Tuesday, March 2, 2010

turkey tracks

That sunny afternoon I was basking turned out to be a bit of a stretch. Yesterday morning I woke up to snow. Not a lot, mind you, but indeed snow. It was a good slap in the face. A wake up call that winter was far from over. Welcome to March! I was outside feeding the chickens when I noticed new footprints in the freshly fallen snow. These weren't from the flock, these were a different bird. These were turkey tracks, and I could see the path of a parade of wild hens I must have missed in the night. I was surprised how nostalgic it made me for raising turkeys, something I never thought I'd miss. But raising a poult here on the farm a few springs ago and seeing him through to a friend's Christmas table was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had on Cold Antler.

I want a small flock of turkeys again. I think Midget Whites. Even if my family won't dine on them there are plenty of folks at work looking for a naturally raised free-range bird come the holidays. It's something to think about if the Jackson house comes through. Unlike sheep or gardens, the birds wouldn't need the capital and fences up front like a flock of shetland or scottish blackface ewes would. I could raise ten turkeys for the price of one registered sheep and use the cash from selling the birds at Thanksgiving to put into a farm fresh savings account. It's time to start planning for the future of this place as a working farm and not just my own personal supermarket. If you have any suggestions for cottage industries like that, fire away in the comments. I'm all ears.

Also, and this is just a PSA. I got a catalog from Gardens Alive yesterday, and there was a coupon on it for 25 bucks off my first order. No catch. If I ordered something under 25 it was free! This place sells everything from kitchen top portabella mushroom kits to giant compost turners so if some of you want a free start to this spring's garden seeds, vermicomposter, or bat house—look those guys up. Call and see if you can get the same deal.


Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

I did pigs one year. Got a couple of feeder pigs, raised them on pasture and pig food, and had them butchered at 6 months old. Kept half for myself and sold the other three halves. I estimated I could make about $100/pig in 4 months. And it wasn't hard to sell the other three halves. Folks love pork and if they stop to think about it at all, don't love how most production porkers are raised. A pair of pigs can be kept on a 1/4 acre pasture with some wire fence coupled with electric fence at nose height. However, while they are fairly easy, they are also demanding and vocal, so if you love a peaceful, bucolic farm atmosphere, they may not be for you. They also tore their pasture up pretty good and so I've not gotten them again.

March 2, 2010 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Thanks for the tip. We're starting our first garden and am certain we'll need some of those things. Or, maybe we'll grow mushrooms too. It would be a great homeschool experience.

March 2, 2010 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Oh, by the way, I wrote about the experience here:


and here:

March 2, 2010 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Turkey is something we're considering on our homestead as a money making venture. We got our first angora because of your posts about them, the book and our ability to house many in a smaller area (and that we're allowed to have them in the city). I think chickens and turkeys are the best bang for their buck so to speak. I haven't looked into pigs though because we're not allowed to have them on our land. That might be a good option

March 2, 2010 at 7:21 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I want to try pigs for the same reason. I've heard too, that because they tear up the pasture, it's a good idea to put them in a spot that you want to plant on later - they till and fertilize for you.

I recommend honey and soap. If you're already planning to keep bees, you can charge a pretty penny for the honey (at least around here you can). Soap making is easy to do, overhead is low, the product only gets better with age (so you don't have to sell it within a certain time frame) and in my state it's not regulated at all. You can charge probably 200% over what it costs you, depending on how much you spend on ingredients.

March 2, 2010 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger RayMan said...

People around here will stoop at roadside stands most often for: sweet corn, tomato, strawberries and pumpkins. Seed is almost free (hint hint) and you will be able to enjoy some of the harvest as well as provide feed for you animals.
Turkey, chicken and eggs are good too and will sell at a premium.

Another thought - cheese?

Plan for the worst case and hope for the best caase!

March 2, 2010 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger RayMan said...

People won't stoop they'll stop.

March 2, 2010 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

If you plan to raise Heritage birds you should get them ordered soon as the hatcheries are booking out to April. You could also try raising more poults or chicks than you need and sell started birds.

