Last year Nextdoor.com put our a notice that they were having a contest in each category for neighborhood favorites. Thinking it would be good marketing for us, I put out a request to all of you to please vote for us. I had low expectations because we were up against the Raleigh Farmers Market, the biggest farmers market in North Carolina. But hey, you gotta try.
To my great honor, we won! We got a little sticker and a little letter from Nextdoor and we were listed on a page on their website that I could only find with the link they sent me. But hey, we won and now I can make some hay with that. I can do some marketing, maybe make a sign. Who knows what?
And then I got busy. The letter is on my desk. I need to make a sign, still. All these things were on the “to do” list but I never could get around to them. Marketing is being proactive, and I’m always working on the reactive stuff, like paying taxes, doing payroll, getting a cow to the processor, etc.
So fast forward a few weeks ago. Spork and I are working frantically to try to get the plane finished and I get a note from Nextdoor.
“Hey, great news, we are having our neighborhood favorite contest again. Make sure you do everything you can to get promoted.”
Ugh. I’ve barely eaten or slept. I don’t have time to even put the word out. I guess we’ll just have to miss the contest this year and I’ll try again next year.
Imagine my surprise when I received this in my email.
“It’s official – you’re a winner and neighbors love you! Only 1% of all businesses are voted as a Nextdoor Neighborhood Favorite, and Ninja Cow Farms is one of them!”
Last year I felt like I’d stuffed the ballot box and had my mom vote for me several times. Yes I only communicated it out to our normal mail list but we have a lot of folks on our mail list and they are all very kind to us.
This year, you guys pulled through for us WITHOUT me stuffing the box. That is so cool. AND somebody took our dinky little road sign so now I HAVE to get a new sign. Plus I have a NC voluntary ag district sign I need to put up. Plus they are holding something for me already at the sign shop. And lastly, I need to put Nextdoor.com neighborhood favorite 2018 AND 2019 on a sign! Looks like I need to get my but over to the sign shop and get something ordered.
Thank you everyone for voting for us. It means a lot.
Today was back to farming. Finally.
In March of 2018, Spork and I started a project to build an airplane together. As in, go fly around in it, airplane. This was a mom induced idea, something I give her the credit, and the blame for.
We worked on and off on it most months since March, but when Spork finished school in May, we started the final push to get the airplane done. By final push, I mean “playtime is over, we are working every minute of every day from now till we finish.” That averaged out to about 80 hours per week, each, for two months. Yes, that means I took the fun out of it. Sorry, sometimes things just need to get done.
What that has meant for the farm is that I’ve barely been here. And that usually was to run payroll, sleep, or eat. And eating was optional.
If you care about the airplane build, you can see it at FarmerFlier. If you don’t, what I can tell you is that I’m back. The plane has had its FAA inspection, and flown off the 40 hours of test flying. Yes I still have stuff to do to the plane, but at least it is a flyable contraption and I can work on it like a normal person. Say, 20 hours per week. As it concerns the farm, the end game is to operate it off of our pastures, allowing us to hopefully be able to give rides occasionally. Depending on a bunch of factors still to be determined. That is a topic for later.
Anyway, today was back to the good old farming routine. On Tuesdays I make my run to meet my other farmers and restock the store. This is a normal weekly trip that I maintained even during the crazy build schedule. Product has to get into the store somehow. Today was a relatively normal day. I had to meet two farmers, pick up 400 pounds of pork from the processor, and high tail it back for a lunch meeting prior to then unloading all the goodies from the trailer. All in all just a normal day with a few hundred miles of driving, except for the need to be back to Raleigh at a set time, no sweat.
We’d just fixed a bad wheel bearing on my truck, and rotated the tires, so I was looking forward to the truck finally driving correctly. It had been driving pretty badly for the past month or so. But there had been no time to work on it. I’d noted that the bad front tire was now the bad back tire, and on the way back from dropping off a hog yesterday at the processor, it was hopping a bit. This morning, it seemed to be hopping even more than I recalled so I stopped in for a quick splash of gas before I left town to check it one more time. The tire looked fine, and it had been giving me fits for months on the front end, so “Meh, must be ok.”
When I made it to the processor, I found that the tire was not, in fact, ok. It was, um, shredded. Actually, there were wisps of smoke coming off of it. Something about doing 75 mph on a tire in this condition. Oops.
Uh oh. Only 100 miles to go or so and I’m in Bailey, NC. I remember there being a tire shop of some variety. Maybe I can get a quick swap of a tire.
Nope. They weren’t open. And it appeared the building would fall in on itself at any minute, so not so much.
I met my farmer and picked up my pork, both events that added more weight to the tire pictured above. Not exactly optimal. Then I asked my contact at Bailey (Hi Brooke!) if she knew of a tire shop. Turns out she did, and she was my hero for the day. Pedro’s Tire Emporium or something like that. All I knew was I knew enough Spanish and had enough cash to get a tire swapped, if I could just make it there.
