Help wanted

We are looking for a farmer who raises pastured pork that would be interested in selling to us for our store. But Farmer Dan, you ask, you already raise pigs. Why would you want a farmer to do what you are already doing?

The answer is pretty simple. I have two guys who work for me full time. One mainly works on the farm, one works mainly off the farm. Both are awesome guys and have been with me for years. All the way through our opening of our store and all the shenanigans we’ve been through going from one freezer with some occasional beef to the full farm store we have in place now.

Aww man, Miguel leaving means no more carnitas!

One of my guys, the one who works on the farm mostly, is going to be leaving us this year. It is amicable. We always knew he’d go back to construction at some point and the time has come. So now I have two businesses and one guy to work on both. That is doable, but not under our current structure. We need, as they say in aviation, to “load shed” some of the work we do around here.

Our latest house under SERIOUS remodel. We basically rebuilt the entire thing from the foundation up

That means no more big remodels of houses or commercial buildings that we self perform (that is what our off farm guy does). That also means we need to think about how we manage our animals in a way that is more efficient. The cows I can manage with about 20 minutes a day. Not counting loading and unloading of cows to go to the processor.

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

The pigs, they require hours every day. Not the pigs themselves, but the literal tons of produce that we have to go get, handle, sort, deliver, and clean up. Produce and pigs are enough to keep one guy fairly busy. Now that isn’t technically true. I could put out corn feeders, and buy corn, and the pigs would be pretty self sufficient. Or I could pasture them, and change our grazing practices, needing new techniques, new equipment, etc. And they would still need a decent amount of work. Not counting the times they escape if we don’t have our fencing perfect.

Or I could simply partner with another farmer who is already producing quality pork, handing him a steady customer who always pays his bills. There is a bit of risk in bringing in a partner, because when they have production issues, you can’t affect their production yourself to solve it, like you would if it was your own production. You also have to rely on them to take care of you when others come calling. Sometimes they do, sometimes they sell your product to the other buyer to .10 more per lb. and say “Sorry, I’m out right now.”

But we’ve always believed in partnering in our store, and promoting those partnerships. Unlike a lot of people in our industry who relabel someone else’s product as their own and sell it to unaware customers. We think being open and honest is what brings people to us and more importantly keeps them coming to us. We celebrate the partners we work with, not hide the fact.

Being a farmer, I know what to look for in animal production. I know how to judge practices and people. I can be our customers eyes and ears, looking for the signs of slipping in a bit of corn, or not taking care of the animals properly. And I can pick a good farmer who does good work, pay him/her a fair price, and bring pork into the store for both your families and mine. I already do it with many other farmers, so this is just one more.

That will let us get by with two businesses and one guy to cover them both. Farm in the morning, work on houses in the afternoon. On heavy farming days, no houses get worked on. On heavy repair/remodel days, I need to cover the farm for my guy, or I need to go hold the dumb end of the tape measure, or help lift the long and heavy board. Not optimal personally, but doable for a business.

To make all this work, I need a good pork farmer, who has good practices, and is willing to work with us. It would preferably be someone located in the Eastern or central part of NC as we don’t have any current relationships in the Western part of NC. What that means is, I don’t want to drive all over Eastern NC picking up products as I do now, and then have to backtrack 3 hours to go West. I’ve already reached out to two connections who might be able to work with us. If you know of a farmer you would recommend, send them my way at dan@ninjacowfarm.com and I’ll see if they could be an option.

That is a lot of miles

The problem with scampering off on a trip with the boy is that the work fairy doesn’t visit while I’m gone. That means that all the pickups and drop offs that I do weekly didn’t happen, except for the raw milk from our dairy farm. Thanks Vicente for making that run for me.

So when I got home, the first thing I noticed was my family asking me, “When is there going to be milk in the store?” Apparently dry cereal isn’t to their liking and they were quick to let me know I’d failed as a father and as a farmer. “Tuesday Sweetie. You can survive.”

Then Jeanette informed me that we had beef to pick up at B&B Organic.

Plus I needed to meet Christy to get milk and chicken and ice cream.

And I needed to go to our dairy farm and pick up our raw milk.

And the processor had our cow ready for pickup, which is an hour in the opposite direction.

And we need to get ready to take hogs next week to the processor.

And I needed to go to Oxford, pickup a trailer, and drop it off in Johnston County.

And I had multiple meetings, over multiple days, in multiple counties.

And it all had to be done on Tuesday and Wednesday.

My truck has a full fuel range of about 450 miles. Between Tuesday and Wednesday I ran most of two tanks of fuel through it. That was a butt flattening, mind numbing number of miles. But I did just start the audio book of Frank Herbert’s Dune in anticipation of

So I had that to entertain me while I was driving. I’ve never actually read the book so it was enjoyable to get started in that distraction while I drove all over Eastern North Carolina picking up food and products for the store.

