Category Archives: Marketing

Make Your Property a Paradise!

At Good Life Ranch we farm using ecological principles rather than chemicals.  We utilize nature’s time-tested methods to maintain healthy animals, create and maintain a healthy environment, generate energy, produce food, and recycle waste productively into other systems.  Every component on our farm has multiple outputs, provides inputs into other systems, and serves an ecological purpose.  A few years later I ran across the term permaculture, and that concept fits our farm pretty well.  Permaculture is shorthand for permanent agriculture and is based on the utilization of perennial plants and renewable energy sources.  You can read more about it below.  It’s way more involved than that brief definition I provided.

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Our house and a portion of our gardens.  Perennial plants generate food and beauty year after year.

My training is in science.  I earned my B.S. in Biology and a minor Environmental Studies from Trinity University, studying as much as I could under David Ribble in ecology and conservation biology.  I have taught biology for almost 15 years in public schools in Texas and Kentucky.  Although we run our farm in a permaculture manner, I decided that I’d also like to use my knowledge of ecology and my skills as a teacher to help other people transform their properties as well.  To that end in 2015 I earned my Permaculture Design Certificate from Geoff Lawton in Australia.  More information about him and his farm can be found at the links below.

Geoff Lawton
Permaculture Research Institute
Zaytuna Farm

I would love to put my training and expertise to work for you!

Your property, no matter how large or how small, can produce food.  It can generate renewable energy, it can harvest water, it can recycle wastes, and it can create habitat for wildlife.  At larger sizes your property can produce timber, use livestock and plants to rehabilitate a landscape, clean the environment, and generate income for your family.

Here are some of the things I can do for you with a site design, no matter the size of your property:

  • generate renewable energy on your property
  • increase the energy efficiency of your house
  • lower your household’s output of waste
  • increase your property’s fertility
  • produce quality food on your property at almost any scale
  • create wildlife sanctuaries

Site designs I have created in the past include:

  • 1/4 acre suburban lots that produce enough food for families of 4-6 to achieve self-sufficiency
  • 2-10 acre sites that produce enough food for families plus generate all the energy needs of the owners as well as provide water retention and supply, hiking trails, wildlife corridors, food forests, and more.
  • 15 -200 acre properties that accomplish all of the things the above sizes do as well as provide commercial opportunities to live on your land and work there too.
  • “Bug out” locations that can be set up, left with minimal maintenance, and used as needed in emergency situations to support a family.  This is a surprisingly popular option.

I have not yet designed a small urban space, like a rooftop garden or balcony garden design, but I would love to do that.  Small spaces can be incredibly productive if well-designed and well-tended.

Here’s our brochure: Good Life Ranch Permaculture Site Design  All of the photos in that brochure are of our property, so you can see that functional designs are not just utilitarian; they can be beautiful as well.

Here’s a sample of a design I created for a 2-acre property: South Carolina property

Of course, all property designs are unique because they reflect the goals and desires of the property owners.  All designs I create are individual and made especially for you!

Please give me a call at (606) 787-4217 or shoot me an  and let us design your property to reliably and sustainably produce food, reduce your ecological footprint, generate energy, and create a better environment for your family.

It’s an investment in your property.  It’s one of the best decisions we have ever made.

 

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From Farm to Table

Full disclosure… some parts of this post may be difficult to read.  Discretion is advised. This post is an effort to educate and inform about how our meat is raised and processed and how that differs from industrial practices.

Processing day is the hardest on the farmer.  It’s a great day in that it’s the day you get to provide your customers with the naturally-grown meat that they have been patiently waiting on for months.  It’s a great day in that we get paid for our hard work and effort producing all the wonderful food.  But it’s a terrible day in that the farmer has to load up the animals he has carefully tended for their entire lives and take them to be killed.

That’s a very hard thing to do.  These animals are food animals.  That’s the only reason they exist.  Without farmers, there would not be enough food to furnish all people on earth with food.  Farmers actually produce a surplus of food in relation to the caloric needs of the 7+ billion people on the planet.  The reason starvation exists in some areas is a function of distribution, equity, and social justice, not a shortage in the food supply.  Moreover, at Good Life Ranch we raise heritage livestock breeds.  These breeds were the ones bred to survive in the time before antibiotics, wormers, and grain feeding regimens.  As such, they perform better under natural management conditions than the modern breeds that have been developed with these modern crutches to help prop them up.  But in a twist that is hard for some people to understand, to preserve these breeds we have to create a demand for their products.  We have to create a market for the healthier meats our great-grandparents used to eat.  If there is no market for their meat, these heritage breeds will disappear forever.

