Sunday, May 9, 2010


We are proud to announce the arrival of 14 new piglets here on the Phelan Ranch!!! Below is a video of Rosebud and her piggies and further down are some pictures of Lunch Box and her little ones.

They were both bred to the boar Morris. You might remember him from a previous post. I sold him to a guy in Durant shortly after that post. Morris was a Hampshire and very friendly. (I think demeanor is one of the most important qualities in a pig.)

We actually kept our sows with the growing pigs until they looked pretty pregnant. Once they seemed to be getting close, we moved them into a separate paddock that was full of tall green grass. We didn't provide any kind of farrowing hut, but the ladies found a couple of great spots and made nests in the briars. We made a point not to spend to much time with them and only peered from a distance every now and then to check if they were in labor. Both sows had the pigs on their own while we were away. No shots were given, no teeth cut, we just let nature take its course.

Just a note:
I'm not a believer in the theory of evolution (and I stress believer because its a belief based on faith in science). The idea that we started out at the bottom of the ocean around a heat vent as very simple organisms and evolved onto humans (or insert any other theory here) is not something I would bet on. I do however believe that Natural Selection does occur and it is important to allow the strongest to survive. This is extremely important if you want to build a herd just like you desire. Think of it this way. Treat your pigs (and any other livestock) how you want to be able to treat them in the future. I'll call it the "Buttermilk" rule in place of golden. For instance, if you want your sows to farrow on their own in the pasture without cutting teeth or giving shots, then let them do just that. It will tell you a lot about the sow and her abilities and it will tell you a lot about the piglets and their genetics. If you pamper your sows and piglets right off the bat, then you can count on pampering them from that day forward. Be warned... you may lose piglets and even a sow when you first start, but with time you will have a stronger, more self-reliant herd of pigs.

Rosebud gave birth to 9 piglets and they are all still doing well. Despite being deemed "Lazy" by everyone here on the farm (and yes, she is lazy, but who cares... she is a pig) she seems to be a GREAT mother. She mostly lays around all day only getting up for food, drink, or relief.

Lunch box gave birth to 8 piglets but only 5 are still alive. Two were stillborn and we think she squashed the other one a couple days after birth. She is a good mother and is very calm when we come in and see them... not too protective, but very aware of our proximity to her pigs. She is a little large to be a first time mother, hence the reason she laid on one of her pigs. I think in the future, I'll be sure to breed sows earlier at a smaller size. Lunch Box just got to big for her own good.

Like Mother like Piglet... already friendly.

Doesn't Erin look good with a pig?

What a goofy smile... I guess happiness must express itself.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Broilers Invade the Phelan Ranch!!!

Broilers are in the Field!!! On Saturday we put all 102 cornish cross chicks out to pasture. They spent a little more time in the brooder than desired (24 days), but they were super happy to be put on the cool green grass.

Since this time of the year is cooler and we shouldn't experience too many hot days before we butcher, we used the Salatin pen design, only reduced to 8 X 8 instead of 10 X 12. This makes a more manageable pen that can be pulled in any direction. Salatin usually puts 75 - 80 birds in the 10 X 12 with 100 birds being the max. Using this as a template, we put 50 birds in one and 52 in the other. I wouldn't recommend putting any more than 55 in an 8 X 8 pen. Also by making our pens 8 X 8 it allowed us to exclusively buy 8 foot lumber and have ZERO waste pieces. I would only recommend this style pen if the temperature stays below 92...ish (F) while the birds are larger (older than 5 weeks). We went ahead and put chicken wire beneath the tin on the sides so we could remove the tin if necessary (like if the temp reached 93).

Here is the breakdown of supplies to build one of our 8 X 8 broiler field shelter.

2 - 2x4x8ft Pine Studs
5 - 1x6x8ft Pressure Treated pine
5 - 2ftx8ft pieces of tin (all but one cut in half)
1 - 24in X 25ft of 1 inch poultry netting (chicken wire for the sides)
1 - 48in X 4ft of 1 inch poultry netting (for one of the doors)
1 - Box of 1 5/8 dry wall screws (1 lb)
1 - Box of roofing screws (1 lb)
1 - Chicken waterer and bucket
1 - Feed trough (6in PVC works great... just add a spindle)
1 - Dolly of some sort to hold up the back of the pen while moving.
1 - Spool of wire for handles on side of pen. (30ft??)

Here they are headed to the pen. What large legs they have... almost big enough to nibble on... yummmmm.... Longest 8 weeks ever! That is just a cage I made out of some welded wire we had lying around. I put cardboard in the bottom so their legs didn't poke through.

Settled right in and began to eat right away. This is a good sign that everything is in order. Before you move them out to the pen, have everything prepped and ready to go. Water in the waterer and feed in the trough. Shoot me any questions if you have them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Home Again... This time I brought home a wife!!

Hello everyone!!

Sorry for my long departure from this blog. The month of March was a busy one and hear is a picture that shows it all.

