Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter harvest pizza

Whole wheat crust
1 butternut squash
Maple syrup
Chèvre cheese
Crimini mushrooms
One small onion
Honey
Balsamic vinegar
Bacon

Half your squash, remove seeds and drizzle with maple syrup. Roast it in the oven for 45 min or until soft at 375 degrees. In the meantime, prepare your crust. Sauté the thinly sliced onions until just softened with two tablespoons balsamic and one teaspoon honey. Add some rosemary if you are feeling saucy.

One the squash is soft, purée it (add water if necessary) without the skin. Spread your squash purée evenly across your crust. Distribute the softened onions. Chop raw bacon into bite size pieces, and slice mushrooms.

Sprinkle the pizza with salt and pepper. Now top with mushrooms, and bacon. Get your hands dirty with the chèvre and crumble the cheese across the top.

Bake until golden brown at 500 degrees. Best if you use all local ingredients!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's not always pretty.

The conference yesterday was good, it gave us some things to think about in terms of accessibility and food. We both have had experiences in childhood and as adults where the phrase 'money is tight' would be gentle. So making our CSA something that anyone can afford is a goal. That's a big part of the reason that we don't have product limits, and why we have such a liberal installment plan. But we learned yesterday that there are ways you can even set up your CSA so that folks can use EBT food stamps to pay. There is some serious paperwork, and we won't be able to launch it until next year- but I think it's a must-do. Someone from Columbia County mentioned that 1 in 5 people in this county use EBT. And where our farm is located is a food desert. I'm looking forward to thinking about ways we can be part of a solution.

Farming isn't always the promise of growth or new life. It's also about the by-products of living (of the poop variety), and death. Everything that lives, dies. Unfortunately, sometimes it's livestock that you weren't counting on dying. I would say that of all of my farming experience, I'm most confident about my poultry abilities. I have been raising chicks for years, and have an exceptionally low mortality rate in my own operation. I've been known to nurse baby chicks back to health.When our batch came in this time, I knew right off the bat that they weren't nearly as hardy as they should of been. The Cornish-crosses, which we grow for meat, were fine. But the array of egg layers looked drowsy and on the small side. We dosed everyone with electrolytes/minerals and wrote in a previous post about the modifications to the brooders for heat. The temperature has held steady in the brooders even in whipping winds and snow. But the layer chicks are pathetic. Despite high quality organic feed, despite middle of the night temp/water checks. We have lost a few, more than I've lost in previous batches, well, ever. I finally emailed the hatchery and they are reimbursing us for the cost of the chicks we've lost, they believe something happened to them in shipping. I'm hoping that the most recent dose of electrolytes/minerals will help the remaining birds, who do look perkier today. If this were my first round, or I knew that we hadn't done everything we could, I would have never emailed the hatchery. But sometimes, you just know when something isn't right. We will order more layer hens, and now a few started pullets too, to ensure we have enough egg production for the CSA members.

It's tough to reconcile the death of living creatures in your care at first. But it's very much a part of farming, especially when you are dealing with just-born or the birth of animals. It's certainly a part of produce, crops fail and die too. The best we can do is learn from it, make changes as needed and strive to reduce loss. And be thankful for what we have.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Many you have already seen our blog interview...

But we still wanted to share. A little on this interview first- Snuggs (the author, roller derby name Brass Snuggles) came to us a few months ago to ask if we were interested. Of course we were, but the result was far more than we ever expected. It's a real honor to be able to share our story, and the confidence that Snuggs has is making me kick into high gear with our planning. I would like to live up to the expectations (and then some) set out here, and I know we will. In other news, there is much networking happening amongst the farm chores here! This weekend is the farming our future conference (http://www.farmingourfuture.org) and next weekend is a CSA fair in the Capital Region sponsored by NOFA. We only have a few shares left, so we are hoping to be full up before long. Oh, and we have new chicks! Despite the snow falling outside, spring is nearly here...

Link to our interview:
http://fromscratchclub.com/2012/02/22/when-roller-derby-and-farming-collide-done/

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Catching Up

I'm not sure how many folks are perusing our little blog here, but even if it's just an exercise for only us to express the on goings here, I'll apologize for the gap. Things got a little hectic our way--which is natural for a small farm with farmers with full time jobs. Things are no less hectic but we are committed to setting aside time to share the news from the farm and promise to do better.

This past weekend we started off by bringing a load of house construction/demolition debris to the dump. When we arrived at the local transfer station, we were turned away due to the size of the load and re-directed to a larger facility over an hour away. This meant a significantly longer morning, but since the truck was already loaded with the items to be disposed of, it didn't make sense not to just buck up and finish the job. We kept it moving and decided to run some much needed errands for our upcoming wedding (only ten weeks away!).

On the way home, and half on a whim, we followed a sign about 7 miles from our house toting rabbits. We needed to increase our breeder stock by at least double. Our young doe is not taking despite multiple breeding sessions with our proven buck. As it turns out, there is a Californian breeder just up the road! After reviewing his rabbits, we decided to return the next day for two does an additional buck. This of course meant a trip to Tractor Supply for some furnishings for the new residents early Sunday morning, but by mid-day everyone was settled in their new digs. The breeder sold us a plump little girl due to have her first litter on March 3rd, which means our CSA members will have fresh rabbit delivered to them sometime in June, right on schedule. I'm considering bringing in a few more younger stock in the second week of March to fill up the larder a bit ahead of time.

Today, we met with the landowner who has graciously allowed us to set up shop here. This is a woman of integrity, who let us move in on little more than our good word we would fix the place up and hand shake. Today's goal was the formality of a lease agreement, and we are so grateful and excited to be committed to this land, this home, for many years to come. It's a dream come true, even when we still are fussing with the cold water not running in the sink, and wall papered ceilings.

After meeting with the landlord, we rushed off to the day jobs. I gave notice to my current job today, so in two weeks I start managing the CSA as my only full time job. The seeds have arrived (still waiting for the tubers), and there will be no slowing the pace now until probably November, if then. I think we are both relieved that soon someone will be able to attend to the needs of our farm as a sole responsibility. The nights are getting later, the mornings earlier, and the needs of the farm are so great right now.

Nearly as soon as I got to work, the phone rang that our first batch of baby chicks had arrived. We knew this was a possibility before leaving for work, but decided to go because if the chicks didn't arrive we would have both lost the whole day. So I sped back to the post office and after a quick stop for some extra supplies, 65 peeping mouths and I arrived back at the farm. We had hoped that the weather would hold up when the chicks arrived but the temperature was barely 20 degrees when I pulled into the driveway. I had turned on the heat lamps last night, but I could tell right away that the brooders weren't nearly warm enough for the youngest residents of the farm. Baby chicks like it hot, at least 95 degrees!

So I grabbed three additional heat lamps, and a space heater. Now that there seemed to be sufficient heat sources, I stapled storm plastic in a kind-of chicken hobo tent to keep the heat around the brooders, and not permeating every corner of the garage (which is serving as our rabbitry and chicken brooder facility as well as our tool shop. Some hay-bales for extra insulation, and the result isn't pretty, but the chicks aren't in distress so I'm satisfied. There is no doubt I will have to check at least twice throughout the night to ensure everyone is comfortable. Cold chicks = dead chicks, and we can't have that. Not only is it a waste of capitol, but it's just irresponsible.

Next up: starting seedlings, mailing wedding invitations, getting our hen house moved, and sourcing some new sheep! Oh and beginning fencing and raised bed construction....not to get ahead of ourselves.....