The disappearance of heritage livestock breeds would be an unmitigated disaster.  Their genomes are a repository for traits that are diluted or entirely absent in the industry-standard modern breeds.  These new breeds are so specialized that their narrowed gene pools may offer little in the way of genetic diversity to withstand new epidemics, the failure of antibiotics, or the shift in climate now occurring worldwide.  Heritage breeds, taken in total, offer a far wider range of genetic variation to withstand our changing world.

As an example, we raised the modern Cornish x White Rock broiler chickens for a time – the same birds that are the only ones available if you buy your meat from a grocery store, a restaurant, or even the vast majority of small organic farms.  They grow fast, they’re ready for processing in 6 weeks, they are efficient in terms of feed, and they are resistant to the crowding and filth found in industrial poultry houses.  So what’s the problem with them?  They don’t do well outside when they have to act like chickens.  This hybrid breed has lost its ability to thrive under natural conditions.  They die in the cold.  They die in the rain.  They die in the heat.  They can’t walk well.  They aren’t fast enough to catch bugs, and the ones they can catch aren’t sufficient to sustain their rapid growth rates.  In short, if a farmer wants to rotate birds around pasture outdoors without using small pens crowded with 100 birds this is NOT the breed for you.

We now raise slower-growing, more flavorful, hardier heritage breeds.  But it is hard to sell them, even though customers say that they want them.  They don’t look like grocery store birds.  They have a narrower breast, larger legs and thighs, and yellow fat from the grasses, seeds, and insects that they have foraged.  They are more expensive to produce, since they live more than twice as long, and therefore they have to be more expensive.  Also, we have found that most customers have never acquired the cooking skills to make use of them.  Many customers do not know how to break down a whole chicken to cook it or how to cook leaner meats more slowly to render the unsaturated fats and release the superior flavor.  Education is needed.  We must relearn the skills of the older generations.

We just dropped a pair of steers off at the processor’s last week, so let me walk you through what happens during all steps of the process.  I’ll use beef as our example, since that is what we are helping customers with right now.

First, at Good Life Ranch purebred Red Poll cattle are raised on grass alone for 30 months.  The herd gets a fresh allotment of pasture every day to move away from manure and to allow the recovery of the grass sward.  They have water and free-choice access to mineral salt.  They quickly learn that their farmer coming means a shift to fresh grass and become very calm very quickly.  Cows are very easy to teach a routine.  The older cattle teach the younger ones, and our entire herd knows the drill now.  They know what area I am taking them to next and wait patiently for me to open it up to them.  They live together as a herd and are never alone.  Even our bulls are never kept alone.  They have a bull herd during the non-breeding season and then rotate with the cows during the summer and fall.

Our beef animals are born on pasture during the warmth of late spring and grow up alongside their mothers, older siblings, and even grandmothers and great-grandmothers living a cow’s dream life for 2.5 years.  This is in contrast to most beef animals, which are processed much earlier.  The reason for this is simple physiology.  If a farmer (or, usually, a feedlot) puts a beef animal on a diet full of grain, that animal can be force-fattened while it is young.  Fat and marbling can be gained simply by overfeeding the animal.  This leads to all sorts of health problems for the beef animal, and it must be processed while it is very young before its rumen and liver fail from processing such an unnaturally high-calorie grain diet.  With a grass-only beef like ours, the farmer must allow time for the animal to complete the growth of its skeletal and muscular systems.  In other words, once the animal has reached its adult frame size fat will be added naturally.  But not sooner.  Part of the reputation grass-fed beef has for being “too lean” or for having “off-flavors” comes from farmers who are still slaughtering their beef at an age that is too young for the animal to be ready to eat.  It hasn’t marbled, it hasn’t fattened, it hasn’t developed flavor yet.

Before we take a large animal to the processor, we have to walk through the butchering instructions with our customers.  We have make sure that the customers understand where all the cuts of meat come from.  It’s really enlightening for some people when they learn how few quality steaks actually come from a single beef, for instance.  They quickly gain an appreciation for why steaks are so much more expensive than ground meat.  The customers also have to understand that the more meat they get back as steaks and roasts, the less ground beef there will be.  We also try to convince our customers to learn how to cook the offerings that most people do not want, in order to make better use of the whole animal.  These are useful, healthy, but underutilized items like soup bones, heart, liver, oxtail, shanks, and head.

