Let’s talk today

Twirl 002aThere are so many things going on, I don’t even know where to begin.

So I’m not even going to start. Today, I want to hear from you. What are you doing right now?

What’s on your mind?

Let’s talk. Do you have questions for other Hen House readers? Questions for me? Fire away.

I’ll be in and out today, but will come back by some throughout the weekend. I hope you will do the same.

Gather round, pull up a chair, and let’s have a conversation.

I’ll start:

What is the one thing that you like most about the change of seasons? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this particular thing?

I almost forgot: If you are reading this on Facebook, please post your questions/discussions here on the blog. We’re going to limit today’s discussion to the blog comments only. Thank you!

Happy Friday!

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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.

30 Responses to Let’s talk today

  1. Changes in the season are terrific because we can look forward to both the new challenges and blessings each one holds! :o)

  2. Jenny says:

    We are preparing to relocate and start a small farm. I am a homeschooling mom and am wondering how to you balance farm commitments with schooling your children and running your home???

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      When you figure that one out, will you tell me? My biggest answer to that question is “one day at a time”.

      I do tend to group like tasks with like tasks. I also do a LOT of multitasking.
      Folding laundry while helping kids with their math, check emails while dinner is in the oven, etc. I have found that it’s the little tiny minutes that I have throughout the day that make the most difference in how much I get done. This is going to sound insane but FlyLady has helped me organize my house stuff. I don’t use her methods consistently, but when things feel overwhelming, she’s a good fallback – http://www.flylady.net.

      As far as farm work goes, I help with the processing of the animals and marketing. I don’t currently do any of the daily chores – gathering eggs, moving cows, etc – simply because it’s either chores, or dinner. You can’t do everything, and finding the right balance is key.

      Of course, crockpot meals are the best for days that I’m out on the farm all day long.

      Blessings, Jenny.

    • Colin says:

      We are preparing in the same way. Selling our suburban home and leaving the rat race to take over an organic farm. We are looking to engage the local charter school, but wish to supplement our child’s education with balanced goal oriented learning. Big changes are afoot.

  3. Joel Holmes says:

    Summer is fast approaching here in Western Arizona. We kind of jump from winter to summer overnight. 80’s one day then 5 months of 100+. Next month I’ll start hitting the local grocery stores again for old produce to start my summer composting. You can imagine how fast I can break it down when our night time lows are 85 or 90. Lots of turning and watering to keep the inner temps down. You were in my thoughts as I tended to the yard wearing flip flops and a t-shirt in January. Please keep me in yours as I deal with 125 degrees this summer!

  4. Ruth Lynn says:

    I’ll piggyback a bit on what Jenny asked. On the other side of things, how do you know you can rely on a farm that seems so busy with running what seems to be a quality farm and being good parents and homeschooling? I would like to try meat from a certain farm, but struggle with how it will all work out because they seem so disorganized. Is there something I should look for when visiting, or questions I should ask (other than the normal ones about farming). :O)

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Hi Ruth,
      Great question. I have a couple of things here.

      1. This is absolutely hands down the MOST busy time of year for farmers (Spring). Farmers everywhere are running around like headless chickens (pardon the mental picture). It’s quite possible that the farmer appears disorganized because of the time of year. Right now, I would base your purchases on quality and taste of products. I’m sure that if you came to Polyface at the moment, it would look a little chaotic to you. We know what we’re doing, but to an outsider, I’m sure things would look crazy.
      Now, I don’t know this farmer and perhaps there are other things that are causing red flags, but in general, Spring is a time when most of us run around looking a little or a lot on the frazzled side.

      2. This isn’t necessarily for you as a food buyer, but a thought to other farmers out there. So let me back up to the dream. Most farmers today have this dream of owning their own little piece of heaven. The idyllic farm with a pond and a menagerie of animals, including the family dairy animal, garden, pond, etc. It’s supposed to be a “simple” life filled with green grass, sunshine, gentle rain, and a beautiful landscape. Of course, this includes boycotting the city. This little Eden will be your haven for you and your children. The farmer hopes to instill the same values into their children that Grandma and Grandpa’s farm taught them. And they also hope that their children will take over the farm and that they will all live together as one big happy family on the same land.

      Reality check: This is a beautiful picture. One to greatly aspire to. However, too often, we farmers get caught in a trap of our own making. Farming is a lot of work and not just grunt work. It requires donning many different hats. Many times, the hats that need to be worn are not necessarily ones that a member of the family is best suited for.

