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

How to Join Our Email List!

Subscribe to our mailing list for special sales and notifications!

* indicates required

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.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

BIG NEWS- We're MOVING!

Yes, you read the title of this blog post right- R'Eisen Shine Farm is pleased, proud, and terrified to announce- we're moving!

As most of you may know, we run our little operation on leased land in Columbia County, and have had a wonderful relationship and opportunity with our landlord. When our eyes first set upon this old house and land, we had a feeling it would be the place that we started our business, and built a life. And it was. This place has wrapped itself around our hearts, from the first days of renovation, to our first home-grown Thanksgiving, to one nigh this week sitting at our picnic table while our friends' two year old sat upon our old FarmAll pretending to drive.

We've met the neighbors (what amazing neighbors!), we've sat on town committees, spoken at the high school and library- we've OPENED A GENERAL STORE! We've broken blisters, broken ground, and broken our own hearts with our first draft horse team. We've spent long days with our youngest farm helpers, going over homework and chasing the hens. We've heard that wind howl, we've seen the swarms of fire flies, we've trudged through snow and cold. We've grown closer with our family here, which has been more of a blessing then we could possibly express. It has been miraculous, hard, and beyond anything we've ever dreamed. And now, it's time to move on.

We've been working with an amazing organization, Dirt Capital Partners, for just about 7 months. We first heard about them when they were looking for farmers for a 137 acre piece of property near Livingston, NY. This organization is the real deal- their mission is to get farmers on farmland, on a long term basis, and help them establish the ability to buy it down the line. Sometimes, they help existing businesses acquire more land near by, but in our case, it was getting land security, with more infrastructure and the option, after a lease term, to own our farm. For our part, we had to be completely transparent about our business, the opportunities for it to grow and the challenges it has. We had to provide all of the information one may expect, including revisiting, revising and finalizing business plans, projections etc. It's been hours of work and conversations- which we have really appreciated. It has clarified our purpose, our goals, and the weaknesses we need to continue to address. We can't possibly have expected that we would have the opportunity to work with such a thoughtful and thorough organization.

While we were in conversations with Dirt Capital, we heard from a friend that fellow farmers were retiring, and thinking of selling their beautiful property and home. This farm is the farm you imagine in your green acre dreams. And, not only that, but I had a personal connection with the place that's the kind of coincidence you don't think can exist until it happens to you.

Years ago, I had spent a spring break with a college friend whom still remains one of my dearest, and this was her grandparent's farm. This farm had been in Mary's family for 300 years. I walked the fields with her close to 10 years ago, and now, here it was- up for sale. When I had last been there, I hadn't even thought farming was a real possibility but I had loved the visit. Mary had always spoken of the farm as a magical place- I believed her. The farmers who had tended it since her family sold it did so with great care, and made the very personal decision to change their course after 3 seasons there. Not because the farm wasn't working, but because farming wasn't the long term life they felt was best for them. If you want to know more about their story, please read their touching blog post about their decision.

It was just an idea then. An idea that we could work with Dirt Capital Partners to move our little operation to this beloved space, and maybe, team up with Mary and her husband Josh to grow the business and stabilize our land tenure. The next time Mary came to visit, we had our hands in soil, prepping seedlings, and we casually mentioned we were thinking of going to look at her family's old farm. Her eyes, as big as saucers and swallowing hard, she turned to us and squeaked out, "REALLY?" It was that moment for me at least, when I thought it was worth it for us to try and make it happen. We began conversations about whether or not she and her family may be interested in joining us on our quest. Mary and I had spent long days in college, stretched out over books exploring what it may look like if we could someday collaborate on something like this. Our friendship had always been easy, and despite going for years not speaking, we'd always fall back into a comfortable rhythm. Now, with both our lives enriched with the addition of marriage and life experience, our two worlds had found themselves intertwined with farm visits every few months for the last year or so. The friendship between us had grown to the four of us, and I think we're all better for it. We'd revisited that agrarian dream on many occasions, and now, here it was- a long shot- but worth the chance.

And so, nearly 10 years after my brief spring break excursion, my wife and I packed up and headed to go tour the farm. We met Mary and Josh (and little Olive, their daughter!) there to travel the paths Mary had grown up on. We all were tense, and cautious, trying hard not to let our excitement override our decision making process. We'd had agreed that even if we decided it wasn't this place, that it would be good for the four of us to consider a partnership- somewhere. Mary and Josh's life is full, with work, and Olive -- they're weren't prepared to start a farm despite desiring to live and learn on one. We had the farm business- but wanted to stabilize it and share it with folks who wanted to learn and serve as back up on those long days. It was clear we all needed more help, wanted to build something more collaborative and were willing to try. It won't be easy, but we think it will be worth it.

For the current farm owners, we think it was a difficult moment. We were not the only interested parties, in fact- the appeal of this farm is no secret- it had an incredible draw for many. And, we were complicated buyers- we needed Dirt Capital to help us or else it wouldn't be possible. The purchase was dependent on R'Eisen Shine's ability to support a farm of this size, and Kim and I felt more comfortable with the transition and expansion if we were going to have Mary and Josh on board. Mary and Josh had to decide this was the right path for them, for their daughter, and feel comfortable enough with our business operations to join us. It's a dance, a collaboration of moving pieces, and all parties trying to make the most responsible and sustainable decisions. In the end though, we made an offer and held our collective breath.

Our offer, one among many- was accepted. I almost feel like we won the lottery, though it's no doubt a lottery of work. This is an usual story, and this is the prologue really.

The new farm has essentially two family spaces, two kitchens, plenty of bedrooms and 1.5 (soon to be 2) bathrooms. Our families will have enough space to live with privacy, but will be able to rely on each other as well. The farm will have 48.5 acres to grow our delicious sustainable meat, 2 wells, a pond and the river to provide ample water. We will have an enormous barn to use, and several outbuildings. It's a wonderful set up, and will allow us to establish our fencing and other infrastructure to save our backs and grow with the demand for our products. And, not for nothing, it's also stunning there. I wasn't sure we could find a place that could rival the views we have here- but this is equally as breathtaking. It's also situated 6 miles from dear fellow farmers and friends (Fryer House Farm), the feed mill we use, and 30 minutes from the butcher we use for the lambs/pigs. It's close to many people we love unnamed here.We'll be writing a lot more about it in the coming months.

Moving our farm will no doubt we an incredibly stressful process, but we know it's the right decision. It's with some true sadness we leave our family here, we love waving as they drive by to play golf or swing by for dinner. It's no small sacrifice to let that go, and no doubt it will force us to put work into maintaining those relationships. We'll be at our current place until after the turkeys for Thanksgiving are processed, but will start moving in early November. We can't imagine our good fortune that has brought this next step. And, we can't imagine more wonderful partners then Dirt Capital, or Mary and Josh. We're so grateful that Cara and Luke (the current owners) accepted our offer, and we wish them the best as they move forward. We hope they'll stop by in years to come so we can continue to share the magic of that place- and this moment.

Look out, Easton- here we come!

renovations to the farm circa 2011

Farmers circa 2011 renovation

Current Farm, Painting by Pamela Sackett 2013, Frame by Bob Sackett 2013