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A sample cut sheet from one of the processors we use

Once we have the processing instructions, we load the steer into the trailer.  This is done as calmly as possible because stress hormones actually toughen the meat and impart off-flavors.  We create a chute with corral panels, put some nice hay into the trailer to tempt the steers to enter on their own, and then shut the door once they are busy munching.  Then we take them on the short drive to the processor’s.  Both processors we use are 10-20 minutes away, so it’s a short drive.  Usually the steers are still eating the hay when we arrive.

At the processor’s the cattle are walked off of the trailer.  They are kept calm and where they can see each other.  They are herd animals; they have grown up together all of their lives; they don’t like to be separated.  We deliberately work with processors that treat our animals as humanely as possible.  This is a bad day, to be sure.  But we want the kill to be swift, painless, and humane.  We won’t use a processor who bungles this part.  We know of some who use cattle prods, crowding, yell, scream, and basically terrify the animals into position.  We refuse to work with them.  Our cattle have never had a bad day up until now, and we make sure our processors understand that and eliminate the suffering.  I watch.  It happens very fast and, while I cannot say for certain, there does not seem to be any pain involved.  It is as different from what happens in the videos of industrial slaughterhouses as I can make it.  Watch videos from slaughterhouses released by whistle-blowers, PETA, and others and you will immediately see the difference.

Afterwards, the beef is skinned and the innards are removed.  The hide goes to become leather and the innards are composted or incinerated.  We prefer the processor who composts the innards because then that material can be reused to add fertility to the land.

The beef is then halved lengthwise and the 2 halves are hung in a cooling room for around 2 weeks.  The timeframe can be longer or shorter, depending upon the fat covering on the animal, but 2 weeks is about standard.  This hanging processes ages the meat and adds flavor and tenderness.  It is at this point that the carcass can be graded as well.  Grades are assigned based on the fat content and marbling of the meat.

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Good Life Ranch grass-only beef in the cooling room

The photo above shows one half of one of the steers we took in hanging in the cooling room.  I apologize for not being able to fit the entire length of the animal in one shot, but the room was small and iPhone cameras are what they are.

You’ll notice that the beef is lean, but still has a nice covering of fat.  The fat coverage was nicer than the other beeves in the cooling room, none of which were grass-finished.  It is also yellowish.  That yellow color comes from the carotenes in the plants that the animal has been eating its entire life and is the source of the grass-fed flavor and healthier fat profile (omega-3 to omega-6 ratio) of a grass-only animal.  All the other beeves in the room other than our 2 had solid white fat, which means it is more saturated and heavier in omega-6’s.  Those animals had eaten more grain than grass.  There wasn’t a lot of difference in the amounts of fat between the different animals, only in the color and texture.  The difference in texture was unbelievable to me.  I apologize for not taking a picture of a grain-finished beef for comparison.  I just didn’t think about it at the time.

After the hanging process has tenderized and added flavor to the meat, the butcher makes the cuts of meat that the customer has ordered.  He (or she) quarters the animal, trims and cuts the steaks and roasts, and then grinds the burger.  The photo below shows the portions of the animal from which the various cuts of beef come, or the options the customer and processor have for each area of the animal, depending upon which perspective you are coming.  The processing sheet above reflects these options, although each processor is likely to have created their own sheet and have their own options.

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Beef Made Easy – image from America’s Beef Producers

The meat is then packaged in vacuum bags (some processors use paper if the customer prefers, but the vacuum bags keep freezer burn at bay better) and flash frozen.  It is then ready for the customers to pick up.  They then pay the processor his fees, which for both the processors we use are very reasonable.  The beef will be labeled “Not for Sale” if it was processed under custom inspection, meaning that the customer cannot resell the meat to someone else.  Meat processed by Good Life Ranch for resale at farmers’ markets and The Market on Main in Somerset, KY will have undergone USDA inspection and will be marked as such.

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Packaged beef ready for use. This is ground beef and a chuck roast.

We have found the Red Poll beef to live up to its billing as flavorful and tender.  The first steaks we tried were New York strips, and they were so tender I barely had to use the knife.  It is simply phenomenal.

As you can see, it takes a lot to get beef, or any other meat, from the farm to your plate.  It is our hope at Good Life Ranch to serve customers who want to understand the whole process; who want to eat better quality food; who want to support local farmers; who want to ensure the survival of heritage breeds of livestock and food plants; and who want to make sure that the meat they eat is raised with the upmost in care and compassion.