BUT! Now Jeanette says we don’t need to get anything else in the store because she’s OUT OF ROOM! Woo hoo! My work here is done and I can do things like laundry, and sleeping. Oh, and putting out a blog post, because I am a bad farmer and haven’t posted anything in oh, about forever.

So, gentle readers, know that the store is FULL of pork and beef, and all the pre-orders have been filled with product left over for the freezers. We are mostly stocked on chicken (except for the things backordered) and all the associated goodies that go along with our proteins are fully stocked.

Chicken is supposed to be processed this week so hopefully we’ll fill our back orders on those missing items and we can all celebrate a return to school with healthy dinners.

smoked wahoo and mango salsa
North Carolina wahoo, caught by yours truly, smoked in our smoker by my darling Mrs.

For now, I’m going to have some smoked wahoo that the Mrs was kind enough to make for lunch today. When 95% of your meals come from your store, it is a treat to eat something you caught yourself rather than raised yourself every once in a while.

Sometimes, I’m not farming

Last week Spork and I spent the week in Oshkosh, WI. Spork wants to be a pilot and the airshow at Oshkosh was the best place to see a bunch of aviation colleges all at once. Plus, with a current pilot and a future pilot together, the worlds largest general aviation airshow wasn’t the worst place to spend the week.

Farmer Dan and son flying to Oshkosh, WI
Spork, in his typical copilot role. Dead asleep.

I know this is a farming blog, but for a pilot flying into Oshkosh is a pretty epic trip, something every pilot should do at least once. For Spork and I, it was our second time doing it. The first time was after we’d completed building an airplane ourselves. This time it was Mr Piper’s airplane, and all of our camping gear.

Camping gear for Oshkosh
Did I say camping? I meant glamping.

With a generator for power, a refrigerator for our food, a hot plate for cooking, a kettle for tea, a tent with not one, but two porches, I’d say we qualified for glamping. Farmer Dan don’t camp.

Embry-Riddle booth at Oshkosh
Embry-Riddle’s tent at Oshkosh

The reason SWMBO gave us a note to disappear for a week was we were looking at colleges. Most of the major universities with flight programs present at Oshkosh so it is relatively easy to go see them all at one location. It isn’t the same as being on campus, but it was a good first step to start narrowing down the choices.

Camping under the wing with the Piper Lance
Our glamping site at Oshkosh

You can stay lots of places during the airshow. I’ve only stayed “under the wing” as it is called. Obviously we cannot fit under our wing but sleeping in a field, beside the runway, and 10,000 of your closest aviation friends, is a pretty cool way to spend some time. Being awakened each morning by a flight of P-51s or T-6 Texans is a pretty unique way to get up in the morning. They should package that sound and turn it into a pilots alarm clock.

Spork asleep at Oshkosh in the tent
Teenagers can sleep anywhere

Unless you are a teenage boy I guess. He slept right through the flights starting about 6am. Let me tell you, four fighters taking off 100 yards from you is LOUD. He snored right through it each morning. It is a mystical ability that I guess I had somewhere along the way but I sure don’t remember it.

This is just a quick peek at Fighter Town at Oshkosh. You could spend a day just walking through all of these.

Spork flying the crosswind trainer

It wasn’t all fighters and airshows. There is a lot of training opportunities at Oshkosh. From simulator sessions with flight instructors to information sessions on any topic you can think of, there were a lot of hours for both of us spent improving our skills and knowledge. Although mom was not impressed with any topic besides colleges.

Text conversation with SWMBO about colleges

She’s a task master, that one.

Bad thunderstorm at Oshkosh

We had a spot of bother with the weather. When we looked at the forecast, it was sunny and warm the entire week. Then early in the week, we were awakened to broadcasts of “take shelter!” It was 1:30am so we hunkered down in our tent and watched the storms shown above pass over us. They were completely unforcast.

Then later in the week, there was talk of 50mph winds and storms tonight. Then it was 75mph! Then finally it was 100mph and tornadoes! They evacuated the campgrounds, which about 250 people out of the thousands there took advantage of. The rest of us stayed in our tents and rode it out. There was quite a lightning show, the likes of which I’ve never seen. But the winds were benign so after loosing a few hours of sleep, we were back at it again the next day.

Farmer Dan with JAARS helio courier
Jungle Aviation And Radio Service = JAARS

We (Civil Air Patrol) are participating in a fund raiser for JAARS at Cox Airfield in Apex the last weekend of this month. So we stopped by to say hello to their folks and talk about the upcoming event. They are giving rides to the public as a fund raiser. The rides are in their helicopters and this super cool Helio Courier. I’ll post info about it when I get a copy of the brochure. It was very popular last time in 2019 when we supported it and it is for a very good cause.

