Thursday, May 30, 2013

Warm Weather

James is in the kitchen, making dinner and Kim is upstairs taking a well deserved shower. It was one of those farm marathon days. We were up at 5 trying to beat the heat. After a quick cup of coffee and breakfast, we all headed out to work. Usually, we start with livestock chores around 5:30 and then at about 7 we all break for food and drink before starting the proper work day. But today, with temperatures climbing, we just set right to work.

Our farm is a balancing act, keeping the animals and plants happy. And it's been a little easier as of late with an extra set of hands. I can say for sure that in comparison with last year, where I was solo full time- it's a huge change to have so many hands. Which means we get to do things like- mow the lawn and weed whack and keep the place looking nice and not just productive. It makes a world of difference, especially with farm visits coming up.

We moved 150 little chickens out into their field pen this morning, now that it's emptied of their compatriots who are now occupying the freezer. They were less than pleased at going for a truck ride, but once they realized that grass was at the end of the trip- they settled right in!

James then started working to clean out the baby chick brooder in the barn before we put another batch in there, an unpleasant chore but arguably one of the most important. Kim was on plant dutywatering the greenhouse and spending long hours tending rows of beans and onions and brassicas in need of weeding. I spent the entire day behind a regular lawn mower and then our neighbor's brush hog getting the field in touring shape. Last summer, I couldn't have dreamed of getting those things done with any kind of regularity- so despite the humidity, and the hard work, and the very long day- I'm chipper about what got done.

One days with this kind of heat (88 and drenched with humidity) we break for lunch around 12 and then wait out the mid day sun until 3 or so before heading back to work. We also make a trip to Agway for some bedding (wood shavings) and some seedlings that are a bit behind in our greenhouse (or got hammered by hail). Luckily, our local Agway has amazing seedlings from local farms much bigger than ours, so we won't get behind in the season.

After putting ice packs in all of the bunny cages to keep nursing mama rabbits cooler, we set about afternoon chores. Then it was back out to the field until close to 7. The little world here is shaping up quite nicely, and they're calling for an even hotter day tomorrow. Long hours are expected this time of year, but we try to work smart and not kill ourselves. A good sweat is one thing, but heat exhaustion is not to be played with.

We're hosting farm tours this Sunday from 10-1! If you'd like to come, and aren't a CSA member, we would greatly appreciate an email and a $3 donation. (CSA members are free) But do come along if you'd like to see the workings! There are 6 litters of baby rabbits to see, some overly friendly goats and 8 fat pigs. And that's just the start!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

James' First Chicken Butchering

*** disclaimer: James describes some aspects of chicken processing that some sensitive readers may find upsetting. We didn't want to censor his experience or perspective, and are always very open about all of our processes. ***

As we've noted, farm life is in high gear at the moment, and we haven't had a minute to jot down our thoughts. We promise more is coming, but we hope you'll find Jame's perspective as wonderful as we do as he hits the half-way mark on his internship with us!

When I originally applied for the internship on R’eisen Shine Farm, I indicated I was interested in learning how to process livestock for meat.  As I’ve become more aware of the health and ethical dilemmas wrapped up in industrial farming and particularly industrial meat production of all kinds, I’ve struggled with personal changes that I felt would best effect change on a larger scale.  I tried be a vegetarian and only lasted a year; I found I was loosing energy, weight, and muscle tone all at the same time.  I’ve become more interested in healthy, nutrient-diverse, diets comprised of sustainable food as a lifestyle and a political philosophy.  As a lover of meat, I felt like learning more about what goes into ethical meat processing would be a good idea.  
Ejay and Kim had me watch some videos of farmers dispatching and processing chickens so I could see what that looks like and would be a little more prepared.   Despite Kim and Ejay cautioning me about how difficult it can be to take the life of an animal, I felt like I was prepared and would have little trouble.  In the morning, we caught chickens out of their tractor and loaded them up in the truck with some hay; I’ve gotten fairly good at catching chickens by their feet and was unphased by their flapping and quacking was Kim passed me chickens to load up in the truck.  Ejay demonstrated to me how we dispatch chickens, tying them by their feet so they are more tranquil, and slitting their corroded artery so they die instantly bleed thoroughly; Ejay told me he has processed thousands of chickens, and finds this method to be both the most kind to the animal and the most efficient way of assuring the best possible quality and taste of the finished product.  It was then time to take the chickens off of the dispatch station and dip them in hot water to loosen their feathers so they can come off more easily. when I picked up the recently deceased chicken by its feet, I felt a certain hollowness that shocked me.  It was a little strange and unnerving to feel the difference between picking up a chicken that is very much alive vs a dead one; it was an experience I couldn’t have in any prepared myself for or predicted.  I do feel like it was important for me to experience it and I feel less removed from the food I eat now.  I think above all, respect of plants and animals the provide us with food is necessary.  I will continue to eat meat, but will be far less likely to eat meat from animals whose lives weren’t respected or valued. Working on R’eisen Shine Farm has been an invaluable experience; I’ve learned so much already and can’t wait to learn more in my remaining weeks here. I’m pretty sure Ejay is planning on making friend chicken and I’m stocked to try some; chicken sounds great!

