Friday, December 27, 2013

Little Lambs Lost

It seems like every year around Christmas we end up bottle feeding something. Last year, it was our little doelings, and this year, it's our spring lambs. The thing about lambs though, is they are very fragile when you don't have total control over their birthing (and even sometimes when you do). Last year, we raised two big beefy lambs with much success, and this winter- we're raising a few for the spring and then will start building our own flock. 

Of the few we're raising, we've got one who we call Curly (for his curly wool) in a box in our living room. Poor guy was down yesterday, couldn't stand and after a quick temperature check was registering at a terrifying 97 degrees (lambs should be between 102-104). I brought him into the house for intensive care. There are no large animal vets really left around here, so we end up diagnosing and treating many ailments ourselves. Early in the fall, we had acquired a free piglet with a broken shoulder and spent weeks splinting/dressing it. He's recovered swimmingly. 

Two days before I found Curly downed, we had another lamb- who we called Spotty, that Kim had spent the day on Christmas Eve, treating for bloat. He didn't pull through, as is sometimes the case with little bottle fed lambs. So I am cautious about being optimistic for little Curly. We're treating him with the best we have, a mix of colostrum, electrolytes, formula, mineral drench, a shot of penicillin and a good hot wood stove. We pride ourselves on being sustainable farmers. But that doesn't mean we don't ever pull out the big gun antibiotics, when they are called for. What it does mean is we don't just dose everyone with antibiotics as a preventative. Or, go to antibiotics as a cure all, no matter the ailment. In Curly's case, he has a bit of a rattle in his lungs, and watery eyes- probably a case of pneumonia, and antibiotics are the best option along with the rest of the treatments I mentioned. We are not ever going to let an animal suffer and die rather than give a reasonable treatment of antibiotics at a point when there is absolutely no reason to believe they would still be in his system months from now on butchering day (antibiotics work their way out of the system in a matter of days, think about how your doctor chides you for missing a pill or not finishing your treatment). There's a big difference between dosing him through a childhood illness, and feeding him a lifetime of medicated grain. We feel as though it's much more respectful to care for his life using the best available, then to allow an untimely and uncomfortable death.

Mostly though, Curly's care is about getting his system to a point that it's strong enough to fend off bugs. He's eating voraciously, a good sign, and chatting with us in a tiny voice every time you look in his general direction. We're not out of the woods, but we're better than we were yesterday, with a temp over 100 degrees and a good appetite. It's worth it to us to sleep on a futon next to a crabby little ram lamb to make sure he pulls through, or has a better chance to. 

This is sometimes what livestock farming looks like. Lambs are cute, but they are also fragile, and sometimes require a kind of smelly card board box in your living room, a table full of supplies, and an anal thermometer. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

T'was the Night Before Christmas

Our third annual R'Eisen Shine version!

T'was two nights before Christmas, and all through the farm
The creatures were locked up, to keep all safe from harm
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that the farmers would finish filling them for each other to share

While the livestock rest, warm and fed
The farmers barely have had time to rest their tired heads
With I still in work clothes, and Kim still en route,
We still haven't had time to finish making all of the loot

The doggies are barking and making a bit of a clatter,
And I can hardly figure out what is the matter,
It could be the bear who marches around,
But really it could be ANY other sound

Far from snow- the farm's grounds are covered in mud,
And the pig pen is piled high with viscous...crud
But such is expected in the midst of a thaw,
And the pigs don't mind it as long as there is something to gnaw

Though we are tired and running a bit behind our plan,
If anyone can do it- we certainly can-
We will finish up cooking, crafting and wrapping,
And perhaps we will finish in time for some napping?

The year has been much like our busy Christmas prep,
With each week feeling like we are behind just one step,
But we did it, and feel good about all that was done,
And for that it feels like the season was won

There are big changes ahead for our farm, that's for sure
But our intentions have certainly remained just as pure
We want to grow good food for people we know and will meet-
There's little more satisfying then growing good eats!

We're lucky and grateful for this whole year,
And are ready to begin the next with less fear,
We will continue to work, to try and to grow,
And try to stress less- just go with the flow

We'll take time to be thankful for each day together
And remember to take time to just enjoy the weather
But for now, we must turn in and turn off the lights-
Merry Christmas To All and To All a Good Night!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Give the gift of Meat and Beer!

Are you still hunting for a great Christmas gift just 4 days before the holiday? - Let us make some suggestions for the foodie on your list!

We announced on the blog last week our 2014 CSA Shares, which feature our ethically and sustainably raised products. We are offering a variety of shares, which will begin in May 2014, but why not give the gift of fresh, healthy food this holiday season? Check out our share options on our blog homepage, and feel free to email us with any questions!

There is also still time to get in on the Broken Stove Brewing tasting club before the new year! James Kinnie, the brewer and owner of Broken Stove has put together a share that includes 3-22oz bottles per month of seasonal micro brews from December to May. 6 months of great beer for $80 (with a $20 refundable bottle deposit). If you're interested, the first delivery is tomorrow, December 21st! If you would like to order, you MUST let us know by 3pm today. We will bring your brew to our CSA drop off at the Cheese Traveler on Delaware Ave, Albany. Email us at if you would like to order.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Makin' Bacon with the Fabulous Erika Tebbens

Last night was our collaborative Makin' Bacon class with Erika Tebbens (From Scratch Club, Little Sparrow Farm) at the gorgeous new Honest Weight Food Co-op. The class was free to anyone who purchased a whole or half pig from us in the fall, but open to others with a love of bacon a few hours to spare. Much fun was had by all, and we can't thank HWFC for hosting enough, and are obviously incredibly grateful to Erika for her expertise. Here are some pics of the crew making their bacon!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Announcing the 2014 R'Eisen Shine Farm CSA shares!

This is the time of the year where the farm is in full planning mode, and when we start offering our CSA shares for the following season. Why now? The costs of farming are substantial, and we off-set those costs by getting folks to sign up ahead of the season. This way, the farm doesn't go into excessive debt and can maintain the high standards we always strive for.

As many of you know, we run our farm on leased land and have been working diligently to rehab the property to a status of productivity. We have had some success, but there have also been profound struggles. One of those struggles has been soil health. We are not sure that our farm will always be at our current location, as we need a bit more space and a much longer term place to put up the kind of infrastructure we need.

After two seasons of working a little over 2 acres in vegetables, we've decided that for the next season, we will not be growing vegetables. This is scary for us, as we have always envisioned that our long term goals would remain a year-round diversified CSA. And that may still come to pass, but for right now, we are going to focus on our livestock operations and securing a permanent home for our farm where we can do all of the things we've always dreamed of.  For next season, we are so very looking forward to expanding the number of shares we can sell for our meat offerings, and spending a season with a small home garden to ensure we don't get rusty in our vegetable production skills.

So, what will we have available?

We will be offering 4 share types for the first part of the 2014 season, and will be offering a winter meat share as well. We've created these shares to allow folks to get our delicious, sustainable and ethical meats from the time we wind-up our last year-round share until early fall- when the winter share will then begin. We are pleased, proud, and excited to unveil these shares!

