a replacement for their hens. That leaves 8 roosters for us to find homes with hens to protect and romance. We'll take 3 Americauna roosters and Barred Rooster to the Farm Swap in Bangor on Saturday and maybe they will also find suitable homes.

Monday was quiet around here. Sean and I both had to work and it rained steadily, so not much happened on the farm. Today was a different story. After the girls got on the school bus and Sean left for work, I spent my morning making 3 gallons of milk into a big batch of cheddar cheese. Then, I used the left over whey to make a container of ricotta cheese. While the cheddar was being pressed and the ricotta hung, I made up 3 trays of fresh Lally Broch Farm Goat's Milk Soap in the scents of Jasmine, Maine Woods, and Citrus-Mint. These need to cure for a bit, but they should be ready to use by July 1st.

We have thankfully been selling out of our soaps regularly. Which means, I need to make more to keep up! That will be easier to do in the months to come since I will finally be making Lally Broch Farm products my main source of income beginning in August. Sean will be keeping his regular job while continuing to work the farm as we've been doing. It is so exciting to see our hard work paying off and completely TERRIFYING, too. So much can go wrong, it is easy to dwell in the land of "what if." But then, what if cuts both ways. What if we are able to live modestly from the farm products we make and Sean is someday able to focus on it full time, too? What if we succeed and are able to spend crucial time home with our teenagers before they set out on their life's path? What if....

Back to today, Sonja!

Today, we have a few of our 5 oz (approximately) bath bars of goat's milk soap still available for purchase at $7.25/bar at our Etsy Shop. We have the following bars of soaps available:

From our Regular Line
Lavender: 3 bars (ready to use now)
Cinnamon Spice: 3 2 bars (ready to use now)
Peppermint Stick: 6 bars (ready June 1, 2013)
Maine Woods: 8  6 bars (ready July 1, 2013)
Citrus-Mint:  8  6 bars (ready July 1, 2013)
Jasmine: 6 bars (ready July 1, 2013)

Limited Supply Special Scents*
Baby Powder: 3 bars (ready June 1, 2013)
Dragon's Blood: 7 bars (ready July 1, 2013)

*We do not plan to carry these scents regularly at this time. These limited supply soaps were made from free essential oil  samples sent from our soap oil supplier with our order for organic coconut and palm oils. Each time a sample scent is sent to us, we make a limited run of those soaps. When they run out, they are gone. They may be available again, maybe not. So if you see one you want, get it while you can! ♥

Have you entered the Farm Chit Chat Give-Away Contest, yet? Here is your chance to win a bar of soap or your very own Lally Broch Farm Mosiac Eggshell Pendant valued at $25.00. To make it super easy, you can clickity, click, click on the link above or enter below for your chance to win one of the fantastic prizes FCC is offering. There are 2 separate give-aways being hosted with a total of 10 prizes to be won on June 1, 2013, so be sure to enter both!

Here is the first:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, this is the second:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for visiting today, friends! I am so glad you are here. ♥
Sonja ♥

Friday, May 17, 2013

Clearing the Camera...

Wow. How can it be 11 days since my last post? What could we have been doing all that while that took us away from writing? I think I can explain...

It started with our planting and tending these:

We sold 4 shares this year in our farm's first CSA offering. While it is exhilarating to know these folks believe in us and want to share in our dream, it is also a bit terrifying. We take this responsibility to sow, cultivate, reap, and provide very seriously. So, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli and watermelon have been carefully planted and grown in our little greenhouse. Garlic, peas, kale, scallions, radishes, beets, carrots and spinach were sown into cultivated, raised garden beds. New garden spots were prepared for transplanting as soon as the danger of frost has passed.