Internet in the Boonies – or “Why I Hate HughesNet”

Sometimes a farmer needs the internet.  You may want to research livestock breeds, order heritage seeds from a mom and pop nursery, download an electrical schematic to fix the tractor, maintain a website to attract customers, or take an online course to further your education.

But out where we live, internet options are limited.  When we lived in the big city we had our choice of providers, pretty much all of whom delivered reasonably fast internet at a reasonable price.  It’s amazing what competition in the marketplace can do.  Unreliable companies and services go out of business quickly, and reliable companies continue on.  In rural America, that’s not the case.  From the time we moved to our farm in 2010 until September of 2015, we had only 1 choice in internet service provider – HughesNet.  Cue scary music.

We “inherited” our HughesNet service from the previous owners of our property.  But for 5 years, regardless of how many times I logged in and mad the change or called to tell them, HughesNet was never able to put our names on our service.  They were happy to accept our payments, but they were somehow unable to put our internet service into our names.

HughesNet Gen 4 advertises speeds of 15 megabites per second (mbps).  We never got close to that:

  
As you can see, with HughesNet Gen 4 we topped out at 3.49 mbps, and had periods of 0.10 mbps and 0.13 mbps.  And if the weather clouds up, forget it.  So the times that a farmer is most likely to have a moment to use the internet, it is not available.  HughesNet definitely overpromised and underdelivered.  Streaming video at those speeds is not a pleasant experience.  You can’t see any detail in the picture, and the constant buffering will quickly make you give up.  Video chatting with friends and family is out as well.

What you also don’t hear in the commercials, and did not tell us when we signed up for their service, is that HughesNet limits internet usage on your account.  You get 20 GB on the plan we had, which might seem like enough to watch a couple streaming movies in a month but is really only enough to update your computer and apps.  If you go over your 20 GB limit, HughesNet shuts your speed down to nothing.  Literally nothing.  You don’t think it’s possible for HughesNet service to get slower, but it is.

I tried many times to get HughesNet to look at our service, but they refused to acknowledge that there was any issue.  “Internet speeds vary” I was told.  “The issue must be with your computer.” “You must be measuring your internet speed incorrectly.” 

For those 20 GB of low speed (3.49 mbps maximum speed is low speed, HughesNet) our monthly bill was $99.99, plus all of the federal and state taxes that appear on any internet, cable, or phone bill.

We had Winstream phone service, and I would stop in their office in Campbellsville every few months and ask if their internet service was available to us yet.  The answer remained “no” until one auspicious day in late August of this year.  They gave me a modem and told me to hook it up to our phone line.  I asked how fast it was and the representative told me to expect 12 mbps at the top end.

“Is there a limit on internet usage or downloads?” I asked.

“What? Of course not.”

I took the modem, plugged it in, and 5 miutes later Lindsey said “It’s like we just jumped 30 years in technology.”

It was that much better.

  
Windstream delivered exactly what they said.  12 mbps.  No download limits.  We can stream movies and video chat with our families when our son wants to see his grandparents.

Videos are in HD and don’t have to buffer.  Updating a computer takes minutes rather than hours.  My son now knows his grandparents have discernible faces.

And the price?

Hard to say.  

I can tell you this.  We were paying $45 for Windstream phone service and $99.99 for HughesNet internet.  Now Windstream gives us much better internet service and upgraded our existing phone service for a monthly bill of $64.99.

Life is better.

One of the best phone calls I have ever gotten to make was to break up with HughesNet.  Of  course, I had to tell them my name was Michael, because they still couldn’t get my name on my account.

Check out provider options before moving out to the boonies.  You may have more luck than we did starting out.   I can heartily recommend Windstream, and tell you with equal vigor to steer clear of HughesNet.

Happy interwebbing, farmers.  May you find non-buffering vdeos of rotationally-grazed cattle in your future.

September

The new group of pigs rooting around in one of their paddocks.

Well September is here and with it the promise of fall right around the corner.  The morning and evening temperatures have dropped into the 40’s and 50’s.  The day time highs have been in the 70’s and 80’s, and both the animals and farmers are much happier with that.  We have our first couple of trees hinting at changing colors and dropping leaves for us to add as mulch to the gardens.  Sweet potatoes, squashes, beans, and corn are getting close to harvest time.  Our last batches of broilers for the year have arrived and are growing nicely.  And while having intern help is absolutely wonderful during the summer, fall is a wonderful break from the hectic pace of the spring and summer seasons.

