Sunday, April 28, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
That is what two adolescent goats are on a spring day. Trouble.
We built Fiona and Noel a new pen today; one that has a linea for outdoor dining and a custom door. We had them cooped up in the barn while we ran the fencing outside, which was a breeze. We then set to cutting a small door out the back side of the barn so that they would have access to their pen indoors and the pen outdoors. As soon as we cut the barn siding we were met with two small noses. Then two small heads. Then a pair of shoulders and the two goats came spilling out of the freshly made hole.
This was fine. Totally fine. Until they decided that they needed to eat chicken grain from the layer pen. They let themselves into the coop adjacent to their new pen and helped themselves to the chicken grain buffet. ALL YOU CAN EAT!
We herded them out of the coop and back onto the side yard where we were working. A few minutes later I heard Fiona bleating from a few feet away. In an effort to gain further access to the chicken grain, she had gotten her head stuck in the fencing. No big deal, she wasn't hurt and her head fit through just fine, but she was definitely stuck. This did not deter her in her quest for more grain, however, as she did that a few more times over the course of the afternoon.
We finished the fencing and the new door and we went in to have lunch. When we came back out we had decided to work with the horses for a little while doing some ground work. No sooner did we get the lead lines out and almost into the horse field when we heard two tiny goats chasing us into the field. I took them back to the barn and fed them in their new pen outside and headed back to the horse field. We got a good 15 minutes in before we turned around and saw two tiny goats headed our way. At this point we gave up and tied the horses to their hitching post and lead the ladies back to the barn (are you seeing a theme?). We put them back in the barn and went to tend to the horses for a few more minutes. At one point I'm pretty sure I yelled to Ejay "Who's idea was it to get goats? I'll have his head on a plate!"
After evening chores we reinforced the fence we had just put up and gave it another go. IT HELD! (I'm knocking on wood right now).
They're enjoying their dinner al fresco this evening as all good goats should. Or terrible goats, either way. :)
Thursday, April 25, 2013
A few weeks ago, we bought two plows. The team was coming around nicely to ground driving and riding on the fore cart. It's about the time of the year when you need to turn sod, and begin planting. So then last week, we started looking to have them just move the plow around a bit, get used to the sounds and weight. And that's when near all hell broke loose around here. Our pleasant afternoon drives ground to a halt. Suddenly, the pair refused to do anything. There was no convincing them to keep moving the plow around. And it just got worse. We were stuck in reverse, backing up constantly- not heading commands. Then Nataya, our usually calm mare was attempting to t-bone Sunny.
We were frustrated, furious, and down right stuck. We kept at it, but things were regressing at a rapid pace, the weight of the season was coming down on us. Still is. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, or fast- but we certainly didn't anticipate it would be impossible.
After that morning where we couldn't even get the team to ground drive, let alone any thing else useful, we needed to re-group. We came inside, deflated and really worried about our upcoming year. After all, this decision we made to use horses was all fine and dandy- but we had vegetables that had to get planted and trying to find another way could be costly and very time consuming.
Luckily, we got a few good pieces of advice. After consulting with another friend and draft-pony owner, we got the recommendation to start some serious ground work. Remind the ponies that we make them move, and not the other way around. Then we had a good long phone call with the person who owned the team before hand. He asked a serious of thoughtful and knowledgeable questions, including about their diet. As it turns out, oats are crack for ponies. We had been feeding them oats (along with some other things). We had consulted a few sources before giving them grain, but ended up making the decision to give a bit, since we needed them to work through the season...bad decision. Haflingers Do Not need grain. In fact, it makes them bat shit crazy and fairly unmanageable. At least ours have that response.
I guess it makes sense though-- Imagine giving a toddler two espressos, and a candy bar and asking them to do anything. Sure, the kid would have energy- but no focus and too much zip. That's what was happening (partially) with the team. So we cut them off. Only hay from here on out.
