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.