Monthly Meat Share
May-September (5 deliveries)
A once per month delivery of meat, that over the course of the season will include:

3 Chickens
8.5-10lbs of Heritage Pork (a variety of cuts, including bacon, sausage, ham steaks, pork chops)
3lbs Lamb (ground, stew, chops)
5 lbs of Turkey (breast, legs, and thigh cuts)
1 Rabbit

Sample Delivery:
1 whole chicken
1lb ground lamb
1lb pork chops

Cost: $260

Bi-Weekly Meat Share
May-September (10 deliveries)
A twice monthly delivery of meat, that over the course of the season will include:

5 Chickens
18.5-20lbs of Heritage Pork (a variety of cuts, including bacon, sausage, ham steaks, pork chops, roasts)
5lbs of Lamb (ground, stew, chops, small roast)
10lbs of Turkey (breast, legs and thigh cuts)
2 Rabbits

Sample Deliveries:
1st Delivery of the Month:
1 whole chicken
1lb ground lamb
1lb pork chops

2nd Delivery of the Month:
1 whole chicken
1 package bacon
1 fresh ham steak

Cost: $470

But, we didn't forget about those of you who purchased 1/2 pigs, 1/2 lambs, etc! And we will continue to offer those bulk options throughout the year, at a lower price per lb! The next shares are great to go along with those 1/2 and whole orders, or for the poultry enthusiast!

 Poultry Share:
(May-September)(5 deliveries)
10 Cornish Cross Chickens (typically used breed, large breast, great clean flavor)
15lbs Broad Breasted White Turkey (breast, leg and thigh cuts over the course of the deliveries)

Sample Delivery:
2 chickens
5lbs Turkey

Cost: $328

Heritage Poultry Share
(May-September)(5 deliveries)
10 Freedom Ranger Chickens (heritage breed, amazing depth of flavor, more leg/thigh then breast meat, best tasting chicken we've ever grown!)
8lbs Midget White Turkey (breast, leg and thigh cuts over the course of deliveries, slightly more dark meat, tender and sweet)
1 Rabbit (our own custom heritage cross breed, raised on pasture!)

Sample Delivery:
2 Freedom Ranger Chickens
3lbs Midget White Turkey

Cost: $368 

So now that you have seen all of the options, head over to our Meat Share Order Form page, which has all of our delivery locations, payment options, and sign up! And don't forget, if you need a larger size share, you can always buy by the 1/2 animal, or buy multiple shares! Thanks for supporting small sustainable farming! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

R'Eisen Shine Farm Extra Credit Opportunities

Hey folks!

We have some really fun things happening on the farm right now!

Firstly, we are teaming up with friend and fellow farmer Erika Tebbins to co-host a Makin' Bacon Class at the Honest Weight Food Co-Op on December 16th, from 6-8pm. It's a primer on how to cure pork belly at home to make the most delicious custom flavored bacon. It's easy once you have the know-how, you probably won't ever buy bacon again. Plus, you get to chill with some fun farmers and food enthusiasts. The cost is $30, includes a take-home lb of bacon. We only have 4 slots left for this class, and you need to sign up through the HWFC's page here.

Next up, holiday crafting is in full swing here, we no longer have a dining room table, instead we have a slew of gift-making supplies. And among the supplies are balls of our own beautiful wool (mixed w/a friend's alpaca) custom spun yarn. In the spring, we passed along our sheared fleeces to a friend, and she had them sent out with her alpaca fleece to make the most gorgeous yarn. And, it made a good amount of yarn, along with some nice roving for you spinners out there. If you are a yarn enthusiast, and want some of this R'Eisen Shine Farm sheep yarn, send us an email and we'll put you in contact with our friend Suzanne, who holds the goods. It's such nice yarn we're sending some to my grandma for Christmas- and that lady knows yarn after 40+ years of knitting.

Soon we will be announcing all of our share options for the year- and brace yourselves- this little farm is headed for some changes. The only thing that will really stay the same is that we will keep providing delicious and sustainable farm goods, year round.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A real live cost analysis of poultry

Firstly, this post is meant as an example, just to give folks a little idea of how we operate. Folks know that we place the care of our animals and our environment first, and believe that our methods promote sustainability. Aside from that, we'll put our products up for a taste test against a grocery store chicken any day.

We try to be as transparent as possible, and sometimes we forget that not everyone is as familiar with the costs of agriculture as we are. So in an effort to really, really talk about how much it costs to raise any of our livestock, we present you with this post- a boring but honest run down of numbers related to just one of our favorite efforts- chicken.

120 baby chickens at $1.20/chick (we get a discounted price because of our bulk orders)
Shipping on the 120 chicks: $25

6-8 bales of bedding to keep chickens dry and clean for the first 4 weeks of life/brooding: $35-45

Heat lamps, bulbs to keep chicks warm for the first 4 weeks- $10 each (need at least 2, probably 3 or 4)(plus electricity to run them, about $15) $35-75

Small chicken water container (4)- $6/each
Gallon chicken water container (2)- $6/each
5.5 field water container (2)- $30/each

Estimated cost for water containers- $66 (yes, you can re-use them, but for our purposes let's assume we need to replace them at least once yearly, as they do break)

Materials to build a move-able chicken pen- $80-$100 (pvc pipes, chicken wire, hardware cloth, tarp, screws, cement, primer, zip ties)

Estimates for at least 1 repair from predators, weather etc for the 12 week growth period- $15

*note this doesn't include the cost of the tools to build the movable pen.


50lbs of high quality feed- 18-32 dollars, depending on the time of the year, supplier and shipping charges.

Amount of feed by week:
Week 1- 50lbs
Week 2- 50lbs
Week 3- 75lbs
Week 4- 75lbs
Week 5- 100lbs
Week 6- 150lbs
Week 7-12 225lbs or more
Approximate amount of feed needed: 2,000lbs

Total feed cost estimate:  $720-$1280

Processing Fees- These vary based on your equipment availability, but let's use our equipment from last year as an example.
Rental of a chicken plucker- $50
Gas to transport plucker from 45 minutes away- $45
Knives and a good knife sharpener- $140 (let's rate it at $25/each usage)
Propane- $15
Large Pot- $30 (rate it at $5)
Disposal vessels- $75 (rate it at $10)
Stainless tables/work surfaces, sinks- $80 (rate it at $10)
120 freezer seal bags- (27 cents each) - $32.40
120 staples to seal bags (2 cents each)- $6
Shipping on bags/staples- $15
Free chicken to 2 assistants for a full day help- $30
Ice, Bleach, Apple Cider Vinegar- $20
Butchering Costs Estimate- $293.40

Before Labor from farmers- total costs using the LOWEST of the ranges: $1413 or 11.78 per chicken. Chickens at about 3lbs would cost $3.92/lb without any labor, and with no additional mark up for any kind of profit. It's not easy  (as much as we enjoy it) to keep chickens healthy and happy. 

Labor Costs:

2 People, at 20 minutes 2X daily for 120 chicken care- 80 minutes of labor (not including labor for day of butchering) per day.
80 minutes/day for 12 weeks (84 days) = 6720 minutes (112 hours)

112 hours at NYS minimum wage of $7.25 = $812

(we do think we are worth more than this per hour and we still don't really take a pay check yet, but for our purposes, let's pretend)

$812 in labor for basic care plus 10 hours per worker for butchering (20 hours total) $145 = $957

$957 labor + lowest possible costs for materials/etc $1403 = $2360 per 120 birds or $19.66/chicken

Average Weight of each chicken- 3lbs 
Price per lb in 2013- $5
Total cost to consumer: $15

Obviously, we charge less than the labor costs. Essentially, Kim and I are paid 50 cents each, per bird we grow for 12 weeks of labor, to keep costs lower for customers. If we are paid $120 for a batch of chickens, for 132 hours of work is 91 cents per hour for us both. 

That works out to be 45.5 cents an hour. 

This is before we factor in transporting the chickens to customers, and/or the farm insurance fees (substantial) to allow for on site butchering. It also doesn't factor in water usage, cleaning supplies, electrolytes, all the fuel, extra time, tools and some other small things (that do add up).

