Mid-October Update

What a crazy month it’s been. We had super windy days, a new owl hanging out on the porch, and piglets, to name a few things.

Most of you interact with our farm through our egg sales, and things are changing there. Our girls are all the same age, meaning they molt together. When chickens molt, all of their extra energy goes to making new quills instead of eggs. In a way, this lower production is a good transition for winter, which is when egg production naturally drops. We are doing our best to keep production up by adding solar powered lights, providing extra food and bedding, and checking for eggs multiple times a day. However, delivery will have to change. There will be a follow up email this week letting you know the new system!

The piglets are simply adorable. When it gets windy, they get squinty, keeping the dust away. Every day, they’re growing stronger and more curious about the world around them. Momma Petunia is a voracious eater, and we’ve been giving her extra high-protein food to keep her happy and the milk available for the little ones. All of the pigs have been gorging on spent grain from Gunbarrel Brewery, bulking up for the winter!

As always, life and death are intertwined on a farm. We’ve built out our pig butchering system and have officially butchered our first one on property! (Because of COVID and circumstance, there is very limited ability to get to a USDA butcher this year.) We plan on butchering our other two big boys next weekend, with the intention of selling some to you! Some of you have expressed interest in buying meat before, and if you are still (or newly) interested, reach out and we can figure out available cuts! Our pigs run on the small side (120 lbs of meat and lard was our first pig weight), but there are plenty of delicious cuts we can provide nonetheless. Bluebird Sky Farmstead operates within our local ecosystem and we embrace all levels of the wild food chain. We recently had a great horned owl hanging out on our front porch – s/he even found an old chicken egg nest to snack on! Other than littered egg shells, s/he left us scat daily, reminding Annaliese of old biology labs when they had to dissect owl pellets.

And finally, as we turn towards winter, Danny and Annaliese are looking forward to a less demanding season where we can assess the past year, plan for next year, and keep the animals warm and happy during the cold months. More news to come on future plans, but you can bet on new chicken coops, more piglets, and general progress ahead!

Calwood Fire, October 17th, 2020, looking West from McCauley Family Farm, picture by Marcus McCauley.

October 19th Addition:
Wow. We are still catching our breath after the Calwood fire this weekend. Most of you know that a fire broke out a few miles west of the farm on Saturday at about 11am. By 4, it was threatening to cross the major highway protecting us, and in some places even crossed that barrier. We are okay, and all our animals are too, but at that time we were evacuating pigs (not an easy task to herd them on a time limit), herding chickens into their coop to evacuate, and catching ducks to do the same. We set water barrels to the west of the house to hopefully protect it, and grabbed necessities in preparation to leave. (Annaliese didn’t know what clothes Danny would want, so she grabbed everything in the dryer!) That night, we spent more time watching for new flare ups than we did sleeping. By morning, fog had set in, along with shifting winds and a little rain. That’s when we finally felt safe enough to bring the pigs back. Though we seem relatively safe now, we as a community are still processing the whole event. Many people near us lost their homes. The fire is not fully contained, but snow is in the near future and we hope that the winds stay low so firefighters can get the upper hand.

We want to thank everyone who offered help, lending hands and stock trailers so we could keep our livelihood safe. Needless to say, we’re taking it easier this week, cleaning up the mess we made grabbing things from the house, and reflecting on how we can better prepare in the future. 

Happy October everyone! Stay happy and healthy.

April 2021 Newsletter

Happy mid-April everyone!

I’m sitting in the office watching some of the piglets chase a magpie around their pen whenever it lands. They never get close before it takes off, and then they get distracted by grass or try to play tag, but they haven’t quite figured out how to get all their friends on the same page for the rules. It’s quite the adorable sight. I suppose it’s about time I stop calling them piglets and start calling them gilts and barrows (pig terms for teenagers). They can be rowdy, curious, strong, and stubborn. But they’re also getting smarter, are better at eating grass, and are developing personalities. Most of them love wallow refill days, but I have noticed a few steer clear of the person with the hose. Some will search the whole pen for the best, most delicious grass, while others are content to sit and eat right where they’ve landed.