      What we forget, is that in order for the small family farm to survive, it must be paying a salary. Not just one salary, but multiple salaries. If we truly want our farm to succeed, we need to let the dream breathe a little. Let it mold and shape itself differently than what we may have imagined at the beginning. We may have to hire a marketer, a bookkeeper, a delivery person, a school teacher, etc. Whatever skill that we don’t LOVE, we need to seriously consider “farming” it out. Our children will be happier and more interested in staying on the farm because Mom and Dad aren’t stressed out with all the things that they don’t “want” to do.

      As farmers, on a family farm, we try to do it all. We can’t.

      Imagine with me for a minute. What if Joel and Teresa had decided years ago that the family farm was ONLY going to be worked by family members? Polyface would not be as alive and vibrant as it is today. We wouldn’t have Wendy, our talented customer extraordinaire, or Eric, our apprentice manager and daily task “teacher”, or Richard, our delivery man, or Jackie, our savvy spend-all-day-looking-for-a-penny bookkeeper. You get the picture.

      Joel wouldn’t be speaking or fighting the farming battles with legislation because no one would be here to power the farm while he was gone.

      If the saying is true: “Our weakest link is between our ears” then perhaps we should find someone whose greatest strength is our weakest link. If it happens to be a son or daughter, hurray! If not, don’t feel ashamed or afraid, reach out to someone who has the skill and mindset that you need. Not only will your farm succeed for generations to come, but you’ll also have a much stronger dynamic team.

      Yes, Farming is a lifestyle, but it is also a business. Striking the balance between the two is key.

      Anyone want to add any thoughts, comments, criticisms here?

      • Jenny says:

        While I can’t speak from experience yet, I found your response very encouraging, Sheri. Thank you!! 😉

    • Gretchen R says:

      Hmmm…I don’t know if this addresses it, but I would visit the farm more than once. First off, if they’re open to you visiting, that’s a good sign. They have nothing to hide. Second, don’t expect a grocery store experience, especially from a relatively new farm. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses, and a really great farmer may not be that great at customer service/presentation. Grocery stores have the science down of meeting customer’s needs that they didn’t even know they had. Going to a farm to get your food will be a completely different expectation. One of the upsides is you can sometimes be more involved. You could have visited them on a crazy day, or it could be constant chaos there. Then I would try the food. Is the food worth the hassle? If something seems off, go with your gut that it’s not a good situation, but with the same breath, see the possibility of new experiences and ways of doing things.

  5. Betty Hunt says:

    I love fall here is the deep south because it brings welcome relief from the severe heat and humidity, and our winters are so mild, they are almost like fall. Spring is the best season. The new birth and rebirth are promises of things to come. My neighbor’s chicken came over and laid eggs and she is now sitting on them, so, with the neighbor’s best wishes, I will now have some sweet little egg machines to love. I visit PeckyPecky every day. She now lets me pet her and scratch her neck. She eats treats out of my hand. Together I hope we can have healthy happy chicks. My little veggies are growing by leaps and bounds. Tiny tomatoes and cucumbers are beginning to form, and potato blooms are showing up. Watermelons and squash are putting on their second leaves. My grandbabies, 6, 8, and 11, are my biggest cheerleaders and helpers. I love them so. Everything is not perfect tho. The grass needs cutting and the heat is coming! <3

  6. Gretchen R says:

    We live on a 4,000 acre corn and soy bean farm, my husband owns along with his dad, cousin, and uncle. Spring means I don’t see him for weeks. 😉 My husband and cousin are reading basically everything your father in law has written right now. They have built a small structure for some meat birds to try out this year over our yard, from the scrap wood and supplies in our barn. We have 50 chicks coming in about 2 weeks. They are so excited, and hope to be ordering some beef soon as well, though they cannot decide if they should commit to that this year, or wait until next. The older men on the farm lost a ton of money in a cattle feed operation when my husband was young, and they are strongly against getting back into animals. God is pulling at my husband and cousin’s heartstrings, though, and they are seeking to use our land for his glory. (I’m not saying that the older men don’t seek to use the land for God’s glory. I think that sometimes they’re just doing as they’re told, and trying to be wise.)
    Please be in prayer for our farm. This pull that has arisen into 2 different directions has created a tension, and we try to cover every situation that arises with prayer, and just take one day at a time. Spring is a season of stress, as well as a season of excitement. Our spring is quite late this year, which only raises the stress level even more.
    I homeschool as well, and for the above commenter, I’m just finishing “Family Friendly Farming” by Salatin, and it actually has a lot of homeschooling info in there, I think, on how to balance homeschooling and farming responsibilities. In a word, it’s a team effort. I couldn’t do it without my husband, and him sometimes picking up the slack for me, and the kids and I sometimes picking up the slack for him. Sometimes our studies stop all together as we just work as a family, and sometimes we spend all day studying because it’s cold outside and we just read books all day long by the cozy fire. It all equals out, and the sooner you let go of the “modern” model of a classroom, the easier the whole learning thing gets. We have 3 subjects in our school. Does the activity the child wants to do: build character or build a skill, or build knowledge? Then we do it. As long as what we do fits into one of those 3 subjects, we consider it “school.”

