News and blog
On July 29 and 30 I had the opportunity to visit and experience Polyface Farm in Swoope, VA. I was taking part in the Polyface Intensive Discover Seminar (PIDS). They held three of these two day seminars in July. The two days were indeed intense days of discovering and learning all about what Polyface is. The sessions are limited in the amount of attendees that are able to be there so that the experience could be more personal.
Joel Salatin talking about their composting system
A common question I received while I was there after getting to know some of the other attendees was, "Why did you want to come to this?" I think after folks found out about my farming background and experience, they were curious as to what I wanted to gain from experiencing Polyface. I feel that no matter what our occupation is and how long we have been doing it, we can always learn from others who are in the same field. Our farm uses many similar farming practices as Polyface does, but their farm is much larger scale than ours. It was interesting to me to hear them talk about time and motion studies they have done for different tasks, ergonomics of doing tasks efficiently and safely, how they have scaled up their operation, and so much more. But what struck me most profoundly was their relationship that I witnessed between them (the Salatin family) and their team. I don't want to use the word staff because they are beyond employees. The way everyone on the team works together in a relationship to make the farm run smoothly and make the farm profitable is amazing. After talking some with Daniel Salatin, he assured me that building those relationships has not always come easy, but with much patience, grace, and prayer, going both directions, it works.
Daniel Salatin talking about his over 20 years of experience raising rabbits
Both days that I was there I was well fed! The days started at 7 AM with a hearty farm breakfast. Farm fresh eggs and sausage and all the fixings to go with it. The meals themselves (three full meals a day!) were worth my time there. Each meal the Polyface team was spread out among all of us attendees, so we got the opportunity to talk with different folks and learn their stories and hear about some of their goals. On both days it was after 9 PM that we were done with dinner and evening "sessions." At the end of the first day, one of the current Polyface interns said I could be back the next morning at 5:30 to help with morning chores. So on the second day I drove out to the farm in the dark and watched and help a couple of the interns move and feed a batch of broiler chickens. I've done that many times here on our farm, but to see how someone does it just a little differently was a great opportunity. One benefit of being out at the farm so early, was that I was able to witness the morning come to life. So, in Northwest Ohio, we really don't have mountains! To be in the Shenandoah valley and watch the morning come to life was a highlight of my trip. (Just check out the backgrounds of some of these photos...definitely not in Ohio any more!!)
Daniel and Andrew Salatin - Andrew speaking on his sheep raising enterprise
Both days we were taught mostly by Joel and Daniel Salatin. We also heard from Daniel's wife, Sheri a couple of times. Daniel and Sheri's sons talked to us about the enterprises they are starting. We also heard from Eric, the apprentice manager. Throughout the days I had the opportunity to talk to many of their current apprentices and interns and learned from them as well. I could go through each day and tell about what I specifically learned, but I don't want to go that route. Did I take some technical nuggets of information away that we could implement here? Sure. But more importantly I went away with this, Ohio and Virginia are not the same. What works for Polyface maybe will not work just the same here at Canal Junction. Some things have been tested and proven and will work anywhere and the wheel doesn't need reinvented. Some things I need to take the concept, the idea behind it and decide how to make it work here, with what we have.
Travis Salatin explaining raising Khaki Campbell Ducks for eggs
I am so grateful for the experience and the opportunity to be at Polyface and view it in such a close and personal way. I'm sure they were all tired when we all finally pulled out Saturday evening. Both days were eye-opening and rewarding. A big thank you to the Salatin family and their team for a great two days in Swoope, Virginia.
Joel Salatin teaching about mob grazing cattle... "Mobstocking, Herbivorous, Solar Conversion, Lignified Carbon, Sequestration, Fertilization."
I have a great offer that I am excited to share with you today. Our friends Laurie and Jamie of Foodwifery are offering a FREE 3 video class called: Processed Foods to Real Foods! This class is online and is able to be viewed at your convenience. All you have to do is click this link and enter your name and email address and you are enrolled. https://ea281.isrefer.com/go/8WP/Schlatters/
The Foodwifery gals make learning so much fun and meet you right where you are at. They have a great deal going on now as they are giving away one of their full Table Transformation Courses plus other bonuses equaling over $500 to someone just for signing up for the free course. If you sign up before March 12 your name will automatically be entered into the drawing.
