Friday, October 19, 2012

Making things easier with technology

We are quickly approaching the end of our first year officially in business. It is an exciting as well as a challenging time. Over the last 9 months we have watched the customer list grow from maybe a dozen to currently well over a hundred. While this is exciting... paves the way for our dream of finally making the transition to full time farming... it does pose challenges.

The ordering process is one of those challenges. Our system right now is mostly manual. Each week we update the product email, send it too all the customers on a route, wait for replies, manually enter each order into the spreadsheet, compute the totals, load the trailer, program the GPS, and go. after delivery we track payments and carry thinggs forward on the spreadsheet. There are a lot of steps that both take time and are prone to human error. With a dozen customers it worked well. With a hundred.... well... not as well.

So... we have decided to go the next step. We have signed up for a fully functional computer system to streamline the process. With this new system customers can self sign up on a website, enter payment methods including credit card, join shares such as the herd share, browse the products available, put together an order and pay online. On our end, all of that is unattended. The system will even send the reminder email to everyone on the route automatically. We've explored the systems available and chosen the one that seemed easiest to use and supported our business model of mostly Ala carte style ordering. The chosen one seems perfect for us.

We are confident this will both improve your experience when purchasing and streamline our process, reducing the paperwork and allowing for more time producing food. Nothing will change in how we do things.... home deliveries where you choose exactly what works for you each week.... will remain as is. All that will change is how you enter the order and some additional payment options.

This is exciting! It represents a large step forward in making this little farm a sustaining business. We hope you share the excitement on your end!

Stay tuned over the next 2 or 3 weeks as we implement the new system. There may be some bumps in the road... but we will end up with an easier ordering and tracking method.

Thanks for your support these last few months! We truly appreciate and feel humbled by your confidence and loyalty to this little farm.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gearing up for Thanksgiving Turkey Harvest

Here we are in the middle of october! How did this happen!?!? That means our biggest event of the year is just around the corner! Thanksgiving!

So .. here's the list of things in process preparing for that day:

Turkey processing practicing
Yesterday we did another round of processing for breeders. The goal is to get the system streamlined so that the thanksgiving rush is not overwhelming. With small adjustments here, there, and lots of practice we are making progress. I was able to process about a dozen turkeys in 3 hours, almost entirely by myself.  I have no idea how that compares to other's capabilities but hey.. its a VAST improvement on my own abilities so I am happy!  The good news is that  rate was without rushing ! Just a relaxed sustainable pace.  This is encouraging because in a month we will have about a hundred turkeys to do within a few days. With a dozen every 3 hours, this is doable. That rate can of course increase dramatically with help expected for thanksgiving.

Cooling and Brining
We have enough space now to easily cool and brine as many turkeys as we can process in a couple days, making this also a sustainable process. It does take lots of ice, but it is doable.  This is important because brining truly increases the flavor and tenderness of the birds and is a strong recommendation from us for anyone buying heritage turkeys.

We are switching to a new packaging method that both looks more appealing and provide better protection for storing birds in the freezer. We are testing heat shrink bagging methods to encase the birds in a waterproof, airproof tightly sealed package. This prevents freezer burns while allowing visibility of the contents, and is rugged enough to withstand handling of the heavy birds in frozen conditions. We will be testing this tomorrow with the freshly brined birds.  This packaging method also allows for a more streamlined packaging process. This too will be experimented with  this week.  It consists of building a "rinsing and drying rack"  from plumbing parts that then allow easy bagging of hte large birds for dunking in the hot water to seal the bags. If we get this worked out, packaging should be a breeze.

Turkeys on new pasture
We have moved the turkeys onto a new pasture of mostly dead grass. Why? Bugs! grasshoppers and other hopping bugs love dead grass. The turkeys like to eat the grass seeds, and consume every moving bug in sight. We are also providing loads of organically grown fruits (apples, pears, etc) to help build fat.  Top this off with our soy free non-gmo turkey ration and you have the makings of a fabulous turkey! The birds are somewhat contained in large movable pens of our own design that allows for plenty of movement without stressing the birds out, but it limits movement to help them build fat and tender meat.  We do let one pen at a time out to roam and hunt, to further increase their nutritional variety.