Yesterday, we tried to find some zen before we went out. We practiced the ground work that our friend recommended (thank goodness for friends also with ponies who like to be the boss and don't mind giving advice). We took our time grooming the team, and getting them hitched. And low and behold- we got them moving. Now, it wasn't graceful, it wasn't seamless. But it was a far cry from the absolute disaster that was the day before. We ground drove them in the first of the year hot sun until they were sweaty and clear that we meant business. There were moments where we bid them in one direction and they resisted, ending in us spinning them in circles until they realized it was easier to move forward. But we worked it out together. We adjusted the tension on our lines. The amount of tension you put on the lines of a draft horse is paramount to your success. Too much- you end up pinching your team, and confusing them about what you want. Too little and you have no control. You want the lines to be a firm but reasonable communication, at all times.
We worked them again today, this time getting them hitched on the fore cart and working until they were drenched and tired. It wasn't easy, and again- we had some moments where they thought they would call the shots about our directions. And truth be told, Nataya is still fighting the idea that she has to have a job on this farm. She'd prefer to have an easy retirement, rolling in hay and eating oats. But that's not what kind of place this is- everyone, animals included, have a roll. She will step up to the plate. Sunny is more eager to work, she likes the weight of a collar and knowing her place. I love that about that horse.
I knew when we started this adventure that it wasn't going to be smooth sailing. We weren't going to walk into the field and plow up the earth like it was butter. But these ponies are teaching me something. You've got to really be committed to farm with horses. There is nothing mindless about it, it's focus, attention, and communicating what you mean- always. It's controlling your frustration and never, ever rushing. It's the complete opposite of most of modern society. It demands me to be better. Be smarter. And ask for help.
So yes, it would be easier to get a tractor. But, I'm not sure that owning a tractor would make me a better person, or a more attentive farmer. And I think these ponies will.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
For now, here are some photos of the future bacon, relaxing in a huge pasture they are working on tilling for us before we put the horses in to plow.
Monday, April 22, 2013
On Saturday, I had the good fortune to attend a plow clinic in Abington, CT with Sam Rich, a 2007 walking plow champion at the USA Plow Match. The host farm, We-Lik-It Farm and the Draft Animal Power Network(DAP Net) were great hosts!
The clinic itself was a three day event, where teamsters could bring their animals and plows to get one on one experience and expertise. If you couldn't attend all three days or bring your team (like me) you were welcome to audit and watch the animals work. I arrived at 10am, a little late due to the 3 hour drive, and met the handful of participants as they were working on refurbishing a few plows. Part of the clinic was working with Sam to set the plow to your team and troubleshoot any issues that you might have been having. They also covered replacing parts and how to get an older plow back in working order. One participant had a team of haflingers just a little smaller than ours who brought a Pioneer Homesteader. This is an implement that is an "all in one" riding implement that includes a plow, disc, harrow, etc. Basically anything you might need for a garden.
After the morning session, we ate lunch and got to taste the We-Like-It brand ice cream. The farm has an ice cream stand where they make small custom batches of ice cream using their dairy. I sampled Guernsey Cookie, which was amazing! Coffee ice cream with cookie swirl!
In the afternoon, we set to plowing. It was crazy to see the ease with which some of the participants were able to use the walking plow. Our first experience with ours didn't really go at all, much less well. We kind of skimmed the top of the earth and didn't understand the principles of how to make it work. Getting to see them set up, learning how to make adjustments where necessary and seeing them sail through the earth was invaluable. One of the teamsters even let me take a run with his Suffolks while he worked the lines. It was a totally different experience, with a team that was quiet and an experienced set of hands on the lines it was smooth and beautiful. Exactly what I would think plowing a field with draft power could be. If I wasn't sold on using animal power for our work before, this really sealed the deal.
It was also really helpful to see someone else's pony team get a little finnicky and fresh. The haflingers were really sensitive to the mood of their driver, which makes sense. They had similar personalities to our girls and it was a relief to see it wasn't just our team that had a little trouble getting going. Once Sam Rich took the lines, they were able to calm right down and walk into the plow, as opposed to trying to trot down the row. Some people just have an innate "horse sense" and it really shows.
All in all a really great day. I came home with more confidence in our abilities to work with the walking plow, now having some of the tools to make adjustments and the basic knowledge of what the plow is doing and how it's doing it when it's in the earth.