Our spring and summer have gone swimmingly, even through the rough drought earlier in the year.  Fortunately we didn’t have it as dry and hot as people in Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri, but it was rough.  All four of our creeks stopped flowing and dried up.  Both wells went dry.  Both ponds dried down to mud and muck.  We hauled water in tanks and 5-gallon buckets two or three times a day to all of the critters.  Do you know how much water 7 cows and 20 goats require when the temperature is in the mid 90’s and the heat index is 110?  I didn’t before, but I truly appreciate it now.  And that’s not to mention hogs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, guineas, and . . .

But through all the heat and pestilence (my god, the flies!) all of our animals did fine.  They really earned their keep this year!

Both cows had healthy bull calves that are now growing steers.  One of them is going to be for our family and the other has been sold to another fine family (Thank you Joe G!).  Our new bull Russell the Love Muscle (aka Shuter’s Last Chance from Shuter Sunset Farms in Indiana) has hopefully impregnated the two cows plus the two heifer calves born in 2011.  That means our herd will grow by almost 50% next year!  We’ve gotta get the water situation resolved!  Here’s hoping for 4 strapping young calves in April next year.

Almost all the goats raised twins this year.  Every doe had a set of twins, but the first goat to kid did so 5 weeks early and we lost both of those kids.  All the other does twinned as well and those kids all thrived.  After the kids were born we traded our stud buck Apollo for 2 Boer bucklings (Desmond and Tutu).  We also kept back our best pure Kiko buckling for breeding.  The current plan is for him to breed all the does except his mother.  Desmond the Boer will get to breed the other Kiko doe and all 5 doelings we are retaining from this year’s kidding season.  We’ve sold two other the remaining kids (Thanks Jennifer and Rachel!) and will be processing the two remaining kids shortly.  That will leave us with 3 breeding bucks, 6 older does, and 5 young does to carry over for next year.  With 11 does bred for April delivery, we should have quite a kid crop next year if everything goes well.

We raised our first batch of hogs this year!  They tilled our gardens and turned our compost for them before we turned them into the best pork I’ve ever eaten.  We kept one of the first four we raised for ourselves and sold the others (Thanks Chastity W, Kelly M, and Melane H!).  Everything went so well and we (and our customers) loved the pigs so much that we got another group to raise for throughout the fall on our nut fall in the woods.  The first group tasted so good that I can’t wait to see how they taste after they fatten on hazelnuts, hickories, and acorns!  In this group we have 7 that are a Red Wattle and Hampshire cross and 2 that are a Berkshire and Tamworth cross.  We still have 2 available if anyone else is interested.  They should be available sometime between late December and February, depending on how fast they grow.  Right now the are enjoying the pasture edges, digging out Johnson grass roots, rooting out falling nuts, and cleaning out our new fence lines.

The chickens are doing great as well.  We’ve rebuilt our coyote-decimated laying flock and have run through several batches of broiler chickens (Thanks Joe G, Sarah M, Christine M, and Ronnie & Jake P).  Next year I truly believe that we can have our first year without ordering any chickens from a hatchery – all chicks should be produced on-farm.  Sustainability!

The only animals that had a really bad year were the rabbits.  It was so hot that we lost many of them to heat strokes even though they were as sheltered as we could make them in the barn with fans and cool water.  It is interesting to note that we didn’t lose a single rabbit that was on pasture in a rabbit tractor.  Only the ones in the hutches.  This reinforces my desire to build larger portable tractors and get all of our rabbits on pasture throughout the year.  They just do better and seem far more comfortable.

We are also coordinating with Lindsey’s father Ronnie to expand the gardens next spring!  Lindsey’s parents moved to nearby Campbellsville this year and having them nearby has helped tremendously.  Lindsey and I even got to go to Cincinnati for a whole day and see a Cubs doubleheader thanks to Ronnie and Jake farm sitting.  Ronnie approached me about combining efforts and growing more produce next year, so we should have more than enough for 2 families and some to sell with meat purchases.

Right now we are busy on our fall plans.  I’ve got to finish stuccoing the Indian dwelling.  Elden and I are going to build a fence around the south field to open up more grazing and foraging areas for our animals.  I am building a winter corral and hay feeding area for our cattle and goats that will last and withstand the pressure the animals exert on the fencing.  And, of course, the job search continues in the rough economic climate.  The job is necessary so that we can finally get a tractor to help us accomplish some of the tasks that we either currently rely on neighbors to do or just don’t get done at all.

