Surprise turkeys are available

Looks like we have four turkeys available in the store after yesterday’s madness. There is a 10 lb, and 11 lb, and a 24 pound, and a 27 lb fresh, never frozen turkey in our fridge in the store. They are first come, first serve today.

Thanksgiving turkey.

I know what you are thinking, “But farmer Dan, you said that all the turkeys were sold already. I called you a week ago and you told me no.”

Yep, you are right. I’m at a loss myself. One of the turkeys is an orphan. The person who ordered it changed her mind and isn’t coming to get it. It happens sometimes.

Two of the turkeys showed up from our farmer not part of our count. I don’t know if someone is missing some turkeys elsewhere, or two extra got on the truck when she wasn’t looking.

The final turkey? I don’t know where it came from. Maybe they are breeding in the cooler? Who knows? Anyway, we are open normal hours today, 2-6pm. And the turkeys are first come, first serve. Whatever we don’t sell, we’ll put in the freezer and have for Christmas dinner at farmer Dan’s house. Mmm, turkey sandwiches.

Standing rib roasts are available to order

Rib roast, cooked perfectly
Standing rib roast

With family coming in this year, a lot of people will be looking to get a standing rib roast. We have availability for a few of them and Jeanette is taking orders now. Deposits will be required and pickup will depend on when the next cow is picked up so you’ll have to coordinate with Jeanette on the schedule.

To reserve a rib roast, call the store during store hours and put down a deposit, or better yet, stop by and put down a deposit. Pricing is the same as our ribeye pricing which currently is $25.00 per pound. But in the world we are living in, that price is subject to change at any moment. But once you put your deposit down, it won’t change for you.

2021 Holiday hours

Jeanette just reminded me that I haven’t even talked about holiday hours. So here are the days we’ll be closed this year.

November 25th and 26th we will be closed for Thanksgiving.

December 24, 25th, and 31st we will be closed for Christmas.

January 1st we will be closed for New Years

Turkey update

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

Question 1. Can I still order a turkey?

No. They are all sold out.

Question 2. Do you know where I can still order a turkey?

No. I don’t know anyone else. Maybe look at Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. They publish a list of people selling turkeys each year. Maybe someone on that list still has some.

Question 3. Do you know when I can pick up my turkey?

Yes, I was just copied on an email between Jeanette and our turkey farmer. We are going to have turkeys onsite between 2-6pm on Tuesday, 23 November.

Question 4. Why didn’t I get a call letting me know my turkey was available?

Because it hasn’t happened yet. But it is happening now. Calls are going down the list. I figured I’d put this out there for those that are wondering about their turkey and let them know what I know which again just happened.

Question 5. A turkey followed me home and I don’t want two turkeys. Can I cancel my order?

Sure. Anything is cancellable. We are keeping your deposit. And we probably won’t take your order next year. Harsh? Yeah, probably. But we could sell triple the turkeys we get easily, and we really do a ton of work for little gain on the turkeys. Changing up last minute is sort of the straw that breaks the camels back.

Question 6. My mother in law just informed me that she’s bringing 5 extra people to Thanksgiving. Argh! I hate that woman. (Not MY mother in law of course, she’s a sweetie. I vacation with her, on purpose. This is your mother in law we are talking about. Don’t go transferring your internal family issues to me.) Anyway, can I get an extra turkey if you have one?

See question 1 and 2. We can put you on a waiting list as that question 5 person does pop up occasionally but Jeanette usually has a list of people looking for a turkey. Doesn’t hurt to ask though.

Question 7. I missed ordering my turkey this year. How soon should I put in my order next year. I don’t want to get left out again.

We usually get permission to post turkeys are available somewhere in August/September. Depends on when our turkey farmer has a handle on what her production will look like. One year a hurricane killed a bunch of the birds. It isn’t easy to get these birds ready on weight and on time. I suggest you have your order in by mid October to be safe. After that, it really just depends on how fast they sell. We do post here on the website when turkey orders are available. So subscribe to the website notifications to know what is going on.

