Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fail Proof Stir Fry

This week in our CSA share we included baby pac choi, chinese brocolli, green onions, and sai sai leaf greens, as a stir fry mix. I thought I'd share what we do to make a delicious stir fry, no matter what the veggie options are!

First thing, is get your preferred type of rice cooking. Always cook your rice is some kind of stock, it really makes a difference in the final flavor of your dish.


Roughly Chop all the veggies you're using (other good ones are carrots, turnip greens, broccoli, peas of all kinds, garlic, onions, eggplant, peppers)

In a large skillet, add about 1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce, and 4 healthy tblspns of honey. Put on medium heat and let the honey mix into the tamari, then add in 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a little olive oil.


Once the honey has melted in, add in chili flakes, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cumin seeds, powdered ginger- all about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste.

With the base well seasoned, now add in all of your roughly chopped veg, letting it really absorb all the flavors and steaming it down.


Once your veg is cooked, but not mushy, toss in your cooked rice. In the center of your skillet, make a well and crack one or two eggs in it. Scrabble the egg roughly for a fuller flavor and protein rich dinner.

Quick, easy, and SO delicious- obviously- you can add in meat or other spices, this is just a good base to get you moving in the right direction!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What have we been up to?

The better question is what HAVEN'T we been up to!

It's been a busy week here at the farm. On top of all of the regular stuff (feeding animals, weeding the vegetables, planting more later season crops etc.), we processed 90 chickens this weekend, attended a farm to chef dinner at All Good Bakers and celebrated by youngest sisters' high school graduation. It's been a whirlwind!

On Wednesday of last week, we were asked to attend Nick and Britin's Farm to Chef dinner at All Good Bakers. They've started doing a prixe fix menu on Wednesday nights (with two dinner services at 6 and 8), where the dishes feature ingredients from local farms. We provided pasture raised chicken for Wednesday's dinner, which Nick smoked and served with some of our braising greens and pickled radishes and turnips. It was so delicious! We also had tempura garlic scapes with chorizo, a wonderful salad and delicious strawberry lemon basil sorbet for dessert. All local and fresh ingredients, it was amazing! We also had the opportunity to eat with the 6pm sitting and chat with the 8pm sitting and share a little bit about our operation and the way the chicken was raised. It's always a good opportunity for us to be able to share what goes into growing the food that folks eat and to be able to answer any questions about our practices. If you're interested in signing up for their Wednesday dinner service, get in touch with All Good Bakers on facebook or by emailing allgoodbakers@gmail.com.

On Thursday, Ejay and I processed 45 chickens. I'll spare you the details on this, but it was a long day.

Friday we prepped our CSA delivery, picking greens, scapes and radishes, washing eggs and packing up the car. We had to make sure everything was in order for the morning. Friday evening my older sister and her boyfriend came to stay at the farm overnight, so we picked them up at the train station, stopped for ice cream (before dinner!), then had pizza and beer with them. It was a nice evening, but we headed to bed soon after we ate. We were all heading to my sisters graduation in the morning.

Saturday morning saw us up at 4am, getting some coffee in and packing up the shares. We were fortunate enough to have a volunteer take the shares to Albany so that we could go to the graduation ceremony. We drove the shares to their house in Chatham, said a quick hello and explained the drop off info and then hustled to Pine Plains High School for the last Eisen girls graduation. Beryl, my youngest sister looked beautiful and was awarded some great community scholarships to help offset the cost of college. It was a LONG ceremony (they always are!), and we left the high school at around 1:30pm. We booked it back home, fed and watered all the animals, cleaned up and headed to dinner at a restaurant in Poughkeepsie on the waterfront to continue celebrating. It was such a good day, long but excellent. Congrats Beryl!

Sunday, we processed 45 more chickens and then fell into bed. The same amazing volunteer that delivered our share this week also cooked us dinner that night. We have never been more grateful for a tupperware full of mac and cheese in our lives!

Hectic and busy and wonderful and trying, this week has had it all. I think the take away for me is that, now that I'm writing it all down, we have so many amazing people in our lives that are so thoughtful, gracious and talented. We're so lucky!

