Prime rib/standing rib roasts available for pre-order

With people stressing that we are already out of turkeys, I need to warn you about another pre-order you should be thinking about. We always receive requests for prime rib/standing rib roasts for Christmas. We’ve already had someone order 1/2 of a cows total and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.

To put that in perspective. We have two cows available between now and Christmas. That means 25% of all the prime rib roasts are already spoken for and that was one person. He had a big order but you get the idea.

Prime rib pre-orders are just like turkeys. You can either come in store and place a deposit of $40 for your roast, or you can call the store on Wednesday, talk to Jeanette, and place a deposit via telephone. Until we have a deposit, you do not have an order.

When you do call for your order, you need to have an idea in mind for your size of roast. This would be in number of pounds. For a family, you’ll be looking around a 5-6 pound roast usually.

Fo those that don’t know, a prime rib is simply the bone in ribeye not cut into steaks so for everyone else who isn’t getting a prime rib roast, know that there won’t be any ribeye steaks until January’s cow returns. This is normal this time of year so it shouldn’t be a surprise to everyone.

Fresh turkey pickup information (Monday 23 November 2-6pm)

I think we set a record for the number of fresh turkeys we sold this year. It is going to be a busy process getting them all to you, and we are limited on space so it is important that everyone is able to meet on time.

The star of our meal, our Brittany Ridge Farms fresh turkey

I will be meeting our turkey farmer Monday, 23 November and picking up our turkeys. I will be returning to the store where we will stuff the turkeys in every refrigerated space we own. We will be opening the store at 2pm for pickups and we are requesting that you pick up your turkey on Monday between 2pm and 6pm. If you want to grab anything else while you are here that is fine but PLEASE come and get your turkeys Monday the 23rd.

We are sold out of fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving

Apologies to all the folks who are asking about them, but our chicken/turkey farmer has informed us that ALL the turkeys are spoken for at this time. Last I looked at the list it was a LONG list, so don’t find yourself thinking, “Well, why don’t they just raise more turkeys?!” They did. And we still sold out.

I’ve had the follow up question of “When do you normally sell out of turkeys each year?” So I’ll answer that as well. Normally you want to get your order in before the 1st of November to be sure you are on the list.

Thank you to everyone for your support of our annual fresh turkeys. I always wish we had as many as everyone wants.

Building a new barn on the farm

So this project has been several years in the making. I actually started looking at buildings in 2016 and finally was able to purchase a used metal building out of a guys field near Virginia. By used, I mean it had been erected for 20 years, then torn down, moved to this guy’s field, then it had sat in pieces for another 10 years or so where I found it, with trees growing out of it. Now it has been moved to my field, where it has sat for another year. At least no trees have started growing through it yet.

Normally I don’t like things to sit like this, but the area where we want to put the building has some issues. The biggest one being that it sits too low, and is therefor susceptible to water intrusion. “But Farmer Dan,” you say, “A barn with a concrete floor wouldn’t matter about a little bit of water. You are storing hardy farm stuff like tractors and, um, concrete blocks, and I’m, I don’t know… farm stuff.”

Alas, you’d be correct if we were only storing tractors. But in this case, we are storing stuff that cannot be wet. Things like a bunch of my machining tools from our metal shop. Those things are not only heavy and expensive, but they really enjoy rusting. It is their favorite activity. So I keep them as far away from water as a ring bearing Labrador that is supposed to walk cutely down the aisle in his little tux at the wedding, but no. The fool girl insisted on both having the dog involved AND having her outdoor wedding in a park with a pond. What was she thinking?!…..

Um, anyway. So water is bad, even for a barn. The easiest thing to do is to bring in dirt to raise the level of the building pad. This not only gets our feet out of the water, it also raises the barn up to a more level position with the pasture, meaning we aren’t sliding downhill into the barn or having to be winched out of the barn when things are wet/muddy/snowy/etc. A win-win.

The good news is we have lots of job sites ongoing around us so all we need is a contractor who needs to get rid of some dirt to hook up with us and we can take his dirt. He gets it off his jobsite, and we get it for free. So I started that process and found a guy in Garner needing dirt gone. Perfect. He hauled about 5 truck loads of dirt in March 2020 and then all the dirt magically disappeared off his job. Ugh.

