Friday, March 29, 2013

Perspective

(third person, true story)

The man stood in the kitchen, listening to the 'pop pop pop' of canned red onion marmalade cooling on the counter directly in front of him. Behind him, the canning pot roared full of mint jelly for someone's lamb feast. He leaned on the counter, as a light spring breeze fluttered through clothes needing mending on the line outside. The trees were still without buds, but a fat hen grappled with a worm while another dug her own personal dust bath hole.

Past the bare tree and the hens was the man's wife, kneeling and holding a bottle of milk to a goat kid. A smile played on her lips and a second goat bit at her jacket. The man sighed and laughed as the goat kid reached up with her hooves on her back and attempted to eat her hair like hay. He pulled on his boots and headed down to the barn to help her with the dozens who needed rations and attention.

Never in his life did he think he would have this dream. The two of them, starting a season together, working only on their farm. Later in the kitchen, the man leaned over a bowl of warm water, washing dozens of eggs. Two dogs sat by the wood stove which crackled with a new fire. The woman leaned over to him with a spoon full of cookie dough. They chatted while they went about their various tasks. The waves of appreciation for their life washed over him.

The man's mind drifted back a few years ago, when his life was nothing like today. Chaos, arguing, tough in all the wrong ways job, heartache ... he thought this was just how adulthood was supposed to be. Now he was in the room with someone who he loved so dearly, and who was every way his match. Sentimental, sure, but also honest.

They struggled, they bickered (not often, but sometimes), and they worked many hours a day. But they did it together, towards the same goal. As a child, he had always imagined a quiet life where a movie night after a long day of work was enough, and welcomed. It took a great number of years, effort and trials to get to the place they were today. And it's true, they could fail. But it's also true that it would all be worth it.

As the man set the eggs into cartons and then into the fridge, he felt whole.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mending Fences

We've been doing a lot of the tangible on the farm, securing up fences to keep livestock in, predators out. But fences are just those borders we put up on the farm, there are also the boundaries we use for our relationships with others on a daily basis.

I'm a big fan of boundaries. I think if more people knew what their limits were and expressed them in appropriate ways we all would get along much better. I think that much of what I've learned about the importance boundaries comes from my relationships with animals and plants. Their needs are so basic and undeniable that it has forced me to examine what is basic for me, too. This one of the many gifts of farming. When you push your body to be tired, it helps your mind sort out what it needs and rest easier.

Here's an example:
Baby chicks make a lot of noise and frantic movements when they need something. They look like a tangled mess of school children who have seen Big Foot, Live and He is After them. But if you keep their food and water filled high, their noise is much different. It turns into a cheerful peeping. They do not appreciate extremes. They like consistency, to be dry, and not to be startled. I can appreciate this. I am more flexible with inconsistency but need to be fed and watered at regular intervals. Anyone who knows and loves me is very aware of this. I've been known to give a public service about it, carry snacks, and request breaks to take care of my all consuming need to eat something.

But farming has taught me a lot about emotional needs, too. I have learned much about my patience levels from our goat kids (pretty high, but has limits) and about my independence from working alone. I've spent the last year working pretty much solo, for many hours of the day. As it turns out, I really like my own company and can spend extraordinary amounts of time without interacting with another person. But, that has draw backs. Socializing takes a lot of effort for me, and the more I allow myself to withdraw- the harder it is to regain comfort in the presence of others. I do like other people, and I like to spend time with friends, but when I spend so much time alone, it becomes harder for me to remember that. So it's better for me to work alone in smaller doses, and ask for help often, and spend time off farm.

A lot of people think that farming is all about the physical acts required. And that is true, a good portion of the work is direct, and clear cut. Water buckets must be filled. Seeds must be sown. Fences must be repaired. And those are all specific skill sets. But farming is also about looking at your own fences- the ones that keep you safe and then the ones that hold you back. It's so demanding, so involved, that you can't help but learn from your experiences, grow as person.

I never would have thought that the some of the best therapy I could receive after a youth of struggle and a predisposition to anxiety would come from a sheep, or a cucumber plant. But it is. And I wonder, if more people reconnected to the acts of agriculture, if they would find that too.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2 farmer work load

The last week on the farm without Kim full time is proving to be a long one. In spring, something magic happens in the air that causes life to kick into high gear. I don't just mean the light and warmth that causes green growth and more eggs. It's like- every animal, great and small gets a whiff of spring and turns loony.

Without fail, I will spend the next weeks chasing down sheep who find every weakness in the fences, busted from winter weather. The chickens too, on the look for better grubs, with leap over electric netting and hide eggs across the farm. The goats are getting bigger and bolder, as noted by the picture of them head first in the bag of grain. It's time to start letting them roam the outside, so I'm starting barn modifications today to get them an outdoor pen. Plus, I'd like a double door into their pen, so we're not assaulted by adorable but nutty hooves every time you enter. The horses were gifted with more pasture yesterday, I ran fencing and they're currently kicking their heals in a larger, less muddy space. But they need a job to keep their energy level to an appropriate level. Spring makes the animals want SPACE and GRASS. So as a farmer, I've got to meet their needs and keep them safe. It's a tall order and it means a 5 gallon bucket full of tools within arm's reach for a few weeks until I've found every weak spot and expanded their reach. 

