Sheep skins, chicken bone broth, and hawk attack

Sheep and goat hides on table

Driving to Vermont to pick up sheep and goat hides #farmervacation

Here at BOTL Farm, we’re committed to nose-to-tail use of the animals we slaughter. That means finding a use for all those parts, including the sheep and goat skins. We get the skins back from the slaughterhouse, salt them to dry and preserve them, pick out plant parts and burrs, and then they’re ready to be transferred to a professional tannery (we haven’t tried this at home since the one time we made postage-stamp-sized, scorched rabbit hides).

Like many things these days, there’s an industrial way of tanning and an older, slower, more expensive, natural way. The first uses caustic chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene, while the second uses tannins from tree bark. Also like many other businesses, tanneries of both types took a big hit during the COVID pandemic, with closures or work stoppages due to supply chain shortages and staffing issues. This forced us to find a new natural tannery (but technically, an old tannery that had been closed for a few years and is now being revived under new ownership).

We’re happy to have paired with Vermont Natural Tanning (VNT), located in (unsurprisingly) Vermont. Driving up to drop off a new batch of skins for tanning and picking up the 2021 finished hides was a good excuse for us both to leave the farm for a day trip!

We’re so pleased with the quality and craftsindividualship that VNT put into tanning our hides that we don’t really want to part with them, but sheep and goat hides are available now. They’re floofy and delightful, you should touch one if you see us at market or at the farm store.

So that happened: a hawk attacked our chick brooder

So that one time, mostly the beginning of January this year, we got day-old chicks and installed them in our 30’ RV brooder. Due to its previous service life as a real RV, the brooder has many fancy things, like louvered glass windows and ventilation. We gutted the inside of the RV and added practical brooder things, like heat lamps, space heaters, and nesting bars. Because we endlessly worry about animal welfare, we installed The Chick Cam in the chick brooder as well. This is like a baby cam, where we can see on our phones what the chicks are doing at any time of the day or night, although the video quality is a bit grainy. Because we live in a nice neighborhood, one thing we never thought we’d need was bars on the windows.

Nature, in the form of a (foolishly) determined hawk, proved us wrong. We do need bars on the windows of the chick brooder. As recorded by The Chick Cam (video here), a good-sized hawk bombed through a glass window, injuring itself in the process. Eventually, it sufficiently recovered to rampage around the brooder, killing 10% of our chicks. Yikes. At that point, we realized what was happening and were able to remove the (now-stunned from slamming into the inside of the windows so much) hawk from the brooder. Farming is hard.

Chicken bone broth in bags
Chicken bone broth in bags

Chicken Bone Broth

Winter on a farm is a special time. We imagine our vegetable farmer friends are taking long baths, getting massages, and traveling to far-flung places (like Japan for six weeks or New Zealand for three weeks, you-know-who-you-are, and we’re barely mad about it). Farms with livestock, specifically who maintain breeding animals, don’t get winters “off” in the same way. We do, however, emphasize inside projects over outside (infrastructure) projects during the winter.

Some of this year’s winter projects include a complete re-build of our farm’s website (still in progress so don’t go check [yet]), installing and calibrating a fancy weather station (more data!), and spending quality time at the commercial kitchen processing those noses and tails into something delightful.

I’m not sure why it took us this long to figure out, but we’ve been making and selling bone broth in the commercial kitchen from lambs, goats, and pork for years. About a week ago, we realized we should probably start making chicken bone broth. So, being the enterprising farmers that we are, we did! It smells amazing and has a soft yellow color with bright yellow fat. Yum, it’s soup season.

The Chicken Grinder 5000

Nick is indefatigably (sometimes almost annoyingly) creative about building new farm things. One of his latest ideas was that we could take the leavings from making chicken bone broth (boiled chicken meat and bones), grind it using a 3/4 horsepower motor, and packaging the outcome as The Chicken Stuff. It’s sort of like bone meal, with homogenized meat, and intended for furry creatures who eat bones, like dogs and cats.

I’d also like to comment that The Chicken Grinder 5000 is deafeningly loud. I had inquired about its volume levels before the commercial kitchen day, and as it was the inaugural run, no one actually knew, but I was assured it would be reasonably loud. Update: it was deafening.

Anyways, The Chicken Stuff will pair well with another product, The Good Stuff (now back in stock) which is a ground mixture of pork tongue, kidney, heart, and some chicken meat for those feeding raw.

Let us briefly ponder what, exactly, is a smoked pork chop

Our latest harvest pigs are all back from the slaughterhouse and we totes have two new products!

We’ve tried jowl bacon in the past but the slice size was so small that it was a little weird, so we’ve always turned the jowls into bacon ends (cubes) since. This group of pigs was on the larger side (they grew delightfully, amazingly well) so we threw our collective hat into the jowl bacon ring again. We’re happy with the respectable-sized outcome and excited for people to try this new(ish) type of bacon.

The second new product is smoked pork chops. I have a lot of trouble classifying them in my mind because they don’t fit into any of the boxes: they’re cured and smoked the same as hams, but they don’t eat like ham. I eat pork chops all the time, but they’re different than a normal pork chop. I may have told some of you that my favorite bacon is Canadian, which is (secretly) made from pork chops, but this isn’t like Canadian bacon either. You really need to experience it for yourself, as it’s a cross between all these things: ham, Canadian bacon, and pork chop. It’s none of them. It’s bonkers.

If you’d like to try these new products, come find us this month:

Coventry Winter Farmers Market Sunday February 5 and Sunday February 19 from 10am to 12:30pm

Sturbridge MA pick up Saturday February 11 from 10am to 2pm

On-farm store hours every Sunday 2 – 4pm and every Tuesday noon – 2pm

New Country Organics animal feed: hemp is here

Our new supplier came through and we have hemp bedding back in stock. Amazingly, this batch is selling for the same price as we charged years ago. The new supplier is Hurdz Hemp and this batch is from hemp grown in Canada. It’s labelled as horse bedding but as always, we use it for our chicken coop. Of all the bedding types we’ve tried over the years (pine shavings, cedar shavings, flax shive, flax pellets) this is the best for moisture absorption and ammonia control. Glad to have it back!

Page Last Updated on 2024-06-14

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