Monday, March 9, 2015

Phew! What a winter!

Well, it's daylight savings time, which signals to us that it's time to kick the season into high gear. Unfortunately, the piles of snow and continuing cold have other ideas about when we should start the bulk of the work. Still there is a notable change in the weather, and we're seeing the promise of relief from winter soon.

Our first cold season on the farm has been challenging. The house needed some major overalls and routine maintenance, every time we turned around something else was broken. From blown thermostats, to pipes, to the oil burner, to wall leaks from water lines, to a busted wax seal on a toilet- it was a whirlwind. You kind of expect those things in your first year of an old home, a barrage of repairs- especially with the cold we have had.

The livestock have fared as well as can be expected, we spent long hours trying to keep bedding dry and feeding extra to soothe their weariness of the weather. Now that we've seen some sun they are noticeably perking up, and we're mindful of the fact that there will be much work on fencing to do as soon as possible so they can enjoy more of the pasture- finally!

Our new chicken brooder, which is insulated and has a thermostat has already proven to be invaluable! We had several snaps below zero, and the chicks came through just fine. We still have some improvements we'd like to make (like an automatic watering system), but it's light years away from what we have had before!

We can't thank those of you who contributed and promoted our Kiva loan enough, last week the plumber installed our well pump, freeing up the secondary well for livestock chores and saving all of our household fixtures from the mineral deposits (we were in danger of some major damage if we used the sulfur well long term). We are still working out the details of the processing facility with our contractor, but are hopeful that as soon as the ground thaws, we can begin that much needed work. We are looking forward to the increased production that the facility will allow, and to paying back all of the generous folks to helped make these improvements possible!

This Sunday, March 15th- we're partnering with The Flammerie- a fantastic bistro in Kinderhook to put on a prix-fixe menu featuring some of our products! It will be a 4 course dinner allow folks to taste our turkey, rabbit and liver- cooked by one of the best local chefs. It's not something to be missed! We'll be there and hope you will too!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Gobble

We mentioned previously that we were fortunate enough to have Rebecca Busselle filming our Thanksgiving turkey processing this year. Rebecca and I met over the summer, at the farmers market in Millerton. When she proposed the idea of making this short film, we agreed without reservation because we trusted Rebecca to show the honest and visceral nature of our work, in a way we could share. She has certainly gone far beyond our expectations.

We are excited to share the film Rebecca made (The Gobble) but it's also a little nerve wracking. We know that as a livestock farm, people know we grow meat. But our culture is radically removed from the harvest of livestock for food. So to open up that process for our farm through visual media leaves us vulnerable in a new way. We are honest about farm life on the blog, but this is a visual honesty beyond that. We are sharing it because we believe in the work, and because we want people to be closer to their food- to understand the breadth of the tasks. 

The film is not overly graphic but it does portray the processing of turkeys, each step. So please be aware of that before you watch it. But if you eat meat, do consider watching it. The way we do things here is drastically different then a commercial slaughterhouse. And it is work we stand behind. 

It's also timely, we are only $1700 shy of fully funding our Kiva loan- which will allow us to take our ethical practices to the next level with a more efficient facility. You will see in the video how much that will impact us! (You can check out and share our Kiva loan at http://zip.kiva.org/loans/11016/i/wkg)

Thank you Rebecca, for this. We are honored to share it.

Now, without further ado...


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Winter WOD

The winter WOD (workout of the day)!

Agility: 

Hopscotch through bottle feeding goat kids who have taken up residence in your mudroom. 
Do this while avoiding poop hooves bc you are still in pjs Bc it's 7am and they won't stop screaming while you have coffee. Repeat 3x daily. 

Strength training:
Shoulder carry 30lb shavings bale from the back of van to the barn, up a 45 degree hill of about 200ft, in knee high snow drifts where your snowblower path used to be. Repeat with 100lb feed bag. 

Haul hay bales through the barn, pop open. Shoulder push through the back door barricaded by snow (again). Fill 2 five gallon buckets with hog grain, balance the hay under your arm and take a flying leap off the loading dock to back paddocks. 

Dodge 8 giant pigs after high stepping over the electric fence, with buckets above hog head height in your race to the troughs. Sprint! 

Feed 2 smaller pigs in their own pen while restraining pregnant goats by simultaneously flinging hay in their general direction.  Repeat 2x daily. 

Endurance:
 Fill 6-8 five gallon buckets with water down at the house and load up plastic sleds with three buckets each. Pull each of the sleds up the hill to the barn like a pack mule, and attemp to fill watering buckets without drenching livestock. Repeat 3-4 times daily.