March 2, 2010 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Hi Jenna: Up here in Nova Scotia we've had snow yesterday and today - not lasting long and not deep but depressing at the bum end of winter. Everyone has covered all my ideas for you but turkeys free range and humanely raised are always desirable as are eggs, soap, honey etyc. I don't know about cheese - highly regulated I think.
Very best wishes for your mortgage to come through - fingers and toes crossed for you!
Janet, in rural Nova Scotia where we have to deal with mud season next

March 2, 2010 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Smaller, and heritage, breeds of turkeys can fly, and will regularly (at least try). They roost in rafters and hop over fences. Keep that in mind.
The specific meat breeds might be too heavy to do that though.

I do think selling a couple could bring in some extra cash though. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Started (point of lay?) birds sounds good too.

March 2, 2010 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Julianne said...

I used the Gardens Alive coupon to get blueberry fertilizer and a package of sprout seeds for $.84.........can't beat that.
Our snow, in SE PA., is melting quickly. My chickens can finally get out of the coop.

March 2, 2010 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger twistie said...

gurney's did the same thing last year, I got all my seed starting pots for 3-4 dollars. this year they're doing 25.00 off 50.00 still not a bad deal.

March 2, 2010 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Here's another one for you - broilers. Get day old peeps and eight weeks later they are ready to butcher. All you need is a house for them and poultry-net or some other minimal fencing for them so they can be on pasture.

March 2, 2010 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger beth said...

Anyone wanting to get into fiber production via angora rabbits, goats and alpacas, may want to check out a learning expo in Ann Arbor Mi. Info can be found at fiberexpo.com. The expo is in October, so theres plenty of time to make arrangements, if you have to travel. Check it out......fiberexpo.com

March 2, 2010 at 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh March...even though I realize it's still technically the butt end of winter, my mind has made the mental shift to spring.

I second pigs. Easy to care for, don't require a lot of space, and make a decent profit. Easy to get attached to them though.

Goats for honey/goat milk soap? That would be a snazzy etsy item.

March 2, 2010 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

We raised turkeys and they did very well. The white varieties get the best prices when dressed out. Yes, they do fly very well and they love roosting in our olive trees. Sort of startling to see a flock of white turkeys settling in for the night.
I have been making and selling soap for over 10 years. It is expensive to get started making it, with a good sized learning curve. Lye is a constant search item due to illegal drug makers. The market right now is down, research the sales on sites like Etsy before you decide that would be good. Mushrooms,strawberries,pumpkins sound much better combined with the turkeys and piglets.

March 2, 2010 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

We raised turkeys and they did very well. The white varieties get the best prices when dressed out. Yes, they do fly very well and they love roosting in our olive trees. Sort of startling to see a flock of white turkeys settling in for the night.
I have been making and selling soap for over 10 years. It is expensive to get started making it, with a good sized learning curve. Lye is a constant search item due to illegal drug makers. The market right now is down, research the sales on sites like Etsy before you decide that would be good. Mushrooms,strawberries,pumpkins sound much better combined with the turkeys and piglets.

March 2, 2010 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger E said...

in order to work the ground well pigs need to be confined to quite a small space.
get your customers lined up before you buy piglets (and ask for a deposit) if you can. make sure you have the whole slaughter/butcher/package/freeze/sell chain figured out before you start
talk to someone/several people who have done this before you commit

March 2, 2010 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

You might also take pre-orders from anyone at work- that way they can choose the breed they want raised for Thanksgiving.

Or you could offer them geese for Christmas. You like geese, and you can keep the down for filling things.

And here's another thing you could get into. Foie gras. A lot of people think it's cruel to stick that tube down their throats, but their throats aren't built like ours. We would gag, obviously, but duck and geese throats are constructed so that they can swallow a whole fish down, so a skinny little tube is no big deal to them. With a little marketing, you could sell to restaurants. You ought to at least look into it. It could be really lucrative. Maybe even pay the mortgage. That way, you could sock most of your job pay into your 401K and a Roth IRA.....just sayin'....

March 2, 2010 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Pricilla said...

The soap market on etsy is somewhat crowded. Not to say don't give it a try but bear it in mind.

Be careful with cheese. Different states have different requirements and most call for a commercial kitchen if you are going to sell a food product.

Soap does not require anything special to sell as it is not classified as a cosmetic as long as you market it as a cleanser and not as a moisturizing product. Once you cross that line it becomes a cosmetic and it falls under the FDA guidelines. But always check the requirements in your state before you start.

Montana is incredibly loose. NJ was law happy.

March 2, 2010 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Definitely raise some turkeys. They will give you no end of pleasure (and just a dash of frustration - they're turkeys, after all). They also make absolutely great guard animals - in that they 'announce' the arrival of ANYTHING interesting.