We're still working with our girls to get our field plowed. We switched the team around yesterday, getting Sunny on the left and Nataya on the right. Nataya has been fighting us a little over actually having to work so we switched sides to get Sunny's leadership and "get up and go" to motivate Nataya. We'll see how it goes!
Thanks to DAP Net, We-Like-It Farm and Sam Rich for an amazing and informative day!!
Friday, April 19, 2013
There is no doubt that this week has been a scary one, particularly for folks near or in Boston. But it can be overwhelming to let yourself drown in the news coverage. Be informed, be aware, but also be cautious. Turn it off for a bit. Go outside, because you can- because unless you've been told to stay indoors we live in a much safer place then much of the world. I know that it feels like if you follow every step of the news, somehow, that will make it easier to understand.
it won't. you can't rationalize the irrational behavior of others, particularly in violence. So send good thoughts, check on loved ones and turn off the t.v. I promise it will help.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
10. Your health. We don't use harsh chemicals, fertilizers, genetically modified feeds or seeds. You won't find veggies coated in wax or meats tainted with arsenic. It's much better to each fresh food then processed foods and easy to get your daily requirements with a CSA share.
9. The TASTE. Fresh food just tastes better. Plus, we go above and beyond just growing good, fresh veggies. We find the best heirloom seeds, and heritage meats to get you that depth of flavor missing on grocery store shelves. The variety and diversity we provide will make cooking easier, and we promise you will notice the difference.
8. Payment Plans and Price. Most CSA farms ask you to front the entire cost up front, or in larger lump sums. While we do require a deposit to off-set our pre-season costs, we also allow for monthly and weekly payments throughout the season. This helps keep your budget on track, and keep our food available to more people. Plus, by joining our CSA, you save money. Many of our products would sell for double at a farmer's market or in the grocery store. But because we sell through a CSA model directly to customers, we can keep our prices lower. A great example is delicious heirloom tomatoes. In the summer time, they sell for $6/lb some places!! During our peak production last year, we were giving out 4lbs per customer, for several weeks in a row. That's nearly the entire cost of a weekly individual share, just in tomatoes.
7. Caring for the environment. Let's face it- the planet can only handle so much, and she's getting angry. As farmers, we see ourselves as shepards of the land. We do our best to upcycle old materials, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels (Draft horse power!), and overall maintain the health of our environment. We even make most of our deliveries in a hybrid car.
6. Did someone say Draft Horses? yep, we use draft horses. Why should you care? Well, it makes for a good read on our blog, and some mighty fine photos. But it's also about preserving the history of agriculture, and important skills that could be lost to time. We really value our relationships with animals, those we raise for food, and those we depend on for work. Every member of our farm has their place, and we think that's pretty cool.
5. Convenient Delivery. We deliver to Albany, and you can pick up right on our farm. We know that many people have busy schedules, so our drop off is a full three hours. AND we deliver to a bakery, so you can be sure to get a good hot cup of coffee and a snack while you get your farm share. Not too shabby.
4. Wholeshare. We facilitate a buying club through a program called wholeshare. This gets you much cheaper prices for NYS products. Many of these products can be bought in bulk. You buy your items conveniently online, and then we deliver them during our regular CSA drop off.
3. Choice. Every week, we send out a survey with what products are available from the farm. Then, you mark what you want. In the summer months, when we're rolling in produce- we even have a ranking system so you can get more of the things you can't eat enough of. Hate squash but love broccoli? We'll give you more of what you want.
2. Open-door policy. We try to always be available for questions on what we're growing, and how. We are happy to answer questions and give farm tours! When you believe in what you're doing, it makes it really fun to show folks around. Though we do ask for a head's up on when you're coming so we can be available, we also provide opportunities throughout the year to join us on farm. We also provide dozens of recipes through our blog and email lists to help you make the most of your share.
1. Supporting local farmers MATTERS. We all get to vote about food three times a day. It's good to support small, young, local farmers. We put more money back into the economy then many other businesses, and supporting us ensures that another generation of farmers will be around. The average age of a US farmer is somewhere around 57. No farms means No food. So support a small local farm and feel good about it!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
NEW: Meat Shares Available- For Local, Albany, and Montgomery (Orange County) region Delivery customers
However, we've found ourselves with some shares left over, and with the season fast approaching we are now offering them to customers who would like to pick up on our farm, downstate in Orange County or from us in Albany.
