A Look Back At 2017

Like many, I take the opportunity when the calendar flips a year to tidy up the ship, take a critical look around and assess what's working, what ain't, and how to best launch into the new year. Usually there are a couple habits I try to tweak, some things I let go of and some new elements I attempt to put in place. On the whole I love the shift, as arbitrary as it may be, that the new year offers up and generally it all feels really good. Not only that, it gives me the permission I sometimes need to shake things up and inject some “different” resulting in some fresh approaches and productivity in various areas of life. For our purposes here I say all that only to explain my decision a year ago to begin keeping a simple daily log of the weather and any major happenings on the farm for each day. 

 

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This is no journal, its a log.. I did not have any interest in writing another chapter (pun) in my long and painful relationship with journaling. Painful in that all to date have ended unceremoniously with a whole lot of blank pages. So this had to be a log, simple and quick… just enough to comment on the weather and bring back memories and keep records of major events on the farm. A typical entry could read “Bright and cold, 1* F… restocked hay, took out rams” or “Put away 655 bales of hay, Mill Cove Field, 85* F and HUMID” . Thats the idea. 

 

 New Roadside Sign in 2017!

New Roadside Sign in 2017!

For the first time really, since I started, I took the time this past week to look over the log and look back at 2017. It was a ton of fun. Fun to be reminded of some events, the timing, the weather, etc. but also just the little nuggets of data tucked in there. I try each year to send something out in January that takes a look at the year and communicates to any and all who are interested what life on this farm was like and how it all went. The year saw some really amazing accomplishments and some incredibly difficult stretches… I’ll share some entries below and elaborate as well as try to sum up some of our year.… if you choose to read it, I hope you enjoy it. 

As of April 2018 we will have been here on Neil’s Point Rd. 9 years. That means that as spring 2018 rolls around we will be entering our 10th season, hard to believe. I would say that more than any other year 2017 felt like a year of sinking roots deeper into this soil, this farm, this community, and this region. I wrote last year at this time about our signing a 25 year lease to live and farm here, we finished our campaign to raise funds for new equipment, and “graduated” from the Farms for Maine’s Futures program with a plan to add a “farm stay” yurt and build new relationships to support increased production. 

 

Speaking of increasing production, as 2017 began it was clear we were going to take a step backwards right off the bat. Early 2017 saw us lose two large wholesale accounts,  these were accounts and relationships that we had spent several years building up and it was a tough way to start the year. As many of you know the School House Cafe did not open this past year, for us that was a loss of what had become a significant annual invoice for our farm… 7 pigs and 250 chickens for the three years preceding 2017… not to mention lots of ground beef and eggs. Tough loss not only for our business but for this community.  In addition our favorite downtown Brunswick spot made the tough decision (based on where they were at with the life of their business) to take a year off from their annual order of two dozen lambs… another invoice of significant value to our business vanished, poof! The reality of all relationships in and out of farming is that they rarely remain the same… things change and you have to adapt and regroup at times. So, technically speaking, we started 2017 “in the hole”. But of course we couldn’t stay there… attention turned to making up lost ground and building new relationships to help our business grow and thrive. While we worked on that (more on that later) , the farm continued to churn in the background. Aside from the amazing 26inch blizzard of 2/12 Jan and Feb were quiet and slow, as it should be... 

 

Farm Log: "3/14 Blizzard 16 inches give or take."

Farm Log: “3/15  Cold - first lambs - 2 triples, 2 singles, 1 twin”

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As we moved into March we knew lambs would be arriving soon. Well prepared and happy to not have lambs until mid march we welcomed the first day of lambing which was a doozy. The month progressed accordingly and lambing was, overall, a great stretch. Just about all of our lambs showed up on time, healthy and ready to go. Moms did well, we had lots of twins and hit our goal of birthing 50 lambs for the year. By mid April we were ready for our trip to Washington D.C. We had a great visit there with our dear friends who put us up and showed us the town. The kids had a great time, we all got a break from the New England weather patterns and got to learn a great deal about our country and government. When I say our friends “showed us the town” it's quite an understatement, it was amazing to have the insider advice and direction in terms of figuring out what to see and how to make it happen. Highlight for me was an evening tour of the DC monuments with our very own professional docent… what a great night we had. 

