News and blog
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.
A couple of weeks ago we had some mornings that were just beautiful, and rare for July. It felt more like September, but who's complaining? I captured some pictures as I was feeding and moving the chickens and just really enjoyed myself in the beauty of the morning.
I wasn't able to get the greatest quality pictures with my phone...but still amazing scenery.
There is just something about the morning light feeling so new and fresh. Being able to appreciate the beauty of creation before the day gets all muddled up in the workings of life. Oblivious to what will transpire throughout the day.
Have you wanted to see C/J Farms in person? Now is your chance. We are hosting a walking farm tour on Friday, June 28, starting at 6 PM. Come out to the farm and experience the different animals and learn how we care for them and how they provide fresh, nourishing meats and cheeses for your table. You will see and learn about the milking parlor, cheese plant and sprouting building. You will see the dairy and some beef cows, meat chickens, laying hens, and pigs. Come and walk around the barn yard and out to the pastures. Bring the kids along for an evening on the farm full of great learning opportunities. The tour will last approximately 1.5-2 hours. Questions? Call 419-399-2350, or email email@example.com. Our address is 18637 Rd 168, Defiance, OH 43512.
As I mentioned in the last blog post, we have embarked on a new adventure. In 2011 we were introduced to the idea of growing sprouts as a source of feed for the livestock. This interested us on many different accounts. For one, sprouts are to be an excellent protein source. They also could be used as a green feed in the winter. We have been using dry hay, but the prices of hay keep climbing and the availability is not always the best. We were also considering using the sprouts as a 'drought insurance'. When we first started researching this we had no idea that the summer of 2012 would be our next drought. We had priced pasture insurance, which would be similar to crop insurance, but it was too expensive to really even consider. Even if we would purchase insurance, it would not provide the physical feed that we needed. So with all of these positives we went ahead in the Spring of 2012 and put our first payment down on a one ton sprouting system.
Time kept going on and we ended up losing over 80 days of grazing this past summer. We didn't get much of a hay crop, and the surrounding areas didn't have much of a hay harvest either. Things were looking pretty bleak as we headed toward the winter feeding months. We started the cement work and building construction in early November. Here they are digging the footer.
And pouring the footer.
Construction of the building.
Working on the roof.
We got word that our sprouting system was next in line and we were to expect delivery in early December. At that time we had hopes of having sprouts growing by Christmas, or at least the New Year and we wouldn't need to seek out expensive, good milk cow hay. That didn't happen. The truck bringing our supplies caught fire in Iowa and part of the load had to be replaced. We ended up getting our shipment on Christmas Day. Not the choicest of days for us to have to unload a truck, but we needed to roll with the punches. This was the long awaited load!
Taking one load back to the Fodder building.
Brian had to be a counterweight as this load caused it to be heavy on the front end.
The engineer who started with us on this project was not able to be with us as we actually started the assembly. The CEO and a salesman were here to help, but had never actually done and installation before, so it was a learning experience for all.
The trays had ends that needed glued on. This made the whole building smell pretty interesting!
More people gluing ends on.
And the pile at the end!
Assembling the racks.
Preparing the utility room.
Setting the water tank in place.
The racks standing upright.
We finally got the racks and trays all assembled and plumbed up. The last piece to the puzzle was the control box. This box contained electrical components that controlled the dosing of nutrients into the water and the pumping of water to the trays. It is also supposed to test the water's pH. A technician was sent out to get everything wired up correctly. The inside of the control box is below.
A brief overview of the process as I understand it is, first the seeds are soaked up to 24 hours in these soak tubs.
Then the seeds are 'planted' on the trays.
Here the leveler is being used to ensure the seeds are level. Since they get watered by flooding, it is important that the water can flow all the way down the tray.
The water comes from this big tank...
down the pipes and flows into this end of the tray...
And out the back end and down to the back drain.
The drain flows into a sump area and at this point we have the option of recycling the water or discarding it. So far we haven't recycled it as we are not to the point where we have the nutrient levels figured out correctly.
The first day we harvested sprouts was about the best harvest we've had so far. We've been on a major learning curve. We are using well water, and our water is extremely hard. We're thinking the instruments must have been calibrated on city water and we've had to try and figure things out by trial and error. One man we talked to has water at a pH of 7 and is getting along fine, but his water is not near as hard as ours. Other people are telling us our pH needs to be lower, around 6.3 or something. So, we are still trying to work on figuring that out. We haven't been crazy impressed with the nutrients that were supplied to us, so we are also seeking out alternatives in that area. Some days the sprouts look really nice, and some days we might as well just dump the bag of barley to the animals. it's going to take some time and patience and perseverance to get this figured out. What we are excited about is the way the animals are eating what we do have. They are really liking the sprouts and try to eat them out of the bucket before we can get into the pen. So that is encouraging to us. We also see that the milk production has improved some, and we haven't had a large amount of sprouts to feed yet. Again, that is encouraging. We still believe that once we get the bugs worked out of the system that the sprouts will be a cost effective and nutritionally wise feed product. I'll finish here with some pictures of the seeds and sprouts. The motto is seed to feed in 7 days, so you can see the progression over the week. I don't have all the days documented here, but you will get the idea.
