Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fall Photos

A few snap shots of life, right now. The beauty here can't readily be captured by a photo, but they will have to suffice. I hope that even in our move, we never forget the views we've had the pleasure of enjoying here. Things on the farm are immensely hectic, but we are excited for the next phase! 

The field behind the house, on a walk with the pooches. 

Meet Kermit- our rent-a-stud. He's here to make more goats. Shown with Noelle. Fiona was busy snacking, you can see just part of her head behind the big boy. 

After the heavy rains, we put out some snacking and lounging hay. The piglets approve. 

Full bellies, warm sun. If only the paparazzi would get out of here! 

Autumnal glory

Little barn, you've served us well. 

Pumpkins we grew in the garden, about to turn into lanterns! Kim is ready! 


Never too old to carve a pumpkin! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Breakfast

This morning after chores I came inside to make breakfast, pretty ravenous. Last night as part of dinner I had shredded beets including greens, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, onions and garlic, and sauteed them together in left over bacon grease and seasonings to make a hash-like side dish. The left overs were on my mind as I filled water buckets. I tossed a bunch into a skillet to re-heat and then cooked two farm-fresh over easy eggs to go on top. A little hot sauce and another cup of coffee- and damn- What Luxury! The richness, the sweet, the savory and a bit of heat and my belly is full and utterly satisfied. I'm ready for the day.

Folks often ask how/why I got into farming and food- and there are a lot of reasons, some of which I have written at length about. But, one I don't always discuss is the food insecurity I've experienced at a variety of ages in my life. I'm not a stranger to laying in bed, staring at the ceiling after chugging a glass of water to feel full. Or, drinking another cup of coffee mid-day so that what's left in the cupboard can last just a little longer. I know what it's like for the meal to have to stretch too far, but contain little to no nutrition. I often joke now that when I don't get a meal or snack, I get 'hangry'- but it's not just low blood sugar. It's like this minor tantrum my brain has- I'm recalling a place I really don't want to go to. It's visceral, and though irrational at this point, still very real.

When I grow food, it soothes this dark place hidden away, the person who wondered where the next meal may come from. The times that this food insecurity happened to me, I was doing everything I could to survive, even at an age where that could hardly be expected. I hope never be in that place again. It could happen, but farming makes it much less likely for us. And the solace there runs right to my core.

We've started this fund, to defer the costs of our products. We've spoken at great length about how we believe the way in which we farm shows the greatest respect for the land and the animals. But, we also want our farm to be respectful of the communities we want to provide for. Each year, we donate between $300-$500 worth of products to charity events, benefits, church dinners (though we're not religious) etc. But we can't really start to tackle making our food accessible in the way we want to. This is our effort to start to bridge that gap- and it's a modest one. We're selling t-shirts, so that we can cut the cost of our goods for folks that are economically disadvantaged. If we reach our goal, we will be able to provide 250 servings (about 85-100 lbs) of meat totally free. Or, at least double that at a reduced cost.

We know, not everyone can always fit the foods they would like to be eating into their budget. But more than that, there are folks who really need a little support. Help us bridge the gap, because if you or someone you know has never experienced food insecurity- now you can say you know someone who has.

We only have today to reach our goal- and we are SO close! Fund closes tonight at mid-night, and if we don't hit 50 t-shirts, the fund fails and we get nothing.  You can get your t-shirt and support our fund here.


And, not for nothing, but the t-shirt is pretty cool too.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Driving a Tractor in the Rain

The rain is falling increasingly quickly, and my clothes are already heavy, since my rain gear needs to be replaced I'm soaked through in an instant. Even my socks are soggy, need new boots too after a season of work. I go through even the toughest pairs of boots at least twice a year--maybe it's because farm work is as rough in a summer as a life time guarantee--maybe it's because I'm just rough on things.  The tractor has no cab, and I'm sitting on top of it pleased it's running, yesterday was spent troubleshooting. God bless the internet, and friends with mechanical skills- and YouTube. In this modern era you have all of the info at the click of a mouse, which is good because there is no one around to show me what they know about the Farmall A, and no one to fix it but me. She's running fine now, though you never expect it to last, I'll be back covered in grease and frustration in no time.