Question 8. Can I send my husband by to pick up the turkey. I’m going to be (insert one of the dozens of places moms have to be every day) that day/time.

Just speaking from experience, you may want to call and pre-pay. Husbands generally have no clue how much a turkey costs and may not react well. Although if you are the question 6 person, maybe you want to send him so he can understand what his mom is putting you through.

Question 9. Can you keep my turkey till Wednesday? I won’t be able to swing by and get it on Tuesday.

Do you mind if it is frozen? We stuff refrigerated product in every nook and cranny making room for turkeys. We have limited fridge space, but pretty good freezer space. We will try to get it in the fridge for you, but we cannot promise what will happen as we are confined by our space available. We’ll do our best though.

We are now just a cattle farm

So apparently when you post a new article, you are supposed to hit the “publish” button. Today, Monday, I realize that I never hit publish on Sunday. So the ending of this post is a day off. The rest, well “timeless” gives it too much credit. “Meaningless” is probably more appropriate for my ramblings.

No pictures to accompany this post. I was too busy to take photos of anything I was doing that would look half way decent. The past few weeks has been a whirlwind. We’ve hauled off multiple trailer loads of cattle, and multiple trailer loads of pigs. This past Friday, I took the final load of seven pigs to the market.

I left before the sun came up, which of course makes it challenging to hook up the trailer first thing in the morning. Bonking my head on stuff. Missing the ball by 1/2″ too far because I can’t see in the dark and having to start all over again. But eventually I got it all hooked up and off I went, pigs in tow. I arrived at the market before their help had arrived since I needed to be in Fayetteville for a meeting at 9:30. Usually when I take cattle to this market, it is a line of people getting in, and a fairly robust system for offloading cattle with lots of help, gates, pens, etc.

For unloading the pigs, you go WAY over there to the other end of the building. That is where Larry, Laurence, Len? I don’t know his name. I think it started with an L. I call him, “My meth head friend.” He is there.

Sometimes.

By himself.

WAY away from everyone else.

It looks, and feels, like purgatory.

My experience with Mr Meth is that today isn’t a good day. Probably the worst day ever. I know what you are thinking. That can’t be true, because just last week when I was there, THAT was his worst day ever. But that day paled in comparison to today. He’s kind of a cross between Keith Flint of Prodigy

And Popeye the sailer man.

But not the happy Popeye in this video. The one who is cursing under his breath the entire time. I’m guessing the meth supply in Siler City as is challenged as the rest of our nations supply chain and that is the reason for his displeasure. Dunno.

Despite the rough morning Mr Meth was having, we were able to eventually get my pigs unloaded in record time. The previous record being over an hour for 12 pigs, so it wasn’t much of a challenge.

These were our only remaining pigs, the rest having been processed and put back in the freezers for future store needs. That is until we switch over to our new pig farmer who we’ll use going forward once our pork runs out. When I pulled away with my now empty trailer, we were no longer in the pig production business.

We’ve been in the pig business for years now. Hauling, sorting, and feeding tens of millions of pounds of produce. I need to go count up all the produce we hauled but that is for another day. For now, I have 15 cows who need hay occasionally and NOTHING ELSE to feed on the farm for the first time in years. I’m going to go to church this morning, have my breakfast, and then go fly some cadets this afternoon. It is going to be a good first day not feeding pigs.

This is the end (singing the song in my head)

Of the raw milking season for 2021. Not the farm. And not raw milk going forward. Despite Jeanette warning me, in writing no less! I completely forgot that this was our last pickup for 2021. I mean, we are drying off in November. And it is still October. That is next month! Which also happens to be next week, for those of you who are calendar challenged, like I apparently am.

So when I got to our dairy farm for our weekly pickup, it was with surprise sadness that I realized that I wouldn’t be back next week. After Tamryn told me, you don’t think I actually realized anything on my own, did you? Duh.

We do have lamb there. And pork. So I’ll be back. Just not on my normal weekly trip.