As you can see we were very happy.


I'm back and have Erin out taking pictures so I can post them and write about them. Hopefully with her behind the camera we can get some great posts coming your way.

Until then...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ranch Update

Here is the door to the chicken coop... one big sheet of ice!!
I forgot to post when we got power back but... we have power!! (Since the 12th of Feb) Sorry for those wondering and waiting. There are still some power poles down in places around the area and one of our water wells still doesn't have power, but that should change sometime soon.

Raw Milk Update:

Here is the email I sent out to my regular milk junkies. If you are interested in getting milk from us, this should fill you in on how to go about doing that.

March 1st marks the date the Phelan Ranch Company LLC will switch to selling share's of our dairy herd to insure you get milk every week instead of first come first serve. If you are currently getting milk from us on a regular basis, you get first dibs. I have 35 shares for sale (a.k.a. 35 gallons/week). If you are not familiar with our herd-share program, here is a little bit about how it works.

Herd Share Program

Lets say you want one gallon of milk per week. One gallon of milk is equivalent to one herd share. You must first purchase this share for $50, which is a one time cost that will be refunded if you ever want to stop getting milk for whatever reason... no small print, no tricks. If you want to terminate the contract, you can without any penalty. Now you own one share of the dairy cow herd that is taken care of by the Phelan Ranch Company. Since you own part of the herd you need to pay for the Phelan Ranch Company to care for your cow, milk her and prepare the milk for you to pick up. This costs $24 per month per share (which equals $5.54 per gallon of milk and includes sales tax). Then we pick a day of the week that is best for you and me to come pick up that milk every week. You are now guaranteed to receive one gallon of milk per week barring any unforeseen disaster that would compromise the current herd (like the sudden death of a cow).

Here it is again, but this time you want 5 gallons per week.
Cost of herd shares = $250 ($50 per share x 5 shares = $250) This payment can be spread out in installments.
Cost of care/month = $120 ($24 per month x 5 shares = $120) This payment is due in full on the first of every month.

Here it is again, but this time you only want a 1/2 gallon per week.
Cost of herd share = $25 ($50 per share x 1/2 share = $25) This payment can be spread out in installments.
Cost of care/month = $13 ($24 per month x 1/2 share = $12 plus $1 for extra jug and time) This payment is due in full on the first.

The reason for the herdshare program is because selling raw milk in OK is legal, but only if it is an incidental or minor sale. The government gets to decide what incidental means and I don't want the government coming in and stopping me from providing good, clean, healthy milk to you. So the herdshare program actually allows you own the cow and pay me to milk her for you. Hence, I'm really only providing a service, not a product.

From this day forward I will only set aside milk for those who are share owners. I currently have PLENTY of milk for purchase, but as I sell herd-shares, this extra milk will diminish. Any milk marked EXTRA is available for purchase by anyone at anytime, but any milked marked with share holders names is only for their use.

If you purchase milk this month, but decide to become a member, your monthly care fee will be pro-rated based on the amount of milk you've purchased thus far.

As I read over this email, it seems pretty harsh and I hate to express that feeling toward you, my wonderful customers. It is because of your support that I am able to regenerate the ecosystem and provide an income to my family to be. I want to express my greatest thanks to you and your support.

If you have ANY question about the program, the cost, the cows, or anything, PLEASE let me know. Those of you who have worked with me know that I am extremely flexible and want to serve you.

If you are ready to sign up, let me know so we can get together and sign the attached contracts. I would love it if you could come to the farm, but I am willing to met you where ever is good for you.

Your Grateful and Thankful Farmer,


I'm selling "Morris" the boar hampshire pig if anyone is interested. I decided I can buy weaned pigs cheaper than I can grow them. I hope to one day farrow my own pigs, but today is not that day.

The Garden of Eden... I mean Erin

This may sound like a lie but I'm really looking forward to Beets!! I love beets and haven't had any since I left Polyface in October. I tilled up this garden using an old ROTO-HOE Tiller with a 5 HP Tecumseh engine. I had to replace the pull cord starting system and flush the Carburetor, but after that she ran pretty well... except the gas leaking out of the Carburetor. Maybe I should replace it someday?

Anyway... I hope all is well out there. I'm getting Married on March 20th, so if I don't post much until April, please forgive me. Once I get Erin down here with me, I'll turn her loss with a camera and then I'll have more pics to talk about.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ice Storm... One way to get off the grid.

As of Thursday, January 28th, we have been off the grid here at the Phelan Ranch. We are now exclusively running off gas powered generators. I guess today marks day 12.

