Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Farm Day! April 17, 2010 12:00 - 4:00pm

It's official! On April 17, 2010 we will be having a Farm Day.  We have received many requests from customers and potential customers to visit our farm.  Initially, we invited people to come over whenever they wanted.  We quickly found that while we thoroughly enjoyed visiting with our customers, that we easily lost lots of precious time to work on projects around the farm.  For this reason, some farms even charge money for a visit/tour as they feel that they are losing money by having customers over.  We don't view it this way, in fact, we feel that we are investing in our farm by spending time with our customers, getting to know them better, and helping to answer questions about the way their food is raised.  We have tried to find the right balance between getting crucial chores done and keeping an open door.  Having a Farm Day a few times a year seems like a good balance of allowing customers to visit while still giving us time to get our work done.

Since we are rather casual we will just offer more of an open house type format.  Visitors can come anytime between noon and 4pm.  You can stay for as long as you would like.  We will show you around on the farm.  We plan to have newly arrived turkey chicks in the brooder, young chickens on pasture, and pigs on pasture.  Keep in mind that this is a farm which means that there is lots of "organic fertilizer" spread about from the animals.  Don't wear shoes that you don't mind scrubbing when you get home.  If when arriving, you have recently been around other livestock, (circus, zoo, stock show, other farm, etc...) we may ask you to step in a shallow pan of bleach to help prevent the spreading of any disease or parasites.

We won't have anything official planned, so this will be your opportunity to just enjoy watching the animals, ask questions, etc...  If there is interest, we can take you 1 mile down the road where we are hoping to set up our new farm.  Children (and adults) will have the opportunity to hold the chicks, pet the pigs, and check our chicken coop for eggs.  Parents are expected to keep a close eye on their children that they do not harass or hurt the animals, or get themselves hurt.  There is rusty barbed wire, electric fencing, and other hazards that can cause injury if caution is not exercised.  If we continue to get all of this good moisture, you may want to get some disposable "booties" to slip over your shoes as it may be muddy.

We will offer some samples of grilled pork chops, bacon, ham, and grilled steak for visitors to try.  Our visitors will also be welcome to use the bathroom in our house.  Feel free to invite your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc... All are welcome.  Should anybody be interested in ordering meat from our farm, we will be taking orders, and can take checks as a deposit.  The Silver Sage (local store/gas station/grill) has great burgers if anybody would like to stop in for lunch.  (No, they don't use our beef, yet.) The store looks a little scary, but the food is good. : )

If you can send us an email and let us know how many people you will be arriving with, it would be appreciated so that we can be prepared to accomodate you.  That being said, please don't exclude anybody who decided to tag along at the last minute just because you didn't notify us.

Finally, our farm is not fancy in any way.  We have made due with what we have to the best of our abilities.  There are many things we wish we had and wish we could show our visitors but we are limitied by space, time, and money.  We hope nobody shows up expecting a grand tour of a beautiful farm like one you might see in New England.  If you come prepared to enjoy the peace and quiet that country living offers and would like to see happy animals out playing around we believe you will have an enjoyable time. 

If you have questions, just give us a call or send an email.  We look forward to seeing you!

Christiansen Family Farm (Hog Heaven)
47 S. Main Street
Vernon, UT 84080

Below you will find directions to our farm:

From Salt Lake County:

1. Merge onto I-80 W - 20.9 mi
2. Take exit 99 for State Hwy 36 toward Stansbury Tooele - 0.2 mi
3. Merge onto UT-36 S - 44.9 mi
4. Turn right at Castagno Rd - 0.1 mi
5. Turn left at Main St - 200 ft

From Utah County:

1. Turn right to merge onto I-15 N toward Salt Lake - 7.8 mi
2. Take Lehi exit 279 for Main St toward Lehi - 0.2 mi
3. Turn left at E Main St - 1.3 mi
4. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto W Main St/UT-73 W
5. Continue to follow UT-73 W - 24.0 mi
6. Slight left toward Pony Express Trail Rd - 11.1 mi
7. Continue straight onto Pony Express Trail Rd - 2.5 mi
8. Turn left at UT-36 S - 5.7 mi
9. Turn right at Castagno Rd - 0.1 mi
10. Turn left at Main St - 200 ft

