Skyelark Ranch Ewesletter – Summer 2012

Posted by on Aug 16, 2012 in Skyelark Ranch

This summer, we have mostly been chasing… turkeys.

It’s been a hot old summer so far this year, which according to those “in the know”, is a return to a more characteristic California summer. The last two years, including our first year on the Ranch here in the Capay Valley, were by all accounts milder, lightweight summers; somewhat of Diet Summer, or Summer Light. This year, we are back to a typical, fully charged, sweaty eyeballs kind of summer, where temperatures sit in the high nineties and up into the hundreds for weeks on end.

To try and stay out of the heat, we get as much done in the mornings before the temperature climbs too high. We then beat a retreat to the shade for cold glasses of lemonade, or to the creek for a dip and a beer or two. Although most of the animals follow a similar routine, except of course for the lemonade, the creek, or (for most) the beer, some still find the energy in the heat of a summer afternoon to escape, or to cause any number of other kinds of mayhem, and the turkeys are by far the worst. By the time the sun has completely taken over the day and the searing temperatures have made even breathing a sweaty prospect, the pigs are sensibly lying in their muddy wallow grunting contently, the sheep can usually be found chewing their cud in the shade of an almond tree, and the llama, well she could be anywhere, most recently she has begun taking refuge on the cool concrete floor of the barn. These are all sensible options for animals during the heat of summer. What is not a sensible option, for either animals or humans, is if the animal in question decides to take refuge from the sun on our back porch, and that is exactly where the turkeys have been prone to spend their summer afternoons.

Turkeys hangin' on the back porch

It’s not as if we don’t like having turkeys on our back porch, normally it would provide some amusement and a talking point for any lunch guests as turkeys are quite inquisitive and entertaining birds. However, when there are hundreds of them, it’s a whole new ball of feathers; they tear up plants, chase the cats, chase the chickens, rake through the recycling, not to mention the poo, the poo is everywhere! So, we spend a fair amount of our time “herding” the turkeys back across the orchard to their side of the fence, which is no easy task at the best of times let alone when it’s 108 degrees. Luckily, our dog Skye has finally found a farm chore she can really participate in. Although she sometimes gets distracted by squirrels or a fresh pile of sheep poo, and is  still a little unsure of the goals of the whole game and understands only basic commands, she generally takes great pleasure in helping us move the turkeys from one side of the orchard to the other. I’m certain she’ll never make the herding trials but they say that participation is 98% of the fun. Once back in their section of orchard the turkeys quickly settle down under the almonds and croon about the day’s destruction, while we recoil back to the house muttering about higher fences and wingless turkeys.

turkeys on their way to (or from) the back porch.

It’s at times like that when it becomes easy to see why people transitioned from pasture and free-range livestock farming to the industrial confinement operations that are so prevalent today, where there is no opportunity for unrestricted animal movement whatsoever, never mind a back porch covered in turkey feathers and poo. Although these types of incidents somewhat try our patience and can temporarily dampen spirits, they in no way detract from the pleasure we feel when everyone is where they should be, eating what they should be eating, and acting out fully the essence of whatever it that makes them the species or individual that they are. While it takes hard work to maintain, and often in unforgiving circumstances, such as 100 degree weather, it really is great that our job allows us to experience firsthand what Joel Salatin calls the “pig-ness of the pig” or the “turkey-ness of the turkey” on a daily basis, even if it is on our back porch, and reminds us why we work with animals in the first place. If we wanted to raise something that didn’t run, scratch, bite, kick, or fly, we’d be raising carrots (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

When turkeys meet sheep in the orchard it truly is an awe-inspiring sound.

So that about sums up our 2012 Skyelark summer. It’s been full of fun, learning and feasting. We have been lucky this year and have been able to show off some of our products to friends and visitors by barbequing our lamb, chicken, and pork. There’s nothing quite like preparing a meal for folks where the main dish comes right off your farm and the accompanying produce is from your neighbors’ fields or orchards. We’ll be sure to share some of our favorite recipes with you on our website and Facebook page as and when we find them.

We will continue to be attending three markets throughout the remainder of summer and on into fall as our products are available. The markets where you can find us are:

  • Davis Wednesday Night Market and Picnic in the Park 4.30pm-8.30pm until October 21st
  • PCFMA’s Brentwood Farmers’ Market. Saturdays 8am-12pm until November 17th
  • The Fresh Market in Burlingame. Sundays 9am – 1.30pm until December

If you are unable to come to a market, or wish to place a special order, please let us know and we can make arrangements for delivery or pick-up from the ranch.

We still have a limited supply of our 100% grass-fed lamb available and our pastured whole chickens and are taking orders for whole and half custom cut lamb. Our pastured pork will be available again by early September. We can arrange with our local butcher for your lamb to be custom cut to your requirements. Whether you prefer cuts suitable for grilling, roasting, or slow cooking we can accommodate. See prices below.

Custom cut 100% grass-fed lamb

Whole Lamb – $350
Half Lamb    – $195

Pastured Chicken

Whole chicken – $4.50/lb (between 3.5 – 5.5lbs each)

Thanks for your support of local, grass-fed meat and Skyelark Ranch. Please contact us for more info, to place an order, or to schedule a visit, and be sure to like us on Facebook or visit our website to be kept up to date with goings on around the ranch.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

Alexis and Gillies Robertson

Skyelark Ranch