Farm Log :“5/1/17 Pig out during the night, sternum injury”  

Funny story…every night we have a couple simple but essential evening chores… basically just  a quick set of rounds and shut up the chicken coops, feed Tessy, and call it a night. As we rolled into May last year we had 5 pigs that were getting ready for the butcher, so they were a good size. I was NOT on duty for evening chores so as Laura put on her boots and coat to make the rounds I brushed my teeth and headed up to read in bed. Once in bed reading there really is no sound worse than that of your partner walking directly in and up the stairs to inform you of some happening or other that will likely demand your painful reclothing and heading out to assist with above mentioned “happening”. In this case there happened to be a pig out…  Like most of our pigs these had long ago stopped giving us any trouble in terms of respecting the fence, so how and why this one ended up on the wrong side of the electricity is still a mystery. At any rate, we could NOT get her back in… its dark, chilly, I was recently half asleep and am now trying to keep matters from getting worse while having no luck convincing this animal to come back from the dark side. Picture a headlamp, muck boots, lots of darkness and an increasingly nervous and flighty (large) pig. 

The thing about electric fence, and the animals’ relationship to it, is that it's a psychological barrier.. and the effect it has works no matter the side they are on, so what you are working against is the fear and hesitation that SHOULD have kept them in in the first place… so generally each “animal out” episode takes on an ironic twist. At any rate, back to this pig… she would not go over or under the fence line to get back in, so the plan eventually was to simply shove her back over, at which point she would find herself back in the paddock and all would be well and forgotten… back to bed! Yay! So a plan was hatched by the light of the headlamp… Laura would get her into position with the light (which the pig was half following and half moving away from at this point..) and I will use my years of contact sports knowledge to set up a solid body check on the pig resulting in her return to the proper side of the enclosure. Voila! And it worked, as I knew it would… however… I made the mistake of, at the last minute, “deciding” (I guess, never really thought about it) to hit her more with my chest than shoulder… I think I worried that a shoulder check (she was too low to use any hip action which would have been ideal) would have been met with a damaged shoulder as pigs are quite dense and solid… so I ended up doing a chest bump type check which would have been fine but I left my right had, in the shape of a fist (see photo below), between the pig and my chest resulting in knocking the wind out of me and ultimately giving me one of the most painful and long lasting injuries of my farming career to date. Let me tell you, if you ever need to body slam a pig keep your hands out of the way… my fist caused my sternum to contort or something causing major discomfort lasting well into summer…. so many little places in there where bones and cartilage and muscles connect and intersect and I wrenched them all… ouch! (I assure any worried readers that the pig barely noticed my full on body check, she was simply happy to miraculously find herself back on the right side of the fence with her comrades.) 

 "The problem was that I left my fist here like this so when I hit the pig...... "  ;    I cried to anyone who would listen.    

"The problem was that I left my fist here like this so when I hit the pig...... "  ;    I cried to anyone who would listen. 

 

There are a couple other entries that mention a physical pain or ailment of some kind. The problem, of course, with getting laid up or knocked out by anything like that is that life goes on and with it your need to either do your chores or find someone else to do them. I have generally been very lucky and have taken good care of myself (kind of) however a couple episodes did find their way into the log last year. 

 The Professionals load up the new farmstand

The Professionals load up the new farmstand

Farm Log : “5/8 Rent Ditch Digger, Cloudy and Cool”

An internal struggle that has raged for years in the depths of my soul is the “do it yourself” or “hire it out” debate. I have been guilty on many occasions of favoring the DIY side of this coin often in spite of significant knowledge or skill deficits regarding the task at hand. Generally it is a safe bet that the financial picture is playing a significant role in this struggle when it comes up. Getting the farm stand set up in its new location is a classic example… yes I did actually look into the idea of moving the building myself… you know… tractor, some logs to roll it on, chains… no problem… Ahhhh ya, right. Once that job was safely in the hands of a professional, attention was turned to getting power to the new stand. You’ll be happy to know that I didn't even consider doing that myself. However, after consulting the electrician I did decide to take on the ditch digging myself, a trench was needed so we could bury the cable that would take power to the farmstand. 