Rusty, Charles, George, and an un-named Partridge Cochin Rooster all found new homes since I last posted about them. This still leaves us nine young roos in need of new homes, but we are hopeful of placing them soon. While they wait, our resident roster of roosters were moved from their 10x10 stall inside the barn to a portable, fenced yard where they could stretch their legs and roam. Being cooped up is no life for them. Sean worked for several hours driving metal stakes and stretching 6 foot tall wire to secure a safe pen for them. With these new arrangements, they can dig and scratch and stretch their wings to their heart's content, which they appreciate. We placed them in the tall grass in the backyard where next year's raised beds will live. While they are busy digging and scratching, they are turning over the ground and providing some soil enhancement via their own brand of  all-natural fertilizer, which we appreciate. As they do their job, we'll move them to a new section of grass to work. I call this a win-win.

The roos taken care of, we turned our attention to removing both the 6 week old and 10 week old pullets from their brooder in our living room into their new yard outside. And, for a total of 2 days, our home was poultry-free.

And, then, Broody Wyandotte's clutch of 10 eggs began to hatch. We were gifted with 2 chicks on Saturday, 2 more on Sunday, 2 more on Monday, and another on Tuesday. The final 3 eggs in her clutch were candled when no more chicks appeared Wednesday. One was undeveloped and discarded, but the other 2 were alive. By Thursday evening one of them hatched. We are hopeful that the last little chick will emerge sometime tomorrow or Saturday.

Two of last year's pullets have also gone broody. Since the other breeding groups have been separated since before this clutch was placed under our willing hen, it was time begin collecting and marking eggs to set. If all goes to plan, we'll welcome 14 feather-footed Cochins and 5 new Easter Eggers to the farm in time for the next farm swap.

The hens are not alone in wanting to hatch out some young. Caitlin has been guarding her nest of 6 eggs vigilantly. Yesterday, she was rewarded for her effort with the hatching of 2 perfect yellow gosling chicks. We won't be keeping these little ones. To help tame them for their new family, Sean and I brought them inside and settled them into the duckling/gosling brooder. We'll spend a lot of time handling and loving them before they find their new home.

Five ducks have joined the ranks of the broody, built nests and are collectively sitting on approximately 60 eggs. We are hopeful to welcome these little ones to our farm any time now.

Something finally had to be done with the dog's yard. It was too small for 3 dogs to romp and play in. Fenn bored with his kingdom ripped large holes through the wire and escaped regularly which led us to have to chase him all over town. Huskies run. Angus and Buster escaped, too, but they usually managed to find their way to the front door to scratch to be let back in. Sean's manager offered us a 40 ft x 16 ft chain link yard that they were removing from their yard and we jumped at it. It took us a solid couple of evenings working on it, but finally, the pups had a suitable yard for running and playing in and the best part? Fenn has not escaped... yet.

It has been especially nice that the weather has been favorable (for the most part). The goats have been able to run free with us to graze in the woody part of our land and in the back yard brush. They love to eat the dandelions which makes our back yard quite attractive and if it keeps them out of the freshly planted veggie beds, I won't complain. They are usually satisfied with remaining with us. At least, until one of them discovers (or makes) a hole in our fencing that they can exploit to meander to areas off limits. Then, they all get into the game and abandon us in favor of naughtiness. Hadassah is by far the worst of the lot. She spends more time in the buck pasture climbing their logs and enticing Salome to join her badness than any of the other kids. She has also been found grazing with the horse in her pasture one day and quietly munching greens on the front yard when we returned home from some errand another day. Sean has spent a significant bit of time reinforcing the fencing with smaller gauge wire to prevent her escape, but has been unsuccessful at thwarting her thirst for freedom. At least, she does not want to be apart from her Mother for long and puts herself back where she is supposed to be when she tires of her adventures.

We are milking the does, Rachel, Leah & Ruby each morning. I milk Leah who is the most docile and least likely to step in her bucket, but produces the least amount of milk. Ruby is easy to milk and rarely misbehaves. Sean milks her on his stand at the same time as I milk Leah. Then comes Rachel, who takes a person at her head to distract her with a variety of grains and one person milking as fast as they can. I distract. Sean milks. She may be bad mannered on the milk stand, but she is neck and neck with Ruby for milk supply. Rachel currently holds this month's record for the highest milk collected in a single milking at 44 oz one morning.