Friday, May 24, 2013

PayPal Special!

So!! The farm is at that time of the year where we are crazy crazy busy. Each day is sun up to sun down planting, tending, weeding, growing, feeding watering... Which means there is much less time for the business end of things.

We've decided to run a very exciting special for those of you who are NOT CSA members (though CSA members, by all means if you want to buy in to these extra products, you can but don't forget that much of this is already included in your regular shares). We have a little bit of meat that we are selling, at a very reasonable price to anyone willing to pay via paypal during the promotional period.

We have rabbit, chicken and a reduced-price pork deposit (though the price per lb remains the same, see this link for details on how our pork works) available.

How it works:

We have a limited number of delicious chickens and rabbits for sale.

The prices are a flat rate for this promotion. Chickens are $25/bird (about 4-5lbs of heritage, sustainable, fresh, pastured delicacy) and rabbits are $27/ea (pastured, hertitage crossed, fresh, sustainable speciality, approx 3 lbs).

You email us with how many you'd like to order, and we send you an invoice via paypal based on availability. You send your payment in then we deliver your meat during our first CSA delivery of the year in Albany (June 15th) at All Good Bakers or you can pick up on farm during that same week.

These won't last and are in limited supply- so first payments, first served. The last day to take us up on this is Wednesday, May 29th or until sold out if sooner then that date. Any questions, feel free to email us at!

For our pork, we usually require a deposit of $250 per 1/2 pig. We will lower the deposit to $200 if you pay  by paypal before Wedensday, May 29th. Don't forget to review how our pork works by checking out this link. 

Thanks for helping spread the word and keeping this little farm running strong!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Square Dance!

Much bustle is happening about the farm, and we have had some rough weather. But right now, let's talk about squares.

Well, not just squares, but squares (us) dancing in squares. We had an amazing time! Our draft horse club hosted a pot luck dinner last Saturday night followed by a great fiddle band and beginner style square dance.
We took the family van along with James, Kim's mom and brother, Geoffrey and headed down to the festivities.

The draft horse club is a fine bunch of people. Everyone asked about our progress with our current team and what's been going on with our farm. Then we piled our plates to the ceiling with delicious food and dug in. These people know how to throw a pot luck, that's for sure. We all ate until our eyeballs nearly popped, including helpings of desserts (yep, multiple ones).

Once the music started, it was hard not to join in. I tend to be a little stand-offish in larger group settings, but soon hit floor, much to the chuckling delight of my brother-in-law. Thanks to the help of a good caller and friendly co-participants, we caught on quickly. As it turns out, square dancing is just fun. James joined right in too and was quite the hit with the entire group. We danced for a few hours before getting back into the van home, still full and exhausted.

I think there is a reason that farmers have enjoyed a good square dance. We don't always get a chance to socialize, the demands of farm life often keep us close to home and at work for longer hours then most. But many farmers still enjoy a good meal. And a group dance- though not usually something I'd think I'd really like- was a great relief from long hours. No pressure to make small talk, or talk shop. No pressure on image- everyone looks pretty silly do-see-doing. Just spending time in the company of others after sharing a meal.

So honor your partner, and honor your corner!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Great Grilling!

We are grilling people. Given the option we will grill just about anything, not only because it is delicious and makes us feel that special summer time feeling, but also because it makes less dishes :)

But we also are into grilling because it's pretty special for us to step out the door and just be outside without the pressure to be working or having to tend to anything. It's a moment to really just relax, drink a beverage (adult or otherwise) and just be.

Making the grilling experience even more awesome is getting to grow the food that goes on that grill. I wasn't always drawn to farming in the same way that Ejay was. I grew up in a farming community in a house where we made hay every summer, so the allure wasn't so mysterious. When I left for college and my own life, I discovered that I didn't have the stomach to eat meat, mostly because of the books I had read and the people who I met that had such passion for vegetarianism. I literally read Fast Food Nation and became a vegetarian the next day.

Now admittedly, I was the worst vegetarian of all time. I have always been pretty bad about food in general, substituting ramen noodles for most meals or eating some tortilla chips with cheese as dinner (ask anyone who knows, I'm into snacks as meals). I was pretty much existing on microwaved Boca burgers and cheese.

