It is a bit dusty in here

cropped hand sweeping dusty room(sound of sweeping, coughing)

Oh hey, this thing still works. Whaddya know?

Yes, we are still alive and kicking. Unfortunately tax season has been kicking my butt lately. It is easy to start some new endeavor, but every year this time all those chickens come home to roost when all the paperwork has to be collated and consolidated into the individual returns.

Harried CPA: “You paid the kids their slave wages? Oh, we need records of all that. No not those records, you entered them wrong. We need to redo all those entries in Quickbooks so it comes out correctly.”

Stressed out CPA: “You bought an airplane? With four partners? It costs less than a used car for one person to own, why did you bring in four partners? Sigh. Now we need an LLC and the K1s for the LLC. Oh, one of the partners used his guy for the LLC? A guy who doesn’t own a computer? Or apparently fill out K1s? Yeah, you’ll need to go down personally, twice, and get the K1s.”

Incredulous CPA: “You started ANOTHER business? Oh this one is with your wife? I’m sure that makes things easier. Ok, well that will need an entirely new structure. You know what, while you are at it, we may as well change the ownership of everything and restructure the entire organization. Your insurance agent has been talking about you needing to structure differently for a while. Might as well do it all at once. That means new surveys, new LLCs, lots of lawyer conversations. Yep, this may take a while.”

Kids dressed up standing around a table at speech and debate
Some of the kids from Speech and Debate

And don’t even talk about the Speech and Debate tournament that my kids were in, which required not only their participation,

Walking into speech and debate
Walking into speech and debate

but the participation of both parents, and all my friends I could wrangle (Hi Dustin and Ron!)

The girls after their play
The girls after their play

Or the play that my girls were in, which ate up two weeks of time. Speech and debate and then the play were back to back events.

Or that the littlest of my kids has decided that volleyball is her sport. Since volleyball was my sport till I got hurt, I’m pretty excited.

Or that crazy schedule we’ve made for Civil Air Patrol events we have for 2019.

We’ve already been to Seymour Johnson AFB. That is my daughter in the fire truck, trying to hit us with water from the water cannon.

The kids listening to the pilots talk on the ramp at Seymour
The kids listening to the pilots talk on the ramp at Seymour

We took three van loads of people to the base on the field trip, with borrowed vans I had to pick and take back to various cities.

We also man handled a wrecked airplane off of the runway at Johnston County Airport WHILE simultaneously teaching 20 cadets how to navigate with a compass.

Briefing the cadets for the Orientation flights
Briefing the cadets for the Orientation flights

Or conducting orientation flights for 15 cadets with borrowed airplanes from across the state. That took a bit of coordination.

So it turns out it is possible to be unemployed, and completely out of time every day, at the same time. My mornings, where I used to sit and write blog posts, have been occupied with the never ending stream of emails that I’m two days behind on answering. But today is a new day!

No, none of that stuff has gone away. I’m still crazy trying to get caught up. But at least today I was able to squeeze out one single post to let you fine folks know that we are still alive and kicking. I have lots of material for more farm related posts, including an adventure with the below.

Jessie with the new calf
Jessie with the new calf

so I’m going to try and get that story out.

And thanks to the hard work of Jeanette, Miguel, and Vicente, the farm is running as well as it ever has. In fact Jeanette just returned from the Flavors of Carolina show in Concord this week.

Flavors of Carolina event floor
Flavors of Carolina event floor

She came back with a list chock full of goodness. She’s already requested a new freezer for the store so we have room for the items she’s bringing in so be prepared for some new stuff items to compliment your beef, pork, and chicken.

2019 produce CSA signups are available!

There are still a few spots available for our 2019 CSA. This is a repost of our earlier post about signing up. Click here to sign up for the 2019 season.

We continue to have great success with our CSA program here at the farm. As a reminder, this is simply a pass through program where we connect you, our customers, with a small, local, produce farmer. We don’t charge anything for the program and you sign up directly.

But you pick up your produce here at the farm each week, allowing you to get your veggies, your fruit, and your beef, pork, chicken, etc all at one place and at one time.

CSA vegetable box
An actual CSA box from last year

This whole idea was requested by multiple customers, and Jennifer has retained about 90% of her customers from period to period, meaning that she has a very high satisfaction rate. Something echoed by the customers I’ve spoken to when they stop by.

In fact, because of the high retention rate, I’ve not really talked much about the CSA because there hasn’t been any room for new people. But in 2019 Chickadee has been able to grow some and has opened up some more spots to us. For all of you who support local agriculture, this is exactly what you hope. We work together, support a small farmer, and they see growth and success.

As a result, there are more spots for more supporters. A win-win. Sign up today to get your name on the list for 2019.

Godspeed Cotton

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that our livestock guardian dog, Cotton, passed away on Sunday.