About R'Eisen Shine Chicken, Rabbit and Pork:
We believe that our livestock program grows both delicious and ethical meats. We both spent many years as vegetarians, so we try to integrate the most compassionate care for all of our animal partners.We raise our livestock with the utmost respect, and provide only non-gmo feeds. We pasture raise our animals, giving great flavor to the meats and keeping our animals happy and healthy. This will be our first year on this farm raising pigs, but have raised them at several other farms.
Here are a couple of blog posts explaining in more detail about our livestock methods:
About Pastured Beef from Mountain Brook Farm
The steaks, roasts, and ground beef included in the Meat Share are from Angus cattle raised mostly on fresh grass and hay with plenty of room to roam and ruminate. When the time comes, the animals
are brought to a USDA-certified, Animal Welfare Approved slaughterhouse.
Albany deliveries will occur once a month during our regular drop-off at All Good Bakers on Delaware, on Saturdays, from 9-12. We will announce which Saturday at least 2 weeks in advance of pick up.
The Orange County delivery will be at the Orange County Farmers Museum in Montgomery, NY from 9-11:30 for both the bi-weekly and the monthly shares.
5lbs Steaks, Roasts
10 lbs Pork (variety of cuts)
Sample Monthly Delivery:
1 whole chicken (4lbs)
1 lb. ground beef
1 to 2 lbs. ham.
The contents of each delivery will vary but will typically include 7 to 8 lbs. of meat.
Total cost: $315 (a real bargain!!)
To order this share, please contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will send you the order form and the beautiful fully detailed brochure. Unfortunately, the blogger application won't allow us to load it here.
You can order the above monthly share (again, contact us for the order form), or we also have a bi-weekly option.
10 lbs steaks, roasts
10lbs Ground Beef
20lbs Pork (variety of cuts)
Sample Bi-weekly Share:
1 whole chicken (4lbs)
1 lb. ground beef
1 to 2 lbs. ham.
The contents of each pick up will vary but will typically include 7 to 8 lbs. of meat twice a month.
Total cost: $630
** Don't forget that our regular year-round shares include chicken, rabbit, a Thanksgiving turkey, veggies and more in our pricing!! Plus we have smaller payments available for our year-round programs.
This morning, about 6 am we headed out for morning chores. Within minutes, the wind was whipping so hard it could take your breath right out of your lungs with it. It's never pleasant when you expect rain but get the winds here instead- we've written about it before and today was just extraordinary.
We moved the rabbits out of the wind in between some pine trees, and put an extra layer of tarp around them to keep out the weather. The round bales got new tie downs, which within moments ripped back out. We let the tarp flutter and fly while we raced out into the field in the truck to tend to the meat chickens.
Ever try to stake down a para-glider in 50mph winds? No? That's kind of what it was like trying to get the chicken tractor secured. While we were wrestling, the pvc pipe that stabilizes the whole unit snapped. So then the tarp that serves as the roof to the pen was free to pull and push and generally move in any direction but the one we needed it to.
We ran back down to the barn, to grab more tools and supplies. I crawled into the chicken pen to attempt to add extra stability back with screws, posts anything- but the wind was relentless. With no success. So then it was back to the barn to throw the cap back on the truck, and rescue the chickens from their now broken cell. After we laid shaving in the bed of the truck, secured the cap and the truck gate we then had to catch 85 tiny terrified chickens. While we were doing this, the 10 ft pen pulled entirely out of the ground and hit me in the face. Less than ideal.
Once the birds were rescued, dry and safe in their new temporary housing, I dragged the pen behind the barn for safe keeping, out of the wind, and to be reinforced in the morning.
Covered in mud, and chicken shit, but with 85 now much more contented chicks, we finished feeding the sheep, watering the rabbits, covering the hay, and tarping the seedlings we had hardening off outside.