I am putting the milk to good and delicious use. It is a very good thing that our family really likes cheese. In the past 10 days, I have made three 10 oz tubs of garlic and chive chevre, one 10 oz tub of garlic dill ricotta, one 10 oz tub of plain ricotta, 5 pounds of feta cheese (I followed this recipe HERE), and 2.5 pounds of farmers cheddar cheese.(This was a press-less, raw mild cheddar I found the recipe for HERE.) I have 7 bags of milk frozen for soap making purposes. And, we still have 11 quarts of fresh goats milk in the fridge waiting to be made into something. Maybe yogurt?

I know I have been a little absent here this week and I hope you'll bear with me as our season winds up. I have three other half-written posts needing photography and polish and I will try to find the time to post them and keep updating you all to the happenings round the farm. One of the posts will feature our experiment with making our own home-made organic hair shampoo and conditioner. Another is a post about looking forward. I think you'll enjoy them both. I appreciate your patience and your taking time out of your busy day to visit with us.

Thanks for visiting today. We're sure glad you're here.
Sean and Sonja ♥

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Chicken Feeders & Trouble

We've raised chicken for several years. We started with some adult, 2 year old, Rhode Island Red hens procured from someone who didn't want to eat them when they began slowing their egg-laying and we got the chicken keeping "bug". We added 8 "battery hens" later. Having succeeded with these, we began raising chicks. Eventually, we bought ourselves a rooster and started hatching our own chicks. We have dealt with spraddle leg, chicken colds, and bullying. We learned to watch for signs of disease and how to care for sick or injured birds. More importantly, we learned how to prevent many problems before they could start in our flock. To date, we care for nearly 100 birds at our farm. And I would have sworn, we were not easy to shock at this point in the game.

And that is when it happens.

What happens??? The unexpected.

Thursday was an ordinary day. Sean went to work. I went to work. We checked the animals and did our afternoon chores when we got home. Everything seemed completely normal until we reached the new pullet tractor. We were missing one of the new white Leghorn chicks. A quick scan around the pen and the problem was easily spotted.

This is the tail end of a white leghorn chick.
We use basic, inexpensive, plastic chick feeders for our chick brooder pens. (They cost about $2,70 on Amazon.) You've seen them. You've probably used them, if you have ever kept chicks. The base looks like this. And, the top is a plastic quart bottle, which gravity feeds the grain to the chicks. We have used these since we began raising chicks and never had a problem.

Until now.

I couldn't believe my eyes. As best we can figure, the chicks (in all their raptor-smart intelligence) managed to work together to unscrew the top from the base of the feeder. Talk about team-work! This is quite an accomplishment for creatures 5 inches tall and possessing no fingers or hands! We still have not come up with a reason for their desire to accomplish this, except to see the look of wonder in our eyes. Not satisfied to be just one of the collective, one ambitious Leghorn pullet, wedged herself (head first) inside the plastic top and waited for our return. I am kidding, of course about the method of occurrence. More likely, the chicks knocked the plastic feeder sideways and by some freak accident, the base detached. The chick, seeing grain still inside, walked in and got herself "stuck". I apply that term loosely here. She was stuck in the sense that every time we attempted to remove her, she'd open her wings and effectively prevent our pulling her out. Had she not resisted, she would have slip right out of there in seconds. I am half-convinced that given enough time she might have decided to turn around and walk herself back out. However, we had other things to attend to and waiting for Miss chick's grand entrance was not on our "to do" list. And, the thought of leaving her in the bottle to fend for herself was clearly unacceptable. There was nothing else to do. Sean mounted a rescue attempt.

Peace restored and Leghorn pullet none-the-worse-for-wear, we got back to our scheduled plans for the evening.

Will we use those screw on feeders again? I don't know. Would you?

Sonja ♥