Plus the greenhouse needs more shelves for more seedlings. And there is still marketing to do. And pigs to prepare for..supplies to order...it's a two person job. And in two days, we'll be there.

Folks keep congratulating us on getting our business to a point where we both can be on farm. It's encouraging and so nice to hear. But the truth is- we're taking a HUGE risk. The finances of the farm are good in theory, but we just don't know what six months down the road will look like. But we can't grow with one farmer stretched too thin, and another spending too many hours away, making not enough cash to warrant her skills being applied elsewhere. Plus, we just won't know if we can succeed and grow if we don't try. We can't grow if we don't change and adapt. So we're scared, but optimistic and willing to make it work. We're willing to live with permanently tightened belts, and work 16 hours a day. It's worth it, and it's ours for the taking. We'll take it. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

R is for Rabbit

We are not writing this post to spur a debate on the merits of vegetarianism vs an omnivorous diet. We have personally grappled with food politics for many years, both spending more than 18 years combined as veg and only integrating meat once we had raised it from start to finish, actively participating in the harvest of a live animal to food. Those are worthy discussions to have and we fully support active dialog around ALL aspects of food.

But for today, we want talk about why we raise rabbit, and how we do it. When our dear friends and fellow food journeying folks at All Good Bakers approached us about integrating meat into their menu, we were delighted to be asked to provide our rabbit. And we are equally as willing to talk about rabbit's role on our farm.

As those of you who read our blog may know, our farm is constantly striving to be as environmentally conscious as possible. We purchase non-gmo feed and seeds, do not use pesticides, hormones or toxic products. We will be using draft horses for many of the operations typically done by tractors these days. We deliver our CSA in a Prius. We are always thinking about ways we can up-cycle old materials, reduce waste and just generally be mindful of the land we are tending.

Rabbits are vastly more environmentally friendly then chickens are. For us to raise chickens, we have to take some extraordinary measures. We ship in heritage breed chicks, truck in thousands of lbs of non-gmo small-mill feed, run heat lamps to keep baby chicks warm 24/7 and buy bulk bags of wood shavings, and we do this to grow more planet friendly chickens then some other operations. With rabbits, it's a much easier reach to keep our resources to a minimum and our carbon foot print low. Our rabbits are bred, born and primarily raised by their mothers. They eat and bed hay grown by Kim's dad, along with some non-gmo grain and rarely require any heat lamp unless it's the dead of winter. This year, we will be integrating our meat rabbits into our pasture system, putting them out in moveable pens much like our chickens. Rabbit manure does not need to age before placing it on tender plants and it's a remarkable fertilizer.

Rabbits are also delicious. Seriously- they are amazingly tender, versatile in almost any recipe you already use chicken for and have a distinctly clean flavor. I often describe the flavor to people as a hybrid of the taste of turkey mixed with duck, only very much leaner. We've converted many people we love to the cult of rabbit for dinner. In France and Italy, rabbit is much more of a staple. And I think most would agree that the French and Italians know a thing or two when it comes to food. We also have several customers who have dietary restrictions, and find rabbit much easier to digest then other meats.

Chickens, have feathers. Rabbits, do not. Now, this seems simple. But to a farmer harvesting meat- feathers are a major obstacle. In order to properly remove chicken feathers you need a lot of hot water and many quick hands or a large piece of equipment called a plucker. The feathers go into the compost and take an extraordinary long time to decompose. Rabbits have soft fur, which we tan and then use again in mittens and boot liners to keep out the cold.

For a small farmer without a ton of acreage and no ability to hire staff, rabbits are a great meat to raise. We couldn't have a herd of cattle or more than a few sheep. Caring for a flock of chickens takes an enormous amount of time, and we absolutely relish the work. But simple rabbits can be bred and cared for by one person, of many ages and many abilities. They are quiet, easy to handle and very pleasant to be around. Plus, they breed like...well...rabbits.

When we started our farm, we sought to create a whole farm health, and rabbits have become a crucial part of that. They care for the soil, keep us warm and nourish us. And we provide for them. We respect them as creatures and members of our environment. As with all of our animals, we give them many wonderful days. They serve a purpose here and the intensity of our relationship with our livestock, then food is not easily dismissed.  I can honestly say that I am grateful for each bite, having known the source. We are reverent of our meat, here and of all of produce. That kind of intimacy with your own survival can not be bought in a package.

So we grow rabbits. Our farm wouldn't be complete without them, and we think that if we are going to help reduce our dependency on less environmentally friendly crops (like soy, corn and chickens etc) that they are a great and delicious option. We can not afford to make any decision lightly on our farm, as new farm with limited resources. Each item that we grow, animal or otherwise has to help us keep the balance of a tight budget. And we know that rabbit is a sure bet, and once you taste it- you're likely to agree.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

a short post

We are a little tired, a little stressed and mostly wonderful.