But when I met Ejay and we started dating, I really started to think about what I was putting into my person. Ejay's passion for food is infectious (he's just that person), and I started to realize that what I was buying and fueling myself with was not only affecting my health but that I was making a lot of the choices with my dollar that I was trying to avoid by being a vegetarian. Not contributing to a food system that was mistreating animals and the people who were raising them was important to me and I had discovered that, for me, growing that food (meat included) wasn't just an economical choice, it was an ethical one.

I'm really excited to be growing good, sustainable meat and veggies for people who are on their own food journey but also for people who just want to eat food that tastes amazing.

Whether you're a member of our CSA or you're supporting small farms by shopping at a farmers market, you're making a choice to help sustain an alternative to the factory farms and big agriculture. Folks who do that are equally as inspiring to me as the folks I know who are still so passionate about vegetarianism/veganism. Thinking about what goes in your body and on your grill is admirable and delicious!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shiny new toys

We don't often get brand new things around here. We get "new to us" things, which is excellent since we love recycling and re-purposing. But when we are able and willing to spend money on something new, it's pretty awesome.

Our computer died yesterday morning. We had gotten a laptop from our great friends Carrie and Sascha and it was working famously until yesterday. Realizing that we can't really do much in the way of running our business without one, we started researching on the interwebs for something that was affordable and had good reviews. Ejay is much more of a technophile than I am, but we both agreed that something small and portable was the way to go.  We made the decision to go to Best Buy to get something that would do the trick.

We made that decision by around 6:45am.

I headed out around 8:30, thinking I'd make it to the store by 9:15 maybe 9:30 and be good to go.....

As it turns out, malls don't open til 10am. It turns out, when you basically live in the 1890's (minus the laptop and iphone....?), people don't get up at dawn.

So I waited.

We got a Chrome Book, for those who are curious. We do most of our business stuff on Google Drive, so it made sense to us. Also it's silver and small and pretty, which are obviously important to me. :)

While I ran this errand (and snagged an ice cream cone on the way home) Ejay and James were home building chicken accommodations.  Another surprise waiting for me at home - our new vacuum! It was a day filled with useful tools and good news for sure.

Later in the afternoon, we tested our irrigation - I have never seen anything more glorious than a sprinkler watering my greens and peas without me being there with a bucket and a prayer. With a few adjustments and some more pipe we will really be in business.

Today - We plant and plant and plant and plant. And then plant some more!

p.s. - If you want in on these delicious veggies we're planting and meat that we're raising, we still have a few shares left. We have a variety of options to fit everyone's needs - a meat only share, a bi-weekly pick up on farm, our weekly year round share. Shoot us an email if you have any questions!

Monday, May 13, 2013

James the Intern

So! We have a new farm resident... and it's an intern!

James comes to us from Wells College to spend a month learning the ropes on our hectic little farmstead. He doesn't have a lot of farm experience, but brings a good amount of enthusiasm and willingness to learn. And we're glad to have him. So we thought we would do a little interview to introduce him!

Where are you from?

I am from Hollis New Hampshire. It's a smaller town. I really liked it, it's pretty forested and lots of tall white pines. It used to be more farming but now it's more suburban; unfortunately more forests are being taken  down for housing developments, but there are still nice hiking trails.

What are you majoring in college?  I'm majoring in Women and Gender Studies at Wells.

What are your hobbies/pass times?  I love singing, dancing, being in nature, yoga, and food.

What are your first impressions of the farm?  I instantly fell in love with the area.  The mountains surrounding the farm are particularly beautiful.

What are you looking forward to during your internship?  I'm looking forward to working outside; getting up early and working through the day as it develops.  I'm also excited to explore some of the conservation land during some of my down time.

What would you like to learn while you are here?

I'm looking forward to learning how to plant yummy vegetables and to learn more about taking care of animals and meat production.

Anything else you'd like to say?  I'd really like to thank Ejay and Kim and all the animals on the farm, for giving me a great opportunity and making me feel welcome.  It's only the first official day of the internship and I can already tell I'm going to have a blast.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It rained! And we planted! And it was good!

That's pretty much today in a nutshell. It rained which was amazing. Yesterday it was threatening to break, with the weather app on my phone teasing me with its 90% chance of rain.....with a dry sky. But this morning  it finally opened up! We were out in the field planting some lettuces, arugula, spinach, cauliflower and cabbage. We had also finished the onion patch and gotten in some more radishes when it started to sprinkle. We headed to the greenhouse to finish up the "first leg" of the day when it really truly started to rain. It was excellent.

We worked in the greenhouse for the rest of the morning and then broke for lunch. And it just kept coming! it rained until almost 4 this afternoon and it still looks like it might some more. GLORIOUS.

