Thursday, June 16, 2016

Unity Farm Journal - Third Week of June 2016

The baby geese are now old enough to free range with their parents, so they are wandering through the forest and barnyard from 7am to 7pm, occassionally stopping for a pool party in the pond.    We believe we have two male and one female young geese, bringing our total to 3 males and 4 females.   Will be interesting to watch their dynamics and relationships as they age.

 Every week on the farm has some unique learning experience.   What should you do when you find a baby blue jay on the ground, either fallen from the nest or having failed its initial flight?   The general rule of thumb is to do nothing .  The parents are likely nearby and will feed it until it flies.   However, if it falls into a danger zone, you really need to move it to safety.   In this case, it fell into the mouth of Bundle, one of our Great Pyrenees.   I was there when it happened, so I was able to rescue the blue jay quickly and move it to a place of safety.    We used pine branches to create a makeshift nest in a tall rhododendron, keeping the bird off the ground.   We fed the bird fresh mealworms and it hungrily took them from our hands (looks like Angry Birds).  

The parents roosted in a tree nearby and watched over the baby for two days until it was able to finally join the family on its own.      Recognizing that this is likely to happen again, we created a permanent baby bird safety area in the forest - away from the dogs, chickens, geese and guinea fowl.  It’s 12x12 inches square with a 2 inch raised lip, supported by 2x4s about 5 feet up on the side of a black birch tree.   Whenver we find a baby bird on the ground in a dangerous area we can simply move it to the “safe room".

Although the marketplace for guinea fowl is not that robust, we did raise 25 chicks from eggs and had remarkable success.   Our guineas are so healthy that their offspring thrived without a single death.    When you buy guineas commercially (shipped via US mail), you can expect up to 30% losses.   We did order 30 guineas of varied genetics to bolster the Unity Farm gene pool and thus far, we’ve lost 4.     We’ve sold about 30 guineas thus far and we’re likely to end up adding about 15 to our flock.

We’ve also added new chickens and bantams to keep the flock diverse.   We’re selling some of the chickens, but likely we’ll end up adding 15 new chickens to the flock.

We’ve very careful with our poultry population management to avoid overcrowding and pecking order battles while also maintaining diversity.

As a federal/state bonded winery/cidery, we have a great deal of regulatory/compliance work to support and this week I’ve worked with the  Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to get access to the Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) system so that we can electronically submit our labels for approval to the government.   Every label must have 9 unique characteristics including a health warning statement   It must be approved before bottling but can be altered without reapproval to change the vintage year, alcohol content, ingredients etc.   We’re hard at work designing the Unity Farm labels for mead and cider.

The pigs continue to grow and are always demanding attention.   Every night I feed them grapes, give them a belly rub and tuck them into their quilts in the pig house.   As some have said, “when I die I want to be reincarnated as a Unity Farm pig”!

This weekend we’re delivering basil, eggs, mushrooms, kale, and peas to Tilly and Salvey’s farm stand.   Strawberries and blueberries are just a few weeks away.   I’ll do trail maintenance and begin preparing for the Fall seedlings - the work of preparing for the next season never stops!

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