10 miles with the flashers on later, I pulled up and met Pedro. Turns out they had a bunch of used tires that were my size. I’d just wanted someone to swap for the spare I was carrying because that was faster than doing it myself. But they could swap a used tire faster than they could get the spare, and the price was right. So on went the used tire. I have to say, it was the first time I’ve ever bought a used tire but the situation dictated it and it got me on the road in about 20 minutes. With a quick run to my last stop, and pulling in as quickly as I could at my lunch meeting, I was able to still be there 8 minutes before I was scheduled to be.
Welcome back to farming.
Now what else will go wrong tomorrow?
Since I started working in the store, I have been bringing in duck eggs from my flock of Anconas. We fortunately have a dedicated following of customers looking for free-range duck eggs at a reasonable price ($8 dozen). The most frequent question is “what do they taste like?”
Short answer is ….like a chicken egg. Seriously though duck eggs are bigger, heavier and taste like an intense chicken egg. Duck eggs have a bigger yolk so they are higher both in fat and cholesterol. Ducks are typically foragers therefore their eggs are higher in protein as they eat all the bugs, snails, minnows, slugs they can find in my creeks/yard/garden beds. I’ve even seen them chasing each other on my property with a coveted frog or lizard. Nothing is funnier then seeing the winner waddle all over the property trying to keep their prize by swallowing it quickly. Secret though…..it’s usually a hen in the lead. If you are looking for a natural food with a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, then stop by and pick up a dozen.
“What can I do with duck eggs?” Short answer is…everything you can with a chicken egg. Pastry chefs love duck eggs when making cream or custard fillings. Bakers love duck eggs because the higher fat content in the yolks and higher protein in the whites make cakes, muffins, quick breads and other baked goods richer and fluffier. I use the eggs for all the bread baking, waffles, pancakes and even just scrambled. Using them in an omelette or egg salad is great, too!
I don’t really enjoy hard boiled egg yolks, so I won’t use them for pickled eggs or a plain hard boiled egg. But you must try smoked hard boiled eggs and salt cured yolks. The salt cured yolks are then shaved onto pasta dishes, salads are any place you would use a shredded cheese for added flavor. Delicious!
The picture above is my flock being herded by my sweet Teddy who’s a farm dog (English Shepherd). My standard flock consists of 9 hens and one drake. I currently have 16 duck eggs incubating as we will be butchering the extra drakes in a couple weeks. Cooked duck sounds like another post for another day.
We are open today from 2-6 and fully stocked with your beef, chicken and pork needs for the extended holiday. Come visit and check out some of our new products and as always we have raw cow and goat milk available.
Hope everyone has a great 4th of July Celebration and stay safe!
My youngest daughter is our kitchen queen. She loves baking and making things. This of course started by helping mom stir the pot, licking the spoon, etc. But over the past few years she’s progressed from mommies helper to a bit of a force in the kitchen.
She is very happy in the kitchen, happily working away, singing a song to herself. The only kid like whining you’ll hear from her is about the need to go get ingredients, and of course when it is time to clean up. She is only 10.
Of course, SWMBO has encouraged all this baking, sending her to baking camp as you see above. But also buying her ingredients and even going so far as to make her the defacto party prepper for most anything that we attend. Need cookies for a get together, cake for a special event? Yeah, throw some flour and sugar at the wee one and see what she comes up with.
Not everything is a masterpiece, she’s still learning. But with Youtube and online recipes as her guide, she’s producing some pretty awesome stuff.
So with these successes, I’ve gotten used to some sort of baking project ongoing at any point and time. They are as varied as whatever is on the internet and in the pantry. However some months ago, a new product started coming out of the kitchen. Slime.
I don’t mean the kind of slime we grew up with on TV. I mean more like a stress ball, silly puddy kind of slime.
“Daddy, do you wanna see my slime?”
“Uh, ok honey. That’s really nice.”
The first few times she was making it, I really didn’t pay much attention. It was just the project of the week. But she really enjoyed playing with it. And she kept making more. And more. And more.
And then her sister knocked over a 1 gallon bottle of glue ( a main ingredient in slime) in the bedroom. After the cleanup, mom declared, “That’s it! No more slime.”
So much for slime.
Then I walked into this.
Slime? Do people buy slime? Is it a thing? Does it have anything to do with farming? The work was already done, and this wasn’t leftover slime. She’d perfected her technique and had started making production slime for the store.
“It is ok to sell it daddy?” Big smile. Doe eyes.
“Uh, sure honey. Go for it.”
I figured it would collect some dust and that would be that. Then a mom with a little kid came in. The size kid that definitely couldn’t read. Did he want ice cream? Loco pops? Popcorn? Maybe just play in the kid’s corner? Nope, he had a crying fit because he wanted slime. Maybe she knows something I don’t.
So stop by and get your kids some slime. They do seem to love it and there is nothing in the product that will hurt them. Plus, it will make my daughter amazingly proud that something she made on her own has sold.
Whenever I give a tour, and I get to our bee hives, I always ask the group if they’ve ever been stung by a bee. Usually a lot of hands will go up. Then I ask, was it a wasp? A yellow jacket? A mud dauber? I mean, have you ever been stung by a honey bee? All the hands go down except for people who are bee keepers themselves, or who were running through clover barefoot and stepped on a honey bee by accident.
