Saturday, July 25, 2009

Turkey disaster!

One thing that is a constant in farming is that you just can't control everything. The sun will shine when it shines, the rain will fall whether you need it or not.

We were driving to Louisiana. Anders was doing evening chores while we were gone and Dillon, Brian's oldest daughter's fiance was doing morning chores. It was usual for them to check in while they were doing the chores.
Morning update from Dillon was bad news: 2 baby turkeys dragged from the pen and partially eaten. From the discription it sounded like a raccoon. Evening report: all turkeys dead. Looks like a weasel got in.
Brian just sighed and said, "Well that's farming." as he hung up the phone. I wanted to cry when he told me. Those 25 little turkeys had cost us $8.50 each for heritage Midget Whites when we bought them as day old poults. What an awful way to go for the turkeys. Weasels and raccoons aren't exactly known for their gentle ways.
So now we are left with nothing to show for all the hard work, a marauding weasel/raccoon on the lose and we have to disapoint everyone who reserved a turkey. There just isn't time to order more poults and have them ready for the holidays.
What do we do next year? Well after spending a lot of our driving time discussing it, we've decided next year we will only just raise a few turkeys for ourselves. Nothing fancy just some poults from the feed store. No big investment. And we'll tighten up the cage and set a few traps.

Sampson the huge

This is a picture of HC Wenglar's Red Wattle Hog Sampson taken back in the 1970's. According to the family this big guy weighed close to 1800 pounds. That's one big hog!!
We don't have one that big yet, but we are breeding for larger hogs with a nice lean build, long heavy shoulders and large hams.

Louisiana Sausages

Ronnie Andrus, longtime Red Wattle hog breeder, gave us some sausages to take home. Ronnie and his family butcher their own hogs at home and Ronnie smokes the sausages, bacon and ham in the smokehouse he's built out behind the house. He showed us his smoke house. A room about 6' X8' coated in black from years of use with a hanging rack and fire pit dug into the dirt floor. The smokey smell reminded me of the best ham I ever had.
I cooked Ronnie's sausages today for lunch. Delicious! I can't wait for our RW to be ready to butcher in December. Brian and I want to try our hand at sausage making and smoking. :)

Detour to the beach

This week we finally made the trip down to Louisiana to pick up Red Wattle hogs from Ronnie Andrus. We sort of took the long way in order to drop my mom off at a friend's house in Alabama. Then Brian's daughter, Kacie thought since we were already in Alabama it would be a good idea to go on down to Gulf Shores to the beach.
Sounded silly at first, but it was a good idea. We spent several hours playing in the waves. It helped work the kinks out from the long drive and it was very relaxing.
The only problem was we were covered with sea salt the rest of the day. My hair felt like old straw!
After we left the beach we headed over to Louisiana and up to Ronnie's to pick up the hogs.

The pic is Brian and Kacie in the waves.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thoughts on pig raising

It's time to look at our pig operation and make plans for how to maximize production, sustain marketing/sales and keep the quality of life up for our hogs.
First we need to decide just how many pigs we want to keep as our breeding stock. We know we want to preserve the line of hogs we are bringing home this week from Louisiana as a closed herd. And we want to keep the 3 sows we have (Dancer, Petunia and Gertrude) with another boar as our second herd as they have different bloodlines. That leaves us with the problem of which boars to keep. Currently we have 3 boars and the new boar will make 4 . That's just too many.
We know we will be keeping Samson. He's more of a pet than a breeder, because he's getting up there in years. We just love having him and he's such a good farm mascot. We're planning a retirement pen for him. I know it's sentimental, but that's ok.
We will have 2 boars from Louisiana. We brought George home as a little guy earlier this year. He is the nice dark burgundy color we like in our RW's. He's not old enough to breed yet, so we don't know what sort of piglets he'll father. The new boar is a coppery orange color. Not our preference, but he's a proven breeder. Then there's Arthur. We've had him since he was a baby. He's friendly, quiet, a proven breeder and the only curly coated pig we have. Everybody loves Arthur.
As you can see they all have their good points, but we can only keep 2 breeders in addition to Sampson. Got any thoughts or comments?
The next thing we have in the works is new pasture. We've had to keep the pigs up most of this summer in small lots because the new fencing is not in. Dillon & Brian are tearing out the old fence now. We're hoping to have 3 new large pastures fenced in by fall. These larger pastures will have woven wire fencing parameters with a hot wire at nose level. We'll be able to subdivide them with temporary electric fence to rotate the hogs. Each pasture will have it's own loafing shed and a "wallow". The plan is to keep each "herd" in it's own pasture and use the third pasture for the growing market hogs.
We'll be moving the farrowing into the new barn. Each sow will have her own pen with waterer and feeder and a built in baby bumper and a permanent heat lamp for the little ones.
Of course all of this costs money. We've been lucky enough to find posts at a good price and we're bartering for some fencing and gates. We still need more fencing and the barn is a whole seperate issue. It looks like it's going to go up in stages as we're able.
Ahh projects! They never end and we are continually reanylizing the possibilities, pros and cons.
If you have any thoughts on our RW hog projects, let us know!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Baby Brunch