We love chicken, and we do think they are worth raising, even at a loss. And not all of our animals pay so little, or else the farm would be unsustainable. But we still think it's sobering to share the costs of raising chicken ethically and with real flavor!

So how do big farms and agriculture keep prices so low? Well, there are other scholars and farmers who have covered this much more than we have, but- here is a bright 11 year old giving just a preview of some of the reasons...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Roasted Beet Salad

It's a busy day on the farm today, with Kim handling CSA prep, helping a neighbor with a flock of wandering turkeys and Ejay headed to monger some cheese. With the damp, muddy weather, how about a sweet and savory salad to take the chill out of your bones?

3 large beets
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, shelled and roasted (pine nuts or sunflower seeds will work too)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup good quality feta
salt, pepper, basil to taste

1. Par-boil your beets until the skins look like they are softened, drain, and pour cold water over and then peel them. Slice them very thin, and then into 'stick' shapes.
2. Carmelize your onions  and garlic (butter, sugar, salt) in a skillet, then throw in a medium bowl to cool. Use the same skillet to add back in your beets with a dash of olive oil and salt, pan roast them until tender.
3. Add your pumpkin seeds, your roasted beets, lemon juice, feta, basil (fresh is always best) and pepper to your medium bowl, and let all the flavors mingle.

We serve this salad slightly warm, as a side to a nice roasted meat. It's seasonal and hearty- but the key is to really balance your sour, sweet, and salty flavors to make it a home run. Adjust all your seasonings as you see fit, and spend the extra to get your favorite kind of feta.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

After Thanksgiving

Well, we made it through the official end of our busy farming season. The turkeys made it to tables, surrounded by all kinds of farm fresh goodies in the way of vegetables, gravy, cranberry sauce, pies... even stuffed to the gills it still makes my mouth water. 

It was a hell of a roller coaster ride getting those birds to the table though. We had a very elaborate and (we thought) well organized plan- but like most farm plans- it required a lot of on the spot negotiation. Early in the fall, we bartered the cost of straw bales for the greenhouse for help processing turkeys at near-by McEnroe Farms. A good deal, as the seedlings are looking fairly sturdy even in the cold weather. So the week before Thanksgiving, not only were we prepping CSA shares full of holiday cheer, and organizing our partner butchering with Mountain Brook- but I was working to get those bales paid for. 

Mountain Brook hosted the butchering this year, with our two small farms pooling together resources and materials to keep volunteers fed and get the birds done professionally. We moved our small flock of turkeys up to MB on Friday morning, though we had some hiccups moving their temporary housing down from out a field in some thick fall mud- we did manage to make it happen eventually. We split up, taking on tasks to get the whole operation in line for Saturday morning, when our birds were on the docket. 

Processing turkeys is a big job, given their size and the time constraints you face getting them all done fresh for the holiday table, and we were lucky to have an A+ crew on hand to help us on Saturday. Unfortunately, I was not at my best and while distracted I took a razor sharp knife to my finger. It's the first time I've ever injured myself that badly butchering, in over 5 years experience. I guess it was bound to happen sometime! I ended up needed to hit the ER for stitches, and was eternally grateful that the crew we had kept it moving so quickly even a man down. The turkeys weighed in nicely even given their struggles through the season and it was a great sight to see them all packaged up in our modified cooler truck. I managed to get back from the ER in time to help finish up, but really it was Kim, Hilary and our indomitable volunteers who made it happen. 

With a splinted finger, I'm a bit slow moving (still), but Sundays delivery was just Awesome. Sure, it was freezing and windy as all get out- but their are few things we love more then sharing the farm with customers. Everyone managed through the weather to pick up their turkey and array of fixings, have a cup of coffee or a brew sample. The brave even bundled up to say hello to the piglets and rabbits. 

The farm after Thanksgiving is still a busy place. With the temperatures hovering around frigid this early in the season, we've burned a fair amount of wood. My injured finger is keeping our wood cutting operation down, so we bit the bullet and ordered some to be delivered. A shot to the wallet and to my pride, but it's only a temporary injury so it's better to be grateful then bitter. Or cold. We still have the laying chickens, rabbits, quail, sheep, goats and pigs to tend to- but it seems a much more relaxed pace given the fury of summer. I've taken an off-farm part time job, the finances need an influx, and it's a good job learning the art of cheese mongering. It's always good to expand your skill set, and the farm is headed for some big changes that will require a good amount of investment. If we really want to make this farm reach it's potential, we have to make some changes, and those changes need more money. We have been so fortunate to have become successful with our growing so quickly, and so while the winter rolls in we will pad the savings account so we can hopefully keep up with the demand come spring time. It's exciting, and not all that much quieter then when the vegetables are in full bloom- just busy in a different way. But still, we're taking today to recuperate after a harried 3 week sprint, joyfully full from another wonderful farm holiday. We're awaiting firewood (still have enough to fight back the chill until it arrives) and feeling contemplative. And though busy, after Thanksgiving there IS time for a second cup of coffee. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

To Grandmother's house we go...

It's a Saturday, and we do not have a delivery for the CSA today, as we have switched to our bi-weekly winter schedule. We had some plans for the morning, but... well... we just didn't get to them. I needed a hair cut, and my stylist (wife) was free, so we took care of that. We caught up on some television we like. We laid about. So, now it's noon. This is a very strange feeling, and regardless of the fact that we've been going for 8 days straight of morning until night farm work, I feel guilty for hanging about a bit. I have this terrible problem of being completely unable to be still, even when it's called for.

This week is sure to be an intense one, we have to get the farm 'tour ready', we try to get it a little more presentable, as in- clearing out muddy paths, sweeping barn cobwebs, making sure tools are put away when there is going to be more traffic. Our biggest delivery of the year- the Thanksgiving pick up is next Sunday. The turkeys are doing well, though we have had some struggles with this batch and haven't loved the stock that came from the hatchery. We're keeping them exceptionally well fed and tended, as we hope they will be the center piece of everyone's holiday table.

We are still behind in planting garlic, but hope to have that remedied either tomorrow or first thing Monday. We didn't get a working vehicle back until Thursday, so getting supplies was a real juggling act. But the ground isn't frozen, and we have the blessing of a few warm days to help us make sure we get the seed in. The straw bales in the hoop house are doing pretty well, a little bit of transplant shock, but we'll see how they pull through. I'm hopeful for a nice crop of winter kale and salad greens with some good tending and a little luck.

This evening, after chores we're headed to CT to visit my grandma, who I think most know I absolutely adore. She's cooking dinner (undoubtedly it will be delicious) and we get to meet her new beau. My grandma is a classy, ferocious woman. I wouldn't be who I am without her.

When I was a little kid, I spent a lot of time at Grandma's house. I remember standing on a stool, stirring pots of tomato sauce that she would dip her pinky in to taste. I'm not sure why it was her pinky, but it always was. She would orate on the nature of a perfect sauce and supervise my technique with the long wooden spoon. As I got older, she insisted I learn to sew, knit, and cook- skills which I still find incredibly useful (and enjoyable). In the winter, she would bundle me up and send me out ice fishing with my grandfather, a sport that still is a favorite for me to this day. She always wants her grandkids to do things they love, and to be useful. And I think her love of food is a lot of what inspired me to farm.

