I can’t even remember when we started working with NC State and People 1st tourism. It has been quite some time. Over the past years we’ve had several occasions when film crews would come out, sometimes with groups of students, sometimes on their own. They were filming “for their classroom” students I was told. I didn’t really understand what they would use these films for in the classroom but hey, if it helps NC State I’m game.
Then COVID happened and the world changed. Suddenly a filmed project took on special meaning. Once we could get the final shots with all the safety protocols in place, the folks at State were able to put their final project together.
I still can’t say I fully understand how they’ll use this in their lesson plans, but somehow lil’ ol’ Ninja Cow Farm will be part of NC State’s curriculum going forward. Heck, who knows, maybe my kids will take a class some day on the farm they grew up on.
The professor was kind enough to share their site with me so I could share it with all of you. So without further ado, here is the project they put together for their students, and for your enjoyment.
So I surprised Jeanette with a gift that I knew she’d enjoy. No it wasn’t a vacation, or a pay raise (although she needs one), or employee of the month certificate. None of that boring stuff. I got her what I knew she’d really want.
Two cows to the processor this month!
Wait! Wait, this isn’t what you think. She was actually happy. It’s not like I got her a vacuum cleaner. I’m good at picking gifts…really I am. Ask my wife!
Ok fine, she had to put away two tons of beef instead of one like normal so maybe it wasn’t the best present I’ve ever gotten someone. But the good news is you can enjoy her present too because we have more beef than we’ve had since late 2019. Just in time too because the holiday season is approaching and we will need all we can get.
We also were able to get all the rest of our pork back from the processor including the BBQ, along with plenty of chicken so we are in good shape on all kinds of stuff.
Lastly on the farm stuff, thanks to our friends P Dale and Zane we have some lamb at the processor ready to pickup. I just need to find a time that makes sense. Maybe Tuesday afternoon next week will work. Regardless plan on a real influx of lamb in the store by next week.
In addition to farming stuff, I’ve been up to my normal Civil Air Patrol shenanigans as well. This time it was flying for the 82nd Airborne out of Ft Bragg. We’ve flown for them for a couple of weeks lately and I was fortunate enough to fly for them three days this week, and best of all I was able to take some Army personnel up and show them what things are like from the pilots perspective. They weren’t too nervous flying until we were landing which I thought was odd. Later I was relating this story to a friend who was in the 82nd many moons ago and he quickly pointed out that they aren’t used to landing in the airplane. Paratroopers. Duh! Lol! That didn’t even occur to me.
We did end up with a weather issue on Tuesday. The rough weather that came in trapped us at the airport and we had to scrounge a ride (thanks Natalie and Ashley!) back to our home airport. That is home airport AFTER picking up my co-pilots kids from dance in the rain, in the borrowed vehicle, in uniform. Then we drove more than an hour to drop off kids, swap cars from borrowed to our own, and get back home for a party that was already in progress before we picked up the kids from dance. Only to the next day to get up, make my farmer run all over NC, then get home and drive the reverse of the last nights car switcharoo to undo everything, fly all afternoon till the Army called it quits, then fly to Fayetteville to drop off the airplane just before the sun went down, and then drive the hour home WHILE being on a zoom call with my Goddaughter about her upcoming wedding. Whew, what a couple of days!
But the Army folks were very appreciative and we were able to provide some good training so it was worth it.
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.
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. Two years ago they were big. Last year they were on target.
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 $7.99 per pound.
Over the years we’ve added and removed (mostly added) lots of material from our website. Over time, things have gotten slower, and slower, and s…l…o….w….e….r. It has become quite depressing and frustrating. I’ve upgraded our hosting over and over, spending ever more money on faster processing but no matter what I did it didn’t seem to get any better.
Just recently, it was time to renew our hosting and I called our host, GoDaddy. They once again decided that I needed to upgrade to a new hosting platform and once again I said ok. But this time, rather than some back end witchery they supposedly did after charging me more money, I was being moved to an entirely new server. This required moving the site lock, stock, and barrel.