It's definitely spring, we're racing around keeping animals happy and starting the work of a new growing season despite the continuing snow. The greenhouse is a tangled mess of pots, we're stacking the seed trays higher each day.

Kim's last day of her off farm job is Thursday, and we have some important budget deadlines looming as well. So if you still need info on any of our CSA programs or products, please let us know! We are going all out to finish up sign ups in the next couple weeks, and we don't have too many shares left.


Our house is a mess and must be cleaned.

much longer post tomorrow, but for right now- driving forward and maybe some ponies.

Order Pork!




R’Eisen Shine Farm
2016 Pork Order Form



We believe that our livestock program grows some of the best tasting meat out there. Our pigs live in the fresh air and sunshine. We even plant ‘pig gardens’, vegetable patches specifically for our pigs. We provide locally produced high quality feed. We put the respect and care of all our livestock first, and we know you can taste the difference.You can email or call us with any questions regarding our practices at any point. 


Reisenshinefarm@gmail.com


We sell our pigs in ½ pig increments. So you have to commit to an entire ½ pig to order from us. This is actually to your benefit, you get a good amount of pork at your disposal without several trips to the grocery store. You can ensure dinners on the fly, and get a chance to eat high quality pork all year. Plus, you get all the great cuts at a really competitive price and support a small farm who is growing a pig specifically for you!



But what does that ½ pig mean?


  • A 250lb pastured pig goes to the butcher.
  • After slaughter and cleaning, the full animal yields a hanging weight of about 180 lbs - YOUR price for a half pig is then based on half of that “hanging weight”. This includes full animal after cleaning. We are unique in that our hanging weight does not include the skin, head, or feet on, which is how most farms price their “per pound” for meat.
  • If you were only going to consume commercial cuts from the pig you can assume that there will be about 120 lbs available (that’s about 60# for 1/2 a pig).  Those standard commercial cuts are things you see in the typical grocery store like pork chops, sirloin, tenderloin, ham, shoulder, belly, bacon, ground, etc.
  • The difference in hanging weight and commercial cuts is where you can be more sustainable and adventurous.  If you cook like the farmer you can get a yield more like 90% of the hanging weight by also using the oddments (liver, heart, jowels, etc) - or make your dogs very happy!  The more of the pig you use - the less the cost is per pound of meat…  and since you are paying on the hanging weight you should make the most of it!

What’s included in a 1/2 a pig?

This is a rough estimate… each pig is a little different but this is a “typical” 1/2 pig:
Pounds - Item
——————-
13# - Pork chops 1″ – total of 23 pork chops, 7 packs of 2 + 3 packs of 3
3# - Spare Ribs – Ask for my recipe if you need one
9# - Hamburger/Sausage ground meat in 1 lb packages
15# - Fresh Ham – easily brined or sent for smoking
6# - Fresh Bacon Slab – brine & slice or send for smoking
10# - Shoulder Roast
4# - Butt Pork Roast
2# - Fat – you can render this to use in the kitchen

What does this look like? Here are two photos from a 1/2 pig for our home. The first is the typical commercial cuts, the second is our delicious 'adventurous bits'. It was really hard to get it all in one picture, but for reference, it would all fit fairly well in a decent size cooler. Remember, this will look different based on what types of cuts you choose. And we will help you fill our your cut sheet based on your own needs. 



___________




This is too much meat for me, what do I do?
If you want less meat, find a friend or family member to split 1/2 a pig with.  That means a 1/4 of a pig is about half this- and may not contain a ham, but a roast. Where there are large single cuts - you can only have 1 to split on a side which is 2, 1/4 pigs. i.e. the Ham is the rear leg - there’s only 1 rear leg on 1/2 a pig.  But, since you are getting to work with the farmer on the cut sheet - you and your friend can find a way to split that 1/2 pig however you want!

How long will 1/2 a pig last?

Generally - two adults that eat pork with any frequency will easily consume 1/2 a pig over the course of a year

How much freezer space do I need for 1/2 a pig?

1/2 pig - will “typically” fit inside a 14”x22”x11” (inside dimensions) cooler (with some ice) - and the ham and bacon will be left out of the cooler (so they require more space). If there was no ice in the cooler - you might be able to mush it all in there… maybe… In your home, a small chest freezer is MORE than large enough to accommodate 1/2 a pig.  All cuts together are about two to four cubic-feet depending on packing in the boxes.

What’s the cost of 1/2 a pig?

The price for a half pig is $5/lb based on final hanging weight at the butcher after slaughter. A typical 1/2 pig hangs at 80-90 lbs so the pig cost is typically $400 - $450 or for the meat.
There is also a fixed cost added on to the weight of the meat. These are set by the butcher, not us. There is a USDA humane slaughter fee of $40 and the butchering (cutting & freezer safe vacuum packaging) is $70-$90. There is also a charge to smoke the hams, bacon and hocks.  Should you choose smoked products, there is approximately an additional $30 fee for that, depending on the final weight of the items to be smoked.



