Feb 2012

It's a year after I made the first entry to this blog...time flies...it has been busy. It seems when you are a farmer, winter is the time to try to get ready for the next season and regenerate and rest a bit. So, I'm finally getting caught up a bit with year end tax stuff and wanted to get our site up to date. Sorry for being so bad about keeping it current...I'm going to try to do better in 2012.

I thought I'd give a recap of what we did in 2011 and then talk a bit about where we hope to go in 2012. 2011 was a year of firsts for Rainbow's End. We did our first Farmer's Markets...both in Smithfield, Virginia, and Port Warwick in Newport News, Virginia. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun! I made a lot of friends and the farm sold products to a lot of new folks in 2011 many of whom are still buying products over the winter..which is fantastic.

Another first was our turkey product. We raised 48 heritage breed turkeys, Bourbon Reds and Midget Whites, and the project was a smashing success. We got some fantastic press from Lorraine Eaton of the Virginia Pilot as well as Beth Hester writing for the Hampton Roads Magazine. Our thanks to both of them for getting the word out about our farm. Here the links to the articles by Lorraine Eaton:

http://hamptonroads.com/2011/07/pick-your-poults-way-thanksgiving-day
http://hamptonroads.com/2011/11/lets-put-turkeys-test

Here is a photo of the young turkeys:

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2011 was also the first that we have had grass fed beef available for sale as well as our pastured duck. We still have a little bit of both in stock and will have more beef available around May 2012. Duck is up in the air...they are a LOT of work to clean..much harder than chickens.... and perhaps more than we are going to be able to realistically do. If enough folks want duck, we'll try to raise another batch. Let us know.

2011 was also our first hurricane drill with all of our farm animals. Getting ready for Hurricane Irene was a challenge unlike any we've had before. In the past we mainly had the horses to worry with but this year we had chickens, turkeys, ducks, chicks, and the cattle also. Catching and moving the turkeys was epic as they had taken to roosting in a small tree...and getting them down in the middle of the night and moved one by one was quite a task. We also moved a hundred broilers out of the pasture and 100 hen chicks from the brooder to a more secure building. The ducks stayed out the whole time and loved the weather and the cattle weathered the storm in an outside shelter also. The hens and their entire coop were moved into the large barn at our farm where they rode out the two days of the storm. We made it through with no losses other than to our rest and sleep! Let's hope we don't have to do that again in 2012!

Going back to planning for 2012, we of course will be raising chicken as before and we'll have plenty of eggs this year. We have quite a few more hens than last year and egg production will be heavy this year. It seemed like I never had enough eggs last year and now I'm worried that I'll have too many...so if you want good pastured eggs, let us know! I have a bunch on hand already. Our new flock is made up of Barred Plymouth Rocks as well as a few of the Easter Egger chickens who lay green eggs (just for fun).

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We are currently researching adding pork to our farm products. In keeping with our farm's theme of selling heritage livestock animal products, we are researching raising the very rare Red Wattle pigs. They are supposed to produce some of the best tasting pork around..a bit more fat than you'll find on today's very lean pigs but extremely flavorful. Until we can get the Red Wattle project underway, we will be purchasing hybrid "feeder" piglets to raise here on pasture in a humane clean manner so we can offer you this high demand product.

Our last "maybe" for 2012 is to add lamb and mutton. This is even tougher than pork as sheep are harder to raise and very susceptible to predators and parasites...they are also harder to fence in which will require us to redo a lot of our farm's existing fencing. But, we've had requests and we also LOVE lamb, so we are giving it a good look over and we'll update you all if this looks like it will happen.

We are also slowly expanding our beef project. To our disappointment, our three heifers we purchased last year were not bred, so we did not have calves this winter. We are, however, getting them bred soon for some Fall calves. We are also purchasing some feeder calves so we have beef available in the interim. Beef is really expensive right now as there is a shortage of animals nationwide...so we'll probably not be able to keep up with demand but we're going to see what we can find and afford to do. Ultimately we'd love to raise heritage cattle also...our favorites are Scottish Highland cattle...but that might have to wait a bit.

We visited a Scottish Highland breeder in Virginia this summer and here is a picture of one of his beautiful cows:

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