Ah, one of my ironically favorite days: Solstice! A celebration of winter, and the shortest day of the year. The critters and I get some extra sleep and I get excited knowing that longer days are ahead. It's a great time to snuggle under some blankets with some hot chocolate and get some rest.
While looking at the year end that is before us, I like to take this time to think of the things we did well, the things we didn't do well, the changes we made and what we have in store for the new year.
What went well in 2017
We raised and sold more turkeys than we ever have before - 192! It seems the limiting factor now is not how many can we raise and process, but how fast I can keep up with customer sales that weekend... I need to see how I can improve my efficiency at the customer table for next year!
We continue to hone our chicken processing days - we had so many volunteers this year, we were able to teach a lot of folks about chicken processing, while being able to process more birds in a day than we thought we were capable of! We actually bought more chicken cones, because we had days where the harvest step was the bottle neck, instead of plucking or cleaning! Holy moly!
We enjoyed another fun year at the Farmer's Market in Berthoud, staying connected to our local community and providing local and humanely raised meat for our friends and neighbors.
We are also getting better an on-farm lamb slaughter. We did 8 lambs for Eid, and our biggest customers wants 12 lambs next year!
The honor system on the front porch continues to be a successful, and we hope, convenient method for our customers to pick up products!
What didn't go our way
I don't know for sure, but it seems we have taught lots of folks how to process their own chickens - thus leaving our freezers full of meat! We even dropped our meat chicken production this year from 750 to 600, and we still can't sell chickens as fast as we need to. Next year we will drop more.
We can't seem to raise lambs fast enough! This is a good problem to have. But we can't seem to grow our flock fast enough to keep up with demand. This will take time, but we are working on it!
We had two steers on the farm all summer. Those two stinkers managed to trash fencing around our chicken run, orchard, greenhouse, and even the west perimeter of the pasture. This caused lots of escapes and animals getting to where they did not belong, and we'll be spending the winter fixing these fences.
We won't talk about the hub-bub from the vegan activists. We all know about that, and they don't need any more press, or attention that they so seem to crave.
Things we added to the farm in 2017
We added a lift gate to our truck! We have been picking up grain at Skeye Brewery for a while now, but City Star also asked us if we wanted their grain. Heck yeah! But now 4-5 grain pick ups weekly meant this had to be a one person job. So we got a lift gate on the pick up. This is AWESOME! No more lifting heavy things!
We picked up hay forks to the front end loader, to help us move hay. YAY! No more rolling round bales by hand, we can buy big squares and still move them out for the sheep during winter when needed.
We added a small flock of Black Australorps to take over our small backyard coop. This is Shannon's flock, that she will be raising for 4-H this coming year.
I learned a lot more about chicken and sheep care, and have beefed up my vet kit on the farm, and have been able to successfully treat issues in the past that would have either caused costly vet bills, or undue suffering for my critters.
We have a new mouser, named Sally, that someone dumped on the farm early in the spring.
Who did we say goodbye to
We said goodbye to Squeaky, Cindy, Judy and Pumpkin Cake from our sheep flock. Cindy had complications from Pneumonia, and Pumpkin Cake passed away from cyanide poisoning. Judy and Squeaky were difficult decisions to send them off to be processed, to make space for more productive ewes on the farm.
We said goodbye to Count Mooku, who is now in our freezer and the freezer of three of our friends!
What's to come in 2018
We will be increasing our sheep flock again by keeping more ewes and bringing in an outside ram.
We will be reducing the number of meat birds we raise - leaving more freezer space for lamb, and giving us more time to process other people's chickens for them.
I will be learning to flesh and salt my own lamb skins, hopefully allowing me to sell a less expensive lamb skin product, while still making a bit of profit.
We will see some price increases in 2018. All my calculations are not complete yet, but before the new year, we will see an updated price list. Congrats to CSA members, we are holding those prices for another year before we extend the increase to our members.
Thanks for sticking with us in 2017. We are looking forward to a new year, new babies, and new friends on the farm!