Around the farm // July

July has been kind to us so far. We've been enjoying these cooler, cloudier days and were overjoyed at the rain we received recently. While others may be bummed that their summer hasn't been hot and sunny every day, these farmers are loving it! As I was building cow paddocks the other afternoon I thought to myself how much working in the heat takes a toll on us, both physically and mentally. It's also tough on the animals, particularly the meat birds who are simply not well suited for very hot days followed by large day-to-night temperature swings. I'm sure we have more hot spells to come, but so far I'm thankful for a cooler summer that last year's.

The newest development on our farm has been the addition of a new team member. As we've grown, we've come to need another pair of hands and we were lucky to find Jason through the help of the Friends of Family Farmers job posting site. Jason has experience from another pasture-based livestock farm so he has been able to hit the ground running, helping with chores, animal moves and projects around the farm. If you see Jason around the farm be sure to say hi!

With the additional manpower, we've been able to increase the intensity of our grazing program - going from cow moves every 2-3 days to daily moves. Now, we are taking it to the next level and experimenting with a high-density, mob stocking approach. We are optimistic that this approach will help us tackle the weeds in our pasture and increase the water holding capacity of our land - critical for our dry, Oregon summers. I'll report back later on our findings!

 The cows watching me set up their next paddock - they know the drill!

The cows watching me set up their next paddock - they know the drill!

 A "before" shot, they've just been moved in this shot. Chowing down!

A "before" shot, they've just been moved in this shot. Chowing down!

 An "after" shot. After one day, they've eaten and trampled the grass and fertilized the pasture with their manure. 

An "after" shot. After one day, they've eaten and trampled the grass and fertilized the pasture with their manure. 

This week we picked up batch 8 of 12 of our broiler chicks. It's hard to believe we are more than halfway through our chick brooding for the season and a third of the way through the processing. Be sure to put in your bulk orders for chickens so you can enjoy pasture-raised chicken through the winter. 

Speaking of chickens, we have poultry coming out our ears this time of year. Every other week we get 250 new chicks which means at any given time we have about 1000 broiler chickens on the farm of various ages. In addition we have our flock of egg laying chickens in the field as well as 100 pullets (young female chickens) in the brooder, growing and getting ready to provide the next generation of eggs. Next month we'll get our turkey poults to grow out for Thanksgiving!

It's a busy but fun time on the farm!

Around the farm

This time of year, weeks seem to zoom past in a blink of an eye. Here's some of what we've been up to lately.

During the hot spell last week, we rigged up sprinklers to spray down the meat birds and pigs periodically. The sheep and cows were moved to shady paddocks where they stayed comfortable. Needless to say, we've been very happy for cooler temps and RAIN this week! We did not get any sizable rains this time last year, so we are looking forward to see more grass growth through June!

We had our first chicken butcher day about two weeks ago and will continue processing every other Friday through October. If you are in the market for fresh chicken, be sure to stop by the farm store this Saturday 2-4pm (or every two weeks thereafter). Our chickens are also available at a discounted price when you purchase 10 or more at once.

You can also find our chickens periodically on the menu at Rye and Marche as well as in the meat case at Marche Provisions Market Hall. We are so excited to be working with the newly formed Heart of the Valley Growers Cooperative. This group consists of a handful of small poultry producers who are working together to supply bigger accounts like Marche. It would be difficult for any one of us to do it alone but together we can meet their demands. We are looking forward to seeing how the Cooperative develops and grows to make local, pasture-raised meat and poultry more accessible in our area.

After busy days, it is so peaceful to walk down to the pasture at dusk and say goodnight to the farm. This photo captures our multi species rotational grazing approach - meat birds in the foreground in their moveable chicken tractors; layers egg mobile on the left hand following the sheep and cows on the far right grazing their paddock. 

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The only animals who didn't make the pic are the pigs who are rooting their way through the woods. We have been using them to help clear the blackberries in the wooded areas of the farm. Here is a shot of what they can accomplish in one week's time. 