Watch this short little clip of Laurie and Jamie Shaking Things Up!! https://vimeo.com/157872716/
The last time I wrote, I talked about how we were hoping to accept interns for our 2016 growing season, which is May 1-September 30. Since then we have decided to open up a few more spots for a shorter time. If you are a student, or know a student who would like the experience for a summer working on a sustainable, diversified livestock farm then this opportunity is for you!
This will be from May 16-August 19. Now, depending on your college or school schedule we can be a bit flexible on the starting and ending dates.
For this position, you must be at least 18 years old. (Unless you are close enough to drive to and from your home everyday.) We will provide housing, which is about 5 miles from the farm. We only have one housing location so we will either be accepting all males or all females, depending on the applications we get back. Since the housing is off farm, you will get a gas stipend each week for your mileage to and from the farm.
Canal Junction is a diversified livestock, pasture based farm and 100% raw milk dairy. On the dairy side we have an on farm creamery where we make raw milk cheese from our milk. We also have pastured broilers and layers, turkeys, sheep, pigs and beef cattle. Everything we raise and produce is direct marketed. We have an on farm store as well as a private buying club that we make bi-weekly deliveries to. We are a family based business and and are currently being operated by the fifth and sixth generations on the farm. You will be working with Ralph and Sheila, the owners, and their adult children Kyle and Renae.
We are looking for 2-3 interns for the 2016 growing season. You will have a wide range of experiences and no two days will be the same! Moving/feeding broilers and layers, gathering/packaging eggs, moving/feeding turkeys, moving portable fencing for beef and dairy cattle, moving beef cattle to different pastures, milking cows, butchering chickens, hauling animals to the butcher shop and frozen meat from the butcher shop to the farm, making hay, driving tractor, making and aging cheese, marketing cheese (sales, packaging, shipping), experience the retail side of the business, assembling buying club orders, buying club delivery, general farm maintenance. We work full time 5 days a week and do chores only on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Sunday is always only chores. Occasionally during our busy season (making hay) we will work a full day on Saturday. We will do some rotating and you will have some weekend time off each month.
Payment, Benefits, Compensation:
You will be provided with housing for the time you are here. We will also provide one prepared meal a day, which will be lunch. For your other meals, you are responsible for preparing your own food but you will have access to meat, cheese, milk, produce, and other items from our farm. Above this you will receive $100 stipend/month for incidentals, a gas stipend each week for transportation to the farm, and coverage under Workers Compensation.
You must be able to do physical labor, sometimes intense, in any weather condition. Most of the work is outside, so you will need to be able to work in rain, sun, heat, humidity, etc. You must be at least 18 years old (unless you are commuting from home), have a valid drivers license, and transportation. You must keep your personal appearance neat. We produce food that goes to the end consumer with minimal processing, so cleanliness and sanitation are super important. You are the face of our farm to our customers and the public in the surrounding community. We are an oddity in our small Midwest town, so our appearance to the public needs to be courteous and clean. You must be willing to learn and ask questions. We are ready to teach and work alongside you, but it's a two way relationship. You must be able to and willing to follow directions and be willing to learn from your mistakes. It's okay to make mistakes, we all do, but learn from it and move on. The next time you will know what to do differently. You must be able to work well with others and also at times by yourself.
How to Apply:
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of yourself (are you in school, working, where you're from) and request an application. I will send you the application to fill out and you will need to return it within a week of receiving it. From there will will either ask for a further interview or say no thank you.
I am more than happy to answer any questions so do not hesitate to ask.
We're looking forward to the green grass and learning opportunities 2016 will bring us!
Here at Canal Junction we are super excited to announce a new adventure for 2016! We are accepting applications for interns for the 2016 growing season, May-September. It's a bit frightening to take this leap, but we are ready to jump in. We are looking to fill 2-3 positions with eager and willing workers and someone with a learning attitude. We will provide housing and this year it looks like it will be off the farm, but within 5 miles. Many more details are listed at www.eagerfarmer.com. Our farm's listing is here http://www.eagerfarmer.com/farming-jobs/view/a-pasture-based-diversified-livestock-farm-and-grassfed-dairy-looking-for-apprentice/. We have this listed on social media as well, so please share it with your friends. We are looking forward to filling these positions and getting ready for the growing season!
If you have any questions feel free to email me at email@example.com.
