August 2017 Newlsletter
What's Going On at the Farm
For August 2017
All of us have special days that we either look forward to or dread to see them come. For a farmer, one of the most dreaded days of the year is when their annual farm loan comes due: for us the day is August 1.
Starting in March or April we begin noting our Ag loans due date. We will look at what financial requirements will be between then and the due date and we will hope that nothing catastrophic happens that will cause us to have to utilize more of the loan than we anticipated. Though funds are paid towards the loan throughout the year, we normally put the brakes on unnecessary spending in May and put all emphasis on paying the remaining balance of the loan off. Once August 2, rolls around, the loan has been paid off and work has begun on securing the loan for the following year. Its a vicious circle of securing a loan and paying it off but it is a must for most farms due to the large amount of money that must be spent before a crop, or flock, can be raised, harvested, and sold. I'm happy to say our loan is paid and we have secured funding to keep going for another year.
So whats been happening on the farm? A lot!
This past week we caught a break and had several days of dry weather. Bubba cut the hay on Monday and we baled it on Wednesday. The 2 fields produced 55 large round bales weighing around 800 lbs each. For two months the wet weather forced us to have to put off cutting the hay and negatively affected the quality. The warm winter and good winter grazing that we had last winter allowed us to use a lot less hay than anticipated. With the 1 cutting this year, and what we had left from last year, we decided not to cut anymore hay this summer and will use the hay field for late summer grazing for the cows. We also planted around 10 acres in millet a week ago which will be used for late summer and early fall grazing; a picture of the millet field has been posted on Facebook. This extra grazing will allow us to plant rye grass in late September or early October for winter grazing in 3 or 4 fields. We will cut a neighbors 10 acre hay field for him once the weather drys off again then put the hay equipment away for the season.
Bubba has been working hard on the sow pens. He has gotten 2 pens completed in the last few weeks. We have 1 pen that only needs a shed built and a gate installed and 2 more pens that need to be completely built; 2 additional pens were completed over the past couple of months. These pens are an important part of our new hog farrowing system and will allow one person to move sows from their lots, down the aisle, into the farrowing house, and into their farrowing pen.
Concrete for the new farrowing house was scheduled to be poured this month with construction of the building beginning in October. We have decided to delay this project until later this year. Labor on the farm continues to be an issue so we decided to switch our project list and begin building our new free range chicken houses in the lots we had built in June. The permanent houses will be larger than the old 10'x12' chicken tractors we set up temporarily in these lots and will be better suited for the birds and cut down on the labor required to keep the house clean. These houses will also allow us to "rest" other lots for an additional 4 to 5 weeks which will be needed once cold weather arrives and the grass stops growing. We are looking at making a few changes in these buildings including a possible switch to a lean-to type structure that we will build from scratch. This would make the building process quicker and a little easier for us while allowing us to get more houses constructed in a shorter amount of time.
Jesse and Marc completed house number 6 in the first group of chicken pastures we constructed. There are still 2 other "temporary" houses in this section of the chicken pastures that need to be modified to fit into our system. No work can be started on these houses until the current flock of birds is grown and moved out. Hopefully they will be able to start in the next 3 weeks. So far we are pleased with the way the system is working but readily admit it takes more management during the warm months than originally expected. The biggest issue is keeping clean dry shavings in the buildings; this is hard with some of the heavy downpours and extreme high humidity we have experienced the last several weeks. We are looking forward to cooler weather when the birds will spend most of their day outside instead of in the house out of the sun.
Jesse has installed a solar powered electric fence system in the chicken pasture. The intention is to stop predators from climbing the outside fencing and getting into our pastures. This allows the birds free access to their pasture 24 hours a day while saving us the time of putting all 2,000 or more birds away for the night. If a predator climbs the fence, he is greeted at the top with a strong 7,000 volt charge. This isn't enough to hurt the animal but is more than enough to teach a lesson and stop them from going into the pens. We have been very lucky and aren't experiencing any problems from hawks or owls in these lots.