I don’t know how you go about moving, but when I pack up and move, the first thing I do is figure, “What the heck can I get rid of and not have to move.” Maybe that analogy doesn’t work on websites, but it is the way I think. If we are going to new hosting, lets go with new stuff, and by new I mean “less of.”
I’ve blown away everything from our site that isn’t part of the core site. Mainly that means WordPress plugins since they seem to be the major culprits in most performance issues. That means we lost our recipe page (an orphaned plugin that is no longer being updated) and a myriad of other things like our author auto signature (there is only one author anymore) and other things like that.
The result of all this is you should be able to time the loading of our site on something more timely than a sun dial. We may creep in with some new goodies over time, but right now if I can just get the pages we have updated and working that would be a win.
This move has been weeks in the making so even though you don’t see a lot of new content, there was quite a bit of back end work to get to this point. I hope you enjoy the faster speed.
This week we received a surprise shipment of lamb from our errant lamb farmer. Unfortunately we have no control over what our lamb farmer does or doesn’t do and we receive product whenever it shows up. This week we received a whole glut of lamb and most things are back in stock for the time being. We are still working to get a better source but at least for now we have something for all of you who are looking for lamb.
We also were able to sneak an extra cow into the processor this month. This means we finally have some inventory on beef that we’ve been short of. While we aren’t busting at the seams, the hope is with the extra injection of beef into the schedule, combined with the lessening demand, we should start being caught up heading into fall and can more readily supply you with normal inventory. The steaks we are getting lately are as nice as I’ve seen and overall beef is looking good as we head to the holidays. No idea if we’ll need standing rib roasts this Thanksgiving. Between COVID restrictions and politics, I don’t know how many families will be sitting down together this November. Hopefully we can all have some healing between now and then and remember what we are thankful for.
We also received some pork back from the processor. If you recall, our normal processor burned down so we had to go to a new processor. Well it took us over a month to get any of our pork back. Normally it takes about a week to start getting the first cuts back. No explanation, it just didn’t get done. Sigh. Anyway, the first bits of pork (by bits I mean several hundred pounds) showed up Tuesday with more to come next week.
Chicken is at normal stocking levels, along with dairy, cheese, etc. Overall, things are as well stocked as they have been in months. Stop by and get some goodies for dinner.
Things on the farm are progressing to be the new normal. From March till about July, it was like this on the farm.
400% + of normal volume. So many requests we couldn’t answer them all. Lines to get in the door every day. Being out of stock on just about everything almost instantly after restock. One year wait times to get an appointment at the processor. It was crazy.
Yesterday we didn’t break $500 in the store. That is after restocking a ton of chicken and our normal weekly restock of milk. Last week, I actually had a little bit of raw milk left over. We’ve been rationing raw milk for months. First time I’ve had any real amount left over probably in 2020.
Our normal pork processor burned down, so that is bad but not pandemic related. Fortunately for us, I already had appointments at another processor that is a similar distance away. Using a new processor is always a challenge. The first few times through the process is always a mess and product comes back late, wrong, or not at all. Communication with each processor is always unique and it takes a couple of trips to get things ironed out. For instance, the pigs I dropped off several weeks ago are STILL not ready. I don’t know why. I can get a couple of days turn around at the processor I normally use. Well, when they aren’t literally on fire that is. These folks are slower for some reason. We’ll figure that out and plan for it moving forward. Of course we haven’t even seen what the returned product looks like yet and I’m sure there will be issues there so that will have to get worked out with the hogs I’m dropping off next week. We’ll get it. The good news is I was already on the schedule with this other processor before our normal processor burned down so we aren’t scrambling like our brethren are trying to adjust to their new normal.
Our chicken farmer is still doing great. This is the heart of her production season, assuming a hurricane doesn’t drown another barn full of birds. She’s fulfilling our orders, which have slackened as she’s gotten birds into production meaning we are meeting at the middle and fulfilling nearly all of our orders each week. I don’t expect us to go short on chicken at least till sometime this winter, if at all.
