Cota Farms' Blog

October 6, 2013

Micro Trout Farm

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This blog will show how we are setting up our small aquaculture business; visit our website for more information.  This isn’t our first attempt at raising fish but this time we are changing our expectations.  Our target production rate is much lower now.

Rainbow trout is one of the finest foods you can get from fresh water!  It’s not something that you can generally find at your local grocer here in Ohio and it is not imported from China.

As with pretty much all meat raised on small farms the biggest obstacle to retailing ones product is processing costs.  This single problem is what thwarted our first two attempts at bringing fresh fish to our farmers market.  Now we will just offer the fish whole.

Things are changing at a faster pace now and not for the good in spite of what the media has been tasked with telling us.  It’s kind of like looking out the window watching the rain fall while the news caster tells you it is warm and sunny outside.  It feels better to believe what you are being told because it is what you want to hear so you just draw the curtain and say yes it is a beautiful day.  We recognize the changes coming and have adjusted our expectations accordingly.  Raising and selling several hundred fish is now good enough!  A profitable farm endeavor has given way to a sustainable one; we are now in survival mode.

A small farm is a very personal thing and cannot be duplicated but you can borrow from those components that fit with what you are doing.  What’s important is the economics, does it work for you?  That will be partly determined by what resources you have available.  Since we are talking about trout, then the most important thing you will need is clean, cold water.

The best way to get this is to own land with a spring on it, the bigger the better.  One reason I am writing this is there seems to be little out there in the way of raising small numbers of trout.  I believe the reason is of course money.  It is the answer to most questions.  Is it possible to raise a few hundred trout a year so that is does not cost more than the value of the fish?

If you own an artesian spring then the answer is easy, yes.  But for the rest of us is it possible?  The first step is securing your water source and for us that meant a deep well.


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August 2, 2013

Young Swans At Cota Farms

A rare opportunity came our way this summer and we jumped on it!  We had swans before but lost them largely through inexperience with keeping these majestic birds.  The availability and cost of these birds vary so much it is difficult to price them but from what limited experience we have it was a deal that could not be passed up.  We are not likely to come across so many swans for sale at a price we could afford and distance we could easily travel.

For me having these magnificent birds on our small pond, watching them explore the wetland is a dream comes true, again.  We are very protective of them as we understand we may not get another chance and certainly not without paying much more than we did this time.

They are still young in spite of their size and take several years to mature.  We try to keep them close to the house because it is easier to care for them and protect them but they are drawn to the water and high grasses and get by us when we are not looking.  Fortunately we already have security in place.  We were sure to make introductions to the guard dogs when they got here and the entire farm perimeter is fenced.

Here they are scheming to get past an inner fence.  It did not take them long to discover they could slip through an area that the dogs had made in a fence not yet completed to a pasture in the opposite direction, then go around to get over the hill; they had to travel a long way but they made it.  So now they are where they want to be.  We will have to herd them back up the hill before winter though as it is too difficult to get food to them out there once the snow flies.  swans 017

June 23, 2013

We Like Sheep

Since I have become a shepherd, I have become oh so aware of what it means to be a sheep and it is quite disturbing.  There are too many references in literature liking people to sheep and it is not just a metaphor.  Among the most disturbing references is the idea that the very small group of men that control the world justify what they do because we are just sheep and therefore they have the right and duty to control, care for (whatever word you can stomach) us.  These people have been called various things for hundreds (thousands) of years and it is these very names that help to obscure their existence because these titles have been discredited, relegated to conspiracy theorists so I will not further help their cause by discrediting my own writing by using them.

It is true that we have greater intellect than sheep, and one would think that would be enough to protect us from their fate but I see that it is not true. Intelligence is a relative term and is not synonymous with thought, or the ability to reason or imagine possible future events.

We have been farming for a decade or more now and once again we are making changes to our operation.  This time the changes are more difficult and eerily consistent with what I see in the world around me.  You see we had a period when our flock grew, multiplied even faster than I had worked toward.  We didn’t have enough pasture to support them all but hay prices were such that we were able to supplement what we had.  Last winter changed all of that.  We lost what we thought we had gained because there were too many sheep and the price of hay increased so much we could no longer buy it.  And of course, not being alone in this predicament meant that the price we could get for our sheep dropped very low at the same time.

We are now culling our flock.  That is an interesting word, cull.  It is not used much in the cities but history teaches us that there will come a time when that word will have greater meaning to the population at large.  I remember when the Chinese government implemented its one child rule and other self-righteous countries like ours said what a terrible thing it was.  As a shepherd I very well understand the importance of controlling population, now more so than ever.