Final round up of what your cost estimate is: 5.00 X 90lbs =$450
450 + processing fees of $130 = 580
If you want smoked products (ham, bacon etc) add $30 for a final price estimate of $610
That means you are getting ALL of the great cuts for only $6.77/lb. With bacon running at nearly $14/lb retail for the same quality, it's a steal!



Again, final pricing will vary based on the actual hanging weight of the pig and your cut options.



Delivery: We give an ‘estimated’ delivery date, since we wait until all of pigs are the correct size before we butcher, and the weather and other factors affect growth rates. You will be notified 2 weeks in advance with a final delivery date.We are unable to deliver ½ pigs to Albany. We will handle the transport of your pork back to our farm. In order to preserve quality and freshness, you must arrange to pick up your pork on farm on the specified day. We will be able to deliver smoked products to Albany.



Estimated delivery date for this order: Late December 2016



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First day of spring!

Today, by the calendar is the first day of spring. It's been spring here on the farm for a few weeks though, really. There are already several trays of seedlings started in the greenhouse, and the first batch of meat chicks is growing steadily in the barn. We've been recruiting for our CSA for months now, and it's getting down to the wire! We are planning trips to go get the rest of our horse equipment (and scheduling the deliveries of the stuff we bought with the team). We're going to pick up more rabbits in a few days, and we've got 6,000 lbs of feed on order for delivery in two weeks.

The weather outside is still snowy, slushy and icy from yesterday's storm, and it doesn't look like spring. But every aspect of our farm is screaming spring- because it's not all about the green grass and sun shining. It's about preparing for growth. It's about setting up all the infrastructure, interviewing interns, ordering supplies, and sowing seeds. It's practicing with your horse driving team.

It's making tough decisions. We bought a new car, a subaru- for farm errands and some smaller deliveries. But we decided this morning that we also need to fix the truck. We were planning to sell it, but with the subaru on hold hours away (hold up at the DMV and our mechanic friend is working on getting the title straightened out), we absolutely have to get a vehicle ready to roll. We have piglets to pick up, chicken tractor supplies to buy... so we have to tighten the belts again (which I think at this point involves making new holes on the belts) and get it done. We're also taking a big leap in Kim leaving her off-farm job- because we know that the only way to grow the business to commit to more customers, which means we need more staff.

Some people are afraid of the weather in colder seasons, or find Halloween spooky. But it's spring that keeps me up at night. It's not fear though, it's like little kid Christmas eve jitters- it's the pressure of planning for a season. Ok, maybe it's a little fear. But I've always performed best under pressure, so bring it on Spring.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Refer a friend promotion!

Hey folks, especially folks living within a distance that would allow for on-farm pick up...We still have room in our CSA!

And we're offering a promotion- if you are a current or new 2013 CSA member and you get a friend to sign up for any of our CSA shares, you get another whole chicken included in your first month! That's close to a $25 value, and worth more in taste.

We really want to hit our goal and sell out of shares before mid-April, so we can ensure a good strong start to the season. We also are sure your friends will love you more after they realize how great their share is. Win, win!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Horsin' Around

Last week we had draft horse driving class down in New Paltz. It was the first hands-on class of the series, and definitely worth the hour and a half drive.

This class had several opportunities to drive team and single. There were an array of mules and a team of spotted drafts. Spotted drafts are full size, and made our haflinger team look like miniatures. After going over harnessing, this time on real-live animals, the class took turns driving the various configurations.

The mules were the class clowns, squacking and stubborn with ears big enough for animals twice their size. I liked watching them, but behind the reins I found them to be difficult. The tension on their reins is different then horses, and I felt less in control and more like I was coaxing them to move it.

But the huge team of drafts felt like a dream. It was so good to see the big beasts get a little bratty with their halters- it helped us put our team's behavior in perspective and how to handle it. But once they were settled in their equipment the team was all business. I like the eagerness of a working horse. I also like watching my 5 ft 1 inch wife grab the reins of enormous animals like she was born to do it and drive them like it was something in her blood. She's always got a natural talent, I don't know if it's because she's an athlete or what- but she just gets things in a way that most people, including myself are envious of. It's incredible. I don't have that same natural skill, but I do understand animals and like to succeed, both of which help me learn.

Driving class gave us the confidence to set a date to hitch up our team. Confidence is an amazing thing, a couple hours from the class and we felt secure enough to know that our horses could be safely harnessed and ground driven on our own farm.

So yesterday, we bit the bullet. Our fantastic neighbors were over for a visit, Cathy is very knowledgeable, having trained/owned horses for many years. She may not know a spider from a trace- but she knows horses better then we do. Wayne is just a solid person- steady and pleasant- the right kind of help when you're attempting to do something new with 900lb beasts.The tangled mess of equipment was one of our biggest hurdles, and not having a proper hitching post set up. I threw in a couple of posts quick, but of course in 10 minutes flat Nataya had it hanging out of the ground from her halter- uprooting it reaching for some fresh grass. It took a ridiculous amount of time and trail and error before we had everything on the team correctly, fiddling with the lines for most of the time. Hopefully now that it's sorted, it will take at least half the time, if not less.

