Many years ago I did a few blog posts as the farm was starting up. I enjoyed sitting down and writing... I found it comforting. I found it to be a great release of energy to share some thoughts. What I wasn't able to find was the time ... the time to find a moment, on a regular basis to share some words and blog.
I still don't have time. Yet this past week has shown us how quickly things can change. Reflecting on the last handful of years I've been busy teaching at SUNY Cobleskill, a position that I like to say has "snowballed", yet together my family has grown this small farm in many ways. We've grown in animals and in acreage. We've grown our customer base, here at the farm, at farmer's markets and now we offer online shopping and shipping. The juggling act has been crazy with responsibilities....and then toss in the schedules of two growing boys....and I feel the constant excuse "there just isn't time."
Well last week that came to screeching halt. A virus that we don't quite understand has made us stop and re-think things...a lot of things. I now find myself not just teaching college students, but now trying to figure out how to teach my beloved hands-on-classes in an online format. I now find my two boys without a schedule and me pushing them to make sure they are finishing their online assignments, make sure Jacob is practicing his percussion instruments or just making sure they are simply reading. And the eating!! Ohh man do they eat!! Making full meals, so that we have leftovers each night and have been consistently going through one gallon of whole milk each day!! This eating also means dishes....but I'm not going to go down that negative road!
Yet in all this crazy-ness we find ourselves currently in, one thing that will never change is farming. All farmers, big or small, still have all the same daily chores to do. We still feed animals and milk cows every day, at least twice a day, virus or not. Your food will still make it to the shelves. Not one farmer will ever say "I'm bored."
As for us, are lambing now. Funny thing is I decided to lamb earlier this year due the insane schedule April brings me. Well here we are, almost done lambing, that wasn't too stressful after all - I had time, my boys were around - thanks to a virus. We are expecting our first round of meat chicks next week. The grass will green and grazing will be begin. Farming is consistent just like the seasons.
We are thankful to be able to supply our customers with quality meat and eggs at this time. We found ourselves flooded with people, looking for "real" food. Looking to connect with their farmers. We are grateful that our markets have stayed opened, we have hosted customers on our farm for pick up and we are shipping more than ever via our online store.
As we prepare for our busy season we still encourage you to fill out our traditional pre-order form. The one similar to what we have done for nine years! This form gives you the best prices and allows us to plan. We hope to see you at our regular markets. If you are at a distance we offer great shipping options. We also hope you will share our farm with others.
In the meanwhile, stay healthy and enjoy this unexpected quietness and peace, that has forced us all to take a step back and remember what is truly important.
I can't speak highly enough about this dog. He is literally our farm's guardian.
You see Buddy is what is referred to as a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). He lives as one with whatever livestock he is responsible for guarding at the time. While there are many breeds of LGD's, Buddy is an Italian Maremma - but yes he is often confused for the common LGD the Great Pyrenees.
Buddy came to us from working parents on a goat farm when he was 6months old. He was put right to work with the sheep.
It took us FOREVER to name this guy! I wanted something strong, vicious or furious sort of name - but in the end because he was declared the sheep's buddy - "Buddy" dog he became! And it is a perfect fit!
Buddy didn't have a whole lot of people skills - heck he still doesn't! But he loves his family and his job. I often remind people to just ignore him and let him come up to check you out when he's ready!
After two years of being strictly with the sheep, Buddy learned he could escape the high-tensile fence of the main pasture and it became impossible to keep him in once he learned "freedom." However Buddy quickly learned the property lines of the farm and literally there is a trail around our 28 acres patrolled by Buddy.
As air predators became a problem, Buddy was placed in the net fence with the poultry - in which he became worth his weight in gold!
The only predator issue we have had is when weasels have attacked inside our brooder barn. These smart, awful predators know that Buddy is not an indoor dog. Knock on wood, we have not had an issue like that so far this season!
Realizing that Buddy can not be all places at all times, we have decided to add a girlfriend to our farm....Daisy! More to come on this sweet girl in future blog! But we look forward to sharing Buddy's great LGD skills with a liter or two of offspring in a couple of years!
I love reading blogs. I do have great aspirations of writing creative blogs to share more of the farm activities and save memories for my boys. And then there is that time factor! You know that thing so many of us have so little of! But here I go - giving blogging another try with a get to know the farm critters series!
Let me introduce you "Brownie" an egg laying hen. Would you believe Brownie is the oldest critter here on the farm! Brownie joined us in the Spring of 2010. She is an backyard flock cross that we obtained from a local farm.
For those of you who know anything about chickens - a 4 year old hen should have headed to the stew pot years ago! Farmer Luke took Brownie under "his wing" and she has been a special girl ever since. On days of catching and processing stew hens, I always have to remind friends or interns helping me catch the chickens "not the little brown hen"!
I'm not sure if Brownie still lays eggs. We do see her in the nesting boxes quite frequently but she may just be smart enough to know how to fool us! Either way this lil' brown hen named "Brownie" has a forever home here on the farm and in the heart of Farmer Luke!
"A good life....one bad day." Funny, harsh, to the point, how ever you feel about the above statement. It is a true proud statement I refer to on my farm.
I strive for my livestock to live a quality life. All production livestock has a propose - MEAT. Those cute chicks could start here on my farm or in an overcrowded, ammonia filled barn with 20,000 other cute chicks. They never see the sun. They never see a blade grass. Their "end' is the same as the "end' for chickens on my farm. But I am proud to say that the 6-8 week life of a meat chicken here on Black Willow Pond Farm was indeed a good life.