Jesse is working on a new turkey house that will be a first for us. This design will allow us to move birds from the battery brooders at 3 or 4 weeks of age into the lots that they will free range in. Once moved from the brooder the birds will be deep bedded with straw or hay for 3 or 4 weeks until they are large enough to be allowed to free range. This will save us time in moving houses daily and allow us to run permanent water lines underground keeping the water cooler during warm weather and providing protection from predators and the weather for the young birds. When not in use, the buildings could be used to house chickens if needed while the lots, fertilized with turkey manure, could be used to grow vegetables or another crop.
The last of our Holiday turkey poults was received the last week of July. If you are interested in a Holiday turkey, please go to the website and fill out the reservation form. The form is found at the bottom of our home page in the article regarding Holiday turkeys. We announced this week that we are now on a Holiday turkey waiting list. This list will be filled first come first served so don't wait if you want a turkey from us this year. Filling out the order form on the website will get you on the waiting list.
Our spring garden has been plowed and is getting ready for our fall planting. We are planning to grow collards, turnips, spinach, carrots, and maybe a few other things for fall and winter. These crops aren't time sensitive and can be picked when time permits or when we have orders unlike green beans, sweet corn, and other crops which have to be picked when ready or the crop will be lost. Our spring garden was extremely productive and allowed us to sell a good bit of produce out of it. We will keep you informed on how the fall garden is looking and when the crops will be ready to harvest and sell.
Those of you that visit our booth at the Summerville Farmers Market have probably met Ian Dillinger: Ian started working with us in June. When Ian contacted us in April, he was looking to intern on a working farm and wanted to know if we had an opening. As our conversation continued, we found that he was actually wanting to start his own farm with an emphasis on biointensive farming methods. It was decided that an internship on this farm wasn't the best path to follow for what he was planning to do but there maybe other ways we could help in this venture. After several conversations we hired Ian to make restaurant deliveries and help with the Summerville Farmers Market. We also were sold on his plan to start a biointensive farm and decided to allow him use of about an acre of land at the front of the farm and would help him in other ways if needed.
Ian is ready to begin his new venture, Instinct Earth, where he will provide sustainability consultation, practice biointensive organic farming, and outdoors education. In the upcoming weeks Ian will be constructing a 14' wide, 100' long high tunnel that will be used to grow sprouts, herbs, and provide a space to pack orders. He will also have a couple small plots outside the high tunnel where he will grow other fall crops. Eventually he plans on holding educational seminars in this field as well as doing some of his own research on growing specialty herbs and crops organically to meet the demands of local chefs and families. I'm sure that Ian will be more than happy to bring some of these items with him to the market when available.
With October 8 right around the corner, we have begun moving from the planning stage to the doing stage in preparation for Family Day on The Farm. This years event is free admission with all food proceeds going to the local chapter of the FFA from Colleton County High School and Saint Anthony's Catholic Church for their local outreach projects. We will also be raffling off gift certificates to a restaurant in Charleston as well as one in Beaufort. If interested in attending, please monitor our Facebook event page and let us know how many will be coming in your group. Early registration will help us in determining how much meat we will need to supply these organizations.
At this time we are still analyzing our farm market schedule. Sales at the Summerville Farmers Market are still way down and market attendance seems to be off a good bit when compared to past years. With both local schools and college classes starting, last minute vacations, and the continuing hot weather, there is little doubt as why we are seeing fewer people at the market. We will continue to look at things and hopefully move back to participating in Summerville weekly as the weather cools and schedules become less hectic.
We sincerely thank you for your continued support of our farm. Without your support we would have not seen the growth that we have been blessed to see over the years. Without your support we wouldn't have been able to make the changes in our farming practices that have added to the sustainability of our farm and the health and welfare of our animals.
Annie, Marc, Amy & Jesse