So there we were, with our patient neighbors watching and lines in our hands. We unclipped the leads and gave the command to move forward. And... the team tried to split in 7 directions, back up, and walk in opposite circles. Not exactly what we had in mind. Once we had them back in a stand position, we ended up having to lash them together in the front and back (not uncommon with green teamsters and underworked horses). Still more circles, and Sunny was furiously trying to pull away from Nataya. We were about to give up, but wanted to end on a good note, where we were in control.

I took the lines again, and a deep breath. I sent them moving forward, and finally the team started moving. Soon we were walking across the pasture, around the back of the barn, and across the fencing where the sheep followed along- just as stunned as I was. I was driving our own team of horses, in a semi-reasonable fashion. Kim and I took turns with the lines- with moments of pony tantrum involving many circles, backing up and test of will power. But we did it- we drove the team and ended on a calm stand.

I feel a little like an addict. We're expecting snow today, and I have a million things to do. But what I want to do is drive in better hitching posts and work the horses. I want the lines in my hands, the smell of horseflesh and mud surrounding me. But Kim's at work, and right now it's easier with two people. Oh, and they're calling for ice and there is no firewood stacked. So I just have to wait. The team and I will be spending countless hours together over the coming months, sating the craving for more time. Luckily, in this case- the thing I most want to do is also a very important part of our jobs. And that's an amazing reality that I'm grateful for everyday, that the things I most love to do are what keep this place afloat.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Full Time

So, it's official- we've hired another full-time farmer here at R'Eisen Shine!


And her name is.... KIM! That's right! We are so excited to announce that Kim will be joining me full time on the farm starting in April. We're expanding quite a bit next year, adding pigs, working the horses- taking on more shares- and I was stretched pretty thin last year. Plus, our intention was always to work together on the farm. It will be tight, budget wise- but we are very excited to both be working here and growing food together.

We have been working tirelessly to get everything lined up for this big transition- and much of it has been the gritty business stuff that makes for a boring post about taxes, insurance etc. So instead, we've been making a list of personal things we feel are really needed for a summer on a farm, and thought we'd share in case any of you are starting a season or need reminders.

1) Headphones that fit your ears and don't fall out. Music, podcasts, audiobooks- all of these things can help keep your mind busy when you are looking at 10-12 hours of weeding. Even the most dedicated farmer needs something else going on to help keep those hands moving.

2) Sunglasses, and if your a dork like me- that means they need to have a strap to keep them in place while you are bending, lifting, moving etc. I get slick with sweat (gross I know) and need a strap to keep my sunglasses in place.

3) Light colored tee-shirts/clothing. It really, really helps to wear light colors on the farm.

4) Pocket multitool. Mine broke last year, so it's time for a new one- I use it at least 10 times per day- popping bail strings, clipping plants, opening feed bags- tightening screws on equipment- it's a must have.

5) Sunscreen. lots of it. also, bug spray. We make our bug spray own using essential oils (if you want a recipe, email me).

6) Thermos that keep the heat out of your hydration of choice.

7) Light colored hats

8) New boots. Mine are leaking (sigh) and a good pair of boots in spring farm mud is a necessity. If you work with livestock, I recommend Muck books brand- they stand up for a good long time and are pretty comfy.

9) Nyoprene dipped gloves- these are by far, the best gloves in my opinion for farming. Cheap, light enough to wear all year and pretty water resistant. They're not so bulky you can't do some delicate work, but hold up well when your hauling wood or handling tools all day.

There's more, but that's the short list of things to keep you healthy and comfortable while headed into a long season.





Thursday, March 14, 2013

Seeds

We've been starting seedlings for a couple weeks, but the list for this week was the first really long one, the kind that takes me most of a day. I load podcasts, news, stories, music- and pop my ear phones in. The greenhouse is attached to the farm, so light boots and holey work jeans are entirely appropriate. No trudging outside in the wicked March wind required.

Hands buried in a bag of deep potting soil, I feel my body respond to the upcoming spring. My shoulders are a bit tender from a day of heavy lifting yesterday. Soon I will be more machine than man, putting in 14-16 hours a day and ignoring the aches completely until I drop into bed exhausted and sun burnt. I crave that work, those long hours and dreamless sleep. It makes me feel worthy of an able body, and like I could not be living more then I do.

I pour the rich soil into tiny seed trays, leveling off each one with a quick swipe and then dotting a small spot in the middle. With heavy hands I attempt to separate out tiny specs and lay them individually in the finger prints I've left in the soil. Each one of those seeds seems an entire universe- I can practically feel it's heart beat beneath the firm outside. It will awaken in a few days, stretching dormant roots from within and lapping up water and nutrients until it emerges- stretching for the sky. It will become tall and strong. Seeds are amazing things, from a tiny spot, easily overlooked to a living energy source- fueling us and animals and bees. They are the definition of potential- holding secrets and promise. In the cold of January we sit warm, and wrapped, pouring over catalogs and lists of these categorized miracles. But it is when that box arrives that I begin to feel the spring excitement. That box, no bigger than a small laundry basket will produce literally tons of food.