I remember walking down the road where she lived to an older italian neighbor who raised meat rabbits. It wasn't strange, or exotic, even in this kind of suburban neighborhood. Her sister, and my god mother had the most amazing vegetable garden- and I spent many an afternoon running through cherry tomato bushes. We weren't farmers, but Grandma set the example of 'do it yourself' (she still does today) and to be delighted, whatever the result. She laughs heartily when she has a failed recipe (though it's not often) and is known to tease herself when she doesn't something silly. When I was in college she would call and tell me what she mis-heard (she wears hearing aids, but keeps them off) during the week. She once even tried to mail me an oil and garlic based bean salad. While this salad is absolutely one of my favorites, it arrived in an oil soaked box along with some well ruined brownies. I called her to find out what she was thinking and all she could do was laugh.

I tend to take things seriously, be a bit dark and sarcastic. These aren't bad things, but when times get tight on the farm, or I make a ridiculous mistake I think I'd do well to take a cue from grandma. You can't be wildly successful all the time. But you can laugh, try again and always seek to be useful. Or at the very least make a damn good marinara.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Unique and Awesome Farm-Friendly Gifts! (including Beer!)

We have a long tradition of hand-making most of our gifts for the holiday season, and this year will be no exception. We like long dark evenings in front of the wood stove, project supplies scattered about and music or a movie playing. We've made all kinds of things, and usually include some kind of edible treat- home canned pickles, applesauce, etc. Last year, our wedding pictures served as a gift for those who were there, and we hand-made picture frames from all of the farm's gorgeous scenery- wooden frames adorned with sealed acorns etc. We haven't quite picked what this year's gift will be, but we're thinking it's going to involve these beauties...

Tanned rabbit hides! We've been tanning the hides from our rabbit operation for a while, and have quite the store, in a variety of colors. They're soft, warm, pliable, and just waiting for the right project. Mittens? Hat? boot liners?

I mentioned we have quite the store... And that's the truth! So if these are inspiring you, we're happy to sell you a few for your home projects. You can be assured that they come from our very own ethically raised rabbits and are tanned with care. We have a few that are well over a year old and holding up just perfectly. We'll sell them at $10/each (if you want more than 5, we probably could cut that price a bit) and ship anywhere (we can give you a price quote for that). Send us an email if you'd like some! 

If crafting isn't your thing, we've come across this other really cool opportunity... our friend James (who we met when he bought 1/2 a lamb a few months ago) is promoting his own beer tasting club! He invited us over a few weeks ago for a sampling (and some delicious pizza too!) and damn... that beer is awesome. It's such good beer in fact, that we're helping him out by offering to bring along his tasting packs to our delivery in Albany. If your looking for a great gift for a micro-brew lover, or just are a libations enthusiast- it's a pretty great opportunity. We recently asked James some questions so y'all could get to know him more, and hear about his journey into brewing. 

How did you get into brewing?

I guess it all harkens back to my days at art school (and some how my grandmother has an indirect influence on how I got here.) Where I believe my meticulous, curious, obsessive nature was allowed to blossom to its awkward introverted fullest. Time passes and many projects later, I develop a taste for, of all things, beer! Being of the right age where I got to be a witness to the burgeoning craft brew industry.  As well as the idea that you could make this stuff at home. I kicked around the idea in my head for a few years. Oh yea, did I mention that I’m amazing at procrastination? Then one day I was walking down a small street in Brooklyn and we come upon 10 6 gallon glass carboys in the trash. What a find! My friend and I drag back 2 to his apartment and start figuring out how we can make kick ass beer!
Many months later (remember I’m meticulous and obsessive so I needed to know everything to make the perfect beer)...we made the worst tasting beer ever or maybe the best tasting bottle of aspirin flavored water ever!?

So post asiprin-beer- how did the game plan change?

There began a couple years of study and many bad batches of beer. With just enough good batches to keep me from getting completely discouraged. Keep me motivated. Of course making beer begets drinking and I started to think about how different styles of beer are made. For example, what’s a Quad or Gose? All of this was fuel for the meticulous, curious, obsessive beast inside. 

Er, so.. enlighten us as less obsessed beer enthusiasts on what you are talking about?

Well specifically a Quad is a Trappist style that’s dark and strong--around 11-13% ABV. They are dark in color, though not roasty like a stout more fruity with notes of apricot, plum and raisin. Plus there are all the peppery esters common in a Belgian style beer.
Gose, pronounced go-say, is an almost extinct German style, that relies on a water profile that’s a bit salty to give the beer a sour brine aftertaste. I had one when I was in Berlin one time and it was much more refreshing than it may sound. On second thought I shouldn't say extinct, rare is probably a better term. I did see one on a menu in a bar in Brooklyn. According to a friend, small American craft breweries are trying to resurrect the style.

Ok, so was there a turning point?

Sooner than later I find I make fantastic beer! I probably started making good beer before I thought it myself. Anywho, to make a long story short-- I started bringing beer I made to parties. I discovered another friend of mine who was a secret brewer and we started throwing parties to share our beers with friends and others.
But, what ended up happening was that after more than a couple parties we would find a lot of our beers opened half full with tons of cigarette butts in them. We both felt frustrated and angered by this. Our friends meant no real disrespect but, we put a lot of effort and care into making those beers!

We know this feeling, we always try to give tips to use EVERY part of the things we grow! So now you have great beer, and you needed an audience?

We hatched plan. We would start a tasting club! My friend had some other plans first though, he had to WOOOF across one continent. Then bike across another and he would be ready to do it. I waited 8 months then said screw it and started organizing. That was 4 years ago and the club is going strong. I’ve moved from Brooklyn and am lookin’ to start another club up here in the upper Hudson Valley/Capital region.

Lucky us! How does it work?

How it works is each month I cook up 3 different brews and bring them to a pick up spot. You get them and drink them. The beers come with a small booklet that will give you some info on the beers you’ll be drinking and some space for tasting notes. This happens 6 times from December to May. If you would like to be a part of the club shoot me an email at for further details and cost!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Scrap the list.

Sigh. You ever have one of those days where you wake up with the best intentions to tackle a mountain of a to-do list, and are thwarted at every pass?

That was today on the farm. After a week in the shop, Kim's mom picked her up to go retrieve the subaru and she planned to run errands that were much overdue. We had worked pretty hard all morning handling some butchering chores, and I finished up solo so that she could get ready to leave the farm. After the last of the washing, I headed up to check the piglet's electric fence. Being stuck without a car meant we hadn't been able to buy any replacement batteries, and were running on borrowed time.

The piglets weren't out grazing or sunning themselves. And... they weren't in the barn.... 5 missing piglets. Much of the spring's income, gone. I started the search up in the woods, and in the now pretty died down vegetable patch. No luck. Suddenly, I saw a laying hen come flying out from a large pine tree along the perimeter of the farm. Running in.. fear? Then, the ruffled fowl was quickly followed by Pumba the elected leader of the piglet troop, by virtue of his size and domineering personality.

I wrangled the 5 back towards the fence and with some panting, running and scare tactics (and luck) herded them back into the barn, safely. I acted like a sheep dog, getting low and looking larger then my size, looking the beasts dead on. They blew past me several times before deciding that the miserable farmer wasn't going to leave them alone and it was just easier to go on.  I then jogged to the turkey fence and set them up with the weaker fence box, pulling the stronger 12-volt version for the pigs.

Back in the farm house for some leftovers, the phone rang. Kim had successfully picked up the car, and... three miles down the road it died again- despite a new radiator. She was now waiting for a tow truck to arrive.

I ate some lunch, and a friend stopped by to drop off some spent grain from his brewery (healthy snacks for livestock!). I was showing him around, and we headed up to the pig pen. Naturally, I had failed to notice a spot where they had uprooted the fence before. And so, the five were back out, merrily chewing on pasture outside of their fence. Repeat performance from above, and luck again- got them back in. Fixed the fence. Again.

