Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Patience vs. Laziness and a farmer's meatloaf

There is phrase on the farm that we toss about pretty regularly. It comes up when we are working collaboratively on a project, when talking about issues of social progress, when we planning the next big move, etc. One of us will state, casually "We are not patient though" as a reason for why we feel so frustrated with stagnancy.

We're wrong. We are incredibly patient. We have been building a business and a life for years, we have spent our entire relationship training and working towards owning our farm. We have never taken a vacation together, never even a non-working overnight (we travel sometimes for presentations). We do not expect the livestock to grow any faster then they do, and don't really get upset when that doesn't happen. I think what we should be saying is, "We are not lazy". I'm not talking about the necessity of relaxation, or the occasional Sunday afternoon. I'm talking about the condition of laziness. The state of allowing one's life to plod along for no other reason then the sun rises.

I know, this is somewhat confrontational. I think I'm okay with that. Patience is slowly crawling towards a very challenging goal, with success only in your mind, and dealing with all of the hardships on that path. Laziness is waiting for success to happen, and believing you are owed the existence you crave.

Patience is understanding that set backs are natural, and that being uncomfortable is not always undesirable. There are lessons in the state of uncomfortable. Laziness is believing that comfort is more important than effort. I'm certainly not saying that if you work hard, you will inevitably succeed at whatever is at hand. I don't believe that, and we don't live in a world where everyone is offered the same opportunity. I actually think that the mindset that anyone can pull themselves up by their boot straps is a form of laziness, a refusal to comprehend the privileges some have in our culture that allows automatic success or advantage. I believe that our modern culture is set up to force this compulsory life narrative on almost everyone, that many follow, unflinching because it's the most obvious one.

And I'm not just talking about money, either. I'm talking about fulfillment, in whatever your passion is- or in just finding your passion. Patience is in putting yourself in a million different situations, knowing that most will not be what you expected, or wanted, but keeping the eye out for what is. Laziness is accepting that your current moment, however boring or unpleasant, is a permanent condition. I don't want to sound like a motivational speaker. I'm just trying to work through what so many people struggle with. I can remember a time when I got up, went to work, came home, puttered about and basically accepted that this was forever. It was fine, but it wasn't challenging, it didn't make me a better human, and I didn't sleep very well. My life now is very different. And in most ways, a lot harder. But my life now is not just happening to me, either- I'm the object in motion.

Our farm is not going to change the world. But it is going to drastically alter my world, and has provided me with a focus. It also happens that my work is my passion, and that is something not many can say. But everyone should be able to have something that keeps them in motion. Something that is their project- making the best damn cup of coffee for your morning breakfast, or having a high score on some game, or... I don't know- mastering the art of flower arrangement. Laziness is believing that if you're in a current state of mind, that it is fixed, and that nothing can change. Laziness is believing that your interests and passions cease to exist, or won't change. Patience is knowing you won't get everything you want, maybe you wont' even get anything you want- but keeping yourself moving towards change to let the whole story play out as an active character. Put yourself in motion. Life will just happen if you let it. You will (hopefully) get older. Relationships will change, end, begin. Do something, Right Now. Anything. Seriously, do Anything that disrupts your usual schedule and is within your power to reclaim a little bit of your own existence. You're the only one who can. I've had enough laziness. I need more patience.

And to head towards your new goal, please, take our meatloaf recipe and enjoy it thoroughly. We rarely buy meat, but occasionally I'll pick up some ground beef when we are out of venison or pork. Nothing is exact, so edit and make changes as you see fit! It's a great way to use organ meat from your sides of pork.

(makes 2 loaves, one for dinner, one for weekday lunches)

1lb ground grassfed beef
1lb pork liver
1 pork heart
1/2 cup masa harina
1 can tomato paste
1 red pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
salt, pepper, smoked paprika and italian herbs to taste
ketchup
2 farm fresh eggs

1. Preheat Oven to 375 and lightly oil two pans
2. Use a food processor to blend pretty thoroughly your eggs, paste, garlic, pepper, onion, salt and spices.
3. Pour mix into a largeish bowl.
4. Pulse your liver and heart until it's a chopped/ground consistency.
5. Knead or mix your ground beef and organ meat together into your eggs/spices/etc mix. Make sure it's integrated fully, then add masa harina until it's a little bound together (don't over do it, it will ruin the flavor if you do).
6. Split the mix in half, put each half spread into a bread pan (casserole dishes, whatever you have two of the right size of).
7. Drizzle with ketchup, and bake until done (45ish minutes? Keep your eye on it, but none to closely)
8. Make a big batch of mashed potatoes and veggies, too.