So that's what we've been up to. Next up: planting more lettuce, thinning some radishes and moving some bunnies out to pasture.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

These Days… At Mountain Brook Farm


We've started including beef in the list of things you can get through our CSA...but we're not the farmers growing it! Our good friends over at Mountain Brook have a great operation, and we thought it might be nice for all you readers to hear about another small young farmer worked operation, and get more information about their incredible products. We eat the beef they grow regularly, and it's delicious- flavorful and grown with care. So if you want to order some, shoot us an email and we'll give the you next steps. The first delivery we are making is June 29th (orders must be in ahead of time)- just in time for 4th of July burgers or steak!!
Without further ado....Hilary!
Over the past several months, Sara and I (Hilary) of Mountain Brook Farm have had the pleasure of collaborating with Ejay and Kim on a variety of projects, and we’re thrilled to now be making foods from Mountain Brook available to the CSA shareholders at R’Eisen Shine. With the first beef delivery coming up on June 29th, we wanted to take this chance to tell you a little bit about ourselves and the farm.
We’re located in Hillsdale, NY, about 25 minutes north of R’Eisen Shine. The farm is 330 beautiful acres of fairly rugged land with steep hills and lots of woods. We raise 100% Angus cattle, heritage breed laying hens, and turkeys for the holidays. We’re also working on our first half-acre of mixed vegetables, and I seem to find myself dabbling in mushrooms and honeybees as well. We have two beehives and we’re just getting ready to fruit our first Shiitake mushroom logs – a project that we began last spring. It’s amazing when a project that feels long-term comes to fruition!
Mountain Brook was a fairly dormant farm until about 18 months ago when I was given the opportunity to take over management and start diversifying the farm beyond the solo cattle herd. It’s actually a pretty amazing story… Paul, the owner of the land and a neighbor at the time, is 84 years old. For most of the thirty years that he’s owned the place, he’s farmed it fairly conventionally (as has become the modern convention anyway – corn, soybeans, etc.). In fact, he was so down on organics that I stopped talking to him about agriculture altogether. Organic food was too expensive! Totally worthless! etc. etc. (hard to swallow for someone who believes so deeply in the power of “good, clean, fair food”, as the folks at SlowFood like to call it).
Then, last year (the day before Thanksgiving 2012), I decided to stop in and say hello. And, low and behold, I walk in the door and Paul says (in a loud, bellowing voice since he’s a little hard of hearing), “Hilary! You won’t believe it! I’m four chapters into this book, and we’re switching to organic! It all makes perfect sense!” And, the next words out of his mouth: “… And I have no idea how to do it! Do you know of anyone who can help me?”
* Can you guess the book? Joel Salatin’s The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer *
And, I responded, “Well, Paul, as a matter of fact, what about me?” I’d been on the periphery of agriculture, working at a nearby nonprofit for the past four years, and was ready to get my hands dirty… I just hadn’t found the right situation yet. And, so, in that moment, we began our shared effort to convert Mountain Brook into a diversified organic (or shall we say, organically-inspired) farm.
Although we aren’t seeking organic certification, we do farm according to the original principles of organic agriculture. Our goal is to create a harmonious system that mirrors nature as closely as possible. We focus on the health of all the characters on the farm – the soil, water, air, domestic animals, wild animals, and farmers too! We put tremendous effort into raising all our poultry on pasture, while keeping them safe from local predators. And the cows? They are adapting well to the new rotational grazing system. I can hardly walk across the field without them running up to me, wondering if I’m heading for even fresher grass. It’s also a great time to be on the farm with fifteen calves born within the
past two months, and two born just this past Saturday!
We don’t apply any synthetic anything to the land, and we emphasize open-pollinated and heirloom varieties in the vegetables that we grow. We actively seek to reduce off-farm inputs and strive to create beautiful, healthy spaces in all the nooks and crannies of the farm.
It’s an adventure and a journey, but one that I am pleased to be on! And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my partner Sara – the woman who helps hold me together. She’s a baker and a trained chef and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Women’s Studies at SUNY Albany. While not a farmer per se, she helps at the most critical moments – offering to do the 5:30am morning chores just as I’m reaching total exhaustion, accompanying me on the evening rounds, and making sure I’m well-fed, well-hydrated, and clean enough to get into bed each night.
So, from us to you, we hope you enjoy any of the foods from Mountain Brook Farm that you may try! And please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions, etc. You may also want to check out our website (www.MountainBrookFarmNY.com) or visit our facebook page (facebook.com/mountainbrookfarmny) for more info and photos. Thanks again for your support of local agriculture, and happy eating!



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

First CSA Delivery of 2013!

Last Saturday we made the first delivery to our CSA members of our 2013-2014 season!

We started the day at 4am with some coffee and breakfast before we headed outside to feed the animals and pack the shares for delivery. We did a lot of prep on Friday during the day, so we were able to take a slower pace on Saturday morning. After everyone had been fed and watered, we focused our attention on packing up the veggies and chicken to take to Albany and for our local shareholders to pick up on farm. This weeks shares included eggs, chicken, arugula, salad greens, cooking greens and radishes. Lots of spring time greens are coming in with all the rain we've had in the last few weeks, so there will definitely be more where that came from!