 

 The Professionals back our new Farmstand into place

The Professionals back our new Farmstand into place

The machines that you can rent make this a very manageable task, they move quickly and do a nice job. My trench was coming along just splendidly until I cracked into the grey water line that transports our household grey water to the leach field. I have always had a nice little knack for finding a way to make one DIY job into many by screwing something up that needs to be repaired as a result of my initial DIY efforts. If you are keeping track at home my new DIY list now read: 1) finish trench, 2) figure out how to repair waste waterline, 3) purchase necessary supplies for fixing grey water line, 4) repair grey water line, 5) lay cable, 6) backfill trench. The silver lining? Now we know where the leach field is and how to splice in a replacement section if we happen to crack into that line in the future! 

  The ditch and the DIY splice job on the grey water line. 

The ditch and the DIY splice job on the grey water line. 

 

One particularly fun and interesting use of the log as I look back is to get a quick snapshot of what gets done and how much gets done in certain stretches of time. Only the big items are noted here but I still find it interesting. Makes me wonder what could possibly be done to set a different pace or ensure the spreading out of the significant big ticket items. For example, between the 15th of June and the 7th of July the following items were noted… 1250 bales of hay were made and put away; 15 feeder pigs were purchased and started; 325 broilers were processed, packed and frozen;  a young steer died and was transported to the vet for a necropsy (to date the only bovine death on this farm not planned for... necropsy results inconclusive... I remain uncertain if this was a preventable death had we intervened earlier); we took delivery of 100 round bales and stored those for winter; and we brought all ewes and lambs back to Two Coves Farm. The sheep spent the first 6/7 weeks of the grazing season at Five Pine Farm off Penneville Rd. in Brunswick. FPF is owned and operated by our friends and business parters Rick and Kris Ganong. What I think of more than anything else when I see a list like this is how lucky we are to have all the help and all the people we can call on to lend a hand when its "go time". From Rick and Kris who we have partnered with and who we work with on a weekly (and often daily) basis, to the folks who we call on to help pick up the hay or process the chickens or load the animals. It takes a village… 

 

 Opened for Business in May 2017

Opened for Business in May 2017

One of those currents that ran through the whole year, our relationship with the Ganongs, grew in significant ways in 2017. I don't have  supporting images or farm log notations but the bottom line is that we worked together to expand the reach of Two Coves Farm's meat. Using their network of friends and family Rick and Kris cultivated a significant batch of new customers for our beef and pork in 2017.  We are eternally grateful for their support, their friendship and their willingness to help and learn as they improve their own farm's pasture,  seek new partnerships, and embark on this whole farming thing.  We consider ourselves fortunate to have partners that seek only to help local small farms produce great food, extend their reach, and grow successful businesses. We look forward to many years ahead working with Rick and Kris. 

 First run at First Cut

First run at First Cut

Farm Log: “7/23 First Yurt Guests / Rain / Tractor Clutch gone”

 Got clutch?

Got clutch?

What’s that saying? “Time waits for no man”… ?? Well neither does hay weather, and after getting those initial bales in we had to wait a spell for more good weather, a solid stretch that we could target for making more nice dry hay. That weather eventually came but I was very concerned we would miss it as our lovely Ford 3415 tractor finally lost its clutch just as that weather was in sight. It's a sad day when the weather is allowing you to make hay but your tractor is not… luckily we were able to borrow the John Deere owned by our Five Pine Farm partners and put our final 800+ bales away for winter feeding. I have not made any hay since, but I know when I do make hay again in 2018 I will sit atop my 1990 Ford tractor with its crooked seat and fussy clutch and dream of the time I got to make hay with a 2015 model John Deere with cruise control! 

 

 Up in a day... 

Up in a day... 

 Done... for now... 

Done... for now... 

Unfortunately our Yurt install was pushed back again and again until it went up finally in the third week of July. So while we did not get a full summer worth of use out of it we did see its potential and saw how much people loved it and the farm. We also, maybe more importantly, found out for sure that our family can comfortably host people and manage such a space and not have it feel like anyone has invaded the farm or moved in with us. We feel like the yurt will meet our goals of allowing broader access to the farm as well as providing us with a new, manageable (thank you airbnb)  income stream. 

