Sunrises like this propel us into the power of the moment.
So much is percolating these days it is hard to process all of it. Forces of spring are emerging, lambs are being born, cattle are thriving, generosity is being extended, orders are persisting, teamwork is flowing, and a pandemic is dominating. Assimilating all of this transforms the average into the extraordinary.
Two special events transpired on April 30th. One made us cry in gratitude, the other made us cheer, and we assume they are connected.
In the mail that day arrived a donation of financial support from southern California, in response to our Partnership newsletter of January. This is from a young family of three who live twenty-five-hundred miles way. They had visited our farm about four years ago, and now choose, by very large heart and large spirit, to stand with us through a magnanimous gesture from afar. This made us cry in humility and gratitude.
Not half an hour after opening the mail, delivering this remarkable gesture, did we look out the kitchen window to espy our first newborn lambs of the season. And they were coincidentally triplets, to an attentive mother, which is always exciting! Susan dubbed them: April, May, & June. We feel they arrived through the spirit of the generous family of three from southern California. How striking and heart-warming. And what a great way to start the lambing season.
We have received so many calls from far and wide from people looking for sides of beef that we have wondered how to handle this. Three months ago, we would have been thrilled by the prospect of more sales and new customers. Now we are quite sure we don't have supply to meet this surge in demand. We certainly want new customers, but we also feel indebted to those who have supported us over many years. How do we respond? Should we raise prices on volume-purchases or limit quantity purchased? We discussed this among our able team, and concluded that raising prices to discourage demand is not equitable, as it doesn't impact all customers alike. Whereas limiting amount purchased does. So, we chose the latter. Grocery stores are now doing this as well.
We are accordingly limiting orders for beef to 10 lbs. We will probably be doing the same for pork, but haven't quite arrived at that yet. These changes in circumstance are in such contrast to the patterns of old that it is a challenge to digest and adapt to all they mean.
We are trying to increase our supply of beef for next year and as such have kept all of our yearling calves in the pipeline. But we are concerned about slow growth of grass this spring and the yearlings impact on pastures through the summer and fall. We have therefore taken an unconventional approach to contract-graze them in Virginia. Below they are being loaded onto a 53-foot trailer to return in November. Hopefully, we can find a closer alternative next year.
We have 250 broilers on the ground and in the grass which will be processed at the end of May. We will accordingly be back in supply of pastured chicken by the first week of June. We have another 250 broilers in the brooder, to go out on grass when the first are processed. And 250 after that plus another 250 at the end. So, the pipeline is filling for pastured chicken, finally.
Mike has been working on our new mobile hen house. Its inhabitants arrive early next week. We will keep you posted on how they integrate. This structure is a sled rather than wagon, so doesn't move quite as easily as the one on wheels, but it can house 1,000 hens versus 600.
Last weekend was busy, as we participated in two markets, both Hyde Park and Montgomery. This was our first venture to Montgomery, whose customers greeted us with great hospitality. Though we don't really meet new customers now because of the constrained circumstances of interaction, we do begin the process of getting to know each other. Meeting new people for purpose of nutritious food is always a privilege, even if merely by depositing packages in the back of a car with a word of gratitude.
I have found packing orders prior to delivery at markets to be an emotional experience, for worrying that we won't have what was ordered. The world and our status within it has changed so quickly that it is hard to contemplate. Previously, our foods were a factor of entertainment for many, given the omni-presence of the industrial food supply. But the vulnerability of that supply has recently been cruelly exposed, leaving the remaining alternative to be local farmers employing local processing plants.
Such farmers are now deemed "essential", which places a large responsibility upon our shoulders. We welcome the responsibility, but we are not yet accustomed to its weight. It feels like we are now packing essential, medicinal goods destined for people stranded on islands. By the end of two days of packing orders, I find myself emotionally drained, for thinking about you. We miss the richness of chatting with you in person, and look forward to that resuming, but in the meantime, please know we are still communing with you!
Our cowherd is in even better condition than usual this spring, and we think it is due to the hay barn we built several summers ago. The hay fed out of the barn was protected from rain all year and thus was of considerably better quality than in years previous. The result is most noticeable in the calves, who are larger and with better coats of hair than in prior years. We therefore feel good enough about the quality of our stock to sell a few bred heifers. We loaded two this morning to go to an organic farmer who is starting a herd.
In the picture above, Bo is bringing the-two heifers in. Most border collies are not strong-willed enough to face a 900 lb animal like that, but Bo is. He is great with cattle, but sometimes too strong with sheep. With proper management, however, a strong-willed dog can be throttled-down, whereas a weak dog can't be throttled-up. We have had both, and much prefer the former.
The above shows homemade pizza, precooked, featuring Susan's Soulful Meatballs, mozzarella cheese, a tomato-basil sauce, and a few miscellaneous leftovers from the refrigerator. While many pizzas can be underwhelming, this was great, was ready to go after 15 minutes at 350 degrees. It is fun to rediscover homemade pizza.We look forward to seeing you either at the Montgomery Market on Saturday from 9 - 12:30 or the Hyde Park Market on Sunday from 9:30 - 11:30. The Markets now have strict protocols, with which most of you are familiar, but if not, please check their respective websites for more detail.
In the power of these moments,
Drausin & Susan