March 2, 2010 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Kelley said...

I agree with the comments about honey and mushrooms!

I've grown my own mushrooms, but I love to buy several different kinds at the farmers market. And honey! I just bought 1 gal of it and I'm already down about 1/4. I bake almost exclusively with honey, and I wash my hair/skin with it, too. I'm always willing to shell out some more for honey...

March 2, 2010 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

I don't think I'd sell soap on Etsy - at least not ONLY on Etsy. I plan to sell mine locally, mostly, where the market is far LESS crowded. Also, I didn't find it expensive to get started with at all, on the contrary, my investment was pretty minimal compared to the investments I've made in livestock.

And yes, cheese/dairy IS pretty heavily regulated.

March 2, 2010 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger pjo2179 said...

biggest bang for your buck with the least amount of work= chickens. We raise meat birds seasonally and do well, but by far egg layers bring us the most $$$... and we only sell at the farm and to some of my husband's coworkers. The problem with meat birds is that all their instincts have been bred out. They don't forage, and honestly, the first time we got a batch, I set them up in the brooder, when I checked back later I heard no noises and thought they were dead.... nope.. just laying there, well, laying. The only active one was the "bonus" chick that wasn't a cornish rock X. With age they got active (like ran to the food dish when I filled it). The egg layers cover territory here and forage all day. They hardly eat any feed.
Another recommendation is pigs. The setup is expensive, but if you just get piglets seasonally feed costs won't be too much for you. We breed Tamworth and Large Black Hogs (heritage breeds) and I absolutely love them! It sucks in the winter months, though, because we spend $250/month on feed. It's great in the summer when they're getting most of their nutrition from the pastures, our bill isn't even $50/month. But definitely not a one (wo)man job. The whole "take to the butcher" process is a pain in the ass. Ok, I feel as if I've written a book, so if you (or anybody) has any pig questions, feel free to email:



March 2, 2010 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger dosfishes said...

I loved your book. Just recently started reading your blog. So glad you have your own place now that's really yours.

I want you to know that I have a Beautiful Blogger Award at my blog "spot" for you if you want to come and pick it up.


March 2, 2010 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

Mushrooms...lotsa different ones. Check out fungiperfecti.com. Paul Stamets is THE man when it comes to all things fungal.

If you were to grow shiitakes, maiiakes, oysters, & one or two other less-well-known ones, I bet you could interest local restaurants. The acreage you're looking at would certainly afford you the space and the shade--if I recall you said part was wooded.

March 2, 2010 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger aerogramme said...

Hello Jenna,

I think for the first year you should stick with birds ...

I like the pig idea a lot but between the price of feeder pigs, fencing and grain, you will not make much money ... maybe a rewarding experience but money wise you will not make much.

Mushroom, great idea more or less low cost investment and low time venture but you have to have a market for them ... restaurant ... local farmers market ? What is out there for you ?

Birds ...

Broilers, well you know how to care for them, 8 weeks on you are good, just need a few buyers AND a place that will process them ... do not forget that you will be in NY and probably selling in VT if it is going to be for co-workers ... so think about state line crossing and where to get them processed

Turkey well must have been said except that an electric net might be required, after all you do not want to see your investment being killed by the local wildlife of the neighbor dogs ... You had some bad experience with that last autumn now you need to protect your investment.

Hatching eggs ... a great money maker ... get some good Marans do your homework and resell the eggs on ebay at 20 to $60 a dozen eggs plus shipping you will have a real money maker operation,plus the extra eggs could be reselled to your actual buyer and those dark chocolate eggs always brings in money...

Berry for farmers market always bring in money as well as garlic too late for this year and shalots

Have fun studying whatever you will do that s one of the best part of every venture ...

March 2, 2010 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...

IT'S http://www.chaircaningdirectory.com

March 2, 2010 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger bdalward said...

Jenna, I've seen pictures of your artwork and I know how talented you are there. Can you do anything quickly, like pencil caricatures of children? Parents always love those. You could set up at festivals, maybe including one of your more docile animals in the picture. If you could crank one of those out every few minutes, you'd be busy all day I'll betcha. You could charge $10 or $20 dollars and all you'd have in them is your booth fee, if any, and a few art materials. Just a thought.

March 2, 2010 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger ~ Janis said...