A couple things are noticeable as the log moves from summer to fall...I see the word “humid” used quite a bit, as well as “fair” and “ship” indicating the uptick in dog demos and animals scheduled for and transported to the butcher. There is also an uptick in the days I missed recording in the log, a sign to me now of the tendency I have each and every summer to push back from the farm a bit and enjoy family activities and the last weeks of the kids being out of school. Boat rides, lazy afternoons, walks to the dock, afternoon swims and all those great summer things that Harpswell allows you to enjoy. 

Farm Log: “8/2 Side of Beef to Solo!”

I mentioned early in this novella about how we felt like we started the year in the hole after loosing two wholesale accounts. Much of our efforts last winter and into spring were geared towards making up that ground. For a small farm like ours big accounts like that mean quite a bit… it was a tough start to the year for sure… but this log entry signifies the beginning of a stretch that would help us make up some significant ground on what we lost. Solo Italiano is a relatively new restaurant in Portland run by Paolo Laboa , winner of both the “Best Young Chef” in all of Italy as well as the World (yes, that World) Pesto Championships. We were lucky enough to get connected with Solo through a friend of a friend of the farm. 

 Skip Sullivan: Friend of the Farm and Biggest Fan

Skip Sullivan: Friend of the Farm and Biggest Fan

Over the course of spring we had several meetings, offered samples for the restaurant to try, and worked to understand Solo's needs.  The lead here was taken by my long time friend and partner Skip Sullivan (aforementioned "friend of the farm") . Skip has an unbelievable ability to create and nurture relationships, we were very fortunate to have him on this outreach.  The reviews from Solo on the samples we provided were great and eventually we came to understand that they were interested in getting the meat fresh (generally we sell meat custom cut, packaged, and frozen). While possible this creates some interesting questions for the farm, the butcher, and the chef. In terms of this side of beef, for example, we first needed to schedule the beef at the butcher and be sure I had a home for the other half of it. We also had to be very sure we knew exactly how the fresh meat was to be cut and transported, delivery of fresh (and even frozen) items in the middle of summer can be tricky. For the butcher, he is sending fresh product from his shop, product that has been inspected and needs to get to its destination with no delay once cut. The butcher shop also has to accommodate us as they usually package and freeze everything... Finally the chef has to know what he (or she) will be doing with the meat and whether or not it can all be sold before any spoilage sets in! 

 Lots of fun to be the focus of a customer's Instagram post.                                          #socialmedia

Lots of fun to be the focus of a customer's Instagram post.                                          #socialmedia

 

On August 8th we picked up a side of beef in four very large pieces from our butcher. We wrapped each in plastic and loaded into a freezer that had been running the night before but was empty now and a nice cool place to store the meat in transit. Meat was delivered and went right into the menu… as I understand it the beef was sold out inside of a week… some was dry aged at the restaurant but all was gone, gone, gone. We took that opportunity to go in for dinner at Solo Italiano and had a simply unbelievable beef tartar made just for us…OMG! The rest of the meal was fantastic as well. Since then we have earned a place on their website and delivered fresh: 10 lambs, two whole pigs, and another 2 sides of beef. We hope 2018 will see more of the same. Hats off and a huge thank you to the ultimate "Friend of the Farm"… Skip Sullivan for having the patience and vision to grow this relationship. 

 

Farm Log: “10/23 - Lily” 

If you are a friend of this farm or know anything about who we are and what we do, you know that working dogs have been front and center here since the start. We arrived here in 2009 with our border collie Johnny , at the time a middle aged dog in the prime of his working life. Johnny taught me so much about dogs, about livestock, companionship and partnership. Countless hours of work and frustration have been sidestepped here as a result of our work with herding dogs, the dogs have also helped us develop and share the farm through our dog demos each summer at fairs and festivals throughout the state. It is at those fairs and festivals that Lily really earned her stripes and sprinted into the hearts of many in Maine and beyond. What every person saw in Lily was that spunk, that spirit to work hard and do whatever was asked of her. Ever responsive, ever diligent, ever resourceful but not necessarily all that easy to work with was Lily… scrappy and determined but with edges that remained rough all the way till the end… I’m not gonna tell Lily’s whole story here, many of you have heard it before at a demo or here at the farm, but this log entry makes note of Lily’s passing. About 10 days after we administered an oral tick medication to Lily she began having seizures. We took her to the emergency clinic and learned her liver was a mess and toxicity was making its way into her brain causing the seizures. 