Shuffle slowly through the ice skating rink where your farm road use to be, to the hen house to collect eggs and feed hens. 

Cool down:
Feed all rabbits and carry a crate with their frozen water bottles down to the wood stove to defrost. Return defrosted bottles promptly. Repeat 2x daily. 



Monday, February 9, 2015

Winter Spell

A note on our blog posts copy editing... Our beloved dogs ruined our computer, and so we are using our kindle or phones to update the blog. So the editing will be worse than usual, but hopefully not too eregious. 

We are in the midst of quite the storm at the moment, and have spent several hours digging out already. We thought we would just share a few winters photos today, but there are some big updates to come! Also, we are offering $10 off all of our shares JUST for today if you pay by our online invoice. It's likely the last discount we will offer off of these shares! 


Monday, February 2, 2015

Snow!

Today the farm is a swirling, twisted blanket of winter. There are knee high drifts and patches of ice and the roads are quiet. To do chores we have to wear our warmest gear and keep your face towards to the ground in order to trudge through. You would think it would make for grouchy and overtired farmers, but I really don't mind. 

The animals are tucked up safe in their barns, full of breakfast and with fresh bedding. The snow covers manure, bare earth and dead grass. Everything is sparkling and even as we are coated from nose to toes in frost you can't help but feel lucky for the view. Back inside the heat and coffee are all the more welcome. The appreciation for comfort is all the greater for the simple struggle of completing chores. It takes twice as long to do anything and you have to work at least twice as hard. We go through more supplies, but damn does that bacon taste good once you are done. 

Snow days are often the only time when the whole modern culture agrees it's ok to slow down and admit we are part of the natural world. Not everyone, but enough that it almost closes the gap between the way we live, ruled by nature and in constant preparation mode- and basically the rest of everyone. It's nice, to feel a little less alone in our storm prep and weathering. 

Of course, in between the slow bucket March through the snow and defrosting, we still have plenty to do. There is south planning, organizing and ordering to ensure a successful season. And best to do it now, before the sun is high and we are in full production mode- which is only a few weeks away. 

Speaking of, we are so incredibly grateful  for the number of people who have bought shares (plenty more available), sent us notes, or contributed to our Kiva loan (60% there!), we are only as strong as the community who supports us. We may only have the snow days in common in our daily routines, but it's amazing to feel that the work we do matters. Happy snow day! Enjoy that hot cup after your shoveling, you'be earned it. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Kiva Loan Update

We are are amazed at the support for our loan already! We are less than 48 hours into our effort and not only are we already public, (we needed 20 lenders to get onto the full site) but we are also 40% funded. It is a humbling experience to ask for help, particularly to grow your business. But we also feel so much better about this route, funded by real live people who believe in us. It is quite remarkable. We only have a little over a month to completely fund the loan, so we hope folks will keep sharing our story and contributing if they are able. 

Check out all the details here: http://zip.kiva.org/loans/11016/i/wkg

And don't forget if you are new to Kiva, your contribution is matched! So it's like loaning us double! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

We get by, with a little help...

We are preparing to go into our biggest year of production to date, and need to get our poultry processing set up in tip-top shape. Now that we have a permanent spot- it's time to build a facility that can help us produce poultry in the way we believe in at a quantity that will keep the farm solvent.

Right now, using NYS regulations, we can process up to a number of poultry without a state inspection. Of course, we still use all of the same safetly and health procedures, we just don't have to have a formalized license from NYS to do what we do. But this also means we can't sell our chickens in stores or restaurants in the same way as larger producers- and we certainly can't grow the amount of chickens and turkeys we need to keep the farm afloat. And, because we can't grow the number of poultry we would like to, we can't afford to buy the equipment that would make processing easier. It's a vicious cycle. It's also a big reason why we've run of our poultry for the winter, and are no longer at your favorite markets. There are operations near by that we could ship poultry now that we have moved, but previously it was at least 2.5 hours to the nearest facility- which did not get in line with our ethical considerations for meat production and just wasn't practical. It's substantially more expensive to pay someone to process your poultry then to do it yourselves, and didn't make sense given our land size, staffing capability etc.  

We've always planned that when we had a permanent location we would put in a NYS inspected facility that would allow us to sell more wholesale, provide rabbit at farmer's markets, and generally- just make life a little easier. With new equipment we can triple the amount of chickens we can process in the same amount of time- leaving more time for us to spend tending the livestock and doing the rest of the farm work (oh, and writing a blog post or two!). It's not a luxury for a business of our size, it's a necessity- it will keep our farm able to produce poultry for the foreseeable future. Plus, it will give us a really nice space to train great staff to help us process poultry, and will solve many of our turkey processing woes (frozen hoses, improper scalding water temps etc). If you asked me to choose between keeping our tractor or getting this facility done- I would choose the facility hands down- that's how important it is. 