It was 8 am, and we hadn't had coffee yet. The day hasn't even started yet.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
You can't see it from the picture, but this was on our way home, the back of the truck stacked to the brim with a 12" sulky plow, and another walking plow that we bought while the team is getting in shape to pull the sulky. Joshua is a wealth of knowledge, and recommended that we work the girls up to the sulky plow. They're out of shape from a winter of laying about (aren't we all?) and need a little longer before we hitch them to the larger plow. So we will be rehabbing an old walking plow that will connect to the back of a fore cart to plant the peas and maybe some greens too.
It was a long trip out to Joshua but when we got home, we weren't quite done. We made it back just in time for afternoon livestock chores. Chores are a bit more lengthy this time of year, the greenhouse seedlings need water and we close to capacity with baby chickens, field pens and rabbits. Without a pause we unloaded the equipment (carefully and slowly) and then set to getting the horses hitched up. We only had a couple hours of daylight, but with the season fast approaching, we can't spare any time getting the horses (and us) ready for a season of work.
This time the harnessing actually went smoothly. The snaps, buckles, lines- all finding their correct locations without cursing or checking a diagram. We started with ground work. Ground work was going remarkably well, so we moved the team down to the house where we had unloaded the fore cart months ago, and it sat waiting for this day. And this is where-- well, it got a little less smooth.
Both of the dogs lost their minds in the house, howling and barking and carrying on at the sight of Sunny and Nataya coming across their front lawn. To their credit, the horses didn't bolt- but were clearly unnerved at the ruckus coming from the old farm house at their arrival.
note number 1: Do not assume that because the dogs have seen the ponies at varying distances for several months, they will be fine with the horses approaching closer to the house.
With some dancing and calming, and several trips around the front and back of the house (and intervening on the dogs antics) we finally got the team back in a stand, somewhat close to the fore cart. They were not in the best mind set, but settling down some.
note number 2: Don't be an idiot and try to hitch your fore cart on any kind of slope. It's a terrible idea.
The fore cart is heavy, and we should have moved it to a different location. But we decided to hitch it where it was, with some brute force we managed to clip it on. I know better than to take short cuts with farming. Every time you do, it ends up creating more work. I had an old boss who used to say that "Lazy farmers work twice as hard" because you end up doing things over and over again if you don't do it right the first time. So the fact that the team was now rattled, because it was more difficult then it needed to be to hitch them, in a new location, after a long absence from cart work was definitely punishment enough.
I guess this is where things got even more tricky. Nataya was being stubborn, fussy from her life of leisure, and Sunny as usual, wanted to GO. We fumbled with the lines, putting too much tension on them when we wanted a Stand position (and thus had them continuously backing up and confused). Eventually though, we maneuvered to behind in the hay fields and got things moving smoother and in control.
note number 3: If the horses aren't obeying a command, it's you. They are trained, and you are not. Stop, assess and figure out what you can do differently.
I wouldn't call it a rodeo, or out of control, but we did struggle a bit before we found the balance. But we found it and once we did, it felt solid. We need practice, and they need the work outs. But it was a huge step for us, and progress is happening, slowly.
note number 4: underworked ponies and thunder. use your head.
By this time, the team had a good sweat lather on, and we were losing daylight. Plus there was rumbling over head, causing the dogs to kick in their racket again and some tap dancing from the girls. So we parked the fore cart (on a level spot for next hitching) and ground drove the now perfectly mellow team back across the farm to their hitching post. In some rain drops and dusky light, we finished up, exhausted. A 13 hour day now drawing to the close, and two plows closer to a good season. Horse farming isn't going to be easy. But it is going to make us more patient, careful, and learned people. And that's better than easy any day.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Practicing for our first plow day! We are currently in route to pick up our new silky plow. We spent much of the day yesterday working the team, or rather trouble shooting our own issues while the team patiently waited for us to figure it out. But we persevered! We got some of our peas planted but are going to be doing the bulk of that in the next few days if the rain will allow it.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Sunday, April 7, 2013
We finished building a chicken tractor, which is our outside housing for our meat birds. We like them to be able to lead regular chicken lives, eating grass and bugs but still be protected from predators. It's made of PVC pipe and chicken wire, with smaller mesh along the bottom for added protection. The whole top is covered with tarp material to protect from the elements. We move the tractor daily to fresh pasture, so it's made to be pretty light. Fighting the tarp and the light piping was a trick in the wind today....we had plans to move all of the first round of birds out to the field today from the barn. With the wind, however, it would have been like a chicken para-sail.