Our manager of our dairy farm is going to be down for a surgery this winter, so all of our dairy animals are going to be dried off 1 November. That means no raw milk till about February. Since we already sell just about everything we get each week, there really isn’t much opportunity to stock up for folks, either customers or the farmer. In fact, we don’t even drink the raw milk anymore. Haven’t for several years. There is so much demand that we just use the Simply Natural milk and save all the raw milk for customers. When someone complains to me that they didn’t get all the milk they wanted, they pretty much get this reaction from me.
There is a reason Jeanettte keeps me out of the store.
We are still looking for a reliable sheep and/or goat farmer. We have some sheep coming this fall which will be coming from a much more reliable source so hopefully that will solve itself. If you know a goat farmer that is reasonably close to us, let us know.
So the summary is, product is back in stock and pretty much staying that way. We have a cow going to the processor this week, coming back next week. We don’t have the hordes pulling from a freezers like we did, meaning our normal inventory levels on beef, with the monthly ebb and flow, will be back to the good ol’ days. Pork and chicken will be there to backstop the beef supply, and dairy products and seafood should be able to compliment your choices.
All in all, if you come to the farm, you should be able to get mostly what you need and that is a good thing for everything except the bottom line. Coming off 400% of volume can be a shock to the profit and loss statement. Fortunately, we foresaw this coming and didn’t flex to try and meet an unsustainable demand. Our expense levels are pretty much exactly where they were in February. That means we didn’t capture an extra six figures in volume over a few months, and it means that our focus, our weekly and monthly regular customers, are as important to us now as they ever were. If you’ve been avoiding the store for the long lines and low inventory, now is the time to stop back by.
Normally I make my run to the various farms we represent on Tuesday. But this week, Christy could only meet on Wednesday so she asked if I could reshuffle. We don’t do this change of plans often, but it isn’t completely uncommon either. Sure, Wednesday it is.
But this week, I needed to make a pickup at Dean Street Processing in addition to my normal meetup at Custom Quality Packers with Christy. So a bit of extra time was needed in my schedule.
Except I stayed super busy trying to get computer work done right up until it was time to leave. As I headed out to the garage at a sprint to get to Dean Street, then get to Custom Quality to meet Christy, after hooking up the trailer which was hooked up to the charger, which needed to be disconnected and stowed, I skidded to a halt, realizing that all the trash was still in the back of the truck. Argh!! I forgot to go to the dump on Tuesday!
So hair on fire trip to the dump, then back to get the trailer, then race to Custom Quality to meet Christy. THEN I’ll have to go to Dean Street after instead of before, so I need to text Tamryn and let her know I’ll be late.
Sigh, just another day for me.
As I turned onto the road leading to Custom Quality, I noticed smoke in the distance, in line with where Custom is. I’m still several miles away and there are some farmers fields around Custom so maybe someone is burning off a crop? As I get closer, and get sight of Custom Quality I see that my hope is dashed. Smoke is pouring out of Custom and so are people. Employees are moving their cars away from the building and it isn’t just a little bit of smoke. Something is really on fire. Christy pulls to the side of the road in front of the building. I do the same. Barrett, the owner of Custom Quality comes roaring around the building in his truck still pulling a pig trailer loaded with pigs. About that time the first fire truck arrives and I watch as all the employees cars block the fire truck from getting access. Everyone is scrambling to move cars and let the fire department in. It is quite a scene.
Christy and I pull around the corner and find a quiet spot to exchange pleasantries and farm goodness. Fire trucks continue to arrive and once we are completely cross loaded we walk back over just to see what is going on. The pigs have been turned loose from the processor, getting a stay of execution they seem rather non-plussed about. They are just milling around the parking lot in between the firemen. The building is rolling smoke from all sides but I don’t see any flames. Maybe it is one room that is burning and it is just smoke damage everywhere else. Hopefully.