I headed back down to the house, intending to do some dishes and get some pears we have turned into jam for the weekend delivery. While prepping I realized we were out of sugar, and small jars. And, our spare car has a flat and needs new tires before it can go back on the road. And the farm truck isn't really running off-farm. So no supply run possible.

Kim called again, the car had been towed, but getting replacement tires for the other car was going to be much more expensive then our plan to order online in a few weeks since we just paid for a new radiator on the subaru. With no choice, we bit the bullet to replace the tires- we have to have a car before Saturday.

Finally, I gave up on anything else on the to-do list and used the time honored method of dealing with stress- shoveling shit. A few cartloads in, and I felt better. With a fresh bunny pen, I was able to move two litters into our spacious grow-out area (we brood chicks there in the summer, but since we can't pasture the litters in the winter time the space serves as a great place to let them stretch out and graze on grain/hay/sprouts). Calmer, I headed up to fix a ripped turkey shelter (the dummies keep roosting on top, rather than inside their shelter) since the weather is calling for rain.

Some days, you just have to scrap the list. We're not religious or spiritual people, really- other than a deep belief in caring for animals and the earth. But if you've ever heard of mercury in retrograde- it has the habit of creating havoc in mechanics, and in communication- and we're seeing it. Maybe it's coincidence, maybe it's the planets- regardless- the sun will come up tomorrow and the list will still be there, and so will we.

**note- in the midst of writing this, I had to lock up the turkeys for the evening, and with Kim waiting for a ride from her mom after work, I had to do it alone. In the theme of the day, the turkeys acted like they had never before entered their shelter, and proceeded to play "ring around rosie" like a group of ugly school children rather than doing anything I needed them to. Eventually, all did get in, but I thought I'd treat you to the image of 30 turkeys giving me the run around to cap off this little fiasco of a day.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Holding Pattern

I've been down with a cold for a few days, and Kim has been carrying the weight of the usual farm chores. We haven't been able to make much progress on the farm "to-do before Snow" list. These things happen, we're just hoping to play catch up a bit more next week instead. It's been the kind of cold where your whole body protests even the short walk to get a drink, and my asthma demanded that I slow down, immediately.

We did still manage to put together a nice end of harvest dinner, though. Halloween Day is always a feast day for this farm. We have a little tradition of stuffing a pumpkin for Halloween Dinner. We open it up, like a jack-o-lantern, and clean the insides. Then we make a savory stuffing with sausage and veggies, pack it full, put the lid back on and roast it until it's soft enough to serve in slices. This year, Kim added a pan de muerto to the dinner, and damn- it was melt in your mouth delicious. She used this recipe, for anyone looking to try. Family came over to join in the celebration, and we had a very quiet, relaxing night. It feels appropriate to celebrate the actual day of Halloween this way, with a bit more reverence and quiet reflection to the end of a season (though we also do lots of spooky silly things before the day too).

Today is the first Saturday in a long time (2ish years) that we haven't had a delivery to make, or planting to do, or snow to negotiate. It's been a little strange, trying to deviate from the schedule, but nice too. It's a day for laundry, chores, etc and we decided to limp the farm truck into town for breakfast. The subaru is in the shop for repairs, and the farm truck is on it's last legs. It won't be far on the horizon that we will be searching for a replacement. But the old rust bucket got us to the town diner, and we had a nice breakfast and semi-planning meeting. We start planning for spring season now, and we have a lot of ideas of whats to come for our little farm. Its nice to not have somewhere to be immediately and give ourselves the space to plan and dream a bit. If All Hallows brings the end of the growing year, it's a good time to reflect and begin anew--especially over a hot cup of coffee.

Roasted stuffed pumpkin, ready for slicing!

Pan de Muerto, straight from the oven

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Straw Bale Planting Progress!

A while ago we updated about our efforts to keep our greenhouse warmer for the winter and increase our growing capability by cultivating in straw bales. First, we had to begin the decomposition process in the bales, applying water and fertilizer for several days. Then, we had to monitor the internal temperature of the bales using a soil thermometer. You let them warm up to their peak temperature (carefully) and then when they begin to cool- they are ready for planting!

And, without further ado- here are the happy little seedlings transplanted this week!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Turkeys, Lambs and a little bit of farm economics

We woke up this morning and there is a notable chill in the air, we've been running the wood stove periodically, though I think it will be much more regularly from here on out. We spent the day yesterday putting up all new storm plastic in the greenhouse, and we'll be moving the straw bales in for planting in the next few days now that they have started decomposing and their internal temperature has evened out.

We are in a very good position on the farm in that we have sold out of thanksgiving turkeys already! We did cut back on our numbers this year, because we were worried about over taxing with the first round of piglets. We are so thankful that the turkeys have already been reserved, and also so glad so many folks have expressed interest in one this year! Though we are sold out, we would strongly recommend that you contact our farming colleagues at Mountain Brook Farm! Feel free to send us an email and we can pass you along to Hilary, who has plenty of turkeys and is a wonderful farmer.

We are however, taking deposits and orders for lamb in the spring! Our last batch of lamb was absolutely delicious, and we are excited to offer more in the spring. Lamb is raised on pasture and hay, with grain only used during the coldest nights and to help convince the lambs to move as we need them to. We will be bringing in some lambs in the next few weeks based on our pre-orders, and they will be ready in March or at the latest early April. Please email us at for an order form/details/pricing. Deposits will be $75 for a 1/2 lamb, and $125 for a whole lamb. Please act quickly if you want in, as we are likely to sell out!

Next year we will be greatly expanding our own sheep breeding stock, which will be very exciting! Baby lambs born on farm!

Folks have asked us why we need to take orders so early, and why we require deposits. The deposits and pre-orders help us defer the high costs of raising animals, and make sure we are growing based on our customer's needs. We wouldn't be able to provide the highest level of care throughout the seasons without taking deposits.

We are so fortunate to be selling out so quickly of products we are so happy to grow. And as time goes on, we look forward to offering much more! For now though, if you want in on anything, get in early!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Great Tomatillo and Apple Harvest of 2013

This season has definitely been a strange one, with crops that were wildly successful last year not making any kind of showing this year (here's looking at you, broccoli), and some strange (for us) veggies coming through double. The apple trees here have been remarkably prolific, and our patch of tomatillos is producing by the bucket full.

We've made pies and salsas gallore, and have found ways to integrate these fall fruits separately in daily cooking. But last night, we decided to make a slightly spicey lamb and garden veggie curry with fresh naan. And what goes well with that? Chutney of course!

It's not too far fetched to make an apple/tomatillo chutney, with both fruits having that tang you want to come through- but after not finding a recipe that suited the pantry, I decided to just give it a go. The result was pretty good, so we thought we could share the loose recipe (please do modify as you see fit), especially for our CSA members who are also reaping the benefit of these bumper crops.

R'Eisen Shine Farm Bumper Crop Tomatillo and Apple Chutney

4-6 tomatillos, hulled, rinsed
1 or 1&1/2 cups chopped apples (skins on)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon masala powder
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 cinnamon stick
salt, pepper
brown sugar (1/8 cup? maybe a bit more?)
apple cider vinegar (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8")
1/4 cup water
**it would have been better with dried cranberries or something but we were out

1. Put your cleaned tomatillos in the food processor and pulverize them (raw)
2. Heat a small sauce pan with the vinegar, apples, spices (not the cinnamon stick yet) onion, and brown sugar. Bring to a steady simmer, then add in your tomatillos.
3. Bring back up to a simmer, cover, and let it cook down quite a bit (5-10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Pour everything back into the food processor, and break it down a bit (I used the pulse setting just a few times)
4. Taste it, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Pour the mix back into the sauce pot, add your cinnamon stick and the 1/4 cup water. Bring back to a simmer, cook for 5-10 minutes uncovered. Remove cinnamon stick and enjoy with naan.

