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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

Direct from Connecticut to Howmars Farm: A new house for the turkeys

The portable turkey house we had been using for the last 15 years was falling apart as last year's turkey-raising season came to an end. I had known all summer that I needed to do something, and now that the 43 turkeys in the poultry tractor were bursting the seams of that shelter I really had to get going. A call to ShelterLogic, a company in Connecticut, soon had a new shelter on its way.

The building arrived by ConWay shipping in three boxes. I set the sawhorses up in the Horsebarn (sawhorses-Horsebarn, ha ha), placed the boxes on top, and opened up to see what I had in store for myself. The instructions said it would take two people three hours to set up the barn. Yeah, right! Over the course of the next four days, 3 to 4 hours a day, we had the building ready for occupancy. Of course, we weren't just staking it to the ground. We had to figure how to put it on skids, anchor it to those skids, frame in a door at one end, and encase the ends and part of the sides with chicken wire. I did a lot of the initial work, but son Ben helped me with the chicken wire and with the end and roof fabric. I did have to make one call to the customer hotline to check on which way a particular elbow fit in the framework. I suspected I had it upside down, and I did. I did encourage the company rep to suggest clarifying this step when they revised the set up instructions.

Finally it was time to take the new house to the pasture. I used the tractor to move it out to where the turkeys were waiting in the cramped poultry tractor, but hopefully I'll be able to move it with just the four-wheeler. Once I had the new shelter by the turkeys, everyone came out to help herd the turkeys out of their old house and into their new one. The turkeys piled in through the door and started to eat the fresh grass as soon as they were inside. The shelter looks good and there is lots of room. Now as soon as I repair the poultry netting fence, we can make a paddock for the turkeys and turn them out to graze in the sunshine. For now, we'll move the turkey house once a day to keep the birds clean and grass-fed.


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