In the trailer behind the tractor are buckets of feed and water, a luxury! The last several days while I fussed with the sputtering engine were spent making 4 or 5 long walks, with full 5 gallon buckets in each hand, twice daily, to edge of the acreage to get all the livestock their rations. Not impossible, or terrible- but slow and especially annoying with the sun glint of the tools resting on the engine block winking at my struggles.

I'm drenched now, but the animals are unconcerned with my momentary discomfort and hardly seem to notice the rain themselves when there is breakfast to attend to. I open up coop doors and pour feed into trays, hoping too much doesn't get washed away but knowing the clean up crew won't let much go to waste. Back in the barn 12 piglets are resting comfortably out of the weather, with round bellies and contempt that I didn't let them out yet. They're new to our electric fence, and the weather can make the fence unreliable. I don't trust them outside, and they have plenty of space indoors for today. It's one thing to be wet during chores, it's quite another to slide around in busted boots chasing muddy, obstinate piglets. I recognize the silliness of filling watering containers in this weather, but do it anyway. The turkeys get a boost of electrolytes, the warm and cool moods of October doesn't suit their delicate sensibilities, and keeping them flush with minerals seems to do them good. Or, it at least soothes my worried farmer mind even if it doesn't help them at all.

The rain is warm for October, and I'm grateful for that-- I'm not shaking with cold with a dripping nose. I'm just wet, and only temporarily. There is a modern miracle of a clothes dryer inside, hot coffee, and the promise of breakfast. Breakfast will be a bed of last night's roasted sweet potatoes, topped with two runny eggs and drowned in a healthy dose of hot sauce and house-made summer tomato ketchup.

In all our lives, we deal with some level of discomfort. I'm not talking about those with chronic pain, or in severe emotional distress, or the myriad of other sufferings that exist in our world.  Boredom, being over tired, being unsatisfied- these are considered to be human conditions. But we've also strayed away from even momentary feelings of physical discomfort- slightly cold, a little wet, too hot, a bit sore... it's considered beneath us to inhabit your physical body unhappily for even a second. Those millions who work jobs that keep them on their feet are considered by many to have 'failed' in some way. But, I will tell you a secret... for me... the physical discomfort is glorious. My mind can not handle sitting still, even for a few hours, I crave motion and action as much as my coffee. I model myself after the chickens I care for- flinging themselves into the weather in the pursuit of a good meal. I know my limits better now, having pushed through the immediate modern western human reactions of horror at being drenched in sweat, and of course- calluses help.

The hot cup of coffee tastes more perfect. The bowl of breakfast is more satisfying. The sound of the dyer is musical. Silly? Romanticized? Sure. But also completely and totally honest. Discomfort brings me appreciation. Which is good, because shortly I'll be experiencing plenty more of it with the day's tasks. So, I say- let it rain. I'll sit on top of the tractor, keeping rain from my eyes the best I can, feeding the masses. I'll ring out my socks. There's plenty more coffee to be had.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

R'Eisen Shine Farm Community Fund

Hey folks! We've started selling t-shirts, of which half of the proceeds will go towards reducing the cost of our meat shares (or providing them free) to lower income families or individuals. We want to put our money (and ham) where our mouth is. So- help us out and get a cool shirt!

Check out the campaign here! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

October Work

October is here and I could not be more thrilled. This time of the year makes me miss having horses more than any other, and I find myself day dreaming of the time when we are settled on the new farm and can explore bringing a team in. I'm not done with the weight of lines or the sound of hooves clacking along the worn farm paths.