    • Jenny says:

      So helpful!! Thanks for the comment!! 🙂 I’m not that far in Joel’s books yet..but am looking forward to reading that one!! I’ll move it up to “next on my list!!” 😉

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Great thoughts, Gretchen. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  7. Charles Gresham says:

    A cousin and a nephew and I are making plans to reactivate a beef cattle farm down in NW Georgia. We are trying to model operations after Polyface. Hope to come out for a farm tour one of these days. Plan on starting out with about 30 head…Hereford maybe. It’s about a 400 acre farm. Used to be dairy back in the 50’s and 60’s but don’t think we’re going to try that.

  8. Scott Peets says:

    This may be a cookie cutter response but I like the beginning of new life that comes with spring. Summer is great it opens open recreation that spring is still too chilly for. Fall provides the falling colorful leaves that New England is known for. Winter can be fun but I am usually hoping spring comes quick.

    Today was an eventful day as well.

    When someone visits Polyface what is the one thing they must see or experience while there?

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      You’re not supposed to answer a question with a question, but “What’s your itch?”
      What do you most want to see?

      That is the one thing that you should see and experience while you are here.

    • I visited Polyface last fall on one of the farm tours. The whole family packed up and drove down (from Michigan). I am telling you there is nothing you WON’T want to see and experience! Everything works like an amazingly well-oiled machine. The chickens out on pasture, the egg mobiles, the way the whole system works with the cows being followed by the chickens, the pigs and their contribution to the foresting aspect, the store – AH! It’s as close to perfection you can imagine. Then hearing Joel talk about all the other things you don’t even see (like how he heats his house, etc.) just blows you away with the amount of creativity and thought exploding in every direction that it makes you wonder how you can turn your piece of suburbia into having even a fraction of the innovation that Polyface shows in every facet.

      Whatever it is you seek, you’ll for sure feel as if you’ve been drinking from a fire hose! It’s rubber meets the road on changing the world one person at a time.

      p.s. If you’re going on a farm tour be sure to sign up early! We had our tickets for the end of September in early May and they sold out the week after we got ours.

      • Scott Peets says:

        Thanks for the replies!! Without a doubt I want to see it all. I already have my tickets for a Sept. tour. I am new to the “food movement” or the realization that I was like too many when it came to food. I first seen Joel in a film called YERT and as soon as it was over I googled this awesome farmer. Im in the Army and currently overseas and have read 4 of his books. I have made the decision to start a farm when I return home and of course my models will be based off of polyface. I deffinately think of things a lot different after reading the logic of Joel. I have my own wondering mind but he has helped open it up for a new and exciting future.

  9. Lynn says:

    My husband, in addition to his regular job, raises egg chickens. He is a production oriented fella, conflicting with the gentler, organic principals. We have a flock of about 100 chickens (Rhode Island Reds), and he is getting a new set of layers today. We have always had a problem with our hens not having any tail feathers. Even our one rooster, Pierre, doesn’t have any. They have 1/2 acre to roam in, and their hen house is 28’x20′. We have been trying to figure out why they have no tail feathers, but can’t seem to find an answer. Can you help?

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Hi Lynn,
      It’s a possibility of several things:

      1. They’re bored. Because they are never moved, there isn’t enough to keep their interest so they pick at each other.
      2. It could be their age. Although this is probably unlikely since you’ve always had this problem.
      3. The birds could be hybrids instead of the original heritage RI Reds. Hybrids are much more high strung and tend to pick at each other all the time.

      Hope this helps some.

