Hogs, Home, Lambs, Meet Your Meat, Monthly Updates

New Boar, Surprise Lambs, Stolen Truck… you know, the usual.

The Truck

“Man, that’s a LOT of scrap metal!”

trailer with hog huts

That’s what I imagine the guy said when he saw our trailer, loaded down with our brand new hog huts, and at the time, connected to our truck, parked in the lot this guy happened to pass through.  And I imagine that was the only thing on his mind (and $$ signs in his eyes) when, in broad daylight, he smashed the window, pulled out the ignition column, revved it up and drove the whole rig out of the lot.

Lucky for us, a) scrap yards tend to be closed on Sundays, and b) most opportunistic thieves often aren’t thinking crystal clearly.  And so, after meeting with the police, Graham and his buddy drove around the neighborhood and spotted the “hidden” truck (without trailer) in a lot ten blocks from where it was stolen. When the cops arrived, they found the trailer unhitched behind some tractor-trailers, hog huts and all.  And we consider ourselves crazy lucky.

A few lessons learned here: 1) drive home as quickly as possible when hauling a load of metal (though it was really just in the wrong place at the wrong time), 2) comprehensive insurance is probably worth adding to car/truck policies…

The Lambs

A couple weeks ago, Wendy came down from doing chores and told Graham… “so… #207’s bagged up.”  #207 is one of last Spring’s lambs. She was supposed to be in the midst of her first breeding… not a first lambing (bagged up means her udder was full).  It seems the ram get to the wrong field at just the right time, in November, and so last weekend, during evening chores, here’s what we saw:

Surprise Lambs1 Lamb Surprise2 Lamb Surprise 3

Photo quality isn’t great: Sorry; it was pouring down rain. That’s why they look a little glum.  They’re also brand spanking new in these pictures… not even totally cleaned off yet.  Lambs certainly aren’t that bad a surprise! She’s a young mom, but not crazily so, and we’re lucky that she’s a good one: attentive and able to keep track of them in all the tall grass we’ve got! Babies and momma are doing well after their first week.

The Boar

Goodbye Marvin, Hello Jack! We got ourselves a new boar. He’s a bit prehistoric looking, but he’s a good-looking registered Hereford who’s proven.  Why did we get him, you ask?  Because Marvin wasn’t doing the one job he’s assigned to do (is it really so much to ask?).  We had several gilts and sows come back into heat for two, even three, months in a row.  Boars really aren’t supposed to “miss.”  That, and he had arthritic back legs, even though he was only two years old.

Marvin
MARVIN- really pretty, low testosterone
Jack
JACK – Not so pretty; high testosterone!

We’re happy to report that Jack seems to be getting his job done without complaint!  The ladies were a bit intimidated by him at first, but they’ve been going through phases of being head over heals in love… for three days at a time. He’s way more impressive and intimidating than Marvin was: good traits for a boar to have.

And now, we’re starting a new section of our farm updates, the Meet Your Meat Series.  It seems appropriate for Part 1 to be about the product with which we started, and one that we just processed our first batch of the season last week!

Meet Your Meat: Red Broiler Chickens

IMG_0498

We raise all of our animals on pasture because we want them to be able to exhibit their natural behaviors so they’re happier and healthier animals.  Our Red Broilers spend their first three weeks in our brooder before moving out to our pastures, spending their days in the sunshine, foraging for insects and worms and taking dust baths.  We move them to fresh grass daily, which not only allows them to forage in brand new grass, but gives them the chance to eat the parasitic worms that could harm our sheep, while leaving behind just enough fertilizer to help our pastures thrive!  Unlike conventional birds, which are typically fed medicated feed from day 1, we never give our chickens any meds.  We know that a bird that’s well fed and watered and living in a clean environment, shouldn’t get sick. In fact, we’ve only had one sick chicken in the two years we’ve raised them!  We’ve lost some to predators and smothering when it’s cold, but only one to illness!  So, you can rest assured that you’re eating an all-natural, healthy product: a bird that had a happy life, while improving our pastures’ health by doing what it does best, being a chicken.

Why Red Broilers, over other breeds of meat birds?  Primarily, because they have the best flavor and texture, but there are reasons for that! Red Broilers were developed in the 1960’s as ideal chickens for pasturing.  The most popular meat bird, the Cornish-Plymouth Rock Cross, was developed for its very rapid growth rate; conventionally raised Cornish Crosses can reach a market weight of 4-5 pounds in as little as five weeks, which, while good for mass production, leads to skeletal problems, lameness, and low muscular development, which we think accounts for the decreased flavor in their meat.  Our Red Broilers, on the other hand, grow more slowly, reaching market weight after 9 to 11 weeks, which is less taxing on their bodies, and allows them to be more active.