Rhythmically, I check the box next to the list of seedlings to be started and dust off my hands to move to the next tray. I feel massively complete, even with the hours ahead of repetitive movement. It starts here, the season- just like with each birth of rabbits or chicks- and I am so honored to shepherd the life of food from start to finish. These seeds will pay our bills, and all they ask is for us to be mindful, attentive, and acknowledge their needs. The stories play in my ear but it is the story I tell myself of the season ahead that truly has my attention.

Seeds, to seedlings, to leaves, to fruit, to seeds again. It is so primal and intoxicating to know the cycle and surrender to the process. No matter what happens months down the line, there will be more seeds next year. Life continues, with or without us. The magic of seeds.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dinner

Beer and BBQ braised rabbit, so welcome after a busy day. Is there anything more soothing than a full stomach of your own grown cuisine? If so, I haven't found it.

Fiona hopping post bottle

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A proper introduction to Fiona and a visit to Edgwick Farm

Sunday we had draft driving class, but that's another post. It was fantastic and confidence building and I think we're both getting excited for the season.

We also went to go pick up Fiona, our new boer/alpine doeling! After class, we drove the 30 minutes to Edgwick Farm. I hadn't heard of Edgwick before we started looking for a new goat companion, but I sure was glad to find them! You should definitely check out their facebook page. Behind a pretty house up a steep drive (with some adorable alarm bell dogs) was a gorgeous micro-dairy with a crew of well tended goats. We were greeted by Talitha and led up to meet the herd. Talitha, her husband and an intern (maybe more than one?) run a micro dairy with a raw-milk license and are making cheese! If you're ever in their neck of the woods, be sure to schedule a tour- it's really a perfect example of what you can do on a small scale really, really well. They received a USDA grant to help with the cost of setting up their milking parlor/production facility, and it's envious even to someone who doesn't want to do dairy full time. Moreover, they care for their the animals the way that we love to see (and strive for ourselves)- with respect, attention and common sense.

We were led into a smaller pen where a gaggle of kids raced between our legs, and the farm's mascot/helper/soon to be cart-goat Eli stood atop a tower of hay with a mischievous grin and lop sided ears. Talitha looked around and then reached underneath a small bench to pull out a nearly completely white goat kid with floppy ears and a light pink nose. Immediately she was placed in my arms and totally content, she settled in with the sweetness reserved for week old goat kids. We chatted for a bit, and then headed home with the new doeling in my lap. Surprisingly, she was relaxed and well behaved for the entire near 2 hours. On our ride we set to finding her a name. The mother of the doeling's name was Rachel, and with St. Patrick's day around the corner (and Noelle having a holiday themed name) we finally came to Fiona. Once we pulled into our very muddy farm, we trudged down to the barn for introductions.

Noelle, though very people focused, is delighted with her new companion. Fiona has a different energy then Noelle, Noelle is all fire and curiosity. Fiona is curious, playful but gentle, just a sweet girl. I had to wrestle with her a bit yesterday to take a bottle, but after a little fussing throughout the day yesterday she downed an entire bottle this morning no problem. She and Noelle can be found laying side by side, chewing hay under a heat lamp. They bounce and play, like goat kids do, and are getting along famously. Noelle seems much calmer now out of her solitude, and we are so grateful to have found a good match and visited such a nice farm! It's always good for us to see the success of others, and tour other operations. Farming can be insular so opportunities before the seed flies in spring are very welcome. I've yet to take a decent picture of her, between the grey skies and the constant wiggling- it's a two person job and Kim gets home after dark. I'll try again when the rain lets up!



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Losing time

Yesterday was a blur, between the CSA delivery and Kim working with farm volunteers on a spring clean out it was 7 t night before we even slowed. It's definitely getting to be that time of year where we have to set alarms as reminders to eat we are so busy.

Today is no exception, we set the clocks ahead and are en route to our monthly draft horse teamster class, a bit sleepier then usual. We are leaving class a little early, to go pick up another baby goat!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pictures of the surprise snow









Unexpected Snow Day

All day yesterday, snow in big wet flakes fell from the clouds and it was wet enough for the truck delivering the dumpster for spring clean out got stuck in the driveway by the barn. It sunk down deep enough where I had to use a bale of hay to prop the wheels in thick spring mud. I worked outside for a bit, but spent most of the day sorting receipts and organizing for our farm tax meeting today.

Later last night, we checked the weather and there was a prediction of 6-8 inches- no big deal. Some inconvenience in the morning, extra time for chores. Today was intended to be a big one. At 9 we had a meeting with fellow farmers to plan for a collaborative meat share to be delivered further south of us. Then back to the farm for chores and gathering up the last of our supplies for taxes. Kim had an appointment she needed to be at 1, then at 3:30, our tax appointment. Busy, and productive.

This morning, I opened the door to 12 inches of snow with continuous falling flakes mounting the heights. So we cancelled the breakfast meeting, made some calls about purchasing piglets (10 secured for early april) and butchering (late august/early september) and are now looking out at the falling snow from inside.The plow truck hasn't cleared our road yet- and our driveway is buried. This is by far the most snow we've seen this season, and I'm grateful that I stacked wood earlier this week. We control nothing really- we are always at the whims of nature.