After finishing the chicken accommodations, we checked the electric fencing around the horse pasture. The wind knocked out one of the lines and the horses were eyeing it, anxious to get to work and to the "greener" pasture. We mended the electric line, tying another length to patch the hole. Nataya lurked, creeping closer and closer. At one point we had the highest line (high contrast white electric line) down, and you could see the gears working in her sneaky brain. Luckily, they are both really well behaved and they didn't act on their thoughts.
We're giving ourselves the afternoon and evening off. We rented the second season of Game of Thrones from the library, and that's our big plans for the rest of this Sunday. It's a pretty excellent show, full of warring kingdoms and dragons. Right up our alley!
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Here is how we spent the day:
We built two move-able rabbit pens for grazing out meat rabbits over the nice weather. They have a nice tarp cover over half, and then an open space in front. Plus, we found these great little shade huts for them too! Should be a great way to keep our rabbits happy and healthy (and delicious)!
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Being cold, wearing sweaters, running the wood stove constantly. I'M OVER IT!
We planted a million seeds this morning: Cabbage, Leeks, Celery, Kale, Summer Squashes, Broccoli. All kinds of delicious spring and summer time veggies. The greenhouse was balmy, with the sunshine throwing us a bone and warming the place right up. It was all a deception! One step outside of that puppy and it was 30 degrees. No, seriously, 30 degrees. Frigid and awful and cold. yuck.
Ok, ok. It's not all that bad. It's definitely not winter time still, I'm clearly being a grouch about this. But I maintain that if it's going to be sunny in April, it should at least not require me to wear SNOW PANTS to do chores. I'm just saying.
We're working on busting our butts to get the chickens and rabbits out onto pasture this week, with the promise of seasonally warm temperatures through the weekend. We ran to the hardware store in our Toyota Prius to get some supplies, since we're waiting on our truck to get fixed and inspected at the mechanic. In case you're wondering, 8 ft wood planks DO fit in the car, but you've gotta watch your elbows while driving (I learned the hard way). We also got two new rabbit does from our neighbor Ed, who has a rabbitry down the road. Ejay mentioned them on the Facebook page, but we named one Pippi (Longstocking, of course)for her red fur, and the other Nancy (Reagan), sticking with the First Ladies theme. They are settling in nicely here.
We also went out into our local surrounding communities to flier and give out brochures about our CSA. We still have shares available, and we're doing some grass roots marketing outside of our internet bubble to try to engage with our neighbors about our products. If you know anyone looking to sign up for a CSA, we'd be grateful if you'd pass along our information!
Think warm thoughts friends, I know I am!!
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Monday, April 1, 2013
This morning, I woke up and was almost ready to get up and get ready for my work day. This would have entailed getting dressed for the office and making a list in my head of all the things that needed to get done that day, wondering what messages waited for me on the answering machine at work.
But today was not every Monday, it was the first day of my full time employment on the farm! I say full time, but I've been pulling double duty for a year, working 4 days a week as an advocate for residents of long term care facilities, and 3 days a week on the farm. But we're expanding and that means we need more hands to do the work around here. Luckily, I got the job :)
So what did my first official day on the job look like? We started out with morning rounds, obviously. We had coffee and breakfast and then went out to stack our wood pile and splitting what was left of the larger logs. Then, we moved on to the Spring Clean Up.
Spring Clean Up looks a lot like yard work. Cause it is. But, at R'Eisen Shine Farm, it also looks like picking up the debris that's left behind from the winter. Buried items left after the snow has melted. The wind is crazy here, so it often blows recycling and other items around without us knowing it. We raked around our trees and the beds in front of the house. After the raking, we moved some compost and cleaned up some of the creeping vines and weeds from around the house and barn. In between all of this we had a very brief hail storm! Evening rounds followed.
We're now waiting on a load of grain to come in so we can unload and call it a day.
All in all, a busy and exhausting day, exactly what I was expecting. I'm really excited to be here, taking care of the animals and the business itself. It's hard not to feel like a part timer when you're putting in part time hours. You can also expect to hear more from me on the blog!