Animal welfare is our #1 objective at Dry Ridge Farm; we’re proud of the way our animals live out their lives here, and we think you’ll notice how a healthy, active life improves the flavor and texture of all of our products!

Lambs, Monthly Updates

From Spring Deluge to Winter’s Chill

It’s been raining for what seems like a month, with a couple days this past weekend of sunshine and seventy degree weather.  Four days later, we’re bracing for nights in the teens and 20s, but we are THRILLED to have some sunshine in our lives!

Since January 7th, our ewes have been hard at work having and keeping track of their babies!  We now have about 40 lambs, with fourteen more ewes to go.  Lambing with 38 ewes, instead of the 22 with which we started, and in winter this time, has certainly been more work, but things are going well so far (knock on wood). We’ve also had several firsts… our first set of triplets (now, we’ve had three sets of triplets) and our first assisted deliveries (lambs are supposed to come out like their diving, front legs and head first; we had one that had one leg backward and another that was just a little too hesitant to come out).  We also had our first case of theft when one of our pregnant ewes, hormones raging, tricked us into thinking she’d had a baby, when really she’d stolen a twin.  Unfortunately, she hadn’t developed her udder yet, so we ended up with a bottle baby. We also had one confusing morning, the day after Graham’s birthday, when we opened the barn to find eight lambs and four ewes who just couldn’t tell which lamb belonged where.  They each accepted one, but then another ewe adopted two of the abandoned lambs right before having twins of her own.  She’s kept three of them and all are doing well!

There’s nothing that brings a little ray of sunshine to your life like a gaggle of lambs playing, each bouncing for joy just to be alive, often frolicking themselves to the ground as they forget how to keep their spindly legs below them.  We’re hoping they’ll keep thriving despite the winter weather to come. Now, for pictures…

After dealing with this last night

P1030624
This creek’s usually about a foot wide wide. That pipe’s a three-footer.

P1030627

I was happy to spend some time with this…

P1030615 P1030658 P1030656 P1030655 P1030654 P1030651 P1030645 P1030642 P1030640 P1030632 Lambing

Hogs, Lambs, Land Improvements, Monthly Updates, Uncategorized

A Busy Week & Our First Press!

We just wanted to do a quick post to let you know of a couple articles about the farm and to update you on goings-on this week.  Thanks to Bryan Sullivan for writing us up for the Carolina-Virginia Farmer, and to Adam Hayes for hooking us up generally.  Adam, of Red Stag, got us in touch with Bryan for this article and for the lamb class we presented to AND he’s to thank for our excellent farm feature dinner last weekend!

An article about our farm and the increase in pastured meat producers:

http://magissues.farmprogress.com/SCV/CV01Jan13/scv010.pdf

At the end of this post is the text from an Asheville Citizen Times article about the Future Farmers of America (FFA) lamb class to which we presented.

This week has honestly been a bit crazy, and the three weeks of rain has made for quite a bit of mud to contend with these days! Here’s a synopsis:

Our ewes moved into the lambing barn

lambing barn move2

Lambing barn move

 

That was after Graham made the barn door, which we hung like this (good thing Graham has rock-climbing experience and gear!):

P1030570 P1030569 P1030566

We had more piglets on Saturday, December 30th! She had 13, lost 3 in the first few hours, but we still have ten piglets, which makes us very happy! She’s an excellent mother, and it’s been fun to watch how careful she is with the little ones.  Often, the piglets are bundled on one side of the farrowing stall, and momma will dig a little trench next to them, lay down on the opposite side of it, then push them into the trench where they can snuggle up to her and eat. Animal mothers are truly fascinating to watch.

Piglets nursing - Rd. 2

Pig pile! A good way to stay warm.
Pig pile! A good way to stay warm.

Piglets Round 2 - 2 Piglets Round 2

We also had baby rabbits! 21 of them this time. Our numbers are getting better on bits!

P1030601 P1030602

We moved the growing hogs into a new field, where they seriously bounced for joy at all the new grass and the straw!

