Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cat on a hot chick brooder

Poor Cosmo. Our cat suffered through a bout of empty-nest syndrome this spring, after we moved our 51 New Hampshire chicks from their indoor brooder to an outdoor transition coop.

For more than two weeks, faithful Cosmo curled up atop the warm brooder, watching the chicks inside for hours at a time. Naturally, being a cat, he took frequent breaks from this strenuous activity to take naps. No doubt he dreamed about what he would do if the lid were left off the brooder one day. It must have been tantalizing, being literally a few inches above the heads of a lot of tiny little birds. He's a good cat, though, and he didn't really try too hard to get in there. At least, not while we were looking...

As the chicks got bigger (New Hampshires grow fast), occasionally one of them would reach up and peck at Cosmo's tail through the screened lid. It didn't seem to bother Cosmo much; in fact, I wondered if he actually enjoyed these little interactions. He certainly seemed to be fascinated by the little creatures, and I'm sure he got used to hearing their non-stop peeping.

When the day finally came for the big move, it seemed to be a bit of a shock to Cosmo. Suddenly his nice warm perch, complete with soothing background music, was gone. We felt a little bit guilty when we saw how out of sorts he was. But after all, 51 growing chicks do poop, and even with daily cleaning, frankly, we were ready for the babies to move outside.

Now the chicks are going on 9 weeks old, and Cosmo sits on his perch by the living room window, watching them in the sun. Aww.... they just grow up so fast, don't they, Cosmo?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Canyon Creek Farms: we're certifiable

 3-week-old Khaki Campbell ducklings

You've suspected that all along, haven't you? Now we can confirm the truth: Canyon Creek Farms is on the verge of being certified organic.

After wading through the paperwork and waiting for the results of our application review, we are now awaiting the final inspection. There is a huge lot of record-keeping that is required, so I have been working hard on a database system to handle that part of the certification process. We will be inspected at least once per year, and we must be able to show records of basically every single thing that we did or bought or used during the year. Feed purchases. Every application of fertilizer or compost. If we vaccinate or otherwise give medical treatment to an animal, it must be documented. When we buy seeds or plants they have to be certified organic.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? So why are we doing it? Well, partly it's a matter of pride: We have been working hard on our farm for six years now, and we're producing top-quality chicken and duck eggs, as well as Tamworth pork. We have been managing all our animals and crops organically from the start, so we figured that the next logical step would be certification.

 Tamworth piglets

If you've bought our duck eggs recently at Sunny Farms or Nash's Farm Store, you probably noticed that they are labeled "organic." How can we call them organic when we aren't yet certified? The National Organic Program (NOP) rules state that if a farm sells less than $5,000 per year in organic product sales, it can label its products organic. However, we can't use the USDA Organic logo, and we are subject to inspection to ensure we are complying with the organic standards.

Now that more of our eggs are being sold at local retail stores, we anticipate that our farm product sales will soon top $5,000 per year, which would make us ineligible for this exception.

New Hampshire pullets

Up to now, we've thought of our little farm business as more of a hobby, but it's time to step it up a notch and take ourselves more seriously. We've worked hard to provide wonderful eggs and pork for the local community. It's time we honor the loyalty of our customers as well.