There is an explosion of people looking to buy newly hatched chicks, turkeys and ducks to raise for their own families.
Invest in a good incubator and start hatching. Raise up some older birds to sell as starters and butcher the ones that don't sell by winter and sell the meat.
Those colored egg birds are the most popular and fun. EBay does a booming business selling fertilized eggs and there is lots of info ( and sales ) on the BackYard Chickens website.
Fowl is in~!
So are well made dog jackets, unusual animal themed pillow cases, Christmas Stockings for chickens and chalk boards in the shape of farm animals.


March 2, 2010 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

If fencing is your biggest financial concern with getting sheep, just get some of that electric net that you can move every couple days. Of course, if you have issues with using electric fence on your animals, it wouldn't be a good fit. I think the turkeys are a great idea. Chickens could work out well, too.

March 2, 2010 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Christmas stockings for chickens???

Sorry - still trying to get my head around that one...that really might be the weirdest thing I've ever heard of.

March 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger ~ Janis said...

Yep, Christmas stockings for chickens. You gotta see them to believe it.

Go to:

The December 24th 2009 post.
It's a poem and photos of the Chicken Christmas Stockings.
Take a look and then tell me that you don't want TWO to hang on your chicken coop door.
I certainly do~!!!

March 3, 2010 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

We love our Bourbon Red turkeys! We started out with 4 and now have 19.. we'll be selling some this spring. For the homestead we found them to be more efficient that meat chickens - for the same amount of time it takes to dress a chicken, you can dress a turkey for 5x's the food. And they free range like the dickens. Sure it takes longer than 6 weeks.. but the entertainment value is worth it!

March 3, 2010 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Story said...

Do you know about Fiber Farms that do CSA's? There's one in NY and on Martha's Vineyard that I know about.


March 3, 2010 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Story said...

Do you know about Fiber Farms that do CSA's? There's one in NY and on Martha's Vineyard that I know about.


March 3, 2010 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Harvest Kitchen Sisters said...

Pigs are great, they till the ground and the next year is where we put the garden(and who does'nt like bacon?). Easter egger layers are a pretty good market item, a nice mix of brown, white and blue egg layers are a show stopper. I am raising heritage turkeys this year (Red Bourbon, Black Spanish,Midget White, Ridley Bronze, Naraganzett and Royal Palm)for meat for the Christmas market.There is a growing demand for heritage turkey because the double breasted white variety, well it just sucks! If you can't handle the flying of the heritage breed turkeys, clipping the flight wings on the one side should curb that. The hens will always be able to fly but the Toms as they get older will eventually weigh too much. Check out our blog at http://www.theharvestkitchensisters.blogspot.com/

March 3, 2010 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Sandra Henderson said...

I'll post pics tonite of the wild turkeys in our yard a couple days ago. The hens will disappear soon into the dunes to nest. We've eaten them before and they are devine, but way too much trouble to clean and prepare compared to what you can buy one at the store for. I'm sure there are lots of folks who WOULD be willing to purchase them from you though! Sandra at www.cumberlandislandquiltchick.com

March 3, 2010 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I've received the same deal from Gardens Alive -- it's real! Their stuff is great.

March 3, 2010 at 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if someone's mentioned this already (I didn't read all comments) but the Sugar Mountain pork farmer says that pigs are a good pairing with sheep. They love to eat the nettles and things that get caught in sheep's wool.

They pasture well, they're clean and happy if they have a field to graze on with a flock of sheep. I read somewhere else of someone who divided her field into three, and she'd garden in one plot and rotate the pig/sheep herd in the second field and let the third field free for a season before letting the animals pasture there.

Each year she'd rotate the pasture/crop/rest land so the pigs and sheep always had a fresh pasture in spring, the garden had a season's worth of composted manure on it and the land had a rest season between rotations.

It was pretty sustainable.

March 5, 2010 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

Where do I find such a coupon? I looked over their site, don't see one. I even emailed, nope..the best they'd got is $25 off of $50.

March 7, 2010 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger crowjoy said...

We have Midget Whites and they're great. Successfully bred last year, too! They do fly, as others have noted. We clip their wings to keep them out of the rafters so they don't poop on us while we milk!

Lots of great suggestions here for the many streams of income homesteading takes. Our plan is to dabble for the first several years and then concentrate on the stuff we loved doing.

March 8, 2010 at 7:58 PM  
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March 10, 2010 at 12:22 AM  

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