Moving the new home to the field.
Moving the new home to the field.
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
From mud dirt....
From mud dirt….
To fresh grass! (or new mud to make)

And turned the growing hogs’ old barn into a laying hen barn, with new doors and roosts. 400 new layers moved in on Saturday night… in the midst of some serious wintery weather. We got pullets this time, which are about 5 months old, so just starting to lay.  We let them outside for the first time yesterday… and they’re getting used to feeling outdoor grass and sunshine for the first time in their lives!

Framing things out
Framing things out
Doors completed, roosts and feed hangers added, and girls moved in!
Doors completed, roosts and feed hangers added, and girls moved in!

Hen feeder

Their first taste of the great outdoors!
Their first taste of the great outdoors!

New Layers

That about sums it up. Happy holidays and happy New Year to all!

Below is the article from the Asheville Citizen-Times – Author: Casey Blake; Date: Nov. 19th

North Buncombe learns about lamb from farm to table

Adam Hayes hearts lamb.

At least that’s what the sticker he was wearing Wednesday said, as he led a special lamb butchery lesson for the students of North Buncombe High School.

About 40 students from cooking and agriculture classes at the school heard from local farmers about the lamb production process. They also watched a cooking demonstration by Hayes, executive chef at the Red Stag Grill for the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, in a presentation detailing the lamb’s journey from farm to table.

Wendy and Graham Brugh, of the new Dry Ridge Farm in Mars Hill, told students how they raise the lamb, what kind of work goes into small family farms and about the direct marketing process to local chefs and farmers’ markets.

Hayes demonstrated how to prepare the different cuts of lamb meat, how chefs can be creative with the dishes and even served up samples of lamb entrees that go for $30 -$45 at the Red Stag Grill.

“A lot of these kids have never even tasted lamb before, so it’s great to be able to expose them to something new,” Hayes said. “It’s a different experience to be able to see things first-hand.”

Wendy Brugh told the classes about their decision to work with sheep and talked about the declining number of small family farms, especially among young people.

“For us this was really a lifestyle choice,” Brugh told the class. “We both like working outdoors and working with animals, and we really enjoy the relationship building that comes with direct marketing the products,” she said.

“Small family farms have really been declining in recent years,” she said, “especially with younger people. Eighty-three percent of farmers are older than 45 and the average age of a farmer these days is 57 years old. So we’re very interested in bringing younger farmers in and showing how you can really make a living at it.”

The presentation was organized by North Buncombe Future Farmers of America alumnus Bryan Sullivan, co-owner of Write Away Inc. editorial company, and a former chef himself.

Sullivan was writing an article for Carolina-Virginia Farmer on a local chapter of FFA, and learned that while kids in one class at North Buncombe were learning about the basics of lamb production, they had little idea of what happens to the product once it leaves their hands.

“The interest in helping these kids learn more about the overall business and marketing side of lamb farming was so well received by not only local groups, but regional and national participants as well,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan lobbied The American Lamb Board, based in Denver, to donate reading materials, lamb-cut charts, posters, cookbooks and the stickers modeled by Hayes and got the Virginia-based Border Springs Farm to donate lamb for the class demonstration.

“I think it’s just really interesting to know where my food comes from,” said senior Sydney Shrimplin, “and the lamb was pretty amazing. I’ve had lamb before but never like that.”

“Honestly, this is what happens when you have a great alumni association,” agricultural education teacher Justin Gillespie said.

“It makes a big difference for the kids to be able to learn about this stuff from people who do it every day, to see that application aspect,” he said. “If they know what the application will be, they pay a lot more attention and we saw that today.”

Home, Lambs, Land Improvements, Meet our animals, Monthly Updates

A donkey, a lambing barn, and pork! (Oh My!)

It’s been a busy few weeks here at the farm, and for once, I’m writing two posts in one month. Goodness!

As you might be able to guess from the title of this post, the most exciting new developments here are that we got a donkey, have started renovating a barn for our January lambing, AND (drumroll please) we’ve got pork!!

Our donkey is the last animal we expect to buy for the farm.  She’ll have the all important task of protecting our flock of sheep from any predators.  While we haven’t had any predator issues yet (knock on wood), it’s only a matter of time and having a guard animal for defenseless sheep is simply a good idea.  We chose to get a donkey rather than a guard dog, because they’re just as effective and we’re not as comfortable having a dog that has to be more socialized with our sheep than it is with humans.  We like having farm animals for the farm and dogs as companions.  We may very well get a dog to work our sheep in the future, but that one would live with us, not with the sheep.   Our donkey is also one of the most creative wedding presents we’ve received!  We got her from friends who have a donkey they breed.  Our little Donkey Hotey is our friends’ donkey’s baby. And man, is she CUTE!! (despite having a little briar problem) See for yourself!