For an easy, quick, fairly fool proof naan recipe try this one:
We were out of yogurt, so I used sour cream and it worked just fine!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5 Ducks in a Pond and the Barter System

We trade for a lot of things on the farm, or barter. Often it's things that we need, sometimes its things we couldn't get otherwise, but aren't necessary for survival- but just make our world a little better.

We've traded tanned rabbit hides for bread, we pay for acupuncture in bacon, we've bartered to pay off straw bales in labor. We have a standing agreement with a tattoo artist to trade goods for new pieces. This week, we traded some young pullets for a crew of 5 call ducks. We've been thinking of adding duck to the list of livestock production for the next year- but this crew is just a test run of methods of care and isn't the breed we would use. They're beautiful and small though, and a real pleasure to have around. They are 'call ducks', so they have very prominent quacks and sounds and wonderful colors.

It's really freeing to find ways to interact with the world that aren't always centered on cash. We don't always have dollars in hand, but the freezer is usually stocked. It forces you think about the ways you interact with people, and pushes you to be a bit more resourceful. We can't always make a deal, but we can always try- and that keeps us moving forward even when the cash flow is low or needed for a bigger expenditure. The culture that we live in expects us to measure our success by the size of the bank account. But if you choose to measure your success by the relationships you form, and the needs you are able to meet- the definition changes. It's allowed me to have a bit more appreciation for accomplishing a goal, reaching an understanding... I think I'm kind of searching to describe what it feels like to know that you can use an alternative method to build a business exchange- and it works well for all parties. To the best of our knowledge, the barters we've arranged are mutually beneficial- the other end of the deal is happy to have what we are trading. It seems like commonsense, and though we know it's considered hokey or old fashioned, but it allows us to have more then would if we relied solely on cash- and gives other parties access to our goods when they wouldn't otherwise.

So here are the new ducks, settling in and swimming about and genuinely enjoying life. A little zen moment for a little bit of an overly zen post. Enjoy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Overdue blog post!

Well folks, it's been longer then we would like, and we apologize. We certainly have been up to our eyeballs in things to do!

We sent our first batch of pigs to the butcher, and it was a pivotal moment for the farm, and us as farmers. We cared for the 8 from the time they were 6 weeks old to a whopping 200+ lbs. We used a really great butcher that we were tipped off to by Cold Antler Farm several months ago. We used them for our lamb processing too, and trust them completely to shepherd our livestock to freezer packages. Stratton Custom Meats, in case anyone out there is semi local and looking for a very good processor! It was an intense experience, but we are so glad we decided to venture into pork this year. While the person trucking our pigs not showing up certainly was an unfortunate turn of events, we ended up feeling great about the next steps we took. And the pork. tastes. amazing. In fact, it's so good, we've decided to get more piglets for the fall/winter! A smaller group (4), since we don't want to overgraze the dying back pasture, but still a good amount of pork for the spring.

In other news, we've been prepping the greenhouse like mad for the cooler weather- and we're trying a new tactic we hope will work. Last winter, we had a heck of time keeping the temperature up using a heater- and while we are installing a bigger unit- we're also trying a passive approach. You condition straw bales to begin their decomposition by wetting them down and applying organic fertilizer, and then move them to your green house (or put a hoop over them) where they continue to release heat and nutrients. You actually plant right into the bales! Here's the bales we have set up where we will put a hoop over them and grow kale and some hardier crops. We have another group we will use indoors! And we managed to get beautiful organic straw from our neighboring farm down the road in exchange for help processing their turkeys. It's a good deal!

It's also apple season on the farm! Antique and heirloom trees dot the entire property, and we've been picking like mad for our customers and for the winter stores. The dehydrator has been running on high speed, and we have a day of applesauce canning planned for this coming Sunday. And while sampling the trees, we also came across a Black Walnut tree... so we have been collecting those too. We're hoping to get them hulled, cleaned and dried for another delicious farm-grown treat. One of the most wonderful things about living on an old farm property is the shear amount of botanical diversity there is, we're constantly finding new edibles or gorgeous flower. It makes us wish we had more time to really scour the property for all of the hidden gems. 
unhulled black walnuts- they smell so citrusy!
On Sunday, we got up at 3:30 am and rushed through all of our livestock chores via flashlight. Then we loaded up in the car and headed an annual Poultry Swap. You have to get their by 7 to scout all of the good livestock buys (not just birds!), and we're in the market for a few lambs, some heritage turkeys, and... quail! We've mentioned before that we have an interest in expanding our operations to include the little delicacies, and we found some! We jumped on the opportunity to bring a few home (the only 8 we saw all day!) and are working hard to get them settled. Quail are a little more delicate then chickens, more like a rabbit's temperament- unlike the unflappable ducks or the brainless turkeys. Still, we did get our first egg yesterday! 

We've been deep in the throws of repairing fencing, building turkey shelters, and building a new goat pen in the barn. There is firewood still to finish cutting/stacking, and much work to do to keep the rabbitry running. Plus, fall veggie crops are coming in, here's a picture of our giant turnip patch (which has been quite marvelous in comparison to some of our other summer struggles).

There are few things I love more then a sturdy fall soup, with roasted turnips, carrots, butternut squash, garlic, apples, and onions all blended together with a rich broth. And turnip greens are one of our favorite things in sautees or pestos. This combined with a surprise rubust crop of tomatillos has made for a farm share with quite the flavor spectrum. 

We love the autumn here, though in some ways its even more busy then the summer. But the tasks aren't like the long summer days where you know you won't finish the weeding (ever) or the watering (ever). It's concrete tasks- cleaning the hen house, building winter structures and chopping firewood. It's winterizing the farmhouse, cleaning chimneys and canning dozens of jars. It's so grounding, so physical to see what you have harvested and know the results of a summer's toil. And it's a joy to work more with our livestock, which is revealing. Returning to focusing on the last of the summer meat chickens, tending the turkeys and investigating quail is a reminder that we must follow our passions. And that's going to shape our next years on the farm. I always believed we had a clear picture of what our farm would look like, and we've learned over the last 2 years that you must be flexible with that picture, willing to embrace both change and tedium all at the same time. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall Blitz


We spent two days this week helping our friend Hilary get her first batch of fall turkeys processed, and now are headed out to get some delicious fall crops harvested. Earlier in the week, we picked over 300 lbs of potatoes and our pigs are FINALLY headed to the butcher on Sunday!

Our batch of turkeys are outside, the barn and brooder are cleaned, and the fall crops in the lower garden plot are doing pretty well. We have a bunch of greenhouse work to do and it's about to be crazy canning season with a bumper crop of apples. We're hoping to team up with another neighboring farmer for some serious apple cider making in the next two weeks.

We're crazy busy, and promise a longer, more exciting update soon. And, soon it will be cold and winter out there and we will have much more time to share our thoughts with you all!

in the meantime, enjoy these quick farm pictures!

Kim's best goat impression

Fall flowers still blooming

These goats can't get enough hugs. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pork Pack Promotion!

Pork Pack Promotion!

There is a limited availability of some of our prime, heritage, pastured and ethically raised pork for sale for those folks who didn't order a 1/2 or whole pig! We only have a few of these ‘pork packs’ available, so don’t wait to order yours!