 

 Summer 2017

Summer 2017

We are a natural and organic operation here and have always wrestled with the complicated reality of ticks. The dogs and cats bring the ticks into the house and are also vulnerable to diseases they cause. We vaccinate for lyme, and we have always felt that to protect our family we had to administer something to the dogs to keep those ticks off or kill them when attached. We have found collars ineffective, we never liked the oil put down the backbone, so when an oral option became available we began to use those with some hesitation. Mainly we would use a product called Nexguard carried by our vet, derived from the sea cucumber this product seemed to work and was not toxic to the dogs. Maybe complacency set in after that, the routine was the same… although this season the vet carried another brand and we brought it home. Now, to be clear, I have no proof that this product killed Lily, but Laura and I believe it did… she had a problem with her liver already existing and this product kicked things over the edge and took Lily along. She was her active, healthy, exuberant self in the days, weeks, and months before she got the medication and ultimately the seizures. 

The most tragic and compelling confirmation of our suspicions regarding Lily is that 6 days after we lost Lily, Johnny too began with seizures. While old, Johnny was a healthy and active working dog right up until seizures began. For both dogs the onset was sudden and the drop was precipitous. While we had decided to have Lily put down at the emergency clinic,  Johnny was able to die at home…one on Monday, the other the following Sunday. It was a dark stretch, both dogs are still missed of course but things move on and so too must we. All four dogs got a dose of the Brevecto Flea and Tick but only Johnny (age)  and Lily (mass on liver) had issues that made them more vulnerable. From administration of the drug to the seizures was 10 days.  Look it up, lots of instances and stories on record of problems with this drug including a formal petition of complaint submitted to the FDA.

When the first oral option came out we did investigate and learn of how safe and nontoxic the Nextguard was but when the first dose of Brevecto appeared I just went with it… we continued to use both for the past year or two, sometimes one, sometimes the other depending on what the vet had in stock… I’m not sure Laura or I will ever truly forgive ourselves for giving our dogs a synthetic drug without vigorous and thorough investigation into side effects and potential problems. We remain certain that the mistake cost us years of time with Lily and Johnny. It always felt like a compromise, something we had to do in order to be safe from the threat of lyme, etc. But it was certainly not the only option and proved ultimately to be far worse than dealing with the ticks themselves.

 Ever Vigilant

Ever Vigilant

 

Farm Log: "10/29  wind storm - yurt - roof"

You've heard the phrase “When it rains it pours”. This entry was, if you do the math, only a couple days after loosing the dogs. Ironically this storm did not get a ton of hype like many do. We went to bed knowing that it was gonna be windy and rainy, maybe even bad enough to loose power. I remember having a hard time sleeping that night, still reeling from the dogs and worried about the turkeys who were housed at the time down by the cove, pretty exposed. What I began to notice was the strength of the gusts as I lay in bed, gusts that were causing the house to move perceptibly as dawn approached. The power did eventually go out and as the sun rose so did we and quickly noticed that our bathroom upstairs had water dripping from the ceiling… never a good sign. 

 

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The wind had ripped a couple huge patches of shingles off the roof causing a rain storm in the attic and the infiltration of water into the bathroom upstairs. The wind was driving water into the house once the shingles were out of the way. As soon as that scene was assessed and triaged I made my way to the turkeys. Miraculously we did not loose a single bird… and while the turkey shelter was ripped apart and scattered through the 20 acre field where it sat.. each of the three chickens coops were intact and upright (Mill Cove Miracle?) . It was from the field that I saw how the yurt had been seriously damaged by the winds. A mere 3 months after it was erected the yurt needed to come down,  ultimately we did take it down and  thankfully found out that all told only a couple components were beyond repair. We remain convinced that we chose a good spot for the yurt and that with some modifications we can survive another storm like that if it happens. The yurt is, we think,  well protected as 95% of the weather here comes from the opposite direction… we will re-erect and reenforce in the spring and be ready if we get another 5% storm.