Livestock guardian dog sounds like a pretty serious working dog, and Cotton was from serious working stock. I will never forget going to get her and seeing her father, silhouetted by an area light, watching us as we got out of the truck. I was so intimidated that I almost got back in the car. He was stock still, and looked as big as a cow. He was very intimidating. Now when I say I almost got back in the car, I have to tell this story.

When I first started working after college, I did field collections. That means I went to people’s jobs and houses to collect money. One day I went to catch a deadbeat who’d been ducking me over a $3500 bill. I pulled up in his driveway before the sun came up and blocked in his truck. I then went to the front door and rang the doorbell. The door opens several minutes later and it is his wife. Who sends his wife to the door a 0’dark early unaccompanied? I explained who I was and why I was there and the wife said she’d tell him.

Several minutes later the door opens and two very unhappy Dobermans come scampering out, most displeased to see me in their front yard. I was close enough to my truck that I could make it inside before the dogs made it to me. Instead, 30 minutes later when the object of my attention came strolling out assured I had fled, I had both dogs doing tricks. I’d named them, since nobody had bothered to introduce us. And I had them sitting, staying, and heeling. My debtor was VERY unhappy to see me still there and even more unhappy that I’d co-opted his attack dogs.

I’m not afraid of dogs.

So looking at this white grizzly bear of a dog, I almost got back in the truck and said adios. Instead I went to meet our breeder and we left with a white fluff ball of a puppy who was going to grow up and be this hard working, tough, livestock guardian dog. At least that was my plan.

Step 1. Put the dog out with the animals so it imprints on them as who it needs to guard.

Cotton on her first day at the farm
Cotton on her first day at the farm

Yeah right. As if the kids weren’t bad enough, SWMBO was all over the new puppy playing with her and doing everything but making her into a working dog. Or so I thought.

Cotton decided that of course she was still a working dog, and her flock was a group of strange looking, loud bipeds, that laughed and talked incessantly. My three kids were to be her job and she took it seriously.

Cotton posing with the kids when she was one.
Cotton posing with the kids when she was one

Cotton still patrolled the farm and made sure that no unwelcome guests were at the barn, or in the pastures. But her route started and ended wherever the kids were.

Cotton had an uncanny knack for being where you thought she wasn’t, and she was paying attention when you thought she sleeping. It didn’t matter where you were, you’d turn around and Cotton would be standing there, appearing from seemingly nowhere, fully aware of what you were doing and making sure she agreed with it. The best I could ever describe her was to compare her to this well known livestock guardian dog.

Sam the sheepdog and Wile E Coyote
Sam the sheepdog and Wile E Coyote

We had Cotton before we became a public farm giving tours to college and pre-school groups alike. We had a concern that Cotton would not take well to visitors, and they were well founded. Cotton did not like visitors at all and would make her displeasure known. If it was a man, alone, he was in a bind.

Cotton checking out a visiting kid
Cotton checking out a visiting kid

However if it was a van load of kids, a family, or basically anyone except for a male by himself, she was completely welcoming. She’d always show up to check on all of our guests, which was a big treat. A 150 lb fluffy white dog was always a hit with the kids.

Coton at work in the barn
Cotton at work in the barn

But if you were the wrong person, in the wrong place, Cotton would let you know that you needed to leave. She wasn’t vicious, or even that aggressive. What she would do was approach from the rear, and nip you right on the butt. Not a bite, but a pinch with just her front teeth. Once she had you nipped, she’d continue to circle you and nip, only on the butt, until you got back where you were, in her mind, supposed to be.

One night we had two large Rottweilers show up on the farm. Cotton found them about the same time we did. The dogs were a bit snarly, showing aggression. Cotton didn’t bark, charge, or do anything that aggressive. She just circled the dogs, and then nipped them on the butt. At first they tried to fight, but Cotton wouldn’t fight. She’d nip, then circle, then nip, then circle. After several minutes of this, the two Rottweilers decided that they’d had enough of this crazy dog that wouldn’t fight and wouldn’t run, and started running towards the perimeter fence. Cotton stayed right on their behinds with me yelling at her to stop. I was afraid she’d follow them off the farm.

Nope.

She followed them right to the fence, made sure they passed through, and then put her tail up and happily jogged back to the house like she didn’t have a care in the world. No anger, no tension, no aggression. Intruders sent packing, back to the house for a nap.

Cotton dolled up for summer
Cotton dolled up for summer

Despite her working nature, Cotton was of course treated like any pet owned by girls. She was dressed up, had ribbons in her hair, pulled and pawed at by 2 year olds, and never had a single issue. Wrong person, wrong place, you were in trouble. Grabby little toddler, she’d put up with it like the kid was her own puppy.

This summer Cotton tore her doggy equivalent of her ACL. She could hobble around on three legs but there wasn’t much she could do with the fourth. We let her convalesce in the garage this summer, which was air-conditioned. As fall came and went, we took her again to the vet to see if there was anything we could do.