In other pig news, we’ve welcomed three new breeders to our American Guinea Hog program! One tried and true sow named Houdini is due any day now. She has lived up to her name, jumping some fencing and checking in on the neighbor horses last week. Her farrowing area is escape proof, and we’re looking forward to more piglets to help keep all the grass in check!

As the grass grows, so too does the number of bugs. We broadforked the garden a few weeks ago and are happy to report hundreds of worm sightings! The ducks and chickens are remembering how to hunt bugs as well, increasing the nutrient density in their eggs and keeping us from scratching too many mosquito bites.

The young chicks are over a month old now (how times flies) and are eager to get out into their new chicken coop. Building is underway, and this time, we’re using as much repurposed material as we can. All the 2x4s had previous lives, as well as the roofing and much of the siding. We decided to do this not only because we enjoy reusing materials, but also because wood prices are at an all time high. Just for a little example, when we bought plywood for the last coop it was selling at $32 a sheet (which Danny already thought was expensive 10 months ago). Today, it’s $55 a sheet!

Most importantly, we hired a part time employee a few weeks ago! Please say hi to Geoff if you see him around the farm. He’s already become essential to the work we do here, from building infrastructure to helping us plant over 100 trees this weekend for a future wind break. We’re happy to have Geoff on board.

As always, feel free to come by the farm to pick up eggs and pork, pet some pigs, or throw some food scraps to the chickens. Thank you for being part of our community!

Annaliese and Danny

January 2021 Newsletter

Hey everyone! We made it to 2021 and are ready for new beginnings here on the farm. In the past month, we’ve doubled our duck flock, watched our piglets grow into devious “teenagers”, and really jumped head first into planning the year.

The holidays were quiet here, with much time spent reading by the fireplace and snuggling with the dogs. I relish the pace of winter and the time we are given to reflect and look inwards. Danny and I started the year with 30 days of yoga practice, with each day focusing on a word or intention. I’ve found such strength and peace in our practice – I don’t think I’ll stop after 30 days!

Out on the farm, the piglets are growing fast. Their diet of kitchen scraps, spent grain, and protein-rich pellets are making for some strong and curious piglets. They still live in the garden, but will be moving soon so the land can rest before planting in a few months! It is remarkable how the mixture of leftover food, pig waste, hay, wood chips, and detritus from last year’s garden have really mixed together and made beautiful dirt. Those pigs (and microbes) sure are working hard for us! We did have a few piggies escape one day, but luckily they’re still small enough that we can scoop them up and lift them over a short fence pretty easily. They’re not quite professionals at following the food bucket yet.

We improved the duck yard with a thick layer of wood chips and a second story “walk up” in the house because our numbers are growing! They love hunting through the wood chips for sunflower seeds and other goodies. I know they can’t wait for springtime to get back out into the pasture. Right now, they stay in the yard all day because coyotes started hunting them! After we kept them closed in for a few days, we caught a coyote hunting outside their fence at noon (very unusual). Luckily, Danny and Ulla are incredibly fast and chased it far away across the fields. I rewarded them with an ATV ride back to the house because I am nowhere near as fast as them.

Ducklings are almost ready to join the adults outside. They grow up so fast.

If you’ve come to get eggs from the farm recently, you’ve probably noticed the bright blue coop making its way back up towards the driveway. It’s really fun to see our neighbors stop and talk to the chickens whenever they drive past, and we do it too. We still have a tom and turkey hen, and they do quite a bit to protect the chickens from predators (especially when Tom puffs up). New chickens have been ordered and should arrive here in early March! We’ve actually started a fundraiser to help fund a second mobile coop. The chickens would love to see you in Bluebird Sky hats, t-shirts, or hoodies come springtime while they’re eating bugs in the sunshine! If you’re interested, watch the promo video on our Facebook, website, or click here to go straight to the fundraisers. The way it works is we get x amount of money for each item sold, and you get some organic cotton swag! https://linktr.ee/bluebirdsky takes you to a page where you can click on any of the campaigns. Each campaign is a different piece of apparel.

Thank you to everyone who supports us daily, we farm for you. Looking forward to safely welcoming y’all out to the farm this year – the pigs never get tired of ear scratches and belly rubs!