  10. Heidi Herron Dickens, MD says:

    I grew up in Indiana/Michigan and loved having four equal seasons, especially the summer and fall. Now I live in Oklahoma and we have one season that my niece (also a MI transplant) lovingly calls “wimmer”. However, for two weeks in the spring, Tulsa is about the prettiest place on earth with azaleas, dogwoods, and redbuds just bursting with color. So the most challenging thing? Who wants to be inside doing housework when it’s so beautiful outside? I’ll choose dirt over dishwater any day.

  11. Meg Salmon says:

    Hi Sheri! Our new venture this spring is adding 25 Freedom Rangers to the pasture. We have used Joel’s design for the chicken tractor but were not able to find the design/dimensions for the wheeled hand truck-like lift. Our welder brought over a prototype today that lifted the tractor so high, all the little chicks ran out. Is there a link for the design? Chasing chickens…Meg

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Hi Meg,
      We don’t have “plan” for it, but I’ll email you a picture. Perhaps your welder can look at that for making it. 🙂

  12. Colin says:

    In response to the question of what “one thing” do you like about the change of season? Well. I prefer fall and spring. I am not fond of fall changing to winter and bringing the cold, but I do like that the critters I am not fond of are not present, and much of the landscape that requires continuous attention, gives us a break for a few months. But I would rather have the nicer weather and deal with the work. Winter changing to spring is purely magical. New growth, flowers, all the amazing smells, it is a wonderful time of year. There is lots of work to prepare for the growing season, but it is so worth it after dealing with the trials of winter. The sheer beauty of spring gives way to the warmth of summer, but also the oppressive heat and humidity that comes with it. This is also a challenge for many plants that then need to be watered and tended to. Summer is nice for hot days at the beach, but is tough on plants and those of us that are not fond of high heat and humidity. Once summer fizzles into the nice fall weather, we get the blessing of the bounty of the years efforts. Lots of hard work as in the spring, but again all the wonders of the efforts of the growing season.

    How many hear that like the warmer part of spring would like to have it all year? 12 months of spring, a little summer, then spring again. Would you long for the die back and cold of winter?

    Sheri, thank you for making the time to share with all of us. We hope to visit Polyface before we leave the area. You all have been an inspiration to many of us. Keep up the hard work and blessing for a successful and healthy year.

  13. Becky Iannaccone says:

    Have bought the farm and am packing for the move. Still in shock – it’s a life long dream come true. There is a God and he has a plan for me – this is one of those transformations in reality – everyone keeps asking me if I realize what a mountain of work it is that lies ahead of me – when it’s what you love to do, when it’s the most fulfilling work . . . it’s not work. I feel blessed.

  14. Erin Herner says:

    I love the first days I can get outside, till the garden, plant flowers, herbs etc. Yesterday and today were those days here in Chicago. I’m already a bit sunburnt! I’ve got chicks and ducks that I bought this spring, and it’s so fun to watch them play in the pool (the ducks) and the chicks in the chicken tractor I built. I love all the new life, the pasture and trees greening up, and the day, just this last week, when the pasture is firm enough that we can let our herd of dairy cows out, finally! April was really rainy here, so we had to keep them in the barn way longer than we expected to.

  15. Susan says:

    We are fortunate to have a dairy farmer friend who sends his jerseys out to rotational pastures for the day; he has given us permission to run our hens in their mobile coop out in the pasture three days after the cows have been in each section. My hens are 18 weeks old, just starting to lay, and they are giving themselves wonderful dust baths in his field. He doesn’t want all those ruts in his field. Is there anything we can do to minimize the hens making so many holes in his pasture? They are only in each area for a day; they get moved every morning.

  16. Julius Fang says:

    Hello All,

    I’m a high school senior. Three years ago, I started a non-profit organization helping Chinese farmers in a remote mountain area to become self-sustainable.

    I saw Polyface’s website and YouTube videos and I was inspired by your method of raising healthy chickens (layers). I want to apply this technique to my project, but my problem is that the each individual family doesn’t have enough land (only backyard) and hardly any grass.

    Most young generation left home for city jobs, the only people living there are 60+ seniors. They have some land approximately a quarter of mile away from their homes; this makes it very difficult for them to raise chickens in this circumstance. So the backyard is the solution for them, but there is no grass in the backyard. Do you have any suggestions on how I can overcome this hurdle?

    Thank you very much for your time.