As we made some mention of in previous posts, our move into the farm was quite disastrous. On November 1st, 2014 we took over the new place, with the amount of glee and excitement you may have come to expect. Mary and Josh brought their first load of belongings that first weekend, and we met them up here with a load of farm equipment. We celebrated with cupcakes and looked around at the potential of what was to come. 

Unfortunately, that was the least stressful moment we would have clear until after Thanksgiving. 

It was a downward spiral of mishaps. The electricity here started failing immediately, and we were having problems with the main well as a result. We had all kinds of minor projects to take care of, and realized that there were a bunch of unexpected repairs even to get appliances into Mary and Josh's kitchen. Meanwhile, the farm was still in full swing back in Copake, with a herd of turkeys to usher to the table- and a huge move to organize. I was driving up to the new farm a minimum of three times a week (2 hours each way), after finishing work in Copake- staying up at all hours working with Josh trying to get the house habitable, and then driving back in the wee hours of the morning to get home in time to get the livestock chores done. Kim was frantically trying to help me keep up at home, go to her full time job--we were both trying to pack--and things just were not falling into place here. Mary and Josh were spending time here, but having to patch-work sleep at their old apartment because the house just wasn't functional. Josh nearly froze on a ladder one night, as we finally discovered we had lost an entire 1/2 of the power to the house and we tried to repair a corroded coupling in failing sunlight. We did fix it, finally. 

The damage was done though. The electrical issues ruined our main well pump, and we ended up having to re-plumb the house to the farm production well- which is rather fragrant with sulfur. As a hilarious side note, the sulfur well water was recently described by the offspring of a friend as smelling like "spicy farts" as he washed his hands. That may be an understatement- but it's certainly better than not having a back-up well to use.

We persevered, and the physical moving of the farm was equally as challenging- but a story for another day. Someday, we'll look back and laugh. And of course, it was a bad month- but just a month in what we hope will be years of good times. Still, the sheer amount of repairs ate up most of our winter reserves and we still have a main well that needs a major overhaul. 

We've decided that it's time to ask for help. We are using the amazing Kiva loan program- which is like crowd-funding- only it's crowd lending! We are hoping to borrow enough funds to cover the cost of our well repair (we need both wells to keep the farm running) and get our poultry operation set up. In order for us to qualify for their wide community of lenders and reach out goal- we need to get 20 people from our community to lend us at least $5. Once we hit that mark, we will be able to be public on Kiva- and hit a much bigger pool of lenders other than the people we know. 

So if you like what we do, and you would buy us a cup of coffee- consider following the link provided below and lending us at least $5. AND- as a bonus- if you're new to Kiva (and we think many of you are), Kiva will match your loan amount!! So if you loan us $5- it's really $10 to us! We only have 15 days to get 20 people to lend. If you can loan us more (and don't forget, we will be paying you back over the term of the loan) please consider doing so. Programs like this take all of the power out of big banks and put them back in the hands of all of us, as community members. 

We know there are a lot of you out there who have supported us from the very beginning, and we can't thank you enough. This really is the precipice of success for us - we are consumed with getting this farm into shape so we can grow, long term. We want to be able to provide our wonderful customers with the delicious meat we grow- for many years to come. We also want to grow enough product that it will be a little easier for us to keep up with the demand. We're not becoming a huge business, just keeping the 48.5 acres we are now tending in production, as a small but sturdy little farm.

Want to help us?

You can first check out the full details of our Kiva Zip Loan HERE.

Then, to be come a Kiva lender, you can follow these instructions:

(1) Click the following link: https://zip.kiva.org/loans/11016/i/wkg
(2) Select the amount you would like to lend in the panel on the right-hand side
(3) Click the orange "Lend Now" button
(4) Click the white "Register" button
(5) Enter your full name, email and desired password in the appropriate boxes. Check that you have read the Kiva Terms of Use
(6) Click the orange "Register" button
(7) You should be redirected back to your checkout basket. Confirm the amount and click "Checkout"
(8) Choose to "Pay with your PayPal account" or "Pay with a debit or credit card"
(9) Fill out your payment information and click the orange "Pay" at the bottom of the page


We know times are tight, so if you can't swing it- we hope that you will consider sharing the link at least with folks you know. The more this is shared, the quicker we can get this little farm fixed and at full running speed!