So we set out again.

We had several false starts till a job on Old Stage happened not a mile from us. Perfect! The contractor said not only could we have the dirt, but he’d come and build the pad for us too, no charge. Woo hoo! Now we are talking! Just give him a few weeks.

And some more weeks.

And some more weeks.

And a few months.

Finally I said what if I came and got the dirt and built the pad myself? “Yeah, ok, that works.” So I arranged trucking, loading, etc.

And then a hurricane hit the day we were to haul.

So we took a few weeks off and planned for the next time.

And then a hurricane hit the day we were to haul. Yes you read that twice. No it was not a mistake.

And then another contractor called. He had dirt for days and he’d haul it. And he’d start ASAP! Except instead of 2-3 trucks, he was going to send 15 trucks at once! Argghh!! We don’t have the equipment to handle that much dirt that quickly. I called my friends at James River to get a bull dozer as quickly as possible and they came through with something from my past, a genuine John Deere 550K dozer.

John Deere 550k dozer on truck
A little slice of my former life

Man it was like coming home getting in the seat of that dozer. I’ve run every model of dozer they’ve made since the 80s.

This was several weeks ago and against all odds, the dirt began to actually arrive. I honestly didn’t believe it till the trucks were done hauling on the first day.

dump trucks dumping in the dark
Early morning dump trucks
Two trucks at once
Two trucks at once

We started at 6am. The road we were using was barely above grade. It was an old road that was here when we moved here in 1980. We’ve never really used it or maintained it. We did go in and fix it up a bit with some drainage last year in anticipation of this but its height above the surrounding area, and associated water would be akin to walking along the beach just above the water line. Sure, you’re above the waves, but not by much.

Road looking a little rough
Or little road, after we’d already improved it some but far from being ready for what we were doing
fog and cows at the farm
Early morning fog and cows

The cows were completely unimpressed with all the work we were doing. Multiple dump trucks. Tractors zipping hither and yon. Yelling, both good natured and urgent (ask Miguel about the yellow jackets), the munched merrily away as if this was just another day.

Unfortunately our promised 15 trucks per day has never materialized. We’ve been averaging about 5-6 per day running, which equates to about 25-35 loads per day delivered. That means that instead of having this dirt hauled in and being done in a few days, we are on week two of running a dozer, roller, backhoe, etc.

Also, since we are able to get the dirt for free, and the equipment is all already here, I figure lets get all that we can while we can. So we have one to two more weeks of hauling before we are done.

Sunrise on the dozer
Sunrise on the dozer

Part of the reason I keep hauling dirt is because I remember being Spork’s age and we were building something like this. Dad, normally busy at work, would instead be running a dozer, directing trucks, directing employees, and generally being the head honcho he always was. But instead of a coat and tie, he was in his work clothes, outside in the sunshine, moving dirt. You see before he was an equipment dealer, he was a contractor for 18 years. Sitting in the seat of a dozer was like coming home to him. No phone calls, no meetings, no TPS reports. Just move dirt and get the job done. He was happy. I, as the head gopher in sight, had the unenviable task of running to get this, or relaying this message to that person. Being a stupid teenager, I’d rather have been doing anything else. But I could see the joy in him when he was running equipment. Now, here I sit not much younger than he was then, in the seat of a dozer on this same farm, moving dirt to get us on grade. I think about him a lot as I sit there unable to hear my cell phone ringing and I too am happy. Yeah, keep the dirt coming, I can make the time.

Stuck truck turning around
Stuck truck turning around

Of course it isn’t all peaches and cream sitting in the seat. We’ve had our share of problems. One morning the first three of four trucks got stuck. Not because we hadn’t prepared our road, but because the grass was so slick they couldn’t get traction, even unloaded, to turn around. Miguel and Vicente had to pull every one up and around to send them back outbound.

The fourth truck?