The last full milk delivery of 2021

Despite my being sad, the timing actually worked out. I’d say most people know I volunteer for the Civil Air Patrol as a pilot. It keeps my flying sharp, and lets me do so for no cost to me (other than time). We have a week long mission coming up starting the first week in November and I’d already overcommitted myself to that week, flying five days out of six so making my normal rounds was already going to be a stretch. So I’m glad we aren’t doing a milk pickup next week but I’ll miss visiting with our dairy farm operator when I’m there each week. Sometimes I don’t see her at all as she’s farming. But sometimes we hang out for an hour and chat. It is fun and great to catch up.

But the good news is we’ll be back to milking in January or February (depending on birth dates for our new little ones) and we’ll be back to raw milk and the herd share. What that means to everyone who buys raw milk is, this week is your last week. After that, we don’t have any. None saved. None frozen. None hidden in the secret farmer’s share.

It also means that the signup list for being in the herd share is defunct and when the season starts next year, you’ll need to buy in again for a new year. Jeanette has been telling new people that for months now, not letting them buy in since it is almost over. So none of this should be a surprise, but all this is NC law, not something we cooked up ourselves. We only charge the cost of one gallon of milk for membership so it isn’t like it is a big expense but it catches some people flat footed sometimes so I wanted to get it out there.

Eggnog snuck in the door

For some eagle eyed regulars you may have noticed some oddly shaped bottles in with all the rest of the milk in that first picture. Christy noted they had eggnog in the coolers when she was picking up our Simply Natural dairy order and grabbed us a few. We spend every holiday season with eggnog on backorder as they can never keep it in stock well enough to keep up with demand. After my drop off, I was leaving the store, headed to SC, and only my laziness (I didn’t want to pack a cooler) kept me from grabbing the eggnog and bringing it with me. So there are 3 sitting in the cooler waiting on whomever is quickest. If you miss getting these three, then tell Jeanette or True or Jasper or Myla (whoever is working the store that day) to put your name on the order list so we can order it in and hold it for you.

Back to my headline, for those of you not old enough to remember The Doors (like my kids, should they ever actually read something I wrote), here is the song I was hearing in my head during this entire post.

Expanded hours coming to the store

As part of the changes we are making here at the farm, we are making some changes to our store hours and adding staff. First the quick summary. We are adding Thursdays, 2pm-6pm onto our open hours starting November 4th 2021. This will give folks another chance to get by the store during the week and be a little more “normal” in our days vs the hit and miss schedule we currently have.

We spent some time debating dates, hours, staffing, etc. Our original thought was to go back to what we used to do, which was being open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then Saturday. But then I remembered that Monday didn’t work because of the way we restock.

Milk for one week
This is the most milk I’ve ever brought back at once. And we’ll still run out.

I drive on Tuesdays to go pick up produce from our other farmers, and also to our dairy farm to pick up raw milk. For the regulars, they know that Wednesday is the first day where the store is restocked so they pour in on Wednesday to get their fresh product (especially true with dairy), with Friday being the backup day if Wednesday doesn’t work. Saturday is a different crowd, usually in for different reasons than our weekly regulars crowd. Adding Monday would put us open at the last day before restock, the worst day to stop in. But by adding Thursday, now people will know that we are open the last 1/2 of the week. Restock on Tuesday, open Wednesday through Friday 2-6pm and then Saturday at 9am till 1pm. Then closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. It makes our schedule a little less lumpy and hard to remember and gives people the best chance to stop by and get what they need when we most likely have it.

We looked at hours as well while we were making changes. While there is always a need for later store hours so people can avoid the 5 o’clock rush hour, experience has shown that after 6pm we don’t see much traffic as people are getting home and getting dinner going for their families. And more pertinent for our operation, WE are getting home and getting dinner going for our families. So with that restriction, we have chosen to keep our hours the same. There is always a thought to being open longer, but the reality is, we are not Wal Mart and never want to be.

So in summary, starting November 4th, we will be open:

Wednesday 2pm-6pm
Thursday 2pm-6pm
Friday 2pm-6pm
Saturday 9am-1pm.