EAA oshkosh show center boeing plaza
Show center at Oshkosh, looking into Boeing plaza.

This was the longest I’ve ever stayed at an airshow and by the end I was ready to go home. Even though we’d never once actually sat on the flight line and watched the actual airshow. Nor had we visited 1/3 of the vendors or really gone deep into any one vendor. There is just too much to see.

On the way up, I was letting Spork get used to using the iPad and Foreflight for navigation and traffic avoidance. When we needed to make a fuel stop, I asked him to find us a place. He picked something near Chicago and I said, “No, that will be expensive. Find us someplace more rural. The fuel and taxes both will be cheaper.”

So he picked KMCX in Indiana which looked fine. When I land, the first place I visit is the bathroom because I am not fuel or endurance limited. I’m bladder limited. I walked in and found this taped on the wall.

Do not spit tobacco juice in the urinal
More rural indeed. Nice job Spork

In the very nice building we found a nice lady, who for some reason had a table with a mostly completed puzzle on it. Spork immediately went over, said hello, and started casually working on the puzzle. When it came time to go home, I joked about where we’d stop heading back. Did he want to go finish his puzzle?

Spork, working on the puzzle while I fuel, clean, preflight, and everything else.

Spork wasn’t joking. His mother CANNOT leave a puzzle undone. Apparently Spork has that disease as well. He worked on the puzzle from the time we landed till I pulled him away to continue home. He calculated that he finished about 1% of the puzzle between his two stops.

So why do I post all this on our farm blog? Because Jeanette said she’d shoot me if I didn’t get something posted. ANYTHING! Just do your stupid job Farmer Dan. I haven’t been actually farming the past few weeks. I’ve been college shopping and traveling so here you go. Plus airplanes are cool, so maybe you guys will enjoy seeing a bit of what goes on in that world. I promise an actual farming post after this one.

We have hummus!

Day 1 of having hummus in the store

Jeanette, “I brought in a bunch of new products. Bison, venison, elk, hummus…..”

Farmer Dan (internal dialogue) I sorta stopped listening at hummus. I don’t know what else she said. I LOVE hummus.

Farmer Dan to Jeanette, after an unexplained pause while he wasn’t listening, “Oh good. I like hummus.”

Jeanette, looks confused since he didn’t comment on the 17 other new items she was talking about.

End scene

Day 3 of having hummus in the store

Darling Wifey, “Hey! Did you know Jeanette brought hummus in the store?”

Farmer Dan, “Yeah, I heard something about that (discretely looks for crumbs on his shirt)

Darling Wifey, “I grabbed some. Let’s have it for lunch.”

Farmer Dan, “Sounds good. I’ll grab some cheese to go with it.”

Couple happily munches away at the kitchen table, discussing the day.

End scene

Day 4 of having hummus in the store

Darling Wifey, “Did you know there are two kinds of hummus in the store? Let’s try the other kind….”

Day 5 of having hummus in the store

Darling Wifey, “Ugh, WHY did Jeanette bring hummus in? I’m going to gain 20 pounds on this stuff!”

Farmer Dan, “Crunch, crunch. (Said while busily stuffing crackers and hummus in his mouth) Mmm hmm. I agree. Terrible idea. But don’t tell her. It’ll hurt her feelings.”

Epilogue

So there is a lot less hummus in the store now. And it is declining every day. Especially if the wife isn’t supervising Farmer Dan. Not to worry though, I’m sure Jeanette will be ordering some more soon.

Oysters are at the farm

No, we aren’t farming oysters. Although that would be cool. But I’d have to move to the coast. I mean, I like the coast. Ahh, living at the coast, with the salt air…

This is what I’m picturing in my head
This is more like reality for an oyster farmer

Yeah, I’ll stay here on the farm I think.

So the next best thing to living at the beach is bringing the beach to us. Jeanette has ordered some oysters from NC Seafood, the same people we’ve been getting our wonderful scallops and shrimp from.

Have I mentioned I like oysters? A lot.

I have my pictures searchable by topic/subject matter. That makes it easier to find a picture when I need one. Like if I need a cute cow, I just search for cute.

Betsy and her calf
And viola a choice of cuteness just pops up

Since I took a picture of the oysters when they came in, it will be easy to find that picture and complete this post.

Except all the pictures that come up look like this.

Me, with a stupid grin, sitting somewhere most likely by the water, with a big tray of oysters on the 1/2 shell. I can’t find the picture I took of just oysters, frozen in the store and ready for sale. I have too much to do to walk over, take a pic, then walk back, upload it, and post it. (translation – I’m lazy) so I’m inserting this lovely picture carefully curated from the internet google search.