Annaliese Danckers – Farm Manager at Bluebird Sky Farmstead

Efficiency, Patience, and Hope For a Better Tomorrow

Recently, we’ve been focusing on increasing our efficiency as farmers. This season, we fell into the busiest time of the year pretty quickly and maybe, possibly, we were a bit unprepared. But it’s almost impossible to be fully prepared for something you’ve never done on your own farm before. Almost every single step of farming requires specialized knowledge and tools. The further Annaliese and I get into the journey of starting Bluebird Sky, the further we get in our quest to acquire all the best tools that make our lives easier, not to mention making farming more enjoyable. Along the way, we also acquire the knowledge that accompanies a job well done. It’s really fun to take a step back and look at how far we’ve come in building our farm over just one season. This place is unrecognizable from the farm it was at the close of the 2019 season. The garden has expanded by a factor of 4. We added a second hard paddock for our pack o’ pigs and set up the electric system to run them on nearly 5 acres of grass in a rotational grazing system. Our chickens are now in a fully mobile system; they have been grazing and spreading their poop over our Hill Field pasture for 3 months now. I’m very confident that within a couple of years, we’re going to be running our dream farm and working full-time off of it supplying delicious and healthy food to our neighbors. At that point, we should have a volunteer program up and running too, allowing us to get more done and help to train the future generation of farmers. In my mind, the more small farm practitioners we can get on the ground, the better. But I digress. That’s a conversation for its own post in due in its own time.

Our new favorite machine, La Veau the 4 Wheeler

Continuing on talking about recent progress, we recently acquired a tool/toy thats been making morning and afternoon chores way more efficient and fun. That tool is an ATV/4 wheeler/quad bike/whatever you want to call it. We hook up one of our smaller trailers to it for doing medium sized jobs around the property and we can get to our pastured chickens quickly to check for eggs and refill their water. This one tool has probably saved us a few hours of work already in the few weeks we’ve had it. A few hours may not sound like a lot but when you compound it over a year it adds up to be quite a bit of time saved.

After a long season and some large purchases for the farm, it’s time to have the patience to step back for a bit, breathe, and think about what we need going into the future. There are so many projects we want to tackle out here but it can be tough to decide what to do next when you’re on a tight budget and trying to make your small business profitable. Do we need a brick and mortar farm store to be selling our pastured pork and eggs out of? Would a large pole-barn to store equipment, have a covered event space, and house animals in the winter be more important for us right now? Do we need to double our flock and add a second chicken trailer to our fleet next season? Are our customers looking for more pastured meat from us? Perhaps we should invest in better fencing and get some ruminants running on the land in 2021.

Your favorite farmers skiing at Eldora Mountain in the 19/20 season

As you can see there are a million decisions that Annaliese and I face on a weekly and monthly basis. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the tiny stuff we deal with day to day. Nobody ever said the life of a farmer was easy! But this is where our practice of patience comes in. Both of us are very good at taking the slower winter months to reflect and grow. This year we’ll be reflecting on what a crazy year 2020 has been and looking to the future and what we hope to accomplish in 2021. I personally love to meditate at home and write in my journal. Many times during the hustle and bustle of the season I fall out of those practices, but winter is the time that I try to reconnect with them and in turn reconnect with my internal self. As for Annaliese she takes care of her mind and body through yoga and massage. Just like me, she sometimes misses these things in the middle of the season. And sometimes it just isn’t as effective. Your zen yoga practice can be kind of thrown off when you come home and immediately have to wrestle a 350 pound pig back into his pen (ask us how we know that…). Finally both of us LOVE spending time outdoors (duh, farmers). With the record wildfires we’ve been having in Colorado and the poor air quality we’ve been forced to work in, we haven’t really been hiking much this past year. However, once the mountains are covered in that beautiful white stuff we’ll definitely be making some trips out there to go snowshoeing. We’re even thinking about doing a multi-day hut trip! Slowing down and focusing on ourselves for a bit doesn’t come easily or naturally to either of us but its very important for mental health. After spending these upcoming slower months reflecting, we hope to come out of Winter refreshed and ready to tackle the 2021 season. When it comes down to it, what we both really love is producing quality food for the people of Boulder County and we can’t wait to get back to it!