Truck being towed after breaking down
Truck being towed after breaking down

Oh he broke down as soon as he arrived. Brakes locked up. And an oil line popped off the engine and started leaking oil. At least he didn’t get stuck! I mean he would have, but he broke down before he had the chance, so we had that going for us.

So after hauling dirt for two weeks, nearly every day and definitely all day, we’ve counted 147 trucks in and out of here. That is 1,617 yards of dirt, approximately. What does that look like?

Building pad nearly done
Our building pad, nearly completed

The sloping grass is the original land grade. The building pad is the orange clay flat thingy (sorry for all the technical terms). This is only a portion of the dirt. Probably 20 -25 loads of the dirt went to build up the road where it was the roughest, so that we could keep hauling.

building pad height
The height of pad. I’m 6’5″ tall and this is me looking at the pad from my eye level

So you can see that the pad it actually almost 7′ tall at its tallest point. Now it would take rappelling gear to get up the face of this pad, so our next steps are to build out the slopes on three sides to shallow the grade and make it usable by both man and machine. That will take another 20-30 loads at least, 50 would be better. Then we’ll take another 20 loads onto our road to build it up nice and solid. After that, we should be done(ish).

Pushing steaming chips with a bulldozer
Since the dozer is here…

I mean, I do enjoy running a dozer, and our chip pile was getting out of hand. So may as well push 1000 yards of wood chips and reshape those for the future too, right? What would normally take all day with the backhoe I knocked out in about an hour with the dozer. We’d been piling chips in a level pile, with very steep slopes just down from the barn. That worked great for making a flat place to store our hay for this winter, but didn’t work so well in the overall plan. Plus it made for one heck of a drop off that was sorta dangerous. I mean you’d fall in a big fluffy pile of chips so that was ok, but if you were in a vehicle or tractor, there would be a few bounces on the way down. Now we have a more sloped mound with access from both sides.

There is no substitute for having the right piece of equipment and the bulldozers ability to, well, doze, was leaps and shoulders better than the backhoe. A backhoe is kind of like a Swiss Army knife. It does a lot of things, but none of them exceptionally well. In fact, I’m wondering if we don’t need a dozer full time around here. It sure is a handy thing to have….

Blading the chip road, putting some crown in it
Blading the chip road, putting some crown in it

Like I’ve always wanted to dress up our chip road better than it is usually kept. We just can’t grade the road like I would like. We dump new chips here or there, and dress them out with the skid steer or backhoe but basically we are just flattening them out, not shaping the road into the grade we’d like. One morning I had to go get fuel from the barn so I took the chip road to walk the machine over to the fuel pump. Hmm, wouldn’t take much to drop the blade and fix this road on the way there and back.

Two quick passes with the dozer and the road was as smooth as silk. I wonder how I can talk SWMBO into letting my buy a bulldozer….

A winch, a snatch block, and a chainsaw walk into a bar…

Not every day on a farm is fuzzy new born calves and slopping the hogs. There is a lot that goes into maintaining a property this size, even more if you are actively farming it. Things like maintaining roads, fixing barns, cleaning behind hogs and prepping hog pens for winter all have to happen routinely.

Another thing that happens with hogs is wherever we put them in the woods, they trees die within a few years. This isn’t a problem as we have 1/2 of our farm covered in trees and we have areas we’d actually like to clear. So a “simple” solution is to put hogs in the area where you don’t want trees any longer. Once the trees die, you move the hogs, cut down the trees, and split them for firewood. Since we heat with wood in both the house and the shop, we always have a need for more firewood.

Of course, cutting down trees isn’t always a simple process. Sometimes the tree is a bit too close to the power lines. Or sometimes instead of leaning towards the wide open pasture which is RIGHT THERE, it is leaning towards the barn you’d really like to keep in one piece. When the trees are moderately straight forward, Miguel fells them with no muss, no fuss. But when he’s gonna have to explain to the Jefe why there is no power, or we need a new roof, and maybe a new wall on a building, he calls me to cut them down.

Now I’m no logger, but I did work in the logging industry for most of my career. Not logging myself, but selling and maintaining equipment for the loggers. I had a lot of opportunity to attend training put on for the loggers, so I at least have some training.

