There is a point in starting your small business where you realize that you are all-in. You have a bunch of money all tied up with processors like butchers and yarn mills, and you wait for your product to come back.
This is a tale of three products.
On the bright side – The first batch of yarn is in, and it is magnificent. Border Leicester will never be mistaken for Merino, but the spinning work done by this mill brings out all of the best drapey, light attributes of the fiber. I’ve been developing my dyeing skills and I am pleased with the colors I achieved as well.
On the otherhand, the sausage isn’t quite what I had hoped.
Most importantly, it TASTES FANTASTIC. It’s juicy and yummy with great lamb flavor. But the packaging is not what I had expected, and it was mislabeled at the plant and cannot be re-labeled easily. Instead of 9 oz packages, each package is a pound, which makes for a pricey product when I calculate the value of the meat plus the very high production costs. I wish I had other sausage-production options, but only one meat processor in the state routinely makes sausage with pork fat mixed in, which is necessary for good lamb sausage.
Finally, the 75 meat chickens were almost an unmitigated disaster. We lost 20 total to the raccoon, one or two a night for two weeks such that we didn’t really notice (it doesn’t help that chickens do not hold still for counting, and that the geese leave feathers all over the yard, disguising evidence of theft and dining). We took the chickens to be processed today, and the carcasses are TINY! Every chicken was a Cornish Game Hen in disguise! I had wanted to avoid the Cornish Cross, so we choose the Slow White broiler instead. Slow must be the operative word. So we are going to just break even on the chickens on a cash basis, meaning all of the labor of raising them will be unpaid. On the bright side, there is a strip of highly-fertilized grass in our pasture now where the chickens left generous deposits of nitrogen.
I have $1450 worth of sausage in the freezer and $850 worth of yarn in the storeroom. The chickens are largely for our own consumption as well as for friends and family. It was time to “throw open the shop doors” in effect. Would customers come? Will I be able to recoup my money and add a bit of profits besides? In past years, having a full time job lowered the stakes of this moment, but right now I feel the full effects of worrying that my efforts have been in vain. I like sausage, but we are well beyond what we could possibly consume ourselves. It feels like this is the time where my publicity and marketing efforts succeed or fail.
But no sooner did I offer the sausage and the yarn than some requests and orders came in for each. We are grateful whenever someone gives us the opportunity to provide sustainable, regenerative yarn and food – it’s the bit of good we can offer the world.
If you are interested in sausage or yarn, find them both at our store!. I am delivering sausage for free in Northern Vermont as long as you are willing to wait for a time when I am headed to Burlington, Montpelier, etc, for other errands. No more than a week’s wait, typically.