Affordable, delicious and super nutrient dense. Win!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Sunday

Yesterday was the last Sunday before the Cambridge Farmers Market starts up. We had a very, very long Saturday, and were slow moving in the morning. We started chores about 20 minutes later than usual, but according to the livestock that was basically a criminal act.

I set to milking the goats first thing, a task that's become significantly easier in the past few weeks. Fiona has finally decided that the milking stand is not her enemy, that it means grain, and that if she stops tap dancing I will be right quick about it. Her bucklings are enormous, solid and feisty. Noelle is ever the gentle girl, we don't need the headlock to milk her, she stands and munches happily as I go about my business. Her daughter, Blanche is a little timid, but that'll change as she realizes food comes from us, and not just from mama. Last week I picked up 4 new goat kids (we've got to be nuts) from our friends down at Edgwick Farm. We're closing our goat herd- that means all babies will be born and bred here, no stock brought in- and we needed a few more does to make that happen, plus an extra buckling for meat production due to the loss earlier this month. Edgwick had graciously tended the new babies for a week while I planned the road trip down (3 hours each way) and they are settling in nicely. When the milk pail was full, I went up to the barn with it directly. We still had milk in our fridge for coffee, and we've been feeding what we milk to the new babies, it's not enough for the day, but it's enough for one feeding and they best on the fresh raw source. It doesn't take long to bottle feed 4 hungry kids, (pics to come soon) but in the time I had milked and fed, Kim had taken care of all 3 chicken brooders with shavings/feed, and tended the rabbitry.

We set out on taking care of the field stock together- chickens (most of which are ready for butchering), turkeys, pigs, ducks... but we left moving the fence for the grazing goats/lambs until later in the day.

Back up in the farmhouse, we had pancakes and coffee and chatted for a bit, lulled by the smell of lilacs. After breakfast, we set to getting the yard cleaned up, our last chance to tackle it on a weekend together. While Kim mowed, I weed whacked and it looks pretty darn picturesque at the moment. As much as a working livestock farm can, at least. Then we planted and watered a bunch of edibles in the vegetable garden. It's a tiny garden this year, about 1/3 of what I usually do, but it's unreasonable to want to do much more this year. I'm hoping once we get the rest of the fencing up, the facility done, and some reliable staff sorted I will have more time to garden. This year it's just essentials- tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, chard, green beans, potatoes, broccoli, kale, zukes, cukes... probably some herbs. I traded a chicken for some veg starts at the market on Saturday, we have a lot less variety this year without a greenhouse or the time to start seedlings. But still, it'll grow and help keep the winter stores flush, so I'm happy it's well started. There's time to add on as we can.

By this time it was nearly lunch, so we came in to eat and cool off. I set to setting up a hammock we acquired with the a view of the garden and the fields across from the farm. Nothing will set a tired soul at ease then a gentle swing in the breeze after a good mornings work.

Since it was Sunday, we took a nap out on the screened in porch, me draped over the wicker couch and Kim curled on a blanket in the sun, Swanson beside her. It was indulgent and luxurious. Soon though, it was time for chores again, with plenty to do.

I wrangled Junie, our pet sheep down to the lower field to join her friends after being isolated for a few weeks while I did a health check on her after a long winter. She was thrilled to be reunited with her grass-eating friends, who had managed to disconnect their electric fence at some point during the day and were roaming free. We moved the fencing to fresh grass, repaired the disconnect and provided fresh water. We checked on the ducks, who are anxiously awaiting my finishing the fence so they can enjoy the pond, which hopefully I can complete this week. Then it was back up to the barn and field to go through the whole usual routine again. It was near 4 by the time we finished, and after a quick trip to make sure we had enough milk for the kids in the morning- I got the grill ready for dinner.

This is how the days go this time of year, work- eat, work-eat, work-eat, work-sleep. It's satisfying and yesterday was, believe it or not, a pleasantly paced day. The weather was spectacular, we were here together and since it was Sunday no email pressure or business management to really attend to. We're suited for it, this steady pace- I can't imagine wanting to lay about for more than a mid-day nap.

We ate a dinner fit for kings- a spatchcock grilled chicken, seasoned lightly, potatoes and grilled asparagus picked moments before. It was flavorful and satisfying, a perfect late spring feast. Then it was once again time to feed the baby goats, shut down the barn doors, make sure the pigs had water. We go to bed tired, full, and content. Farm life is a rotation of tasks and preparing for tasks this time of year. But the sun is warm, the food is good, and the lilacs smell divine. I'll take it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

There is no road map

I had planned today, on just posting pictures of the daily tasks here, but something more pressing has been weighing on me, and though I'm way behind in much of the work scheduled for today- it seemed important to take a minute and write it out.