The 28th recorded one of the biggest Ice Storms in recent history and left several thousand rural people without power and several cities powerless as well. Most of those around us are back in the light, but it looks to be a couple more days in the dark for us. Here are some picture:

This has all melted away for now... but winter isn't over. Stay Warm!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Salad Bar Lamb

Here on the Phelan Ranch, my dad raises hair sheep and for the past 6 years has sold the lamb on the commodity market. Most of the lamb has gone to the east coast... much of it in or near New York City. My goal with Phelan Ranch Company LLC is to sell as many if not all Dad's lamb locally in a direct market fashion. He has been producing a salad bar product, but hasn't seen some of the benefits of his great stewardship. Lamb is actually not to difficult to fatten on grass (at least not as difficult as beef), but their are some things to consider. Below I listed some thoughts about raising sheep. They by no means cover everything, but I think they might help get your motor running on my philosophy of raising such an awesome animal.

Here are some thoughts to raising Salad Bar Lamb.
(Just hitting some of the highlights.)

Thoughts # 1:

Get over the cuteness of Lamb. This step more than any other may hold you back from developing a wonderful herd of ewes and a customer serving product for the market.

But you might say, "But Grady how can you not think that little lambs are cute? Don't they call Jesus 'The Lamb of God' ?" I didn't say that lambs weren't cute. On the contrary, they are beautiful. So beautiful in fact that they were one of the top choices when ancient Jews made a sacrifice to the Lord. Let us also not forget that the reason we call Jesus the Lamb of God is because he was the only sacrifice that would save us from our sins. We need to look at lamb as God intended, nourishment for our bodies. I'll leave it at that... If you want to discuss more just let me know.

Once you develop a proper relationship with lambs, true stewardship can begin. Start to pick and choose the best and worse ewe's and their sons and daughters. Keep the best ewe lambs for breeding and market the rest. Keep only the VERY best young rams and use them or bring in the VERY best rams you can find. Market the rest. If you have any dry ewe's at weaning time or any other ewes with undesirable characteristics, cull them. It may be your favorite ewe, but if she's not pulling her weight then she's holding you back from serving your customer the best possible lamb. Its our responsibility to strive for the very best. God would not like it if we were lazy and offered a poor product to his people. Offer the best you have and always be developing a better herd.

Thought #2:

Make sure that the herd has the capability to graze the best possible grass year-a-round. Good hay is hard to beat but in my mind its extremely important for all herbivores to be able to graze the way God intended. You may need to feed hay and graze during the winter, but strive to develop a way to only graze. I have no scientific studies to back that up (even though there are probably a few out there), it just seems right to try to mimic nature. This means that we should steward the land as well as the animal. In fact, if you only have time to properly steward one or the other... pick the land. Imagine the land as a gigantic solar panel absorbing the best source of free energy available. If you keep it tuned up, it will keep you and your business full of its reusable energy.

Thought #3:

Find protection for your sheep. Sheep are not like cattle or horses or even pigs for that matter. They are timid, shy, and flighty when it comes to danger. Most ewes will run at the first sight of possible danger, leaving their lamb behind to be the dinner of some hungry predator. It is up to us to protect them from such dangers. Guard dogs are one of the top choices for the modern American sheep herder. In the past, shepherds fulfilled this role, but since we decided that a shepherd's life is not one we want to live, we need to fill that spot. Dogs, Donkeys, Llamas, and even cattle can serve as their shepherd. If you do find a ewe that protects her lamb, keep her and all her ewe lambs. You might just breed courage back into the herd.

If you are interested in sheep and have a little land I encourage you to get some and feel it out. Their are many ways to market sheep including but not limited to he following: commodity; meat sales to customers, restaurants, and retail stores; sheep milk in the form of milk, cheese, soap, etc; and wool in the form of wool, yarn, sweaters, etc. The opportunities are endless with most enterprises especially sheep. Here are a few details about Dad's flock that might be helpful. We aren't even close to the full potential of the sheep enterprise, but we are refining all the time.

Size: 300 ewe's
Target Lamb Crop: 150% (450 lambs)
Lambing Season: May - June (6 week window)
Growing Season Feed Supplement: Nothing
Dormant Season Feed Supplement: Alfalfa cubes
(They are always grazing something year-a-round)
Mineral Supplement: Salt

Feel free to ask any questions... I only hit the highlights and only the things I think about. Something I didn't mention may appeal to your curiosity and I would love to hear what it is.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

She Said YES!!!

I still can't believe how good God is to me!

Some of you know that I met my mate last year. Well, on New Years Day I asked her to marry me and she joyfully accepted. It has always been my dream (hers too) to find someone to live happily ever after with, and I know I found that when I found Erin.

Erin and I met while working at Polyface together. I know what your thinking... and no Polyface is not in the business of matchmaking. In fact, Erin and I both were uneasy about courting while at Polyface. We went to learn how to farm, Not find a spouse. But God acts in mysterious ways and put Erin and I together.

So, I want to ask for your forgiveness in my lack of Blogging as of late. My mind has found itself in other places.

In short, the farm is running smoothly. I'll continue with my mini-series after the storm of wedding planning has started to subside... which should be soon... I hope. :-)