Farm Log: "11/10 More wind - Sick Sheep - Turkey Barrier"

File Jan 17, 3 27 07 PM.jpeg

The hits kept coming in early November. What followed the big storm was a week without power, a week of generators and extension cords, oil lamps and head lamps, gas cans and water buckets. Harpswell was slowly put back together, limbs and lines, trees and poles. Shortly after we finally got power back we had another pretty stiff wind event, I woke up to see zero turkeys in the enclosure they had occupied the day before. Hustling down to the field I found that they had all walked over and through the fence and down over the shore’s edge to a point halfway down to the water to escape the biting wind. I shooed them all up with Nuala and had to erect a wall of hay to act as a barrier giving them a small area in which to hunker down and hold fast. Again, thankfully no turkeys were lost. 

On the other end of the farm the sheep had spent their first night in the woods after running out of pasture. Each fall for the past couple years we have fed out hay to the sheep in the woods for a couple weeks when the pasture runs out. We are eager to get the nutrients cycling in there with some hoof action, manure droppings, and seeds left behind by the hay waste. It has been working splendidly and we planned for that again this year. However, our timing could not have been worse. I’ve known this to be possible ever since I began keeping sheep but, maybe like the tick meds, I had grown complacent after several years with no problems. I'm referring to the chance that your sheep could eat leaves from plants that are toxic or periodically toxic. We don’t have any of the permanently toxic variety that I know of but we do have a couple of the “toxic at times” variety. However, as I said, we have grown to believe that by the time we put sheep in the woods the leaves are either gone or ok for sheep and so not a danger. This year we missed a shrub with wilting leaves, chokecherry I believe, that the sheep went after once in the paddock. By morning we had about 8 sheep frothing at the mouth and clearly ill. We took steps we could take and waited to see who pulled through and started acting normal again. All but 2 did, thankfully. The two we lost were two of our most vigorous and aggressive ewes… great mothers and great lamb producers. They probably butted and boxed others out to make sure they got the best and the most of the tasty toxic forage. 

When you boil it down, ultimately, the vast majority of instances where farm animal die of something other than old age are preventable by the farmer. The hardest moments to move on from and to deal with are those where in some way shape or form you were not careful enough and some stock died. Is it easier to loose some animals than others? Yes. Are some animals more fragile than others? Yes. Do you sometimes rant and rave and blame the animal? Yes. Sometimes I do, but I know ultimately that I'm responsible for that animal and its only doing what it does... Sheep can only be sheep, turkeys can only be turkeys... I'm the one who has to know better and see to its needs. I can go back to that afternoon over and over again (when I fenced off the woods and turned in the sheep)  and rehash what I was doing, what I was thinking, what led me to do and think the way I did at that moment... and I can come up with all kinds of things that can be said to make me feel better. But the bottom line, as I said, is that I made that paddock and I put those sheep in there, and I missed something big. You never get used to that, its never easy to take. 

 

Farm Log : “11/19  Cold and Windy - Processed Turkeys”

 Last Stop

Last Stop

I love turkey processing day, I have some great photos from over the years that detail the different faces and weather conditions that show up on that day. 2017 was no exception, we had a great crew with some veterans and a couple first time helpers as well. It was cold, it was windy, but overall not the worst we have seen on the appointed day. For a couple reasons we got a late start with turkeys this year which had some consequences in terms of ultimate bird size. More than anything else I just want folks to be happy and to get a bird they are happy with… I also love it if what we have ends up matching up with what people are looking for. This year was a mixed bag, I think most got a size that worked for them but we had fewer large birds and I know a couple folks would have preferred a little bigger bird. We are going to finally take a leap next fall and do over 100 birds, our goal will be to have a couple different age groups giving us a greater variety of sizes. 

Farm Log: “11/27 Fence Complete - All the Cows Home”

 A beautiful Fall day at Skofield Farm, last stop before returning to Two Coves Farm

A beautiful Fall day at Skofield Farm, last stop before returning to Two Coves Farm

When we had the work done in and around the barn in the summer of 2016 we were taking a big step towards getting Two Coves in shape for keeping animals over the winter. Since we arrived in 2009 we have made it work; between various configurations and approaches, lots of wood screws and baling twine, not to mention creativity and some luck we have kept, by and large, our animals safe and in good health through the winter months. We have not, ever really, had a solid and safe winter cow area. Each year we keep more and more cows as our production levels increase and each year we have had to rely too much on equipment that really  is not meant for winter use. However, with the addition of the concrete pad for winter feeding, it was high time to complete the three strand high tensile (solid, safe, hot with current, dependable, permanent) fence giving the cows access to the woods and the shelter of thick forest for bad weather. The fence went up and and the cows came home. To date we have had only one escapee… the day we brought them home (11/27). 