My point is that honey bees are really chill. They just want to collect their pollen and do their work. They don’t want to mess with you and we should cultivate bees, not be afraid of them.
The other day our bee keeper was here working the hives. I stopped by on the way to the barn to say hello and catch up. Spork was with me and we chatted for a few minutes. I don’t walk right up on her, but I don’t yell from across the yard either. As we were chatting, I heard a bee that was none too pleased. You can tell by the frequency of their wings what their mood is. It buzzed Spork, so we both immediately started walking away, not swatting at it. That is the best thing to do. As we got about 50 feet away, I saw the bee arc around Spork and then zap! Straight to my face where it stung me.
I commenced to cursing, not because it hurt, but because I was REALLY busy and didn’t have time for this. Spork picked the stinger out of my face and we went about our day, with my face swelling up and smarting. I put some baking soda on it as Jennifer recommended, and popped an antihistamine as I thought would be appropriate. It was definitely better than last time as I’ve been stung in the face before and I know it is going to swell. When we finally stopped to get something to eat, Spork took this picture of me.
Spork said I looked like the diet plan’s advertisement, with the pre diet and post diet on each side of my face. I thought that was pretty funny.
So I still say bees are very chill and you should respect them and help them whenever possible. Just don’t walk barefoot through clover, and don’t stand 10 feet from a bee keeper flapping your gums while she is working.
Just on the heels of our calf born on Thursday, we had a new calf born to one of our newer moms, #83. Another pretty little spring calf. This little girl should be here to stay as well, with a lifetime of being a mom herself.
As long as she behaves, that is. We do have some moms who haven’t been doing so well that will be culled next week. The younger moms especially seem to have the most trouble. But that is part of having cattle, sometimes they are excellent, and sometimes they struggle.
We’ve actually had a little lull in calves being born. You’d think all these moms who have babies in the winter would look towards the spring instead (yes I know they don’t choose).
It is a treat to have a little calf on the farm, all fresh and cute. This little boy will be staying here his entire life, Lord willing.
So last time, we had honey bees swarming on a low fence and my bee keeper was out of town. I heroically saved the day by sidling up to the bees and knocking them into a box. It was an amazing bit of bee work, standing there on the ground with my box. I could have gotten a paper cut. Very dangerous.
The Mrs. and I had a meeting with two different companies in Myrtle Beach, SC. We drove down midday, met the first people, grabbed dinner, slept, woke, met the second people, then drove home. It wasn’t the most relaxing trip, but that wouldn’t stop me from rubbing it in in the below exchange.
I’m sitting at a restaurant with the Mrs. We’ve just sat down when I receive the text from my neighbor with the picture of bee swarm. Like last time, I thank God that I have a bee keeper who takes such good care of us. But I’m wary, last time she was in Utah. Will she be there this time? Ahh, “I can be there in an hour.” Perfect, just what I wanted to hear, (Waitress! One more drink please.), especially since I’m three hours away at the moment. Then the next exchange happens a bit later, oh about one hour later when she arrives.
I am a bad person. Rather than just say no, I have to rub it in that I have a “tropical” view. I mean, she was in Utah when I needed her last time, right? So I owe her one. Plus it isn’t unusual that I’ll answer the “Are you around?” question with a picture rather than a statement. This is another answer I’ve sent to that inquiry.
A picture says a thousand words. Plus, I’m flying. I’m like…busy. I don’t have time to type out a whole message. Instead I have time to take a picture and forward it. Totally not the same thing. Stop looking at me like that.
So back to the bees. Apparently the lower branch, which was already 10 feet off the ground, wasn’t good enough for these overachieving bees. They’ve moved to another tree, and to a higher branch during the hour of transit time for Jennifer.
Normally what we’d do in that situation is fire up our bucket truck and put Jennifer way up in the air to get these bees. It would really be easy, as they are sitting just above the drive way. All I’d need to do is to walk over, crank the truck, drive about 100 feet, set the truck up and raise her right where she wanted to be. I mean, she’s terrified of heights, so there is that, but overall not a lot of work to be performed. Instead, the guys are gone and I’m sitting in South Carolina. Jennifer had to adapt and overcome.
To be honest, I don’t know how she did it. She’s on the largest A frame ladder we have, and she’s not even half way to these bees. Maybe she levitated using some bee magic? Girl magic? Bee girl magic? I don’t really know how any of that works, especially the girl part, but somehow she captured about 1/2 of the swarm, 30′ off the ground, with a 10′ ladder and a stick. She managed to get the half with the queen because the next day, all the bees had decided to move into her hastily provided bee hive and were merrily going about bee duties enjoying the spring weather.
These bees most likely came from our hives. That means that in the end, this is kind of like picking your kid up from jail. You are glad to have him back, but all you did was get your own troublemaker back in the house, with no small amount of trouble for yourself in the process. Capturing someone else’s swarm, now that is a net add to your bee population.
But rather than having to do a split, these bees have made their own split so we have added two new hives to the apiary the past few weeks. With the spring weather, they’ll all be pouring in the honey as fast as they can go.