I just wanted to stop in a moment and wish everyone a Happy 2016! Yes, we are well underway in the year; in fact, we're all the way to February. Once again time seems to be flying by. There are some exciting things in the planning stages here at Canal Junction. This time of year, before we know how the growing season will go, is always full of anticipation and planning for the best. One of my goals this year is to be more active on social media, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
With warm wishes and blessings from the Schlatters' at C/J Natural Meats.
Oh, the wonderful world of eggs. Here at Canal Junction they are the most difficult product to produce that we offer. A laying hen goes through a natural cycle and it feels like we are working against that to keep them laying eggs. A laying hen is about 21 weeks old when she lays her first egg. So we either have to buy the chicks and raise them up, or we have the option of buying what are called started pullets. These birds are raised by someone else and they usually sell them for between $7-$8 per bird at anywhere from 16 weeks or older. This is the way we usually get our hens. Most of the time we get them from Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio. The drawback is that we have to order them about six months in advance or else we can’t get as many as we need at one time. The birds are usually about 16 weeks old when we get them, so we have them for about a month before they start to lay. Another problem is that we have our hands tied as far as they breed of chickens we can get. Most of the time we are able to get Isa Brown, which is a breed that lays a nice big brown eggs. Occasionally the only option we have is to get Barred Rock, which is a black and white bird which lay brown eggs as well. But, we have found that the Barred Rock eggs never get as big as the Isa Brown eggs. The other option we have is to raise whatever breed of chicken we want from chicks up to laying age. We tried that once and did not have very good livability. I’ve been thinking on this all week trying to figure out how we could try it again, but we just do not have a good place to raise the hens from beyond the brooder up to 21 weeks old. Right now our options are to either rely on someone else to raise the birds for us or we have to put out some money to build a structure to raise the birds ourselves.
Another battle we have to fight is keeping production all year. We have come to the conclusion that we can’t keep the hens any more than one year. In the past we have tried to keep the hens until they are two years old, but after the first year they just don’t produce as many eggs and we are feeding them a lot of feed and not getting many eggs in return. What we have done now is to get a batch of hens in the Spring and a batch of hens in the Fall. We cycle them through and when we get some new birds we take the oldest ones out. We are also fighting against the weather and the amount of sunlight. During the Spring and Summer the hens are able to roam outside and get fresh air and sunshine, and eat bugs and grass. This works well because the temperatures are moderate and the daylight hours are long. During the Fall and Winter we have to keep the hens in our greenhouse. Here they are protected from the wind and the worst weather. It’s not temperature controlled, but keeping the wind out helps a lot. We also have lights on them about 14 hours a day. It’s not the same a natural daylight, but it does help some. If we didn’t do these things they would not lay at all during these cold, dark months. The other option we would have is to build a temperature controlled building and feed our chickens non-GMO feed, and this would give us a higher production during the winter months. This route would take us further away from the farming practices we want to follow than we would like. I was just reading an article this week about a brand called Vital eggs. These eggs that you might find at the store in the colorful carton look like wonderful eggs. But, the chickens are all raised in more temperate parts of the country where they are guaranteed a certain number of days outdoors all year. A little difficult to accomplish in Ohio.
Then there is the matter of the size of our eggs. We do not and have never advertised our eggs as any grade or class size. Generally with the eggs from the Isa Brown hens they are very large eggs. We have an antique egg scale and have gotten it out on occasion to weigh the eggs and they always tip the scale to Jumbo and above. When a hen first starts to lay, their first eggs are called pullet eggs. These eggs are generally smaller so for a short time we keep them separated and sell for less as pullet eggs. If we would start to sell our eggs by different size we would have to increase the price to compensate for the extra time it would take to weigh each egg while packaging them. The eggs from the Barred Rock chickens will never get as big as the eggs from the Isa Brown chickens, but I’m not sure what to do to remedy that. When we got our new hens this Spring all they had available for us were the Barred Rock, so it was either get those hens, or no hens and in turn we would have almost no eggs right now. We were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can’t express to you how tempting it is to only keep a handful of hens over the winter months and not offer any eggs at all. We most certainly are not keeping our farm in business by selling eggs. The hens consume a lot of feed all year, whether or not they are laying eggs.
All this to say, yes, we do have eggs all year long, but be prepared to be limited on how many you can get during the winter.