The pigs do a great job uncovering fallen limbs and trees. We'll go behind them to cut up trees and haul off the wood and limbs. We are also planning on using them to till up areas of the pasture that has some invasive weeds and reseeding in the fall. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful these pigs are. Nature's tillers.

We are gearing up for our next CSA session that runs July - December. Our CSA is year round but we do ask our members to make a commitment to the 6-month session, just as we make a commitment to raise and provide our members' beef, pork, chicken and lamb . It is a mutually beneficial relationship that has become the cornerstone of our farm. We still have a handful of spots available so check out our website to read more about how it works and to register. Click here to read what our members are saying about our CSA.

Hope to check back in more regularly, and keep sharing tidbits from the field and kitchen :)

Happenings around the farm

Every season I get excited as the broiler pens start to line up in their diagonal formation. Since we stagger our production over April - October, it takes a few weeks to build up to full capacity in the field, which is good because it gives us a chance to build up our farmer muscles again :) Eventually we'll have a total of nine pasture pens in the field, which are moved daily to fresh pasture. This helps encourage the birds to eat as much grass as possible and also spreads out the manure over the field without overdoing any one spot. 

Right now, we are running our lambs in front of the pens to graze down the grass. It's easier for the chickens to move around shorter grass, but more importantly, we try not to waste any of that grass goodness, as the chickens wouldn't be able to eat that much in one day.

The sheep weren't quite sure what to think of their new neighbors.

Elsewhere on the farm, our bovine friends are straightening up after a week or two of rebellion. As I joke, they spent a couple weeks rotating themselves around the field. We had borrowed their fence charger to hotwire-train the pigs and they took the opportunity to explore the pasture. After one little lady was separated from the herd and ended up in a neighbor's field, we have now procured a new charger and reinstated our rotational paddocks.

All joking aside, it was a stressful situation and reminded me that farming is not always the bucolic bliss that appears in instagram photos. There are times when things do not go according to plan and you're tearing your hair out wondering why you don't grow something that is firmly rooted in the ground.  Thankfully all's well that ends well and we are back to the plan for now :)

Let's try this again!

Well, clearly blogging took a back seat over the past year, which to be honest was probably our toughest one yet - between a very hot, dry summer and some business growing pains - but it's a new season and I'm giving it another go! 

Our season has begun in earnest. We have our cows and lambs rotating on pasture, we've got our first three batches of meat chickens going, and we've got piggies coming out our ears. One group is out in the woods and the other group is learning the ways of the hotwire in the barn. 

 the meat chickens reside in these Bottomless pens which are moved daily to fresh pasture. the pens allow the birds to forage and enable the manure to be spread over the pasture for natural fertilization while protecting from predators and weather. 

the meat chickens reside in these Bottomless pens which are moved daily to fresh pasture. the pens allow the birds to forage and enable the manure to be spread over the pasture for natural fertilization while protecting from predators and weather. 

 black angus cows enjoying the spring grass

black angus cows enjoying the spring grass

 berkshire pigs rooting in the woods

berkshire pigs rooting in the woods

 suffolk/hampshire lambs grazing with a view

suffolk/hampshire lambs grazing with a view

The biggest development on the farm is that I am now a full-time farmer! (Previously I was doing some part-time engineering work in addition to the farm) It is a bit nerve-wracking but all-in-all I am excited and optimistic about the opportunity to full-time farm. The farm has grown to the point that with both of us working off-farm jobs, we were getting close to burning ourselves out.  

With these changes, we are continuing to expand the farm to help it become more financially sustainable. We'll be increasing our CSA shares as well as keeping our farmstore stocked with plenty of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and eggs. We're also going to be offering specials at the farmstore more frequently so be sure to sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar -->

Be sure to keep an eye on the blog too for updates from the farm, as well as the kitchen! 2016 - Let's do this!