I head over to Dean Street, where it is a bit non-standard there. Brooke, my normal point of contact isn’t there so Rachel is helping me. After our exchanges, Brooke comes racing in grabbing water for people who are at Custom. I help her load a flat and she roars back off to go help. I decide to swing back by and just catch a glimpse of what is going on. It seemed every fire truck in three counties had responded so surely it was out by now. As I pulled by an hour after first arriving, I took this pic.
The place was surrounded by fire trucks and it was still burning heavily an hour later. I couldn’t believe it. Later I found that the fire wasn’t officially put out till around 5pm! Here is a news article about the fire.
So why does all this matter? Custom Quality Packers is where we normally take our hogs to be processed. Dean Street does all the sausage, bacon, butchery, etc but Custom does the actual kill and initial work. Normally we’d be in a bind but we’d just switched over to taking our hogs to Micro Summit Processors in Micro NC. Remember that with Corona all the processors were super backed up? We’d had to shift what we were doing and literally dropped off our first hogs at Micro this same week and we are already on the schedule there for additional hogs next month. That was close!
We have friends at Custom Quality and regardless of our relationship, this industry doesn’t need to loose a processor. They are VITAL to our continued business. This is no bueno.
So with smoke in my nostrils, I raced to make the rest of my runs, arriving home in time to be late for lunch. By the time I got back, it was almost time to open the store. Jeanette had already unloaded some of the trailer but I jumped in to unload the rest of it. By this time, we had a crowd out front waiting for us to open (a normal Wednesday occurrence) and one of our regular customers poked his head in and asked if I needed help.
Sure, says I. Never one to turn down help unloading a trailer bulging with meat and farmy goodness.
So Trent got out of line to get into the store and instead helped me unload the last of the stuff from the trailer. It goes much faster with two people. Seemingly more than twice as fast because there isn’t as much walking back and forth. I was most appreciative.
With the trailer unloaded, I snuck Trent in the back door to get him into the store. It surely wasn’t fair to put him back in line waiting like everyone else after he’d helped me. We chatted and visited a bit as well. Nice guy. Turns out his former roommate and I chatted last time I was in the store and he’s in the real estate business like we are. Small world!
So that was the first half of my day. I can’t even tell you what the rest of it was like. Probably paying bills of welding something. Who knows at this point. Just another day on the farm.
This is a legit farm tour, the same thing you would see in person. Just without the drool of the cow on your hands. Actually Spork and I are going to do the tour together, so you can see a bit of how we interact. That part you wouldn’t see on a normal tour since either he or I give the tour normally. We don’t have a comedy routine, but we normally end up laughing when we work together. The normal people usually look a bit bewildered (and laughing) at how we interact, but it is normal to us.
You need to sign up to see the tour. It starts at 6pm Friday afternoon. That is TODAY!
You’ve noticed that I haven’t been publishing daily updates to our stocking levels recently. That is because most things are in stock all the time now. Chicken is coming in nicely, we were able to get a couple of pigs processed to get us back to normal levels, with two more going next week (instead of October!!) and then two more to follow them. So really beef is the only thing we are running short on lately.
The good news is we were able to get an extra slot at the beef processor and that cow was picked up this week, fully restocking us on hamburger, steaks, roasts, etc. I got back late afternoon last Wednesday with the cow so only a little bit was sold at the end of the day Wednesday meaning we are fully stocked as we open today.
If you are looking for beef, today and tomorrow are your days.
Seems the whole world has gone virtual, from higher learning to doctor visits.
Not to be outdone, our farm is going to be part of a virtual tour this Friday in partnership with People 1st Tourism, which is an outreach program of NC State University.
We’ve already done a dry run of the tour, which will be pretty much exactly like what we do on the farm when you come for a tour, including the Gator ride that larger groups don’t get to experience. Our normal tour is $20 but through People 1st the cost is only $5.
Since we are not conducting in person tours right now, this is the best opportunity to see what we do on the farm and how we do it. It also will be interactive so you can ask questions and find out the answers you’ve always wanted to know.