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. 

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