Yes my chickens cost more then the big box stores. I can't compete with 99 cents per pound chicken. And that's ok, I don't try.
I won't feed the world with my small farm. I will however support a local mill for my grain and a local young, processor. Local small stores and amazing local restaurants will feature my chickens on their menus. I will participate in my community farmer's markets and festivals. My chickens will feed numerous families who care about their food and the welfare of the livestock used for meat. The box stores can't compete with that!
I also guarantee they taste amazing because they actually have taste! Ever wonder why the statement - "it tastes like chicken!" is so overused? Well think about it, because commercial chicken has no taste!
So as always a big thank you to my great customers! Enjoy great tasting chicken, raised with care and appreciation and yes the even cuddles of two small boys!
Farmer Luke assisted in this photo take! Convincing 4 week old chicks to pose isn't easy!
Well hello! See I knew keeping up with this diary would be a challenge! Taking the pictures is easy but writting the blog - well that requires sitting! So I'll combine the past couple of weeks so you can continue to see how fast these Cornish-Rock Chickens grow!
The picture above is the chicks at 4 weeks old a weighing in at a good 3 lbs or so. Below is the chicks making their move outside last week in the beautiful 70 degree weather onto green grasses.
You can almost hear them singing the theme song to
"The Jeffersons" - "Movin' on ....out!"
as we packed up and headed to the pasture!
My goal is to have meat chicks out to pasture by 4 weeks. The first group of the growing season is usually the lastest to make the move due to wet fields, fridged temperatures or yes even snow!
While this group was a week late getting outside the weather they have had as been great!
Can you hear the Destiny Child's song playing?
"I'm a survivor
I'm goin' make it
I will survive
Keep on survivin'
First it was frigid temps the chicks battled and then as the warmer spring air started to appear, so did a predator. A weasel to be exact. Last Friday was a devastating sight to walk into the brooder barn to the massacre of 54 chicks out of the group of 100.
But these things happen. Chickens are prey to just about everything. Its part of farming. The ups and downs come right along with the good and bad.
So here is couple pictures of our "Survivors" at 3 weeks old. As you can see they are changing so fast from the cute fuzzy chicks of a couple of weeks ago.
Their feathers are filling in. They are in the midst of their awkward phase. They are eating like crazy! And they are squirmy but inquisitive to look at themselves while I attempted to capture a photo!
Well the chicks are keeping me so busy I'm a day behind in my post.
Ok well it is probably not just the chicks!
I did take the picture on time - just didn't get the post up!
So here is our chicks at 2 weeks 1 day old.
This was a "big" week for the chicks. The cozy brooder hoops were removed and they now have the entire pen to roam around in. Its still very cold here so the chicks are still often huddled together under the heat lamps.
As you can see in just a couple of weeks the Cornish-Rock cross chickens grow and change very quickly. You will notice the feathers are coming in and they are loosing that cute fuzzy yellow chick color. And oh how their appetites have picked up! They are now eating between 25-30 pounds per day!
They also don't stand and pose well for the camera, so Farmer Jacob assisted me in this photo shoot.
Here we are at 1 week, 1 day old!
Growing and changing fast!
The severe low temperatures have been rough on this group. Current temperature this evening is 24! Brrr! And I don't even want to talk about the wind! In the chick's brooder hoop I am using 2 heat lamps and have covered part of it, in attempts to keep it warm and prevent the chicks from piling.
The 100 chicks are eating approximately 12 pounds of grain per day. This number will go up drastically over the next few weeks.
The first group of 100 Cornish-Rock meat chickens arrived! I thought it would be fun to share their growth with you.
I am fortunate to live about 25 miles from a local, small hatchery, allowing me to pick the chicks up within hours of their hatch. This helps to limit the stress of shipping the chicks in the mail. It does make for quite the noisy ride home! Non-stop loud peep, peep, peep!
Once we get them home, they are quickly put into our brooder barn area. Heat lamps are provided with the ideal temperature of 95 degrees. The boys and I take time to introduce the chicks to water and many of them take right to the dishes of grain to try out their scratching abilities!
The Cornish-Rock crosses grow amazingly fast! They require high protein and a balance of vitamins and minerals to keep up with their fast growth.
So don't blink! Hope you enjoy!
This is my 3 year old son. This is my 3 year old son after 10 minutes playing outside while I was doing chores in the barn and 20 minutes before we were suppose to leave for a church event....any questions?
Welcome to mud season in Upstate NY! It is still extremely cold but the sun comes out just enough to create the stickiest mud you have ever seen! My washer hates it! Carhartt's and snow pants are covered in it almost daily.
My hardwood floors hate it (ok maybe that's me) as our couch dog (opps I mean Cattledog) Lucy leaves her footprints everywhere!
Yes, I'll admit, overall I detest mud season! But my boys.....they love it! And I love the fact that spring and the beautiful green pasture season will be (should be!) right around the corner! So from all of us here at Black Willow Pond Farm, we wish you a very "HAPPY MUD SEASON"
Carrie grew up on a small dairy farm in downstate New York. After attending Morrisville State College and Cornell University, she continued her passion for agriculture in careers as a herd manager on a large dairy and working for Cornell Cooperative Extension. A handful of years living in North Carolina and working for NC State exposed Carrie to southern agriculture and beach life! A leap of faith has brought the family back to rural upstate New York, where Carrie now "practices what she preached" in small, sustainable agriculture production, along with now raising two small boys in a farm family tradition.