The farm is quieter now that usual, we are winding down quickly this year, in preparation for the move. Plus, Kim is working off-farm so my days are spent mostly in solitary labor, chipping away at the mammoth to-do list. Preparing to move is overwhelming and we're trying to take it on in small increments. Plus, we are still in production mode, caring for holiday turkeys and finishing out the poultry season. The last of the CSA deliveries are in sight, and we're kind of in a holding pattern until we can assess what is possible in the turmoil of transition. Pork is stocked in customer's freezers, and we're taking orders for the next round. We'll be starting piglets here, and the moving them where we will finish them on the new acreage. The wheels of the farm can slow, but not stop completely. I can't wait until we can raise piglets born in our own barn, from our own sow. Even more so for lambs. We've decided to add a fall run of ducks, which is a little bit of a gamble, but the freezer isn't quite as stocked as we'd like, and duck would be nice to have available for the winter markets.

We had the great pleasure of heading over to the illustrious Hawthorne Valley Farm this Saturday, to speak to their Farm Beginnings Course on the importance to holistic planning, and our journey to where we are now. It was good fun to talk about our adventures, and also forced us to reflect on just how we got here. Life happens, but how often do you have to put in a power point in a way that will make sense to others?

The leaves are changing, and so is the wind. Mary, Aunt Pam, Olive and I stacked two cords at the new farm last week, and Mary and I will finish up a third on Wednesday. There is still the chimney to have installed, and some other repairs that need to happen. Winter will be challenging, but I feel better with two dry cords stacked in the wood shed, it's better than money in the bank. We're pushing starting the wood stove here as far as possible, instead putting on another pair of socks and a sweat shirt. Our focus is on preparing to settle elsewhere, and I kind of feel like a ghost in our current home. Here, but not. But not so far gone that I can't appreciate the beauty of the leaves changing on the mountain, I'll miss that view.

I guess feeling half-in-half-out is well suited for this changing season. It seems kind of poetic. But I can't dwell too long on that thought, there is work to be done. Time to get to it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Autumn

She's arrived, maybe not in as a full time resident, but in passing glances. 

She's my first love. I can smell her on the wind and it makes my heart flutter, the deepest crush I have for anyone other than my wife. I can hear the winds return, the winds here are her biting edge, but still welcome. Soon the cool breath will rustle her golden, burgundy, red and brown mane. It will tussle her, coyly blowing her wisps across the farm as I go about my morning routine enthralled by her beauty. Her voice, a melody of turkeys chirps, late crickets, and the first crackle of the wood stove.

My love's garb is dotted with ripened fruits stemming from long vines. The orange and white globes trailing off at her trim like only Cinderella scene I've ever loved. The vision of my love is dotted with darkness, glowing sunsets and her jewelry is shaped like apples and peaches, depending on her mood.

She's the sweetest and cruelest love I've ever known, staying only briefly but providing soothing glory with everyone she meets. She's hospitable with just a touch of warning, never letting you get too close lest you forget her frosty glare. At a moment she peaks, and everyone travels to marvel at her, huddling close. She belongs to no one, and everyone- I'm only one of many despite my undying devotion. I revel in all of her affections, drenched in her cinnamon perfume.

Then, I can sense her leaving. I can see she has grown tired of us here, unworthy of her beauty and wisdom for long. She turns away with the sun, and those quick frosty glares grow longer and more intense-- a sure sign of death in any relationship.

My hands will grow dusty and dark, gathering the fall crops to keep me warm through winter when she's long departed, leaving me longing for her return for another year. I know she will go and to prepare I must store away all of her treasures so I can conjure her memory in months to come.

I will long for her, wishing for her maple kiss while the snow roars outside. Her cast offs, the last of the storage apples in a sugar soaked pie, will be only a substitute for that first tart bite pulled directly from her long elegant arms.

But she always comes back. And I'm always here waiting, and eager- no matter how many times she leaves cold and frozen- I will always wait for her brilliant return. I'm forever at her mercy, a willing servant in in peasant's flannel.