So many folks have told us that this farm wouldn't be possible. That our inexperience (at the start, a million years ago before our various internships etc), our lack of capitol, our commitment to uncompromising ethics would cause us to fail. That is still a likely scenario. We are entirely capable of failure. Our budget is tight, the hours are long and sometimes impossible. We make mistakes, we have mechanical failures and oversights. I have sleepless nights, and stomach aches thinking of those variables. I don't know what will happen with this farm. But in 4 years I know how far we have come, and it astounds me everyday.

I also know something else- we are going to try. We are going to work continously, and unflinchingly to keep this farm afloat and reach it's potential- just like we have for the last 4 years. We have had a lot more 'wins' then some, but we have also had some crushing defeats, not all of which we share. But so does everyone. The difference is- we know we could fail and we are still out there trying.

We've long said that if we can't farm the way our ethics dictate, we don't want to do it. If we can't farm using the best feed, and the best care, we don't think we should farm. That means our labor and feed and time costs are high but the quality of what we grow is incomparable. Folks will tell you, if you are a young start up business that there is some kine of clear way to make your business succeed. While there is certainly some good advice- the truth is a lot of good businesses fail for a variety of reason. People loose passion, make bad decisions, have health issues... anything could happen. There isn't a clear trouble sign of what makes small businesses, or small farms fail- it's a lot of things that add up. I kind of think the difference is a combination of drive, and of luck.

But the difference between living an intentional life and playing it safe is that if we fail, it won't be because we didn't throw everything we had into it. It won't be because we didn't want it bad enough, or we left stones unturned. We grow great food, but that is only a small product of a huge big picture.

There is no one way to find your calling. But I know, from the depths of my being, that farming is where I belong. Now, if I can make that knowledge truly work may take a few more years to figure out. But I'm ok with that. There is no road map. There are some helpful signs along the way- but in the end if you don't take the big risks, you spend your life wondering. I'd so rather fall flat and really, really, screw up then wonder.

I'm just as terrified of failure, of change, of the unknown as everyone else, including those people stuck in the same rut job of the last 30 years. But those are conquerable fears. They are fears I am much more comfortable with then the reality of stagnancy. It's like a body of water, (stay with me)- the water, flowing in and out with a place to go  like a stream or a river stays healthy, supports life. If it sits, it basically rots, becoming a pool of deadly bacteria. This farm is my pond. We will keep it moving, and hopefully it will flourish. We all should be so lucky.

I want to go to bed afraid, go to bed worried, go to bed ALIVE. We're taking a chance. If we fail, so what? It still makes a really good story. And when we succeed- then that opens up a whole new world of opportunities to fail at.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jack of All Trades

Want to know a little about everything? Become a farmer!

You will have crash courses in veterinary sciences, livestock care, breeding/birth, dairy, business management, carpentry, mechanics, customer service, multi-tasking, plumbing, electrician services, butchering, food safety and preparation, plant identification.... and so much more! 

And, maybe, you could do it here! We have an internship opportunity- it's tailored for a student who could earn credit for their work here. It is NOT an apprenticeship, yet. The right person could be offered a paid position based on their summer work. Check it out! 

R’Eisen Shine Farm Internship Description and Application

Mission of R’Eisen Shine Farm:
The mission of R’Eisen Shine Farm is to provide healthy and sustainable meat to local community members and to educate and promote the wellbeing of people and the planet. All of our livestock is pasture raised, using non-gmo feed and the highest standards of care.

R’Eisen Shine Farm is located on 48.5 acres, within a short drive of both Saratoga and the Capital Region. We have Hudson River access, so there are plenty of opportunities to swim/boat in the off time.

Internship description:

Internship positions at R’Eisen Shine Farm provide the opportunity to participate in the operations of small, sustainable farm. You get to observe, ask questions, and participate in all of the general activities that keep the farm alive and growing. But this is not an internship for everyone. It requires dedication to hard work 4 days a week. The goal of our internship program is to empower individuals to start producing their own food by providing basic skills and hands-on learning. Ideal candidates are dedicated, self starters who take direction well and have a strong interest in small scale agriculture. Ideal candidates also have confidence working with animals. A willingness to assist with the harvesting of livestock (butchering) is required. At the end of your internship, we hope you will have confidence in basic livestock care, farmer’s market preparation, processing poultry, and an introduction to small business management.