What’s included in a Pork Pack:

3lbs of any the following (your choice in 1lb packages! mix and match!)
*Breakfast sausage
*Hot italian sausage
*Sweet italian sausage
*Ground Pork (versatile in any recipe!)

1 package of delicious 1 inch pork chops(2 chops per package)

Price: $30

How to order: Send us an email at before 9/17 (or until we are sold out) and we will send you an order form and a paypal invoice. Delivery will be the first weekend in October!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Beginning of Autumn

Most people today, when they comment on the weather, it's just in passing- or a minor inconvenience. For farmers, it's a little more dramatic and crucial. Sure, many people dislike carrying umbrellas, or opening/closing windows- but very  few people left actually work outside for much of the day- let alone watch the weather bring forth great joy or massive disappointment,

It's been chillier and darker in the morning hours, and we're still combating the effects of the strangest summer on record (in some ways, even more so then last year's drought). Extreme temperatures have taxed us, but we are so grateful for a nice crop of tomatoes, green beans that are FINALLY making a proper recovery, and the best crop of potatoes I've ever seen. The chilly air has invigorated some of the cool weather crops, and we're worried as the temperatures will climb from 40 degrees up yesterday morn to 85 tomorrow afternoon we'll see another round of crop challenges. We can do very little to mitigate the effects this stress will have on our plants, so we must just try to mitigate our emotions. I am becoming more aware of why so many of the older farmers I know (and respect) are so very hard to read. It's years of roller coasters, huge highs and the lowest lows. I think they twist their face into a non-committal mask to cope with the absolute pleasure of hard work paid off to a field of death that there is no recovery from. If you tried to feel it all, I don't think it would be sustainable.

But Autumn is coming, and she is so beloved on our farm. There are turkey chicks, now several weeks old, in a moveable pen outside on fresh grass. They're not as hardy as last year's group, and have required a bit of coddling, but we are relieved to hear undoubtedly 'happy' chirps coming from their direction in the fading light. Autumn means the end of a very long meat chicken season, and the last of the tender birds will be tucked in the freezer before November 1st. We've one more week with the 8 pigs, and then they too, will close out this part of the season. There will be two new piglets for the winter, so we can get a jump on production and markets for next year- but that's a far cry from the herd of beasts we're now tending.

Today, having a cup of tea with a relative of Kim's- I described this season in a way that can sum it all up. The spring and the autumn are the busiest, we spend the spring getting everything in the ground, and the autumn getting everything out. We will be packing the root cellar, insulating the greenhouse, and picking every last summer tomato. The long wait for next year's tomato is nearly upon us, and so we eat the summer fruits with every meal, hoping to grow tired of them (we never do). As the field work slows, the inside prep will pick up, with a summers worth of berries to melt into jam, and pickles still to make. There's also the heating season to start tending to, cutting firewood, cleaning chimneys- and two farm helpers who need homework assistance several days a week. We're so excited to have our summer visits from Kim's younger cousins roll into the school year, there are few things more fulfilling then watching a 10 year old kiss the nose of a bunny while her brother learns to 'speak chicken'.

Autumn, please come, and bring your apples and cider, your pumpkins and sweaters. Be kind, and long, and full of color. Bring a healthy harvest and fat turkeys. We'll trade you a summer's tomato for your good graces.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If, Then

The thing about farming is that Every little decision affects something down the line- and it's your job to try and figure out if it's to the better, to the worse, or just manageable.

For example- in the spring, we planned to sell the small pick up, use that money for a larger pick up, and then find a trailer to move pigs when they hit butchering size. We budgeted for a trailer with the assumption we wouldn't have to pay for field work, as we got a team of horses and new equipment.

The horse team was a struggle, and we ended up paying for some field work, thus pushing the trailer purchase down the road. And the small pick up ended up costing a small fortune before it could be sold, and thus we were stuck with it (couldn't sell it for enough to recoop repair costs and put down a big payment on a new truck).

So, we then booked an appt with a  butcher close to home for the pigs, and planned to pay someone to move them since we couldn't do it ourselves. But- we then heard some disconcerting things about the butcher, and had to switch facilities- to a nicer one further away. We called around and had 2 plans in place to move the pigs.  Yesterday, we cancelled one of the plans, because we didn't need two trailers to show up for the pigs. And then guy didn't show up this morning.

That's right. We now STILL have 8 butchering size pigs in the pasture. And we missed our butchering appt. Which we booked months ago- and everyone we know is booked solid. The earliest appt we have found is in December. That's not going to work.

That and some other farm negotiations has left us a little flattened.

We will find a place to get the pigs done (hopefully quick! we have customers expecting product!!), and things will work out. But right now, it's a stressful time. We've put six months into these pigs, and aren't really budgeted to go much longer on top of customer satisfaction worries. For a small farm to allow for incremental payments from customers, AND use organic feed AND only have the highest standards of care AND keep the lights on... everything has to run in a cohesive manner. There's always sticking points, but right now it's a glue soup, too many sticking points.

This isn't a complaint, it's just reflecting on how two decisions at the beginning of the year snowballed into this very moment.

If, then. Now it's time to show what we're really made of, and get it to come together. Come hell or high water.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Our Porcine Pals

Well, today is the last full day with the litter of 8 little (BIG!) pigs. It's bittersweet for sure. This is the first time I've raised pigs and gotten to be close to them as an animal. They are great, super entertaining! Nothing is more amusing than feeding a pig a peach, pits and all. They love them.

All 8 are heading to the processor tomorrow morning at 5am. My great Uncle Charlie called in a favor for us and hooked us up with his friend Tim, who hauls livestock for a living in CT. Tim will come early and help us load them into his trailer and then he and Ejay will take them to Altamont. We'll of course be getting breakfast and coffee for our helper/hauler and a HUGE thank you to Charlie is forthcoming. We are really very lucky to have a host of resources in the area, family and friends alike. Charlie has been a farmer for all of his 80 years, first at his parents beef operation and later at his own farm in Pawling. He raises beef and lamb, keeps draft horses and a lot of laying hens. You couldn't ask for a better resource on all things livestock related and he's been working in the area for so long that he knows all the players on a first name basis. So when we were having a hard time finding someone to haul the pigs (we don't have a truck and trailer that could haul all 1600lbs at once), we put in a call.

The pigs have been at the farm for about 6 months, all 8 having come from the same litter in April. It has been a real learning experience for me, especially in the way pigs test your intelligence. They have always found all of the vulnerable places in our electric fencing, no matter how well we thought we had it configured. At one point we had about 7000 volts running through 3 lines of electric fencing and the pigs couldn't have cared less, the crawled right underneath like it was nothing. We eventually had to switch them to electro-netting, which was just enough of a barrier to keep them in their pen.

In any case, I'm thankful that these creatures have been so enjoyable and that they are providing food for us and for our customers. They have been great pals for the past 6 months.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Learn to Make Your Own Bacon with Little Sparrow Farm and R'Eisen Shine Farm!

Our first batch of farm raised, pastured, happy pork heads to the butcher in a little over a week (phew!) and we're hosting a Make Your Own Bacon Class to celebrate! The class is free to everyone who purchased a side of pork, but we have some room to let others in too!

Making your own bacon is awesome and totally do-able for anyone with even a little time spent in the kitchen. We're convinced that once you try it, you'll never want to go back to store-bought again.

Class will be held on September 16th, at the illustrious All Good Bakers (on Delaware Ave in Albany) from 5:30-8pm. Cost of the class (including a pound of bacon to take home) is $30. If you want in, send us an email and we'll hook you up with a paypal invoice to join us. Light refreshments will be provided! You Don't want to miss out!!