Order tracking
We are investigating a new farm management software system that will provide rel invoices and receipts without much work,. as well as track order details and special requests.  It is geared for home delivery systems such as ours. We are very hopeful that this will allow for less time in the office, more in the pasture, and still provide a better experience for our customers.

Private member association
We are setting up a private member association, to allow us to exercise our rights and the rights of members to experience the good healthy foods they need in the form they need it.  This is perhaps the most exciting change overall in the history of little sprouts! The benefits are huge and well worth the effort. More details to come!

So stay tuned! October / November are busy months at little sprouts!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Finally... after nearly 3 months of dry skies.... rain is arriving! We got a little sprinkle Friday. With the big event due tonight... half an inch to an inch.

First rain is a big deal here. We unfortunately get a little lax when we know the sun will be out every day for the foreseeable future. But... alas... it always comes to an end. And inevitability we aren't ready. This weekend is no exception.

First there are the goats. These goats HATE water... other than drinking... they avoid water whenever possible. That's a problem since we neglected to finish the area around the milking room. The plan was to build a shelter to cover the waiting pen and walkaways. But.. yea.. that never happened. So.... today I was scrambling to find a suitable temporary solution. Finally we came up with a portable carport from Costco. I'd much rather have a metal roof but you can't get one of those in a day... much less a Sunday. We got 2 of these today and assembled them before dark. One over the hold pen and one over the door of the barn. That gives mostly. Dry walking from barn to milking and back.

Then there's the cleanup... things sitting out that shouldn't get wet. There's always a few of those around the farm to put away.

Bedding and shelters must be checked to make sure everyone can get out of the rain in a warm cozy bed. Wet sleeping areas are a quick way to disease.

The pasture planting should be done before the rain but we seem to have run out of time on that one. At least the first rain will soften this hard clay and by the second one... we will be ready to plant. The trick is to get the ground broken up as soon as it can be worked after the rain. With this soil... hours count on this. If a bright swung pops out the next day... within hours it will be as if it never rained.  But catch it right and out cement like soil turns into nice moist dirt.

So it was a busy weekend... but we are ready now. Let the rains come!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Turkeys final stage

This week has been busy! Lots to do at the end of summer. One project we just put to bed is the turkeys. This years thanksgiving birds now have a new home! We finished the three newly designed turkey hoop houses and I must say... I finally like this design! After 3 years and countless revisions... we have turkey coops that work.

The hoop houses are movable easily, have enough floorspace and roosts for about 50 adult birds, huge easily opening doors, quick to build, etc etc. In short... they work. We built 3 to house the 150 or so birds this year. The coops are sitting in the neighbors pasture while we replant ours for winter. There they have access to bugs, grass, and fresh dirt. The coops are moved daily.

The turkeys will stay in the coops for about a week to acclimate them to the new home, then we will let one at a time out for a day. This way they stay close to the coop when out, will be easy to gather at night, but will have plenty of exercise hunting fresh grass and bugs and spreading their wings.  The somewhat limited activity will help to build fat without compromising health.

So... we are in the home stretch!  If you visit... look to the right of the long driveway. You will see 3 large hoop houses that look a little like army barracks. You will also notice a line behind the coops of eaten, trampled, and heavily fertilized grass.  Come by around noon and watch the coops pulled to fresh grass everyday.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we only have a few birds left. If you wish the best thanksgiving turkey ever.... be sure to reserve yours before we sell out!

Goat herd expands again

This week we added 11 new Nigerian Dwarf milking goats to the herd. These girls are all in various stages of milk production and pregnancy. They also came quite a ways to enjoy life here at Little Sprouts.