Well, that’s the update.  Thanks for reading!

Sales and Availability Update

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Gloucester Old Spot/Duroc hybrid barrow. 

Just wanted to let everyone know about our sales and available meat products for the 2012 season.

Pork
Our first run of hogs have all been sold.  Thank you to Melane, Doug, Chastity, Rob, Kelly, and Bryan!  We have some interest in hogs ready for slaughter in the fall.  If you are interested, please shoot me an email or comment on this post and I will add your name to the list.

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This little Kiko buck is growing fast!

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We have sold our first goats – thanks Jennifer, Rachel, and Nick! – and we have two more available for 2012.  They are available for both breeding and eating.  Again, send me an email or comment below if you would like a goat so that we can work with you on the size you would like for eating or the characteristics you are looking for in a breeding buck.  If you are looking for a breeding buck, please contact us quickly, as the bucklings will be wethered when they reach 2 months of age.

Turkeys
The hens have hatched out 17 poults so far with 3 more hens still sitting on their eggs.  They will be ready for Thanksgiving and are really excellent!  Supermarket birds aren’t even close!  A $25 deposit will reserve a bird for your holiday meal and the first people to reserve get the first choice as to the size of bird they would like.  Please contact us to reserve your turkey.

Rabbit
Our first two litters have sold, but we definitely have more on the way.  Rabbits are $5 each if you would like to process them yourself and $10 each if you would like us to do it for you.

Chicken
Chicken can be ready for you from 6 to 12 weeks after you order it, depending upon whether you would like the Cornish x White Rock hybrids or the older, tastier heritage breed birds.  Contact us and we can have a custom-sized order ready for you!

Eggs
Eggs are pretty much always available.  They are $3.25 per dozen – $3.00 if you bring us an egg carton. Our chickens are completely free-ranging during the day and return to a predator-proof coop at night for protection.

Thanks to all of our great customers and we would love to welcome some new ones!

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Kiko herdsire for sale or trade

Apollo in the morning sun

This is Apollo.  He is a 7-year old purebred Kiko buck.  He is for sale, and you should buy him.  🙂

He’s registered as an American Premier fullblood Kiko with the International Kiko Goat Association, and I have the papers to transfer the ownership to you.  Registered animals are just as easy to keep as non-registered ones, and registration is just easy added value.

More importantly for your breeding program, Apollo was a fast-growing buckling.  From a birthweight of 6 lbs he rocketed to 15 lbs in a month and 52 lbs at 90 days.  He has needed no worming and minimal foot care throughout his life and his time with us.  He is quite friendly and easy to catch.  Not an aggressive bone in his body.  He loves to be scratched behind the ears and on the forehead.

Kikos are the “go anywhere, do anything” goat.  They are great mothers with plenty of milk for multiple kids.  They grow quickly and are much more resistant to worms than the Boer breed.  We know – we have both Kikos and Boers under identical conditions.  They are a great meat goat for the humid midwest and southeast.

You can get him this spring and have your herd ready to drop kids in the early fall and have your kids ready for market next Easter.

Apollo is for sale for $350 – or make us an offer.

We would also trade him for another Kiko buck of similar quality or 2 young Kiko does.

If you’re interested you can comment below, email us (geoff@goodliferanch.com), or call us at 606.787.4217.  We can work out delivery if needed.

Apollo profile

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The Dry Creek Farm Stand

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On Saturday we officially opened the Dry Creek Farm Stand.  The farm stand is a collaboration between us and a few of our neighbors that will hopefully allow us to market the production of several farms directly to customers.  We don’t have any truly viable farmers’ markets within an hour of us, so this is our attempt to create a new marketplace and take advantage of our farm’s location on the “main drag” through the area.

On this first day we had products from 4 farms for sale – our farm, KY Family Farm, and two of the Amish farms contributed.  We had laying hens, rabbits, frozen chicken, eggs, asparagus, cabbage, beets, Swiss chard, broccoli, lettuces, peas, carrots, turnips, and mustard greens for sale.

Now we just need customers, so if you live in or around the tri-county area (makes the confluence of Casey, Adair, and Taylor counties seem large and important) you should make it a point to stop by and check out the Dry Creek Farm Stand.  We will be open every Saturday spring through fall from 9 am until 1 pm.

See you there!

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Pre-order Your Heritage Breed Thanksgiving Turkey

A Bourbon Red turkey relaxes on the fence enjoying the sunshine.