As always, we welcome and questions or comments.
Bone broth. I'm sure you've heard of it. Right now it seems to be the star player in a lot of health and food circles. If you are in New York City, you can even buy a cup of it like you would coffee! And rightly so. It is an amazing super food full of beneficial collagen, a protein our bodies use. Not only is bone broth delicious and good for you, it can be used to enhance many dishes, from gravies, sauces, rice and beans, and so much more.
Broth is available in the supermarkets but it's just not the same as making it in your own kitchen. There is something healing about being in the same room where the broth is slowly simmering and smelling that wonderful aroma. And it's really not that hard. In fact, there's some bubbling happily right now in a crockpot in our kitchen!
They’re offering our members what they’re calling an “appetizer version” of this detailed, step-by-step class. Click on the link below to get it!
Are you searching for ways to transform your family's health for the better? Our family has personally found that by preparing and eating traditional foods we feel better, enjoy eating and find fulfillment in preparing meals. The Weston A Price foundation teaches the fundamentals of preparing traditional foods. When I was learning about traditional foods and how to prepare them, I often wished I had a coach standing in the kitchen with me teaching me step by step. Now that option is available to you!
I have an exciting offer to share with you from our good friends Laurie Smith and Jamie Fiene. These ladies are long time Weston A Price leaders and personal friends. They are offering a great teaching course on traditional foods, called Foodwifery. This is an online course which will get you up and running with Broth, Dairy, Fats, Fermented Foods, Grain Soaking, and Sourdough Bread (the same course that I personally took years ago to learn the sourdough art!).
But, it's not just the 'facts' of learning these foods; it's nurturing the art of a healing table for you and your families.
I have been taking the course myself and have found it great fun, very easy, and I can do it while at work in my kitchen.
Laurie and Jamie have done a great job setting this course up and make learning about preparing traditional foods exciting. They are everyday moms who have transformed their home kitchens for the benefit of their families.
If you are interested, you can sign up here: http://www.foodwifery.com/friend/?orid=392&opid=2 For the next four days, through April 23, 2015 at 11:59 PM, the course is being offered at a discounted price of $59.99. Use the link included here to sign up today! It's a great opportunity that you won't want to miss. I'll pass on a little secret, I have some moms in my life that are getting this as a Mothers's Day gift. If you don't need the course yourself consider passing it on to someone else in your life who could benefit from it.
Next four days available at a discount because you're my friend and I'm sharing it with you...
It is that time of year again...turkey time!
It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is sneaking up on us, but it is. Are you looking for a delicious turkey for your Thanksgiving table? We have turkeys available now on a first come/first serve basis. This year we tried something a little different and so far is has worked out well. We decided to raise the birds a little earlier and have them in the freezer by the end of October. In past years we have incurred cold and wet weather in November, which is not good turkey raising weather. We are hoping to avoid that by having them done about a month early. They seem to look the nicest this year as they ever have.
Our turkeys have been raised outside, able to forage fresh green grass and any bugs they find. They are active eaters and very social birds, curious about everything! They are also supplemented with a free choice grain mix that includes non GMO corn.
We have quite the size range this year from 13 pounds to above 25 pounds. The price per pound when picked up from the farm is $4.00/lb. We are offering delivery to the Toledo/Perrysburg/Bowling Green area. For delivery the price per pound is $4.25/lb.
Since we are processing the birds about a month before Thanksgiving, they will be frozen this year. If you are interested, you will need to either have freezer space, or arrange to get them just in time to put them in the fridge and thaw them out.
Feel free to contact us with any questions, or to place your order. 419-399-2350 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Somehow it got to be August already....and almost September. I keep thinking I need to do an update on happenings here at the farm and now I'm so far behind, so I'll do a recap of our year so far.
January brought very cold weather and a lot of snow this year. The days were spent mostly feeding and bedding animals.
This was part of a load of hay we got in for the dairy cows. We would get these big square bales in a semi load at a time.
These are some beef and dairy cows feeding. They would eat hay off of the bunk there.
These pigs had quite the winter! On the left of the picture is a half circle shelter. That is where they would bed down. We put corn stalks in there for bedding. When they would all pack in there it was quite toasty and if they got rustled out the steam would just billow out. We were able to keep them out of the swampy areas thanks to the new cement pads that we had poured.