Ejay and James headed to Albany with the delivery and I stayed at the house to meet our local customers.  I did afternoon chores by myself that day and after the delivery, I met Ejay and James in the city of Hudson for the city's Pride Festival. We went with our neighbors and friends Hilary and Sarah, who run Mountain Brook Farm. They raise Angus beef, turkeys and eggs on their nearby farm. We've been collaborating with them on a meat only CSA share and we rented a space at the festival in order to get the word out about our farms.

The festival was held at the riverfront park which was a beautiful setting. There were a number of other vendors as well as performances by local artists. Our tent was directly across from the "bouncy house" so we had quite a few small patrons come to our booth for the free R'Eisen Shine Farm stickers. :)

Saturday was James' last day on the farm as well, and it was a doozy! 4am to 6pm is definitely a full day of work. James left the following morning after being with us for about 5 weeks this spring and we thought it was a good culmination of his time on the farm, seeing how the labor on the farm comes together to bring the products to the customers.

All in all, Saturday was a great day! We're looking forward to the rest of the season and delivering even more delicious goods to our members.



 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rain and Mud

more rain, more mud, and happy lettuce plants.

we can't control the weather, but we can control our attitudes. 

hoping for a reprieve from the wind tonight! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Good food, good friends... and another sleepless night

Last night our friends Hillary and Sarah joined us for dinner, we were cooking a rabbit so that both James and Hillary could try it out. James has been considering adding rabbits to his future settling down 'to-do' list, and we wanted to be sure he got every aspect of the world of rabbits while he stayed with us. He participated in the butchering process a few days prior to our meal, and has been doing much of the day to day care-taking. Hillary has been collaborating with us on selling meat-CSA shares, and had yet to try out this product yet, so it was one of my favorite types of dinners- the rabbit convert dinner.

We've given many their first taste of rabbit, and everyone we've cooked it for has fallen in love with it. And last night was no exception. One sturdy slow braised rabbit fed 4 hungry farming adults with some sides including fresh greens from the veggie patch. A peasant supper fit for kings.

One of the greatest things about having friends who are also farmers is that they understand that bed time is early, don't mind walking though a pasture in drenching rain, and don't mind hearing the specifics of tanning a rabbit skin while eating cookies. After eating our fill, we all went to go check on the piglet's fencing in the wind and rain, and to be sure that the chicken tractors were still stable and protected.

Rain is a magical thing, it can bring life to a field or seed, help set fruit, and keep animals on four legs and two hydrated and clean. But lately, we've been getting a bit much of the good stuff. We hesitate to complain after the drought last summer, the dry earth cracked and parched but for our sweat. The ground is spongy now, heavy with water and we're suddenly grateful for the gravelly soil holding some moisture but diverting much from soggy roots.

Last night, after the dishes were stacked, we trudged up stairs after one more round of checking on the animals in a freight train wind. But sleep was not really to be had by either farmer. When the wind gets going, I feel like I catch naps in between screaming gusts- waiting for my worry to overwhelm me enough to trudge back out doors. Every few hours, we hurl ourselves out of bed and through the weather to make sure the livestock are still secure and protected. With pasture pens that move daily and are built of light materials, you need to be sure. If we didn't check, it would surely lead to finding some kind of mayhem in the morning.

Around 2 this morning, there was a brief pause in the blowing, and around 5 it started again. The alarm went off, more mocking then waking, and we rolled out of bed, again, this time to start the day. The livestock did alright in the weather, one meat chicken succumbing to something in the inclement air- or maybe fright.

It's nights like this that remind me that the weather is King of this and all farms- and we do nothing but work around it. But that humbling is good, keeps me from getting to bold or taking on more than we should handle. Sleep, we can catch up on- and are grateful that the morning didn't bring more havoc.

I expected more rain today, but it's thick and overcast instead. James is wading through the peas soup air to continue hilling muddy potato plants. I hope to join him out in the field soon after I finish up some much needed office work. I planned to spend a rainy morning inside, but had put off this work for so long that despite the rain fading, I stayed in front of the screen to sort out weeks of back log.

But now I'm just caught up enough where the lure of checking in on corn seedlings can override the data entry, and hopefully the rain will hold off too.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Farmers night out

We got to spend a night off the farm yesterday, and only came home to 2 sheep out if their pen. It never fails, whenever we leave the animals conspire to wreck all kinds of things. :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Just a quick update on this Saturday

We worked in the greenhouse this morning, which was needing some attention after a week of nice weather. Started a bunch more lettuces, basil and transplanted some tomatoes and peppers.
Because of the rain we had to postpone the sheep shearing til tomorrow when their wool is dry. Right now, however, I'm off to combat some cucumber beetles. These little buggers are really resilient so we're going to try to get them to find some new snacks by spraying the plants with artificial vanilla.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Teaching

I spent a lot of time alone last season. Kim worked here on the days she wasn't at her off farm job, and we were buried in work for most of the season. This year has been a completely different experience. With Kim here, we fall into a rhythm, sometimes barely exchanging a word. We can send a glance from across the field and know what the other is noticing- an empty watering bucket, or a plant with an issue- or a fence line down. We finish each other's planting rows, pick up each other's drop tools and move across the long days together.