Spring is almost here!  That means that the turkeys are getting into the breeding mood and we should have lots of eggs soon from our small flock of heritage breed free-range turkeys.  Our turkeys free-range around our farm chowing down on grasses, seeds, and insects.  They fly very well and enjoy following us around as we do chores and take care of the other animals.  Their favorite afternoons are spent swinging on our front porch swing.  They truly are personable birds.  T’his year we are raising Black Spanish, Bourbon Red, Chocolate, and Narragansett turkeys.

Heritage breed turkeys were once common throughout the United States.  They are the quintessential American bird.  Unfortunately, with the rise of the factory-farmed industrial breeds like the Broad-Breasted Bronze and the Broad-Breasted White turkeys, the heritage breeds were almost lost.  Now these older breeds are developing quite a following based on their superior flavor, their ability to free-range, and their ability to be raised sustainably because they can both forage for their own food and breed naturally.

We need more people to help us preserve these heritage breeds that are so wonderful to raise and provide genetic diversity and safeguards to sustainable farmers.  We need to create a market for the heritage turkeys so that farmers like us can continue to raise them and the breeds won’t disappear forever.

How can you help save these breeds?  By eating them!

By eating heritage breed turkeys, you will ensure the breeds’ survival by encouraging small farmers to continue breeding and growing these wonderful birds.  If we all keep going to the supermarket and buying Broad-Breasted White turkeys (which can’t find their own food, fly, or breed naturally), then that will be all people will be able to raise.  The Broad-Breasted White turkey already has 95% or more of the American market.  If this trend continues, then other breeds may go the way of the Dodo bird.  That means less genetic diversity in our turkeys – one disease could wipe out great numbers of them.  Heritage birds not only taste better, but they provide genetic insurance against disaster!

From now until September 1st, Good Life Ranch is offering a special on a heritage breed free-range Thanksgiving turkey.  For $75 you can order your own heritage breed bird to be the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal.  This price includes free delivery to your door anywhere in Kentucky!  For the average 14-lb bird, you can save $23 on the normal price of $7 per pound and the normal price does not include delivery.  What a deal!

To order, please contact us by emailing geoff@goodliferanch.com or calling 606.787.4217.  We will then give you more information and answer any questions that you may have.  We will confirm your order by requesting a $25 deposit to hold your bird, with the remaining $50 due upon delivery.  Please don’t wait!  We only anticipate raising 50 turkeys this year and they are sure to go fast!

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2011 Stockin’ and Sellin’

The hillside woods all covered in the latest round of snow.

One nice part about winter planning is that there’s no rule that says it has to all be done indoors.  Today the dogs and I took advantage of the nice day with the beautiful new-fallen snow to do some thinkin’ walkin’ all around the hillsides.  While thinking about things we can add and do differently this year, we also found two new (but really old and decrepit) fencelines.  We discovered where the wild turkey flock on our land roosted the night before, and found lots of fresh coyote poo that Bailey and Scooter promptly rolled in.

We are planning on adding both some new Good Life Ranch products in 2011 as well as new market outlets.  Our CSA program so far is generating a little interest, but very no one has actually submitted the application yet so I’m not sure that a CSA is going to be viable for us right now.  In talking with our neighbors and other farmers in the area I’ve found that many of them have tried CSAs in the area before without success.  It seems like right now the members of our community aren’t willing to pay in advance for their food, so we’ve got some work to do to change the local food culture.  We will be selling at the Campbellsville Farmers’ Market this year.  Additionally, we are excited about one new development.  We have been approached by our neighbors Joshua and Melina about opening a community farm stand on our property that we and the several surrounding families could use to market and sell our meats and produce.  Lindsey and I are excited about that and are looking forward to the farm stand opening this spring!

We’ve also chosen some of our new offerings for 2011.  We will continue to offer rabbits and eggs as well as Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, and Chocolate turkeys and a full range of produce.  Here’s what we want to add in 2011:

Turkeys
In keeping with the heritage breed mindset we have at the Ranch, of course we are not adding Broad-breasted whites to our turkey family.  This year Royal Palms and Narragansetts will be added to the menu!  Royal Palms are small (potentially suitable for people with only 3-4 people to feed for Thanksgiving), but they are beautiful and superb foragers.  Once they have passed the brooder stage they may be able to pretty much feed themselves on insects, seeds, and grasses.