We'll be teaming up with our wonderful dear friend, Erika Tebbens from Little Sparrow Farm. Erika is a bacon guru- teaching classes all over the capital region while still finding time to run her own micro and full size greens operation, tending her bee-hives and hanging with her super cool family. Oh! and blogging for the From Scratch Club too! Check Little Sparrow Farm FB! 

We hope to see you there, and space is limited, so get in while the getting is good! Bacon!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday on the Farm!

Fridays on the farm are always pretty hectic. We use each Friday to prepare for the Saturday share deliveries both on farm and in Albany.

While picking tomatoes this morning, we found my least favorite garden pest (from a gross out perspective) - the tomato hornworm. Have you ever seen one of these things? They are horrific. The stuff of nightmares.
They give me the creepy crawlies. Even sitting here typing I'm wigged out. SO GROSS!

After harvesting our veggies and packing shares, we stopped to check in on the newest farm babies, two litters of rabbits born about 2 weeks ago. 

I love when the rabbits are around 2-3 weeks old. Most things on the farm have a level of cute to them if you're into animals, but the rabbits as babies are cute by any standard. If I put one in a teacup I could upload it to Amazing. 

After snuggles(it's a perk of the job), we went to run the irrigation for the vegetables. It hasn't rained here in about a week, maybe more, and it doesn't look promising for any showers in the near future so we're running our irrigation sprinklers this weekend to hydrate the crops and make sure that the fall crops get to growing. We've planted a whole lot of root veggies for the winter share: turnips, carrots, beets and more!

Ejay running the sprinklers!

By that point it was time to do evening chores(because eating twice a day is a thing for our animals). For posterity, here are some photos of the pigs just after supper.

It's a rough life.

That's been our Friday! It's only about 4pm, so we're headed back out to the vegetable field to weed and do some more pest control. Hope you're enjoying your Friday! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rabbit for sale- paypal special!

Hi folks!

It's that time again, we're going to have a very limited number of rabbits for sale for folks outside of our CSA membership.

Whole rabbits are $30, half rabbits are $15. All of our rabbits raised on great feed, and out in pastured pens.

This sale is limited to paypal only, so you email us at, and then we send you a paypal invoice. Once you pay, your order is reserved. Rabbits will be delivered the first weekend in September to Albany during our regular pick up at All Good Bakers from 9-12. Local customers can arrange on-farm pick up during that same week.

If you've ever thought of trying rabbit- dive in! Farmer's market prices are much higher then our special and we feel pretty strongly that our growing practices make for wonderful flavor. Recipes and cooking tips are available!

Also, we've got some small batch tanned hides available for retail. For details on these gorgeous furs, send us an email.

BBQ braised rabbit, with fresh peas, smashed potatoes and beer bread!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Todd "Fuzzy Feet Fancy Pants" Rooster

This morning, before letting out the hens I headed over to the the moveable rabbit pens and noticed a few black and white checked feathers strewn about. Enough to make us pause and follow a few more scattered in the road.

We opened up the hen house and two plump little bard rock hens, with checked feathers came marching out among the rest. I was filling up the watering jugs while Kim set down their feed. After a quick glance around- she paused and said with wide eyes "Where's Todd?!" And the rooster was nowhere to be found.

Todd has been a farm staple since our first little batch of hens that we kept over at Kim's parents house, before we even moved into the farm or started the CSA. We acquired him from a friend whose children raised him as a 4-H project. Calm, handsome, and good natured- he was always a star among the visitors.

Despite a search, we've been unable to find the fellow, and think he may have been taken by a fox sometime between when we came in for dinner, and when we headed up to lock up the hens a little after dusk. Perhaps he was protecting the brood- it's very mysterious. We're hopeful that our young rooster, Legs will step up to the task of monitoring the girls- but it's sure we'll miss Todd. Thanks for a good several years, our big iconic buddy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Definition of Insanity

The past couple weeks on the farm have been...challenging and... eye opening and.... ellipses of the mind creating.

The veg field has been another puzzle this year. We've had more rain (and better irrigation), but we've been waging a pest war, dealing with soil that's only been tended to for the second time this year after years of sitting fallow, overcoming weird weather (super hot, then chilly, then wet, then hot, then dry and now fall-like)- and to be frank- it's been much less fun then we'd like it to be. Work is always hard, but when it puts you in a slump to even think of stepping out there- it's time to change course. So, it's always good to look ahead to hope for the best, and while we've done what we can to coax along our summer crops, we've also turned our attention to fall planting. The potatoes are coming swimmingly, the early varieties have proven to be Just Wonderful and we're up to our eyeballs in gorgeous blue spuds.

We're really unhappy with the soil in our plot, and with leased land- running on less then ideal options to improve it (it's hard to spend a ton of cash doing reparations when your lease is only for 3 more years and the business is still fledgling. That money can be allocated elsewhere to something more transportable). But what we do have is a ton of... shit. Literally. We have a large, now two year old pile of barn droppings, which have aged to become nice compost and killed off almost all of the weeds. Last night, we took advantage of this heaping pile and ran a small tiller, turning under the ripe stuff into the soil below. We ran a quick fence and planted a good size test plot of turnips, radishes, and carrots- who all took a beating in our earlier plantings. Now is the time to get these root crops established, for a nice big harvest as the weather turns. If this works, we'll be using almost the entire space we've been collecting manure on to plant next spring. The far veg field has it's merits in size, and has always turned a really nice potato, tomato, lettuce, and garlic crop. We figure that next year, we need to change strategies a bit with planting and cut down on the farm melt downs. The weather is going to keep being unpredictable, and we can't invest totally in repairing the soil (or trucking in hundreds of yards of new stuff)- but we can make use of delish black earth where we've been hauling manure out by the hand cart load for 2 years. We're hopeful, and happy to change course a bit. Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"- two years of bugs, crazed weather and rough soil are enough to make us switch gears. We've got some beautiful veggies, but the struggle has brought some seriously long hours, and back breaking labor, for results we would like to see be much better. Working hard and working smart are too good goals, but you should always place the smart first, and work hard in the right way for the best benefit.

We've also been giving a good look at our livestock operation. We grow delicious poultry. And the lambs we sent to the butcher ended up being pretty perfect. We're excited about the pork, feel confident about rabbit. We're livestock naturals, strange, for former vegetarians (or maybe not, maybe it's that compassionate care that puts us ahead). So we have been toying with adding more sheep next year, and maybe some quail. Quail are smaller, and easier for us to hatch on site- which means we could potentially have a much more sustainable poultry operation. They produce eggs in 6 weeks! Chickens take 16-17 weeks to start laying, if you're lucky. We'll always have chickens, they're just something we do- but we'd like to find ways to make the farm less reliant on ordering in feed, chicks etc- and quail could be a good route. Plus, it could help us set our farm apart a bit, and diversify our funding stream.

This post is about the gritty reality of a start up farm- we've got to hone our skills where we struggle while capitalizing on our natural strengths. We always want to put the best quality forward, and this summer has been another long lesson in the lack of control we have over nature. It's so humbling, to be so at the mercy of the earth. We're so grateful for the things we've grown that have turned out beautifully, and really looking forward to getting better at what just hasn't worked.

The summer is about thinking on the fly, pushing until you can't any further, and stopping to marvel- both at your success and your failure. It's never easy to look at what you're doing and think about what's not working, it's a lesson in humility. But to survive as a small business, we've got to take stock continuously - savoring the success like a delicious summer tomato (which are growing beautifully, btw) and learning from the endeavors that were not so successful (I'm looking at you, squash bugs!). We are grateful and humbled by the work we do, and at the end of the day we can't ask for more.