This year we also have the pleasure of sharing our little world with our intern, James. Nothing can humble you more quickly then realizing that there is someone to witness your struggles (damn piglets) or remind you how far you have come. Farming isn't taught to everyone any more, its's not common place for every backyard to have clucking hens, or need to lock up gates with old wooden handles. We don't teach about electric fencing,  or animal health/behavior- or so many of the other daily happenings. I've learned that I could be better about explaining why we do things the way we do, and it's pushed both of us I think to slow down and appreciate that each task has a very distinct purpose.

I think that the hard labor of each day sometimes overshadows the bigger picture. I've been struggling with how to explain that each rock we lift from the rows of vegetables is an act of defiance. The farm here is our political act- we push aside notions of societal "success" in favor of helping neighbors with long hours of fumbling with ruminants because we know that the favor will pay off. The farm covers it's costs, and keeps us fed and what not- but we live outside of so much of U.S. typical exchanges. It's not uncommon for us to trade good for other goods, or time helping for a tool etc. If there is a problem, we don't slow down until it's solved, and often we have to fix the same problem multiple times (be it fencing, or goat pens or whatever). 

The daily acts of farming are hard enough, and often require the same movements over, and over again, and over again. Its lifting and pushing and kneeling. But everything about our current, u.s. culture says- buy it instead. Or- get a different job. There's so many layers to each day. Our food policy is routed in mechanized, subsidized, often questionable quality, overly packaged and processed goods. Our notions of success lay in degrees, high paying jobs, perfectly manicured lawns, and... debt. Our expectations say that technology is always the victor, if it's broken- get a new one. Not many of these things hold true on our farm. Things are slow, they take hours, often with just two hands, and we'll never be rich. But we are fulfilled. How do you convey that on hour 13 when the piglets are still escaped and the fence posts are broken? How do you take that minute, and remind all present that it's not just a fence? How do you empower others to keep trying, to consider growing their own food when you've just watched an entire row of tomatoes drown in an overly enthusiastic spring rain? I'm just not sure how to simultaneously convey reverence and joy for the act of growing food while forcing my already sore back to lift the hoe a few more times. I don't want the revolution of growing food to get bogged down in the actual hard work- but at the same time the only way to  actually make the farm thrive is to settle in to many, many hours of brutal monotony.

I think that teaching skills is one thing, but inspiring drive, passion and understanding are a completely different skill set. And I'm not sure one that we've mastered here- but we keep at it. The same way that we keep after the weeds, we keep after the creeping assumptions that everything should be easy, or that farming is a lost art. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

First pesto of the year!

We don't quite have basil ready for picking yet, but after a walk though the vegetable patch we discovered some of the greens had bolted a bit in the hot, hot sun of last week. We had a bit of spinach and some sai sai leaf radishes that weren't going to pull through to the first CSA delivery, so we clipped them and brought them inside. We walked along the rows, taking note of what needed to be weeded, tended or replanted. The extreme temps and the thunderstorms have battered some of the smaller seedlings, so we have some replantings to do, while other things have thrived. The potatoes, for example have shot up enormously and the garlic is reaching for the sun. The onions are happy, and the cauliflower is looking good. We have a lot of work to do, including tending some of the hierloom cukes who didn't pull through and now much be restarted. 

Tomorrow we're headed to the neighbors to help him sheer his sheep, in return for borrowing his clippers to do our own small flock. Then we'll head right back out into the field, transplanting more tomatoes, peppers, melons etc- staggered to keep a steady supply.

With bolted greens in hand, we headed back down to the house to start dinner. Not ones to waste, I've whipped up a quick pesto with them, sweetened with walnuts and olive oil. I'll toss it with pasta and salad shrimp it makes a fine late spring meal. Pesto doesn't always need to be basil, tart and spicy greens with the same fixings make a nice sauce, and helps us to use what plants couldn't hack the temperature changes. Tonight it's back down to 42, and I'm routing for some nice blue skies without the humid fever- not because I don't like it, but because the plants need a little reliability. We'll do what we can to help them grow strong whatever the weather, and eat the spoils. 

It's June, summer is here for overnight visits and soon she'll settle in to stay. I'm counting the days to strawberries...