A Day Off… Not!

What a day. I’m worn out and don’t feel like I got very much done today.

It was a slow day at work and the boss had to put the work van in the shop so we had the day off. But I still got up at my regular time and went and helped my friend Jason and his dad load three barrows to haul to the butcher. We then came home and tried to load a huge sow here at the farm that belongs to my uncle. I say tried because she wanted no part of that stock trailer and I’m not man enough to wrestle a 600 pound hog. They finally gave up and hauled the three we had loaded then dropped the trailer back off here at the house. About five this evening Emily and I finally got her on the trailer, so she will be on her way to be turned into the winter’s meat about six in the morning.

I went and picked up a small pot belly sow and got her established in a temporary pen then went to work cleaning the feed room in my barn. It was such a mess. Three years ago when we moved we had a couple of people help us gather up everything loose around the farm and put it in the dry and most of it seemed to wind up in the barn. Over the last few years some stuff was stolen, some was broken, almost all my water fonts and galvanized feeders have rusted out and some of the wooden items that were in contact with the ground had rotted. Buckets and cans of nails, screws and hardware had gotten spilled, my poultry leg bands and brass hog rings were spread everywhere, Feed sacks were piled up and labels had came off everything. It’s amazing how far a place can slide down hill when you aren’t there to stay on top of things.

But I dove in and made a start. I rewired the electric fence box and relocated it up high out of the way, I got most of the miscellaneous stuff gathered up and put into the metal cabinet to be sorted and cleaned later, burned a bunch of old rotten stuff and feed sacks, cleaned my huge old divided feed bin, knocked down a bunch of wasp nest and dirt dabber nests, and got a little dusting and cleaning done. I gave out and it got dark on me before I finished, but at least I can walk through the room now. I figure about two to three more days to get it cleaned up like it needs to be and to make what repairs are needed.

I really needed to get my chicken coops clean today, but everything has to go out through the main feed room so I had no choice but to start there. Emily and I have a plan. We have got to get this place going again. We spent all weekend talking about it and our first project is to get our chickens built back up. She’s got a few eggs in the incubator and two more shipments coming this week. We have a few hens grown here, but they aren’t laying yet. We have both been asking around and talking to our old customers and have a ton of folks wanting to buy eating eggs, hatching eggs, chicks and started poultry. We have a couple of people asking for dressed meat birds and we need some ourselves since groceries are sorta scarce right at the moment. So I need to get things ready so that if and when we get the funds we can get a few hundred chicks ordered before fall hits and it gets too cold.

I am still in shock over how much things have changed in just a few short years. Three years ago I was selling our eating eggs for two bucks a dozen and although we sold all we could produce, some still complained about the price. At that time eggs in the grocery store were around $1.50 a dozen. Now they are $4.00 a dozen in the store and farm eggs are selling for around $6.00 per dozen and no one in this area can find enough to meet demand. Several sources have projected eggs could double in price in the next six months to a year. We sold our regular hatchery quality chicks for around $2.00 each and point of lay pullets for $8.00 to $10.00 each. Now day old local chicks are $5.00 and good laying hens are running as high as $30 each. Surplus roosters we would sell for pretty much whatever we could get, sometimes as low as $1.50 each and glad to get it, this past weekend I watched literally hundreds of roosters sell and the cheapest ones, sold 15 to 20 head at a time on the count were bringing $7.00 each. Some roosters with nice colors and builds were bringing as high as $15.00 each. What a difference a couple of years can make!

Emily and I still have connections and have lots of friends who are into poultry, so can still get decent deals on day old stock and hatching eggs. We have the coops and the room. We have the experience and the knowledge. We have a good market that is expanding all the time. And most of all we are hard workers. The next step is to see if we can acquire the financing.

I don’t really want to have 700 to 800 birds like I did before, but I feel we need to have at least enough to provide for our customers and be able to turn a decent profit. I’d like to keep at least 50 meat cockerels growing out at all times too, butchering as needed for us and about every two months for paying customers. We are still going to raise a few breeds of show quality heritage birds, but of course, the biggest numbers will be our farm birds.

The plan is to try and get water lines and electric ran to the barn, to make the necessary repairs and buy whatever supplies we need to get going. To get a farm truck for hauling tons of feed and for making deliveries. In the spring we will be doing our CSA and farm shares. Swine, goats, sheep and a milk cow are in the future as I can afford to build the pens and buy fencing.

I’m happy. A farmer’s life is always hectic and the unplanned for is normal. It’s up early, work hard, deal with wading poop, frozen water lines, droughts in the garden and then coming home late, falling asleep then getting up and going out at two in the morning to help birth a calf. Farming is something you either are or aren’t. You either love it with all your being or you don’t do it long.

I’m a farmer.

And I love it.

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