I know that most of us do not accept the idea of controlling the growth of the population unless we are controlling the growth of a certain group of people that don’t look like us.  This is often just dismissed as racism but I believe it is even more than that.  So then is it true that if we do not take responsibility for our own population growth we are just sheep and then it is left to others to deal with the situation?

Of course the powers that be have a way of dealing with this type of thought as well, once again relegating these ideas to the realm of conspiracy theorists.  They are very cleaver in how they go about it, using the classical argument of reducing these ideas to the absurd.  For example, these unnamed powers will harvest human beings for replacement organs maybe even bring aliens from outer space into the story.   Once you get people to laugh at the pure ridiculousness of the idea then the small amount of truth in the story is dismissed along with the rest of it.  Brilliant!

Maybe some of use will get a reprieve, much like this ewe that was a bottle baby and now enjoys a hands off status as beloved petrrr

May 22, 2013

Therapy Dogs

I have wondered about this for some time now.  I have heard so much…incorrect information about Therapy Dogs and their certification.  It is even more confusing as there are so many supposed therapy dog training organizations out there and the laws governing them are different in each state.  I decided to get the skinny and be done with it.  I suspected money was involved somewhere particularly since there does not seem to be a medical billing code for therapy dogs.

This next part will make me some enemies or rather it would if anyone actually read my blog.  I think I’m safe.  There really is no such thing as a therapy dog.  This whole thing with dogs has legitimacy only because of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This federal law says that if you have a “service dog” you and your dog may not be denied access.  So what is a service dog?  Well that does not seem to be as important as how to get one and the only legal way to get one is with a prescription.  If your problem is all in your head then you can get a prescription for that too from your shrink and you can call him an “emotional comfort dog”, not a therapy dog.

There is even a law about what happens if you claim to have a service dog and she is not.  I imagine this is more about whether you have a legal script rather than the qualifications of the dog.

So then what does it mean when you see these “therapy dogs” walking around with their vest and patches attesting to their kind intentions?  It simply means that someone has spent time working with the dog and allows others to enjoy their company, probably for tips and treats.  If they are lucky they have found a nursing home or maybe even a hospital that will allow them to visit.  But I have to ask myself why?  I can’t imagine tips coming close to paying for the insurance.

May 16, 2013

Everything All The Time

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I remember when I first noticed those words while listening to an Eagle’s song, “…everything all the time…”.  Since then they have grown in meaning to me.  So much of the wisdom in the world that floats around goes unnoticed and not understood until you are ready to checkout.  Seems cruel, it doesn’t really do you much good at that point.  Although it is true that many of us don’t ever really get it.

Lately the meaning has for me begun to address more than just a danger for individuals but our whole culture, our society.  Our economy requires ever increasing consumption which means ever increasing production of whatever those in marketing can get us to purchase.  This makes for a disposable economy.  Nothing is ever meant to satisfy or serve a purpose for longer than it takes to make the next item.

Thrift stores are full of clothing and just stuff that is newer than most of what I own.  Sometimes when I shop in these stores I am shocked at what I find there, is it a mistake, how can it be?  Someone just bought this, by my time frame  and could find no other use for it than to give it away.  Did they decide to do without or simply buy the newer version?

What has really forced these notions into my mind, made me write this down, is business, or rather my attempt at making our business work.  There is so much of everything out there, at least in this country, that it hardly makes any sense to start a business for any product or service.  If you live in a good size city you will find anything you want offered by a number of businesses.

There are more houses than there are people to live in them or people to buy them.  If you bought a house a couple years ago it now makes sense economically to walk away from it and buy a better one for less money.  If this were not true there would not be so many rules in place to keep people from doing just this even though many do.

Of course part of the problem is this negative feedback effect of ever increasing consumption.  The companies want to make more money so they have to sell more products and to sell more products you have to lower the price so more people can buy it.  To do this you must lower the cost of production which means in many cases lowering the cost of labor which means in many cases deceasing wages and the number of employees.  Some of the now unemployed workers start new companies further increasing the supply of products or services in the market place.

OK, enough whining, so what to do.  Well for us that means leaving behind these notions of building a small business so that we can make enough money to be financially secure, ain’t gonna happen. Don’t get me wrong, people do start small businesses and build empires, and they win millions in the lottery too.  Young men do play professional sports and become rich and famous and people are miraculously cured from cancer.  So that’s ten people.  And another ten are just lucky.  That leaves…several others.