 Home for wintah

Home for wintah

When we bring 20 cows back to the farm we have to take multiple trips with the trailer that we borrow. We get, generally, 8-10 cows per load and end up with a handful that we have to get on the third run. When the cows come back some have never been to the farm before (delivered right to summer pasture at Five Pine Farm in the spring) and the whole group is pretty rowdy and unsettled as we make the trips. A herd is a cohesive group, you relocate them and split them up all at once and its a hectic couple hours. However, generally they explore a bit and run around and then settle in to eating and doing what cows do. When I got back with the last load of cows and was backing up the trailer to unload I looked out the truck window and saw a beltie standing in the road looking at me before walking a bit further away and beginning to eat some late season grass. Having just completed what I knew to be a very good and solid fence you can imagine my horror. Where did he come from? How did that cow get out? WHAT THE HECK!!!!!!!!! Lucky for us that animal was not particularly fired up and seemed content to keep nibbling while I figured out what to do… we eventually coaxed him back towards the trailer and used it as a barrier to guide him back into the enclosure. A close inspection of the fence did not reveal any obvious areas of weakness or any fence that was broken or down… clearly this animal had only one goal… to get in my head and make sure I did not become too comfortable or proud with my new fence! He succeeded, 100%.

 

Farm Log” 12/31  Brutal temps, -2?-5? Purchased Propane Blower and Heat Tape”

 So cold we broke out the stock tank defrost element!

So cold we broke out the stock tank defrost element!

The year ended with one of the most extended cold stretches anyone can remember. Man it was cold! You can be sure that whatever you do to take care of your animals in the winter will get more difficult and be more important during a stretch like that… the need for fresh water, dry bedding, nutritious feed… all increase with the cold because what used to be good enough to maintain health and relative comfort isn't good enough anymore. Chickens have it the hardest… especially those living in mobile coops. Those coops are fortified for winter but don’t compare to a solid building in terms of protection from that deep set cold. As long as you keep the bedding deep and dry the pigs do ok but spend very little time outside the confines of their warm house. The sheep and cows seem to actually like it, as long as the hay is plentiful and tasty.

 

A couple other important threads that ran though the year...

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In the fall of 2016 we were connected with a woman who was looking for some part-time work. Christine Hess has been here ever since and has brought life and energy and laughter to every shift. Anytime I need a laugh all I need to do is pull out my text history with Christine and I'll be smiling and laughing in no time. We are grateful for her hard work, attention to detail, and ability to communicate!! Yay!! So, if you ever pull in here and are met with a smiling face and the slightest of southern accents meet Christine, she can help with whatever it is you need.  

The Three Little Kittens: WIlma, Susie, and Lulu

We let the kids go late to school one day last May because our young cat Nemo began to have her kittens on the couch in the living room. Nemo was a May 2016 birthday gift to Joepye and happened to have a visit from the local Romeow before we could get her up to the spay clinic. She proved up to the task of mothering and we have enjoyed watching her bring these little kittens along.... All summer long we watched as the kittens played, explored, hunted, slept, and kept on growing. It has been a truly amazing part of the last 8 months. Take it from the dog guy, these are some special cats. Susie was given to Nana Beverly but we kept Lulu and Wilma here... they have grown into an amazing couple of barn cats. 

The Most Important Piece.....

Above all else we are clear that nothing would be accomplished or possible here without the support and patronage of all our customers. We take seriously our part of the bargain, to raise the best food possible using the best practices that will leave the land we farm in better shape than when we started. We strive to have what you need, to make it affordable, and to communicate in ways that make the whole process easy and even fun. You acknowledge our hard work, give us feedback, inquire about our family, and share our ups and downs...thank you for everything, we couldn't do it without you.