Sunday, November 23, 2014

farmers count

We try to budget. And account for losses. And allow for accidents, oopsies and general mayhem.

We calculate and guesstimate. Weigh one against the other.

With turkeys they start as little tiny polts. They arrive on farm when it is still cold out, and take about half of the year to get to an eating size. Classic slow growing, hanging out, grazing and growing outdoors all summer and fall.

As deliveries and on farm pickups happen, the numbers get clearer. Last year the numbers were chilling. Not many birds, and they were huge.

2014? We have a pretty good idea how it happened, and we hope to repeat it again sometime. The summer was not too hot, with a lovely amount of rain. No untoward floods, no power outages requiring hauling of water from off site. It was, dare I say, an almost boring growing season. Dogs protected. Farmers worked steady. The grain bin worked. Pens rolled daily. Water flowed.

When we count turkeys we tend to close one eye, so that we miss a few. Allowing for heat stroke, or a cat attack, or drowning when 6 inches of rain falls in two hours during the only time of the year the pens are in the low parts and a few drown.

But none of that happened. Twice a day water checks kept them hydrated. Twice a day pen moves kept them chomping grass, thistle, bugs, worms.


Over years of growing turkeys we have learned to request customers to be flexible on requested weights. Because it has been a challenge to predict, over months and months of sharing farmland with these birds, just what size they will be.

2 years ago? Puny. Tiny. Last year? Massive, beyond belief really. This year? Almost all are about the same size. A little variance but not much. 15 pounds average, a nice impressive but not too big bird. Plenty so that two will work if you need lots of meat.

And back to counting, and the numbers. We had counted, with an eye closed, accounting for all the ways turkeys can not make it to a dinner table, the number.

And as we fill orders, empty our coolers and fridge, as we greet people who allow us to year after year supply them with a pretty important part of an important annual event...and as we meet new people who wonder out loud if they have arrived at the correct location, sometimes here or sometimes in a parking lot...we realize our count is off. We should have kept both eyes open and counted every single bird.


We still have 30 turkeys left. And they are filling up our fridge and coolers. We owe $9,400 to our feed guy and it would be good to pay him. 

Next year, and how growing will go is anyone's guess. 2014? A beautiful year. An abundant turkey year. Get yours from us. Please. So we can still be here next year.

$6 per pound
sunnysidedru@gmail.com






Tuesday, November 18, 2014

success

Why so many turkeys this year? We have 3 times as many as usual. This year we still have turkeys available now, 9 days prior to Thanksgiving. We wonder why and then realize.




This dog. We have 5 dogs now. But this dog, Chaz, covers the farm in big, running strides all day long. And some of the nighttime too if needed. At first, in the summer of 2013, he spent most of his time right next to the house. He had to learn the ways of the electric fence, of having 12+ acres to run, of us and our schedules. 

It took Chaz a bit of time to adjust. He was an adult dog when he arrived on the farm and his vet paperwork showed that he lived in center city Philadelphia. Quite a change! Our population density of 2 people on all this land had him confused.

He never chased a chicken or a turkey. Ducks don't interest him. He observed cattle and pigs for a bit and then went on his way.

We guess there is shepherd and Rottweiler in him. Since he is a rescue we don't know. He is a guard dog, there is no question about that. He lets us know when a vehicle pulls in. If things are out of the normal he barks to notify us. 

A night last week he and the tiny dog, Swazey, were barking steady, were restless, hackles up, on full alert. Each was all over the farm, along the fence line, at a full run. It was very dark with no moon. No one in our parking lot. Nothing that we could see. Homer checked. I did a walk around with them, both dogs so tense and fully wired. Didn't see a thing.

The next night a bear was hit on the interstate. From the map we could see the location was not far from here. And then we looked at the dogs, at Chaz and Swazey, and realized why they had been so out of sorts the night before. No doubt the bear had been in this area. No doubt that without the dogs the bear would have made an effort to have a turkey dinner. Or 30.

We are small batch growers. While we have the greatest number of turkeys ever it is nothing compared to total number of turkeys consumed at Thanksgiving time. Our turkeys are different: the breed, the feed, the way they live, are processed is all outside of the norm. 

We have had the Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys on the farm since they were a day old. Into brooders this spring under heat lights. Special bedding. Extra wind guards. And then moved into pens and onto the field so they live clean, grass and bug eating lives. GMO free feed. Daily tending, feeding, watering and moving for 6 months. These are slow growing birds and they don't get additives to enhance their size. It takes a long time to grow out these beautiful birds.

As we end the season, our debts mount. We operate on the good will of many: that at harvest, we can pay what we owe back to our suppliers. As the turkeys are larger their feed consumption increases. We move and water twice each day, as they have become experts at grass grazing. And more waste is generated, so we move them with greater frequency.

As of today, our calculations indicate that it will be tight financially if we sell every bird on our farm. We are getting orders every day and the available number shrinks daily. This is great news for us, as we want to stay on the farm, continue growing food for those that want it. And like anyone else we must meet our financial obligations to continue.

Had that bear entered our farm and decided to overturn a turkey pen or two and release, kill or hurt our turkeys it would put us in a position where we would not have turkeys but would still have bills. The bear that was hit by a car on the interstate was 300 pounds. That is a lot bigger and stronger than we are, and requires fire power that we don't own to stop it. 

So this big dog. And the little dog, just on the farm in the past couple of months, are our heroes. Knowing things we don't know, on alert when we are resting. What a great thing a dog or two can be!

And this guy. Years of tiny turkeys. Massive turkeys. A few turkeys. A few more, until this year it works. Size in the sweet spot, 15 pounds average. Lots of turkeys available. And beautiful vegetables, chicken, pork and beef too. A lovely season of growing. A week from now things will be pretty quiet here. But its a busy week ahead.


deposit to hold your fresh turkey from our farm

www.sunnysidefarmpa.com


Saturday, November 15, 2014

solar gain

Here's why you will find us in the unheated hoophouse on sunny days.

6:30am

8:30am


And after 9am


So call ahead if you plan on visiting. We will be out back!



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