Chickens on Pasture

We finally got the chickens out on pasture, which turned out to be a lot more work than we thought.  They were getting a little crowded in the brooder.  First I grabbed a box and placed a few chicks inside it.  They immediately hopped out and started running around the shop.  After a few minutes of chasing, I was able to gather them back up.  I put them back in the brooder and began searching for another way to move them from the brooder to their fenced pasture area.  Soon I found some larger boxes with lids.  I began to place 2 chicks at at time in the box and then quickly pulled the lid back over the box.  This also meant that I had to uncover the box with my hands full of chickens squaking and fluttering about.  I was able to comfortably fit 50 chicks in each box.  By now each chick weighs close to 1 lb. which as I began to pick up the box, realized, adds up rather quickly.  I am not a wimp, 50 lbs is no big deal, but the box was large and akward.  The bottom of the box began to sag under the weight of the chicks.  As the chicks felt the motion of the box being lifted, they started scrambling inside the box which constantly shifted the weight.  I felt like a cartoon character running back and forth trying to balance this large box as the weight shifted from side to side.  I realized that I wasn't going to be able to walk the box out to the pasture without the likely chance of dropping the box and possibly hurting the chicks.

Immediately, I was able to justify yet another use for my new toy.  New is relative as this "toy" is actually 40 years old.  In anticipation of buying our bigger farm, I was checking out the classifieds for farm equipment.  I came across a 1970 International Harvester 656 tractor with a front loader.  The price was right and Hollie and I decided it would be a wise investment given the amount of work required to set up the new farm.  

My two boxes fit just perfectly inside the bucket of the tractor and allowed me to easily place the boxes over the fence of the chicken pasture.  We let the chickens out and after a few minutes of nervously looking around, the chickens began to relax and check out their new home.  I built a plywood box that they can access for shelter.  Their pasture is enclosed by a 4' tall electric net fence.  The fence is more for keeping predators out than keeping chickens in.  Because chickens are covered in feathers, they are insulated from the electric shock of the fence.  Predators that we have in the area include, foxes, racoons, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, badgers, stray dogs and cats, and hawks/eagles/owls.  All of these animals are in abundance because of our remote location.  With the exception of the birds of prey, all of these animals will first try and find a way through the fence rather than dig under the fence.  During this process, they will touch the fence and receive a shock that has almost brought me to my knees at times. (The boys and Hollie find witnessing this hillarious.)  This shock will send any wild animal scrambling and they won't even think twice about trying to dig under.  Hopefully, we won't loose any chickens to the birds of prey as there is really no protection from them.  We may get a livestock guardian dog (LGD) to help us out if we start having problems.

With two trips of the tractor, I was able to get all 207 chickens out on pasture.  Later that evening, it starting getting cold and windy.  I went out to check on the chicks and about 80 of them hadn't been able to find the shelter.  They had all huddled together and were actually spreading their wings to help cover each other.  I was very impressed by this.  I scooped them up and moved them into the shelter with the other chicks.  The next day we woke up to 3" of snow.  I jumped out of bed and went to check out the chicks.     

They were all peeking out of the shelter trying to figure out if they liked this snow or not.  I reached my hand inside the shelter and found it surprisingly warm.  The feeders and waterers were covered in snow which is not good for actively growing birds.  I grabbed the shovel and grumbled to myself as I was shoveling snow for the spoiled chickens.  I then sprinkled a little feed on the ground which gave the chicks the courage to step out of the shelter.  I moved the feeders very close to the shelter and they soon started eating.  After a few minutes, I was able to scoot the feeders back which gave room for more chickens to come out.  Soon they were all out eating, drinking, scratching the ground and discovering the wonderful taste of fresh spring grass.

They are very entertaining almost hypnotizing to watch.  They are now 5 weeks old and thriving.  Contrast this to the commercial breed known as the Cornish Cross which are already reaching a harvest size (3-4 lbs) at this age.  Many of them are barely hanging on to life as they sit planted in front of a feeder and growing too heavy to walk on their own legs and on the verge of a heart attack.  It brings me great joy knowing that we are providing a healthy and happy environment for our chickens.  It is even neater that our customers are supporting this way of farming as this flock and the next two flocks of chickens are already all presold.  Remember, we vote for how our food is raised with our wallets.  The support we have received has us excited to continue raising premium meat, raised on pasture, treated humanely, and raised naturally.