The great escape

“Ring, ring ring…”Hello?

“Hey, it’s Skippy (yep, that’s his real name) over here at the golf course. Your cows are out and roaming around the golf course.”

I was sitting in my shop, talking to my neighbor Dustin. We were remarking, just at that very moment, about how nice of a day it was. 6:30pm, a pleasantly milder day with low humidity, and I’d progressed from doing the things I desperately needed to do to doing something I actually wanted to do. Not the things I should do, I wasn’t that caught up. But those things could wait till tomorrow. It was a good day. But of course, that is when the phone rang.

I mentioned in my previous post that my neighbors cows had gotten out. Just an off hand comment and one I didn’t elaborate on in the 1000 word drivel I’d already burdened you with. But I can’t let that story go untold.

When your farm is already named after a cow that escaped and lived on the lam for two months, you take a call about your cows being out seriously. Since I was already at the barn, I walked outside and looked across the fields.

Cows in a pasture
Stock photo from the archives. I wasn’t smart enough to take any pics

There, as majestic and serene as you could hope for, grazed my cows in the late afternoon sun right where they were supposed to be.

I called the golf course back.

“Hello.”

“Hey, it’s Dan with Ninja Cow Farm. I’m looking at my cows in my pasture. Are you sure there are cows out?”

“Well there are cows standing outside your fence trying to get in. And three just took off down #1 running down the fairway.”

“Yeah, but I see my cows. They are in my pasture. Are you sure they are mine?”

“Of course they are yours. They are black.”

Sigh. Thats just racist. Cowist? I don’t know. It showed a lack of understanding.

I grabbed Dustin to get on the Gator and go get the mystery cows, with a theory as to who they belonged to. Then I remembered that the Gator was still chained down on a trailer because I hadn’t unloaded it yet. Unloading the Gator was on the list of things I should have done but not on the list of things I had to do so there it sat. Not to worry, my Jeep was sitting right there. It is just a Gator with a license plate.

Did I mention I love my Jeep

So we drove around the farm and over to the golf course. When we arrived, we saw a group of 10 cows who were happily munching on grass on the forbidden side of my fence. They were calm, in a group, not causing trouble, and most importantly, not mine! Thank God!

I called my neighbor Percy, because he has cows. You may remember Percy, he’s the neighbor where the Ninja Cow spent her final moments. Percy said he’d be over in a few minutes so Dustin and I sat in the Jeep, enjoying the cool air, the setting sun, and watching not-my-cows to make sure they didn’t get into mischief, which of course they decided to do.

Cows, when they graze, are constantly moving forward looking for that next bite of grass. While we were waiting for Percy, the cows were making their way down the fence line. I didn’t want them to make it to the end of the fence because that would put them into an area of the golf course where I didn’t want to drive the Jeep, and where they may disappear into the woods. How to stop them?

My cows, being the good and well behaved cows that they are, decided to come and assist. When they noticed fellow cows outside the fence, they were SUPER interested. Think kids on the last day of school before summer as the bell rings. There was much running and frolicking as they made friends. This lasted for a few minutes, but then the truly free range interlopers started grazing again and headed toward the corner, and end of the fence line, and trouble.

I surmised that if we could get the cows turned around, maybe we could open the new gate we’d installed for exactly this purpose and they might just walk into our pasture. It was worth a try. I pulled around in my Jeep, and pulled up the lead cow.

Now picture this, We are sitting in my Jeep, doors off and roof off. I have no shoes on, I’m still wearing my shop apron, and I have my foot out in the official Jeep driving position of one foot on the peg outside the door.

Girl with her foot on a footpeg red Jeep
It looked just like this, except my dress wasn’t white.

In my best experienced cattle wrangler farmer voice I say mildly, “Shoo cows. Go back that way” while waving my hand vaguely in the direction I wanted them to go. It was the single laziest bit of cow herding I’d ever done sitting there the drivers seat. The cows looked at me and wondered, almost aloud, “Who is this idiot and why is he between us and all that grass?”