We needed more Nigerians because recently our milking Mini Nubians increased through births .... bringing milk production up. While this is welcome... it presented a problem. We are committed to maintaining the quality of our milk through mixing these two breeds in a magic proportion to create a volume of milk that is rich, creamy, and flavorful. With more minis milking we realized we would need more Dwarfs for the winter milk to stay up to our standards. So...

The new girls are in various stages.... some milking, some pregnant, some very pregnant. The stages match the needs over the next 6 months to maintain that magic ratio. It wasn't easy! Brenda spent hours each night for days finding trusted breeders and farms that had high quality goats at the right stages. What a project! Fortunately we are now done... we should be able to continue indefinitately with the herd as it is through natural cycles of birth.

Another aspect of the project is genetics. Brenda tracked the potential goat's lineage in order to provide as broad a genetic base as possible. This helps the herd in many ways and through several upcoming generaations. A Broad genetic base creates a robust herd, able to withstand health issues, give birth easier, better dispositions, etc.

I applaud Brenda for her efforts on this project. Her meticulous attention to details was well worth it, and her persistence has given us a goat herd that is healthy, good producers of high quality milk with a steady supply all year, and maintained a balance of two breeds so that the milk we offer is unbelievably creamy, rich, and tasty.  She has produced something truly unique in this herd... and now is finished.

If you are local but haven't tried Little Sprouts goat milk.... contact us. We still have a few slots left on the herd share. The milk is very different from storebought goat milk... most people can't believe it is truly goat milk.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

GMO food is toxic, saying so could be toxic to one's career.

This is fascinating... the link below will take you to an open letter from the folks that recently announced the first ever scientifically done, long term GMO food evaluation. That's right.. the FIRST EVER.  No one in america has done decent studies.. by decent i mean really asking the question "what are the long term effects of consuming GMO produce and crops?"

Well, as many of us expected, the report shows dismal and worrying results. GMO consumption causes all sort of health issues, even death and infertility.  Thats the bottom line.. GMO food is basically toxic.

The letter below is in response to treatment of scientist that actually ask open questions and find honest answers. IT is appalling that science today has been "taken over" by various interest not seeking answers, but rather seeking to prove a pet point for gain.

With the current fight against GMO plantings in our own local area, this is a good read. Sets a foundation for understanding why this is so important.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gmo science fails

As this article points out.... the science and theories behind gmo crops has failed as expected. It is going the way of conventional (non organic)  methods.... straight into massive failure. 

 Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study 

The problem is that damage from  Gmo crop use is not reversible by any known methods. It is permanent. Our grandchildren will pay for our mistakes... and their grandchildren... and their grandchildren .... etc.  Science has permentantly damaged the earth and the human food supply worse than any global warming.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Black wattles? Relaunching pastured heritage pork

As the sun rises at the farm we find yourself on eureka California. Why? Over the weekend we decided it is time to relaunch our pasture pig operation. With so many on the waiting list for pastured soy free heritage pork... we realized we had to do something drastic. Our breeders have not produced a litter in quite a while.  Unfortunately our reasearch had revealed that there may be a problem with the blood line of our red wattle pigs at the root. Apparently there is a specified line originating in the state where we bought our breeders that only produce litters every couple years. Seems we won the lottery on this!

All of our sows are related, either sisters or offspring, so any genetic issue could easily be present in all. This appears to be the case. So we are going to start over. 

We have decided to relaunch the hog operation with an even better approach. Heritage hybrids. All research points to this being the best way to overcome genetic problems while strenghtening a herd. We have chosen to mix red wattles with large black hogs to produce black wattles.

The large black is known as the bacon hog. It produces the worlds best bacon with more meat per slice than wattles. Mixing the red wattle with the large black produces a pork that us an amazing blend of the best qualities of both breeds. The pork should exceed the quality of either alone too.

So... here we go. Found a breeder, loaded up last night, and off we go to eureka. By tonight we will be back at the farm with our large black sows to mate with our existing red wattle boar.

The other good news is that we will be processing all 4 red wattle breeders soon providing about 2000 pounds of excellent red wattle pork for sale. If you have been waiting... now is the time!