Dates of Internship: Mid-May through late-August (dates somewhat flexible). Possibility of employment post-internship.

Schedule: Thursday-Sunday (4 days a week) 6:00am-4:00pm with 1 hour lunch. Lunch is provided for interns.

Duties/Responsibilities:
Daily Schedule will vary but expect the following:
Livestock rounds (feed/watering), processing poultry, preparing CSA shares, working various Farmers Markets, building/repairing fences, barn cleaning and other farm duties as required.

Requirements:

A valid driver's license is required.

You must provide your own personal transportation to and from the farm.

There is no smoking in the farmhouse.

Ability to work on weekends and evenings.

Ability to lift/carry a minimum of 60lbs.

Please submit the following information, along with a resume and 3 character references via email to R’Eisen Shine Farm at reisenshinefarm@gmail.com.

Date:

Name:
Birthday:
Address:
Phone:
Email:
Are you available for the full internship from Mid-May through late-August?

Questions:

  1. Why are you interested in R’Eisen Shine Farm and this internship opportunity?

  1. What previous experience are you bringing to this position and what practical skills do you hope to acquire?

  1. What are your personal goals related to food and agriculture?

  1. We raise animals for meat on the farm. What is your perspective on the role animals play on a small farm?

  1. Do you have any allergies, food restrictions, or other limitations that might affect the ways in which you live in a rural setting and do farm work?

  1. Please tell us something interesting about yourself (hobbies, pastimes, travels, etc.)

  1. What is your favorite vegetable?

  1. Why are you interested in learning how to process small livestock for meat consumption?

  1. How would you describe your learning style, auditory, visual, tactile (show me) or some combination?

  1. What does the word ‘resourceful’ mean to you?

Thank you for sharing this information with us. We will be in touch with you regarding a telephone interview if we think you would be a good match!







Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Big Long Run-Down of What We Have Available!

We have posted a bunch of offerings over the last few days and wanted to consolidate that list for easy readability! We have so many  new products, and are still offering so many shares that we hope this makes it easy for you to see what we have, and sign up for something!


We have 1 side of pork left for the end of May! This will easily make  your summer grilling the most epic yet, and you can order and see all of the details using the link on the right hand side.

Sides of Goat!
This is our first year offering sides of goat, and it's something we are really excited to offer. We have a limited number, so email us if you want to place your $100 deposit and we can give you the full run down and the order form.

Pastured Duck!
You can reserve your duck through this link. We brought back duck this year after it's popularity and requests from last season. Whatever isn't reserved will be available at the farmer's markets until we sell out.

Veggie-Partner CSA Shares!
We work with two veggie CSA farms to offer a meat-share add-on to their regular shares. You can click on the links to the right for either farm, which opens up a whole bunch more delivery spaces to get our stuff.
Lineage Farm: White Plains, Brooklyn (Greenpoint), Poughkeepsie
Ten Barn Farm: Hudson, Ghent, Millerton

Culinary Quest Shares!
We are still selling these specialty items shares, which give you the opportunity to explore our unique offerings and get hooked on creative cooking. At $200, they are a steal and include duck, rabbit, liver and goat. You can find the sign up for those through our regular meat-share link/order form.

Farmers Markets!

We are pleased to announce that we will be attending the following Farmers Markets this year:

Kinderhook Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9-1
5/9

Cambridge Farmers Market
Sundays, 10-2 
opening day- 5/24

Waterford Farmers Market
Sundays 9-1
opening day- 6/7

Clifton Park Farmers Market
Thursdays 2-5pm
opening day- July TBD

It probably goes without saying that our little farm growing means we need our fantastic customers now, more than ever. So thank you so much to those who have been customers over the last 3 years, and welcome to everyone trying us for the first time!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Three Years Ago

Three years ago, we were headed into our first season on a new farm.

Three years ago, we had our first batch of chickens processed, and many more on pasture.

Three years ago, I got to start a business with my best friend and love.

Three years ago, we were living in a house we had tenderly fixed with our own hands.

Today, we are headed into our first season on a new farm.

Today, I still get to run and work alongside my best friend and love.

Today, we have our first batches of chickens processed and SO many more on pasture.

Today, we are living in a house we have tenderly fixed (and continue to fix) with our own hands.

So much remains the same, but everything has changed.

Today, we celebrate our wedding anniversary and I can't wait to see what the next 3 years will bring!