They look just like this. But different.

They are fresh oysters from NC and the surrounding waters (think Virginia). And they are on the 1/2 shell ready to thaw and eat, or thaw and cook, if you are a monster who ruins an oyster by cooking it. If you are, don’t worry. I won’t judge you. While you are still here.

Just kidding.

However you like your oysters served, we are just pleased to have them available for you to compliment our other seafood offerings.

Ask Jeanette about the oysters when you stop in next time. Especially since hamburger is still on sale for 15% off so it is a good time to visit.

Hamburger is on sale

I don’t know how long this will last, but Jeanette informs me she needs some room in the freezers and she wants to move some hamburger out of her way. So from now until she tells me to stop, hamburger is on sale for 15% off of retail.

This does not include ground chuck or hamburger premade patties.

Use that gas your fought for this week to come and get some beefy goodness to stock your freezer for hamburger season which is around the corner.

Time for a new bull

Every few years we have to swap bulls on the farm. Now for those of you who might not know why.

No not you, I know you know about the birds and the bees. I mean the other people.

So the way it works is when a momma cow and a daddy cow love each other very much, sometimes they make a baby cow and it is a wonderful blessing and they are a family.

Then as the years go by, the baby cow gets older. If the baby is a boy, that isn’t a problem because when he’s born, we cut, um… We fix him so he stays a boy and doesn’t become a daddy himself.

If it is a girl cow, we can’t keep her from becoming a mommy and the daddy cow, he, um. Well.

Ok look. Don’t let your kids read this unless you are ready for some conversations I can’t help you with.

Eventually the females get old enough they start looking good to the bull. Even if that bull is the same bull. So every few years, we need to either sell off our younger cows so they don’t breed or swap bulls so we don’t have bulls breeding their daughters. It was time for us to swap and luckily we had a neighbor who needed to get rid of a bull himself.

Our big boy first arrived in the pasture

Luckily Bryan the neighbor had an older bull that was perfect for what we need. A registered Hereford bull who had already spent time at several farms and had even gone to college at NC State. Actually I think this is the first time we’ve had a college educated bull. Hmm, that should definitely go into his name. Maybe a character from Real Genius, which is a family favorite movie. Chris Knight was the main character. Nah. Chris the bull is boring. Actually I guess the movie centers around Mitch. Mitch the bull could work. But we have a Mitch moving onto the farm next month to rent a house. That would be confusing. Or Lazlo was a good name. The crazy guy who lives in the closet. Hmm, Lazlo the bull. That might work. I like it. (Pending approval by the women of the house)

Anyway, a key criteria we look for in a bull is calmness. I don’t need 2500 lbs of twitchy anger, spreading that attitude to the rest of the herd. I want a gentle giant who is a big pushover. Lazlo certainly delivered in that regard. It took me three times as long to back the trailer up to the pen than it did to load him. Bryan just got in with him and walked him up onto the trailer like he was going to Sunday church.

When we got home, Lazlo just stepped off the trailer and strolled into the pasture like he’d been here before. No excitement, no quickness to his steps. Chill would be the one word I’d use to describe him.

The ladies, who’d been without a bull for a week or so, were quite keen on checking him out and everyone integrated quickly into a new normal. Lazlo will spend a few years here and then either move onto the next farm or head off to the market. Until then we’ll enjoy him being part of our herd.

Get a dog they said…

Roxy, dead asleep at my feet

Why is it we cannot get a normal dog? We had to get this meat missile who chases squirrels so hard she pulls her hamstring and then comes in the house and sleeps like this.

She is really good at catching stuff out of the air though so that is pretty cool.

Usually you don’t get to see Roxy when you come to the store. We keep her locked up in the house during store hours. She LOVES people. But she runs at them 100mph to say hello and looks like she’s going to eat you so we just keep her inside.

Well maybe not dead asleep

Test post

We’ve been having trouble with our posts not showing up on Facebook when we post one to our website. The easiest way to test (the new auto poster) is to throw up a post like this and see is the blasted thing works. Because just this test message would be boring, here is a cute farm picture.

Baby piglet with cute little girl
Another gratuitous shot of cute with cuter.

2021 vegetable CSA signups are available

Our awesome vegetable farmer Jenn at Chickadee Farms sent me a text last week that she had some spots left open on the CSA for this year which just started. Unfortunately I was out of town when she sent it, so I’m just now posting about it. So… if you want farmer fresh veggies to go along with your farmer fresh meat, sign up for Jenn’s weekly or bi-weekly CSA. The details are on her website. We don’t make anything on the CSA, it is just a service we offer to our customers so they can get great produce and it helps a small local farmer tremendously.