We planned for a busy business day, now we need to reorganize our plans and see what is still feasible. I'm at least hoping for the tax preparation. It was a beast to get everything organized yesterday, I certainly learned what we need to do better next year to make the process easier. Today, winter is the uninvited house guest, eating all the good snacks and finishing the cereal milk. You still love her, but she's really overstaying her welcome.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Goat babies

So, I've avoided writing about this for over a week, because I'm never quite sure how to share this part of the farm. One morning last week, early, I trudged out into the barn for the usual morning chores. I could hear the cries of goats looking for some nice fresh hay and a scratch. Or, so I thought.

What I actually heard, was the cry one one goat baby, Noelle- I found Lucia long passed on her side, completely cold. This was... beyond shocking. I stood in the door of their pen for a minute, not comprehending the sight before me. I quickly rushed back up to the house to warm Kim before she came down to the barn, wanting the shock to hit her before she saw Lucia. The night before, both girls had been merrily following me along in the barn- munching hay and puppy playful. They both were drinking water and had bright eyes. A week or so prior, they had both gotten a look  from our neighbor who works at the dairy where they came from, who thought they looked great. So what happened?

I don't know. We could theorize, google and have an autopsy. But, these things are an unfortunate part of farming. Maybe she had a type of worm that was fast acting, maybe she had something genetically wrong- maybe... I just don't know.To be safe, we re-vaccinated and wormed Noelle- who appears to be healthy as usual. Death is just as much a part of farming as life is. You can care for any animal, any crop to the highest standards and the best of your ability- and you will absolutely still lose some. We were saddened, but now we have one little doeling who needs to be thought of and appropriately cared for. The farm necessitates moving on.

So we're headed down to Edgewick Farm this weekend after our Sunday draft horse class to acquire another little doeling for our home dairy, and to keep Noelle healthy. Goats are social, bubbly creatures, and they need company. Noelle is getting along ok with the bunnies and chickens, we've been letting her out to 'help' us with chores several times a day and keep her spirits up. We tried integrating her with the sheep, but it was a failure. She's still too small and the sheep are big dumb brutes. She needs one of her own kind to pass the days with. And we'd really like to have two dairy goats so we can alternate breeding and have a steady supply of milk. But the pressing concern for right now, is making sure Noelle gets what she needs, and we get a new doeling who is a good fit and happy with our farm. We're very excited about the new little boer-alpine cross who will be joining us. We'll spend more weeks bottle feeding her, caring for her, and familiarizing her with life on the farm. It's always exciting to add new life here.

Farming can break your heart and lift you up, moments apart. It's kind of like a really intense romantic comedy drama. You take each moment as it comes, and try to manage whatever comes you way. Sometimes, it's shocking- but it always teaches you something. You get better, and you learn that the unexpected will come- it's how you handle it that makes the difference.

All of the Ways to Buy R'Eisen Products

So, here is a wrap up of the opportunities to get in our products for the year:

Year-Round CSA:

Individual, Couple and bi-weekly local (half shares) available. The break down of what is included is detailed and lengthy, so if you want information on what comes with these packages, please email us.  We include chicken, turkey, rabbit and specialty farm products (like jams) in all of our shares. Couple shares include eggs! It's a great opportunity to get farm fresh deliciousness, in incremental payments, all year.

Pork Share:

We're selling pork in 1/2 pig increments this year. For what that looks like (thanks to Chicken Thistle Farm for providing this breakdown in easy to read terms) see the below list. We're only growing based on the number of pork orders we get in, so all orders must be completed by March 15th.

If you only want the typical grocery store cuts, this is what the estimate looks like. If you're more adventurous and willing to eat organ meat, or less prime cuts, you can get a lot more out of it. Also, purchase of a 1/2 pig entitles you entrance into our collaborative make your own bacon class!

This is a rough estimate… each pig is a little different but this is a “typical” 1/2 pig:
Pounds - Item
——————-
13# - Pork chops 1″ – total of 23 pork chops, 7 packs of 2 + 3 packs of 3
3# - Spare Ribs – Ask for my recipe if you need one
9# - Hamburger/Sausage ground meat in 1 lb packages
15# - Fresh Ham – easily brined or sent for smoking
8# - Fresh Bacon Slab – brine & slice or send for smoking
10# - Shoulder Roast
4# - Butt Pork Roast
5# - Stew Bones – good for dogs if you don’t make soup or stew
8# - Fat – you can render this to use in the kitchen



Surplus Meat Email List:

We primarily grow for our CSA members. They get first choice of all of our meat, veggies and specialty farm products. But, we do grow extra chickens, turkeys and rabbits. If you want to be on our email list to be notified when we have our premium meat for sale, send us an email at reisenshinefarm@gmail.com and we'll add you to the list. All meat is pre-paid, first-come, first serve. So if we send out an email that we have something available, you respond that you want it, we send you a pay-pal invoice and pay ahead of time. Then you can pick up your order at our usual Albany CSA delivery or on farm. We will start taking orders (with just a deposit) for Thanksgiving Turkeys in late September/early October.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bacon Class!!