Look at them ears!

Best Friends

For now, we’re keeping her close so she can get used to her new home and to us.  She’s keeping our ram company, while he waits for his next foray with his flock of ladies, and they seem to be fast friends. They rarely leave one another’s side!
We separated our ram from the flock a few weeks ago, and our ewes are about 6 weeks from giving birth to our next round of lambs!  A winter lambing means that we need to have a good plan for the little ones, so Graham’s been working on rehabing the barn above our garden.  The field around the barn will be split in half, with one half for pregnant ewes and the other for the ones that have given birth and their lambs.

Right after giving birth, moms and babies will move into jugs to make sure momma knows what to do with the little one and is okay with having it around!

First part of construction. Knock down half a wall. Wendy tends to forget about those important “before” pictures, but the wall on the right used to be six feet high like the one in the back on the right.
This is that last wall after Graham’s cut it off.
And then he stabilized it. Notice how much help Wendy is… taking pictures while Graham works!
Completed “jugs”, where mommas and babies bond. Note: Wendy did help here, and got very comfortable with a grinder, cutting all the hog panel!

After a day or two in a jug, the ewe and lamb move out to socialize with other new mothers and their lambs in a mixing pen, and after a few days, they’ll go out to the ewe/lamb pair field, where the lambs will also have access to a creep feeder, made just for them so they grow big and strong despite the cold!  We still have a couple large sliding doors to make and the fencing to complete, but as you can see from the photos, we’re well on our way to a lambing barn!  I did learn one thing: Building things with hog panel is a LOT cheaper and faster than using wood panels. Graham and I did all of this, besides the creep feeder, in a day.

The mixing pen
Where the ewes will eat a bit of grain to keep them strong and fit through the stressful lambing time.
The lambs’ creep feeder (notice the lamb sized holes in the wall that their moms can’t fit through.

On a completely different note, we also have our first pork!!  And in related news, we’ll be selling it at ASAP’s new Asheville City Winter Market, in the lobby of the Haywood Park Hotel downtown, so you’ll get to try both our pork AND our lamb (and we’ll still have chicken, eggs, and rabbit available) starting in January! The event we’ve all been waiting for (or at least what I’ve been waiting for!).  Our first pork is, however, a mixed blessing.  While we’re excited to have product, it isn’t from one of our first piglets; it’s from one of our sows.  I think I wrote about the fact that our second round of piglets was dismal. One of our sows had a nice litter of 8, but the other dropped hers early, and none of the five she had survived.  We gave her another chance, only because we didn’t have any replacement gilts (young female pig) at breeding age, but she miscarried her second litter a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, when you’re raising animals for meat, a sow that doesn’t produce becomes only good for sausage. So, that’s what we’ve got!  We sold our first pork shoulder and some fatback to Red Stag Grille to make their own sausages and charcuterie, and the rest of the pork is all wrapped up in sausage.  Breakfast, Italian, and Brats galore. It’ll be waiting for you in January! A small note on our sausage links… they look a little funny, as you can see in the picture below. They’re straight, and aren’t tied up on the ends, which is a little frustrating in that the casing doesn’t hold up as well to the heat of a pan, BUT they taste delicious AND no other sausage will ever fit quite as perfectly inside a sausage or hot dog bun!

Bratwurst!

We plan to work with our processor and see if there’s a better casing alternative that they can provide, but for the time being, trust us on this: Our sausages might look a little funny, but they certainly taste delightful!

For fear of being too long winded, I’ll leave it at that.  Thanks to everyone for your support through our first year.  We’re lucky to have such wonderful customers, family, and friends! When you’re done reading this post, go to our products and markets pages to check out our pork and lamb pricing and our winter markets and customers!

I almost forgot! We have a termite question, unfortunately. If anyone out there knows the answer, please help! We need to treat termites, but I’ve read that the product that’s been suggested to us, Termidor, with Fipronil, is highly toxic to bees.  So, here’s the question: Is it toxic to bees if you treat the termites by trenching around the structure and injecting Fipronil in that trench?  Is there a less toxic way to treat termites? Is borate an effective treatment?  We have some serious damage to one of our small structures, so the sooner we get an answer from someone, the better!

Looks reasonably in shape…
Until you look more closely. Argh! Termites!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  Graham and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  We look forward to nurturing those blessings in the years to come!