The pictures below are of the first harvest we had.
The chickens came up to inspect what was thrown to them. They ate the green off first, but when I went out the next morning the roots and all were gone. The cows did similar, but the pigs just dove in and ate everything all at once.
This picture is of all the racks.
I'm sure there is a lot of other technical information that I could talk about, but this gives an overview of what has been going on here. If you have any questions feel free to contact us.
Seeing as 2013 is well underway, it's high time I get a recap of the previous year posted! Right now I'm having a love hate relationship with technology. I just spent probably an hour making this post up and was just about to push submit when the internet went down! And nothing was saved, except the title...how helpful! Anyhow, I'll try again!
We started out the year with a fairly dry winter. We weren't sure what the spring and summer would hold, but hoped for good growing conditions. The most excitement in the spring is when the cows can go back out to pasture, and when we get the first batch of chicks. http://www.cjgrassfed.com/blog/cows-are-out.
We look forward to moving the laying hens from the greenhouse to the pasture when the time is right. This year Ralph had plenty of help, or something, from the younger generation!
A ride on the 4-wheeler or wagon is always good entertainment.
And sometimes we end up looking like the Clampetts!
As the summer wore on we wondered if it would rain again. We ended up loosing about 85 grazing days and had to feed our winter supply of dry hay during that time. We made two cuttings of hay, but they were poor yields.
A neighbor's corn field in late July/early August.
Our heavy clay soil is notorious for large cracks in dry conditions.
The bottom pond along our road is not very deep to begin with, but this is the lowest I've ever seen it.
On June 29 a Derecho, or straight wind blew through our area. It caused damage to some of our structures and we were without electricity for five days. I had no idea that a storm was even predicted, but it came through and left its mark! http://www.cjgrassfed.com/blog/storm-damage. On July 4 we were blessed with the outpouring of support from our customers. A group came and helped us with the clean up and rebuilding. http://www.cjgrassfed.com/blog/clean-up-and-rebuilding
Later in the summer the greenhouse got restructured and a new cover pulled onto it.
Every once in a while there will be some abnormality on the farm that warrants documenting. About 20 years ago or so, when we were still in conventional farming, there was a two headed calf born. This wasn't quite as exciting, but still a little strange. Don't worry, this one wasn't for sale!
One of my favorite things to do is watch the sky. I love to watch the color displays in the evening while doing dishes.
And this was from just a month or two ago. Usually the most brilliant colors are in late summer and fall.
September brought our Farm Club field day. We had beautiful weather for the day. It had actually rained during that week and the grasses were staring to green up.
Sampson giving a little love!
And to round out the year was the beginning of a major project. We have installed a FodderTech sprouting system. With this we can sprout grains, such as barley, and use the green sprouts as a high protein feed. A more detailed post on this will come soon. In early November the work on the building started. Here they are pouring the footer.
An eventful year, and one not soon to be forgotten I'm sure. We are thankful that we came through it safe and healthy. We don't know what this next year will hold, but we will try our best to make the best of whatever comes.
Another year is swiftly coming to a close. As we look back and reflect on the past year we can easily become discouraged. It was a hard summer, but we have many things to be thankful for. We are blessed with amazing customers who become like family to us. From all of us at C/J Natural Meats we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!
A Farmer's Work
Make the hay while the sun is shining, haul the manure while the ground is frozen, and milk the cows twice a day. A farmer’s work is never done.
Move the chickens in the morning’s light and gather the eggs by the afternoon sun. Slop the pigs twice a day, a farmer’s work is never done.
The cows must be milked. The pigs must be slopped. No matter if it’s rainy or sunny, the chickens must be fed.
Move the beef to the next paddock, wean the calves when the time is right. Get the brooder ready for new chicks, a farmer’s work is never done.
Read literature to continue learning, keep up to date with the rules and regs. Order supplies before they run out, a farmer’s work is never done.
The cows must be milked. The pigs must be slopped. No matter if it’s Saturday or Sunday, the chickens must be fed.
Make multiple trips to and from the butcher shop, stock the freezers in the store. Greet the customers with a smile. A farmer’s work is never done.
Answer the phone round the clock. Hope it’s not the sheriff in the middle of the night. “Your cows are out,” leaves a sinking feeling. A farmer’s work is never done.
The cows must be milked. The pigs must be slopped. No matter if it’s Christmas or New Years, the chickens must be fed.
Another year has swiftly passed, taking time to reflect on the blessings. Safely brought to another season, a farmer’s thanks is never done.
A healthy family, safe travels on the highways, and the blessing of caring and smiling customers; a farmer’s thanks has just begun.
Ralph & Sheila Schlatter and Family