So for anyone who has ordered, or will be ordering pork from us (email at reisenshinefarm@gmail.com on how to get in on 1/2 pigs), we have a super special offer!

Erika Tebbens, blogger for the From Scratch Club, her own buisness Little Sparrow Farm, AND her own gardening/homesteading/general awesomeness blog is going to be teaching a FREE class for R'Eisen Shine pork customers on how to Make Your Own Bacon in the fall!

So, when you order pork, you won't have to send our your bacon to be smoked by the butcher, saving you money and allowing you to learn a really delicious skill with our own ethically grown, heritage pork!

How cool is that?

Erika will also be bringing her first season greens and edible flowers to Fifty South Restaurant in Saratoga Springs, and also grows some supremely delicious honey. We'll let you know where she ends up selling her products at market as soon as we can.

Erika isn't just a great teacher, super-mom and engaging writer- she's also a dear friend and first year farmer. We can speak to her excellence and experience with tons of confidence. This is going to be a great class and she is on to do wonderful things with her own agricultural endeavors.

We haven't made our own bacon before, so this will be a new skill to everyone- and we can't wait! The dates for the class will depend on when the pork ends up going to the butcher, so we will announce the date a bit later in the season. But in the meantime, think delicious bacon thoughts.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happenings

As  mentioned in my brief post last night, things are in full swing here already. Though it's not until next week, it feels like we've already set the clocks ahead. This is a challenging time of year because we are balancing budgets, time, and office work with outdoor preparations.

The first batch of meat birds arrived on Thursday night. They arrived ahead of schedule so Kim's cousin and her kids went to grab them from the post office for us. They are doing well, and we acquired some new laying hens from Tractor Supply so there are tiny little black beaks among the sea of golden brown Freedom Rangers.

I am still without a car- but we bought a subaru from Kim's sister's boyfriend Will and he is graciously making some repairs before it heads over this way. We will still need to get a cargo van- but while we are looking for the right fit for a good price the subaru will do the trick! We are SO grateful to have two working vehicles, thank goodness for Will.

The first order of seeds has arrived! So I've started sorting them into planting dates, and creating a spreadsheet for our seed starting schedule. We're managing keeping the 2012 CSA members in greenhouse greens while getting everything ready for the 2013 season- so a spreadsheet is a must. I started building shelves in the greenhouse today to make some more space for the number of plants we need. It's going to be a trick to keep everything organized- but we're determined!

We have three litters of rabbits, but we need more does! We're partnering with some other area farms to provide a meat share for folks that our friends over at Common Hand's farm provide a veggie share for. Our job is to provide the pork and rabbit, so we are actively planning more cage space and working to set up moveable pens for the litters of kits over the summer time. We've also been talking to our friends at a local restaurant about adding rabbit to their menu, so we need to plan ahead for that too.

We've found our piglets! We have 9 Duroc/Old Spot crosses on hold for us at a farm north of here. We will be picking them up in late April and raising them for our September slaughter date, which we are still waiting for a confirmation on. There's much to do to prepare for their arrival, but I'll probably put it off until we get a little closer to the time when they are coming because there is so much else to be done.

We had a load of hay and a load of wood delivered, so everyone on the farm is safe from the chilly airs for a few more weeks. The hay we get from Kim's dad is in short supply, so we found a local provider who brought us about 40 bales this afternoon and they're stacked for the month. We have a dumpster coming later this week to clear out the rest of the hay loft, which will mean we can store 80+ and worry less often about hay arriving. The mess up in the loft was here long before our time, and I'm relieved to finally be cleaning it out. And while the dumpster is here, the garage will be getting a good once over too.

All of this has been coming together in the past 4 days, plus some things that are either terribly boring, or not finalized yet so we're not prepared to talk about them. It's so hectic, but it's just the way I like it- all of the promise and the planning... it's so addicting. You can see all of the potential and though I know our plans will change 30 or 40 times...a day... I love this feeling. Even with the spreadsheets and phone calls and the haggling- it's the potential, the promise and the hope.

Now, I've got to try and catch up the house cleaning things, a birthday party yesterday has left the farm house in a bit of disarray... ok- a lot of disarray.




Friends of the Farm Take Photos

We use our iphones for most of the pictures we post here. But, we had a house full of guests yesterday who took some gorgeous pictures on actual digital cameras. Check it out! Thanks to Dave and Karen for these beauties!











Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dear Readers

Dear Readers,

In the past 72 hours the farm has exploded with happenings.

The first batch of baby chicks arrived. The seed order arrived. We bought a subaru. We had several business happenings.We made a batch of jam and a CSA delivery. And today, we hosted a birthday party for Kim with 15 guests and a ton of food including one of our own turkeys!

I apologize for the lack of postings, and will do better tomorrow. In the meantime, please enjoy this adorable chicken cake that my wife made and a picture of us worn out finally curled up on the couch relaxing.