Being a farmer I naturally thought well hey people will always eat; can’t have too much food after all people are starving in Africa or some place.  Boy was that wrong.  Here in America you can buy 2000 calories for $2, not considering the quality of the calories.  The best farmer’s markets have waiting lists to get in, as a vendor.  Last year I saw local, fresh, heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market for less money than the insipid things that pass for tomatoes at the grocery store!  What does that mean?  Strawberries in February for less than the cost of bottled water!

But all is not lost.  I think that farming will eventually become a very serious and important occupation.  Well, it is already serious and important, just not respected because food doesn’t come from farms, it comes from grocery stores.  Not being sure of anything else, I am certain that things cannot continue on as they are now and food will once again come from farms.

April 28, 2013

How the Internet Lost its Soul

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As the internet started to become this incredible tool it also became just another device which only purpose is to make money for those in control.  To be sure the transformation is not yet complete and there is still a battle but it is waged mostly by pirates at this point.  Once they are subdued there will be no one left to fight and the internet will be fully just another medium used to sell products and services to whoever pays for the opportunity to be marketed to.

I remember when having your own webpage was potentially a powerful thing.  Now a webpage is invisible unless you pay money so that it will show up in a search.  Of course if you know the exact name of the website you are searching for you can just type it in but we know that is not generally how it is done.  We do searches for things not webpages specifically and let the “search engine” choose for us what we will see.

I am very disappointed that after all the study and time involved to build our webpage that it mostly goes unseen because I refuse to pay the gatekeeper extortion money.  Even if you do a search that calls for one of our products and give the city and even though no one else has any products matching the description within the city, we will not show up in the search results.  To make matters worse, what does come back in the search results is hundreds of sites that have nothing or little to do with what you were looking for but these sites did pay.

This is not just a problem for me and people like me but everyone else that uses the internet, it is a great disservice.  I am not advocating regulating the internet; that would only make it much worse.  But I don’t believe that the average user truly understands that they are being herded toward an area that serves the “owners” of the internet rather than showing them what they are looking for.

For now we must make do with trying to get our information onto other websites that serve as a listing of companies that do certain things like provide raw dog food or specialty eggs.

April 5, 2013

Alpaca Still On The Menu

We have had more and more interest in alpaca as a food source for both people and dogs that cannot tolerate many other foods.  I haven’t had the time to research just why alpaca doesn’t cause the problems that other foods can but I do know that it is an exceptional meat that has no trouble competing with beef, pork, lamb or poultry for taste and nutrition.  It is very lean, more like venison than beef or lamb.

I have to write of our small accomplishment here as it will otherwise go unnoticed, but we were the first farm in the States that openly retailed alpaca.  I understand that there are others now of course, out west mostly, but we also with the help of our favorite chef were able to get it onto the menu of the first restaurant to offer it.  I am proud to say that after more than five years it is still on the menu at The Refectory in Columbus OH.

Unfortunately for us it seems the demand for this excellent meat is growing far from our market place and other farms will ultimately benefit more than we from this new food.  It is new here but has been eaten for a long time in other parts of the world.  I won’t go into why or how we first came to using alpaca meat in this article or the prospects of it becoming more widely used but I do what to make one point.  Alpaca meat is relatively expensive and so not suitable for a dog food staple.  It is not part of the commercial meat industry and will remain high in price.  I believe the new and very trendy emergence of restaurants with alpaca on the menu is as a result of the temporary availability of cheap animals that are being dumped. Won’t say any more about that as it would surely not gain me any friends.

We will continue to carry a small amount of this superb meat as well as alpaca dog treats and bones but for larger orders we suggest purchasing a whole animal and have it custom butchered.  As a service to our customers we will help to obtain and transport your alpaca.

March 24, 2013

Cota Has Bling

P1050808Cota Farms now has bling.  Our new line of custom leads and leashes is all about Celebrating the Dog.  We try to make leashes that work in the show ring but mostly we make fashion and sporty park leashes because they are the most fun.  There are some necklaces and very unnecessary bobbles but that’s the point.  We have a wide assortment to choose from or design your own and we will make it for you.