And I grew up on this very same farm. A farm that about every 7-10 years gets hit by a hurricane. When you live in the middle of the woods, and a hurricane comes through, you learn how to run a chainsaw pretty quickly.

This is some video Miguel took from the truck while winching the trees to make them fall in the direction we wanted. Having a digger derrick on the farm for this kind of work certainly makes things a lot easier, and safer.

Not our digger derrick. Ours is cooler than this one, but I’m too lazy to walk to the barn and take a picture.

We used our huge hydraulic winch and a snatch block to get this huge pine tree to lean away from the barn instead of towards it. Of course we also had to thread the needle between some existing trees, not all of which we missed. But the small trees weren’t the ones we were worried about so no harm, no foul. All the trees that day were ones that were challenging for one reason or another. All were already dead so the danger of falling limbs was also a constant threat.

The last tree to fall in the video above is one that was in a wet area, surrounded by older trees that had fallen around it. It was slippery and a pain. And it was last so I tried to pop it over with wedges instead of using the winch and a chain. After hammering for all I was worth, the tree just sat there laughing at me. Miguel was kind enough to hook up the winch for me while I ran the controls for once. It looks simple, but it is actually pretty technical and mighty dangerous.

Six trees down, about 100 to go. Just another day of farming.

Cow hugging? This is a thing?

So I stumbled across an article about the worldwide phenomenon of cow hugging. I’ve heard of tree hugging. Cow hugging, not so much. I mean, I’ve hugged a cow. It was trying to kill me at the time so I don’t recall it being especially therapeutic but hey, what do I know?

For those of you who want to know how this cow hugging thing works, here you go.

Lamb is in

Today I finally made it to the processor to pick up our first two lamb from our young farmers, The Boondocks Farm, here in town. Before when we were able to get lamb in, it came from a different farmer and they pretty much sent us what they wanted. That meant we didn’t get the whole animal, just the cuts they were willing to send us.

For these lamb, I actually picked the lamb up at the farm, delivered them to the processor myself, and now picked them up. So we are getting the whole animal and we are writing the cut sheet. I dropped these lamb off weeks ago but I just couldn’t get to the processor to pick them up when I wanted. It takes about 3 hours to make the total trip so I can’t just pop over during lunch.

Unlike the 700 pound yield on a cow, a trip for lamb is a much smaller haul. That’s nice for the farmer who has to load it all in the trailer, and nice for Jeanette who has to unload it all.

Not as nice for all of our hungry customers who buy us out of product so quickly!

But we brought home about 85 pounds of lamb, all cut and packaged just the way we like it. Jeanette will have it in the store ready for tomorrow and of course letting everyone with a pre-order know that their order is in.

I’m also picking up our latest cow Friday so we will be restocking on beef again this week. That is with beef still being in good supply in the store so we are finally catching our breath on beef.

Virtual tour tomorrow

With COVID we have shut down our normal tour schedule but in partnership with People 1st tourism and NC State we’ve been conducting virtual tours of the farm. I just received the link for the signup for the virtual tour we have planned for tomorrow morning. You can signup for a tour here.

The tour cost is $5 so compared to our normal $20 it is a deal. Our last one proved to be well received so hopefully this one will be even better.

Our long running NC State project is live and viewable

I can’t even remember when we started working with NC State and People 1st tourism. It has been quite some time. Over the past years we’ve had several occasions when film crews would come out, sometimes with groups of students, sometimes on their own. They were filming “for their classroom” students I was told. I didn’t really understand what they would use these films for in the classroom but hey, if it helps NC State I’m game.

Then COVID happened and the world changed. Suddenly a filmed project took on special meaning. Once we could get the final shots with all the safety protocols in place, the folks at State were able to put their final project together.

I still can’t say I fully understand how they’ll use this in their lesson plans, but somehow lil’ ol’ Ninja Cow Farm will be part of NC State’s curriculum going forward. Heck, who knows, maybe my kids will take a class some day on the farm they grew up on.

The professor was kind enough to share their site with me so I could share it with all of you. So without further ado, here is the project they put together for their students, and for your enjoyment.