Cotton in her last days, wearing a bathrobe that Myla had put on her
Cotton in her last days, wearing a bathrobe that Myla had put on her

While there was a surgery we could perform, we received the unfortunate news that Cotton had bone cancer in that same leg. She didn’t have long to live.

We brought Cotton home and began giving her medication to make her feel better. With the medication, she was almost like her old self. Patrolling, happy, and eager for attention. However Saturday she lost the use of her leg entirely. With her weight, she just wasn’t able to carry herself on three legs. Although she didn’t appear in pain, it was time to end things before she was.

Sunday morning the vet came to the farm and, surrounded by the kids that she’d protected her whole life, she laid down one last time. We buried her overlooking the house and the farm she’d always patrolled from her first day to her last.

Godspeed Cotton, you will be sorely missed.

Bella Cotton Moore
December 2012 – January 2019

Merry Christmas to me, Merry Christmas to me…

Boy loading hay with a tractor
Our old tractor, unloading hay in years past

Our old tractor is one that I repossessed against a bad debt from years ago. It had been ridden hard, and put up wet well before we ever got it. It was worn out before we ever laid eyes on it.

We went through it and got it running as best we could. Brakes, transmission, loader, all that stuff worked well. Lights, gauges, accessories. Eh, not so much. But it was our tractor and it did a great job, easily beating out the larger tractors and the smaller tractors that we have access to. I don’t know how many hours per year we put on it (remember the gauges don’t work?), but it runs every day, and does 95% of the jobs we do here.

Hog going into old time scalding tank
Hog going into the scalding tank

From lifting hogs into and out of the scald tank.

A pig being taken to the cooler
Heading towards the cooler
Pigs on a pig trailer
Pigs on the trailer, ready to be cross loaded onto the stock trailer

Loading pigs onto our hydraulic trailer to move to a new pen, or to load onto the livestock trailer

Cooking potatoes in our scald pot
Cooking potatoes in our scald pot

Cooking potatoes that one winter we ran out of food for the hogs.

Kids having a picnic in the pasture
The kids, having a picnic

Mowing the pastures to keep them manicured and healthy after the cows have grazed

Cutting the notch into the front of the tree
Cutting the notch into the front of the tree

Hauling out trees after we cut them down for firewood.

Tractor turned over and in a ditch
Tractor turned over and in a ditch

Even showing us we don’t want interns anymore. Our little tractor has done it all. But the tractor has one problem that we didn’t have a solution for.

About every 12-18 months, we had to put a new clutch in our tractor. We use it more like a forklift than like a farm tractor. Because of that, we are on and off the clutch constantly. And with that usage, comes wear. It costs about $2000-$2500 to put a clutch into the tractor that we had.

The back half of our tractor, with the clutch housing exposed.
The back half of our tractor, with the clutch housing exposed.

The tractor has to be broken in half to access the clutch and it usually takes about a week to get the job done. A week where we don’t have the tractor that we use DAILY.

With all this in mind, I set about getting a new tractor. I intended to get a used, hydrostatic tractor, meaning that it didn’t even have a clutch. But after much back and forth, I ended up with a new 5075M John Deere.

The new tractor, backing off of the delivery trailer in the rain
The new tractor, backing off of the delivery trailer in the rain

It has a hydraulic clutch instead of a dry clutch like our old tractor and it has a FNR switch like an industrial tractor instead of the full clutch and gear setup like our old one.

I didn’t want to spend the money. I didn’t want to go through the hassle, and I honestly didn’t want to see our tired old tractor leave because it has been good to us. But just in time for Christmas, our new tractor has shown up and it seems to be doing a good job. It meets all the modern emissions requirements and certainly has a few more bells and whistles than our old tractor. Only time will tell how it lives in our environment. I hope it is very well and for a long time.

 

Cookies, steaks, and everything else

Cookie bowl and implements
Just in time to lick the spoon

Today we are short staffed. Spork and the Princess have taken off with SWMBO to go to a practice tournament for public speaking. Yes there are tournaments for these things. No I had no idea.

So that leaves the wee one and I home alone to mind the store. This means I’ll be doing the tours today while my youngest daughter and Crystal will be running the store. That meant I was tasked with helping with the cookies this morning.

The last time I helped her with cookies, I had to explain teaspoon vs tablespoon and whatnot. This time I watched her flawlessly perform the steps, adding the wet and dry ingredients in the proper order, creaming the butter to the exact perfect consistency all while singing along with the music and only really paying attention to me to keep me from messing something up. 10 years old and a professional baker. But I guess she does have several years experience at this point so why am I surprised.