March 10, 2013

Komondor Puppies

PUPPIES!  We have puppies, roly poly, cute and cuddly, adorable and precious.  And not just any puppies but Komondor puppies!  For many years I had watched the dog shows and marveled at the Komondorok as they floated around the ring.  How many times did I remark, “I want one of those”?  Well much has changed since I saw my first Kom on TV, changes that allowed for me to actually have one of these magnificent dogs.  The biggest change is I now live on a farm that uses working dogs, the perfect place for such a dog.

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These are not your average dog and don’t thrive in the cities.  They were breed to endure some of the worst weather that nature has to offer and defend their charge against fearsome predators I love these dogs!  I can put them in the pastures in the midst of a blizzard to fight off packs of coyotes and then turn in for the night without fear of what I will find in the morning.  Nothing can do that except a LGD, not a llama or donkey or other such animal I have read about that some have claimed guard their livestock.  A U.S. Marine could do it but otherwise, no.

We have Great Pyrenees that handle most of the work now as we are just developing our Komondor training program so I will say something about them.  They set a very high bar for our new Kom puppies to reach.  Our dam is Paige, of the Montgomery Kennel as is the sire, Zenta, a Hungarian import.  Paige is the fourth Kom to live at Cota Farms and her litter is the first born here.

In addition to offering our puppies for sale, I hope to have sales of trained pups.  Ideally these pups would be purchased along with the rest but remain here for an additional period for training.  In this way we hope to develop a more modern training approach to livestock guard dogs.  Most of the present training methods are focused on a type of sheepherding that is used less today and far less here in America.  Much of the sheep production that goes on here is done on small farms or on limited acreage.  There is also the likely hood of some other livestock on the premises, like chickens or geese.  In the old countries the dogs may prey on these birds in an attempt to feed themselves but today dog food is abundant and so the dogs can be expected to protect everything in their domain.

We have had rather good success so far.  I can say that our losses under all circumstances are much less than when we did not have the dogs.  I have noted the drive to attack waterfowl seems to be greater than with chickens or turkeys.  This is something I will keep track of.  The smaller predators that like to prey on chickens or ducks are also deterred by the presence of the dogs as we seldom find their carcasses anymore and the dogs don’t usually consume the whole animal even if they do take a bite out of it.

January 29, 2013

Living With Dogs – Chapter 3

Why do dogs hate furniture, is it jealousy?  You discover your couch has been chewed and you’re still mad about the kitchen table.  So you pound on your dog a little, the walls shake from your rage and the dog retreats under the bed.  Thoughts of why do I need a dog creep into your mind, and I certainly don’t need two or three.  You love plush carpeting, beige, but not with Rover running in and out and sweet little Cookie always goes and pees in the corner.

I’ll be honest, I often hate what my dogs are doing.  But if you love your dogs and cats you make allowances for such things just as you do for the people in your life.  But you can’t keep replacing furniture to accommodate your animals.  In general I don’t believe that altering your animals is an acceptable solution to this problem.  For example, de-clawing a cat is a very serious thing to do despite the common practice.  Doing this to a cat is like removing a dog’s teeth because you are afraid it may bite someone.

A more reasonable approach in dealing with the animals in our lives is to make adjustments on our part.  Animals are perfect and we can’t make them better.   Yes, I said that, but I will explain.  Animals are the culmination of a very involved process to make them exactly what they are.  They are the best available solution for a life form to thrive in the given environment.  We can’t even come close to doing that without our technology that allows us to survive so a little respect is due.  My livestock guard dogs thrive on our farm in the dead of winter in ice and snow that would end my life in hours without the use of clothing and shelter and central heating.

It is true that we have re-engineered certain animals, mainly livestock, to better serve our needs but it is no improvement for the animal itself.  And we have created breeds of dogs that suite our fancy but in some cases these new animals require us to now care for them as they can no longer survive in nature or sometimes they can’t even reproduce on their own.

So then, with all that in mind I have begun a project to address those areas of incompatibility that we have with our dogs, specifically, redesigning our home to better allow us the interaction with our dogs (and cats and other animals as well) that we want without sacrificing our humanity or living in filth.  Yes, this is the dark side of living with animals and I have witnessed what happens when someone abandons reason and turns their home into a de facto kennel, but that is not what I am talking about here.

I want to go beyond the mud room concept and create a common area for us to interact in.  In times past, when people where not so far removed from the animals that we still rely on for food and other things, homes were designed in just this way.  One common structure had animal quarters on the ground floor while people lived above them.

I realize that my desire is not shared by most people and unfortunately many people have a sort of general contempt for all animals but they are to be pitied.  In future chapters I will give details and photos of my progress toward this dog/people house.

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