The gist is this:
Helios Farms beef share owners have been put off. Some have been waiting for more than a year now. We keep delaying harvest. Our last beef harvest was in July of 2016, when we sent steers out to a custom butcher. After that experience, we decided that we could improve the beef harvest experience by only harvesting beef on the farm, the same way we do hogs. Kira and I agreed that we wouldn't send beef off the farm again to have it butchered. The problem was that we weren't equipped to hang beef and age it at that time.
So we "kind of"prioritized the building of her butchery. I say "kind of" because our priority list is very long and what happens next on the list is not very predictable. Beef Share owners have been told that we will be harvesting beef on the farm and they will be invited to the farm to harvest their beef when the new butchery is complete.
Also on the priority list was a "tool shed" so we could better run the farm without doing things like working on broken equipment while getting snowed on and laying in muck (more comfort for the humans here). New investors showed up and stepped up to fund the tool shed construction. Construction on the tool shed began last fall.
Also, our Single-Moo Milk dairy shed, built 5 years ago when we moved here with 3 cows, is ready to be considerably expanded, so we can milk the dozens of cows that we plan to milk here with great efficiency. Note in the photo above, even before the roof on the tool shed was complete, cows moved in to half of the shed (more comfort for the animals here). With Single-Moo Milk being the centerpiece of the farm, a new dairy barn is also on the priority list.
We raised a $10K KivaZip loan to build the butchery. Many of you contributed to that effort and we appreciate it, because it kicked off the whole process and we started moving forward with a $10K vision for the butchery. We thought: "we will reserve one bay of the nearly completed, gravel-floored "tool shed" to build the new butchery.
But that thought changed somewhat when our investor/landowner Jim Smith (mentioned in a previous blog entry titled "Farm-to-Sausage") left his job at Microsoft and went on "funemployment". He visited the farm and decided that the sausage quantity and quality coming from Helios Farms would be increased considerably (along with all of our other farm share owner production), with better infrastructure. Additional investment could definitely put more "fun" into "funemployment" for Jim, and our plans adjusted accordingly. Now more is happening, not more than we imagined, but more than we imagined possible.
The butchery expanded to take up half of the toolshed with an added "chicken wing". The dairy barn started mid-winter construction. Roof went up. Plans evolved again. So now, if you look at the pictures, things look different.
Building the Single-Moo Facility
The first photo in this blog entry is a shot of the forms for our new milking pit. This will allow us to milk 6 cows at a time (at least). We intend to milk 30 cows a day here within the next couple years. Here's a couple current photos. Progress.
Concrete will be poured in the milking pit forms later this week. The cows may be getting milked in the new facility within the next month or two.
Butchery progress (where's the beef?)
This photo shows the butchery in its final stages of construction. It now occupies 1/2 of what we planned to be the tool barn. The wing to the right is the "chicken wing" where our team and farm share owners will process meat chickens.
The foamy walls inside the building are walk-in cooler/freezer for hanging/aging and storing meat.
This means that we will be harvesting beef later this month and on into the summer to fill all the beef shares for farm share owners. Yay! Finally.
For all the folks who have been waiting for their beef shares for more than a year, we will be harvesting several hamburger cows and distributing the burger this month and next as a free gift for all your patience waiting while we have changed and improved plans.
Note: our new/old, reliable, Kubota tractor is also in this picture. It works. We got rid of the death-trap backhoe, and our old Case tractor is waiting to be refurbished as a hay-only tractor, so reducing the size of the "tool shed", actually "the farm shop," is going to be OK. Really.
Yes, we have a wing on the new butchery that is specific to processing chickens. Meat chickens will be returning to our farm share offering. Freedom ranger chicks, 660 of them, arrive on February 21st, so the first meat chicken harvest this year should be in the April-May timeframe. With that many, we will definitely be looking for volunteers to help with harvest.
Communication from your farmers
I hope this set of pictures and words gives you a good idea of what is going on at your farm. The whole team here is working very diligently to help the Helios Farms vision unfold. We don't have much time to communicate sometimes, as the projects for the day demand all of our attention. But the vision is clear and is unfolding beautifully from the field of uncertainty. The foods that you all receive from the farm are pristine, just as God intended. The return to sanity in the food supply means that all of our work is toward pure land, pure water, ethically-raised happy pastured animals, resulting in edenic food for your family meals.
All of you are contributing to this ad-venture with your commitment to going the extra mile to finding healthy, locally-produced foods for yourselves and your families. Sometimes going the extra mile is about patience. Our beef share owners have blessed us with their patience while we move forward daily to completing the expanded butchery.
Thank you for your participation in Helios Farms.