Brian's oldest daughter is expecting her first child. We're excited about our first grandchild. :) I wanted to have a baby shower for Katie, but because I work nights on the weekends I had to get a little creative. So I decided to throw a "Baby Brunch".
I invited Katie's guests and family to show up at 10:30 am for brunch. On the buffet, I set up Apricot/Cream cheese stuffed backed French toast, hash brown casserole, sausage balls with dipping sauces, juice, and coffee. Katie loves pink so the table cloth, napkins and plates were pink with ribbon curls and pink flowers for decoration on the table.
We had a nice brunch and watched the slide show of Katie when she was little then opened presents and visited and traded baby tales. It was nice, low key and met Katie's criteria of "no stupid games that measure my belly!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The return of frogs

There have been a lot of articles in the last few years about declining populations of amphibians. Amphibians are very sensitive to changes in their environments so they make a good barometer for the health of the local ecosystem.
On a very local level- here on the farm- we are seeing an increase in the number and the varieties of frogs and toads this year.
We are excited that they are back and seem to be thriving. Above is a picture of a tiny frog we found on a morning glory in our yard this morning. Kacie took the pic while I held the leaves out of the way

Monday, July 13, 2009

Economic downturn hits the farm

Well, it finally happened. We've started to feel the effects of tighter budgets here at the farm. Our chicken sales have fallen off. I guess folks have to cut corners on their food budgets to make ends meet. It's sad that people have to eat inferior food to get by but it's not economically feasable for us to raise our superior chickens and sell them for less. So we have to get our production in line with the demand. We've made the tough decision to cancel our last 3 batches of chicks for the year.

For those of you who have chickens preordered, that means you'll need to pick up your chickens from the 4 batches we have on the farm now. We'll be processing the next batch on the 15th.

The Tour

WOW! An unbelievable number of folks braved the rain on Saturday to join us for a walk around the farm during the "Secret Garden Tour". They showed up with their umbrellas and raincoats ready.
It was a really soggy day with showers off and on. I think I went through 5 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of jeans in the course of the day. Rain or no rain all but the last tour of the day went as planned. Just as we were going to set out, it started to rain, then it started to thunder then the lightning showed up. I didn't think it would be a good idea to walk around toting portable lightning rods (umbrellas) in the fields, so I invited folks to come back in the morning and take the tour.
During the night the storm clouds blew away and took the humidity and most of the heat with them. Sunday dawned clean and crisp with blue skies. Lots of folks came out and met the animals and learned about our CSA and why we do what we do.
It was a lot of work and a lot of fun. Now we are making plans for next year. We will be installing a "spring", waterfall and garden pool soon. And we're hoping to have Bonnie and Clyde working well pulling the wagon so that we can tour the farm via horsedrawn wagon. That will save my shoes!

In the mean time, if you would like to tour the farm, give us a call at 812-521-1063 to arrange a time or drop us an email at

See you at the farm!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Secret Garden Tour 2009

Just wanted to to drop you a note about the Secret Garden tour in Brown County, taking place July 11 & 12th.
The tour features gardens that are not usually open to the public. It is sponsored by the garden club and is one of their major fundraisers for the year. Proceeds from the tour are used for local projects like landscaping for Habitat for Humanity homes. It is a driving tour featuring 5 stops throughout Brown County.
We are very excited to be the first working garden featured on the tour! We are planning to offer walking tours of the farm on the hour. The tour will include not only the gardens but an introduction to our pastured poultry and the egg mobile, a stop at the apiary, a visit with our heritage cattle herd, the Haflingers & Shetland sheep and a chance to feed a biscuit to our critically rare Red Wattle Hogs.
We are looking forward to visit with folks and to re-aquainting them with family farming and where their food comes from.
Tickets are available at the Visitors and Convention Bureau all week or from a garden club member or at any of the stops on the tour. Below is the information from the Bureau's site with a link to the brochure.

Secret Gardens of Brown County TourJuly 11, 2009 - July 12, 2009
Third Annual Secret Gardens of Brown County Tour.... This self-guided tour of five gardens lets you see a secret area of Brown County, never shared before... Brown County Garden Club members open their gardens, sharing their secrets and selling plants, seeds and garden items! Map and brochure included when tickets are purchased. Tickets available at the Brown County Visitors Center. All proceeds support the Brown County Garden Club's activities in the community, including landscaping for Brown County Habitat for Humanity Homes.
Times: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Various gardens in rural Brown County
Phone: 812.988.6927; 800.753.3255
Admission: $10.00 adults; under 13 free
Here is a link to the brochure:

Come on out and support a good cause!

See you at the farm,
Dot & Brian

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 4th - Freedom to sell baked goods at Farmers Market

House Bill 1309 passed into law about a month ago. We've been waiting very impatiently for it to go into affect July 1st. It's a great thing for home based vendors and consumers alike. It means we are now able to sell baked goods we've produced in our home kitchens at the farmers market. . . with the appropriate labeling of course.

Labeling requirements include: contact information, common name, weight or count, date processed, ingredients listed from most to least and the official Dept. of Health disclaimer.

"This product was home produced and processed and the production area has not been inspected by the State Department of Health. " - in at least 10 point font.

It's hard to get all that on a label small enough that it doesn't cover up the whole package! It does allow you to post one label/sign with the required information on say a cookie jar so you can take out just the number of cookies the customer wants. That makes it easier.

We have been feverishly baking at our house in preparation for market in Nashville in the morning with loaves of cinnamon, dill, whole wheat and white bread; banana, blueberry and mixed berry muffins, and lots of yummy cookies.

Come on out and join us!