The dry cows were fed out on the pasture with the woods blocking the weather from the West. Hay was taken out for them and the really did well here.
These calves were born in the fall of 2013 and wintered over here. Notice their long hair. It's amazing to watch the animals adapt to their environments.
The snow and wind did make some beautiful landscapes. The open pastures looked like what I picture the bottom of the sea to look like.
Even though Paulding County is known to be really flat, we do have a great sledding hill at the farm. The kids (young and old) took advantage of the good conditions for sledding!
February was still cold and snowy. It also brought about a change in operations. Ralph and Sheila took over the cheese production, among their other duties. The first time they made cheese together was quite the deal. I think everything that could have been broken down was. After the equipment was in working order they did accomplish their task at hand.
This was the first and only time that wool sweaters, flannel shirts, and stocking hats were worn while making cheese. It warms up in there quite a bit.
By accident we had some ewes have lambs this year. We got them in as cull lambs because they didn't get pregnant, but alas, they were pregnant!
More feeding of the diary cows. In the middle is the bunk where they are fed hay, and on the left is the wagon where they are fed the barley sprouts. They really enjoyed the sprouts and they seemed to keep their condition better through the winter with that feed.
The beginning of March brought a couple of late snow storms. We waited and waited for the ground to thaw and the grass to start growing. The spring calves started to arrive also.
I think this was our last snow storm!
One of the new Spring calves. The spots around the eyes are characteristic of the Normande breed. We are crossing Normande genetics in to the cows we have. These have been the best diary breed we've used so far.
We had developed a recipe for hot dogs and bologna, as well as beef summer sausage and snack sticks. These are all the spices that go in to some of those recipes. We were able to work with a couple of different butcher shops to get these made to our specifications, without any fillers or nitrates.
On the day of Spring Equinox we were able to stand an egg on its end.
The big event in April was finally getting the cows out to pasture. On April 21 they were let out to graze again. It had been a long winter!
Starting down the lane...
Turning in to the field...
In May we started thinking about how to improve our pastures and how we could get more grass and hay off of them. We worked with a man out of Sturgis, MI, who practices holistic practices for livestock supplements and natural fertilizers. Instead of filling up the sprayer with our well water, which would take forever, we got a trash pump and decided to just pump water out of the pond. So Kyle worked on getting a cage made for the hose to stay put. It made for some good entertainment until they got everything set up.
These totes held some of the fertilizers we used. They included Zumsil, which is a silicon, that helps with disease and drought tolerance and is supposed to improve yields. We also used liquid fish and Maxi Crop, which is a sea based nutrient source.
And filling up with water.
June was spent growing and butchering chickens and making hay. July was much the same, with no rain. I don't have any pictures from July.
One day at the butcher shop we were having too much fun and decided these chickens looked like they were just chilling out pool side! Sometimes you just have to make your own humor to stay sane!
We had great help getting the birds in to the freezer. The boys liked to "go fishing" and the girls were good at getting the bags ready for us.
Some of the hay that we made....we weren't able to get enough, but some is better than none.
Towards the end of June we move the heifers that were just up the road at our farm to the North of us down to the home farm. Instead of loading them all in to a trailer, we just walked them down the road as it's only about a half mile.
Finally we're caught up to August.
We are dry again this summer. We've had to feed hay early for the past five years and it's taking a toll on us in many ways. Our ideal is to have enough pasture to graze until about Christmas time, and then feed stored feed from then until late March/early April. When we have to start feeding hay in September and October it puts a strain on everything. We are trying to do some analyzing and figure out what steps we should be taking. Right now we have about a week of grass left, unless we would get some good soaking rain soon. We seem to be an area that the rain splits right around us.
Kyle was able to take the cows across the road to the North to utilize some pasture that we don't usually use for the milk cows and that gave us an extra week of grazing.
The other day the storm clouds rolled in and I was hopeful that they would settle over us, but they were moving too fast and mostly to the North of us. We did get a quarter inch out of that. Afterwards the sun was shining and a beautiful rainbow draped in the sky to the East and the Western sky was brilliant with the sun shining bright through the clouds. It was like a dirty window had been polished and everything was clearer. Later a beautiful sunset filled the sky. It was a good reminder that ultimately things are not in our control.
These sights reminded me of Psalm 19:1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Until next time.