(also, let this serve as evidence that we are not, in fact, always covered in mud.)


Thanks to Michelle Kaye Photography

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Goat

The past few days on farm have been a stark dose of reality. We found that one of our goat kids (not the ones born here, but some we bought in for meat production) had developed a condition he's likely had since birth, but it was now progressing rapidly. While we were moving the kids to pasture, I noticed he was in worse shape then at last check though in good in spirits, significantly smaller then his brethern and not using one hind quarter. I decided not to put him out into the pasture with Kermit (a large full grown buck) and the rest of grazers so as to get a better sense of his overall health. Upon a full physical examination, and a day of research- the results were grim. He had a condition causing cysts to form across his small body, cysts that eventually would rupture and then could be contagious to the rest of the herd. For the hundredth time, I cursed buying in livestock, even from reputable sources. This goat would have to be harvested at his current size if my diagnosis was correct. We couldn't risk the rest of the herd, or have that type of bacteria exist permanently on our pasture soil. While the condition isn't often fatal, it can ruin meat if left untreated, isn't curable with antibiotics, or any othe vet treatment and slows growth significantly. It can cause pain, or deformity. I returned the little fellow to an indoor winter pen, and scheduled a time to harvest him early for our own home use only. I spent a day confirming what I knew already, and resolving myself to the decision. We would make the best of the situation and honor the life of the livestock as always.

I hate these moments. These, sad, unavoidable farm moments where the life you want to give an animal just isn't possible. Sometimes, you can't protect livestock from a predator breaking a fence. Sometimes, the weather causes flooding or freezing or other discomfort. Animals fall ill, they acquire injuries and you can not seek to control all of the variances that occur and change the outcome you had planned. Still, for me, it's agony. I feel somehow I've failed, though I couldn't have prevented this onset, and the best I could do is protect everyone else (thus far, not symptomatic, keeping everything crossed). 

I wish that the steps that we take to protect our livestock were always enough. But when working with nature, nature always wins. And Nature has a dark side, to keep the balance. You can do everything right and still fail, it's a cruel part of agriculture. 

Many of the days tasks are a meditation for me, I work steadily and more often then not, alone, minus the puppy. I build housing, fences, haul feed, shovel, fix tractors and train the dog. I listen to stories on the technological wonder I carry in my pocket, fix meals, answer emails- it's busy and constant. I find peace in the routine things and challenges in the monotony. But I'm not operating in a vortex, the work I do will serve a whole community of people. There are moments I get to share with my wife, working side by side in a peace I know we are fortunate to have. We've always worked together as a couple, though I know it's rare, I wish more people could forge that bond that comes when you sweat and struggle in tandem. These types of tragic developments are like a sun burn, sore and uncomfortable- present in each small movement you make.]- interrupting each usual scene.

The joy of farming isn't in the success of our business, though of course that is crucial. It's not in the satisfaction of a hard days work- though I'd never deny that pleasure. For me, the joy can be found in tiny moments after hard decisions when you realize you are both powerless and powerful in your relationship with the living organism that is a farm. I stand, and watch, as Swanson, (near 5 months of border collie now) maintains a friendship with George, Fiona's buckling. They take turns playing tag across the farm, each skidding to a stop at my feet, begging for a scratch- one around the ears, one around the horns. I can't stop the gut wrenching decisions on a farm, but I can live for the moments where what we do goes right . I can be cautious in my chocies. I can do my best to mitigate suffering, I can provide the safest environment possible for the animals in our care. I can accept that there will be sadness. Farms, no matter how bucolic are not a perfect place void of misfortune. They are a constant shifting of life and death. Of failure, of human error, of natural trajedy. But there is also no place of greater magic in my opinion. 

When you live this close to animals, you become so attune to the fragility of our natural world. I can tell you how 10 degrees in weather shift will affect my chickens, how the water content in a pasture to play off of my sheep's hooves. I'm reminded that we're animals too, and just as easily thrown into the wind by something unexpected. It may seem too dramatic to some to consider all of this over the early harvest of one goat, and mabe not dramatic enough to others. As a prudent and practical farmer, we did what was right for the animal, and for the health of the whole herd. And it's never a decision we take lightly or without weighing each and every option. On our farm we value each life, from chicken to dog- and seek to help each animal fufill their purpose as part of our ecosystem. This goat was a reminder, and its purpose goes beyond harvest (which of course we are still grateful for). Its life gave me the opportunity to tell a story of what it's really like here- the choices we make and why we make them. Thank you, Goat, for everything.