It took a couple more lazy attempts to turn them around, none of which involved altering my position in the least. But turn they did and they started working their way back along the fence towards the gate.

Once they were well established in the direction I wanted them, I pulled past them again, to the gate, and asked my neighbor to hop out and open the gate. Once it was opened, we pulled back to watch what happened. The cows slowly worked their way along the fence till they got to the gate. After a brief pause where we held our breath, they turned and walked right into the pasture. Dustin snicked the gate closed behind them and we waited for Percy while I congratulated Dustin on his first felony as a cattle rustler.

Not his first felony, period mind you. He is my friend, felonies just sort of happen when we do stuff. Just his first cattle related felony. He was proud, since one of his ancestors was hung for horse thievery so he felt like he was carrying on the family name.

Eventually Percy pulled up and I explained that I had his cows. Well most of them at least. Three were last seen running down the fairway by the golf course people. But I had most of them. We spent an hour or so, till dark, getting the rest of his cows back to his place and the next day Miguel, Vicente and I loaded up his cows, which were now intermingled with my cows, onto my trailer and delivered back to him.

Since Percy had helped me when the Ninja Cow escaped, I felt like I’d paid him back. It feels good to be even finally.

Big changes coming at the farm

We have a number of fundamental changes coming to the farm. Nearly all are on the production side rather than the retail side that you see. But as always, we are transparent with what we do and want to share not only what, but why.

As I’ve written about in the past, Miguel is leaving my full time employment to go back to the construction industry. His brother Vicente will be transitioning back to the farm part time, but with 1/2 the labor we’ve had in the past, we have to make adjustments on the farm to match production to labor. That means we need to either cut production itself, or cut back on the amount of labor we are spending for the production we need.

Step one was to look for a pig farmer I could work with that produces a quality product that our customers (and the Mrs!) will be happy with.

A regular load of produce, leaving the market
A regular load of produce, leaving the market

Pigs, and the produce they consume, are about 80% of the labor on our farm. Cows are a vacation comparatively. We handled, at our peak of production, about 9 million pounds of produce on the farm, and all its associated waste streams. Cardboard, totes, boxes, plastic, etc.

Today we are loafing comparatively, handling about 2 million pounds of produce a year. But that 2 million is still a massive undertaking for a small farm. We are fortunate that we’ve finally found a hog farmer who feeds produce to his pigs, and does it full time as his primary business. We’ll have more information about that farmer as we move forward, but we’ve already received our first test hog from him and all expectations are that going forward we will be exiting the pork business in favor of supporting another local farmer through our operation very similar to what we do with our chicken and turkey and lamb.

For anyone who just HAS TO HAVE our pork, I’d say we’ll have our own pork through the end of the year at least. And then we’ll be moving to our new farmer starting next year. The good thing about this move for you is that he will sell us cuts as well as whole hogs. That should mean that we have things like tenderloin in all the time. Our long time customers know we are always out of something because there are four feet on a hog, but only two tenderloins. Guess which one sells out first.

So that is the summary for the pigs. Over the next month or two we will be getting out of the pig business while simultaneously increasing our pork stock in the store. That will cut out a LOT of road miles, fuel, and hours sorting produce and feeding hogs, and about 80% of our daily labor.

Enough about pigs, what about the cows?

The cows have been here as long as I have. Longer actually as the people we bought the farm from in 1980 also had cattle. The cows have always been a big part of our tours. I can’t tell you how many people have been slobbered on, giggling hysterically the whole time, while feeding the cows. Our cows, especially our momma cows, are a huge part of the tour. But out #1 tour guide, Spork, isn’t a little kid giving tours anymore.

Spork helping the piglets stay warm and latch on.
Spork helping the piglets stay warm and latch on.

Spork isn’t the little kid you see above any longer. He’s nearly an adult.

Spork and the Princess on their last day at the POD
Spork and the Princess on their last day at the POD

At 6’2″ and about 180 pounds, he’s grown into quite the man. He’s attending college classes already, and is applying to full time college as I write this with plans to move away and get his own place. All the while continuing to take flight lessons on the path to an aviation career as a pilot.