We've got a lot more planting to do, but it feels pretty good to be on track with our schedule. With the dry weather it was hard to get anything in the ground, especially when it was practically dust in the vegetable field.

The day before we got in 2/3rds of the onions with some help from my Aunt Pam. We've mentioned Aunt Pam and Uncle Bob before here, they are super amazing and thoughtful so it was no surprise that Pam brought over a huge pot of chili and cornbread for us on top of coming to help us out for the day. It was delicious and very much appreciated!

Keep thinking thoughts of rain for the long term forecast so we can keep plugging away with our spring veggies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Watching the Sky

Well, the field is plowed. We are grateful. It didn't happen the way that we planned, or intended, but it's done now. Soon we will write more about our next steps, and our plans for future field work. But the field is prepared for plants in that the sod is broken, exposing rocky but ready soil beneath.

But it's dry. So dry. We've been updating our irrigation system from last year. And we spend a lot of time looking at the sky for a sign of clouds to bring water other than through our outside intervention. Today there was a brief reprieve, a solid shower, but we could use a good inch or two. It feels all too familiar from last year, and I think we have a little drought PTSD. But we are trying to learn our lessons well, and plan for the worst before we really have stunted or burned crops.

The sky can tell you a lot of things, if you care to look at it. We're pretty good at telling what time it is, what predators are near by, if we need to watch for storms. I think about the view that other folks have in their skies. Building lines, mountains, deserts... I wonder how many people stop to look and see what they can glean. I'm not sure that it's all about always looking forward, or reviewing behind. There is something to be said to look above and search for rain, even if you know it's not likely to come.

I'm not a religious man, though I was raised to grow up as one. I don't think that my sky searching is some kind of metaphor, or internal struggle. I think it's just about pulling my head from the dirt for a moment.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Right Now

Right Now the farm is:

chasing piglets
chasing goat kids
fixing fences
5 am alarms
8:30pm dinners
watering the greenhouse
planting onions
refreshing the weather feed page
starting seedling
feeding baby chicks
feeding mid-size chicks
feeding-near-butcher-size chickens
recruiting members
refreshing the weather, again
fixing the fences, again
fretting the budget
running out for supplies
forgetting to eat lunch
sunburned skin
more bug spray
difficult ponies, and revisiting options
refreshing the weather, again
planning irrigation
pumping water from the spring
filling livestock watering buckets
filling livestock watering buckets again
fretting the budget, again
recruiting members
being grateful
being sleep deprived
being determined
running out for more supplies
reading about bees
forgetting to eat lunch, again
folding 3 weeks worth of laundry
setting up guest rooms for the intern
hoeing dry ground for onions
planting potatoes
placing turkey orders
falling into bed
loving every minute
hating every minute
back to loving every minute

it's a little busy.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Catch up!

We're a little behind schedule, though we've set an ambitious schedule so it's not something unexpected. But part of the schedule has been held back due to some pony antics. The team has some kinks, some kinks we didn't plan on. We expected that building a relationship would take time, and we figured that in 3 hours, we would have days we would only get 30 or 45 minutes of good work. But, as it turns out, it's a bit more complicated then that. We haven't been successful in our plowing efforts. We've had day after day of very little success on much of anything. It's a disappointment, and we are looking at what our next steps need to be.

We love the girls, and we love working horses, and this set back won't phase us from continuing to run our farm on horse power. But, we've got to get the field plowed and plants in the ground. We can't have another summer like the last one, where we couldn't catch up with the season. So we're working out an alternate strategy and will get all of our crops in on time, come hell or stubborn pony.

The weather is persistently dry, so we're working on continuing to update our irrigation system, and adding to it to make for less time spent keeping the plants hydrated. We won't be submitting to what looks like it could be another very hot and dry season.

Farming is like this. It's equal parts success, and equal part near or complete heartbreak. It can make you feel alive and like you're going to throw up all at the same time. I think maybe farmers have a little bit of an adrenaline junky side to them. Otherwise, I'm not sure you could survive the thrill ride.

Still, I feel so lucky to spend my days next to my wife. It's a privilege to work together, and to grow our little life and dream.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rock Farmers

Anyone need a pet rock?

This for the record is 45 minutes of picking rocks from our field. There are two other piles from that same 45 minute period, one at the top of the field and one at the bottom. We've got some bones in this ground, that's for sure!

We did manage, however, to get in some of our lettuces, radishes, turnips, potatoes and peas. All in all, not a bad two days. Made better by listening to several episodes of my new favorite podcast, Stuff You Missed in History Class. The Iphone has made my manual labor experience pretty excellent. I like to be engaged both physically and mentally. 

And now, a photo of Bea Arthur, our resident laze about cat :)