Source: Google Images

One last thing I’d like to touch on in this rambling post is the craziness that was the 2020 election. I don’t want to get political very often on my business page, but I can’t help but express my pride in the American people for voting for love and humanity this election. It’s scary to me how many people still voted for President Trump with how he’s behaved the past 4 years and the decisions he’s made, but under the new administration I believe our country can start to heal from the great divides that are found within it. Our farm’s main goal is to be a proponent of climate change activism and to do our part by farming in a sustainable way that helps mother earth rather than hurting her. It’s clear to us that the Trump administration had never cared about the environment and never was going to. At least under the new Biden/Harris administration we stand a chance in hell at putting in some regulations on large corporations to save our environment from impending doom. There’s not much time left (if you listen to the scientists at least). We at Bluebird Sky Farmstead are hopeful for a better tomorrow under the new administration for all Americans.

A Long Overdue Farmstead Update

As I’m sitting in the van on my way to Iowa to pick up 1,800 chicks with my boss, friend, and mentor, Marcus, I can’t help but realize just how poor of a job I’ve done in updating my farm journal. I’m sure you’re all just dying to know what we’ve been up to all winter and during the beginning of Spring. The new year has brought many changes to my life and the overall farm plan.

Many of you may know that I was the assistant winemaker for Bookcliff Vineyards in North Boulder for close to two years while researching, getting to know the land, and formulating our farm plan. Back in January I finally pulled the trigger on farming full-time. However, my full-time farming venture didn’t occur quite how I expected. I always thought that once I started farming full-time I’d no longer be working for someone else. However, life happened and I ended up finding a position working for my neighbor at McCauley Family Farm. Being a diversified livestock/produce operation and just a mile away from Bluebird Sky, I figured this would be the perfect place for me to continue my education while saving up for various projects floating around.

Marcus preparing seedling trays

📸: Marcus preparing seedling trays for peppers

My day to day is exactly as I’ve always hoped. I feed our sheep, pigs, and chickens in the morning and build sheds/dig holes in the afternoon. Obviously that’s an overly simplistic job description for what I actually do, but the point is: I’m officially a farmer and I couldn’t be happier. Marcus and York have been an incredible source of information and help these past 6 months and I can’t wait to see what all I can learn this season. Really happy we happened to run into each other while I was on a break and he was picking up his son from karate.

Another source of inspiration and education these past several months has been Phil Taylor of MadAgriculture. He’s been hosting farm forums each month at the Altona Grange in Longmont. What started as a few farmers learning about and discussing carbon farming has grown into over 100 people from the Boulder County community sharing food and conversation about the issues affecting farmers in our area and how to fix them. The conversation and fellowship enlivens me for weeks after them.

Phil Taylor, MadAgriculture

📸: Phil Taylor leading one of his MadAg Farm forums

I also have had the opportunity to work in conjunction with Marcus, Phil, and various city representatives to regenerate a degraded piece of land West of our farm. While we’re still in the beginning phases of our Carbon Farm Plan, we’re hoping for the opportunity to bring pasture back to this dirt patch in order to sequester carbon and heal the land and people with healthy and delicious food. Even if this plan never gets off the ground, I’ve already learned an immense amount from our property walks.

Thank you, Marcus and Phil for the opportunities you’ve given me so far.

One other amazing thing that’s happened recently was the season opener for Boulder County Farmers Market. Our favorite farms and vendors are back in Boulder and Longmont. Stop by on Saturdays starting at 8am and help keep the culture in agriculture! You might even see me working the stand for McCauley’s. 😉

There’s so much more to update you on in terms of our Farmstead and what we’re doing this season, but I’m afraid that will have to wait for the next post. I simply wanted to let y’all know where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. I certainly wasn’t just kicking back and watching Netflix! Too much to do!

For now I’ll leave you with this:

We got ducks!

Thanks for reading and remember to thank your local farmer! (Preferably at the farmers market on Saturday morning)

Talk to you soon,

Danny Dunlap

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