Spork taking Grandma for her first ride

We stopped doing tours during COVID, and with our tour guide moving away to college soon, we simply didn’t restart them. The exception is large groups, which I handle personally.

So what does that mean to the cows? It means we need to clean up our production on cattle as well. We intensively manage our grass, and graze 50 cattle year round. That is a very tight amount of cattle for the grass we have. This farm should optimally have about half that many. Also, we produce our own calves, which means we have to be in the pasture daily, banding and tagging calves whenever they are born.

Our most recent bull on his first day

It also means we have a 2200 lb bull wandering around keeping the moms in babies. That bull eats enough for two cows, and requires swapping for a new bull every couple of years. When we are doing tours, the cute little calves and super friendly moms make for a great tour. But it is terribly inefficient to have cows, bulls, calves, finish cows, yearlings. Basically one of every kind of animal. For the number of animals we finish every year, we could have 15 finish cattle on the ground and get all we need. That would keep us in grass forever and cut our hay budget by 2/3.

The final key element is that my neighbor has agreed to sell me cattle each spring. This all started when his cows escaped and ended up in my pasture during their adventure. Possession being 9/10 of the law, we got to talking about me getting some of his cows. So now we are going to be purchasing cattle in the spring that are already a year old. We can keep them here the next 12-18 months, eating all the grass they can stand. We can also switch from daily paddock moves to weekly. Basically less labor and the same production and product.

That means we have to say goodbye to almost all of our moms and all the calves. We’ll keep two of our oldest cows. They are the herd leaders and will help keep the new cows in line in the spring, showing them the ropes. They also have sentimental value as they’ve been the queens of the herd for years. But everyone else is leaving unless they are one of our cows slated for finishing.

The end result is we should have considerably less day to day animal/feed work and time to complete maintenance and building projects that are never ending on the farm. All the while we should have better inventory in the store for the items that you need when you stop by. I hope this is a win for you. The first morning I’m not out there feeding in the snow, I know it will be a win for me.

Thanksgiving turkeys available for pre-order now

Once again I am reposting the previous years post. The only change is pricing has been updated for 2021. Now they are $8.50 per lb. Considering my house doubled in value and I can’t find a used car, that’s not too bad.

We again have not changed the process for our heritage breed Thanksgiving turkeys (all that info is at the bottom of the post). Nor have we changed SWMBO’s love affair with our turkeys.

As we did last year, we are taking deposits on turkeys for Thanksgiving. These turkeys will again be coming from our chicken farmer, Brittany Ridge Farms.

There really was no question on us getting turkeys again this year. Not because you lovely people ordered all we could get plus some. No, because SWMBO fell in LOVE with her turkey. I’ve given that lady vacations, jewelry, romantic dinners, a vacuum cleaner and even a blender. NONE of them (still kinda sad about the blender) elicited as good of a response as the turkey I brought her last year from Brittany Ridge. She was EXCITED beyond all reason (now you understand why I married her).

Last year, after Thanksgiving, I  found out that Christy had one turkey left in the cooler. After having just consumed a 23lb bird, SWMBO sent me back for the remaining bird and then asked if there was another one left after it was gone.

What can I say, the girl likes her some turkey.

Carving the Thanksgiving turkey with David Spohn
Carving the bird with my brother-in-law David. And of course sampling along the way.

The turkeys are the same as before. Heritage breed. No GMO feed. Pasture raised. No anti-biotics. The turkeys are delivered fresh and chilled having never been frozen. 15-20 pounds is the target but they are the size they end up. Fair warning. Three years ago they were big. The last two years they were on target.

Thanksgiving turkey.
The before shot of our turkey….Ok, it’s a Google image. I forgot to take a picture of before.

I don’t know how many Christy will let me have this time, but I’m sure we’ll sell all we can get. Heck SWMBO might buy half the allotment. We’ll be taking deposits from now till when Christy cuts us off. It’ll be first come, first serve. Deposits are $40 payable in the store. The price per pound will be $8.50 per pound.