So we’ll have cookies in the store today, fresh baked as always. We also have new items like hot dogs and breakfast pork chops from a new processor. In fact, we have everything you could think of including steaks from the cow I just picked up. I’ve spent the past week doing nothing but driving. Dropping off a cow here, picking up bacon there. It has been nearly every day for the past 7 days of so. The freezers are stuffed to the gills with pork chops, bacon, steaks, hamburger, etc. Everything is here and ready for your new post Thanksgiving diet. You did finish the pie by now, right?

Beef is delayed

Despite several conversations about me coming today to pick up our latest cow, the processor was closed when I went this morning. So beef will be picked up now on Monday. My apologies. I wasn’t happy about it myself.

Closed today, open on Saturday with fresh beef

Closed sign

Just a quick reminder that we are closed today during our normal store hours of 2pm-6pm so that our employees can enjoy their post turkey day couch sitting.

I put on 2.8 lbs yesterday, so I’m certainly not making fun.

But with that new found jelly roll around my middle, I’m up early to go pick up a cow at the processor. This will fully restock us on beef meaning we’ll be ready to see you on small business Saturday. Plus the girls should have cookies this Saturday. Last weekend we were celebrating the wee one turning 10 so unlike last weekend when folks were disappointed at the lack of cookies(yes Dustin, I’m talking to you) expect her to be up and baking tomorrow morning with fresh cookies for the weekend.

Enjoy your Black Friday shopping today, but save a bit for dinner this weekend and stop and see us tomorrow.

Tuesdays are now our pickup/restock days

New welcome sign and store entrance sign

If you’ve been in our store one of the first things we point out is that not everything we carry comes from our farm. We are quite proud of the fact that we support other farms in our operation and we always share who everyone is that we do business with. This is actually unusual in our industry as a lot of people slip other peoples products into their offering and relabel it under their name. Even at the State Farmers Market this is allowed as long as it is less than 50% of the offering, if I recall the percentage correctly.

With all this “other” stuff in the store, there is a lot of meet and greet that goes on to meet these small scale farmers and exchange wares and checks. Jeanette spends a lot of her days off meeting people for crackers and whatnot. I don’t have the flexibility to meet on various days so what I do is try to make all my meets on the same day. My main pickups are to meet our chicken farmer, who I meet weekly, and to stop by our dairy operation and restock on milk and milk products. I can’t drive all the way to the other farm (it is an hour away!) for a few gallons of milk so going once per week and meeting other people on the same trip helps offset the gas and the time.

We had been meeting on Mondays, which worked out great because I could bring everything in before we opened on Monday. But then we had a scheduling conflict and now the pickup day has been moved to Tuesday. That works well because it takes the pressure off of me to be back before we open at 2pm, but it means now the new product shows up in the store on Wednesday. For those of you who want to be here when things are freshest or when you know we’ll be fully stocked, Wednesdays and Fridays are now your days.

We are continuing to process a cow once per month and pigs about once per month (not the same time of month) as well. I haven’t been posting when we receive a cow in like I used to. I’m going to try and remedy that so you have some visibility to when we have steaks in stock. In reality we’ve had a lot of our steaks pre-sold so I’ve been kinda lazy. But that is no excuse, plus we have an extra cow going this month so we’ll have extra stock coming shortly.

I just picked up three hogs worth of product so we do have the pork freezer stocked again. I’m sorry we got down so low, we had a series of problems that kept things from making it back to the freezer. But that is mostly behind us now (there is still a tractor issue, but that is getting resolved).

Holiday hours

Farmer holding runt pig at Christmas

At the request of several of our customers, and of course our employees, I’d like to post out holiday store hours for this upcoming holiday season.

Thanksgiving week we will be open the 19th and 21st. We will be closed Friday the 23rd and then open Saturday the 24th.

For Christmas we will be closed Christmas eve, December 24th. We will be open the 26th, 28th, and 29th as normal.

For New Years, we will be closed Monday December 31st, then open our normal hours going forward.

We look forward to seeing all of you on all of our other open days for your special order standing rib roasts, egg nog, turkeys, and whatever else you have ordered for those guests coming in from out of town.

We won the Next Door challenge!

Cow with a halo, Holy Cow
Holy Cow! I can’t believe that we won!

It isn’t like it was the mid-term election or anything. This was actually important! Top choice in the NextDoor.com local favoritesOur customers have voted us the number one activity and farmers market! Our competition was the State Farmer’s Market, amongst others. That truly is a David and Goliath competition. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us. I have absolutely no idea what to do with this information except feel warm inside on this cold, rainy day.

If you want to see the full recommendations list, you can click here.

marketing for dummies front cover

Looks like it is time to blow the dust off and read chapter 2.

Seriously though, thank you everyone for supporting us. We have ZERO dollars in advertising budget, we don’t go to farmers markets, have a stand by the road side, or heck even have a real sign telling you we are here, so things like this are huge for us.