Royal Palm turkeys

The Narragansett is a larger breed than the Royal Palm and is roughly the same size as the Black, Bourbon Reds, and Chocolate turkeys that we are already raising.  They are nice calm birds with the same heritage breed foraging ability and superior taste as the other breeds, but it’s an opportunity for us to help protect and conserve another heritage breed of American livestock that is endangered by the industrial food chain.

Chickens
Our Black Australorp and old-style Rhode Island Red hens will continue to produce Good Life Ranch eggs in 2011.  But we want to find a breed that we can raise and utilize both genders of right here on the ranch.  We don’t like having to order the birds from distant hatcheries for several reasons.  It’s not local, it’s not sustainable, but more importantly the birds are often treated inhumanely.  Hatcheries grind the male chicks from laying breeds and the female chicks from broiler breeds into chicken meal.  We don’t want to support that system, hence we are looking for a breed that we can hatch out here on the farm and use the males as broilers and the females as layers.  So far we have two candidate breeds:

Naked Neck rooster

The handsome gentleman in the above photo is a Naked Neck chicken, also called a Turken because initially people thought they were a cross between a chicken and a turkey.  But it’s all chicken because chickens and turkeys can’t create viable offspring.  I personally don’t mind the featherless neck, but some people find it very off-putting.  What’s interesting is that the gene that causes a featherless neck also creates a mild increase in breast meat.  This makes the Naked Neck a candidate for growing broiler chickens.  It also creates a marketing opportunity.  Our co-conspirators Tim and Liz over at Nature’s Harmony Farm in Georgia grow these and call them Georgia Redneck Chickens.  I think a similar marketing strategy could work in rural Kentucky.  The experimental part of this will be if the broilers have a feed conversion rate that is profitable and if the hens lay well enough to make that end of the chicken business work.  Reports vary on the egg-laying ability of the Naked Neck, with some people finding that they lay very well and other people reporting that they laying rate is pretty low.  We will see.  They are very popular in France, Spain, and Germany as meat chickens, but not they are very rare here in the US.

Delaware hen and rooster

The Delaware is the other breed we will be evaluating this spring and summer for a dual-purpose meat-and-eggs breed.  They were developed in their namesake state during WWII for use a broiler chicken.  Delawares did dominate their local markets for a couple years, but their reign was short-lived with the arrival of the Cornish x White Rock corss in the 1950s.  Like the Naked Necks, we are going to have to evaluate both the meat and egg ends of the Delaware breed to see if they’ll work for us.

If either of these breeds can be profitable for both meat and eggs, then we can stop ordering chicks from hatcheries and start sustainably producing our own chicks right here on the farm.  Then we can wean our customers off of the expectation of Cornish x Rock body conformation and teach them what a “normal” chicken is supposed to look and taste like.  That’s the goal.

New Poultry
Chickens and turkeys won’t be the only poultry gracing the ranch this year.  We are also (hopefully – they are very hard to find) going to add heritage breeds of ducks and geese in 2011.

Magpie ducks

The duck breed we are hoping to add is the Magpie duck.  They are originally from Wales are are a good dual-purpose duck.  They dress out around 4 pounds and their (mostly) white feathers pick cleanly.  They also lay 150-200 eggs each per year.  They are critically rare and we look forward to protecting and promoting the breed.  Now we just have to convince the processor to take them…

Cotton Patch geese

Finally, the Cotton Patch goose will now call Good Life Ranch home.  They are extraordinarily rare with less than 100 breeding birds in the country.  They used to be all over the place on virtually every homestead in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama weeding the gardens and the cotton fields.  They are good flyers, their white feather pick cleanly, you can tell the gender by looking at them, and they are extremely non-aggressive for a goose.  We’ve got some feeler out looking for goslings or breeding pairs, and it looks like we might be able to add these lovely geese this year.

St. Croix Sheep

St. Croix sheep

Finally, we want to add sheep to the Ranch to take advantage of the grass, reduce mowing, improve the pastures, and produce meat for us.  This will likely be a late summer or early fall acquisition because we’ll have to erect the fences first and then save up more money, but hopefully it will get done this year because we really need some more grazing animals to make use of all the grass we are growing.  St. Croix sheep are heritage-breed hair sheep, so they don’t require shearing.  They are a medium-sized breed.  What’s really attractive is that the flock we are considering buying from has remained vibrant and healthy despite not having been wormed in over 20 years!  They are definitely the most parasite-resistant breed of sheep.

 

That’s the weekend update, thanks for reading!